August Reading Diary… and a couple of virtual book festival jaunts!

My August reading diary is definitely a map of all the directions my heart has been tugged and pulled in this month – a mix of pony books while I’ve been pouring my evenings into looking after my own star pony; The Unmumsy Mum Diary for a bit of hand-holding company in the midst of the pride and heartache of my two wee ones growing up; and Jane Eyre joining the list of classics I’ve discovered are my 2020 go-to reads, somehow the most absorbing to get lost in when a proper escape is needed from what is still a very strange year.

The Swallow Tale by K.M.Peyton & A Pony To School by Diana Pullein-Thomson

The first book I read this month was K.M. Peyton’s The Swallow Tale, one that’s been on my shelf since childhood but not one of my very favourites that I’ve read over til I know it well, so quite fresh to me as I read it for the first time in so long. As with any pony story I found plenty to get lost in in Rowan’s falling in love with the wild and captivating Swallow. I followed it not too long after with a Diana Pullein-Thomson book, A Pony to School, one I hadn’t read before but had picked up a few years ago in my old favourite second-hand bookshop when they had (to my joy!) literally a bucket of old pony books. Both of these were very old-school classics and reminded me of the way I used to read when I was young, tearing through so many different books indiscriminately- just as long as they had horses in them – and learning lots of different ways of viewing and handling a life with horses as a result. Those among them back in the day whose values most closely mirrored mine – Ruby Ferguson’s Jill, and Elizabeth Lindsay’s Mory, Josh and Cara – are those that have stayed on my bookshelf and been re-read over and over, seeing my Charmer’s own character and story mirrored so perfectly in Black Boy’s and Midnight Dancer’s; – but it was actually really fun to go back and read completely different perspectives. Even if I could never take quite the same approach to horses as the Hawes of High Hawes did in Swallow (though much more as Babar and her “shabby” pony Black Diamond did, my stand-out characters of this book!) or use the old-school methods of Christina and Augusta in handling Clown and conquering his rearing habit in A Pony To School; there’s a common ground in the world of horses no matter the differences and as I worried and fretted over my own boy, I loved being lost in some proper classic pony stories – a genre I unashamedly love!

The Unmumsy Mum Diary by Sarah Turner

I’ve followed Sarah Turner, aka The Unmumsy Mum, on her blog and social media for a long time, and have read all of her books in the past. This month I found myself re-reading her second – and my favourite – The Unmumsy Mum Diary. Documenting life with her two sons at the time, Henry and Jude, during a year that saw Henry begin school and Jude navigate toddlerhood; I really enjoyed this book. I’ve always appreciated Sarah’s honesty about parenthood, but I think what shines through despite the telling of all the bad with the good is her huge and unwavering love for her children, and that mix of joy and sorrow I’ve come to learn comes along with watching every stage of their growing up going by so fast. This month as my biggest baby took off to playgroup to start making her own experiences for the very first time away from us, and my littlest too strained and stretched and wrangled her way to new stages in record time, desperate to sit up and join in with everything her sister can do; I was so aware of how quickly time goes by and how much I want to make the most of every single moment, and it made me feel comforted and uplifted to read all the emotions I could feel written down in someone else’s diary, and have some company in all the ups and downs of a busy and transforming month for the little ones.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

I’ve been meaning to read Jane Eyre for so long and finally got to it this month. It’s always been a favourite of my sister’s (which usually means I’ll definitely love it!) but I’d given it a couple of abandoned attempts years ago back at uni – where I studied English literature and we covered Wide Sargasso Sea so touched on it but never actually studied Jane Eyre itself – and I had never got back to it. Picking it up now, I found it so easy to read and so compelling. I started reading on the night of the most incredible thunderstorm we’ve had here in years, the perfect set-up for discovering the shadowy Thornfield Hall with all its mysteries; and I found myself completely swept up in Jane’s story from start to finish, simply loving her strength, resilience, intelligence and passion in every situation she found herself in. This is such a wonderful book, with such a wonderful heroine at its centre – so ahead of its time in so many ways, romantic, gothic and completely captivating; and I’m so glad to have read it at long last!

August would normally be a big book month for me, as it would tend to find me taking at least one venture over to the Edinburgh Book Festival, to sit with a coffee under twinkling lights in the beautiful garden in Charlotte Square, listen to talk after talk in the Spiegel Tent and file into the auditorium for a ticketed event or two. This year, of course, this was not to be! But I was really pleased to find that they put on such a wonderful online programme, streaming live and many events available on YouTube afterwards – so in spite of staying home, I’ve spent a couple of evenings this month enjoying some talks from favourite writers.

