Monday, 31 January 2011

Jill and the bay Danny Boy

Jill Crewe's pony, Black Boy, was renamed Danny Boy in one of the 1960s paperback reprints (Knight's).  I thought that was the one and only time Danny Boy reared his head, but no.  Dorling Kindersley published Classic Horse and Pony Stories  in 1999, the selection being made by Diana Pullein-Thompson, in which the final chapter of Jill's Gymkhana appears.  The use of Danny Boy explains why Neal Puddephatt has drawn Black Boy as bay.

I'm not aware of any other story collections in which Jill makes an appearance.  If anyone does, please let me know.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Early horse toys - Steiff

Whilst rummaging around in the Gammages' Christmas catalogue for 1913, I came across these splendid creatures:

Gammages generally went more for the value than the prestige end of the market, but on his travels to find new stock, Arthur Gammage soon realised the magnetic attraction the Steiff output had for children (and their parents), and the 1913 catalogue contains 4 pages of them.  "We have again secured the largest possible variety of STEIFF'S TOYS, anticipating a greater demand than ever," said the catalogue.

If you bought a creature over 17 inches tall, it came with an automatic "animal" voice.   I heard one on the Antiques Roadshow a while back, though I think the animal was a bear rather than a horse.  The voice sounded more like a strangulated mouse squeak than a bear, but then when I am nearly 100 years old I don't suppose I shall sound particularly robust either.  Both these toys, I think, are glorious, and are considerably better than Butterscotch the robot pony, which is plain spooky, an opinion obviously shared by at least some of the police force in Florida.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Driving more than one horse

I don't imagine for one second that Jake Posey ever had one of these driving toys, which look to have been the preserve of the tidily dressed middle classes rather than agricultural America, but who knows?  Maybe he did have one of these, the four horse model of which cost the equivalent of £145, and it fired his enthusiasm. 

The advertisement below comes from Gamages' Christmas Catalogue from 1913. Gamages was a vast department store in Holborn, London.  Its boast was that it was the Peoples' Emporium, stocking absolutely everything you could possibly want; available at the store or via post (though not; thankfully, ammunition: you had to go to the store for that.)  Gamages catered to a different market from the like of Harrods and Whiteleys - more City worker than carriage trade.  The workers' families were not forgotten.  Gamages had an epic toy department:  looking through the catalogue today (the facsimile edition, published by David and Charles in 1974, with an introduction by Alison Adburgham, alas no longer in print), I was struck by the sheer variety of toys they sold:  the railway section alone covered 25 pages.  The toy department must have been utter heaven for the Edwardian child, especially the 1913 child, blissfully unaware of the war to come.

A quick google shows that Gamages' reputation for toys was stellar:  there's a piece by Charles S P Jenkins on visiting Gamages' Toy Department, a small respite from his violent childhood.

I would love to know exactly how the driving toy (invented by a well-known, though unfortunately anonymous, jockey) worked, and how it taught rein control.  I suppose that the belt round the waist still allowed a fair degree of sideways movement of the horses on their wheels, and that you had to control this with the reins.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Dick Sparrow - 40 Horse Hitch, and Neil Dimmock's 46 Percherons

Here's a clip of Dick Sparrow driving 40 horses. It's an amazing sight, particularly when the shot changes to show the team from the rear and you get the great incongruity of modern American corporate architecture as a background to the wagon and horses. I love the anticipation in the video: the sense of something amazing being just round the corner is palpable.

Thanks to Christina Wilsdon for telling me about this world record 46 Percheron hitch (alas just stills) but you get the idea.

Friday, 21 January 2011

More on the 40 horse team

I've been doing a bit more research on the 40 horse team ( you knew I couldn't leave it alone, didn't you).  It was, according to an article in Billboard Magazine, June 28, 1952, driven by Jake Posey.  He did not stop at 40 horses:  he managed 52.  Jake Posey was boss hostler for the American Ben Wallace Circus, and had worked for Mr Bailey of Barnum and Bailey's circus in 1896, before the circus left for Europe.  Jake Posey was contacted by Mr Bailey and asked if he could drive a 40 horse team.  He thought he could, and moved to England.  He practised first by driving 12 horses, and adding 4 each time.   He managed to get up to 40, and drove in the parade in Birmingham.

To get over the problem of driving round corners when you could not actually see the lead horses, the boss hostler would ride ahead, station himself at the turn, and let Posey know what was going on.  All went well until King's Lynn, whose narrow streets were tricky for a normal setup, let alone 40 horses.  A policeman stopped the leading horses; the boss hostler was too busy coffee-housing to get to his station on the corner, and in the ensuing disaster, one horse was upended and Lynch, the hostler, ended up with a broken leg.  This was not the end of the excitement for King's Lynn: the brakeman applied the brake over-enthusiastically, and the wagon took out the entire side of a local pub.

