Back in the day

At the weekend we were invited by a friend to a local event. It wasn’t clear exactly what the purpose of the event was, but it had a distinctly Napoleonic flavour. The venue was a country house with an attached riding school, where small children in large helmets clutched at the saddles of short fat ponies.

When we arrived there was an evil icy wind blowing and I envied the soldiers their warm uniforms. Then came a shower of exceedingly cold rain, but luckily it was ousted fairly quickly by warm sunshine. It really was a delightful low-key event, old-fashioned and uncommercial, tucked away in a tiny hamlet that you wouldn’t find if you hadn’t expressly been looking for it. There was, naturally, a small tent dispensing red wine in plastic glasses, and some ladies selling biscuits made to an 18th century recipe, while two whole pigs with silver foil folded over their ears were turning on spits over open fires for a feast later in the evening.

There was much marching and drum beating, and a demonstration of decapitation by sabre. The ‘heads’ were plastic bags stuffed with straw, mounted on wooden posts, and the sabres were wielded by galloping horsemen. They were accompanied by a young lad on a pony, and although he had neither a uniform nor a sabre, he proudly galloped around the field to great applause and with a huge smile on his face.

I didn’t see one person with a mobile phone; neither were there any cans of fizzy drinks, and no disco, raffle tickets or fast food. What a pleasant, dreamy afternoon watching families and friends strolling around laughing and chatting. It felt very much like being back in the 1950s.

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#AllAboutFrance

Sale starts today

I’ve had a huge amount on my plate recently, particularly in sprucing up the house and garden as we have put our property up for sale, but thought I would pop in today to say “Hello, hope you are all well and happy,” and to announce that from today, Saturday 29th June, for the next five days my latest book is available for free download from your local Amazon.

It has already collected 16 spiffing reviews since it was published last month.

If you would like to take advantage of this promotional offer, just skip along to Amazon and help yourself, and I hope you’ll enjoy the read.

Reviews so far on Amazon.co.uk

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A long time coming

Today my sixth book is published by Blackbird Digital Books.

Books 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 each took, on average, about a year to write.

No. 6 has taken ten years from start to finish.

The first draft I started in 2002, with the working title “Mothers All” – a reference to all the mothers who affected my life – my own mother, the nuns at the convents where I was educated, my step-mother, and my first mother-in-law.

When I submitted it to my agent, the lovely Maggie Noach who died so tragically young, she was wildly enthusiastic, and proposed it to my then publishers, Transworld. They rejected it, saying that although it was well-written, engaging, etc. etc., memoirs and autobiographies of unknown people did not sell. (I was “unknown” in their terms, as a relatively new author on their list.)

Maggie was indignant and disappointed, and I put the draft away and moved on to a new title.

Over the years I occasionally dug it out, deleted certain events, inserted others, and each time I read the original manuscript with new eyes I realised how much I didn’t like the tone I had used, which was flippant and sarcastic. I was glad it hadn’t been published.

I kept changing the title. It went from “Mothers All” to “The Black Lamb” to “The Anniversary Clock” to “The Anniversary Clock Stood Still.” And it never felt quite right.

Two years ago I started it again and found that my perception of events and characters had changed considerably since I wrote that first draft. The sarcasm and flippancy didn’t fit. I realised they were masking real pain and regret, and overwhelming nostalgia for life in the glorious country of Kenya, and the little grey Somali-Arab pony who meant so much to me.

Over the last few months I have written late into the night, when I could be alone and cry unseen. I’ve shed more tears than a human body could feasibly produce, and I’ve eaten my way through endless plates of comfort food.

Finally I’m happy with what I have written, satisfied that it is honest and sincere and as good as I can make it.

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A huge thank-you to Stephanie at Blackbird Digital Books who has been so supportive and worked so hard in the development and publishing of this memoir. Only she and I know quite how hard it has been. It’s available in Kindle now from all Amazon websites, and paperback later this week.

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Fenix shall live

Horses are being transported from Spain into France, where they are fattened up. Once they are fat enough, they are sent to abbatoirs in Italy, to be converted into meat. These animals travel for long, long hours in horrible conditions – many of them pregnant mares with foals at foot.

Some are luckier than others – they are rescued by people prepared to give them loving homes and a future. It’s a gamble taking on a horse whose history and temperament are unknown, you don’t know what you may end up with, but there are those willing to take that risk.

Fenix is a pink horse who will not be making the journey to Italy. He’s one of the fortunate ones who has been bought by a horse-lover. Fenix will need a lot of love and time to build his trust in humans. He needs quite a lot of food, too, because he has arrived at his new home in a very poor condition.

This is Fenix:

You can follow his progress here: http://fenixafarat.blogspot.com/