Book festival previous years and this year from home 🏡

I will listen to more I am sure as there have been so many interesting authors involved, but so far I have enjoyed Ian Rankin, who I always to love to hear, talking about his next Rebus book A Song for the Dark Times (definitely going on the to-read list!); Val McDermid and Jo Sharp discussing their collaborative collection of essays Imagine A Country, contributed to by some of Scotland’s most prominent voices; and Bernardine Everisto talking to Nicola Sturgeon about Girl, Woman, Other, which I enjoyed reading so much earlier in the summer. I always think it’s such a privilege to hear writers speak about their work and it was wonderful to be able to listen to some amazing people I admire so much talking so passionately about books and the world we’re living in today, all from the comfort of home!

Have really enjoyed reading this month and as we move into September, my very favourite season upon us of autumn leaves and cosy nights in, I’m so looking forward to my next reads. Have a lovely week all. Xx

Step by step

The last few weeks have been very focused on trying to get Charmer more comfortable and get a handle on his arthritis again, and have been a bit of a rollercoaster of steps forwards and back – but we’ve just been taking it one day at a time, making breakfast and dinner a cocktail of supplements, using his new magnetic bands and trying everything we can – and I’m now very, very hopeful that we’re getting some real progress!

All his many feed additions with a sprinkle of the sweetest treats to put him off the scent of them all!

After starting on a new supplement Nutraquin+ at the vet’s advice a few weeks back, in addition to his usual Danilon at a slightly increased dose, and going back on turmeric back then too which he had been on in the winter last year; in the last week or so we’ve also started No Bute at a recommendation from a friend and also switched the turmeric to Turmeraid, with added black pepper, at another’s recommendation – all of which seem to be contributing to a comfier boy.

I’ve always been glad to have the support of others with more experience than me throughout my life with Charmer, but have never been so grateful as now for friends at the livery yard. In the last few months, especially with juggling the littlest baby at home and lockdown schedules, I’ve had a lot of practical help from Charmer’s fieldmates’ owners, managing the bringing in and turning out, who have been wonderful; and there are also a few of us on our lovely yard with horses at just exactly the same age all of whom are navigating arthritis, and some of the things that have worked best have been recommendations from them or other friends either at the yard or who I’ve known from the past. It’s wonderful being able to share ideas and try out new things and when Charmer was struggling most and I was so upset, the kindness of the people we share the farm with was overwhelmingly lovely and such a big help as we moved slowly forwards.

As well as the feed additions we’ve built his magnetic bands, which I started him wearing a couple of weeks ago, up to full use, so he now has these on while he’s out, about 16 hours a day, and just has them off while in his stable for his 7-8 hours in. Got him on a new routine at the moment of coming in for breakfast at 11ish with his fieldmate, having some hours in, and then when I arrive at either 5ish or 8ish in the evening (depending on whether pre- or post- bedtime here at home!) he has his second feed, and we walk back out. It’s always hard to know how to play it in terms of time in and out as I know he does better out for keeping moving and not stiffening up but with needing two feeds at the moment for the staggered Danilon didn’t want to have him walking in and out twice, and he seems to enjoy some downtime in the stable at the moment and not seem too stiff when it’s kept to under 8 hours or so – so going with it for the moment, although I hope maybe when I see the vet next week we might be able to combine everything in one feed and then he could be in for a shorter time.

Watching the ships on the water with him on our wanders out

Walking back out to his field has been the most difficult thing to manage over the past weeks – we can either make it a very short walk straight from his barn to his field gate, but on a slight slope which he seems to find really difficult, or a longer walk around the yard but more on the flat. He definitely seems to prefer the long way, but although some nights he’s managed fine, others he’s been really struggling whenever on the concrete, although managing fine on grass – and managing absolutely fine on the grass in his field too. One of the other owners at the farm had suggested Scoot Boots hoof boots for him, and my lovely friend let me borrow hers to see how they worked out. After two nights of using them to walk back out I’m very very hopeful we might have found a bit of a breakthrough for him, as they seemed to make the most incredible difference to how he felt – basically just letting him walk with shoes on without the trauma to his legs of being shod.

Still want to stay just cautiously optimistic as I know we’re battling a difficult thing here and it’s taken a long time to see the improvements we have but I’m absolutely over the moon to see some (sometimes quite bouncy!) strides forwards in the last couple of days. As we walked round to the field last night he almost broke into a trot to follow my friend walking a little ahead with an apple, and was ears forward and happy all the way – such a welcome sight!

He seems to be doing well and be comfy at the moment both in the stable and in the field and he’s otherwise in such good health for his age, so it’s just the movement between we’ve got to master, and I really hope we’re getting there.