There's an account here by Jake Posey of taking out the side of the pub, which became known as Forty Horse Inn, it's thought.  There's another snippet about it here.  I'm still looking for definitive evidence to confirm.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

A Forty Horse Team

Filled my car up recently; a deeply painful experience.  I was cheered to learn on watching one of those life-in-the-police programmes last week that my car is so old (M reg) that the mere sight of it automatically makes the police get their judgey pants on and assume that if you are running an old banger you are unlikely to a. insure it or b. mot it so they put you through the computer as soon as they spot you.  Fail to see why I should get a new car when this one runs perfectly well despite its vast age (am hoping now that hubris does not hit me) though car does drink petrol at quite a rate.  Not entirely certain that running a horse and trap would be any cheaper, particularly not the 40 strong team below - so vast not all of it could fit in the photograph.

Barnum's Circus would have one man driving 40 horses with the band wagon leading the circus procession round the town.  Goodness knows how the driver managed the reins when negotiating corners.  W Theobald, of Cheltenham, who sent in the photograph, said "as the show visited fresh towns once or twice weekly, there would be no chance of a quiet rehearsal."

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Will it come to this?

Wartime readers of Riding were told, in the July-September number of 1943, that it was never too late to mend anything - not even your corsets.  I cannot imagine that anyone wore a corset while riding (though thinking about it, those tiny waists on dashing sidesaddle ladies of the previous century had to be created somehow - but during the War?)

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Buckeye and other statues

I loved this post by Christina Wilsdon about Buckeye the Iron Horse, who lives in America.  The nearest equivalent we have here is the Milton Keynes cows.  I think I prefer Buckeye.  Thinking of him does remind me of this picture, of equine statues evacuated from London during the war.

I know that works of art ended up in odd places such as mines, but I hadn't realised statues had been moved too.  Quite what I thought had happened I don't know - I suppose if I'd given it any thought, I would have supposed the statues were far too awkward to move, and what we see in London nowadays just happened to escape the bombs.  Riding is obviously mum on the subject of where the statues are; but apparently Berkhamsted Castle was their wartime home.

The statues are (left to right) George III, of Cockspur Street, William III and Sir Garnet Wolseley.  George III is here, reinistated.  Sir Garnet is on Horse Guards Parade, and William III in St James' Square.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Saddlery as it was

I found the advertisement below in a 1938 copy of Riding. I always liked the idea of the child's skeepskin saddle.  As far as I know, I don't think there's an equivalent now, though you can buy a sheepskin seat saver.   A quick google found the Inkydinky, the basket saddle de nos jours. 

In my riding school days in the 1960s and 1970s, one of the ponies had a serge lined saddle, which there was a positive stampede not to clean.  Being often away in a dream, I often lost the fight and had to clean it.  The serge lining was monstrous: smelly and stained, and I never worked out a good method of doing anything with it other than assaulting it with a dandy brush.  

Friday, 14 January 2011

The early Children's Horse Show

Anyone who's read Diana Pullein-Thompson's I Wanted a Pony will remember Augusta going to see her cousins ride in a show, "a very posh affair with expensive cups, presented by rich and well-known people."  Augusta has to watch the show with her aunt, from the car, which is parked by the ringside.  Augusta escapes from the stuffy car, to her Aunt's ire:  "Aunt Margaret... said that I was a queer little girl - standing amongst the crowd with the sun in my eyes, when I could be sitting in the car for which she had paid five shillings to park at the ringside." 

The show, in fact, sounds rather like the Fifth All-Children's Blairavon Pony Show, for which I have an immaculate and beautiful schedule, preserved in the pages of a Riding magazine from 1938.  Here it is:

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Edith Reynolds Model Horses

This post follows on from earlier blog posts I did which featured the Edith Reynolds model horses:

Here are a few more advertisements for the Edith Reynolds model horses.

These were expensive little toys. It's not easy to do a direct price comparison, but I'll have a go. Riding Magazine was priced at 1/- in 1938, which is when these advertisements were published. Horse and Hound now costs £2.40. If you assume an equivalence in price, that makes the huntsman, rider, tack and hounds come out at nearly £137.00. The 8 guinea setup comes out at around £400. Looking around, that's not too far off today's Equorum or Julip Originals models.

I'm fascinated by the variation in size of the horses here. Perhaps the horses came in different scales.

Many thanks too to Randi Risolio who sent me a photograph of an Edith Reynolds horse, rider and tack found at an estate sale.

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Wednesday, 12 January 2011

I try and do Jamie Oliver's 30 minute meals

In common with the rest of the English speaking world, I got Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals for Christmas.  I sat down and read my way through it, because I get easily bored cooking, and like new recipes otherwise I find it only too easy to get into a rut of the same few things that I can cook in 15 minutes without engaging my brain.  Producing a whole load of stuff in 30 minutes is a brilliant concept, and Jamie has done the thinking and planning for you.  The recipes read beautifully (though he obviously has a family infinitely easier to feed than mine).

