Donkeys, Books, Unicorn Boadiceas and Brixton Ponies

This is my “what I did on my busman’s holiday” post, except that there will be multiple posts because I can’t do multiple slideshows in a single post.

My first stop was Dartington Hall, home of this lovely donkey statue. I was giving a talk at the Telegraph‘s Way with Words literary festival – my debut as a jobbing, all-singing, all-dancing 21st-century performing author. Owing to the whole “working from home” effect (The Oatmeal sums it up nicely here), general feelings of inadequacy and a large dollop of overexcitement at the possibilities of Power Point, I prepared for the talk as if it were a PhD viva. As I launched into the talk, which coincided exactly with the beginning of Andy Murray’s Wimbedon final, I realised that (a) it would have been far better if I’d trusted myself to improvise the whole thing and (b) what’s required is not a lecture but a piece of stand-up comedy. If I told you that my first question from the floor was, “Well, why do girls like horses?” then you’ll understand how muddled I was. I live, I learn.

Once I’d finished I was able to relax and chat to some of the other authors, discovering that Michele Hanson of the Guardian is a secret ex-horsey girl, and that a very reliable Highland pony once managed to slip Monty Halls off his shoulder three times in less than an hour. I then, via a crammed train, a nose bleed and a long wait at Swindon, reached Tetbury where the Yellow Lighted Bookshop had drummed up a fantastic audience who seemed to enjoy the newly written, improved and improvised If Wishes Were Horses talk. Hereward and his team run a beautiful shop, and let me range through the shelves ogling cookbooks which I (rudely) forgot to buy when the talk was over as I was so relieved.

I spent the night with some friends just outside Stroud, and found this curious welcoming arrangement on my bedroom windowsill:

Back in London I had an afternoon of setting the world to rights with Rose Spearing MBE at Ebony Horse Club in Brixton. We watched as the after-school club had their lessons (part of which included “wearing” a bridle and being steered around the yard) and the older kids prepared ponies for an event at Hickstead. To be continued…

4 thoughts on “Donkeys, Books, Unicorn Boadiceas and Brixton Ponies

  1. Sounds like a wonderful trip and book tour, looking forward to reading more. I picked up your book while in England recently and enjoyed it hugely. As for why do girls like horses, I once pondered this myself in an essay on the Austin Mama website, sorry for tooting my own horn, really I only pull out the horn once in a decade…it was written when my child was just in the first throes of horse craziness, and now she’s 15 and we’re passing along baskets of toy horses etc. Though she has not given up on the real animal! The years, they do run by fast. Here’s the link to my little take on the topic. I could *never* in a million years talk about it in front of an audience. http://www.austinmama.com/gallopingwithscissors.htm

  2. Christina – that’s perfect. What strikes me is how universal the horse crazy thing is. It takes a similar form in different acute cases, and, what I really love, doesn’t appear to be too tied to some toy marketer’s covert direction. So much of the fun comes from imaginary horses. There’s only so much you can do with a Breyer. Eventually you just have to toss your head and gallop. Thank you for buying the book, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    Nobody – Uni! Ahhh! It’s so beautiful. I stayed in the main building one night and the other night over the road in the modern complex, with a view of the swimming pool. Everyone was super friendly and nice. I must write my thank-you note.

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