Enjoying the field life….
…and our quiet nights in the barn together 🥰

Hope you’re all having a lovely week. X

The Little Ones’ Books ~ Pt 2 ❤️

I’ve been meaning for a while to write about some more of the favourite books of the young team here in our little house! I have always had such a love for children’s books, some of the favourites from my childhood treasured and re-read over and over; and I’ve loved getting to know some beautiful books for very young children ever since my oldest daughter arrived. I did write one post away back at World Book Day a couple of years ago that I had always meant to be the start of many but never quite got round to it. Now, though, I’m so enjoying writing about all my own reading on here that thought it would be a lovely time to start writing about our very favourites just a few at a time.

Last time had a look at Carson Ellis’s Home, Julia Donaldson’s The Highway Rat, Jonathan Emmet’s Mole series and Janet & Allan Ahlberg’s classic Peepo!

They are all still very well-loved additions to our bookshelf. Our Julia Donaldson collection has grown and definitely now have more of hers to cover! The Mole books and Home still make for lovely quiet reading and Peepo! especially has been a frequently-selected bedtime story for the last couple of years here and is one of the many our biggest girl loves to recite from heart after so many readings. It’s become even more special to us too since our littlest daughter arrived – we love the sister squabbling for the baby on her knee, all the chaos around the littlest member of the Peepo family, and most of all that he finds so much love and security in it despite its noise and bluster. ❤️

Old Bear books, by Jane Hissey

Starting with an absolute favourite of mine, and a collection so well-loved by us all, Jane Hissey’s Old Bear books are so very special thanks to the perfectly drawn characters, the warming stories and the detailed and simply beautiful illustrations. Although like so many others we’ve got really into, these are favourites from my own childhood (my copy of Old Bear dated to me at Christmas when I was one, and a story I’ve never forgotten), it is actually some of the more recently written books that are the best loved here. The All-Together Painting, published in 2013, is a really lovely one, and the newest addition to our bookshelf is the most recent, Happy Birthday, Old Bear, a beautiful 30th anniversary special, with all the old favourites and a new character, Elsie the little grey elephant, too – who has become as much of a hit as Old Bear, Little Bear, Bramwell Brown and all the rest.

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram

This is a simple and lovely bedtime story that I never get tired of and that both girls love. Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare’s lovely exchanges as they move gradually closer to bedtime are just perfect, and it’s a beautiful little book.

Baby, I Love You – illustrated by Helen Stephens

We have two copies of this very special book and I’m actually going to keep them both so both girls have one – this is a UNICEF books created and published to support babies and new parents in those blurry early days and is just so beautifully done – the illustrations are perfect. I love that there’s mess, there’s imperfections, but there’s so much love in every drawing. These are gifted here as part of babies’ first Bookbug bags, and I loved receiving them both times, a really lovely, calming and reassuring gift for all the family to mark such a big moment.

Alfie: The Big Alfie Out of Doors Storybook by Shirley Hughes

This is one that arrived with us in lockdown – our biggest girl got a wonderful birthday present from her grandparents of the chance to choose a book a month through the year. We have had a great time doing it (mostly having them delivered as it’s turned out instead of bookshop browsing as planned!) and it’s been so nice that it can grow with her and be the perfect book for now. All our outdoor play in lockdown – gardens and tents and exploring the world on our doorstep – lent itself perfectly to being completely swept up in Alfie’s adventures, and all his games with his little sister Annie-Rose were wonderful too as we adapted to sibling relationships here. Shirley Hughes’ drawings bring nature to life in such a beautiful way, and this is a lovely collection.

There are so many books we’ve come across and loved, will definitely write with some more soon!

Hope you are all having a good weekend. X

Ups and downs with my boy

The last couple of weeks have been very mixed in life with Charmer. Back at the end of July I celebrated 20 whole years of life with him, making a fuss of him and giving him a few extra treats – enjoying some time with the whole family joining in – his junior groom busy sweeping up around him and the littlest member of the family stretching out her tiny hand to get to know him for the very first time ❤️❤️ – and some of my favourite times, just me and him, too.

As always, I was thinking how very lucky we were still to have him so well and so healthy, loving summertime life and feeling good, but unfortunately just a few days later he was suddenly struggling a bit walking in and out between his field and the barn, and within a day or two was practically refusing to move from his stable at all, which is so unlike him. Called the vet out and they were wonderful as always and were able to say and show that it was definitely his arthritis (it was so acute all of a sudden that I hadn’t even been sure if it might’ve been an injury or if he was ill and just not feeling well enough to move) and that it was below his knees that was causing the problem rather than his knees as last time, and believed coffin joints – which definitely made sense as his last X-rays a year or so ago showed arthritic changes moving that way. The vet said it was hard to tell really whether it could just be a flare or further degeneration that will be the new normal; but either way needed to get on top of it quickly. He’s had his anti inflammatory upped slightly in the short term, but with the caveat I totally understand that we really are at pretty much the maximum he can have long-term at the moment without risking too much damage to his kidneys. He’s also started on a new supplement I really hope might help and was recommended to have front shoes put back on, which he’d had off since last year, with a rolled toe to try to help his movement and reduce any impact on the joints in his front legs.