After I'd sat there for a couple of hours reading Jamie, I engaged my brain, stopped wallowing in the deliciousness of my imaginings, and thought about, what, practically, these recipes were going to involve.  Jamie does say in the beginning that at first you might take longer than 30 mins, and leave the kitchen looking like a bombsite.  Now I am not slow as a cook:  year after year of short order cooking when I have worked longer than I ought and need to feed the family fast have made me quick, but producing some of these recipes in the time I thought would tax even me.   I am furiously competitive, however, so was extremely keen to have a go and see how I got on, more particularly when I read in The Times of a man who had taken 2 hours.

After a lot of trawling through the book, I eventually found a recipe that I thought we would all eat: Chicken Pie with carrot smash, French-style peas, and berries and Chantilly cream for pudding.  I was obviously not alone in deciding to cook something from this book.  Jamie is keen on mint, and mint there was none in Waitrose.  That brings me to one of my gripes about the recipes:  they're not terribly easy to cook in the winter if you prefer to use stuff out of the garden, or which is locally produced.  None of my garden mint is even thinking about putting its head above the soil:  all I have is blackened, shrivelled, winter-blasted stalks.  My thyme is shivering in the arctic blasts shooting across the terrace, and has just a few bitter leaves.  Fortunately Waitrose can provide, but it's not terribly cheap.  In fact, these recipes aren't terribly cheap if you do them in winter, but my determination to do at least one of them before I started back to work overrode my instinctive horror at coughing up for summer berries when it isn't summer, and spring onions when it isn't spring.  I did jib, however, at coughing up £2 for a few measly bits of shortbread which is something I usually make in bulk for that price, and decided I would do the shortbread myself.

So, I arrayed all my ingredients, plus my food processor and all the other bits and bobs needed, and informed the family we would be eating in half an hour.

Well, I made it in 40 minutes, and I did not hang about.  Anyone who had been stupid enough to be in the kitchen at the same time would have been flattened in the charge.  Even the dog, who usually places herself at my feet when I cook to tidy up what I drop, kept out of the way in her basket.  I flung stuff in the processor, sloshed it out at the speed of light, and left everything that fell where it lay.  Jamie suggests you tidy up as you go:  no chance.  The kitchen did indeed look as if a bomb had hit it.  There was stuff everywhere.

Was it worth it?  Yes, the meal was delicious.  The pie wasn't cooked at the end of the 30 minutes, but that's because I cook with an Aga, and couldn't reproduce the temperature exactly.  When I do the recipe again I think I'll have to start the pie off in the top oven and move it.  As the pie took longer, the carrots were a tad overdone, but as you're supposed to mash them, that wasn't such a problem and they still tasted good.  The peas were a revelation.  My family are not keen on lettuce, but hoovered up peas cooked with lettuce with relish.  I'll definitely do that again.  The berries were fantastic:  I did realise as I zipped through the recipe that I had completely forgotten to make the shortbread, but I don't think anyone felt its lack.  I have done the berries Jamie's way twice since, and they have been a roaring success.

Could I do the meal in 30 minutes?  Hmm, not sure.  I could possibly shave off 5 minutes, but as my son, who is a tad more laid back than his mother said, what does 10 minutes matter when you've fed five people in 40 minutes and they've all enjoyed it?  I thoroughly enjoyed myself trying to do it, which is possibly a bit sad, and is quite possibly not normal.  Do still want to do one of his menus in 30 minutes though.  Watch this space.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Ponies for Children: Margaret Williamson

Nowadays, publishing a book with a cover like this would get you a flaming on Fugly, to say the least.  In 1939, Country Life's publication of Margaret Williamson's Ponies for Children was reviewed in Riding Magazine thus:

"This is a useful book for that patient, and often harassed person, the parent of the child who rides, or wants to ride, a pony....  The book may seem on the short side; but on the other hand it is full of good, sound, easily accessible information, without any padding."

Monday, 10 January 2011

Christmas Competition - the winners

Very many congratulations to the winners:

Anabella, with a staggering 96 out of 100
Garnet, with 86 and
Valerie Amis with 83 1/2 

For those of you still chewing the carpet with frustration, the answers to the quiz are here.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

January Sale - Children's Books

For the whole of January, I'm doing 20% off all non-pony children's books.  There's no minimum spend.  My children's stock tends to reflect what I enjoyed reading myself as a child, so there's a fair number of classic Puffins.  I was very fond of the Puffin Picture series, and there's several of these still available, including A Book of Swimming, down from £10 to £8.

