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Showing posts from August, 2013

More from the cutting room floor: Ruby Ferguson part 3

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It’s a romantic, if worrying, picture: the mother, desperate to give birth in her native Highlands, trundling by slow train north in the last stages of her pregnancy. She feels a few twinges as she travels further north and as the hours pass it becomes all too horribly obvious that these pains are not going to go away, and she is in labour. Eventually, as the train nears Hebden Bridge, she knows she has to get off the train or give birth on it. She is not going to have this baby in the Highlands. Hebden Bridge it is then. Hebden Bridge is still an attractive town, but it’s not the Highlands. It is, however, where Ruby Constance Annie Ashby was born, on 28th July 1899.



Was her mother on the way to the Highlands, as Ruby claimed? She obviously found the idea of a Highland ancestry tremendously attractive. Much of her “biography”, The Children at the Shop is given over to lyrical descriptions of visits to her Scottish grandfather and aunt at Aberford House in the Highlands, although the…

Moving on

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I sit here about to write something which fills me with fear: I’m closing the bookselling arm of my business. It’s been like a comfort blanket for so long. I love being surrounded by books; I love reading them; I love hunting for them; I love sharing them with other people. What can be better than to spend your life with books? The problem is that over the past few years it’s been a case of ever-increasing work for ever-decreasing profits. Much as I love my books, and my customers, the cold hard fact is that I need to make money. I can’t just do books as a nice little hobby. Or a lifestyle business (whatever that is) as my lifestyle demands that I eat.


The books have been very good to me. If it wasn’t for my decision all those years ago to specialise in pony books, I wouldn’t have been asked to write Heroines on Horseback, my book on the world of the pony book. Neither would I have been able to indulge my passion for research and produce my website. Perhaps they were the problem: in …

BT and the Art of Pony Prevarication

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Because that's what I think BT (the main provider of telephone/broadband services in the UK) are doing. Because they're certainly not providing me with a landline. Here's the story behind BT's sloth:

Moving Day

Me: Dear BT, you appear not to have moved my number with me in our epic move 500 yards up the road. Surely an oversight?

BT: Dear Jane, yes, a shocking oversight caused by the fact we appear to have tried to connect you to the wrong number. We'll connect you by tomorrow, the 13th. Promise.

What is actually happening:  People are starting to worry in BT land. They've been promised ponies, lots of ponies, but they have none. They are waiting at the gate, peering anxiously, hoping for the horsebox to chug round the corner. Nada. Nothing.

One day later

Me:  Dear BT, alas I am still service-less, which wasn't quite what you promised. Any ideas?

BT:  Dear Jane - oops. We'll get it sorted. You're moving to a different exchange (me - I am? Same number, 500 …

Review: Anton DiSclafani - The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls

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The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls opens with heroine Thea being shipped off to the Yonahlossee Riding Camp.  Thea’s family are rich Floridians who earn their money from citrus. The depression may have hit America, but it doesn’t appear to hit them. Something has though. It soon becomes clear that Thea is in disgrace. She doesn’t want to go away at all. She loves riding and horses, but she certainly doesn’t want to go away to a summer riding camp with the cream of Southern society. What she’s being sent away for, we don’t know. It’s one of this novel’s conceits that we don’t. The author has no intention of revealing all until we’ve done our time with the plot, but it's dragged, clanking, from page to page. You soon realise that it’s being dangled in front of you only to tantalise so she can say “Aha! Not this time.” Nor any time either for several hundred pages on, so the constant references to it have the effect of divorcing you from the story through sheer irritation.
And i…

Review: Hilary Bradt - Dingle Peggy

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Dingle Peggy is the sequel to Connemara Mollie, the story of Hilary Bradt’s first ride through Ireland in 1984. Connemara Mollie is a fine read:
“The writer has an unfailing honesty and self deprecating humour that make you glad that although she made the journey on her own, she is still willing to share it with you.  She tells you what she sees, and describes the people she meets with a clear view, but always with generosity. Most of all, this is the story of a brave Connemara pony, and her rider, the relationship between the two of them described with an obvious, but understated, love.  This is a true story; the ending desperately sad.” From my review of Connemara Mollie
Although the ride ended in tragedy, with Mollie’s death, Hilary Bradt was determined to go back and finish the journey. After six weeks in Englahd, she returned to look for another pony. Off she went to the local horse dealer, Pedar, who produced “a nondescript brown pony with a silly hairstyle.” Peggy kept her neck f…