I think Kaye Webb and her predecessor, Eleanor Graham, were supreme choosers of children's books:  even now, if I want to read a vintage children's book, I will tend to pick a Puffin as I know I will enjoy it.  I have a particularly soft spot for the classic covers of the 1950s:

Columbus Sails is 80p, down from £1.00, and Fell Farm Campers is £4.00, down from £5.00.  There's plenty of more modern Puffins too, like Elizabeth Enright's The Saturdays (£2.40, down from £3.00) and Brian Fairfax Lucy's excellent Children of the House (£0.80).

I still like historical stories now, and was a devoted fan of Rosemary Sutcliff while I was at school.  It's a pity my knowledge of The Eagle of the Ninth didn't go anywhere towards improving my Latin unseen translation ability.  The Oxford printing of her Warrior Scarlet is £2.40, down from £3.00.

Rosemary Sutcliff I still enjoy reading now:  Enid Blyton alas I simply can't do. I do think though that her books are very attractive bits of design, and I am fond of the Eileen Soper dustjackets for the Famous Five series.  The copy of Five on a Hike Together has a photocopied dustjacket, and is at £3.20, down from £4.00.

The artist and author BB is someone I only came too rather late in life, despite being brought up only a few miles from where he lived.  His Manka, Sky Gipsy is one of his later titles, and this one is at £16.00, down from £20.00.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Happy New Year 2011

I hope the New Year brings you some of the books you hanker after (all would leave us nothing to look forward to, and what is life without something to look forward to); health, happiness and perhaps horses.

My one and only resolution last year was to review more books.  I have an uneasy feeling I didn't manage to review more books in 2010 than I did in 2009, but frankly the desire to fossick about in the depths of the blog and check the statistics is not with me.  As ever, I feel I Can Do Better.

My life seems to be a constant procession of things left undone, but now I am pushing on a bit, I know I just have to settle for the odd thing achieved here and there, however long it takes.  One of these came about because our last minute change of plan for Christmas dinner (turkey instead of venison stew) meant there had to be some serious work done in our very small freezer to find space for the meat we needed to freeze.  So, at last, I have done something with last year's (and by this I mean 2009's) redcurrants, blackberries and sloes, plus the lurking berry selections in numerous plastic bags we'd never got round to finishing.

The berry selection is now Mixed Berry Jelly, and jolly good it is too.

I do however have two resolutions; neither of which is even remotely bookish.  Number 1 is to recover at least one of our kitchen chairs, as they are so vile even I am starting to think that asking guests to sit on them is a bit much (not that this stops me, I must admit).

I have four of these chairs, which I spotted in a junk shop while I was a student at Sheffield, and persuaded my grandmother to buy me for my 21st.  The glorious leatherette with which they are covered wasn't especially wonderful even then, and my grandmother was unimpressed.  She and I never really saw eye-to-eye on buying the secondhand and tatty.  She had been brought up in Langford, with the family crammed into a 2 up, 2 down cottage until my great grandfather, who was a man of considerable business acumen, worked his way up, with his brother, to owning three farms.  My grandmother was never ostentatious, but I don't think she ever forgot the struggle of early life, and she liked new and not make-do-and-mend.  She'd had quite enough of that.

Still, she was prepared to humour me, particularly as I dwelt with some enthusiasm on how lovely the chairs would be after I'd had them recovered once I had graduated and had a job.  Well, I graduated, and have had numerous jobs, but it is now 28 years on from my 21st and not one of those chairs has been recovered.   Having lived in a succession of disaster areas of houses there has always been something far more pressing to do with any spare money.

However, this year will I hope be the year I manage to recover one of these chairs.  I am hoping I can find a local upholstery class that is a. on at a time I can do and b. I can afford, or c. failing both of these, a good and useful book.  All suggestions gratefully received.

Resolution 2 is to tackle our back attic - not in a meaningful sense of doing anything about the plaster (beyond dire) or floor (you'll have to wait for pictures of that for reasons that will become plain), but just to tidy up the junk.  We are very, very spoiled in that we have plenty of space, but this means that you can tidy up by shoving everything into the space and closing the door, and that is what I have done.  Look at the beautiful purity of the top landing:

Before Christmas it was full of junk - mostly my daughter's, whose idea of tidying her room is to shove everything outside her bedroom door onto the landing and pretend it is not there.  Can't think where she gets that from.  You can just about see a dark doorway in the picture; the doorway to the back attic.  Daughter's cast-offs and rubbish are now in here:

Look at the elegant pathway I have created through the junk.  It runs in a more or less U shape around the room.

I had wondered, as I was photographing the chair that is Resolution 1, where the fourth was, and lo, at the far side of the back attic, it is:

Collapsed seat and all.

Flushed with the success of that find, my hope is that if I post every now and then as I clear a section of attic that it will encourage me to actually get on with it rather than close the door and pretend none of it is there.