The first couple of days after the vet visited last Monday were pretty bad, and he actually seemed worse every night and I really thought we were approaching a time of having to make a decision for him – although with his level of discomfort just shooting up so suddenly and him having been so sound and so well just a couple of weeks before I really wanted to give everything a chance to help. Thankfully towards the end of last week he started to improve and had a few good days walking almost like his normal self again.

Spent a lot of time watching him in the field to see he could get around ok, still lie down and get back up and was very relieved to see he could.

The farrier came out on Wednesday to see about putting the shoes on. He was also wonderful – as ever I’m so grateful to have such dedicated people working to help Charmer and do what’s best – but he was reluctant to put shoes on knowing the trauma it would involve to his legs. He did say Charmer’s feet were very even despite his leg tending to turn in a little due to the changes and in very good shape which would already be giving him some good support, so instead as a first try trimmed his feet with a rolled toe trim rather than shoeing with that.

Having seen him since Wednesday I’m very glad we didn’t go for the shoes just now, although it might be they would really have helped in the long run. Even just with holding his feet up for the most careful trim and the least time possible and even with some extra pain relief he was much worse again yesterday which was a shame after a few days’ progress but have to hope it helps longer term.

This morning, visiting him in the field, he seemed comfortable enough and was enjoying grazing with his fieldmate and watching the younger horses over the fence careering around with interest, which is all I really want for him. Obviously we’re off riding at the moment and that may be for good this time, but I know that wouldn’t phase him as long as he can definitely be comfy enough enjoying his field, stable and routine he’ll be happy.

Hopefully he’ll get back on the mend again very quickly, but I have never been more aware that we don’t have all the time in the world and I really want to enjoy every minute. Times in the barn with him quietly companionable, grooming him or reading a pony book while he takes his time with his dinner, or standing side by side out in the field are my most special moments. Last night as we left the lights of the barn and took our slow steady walk to the field there was such an autumn-like wind and it was dark for the first time all summer heading out. I love watching seasons change with him and just enjoying the stillness.

Keeping everything crossed for him over the next few days and weeks, and taking each day as it comes. Wishing you all a lovely weekend x

July Reading Diary

I’ve so enjoyed reading in July, and, as usual, read quite a variety! I started off with Dorothy Koomson’s The Chocolate Run, picking it up when looking for a light holiday read while we we had a couple of weeks off and were enjoying a nice slow pace of life at the start of the month. It’s years since I read a Dorothy Koomson book but I remember really liking her writing and enjoying both light, warming books like Marshmallows for Breakfast and the more pacy and thriller-like The Woman He Loved Before which really drew me in. Unfortunately I really wasn’t keen on The Chocolate Run, one of her earlier books, published back in 2004 – although it did totally tick the box for an easy read to pick up anytime, and with the added bonus of having to be read with a wee taste of chocolate too! I just couldn’t get on board with Greg as the romantic interest and really didn’t like some of the ways Amber was treated by him and how accepted it seemed to be.

That’s the second romance novel I’ve read this year that I’ve felt exactly the same way about (One Day in December the first) and I was disappointedly thinking maybe I really couldn’t get on board with that type of genre anymore, once a well-loved escape. But then I turned to my old friend, the very best, Bridget!

Re-reading Bridget Jones’ Diary, as it always does, reminded me what I love so very very much about a good romantic comedy. I love everything about it – Bridget’s determination and spirit, all the ups and downs of the story, the camaraderie and tight bonds of that wonderful “urban Singleton family”, the painfully relatable and disarmingly funny take on family relationships and work struggles, and of course, a truly lovely male lead in Mark Darcy. I’ve re-read both of the first Bridget Jones novels so many times over the years and I was pleased to see once again that my love for them is undiminished by time. ❤️ In an introduction to a newer edition of the first novel than my battered and so very well-loved copy, Caitlin Moran writes:

Apart from having the self-control to keep the re-reading to every five years or so (I usually find my way back to either one or both of them during the days between Christmas and New Year each year!) I couldn’t agree more, Bridget Jones is undoubtedly just as much of a friend to me now as always.

My next book was another new one to me but one that’s made it into my favourites straight away – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

I have been meaning to read this for so long and don’t know how it slipped down the pile but it was our book club book for July and I’m so pleased that gave me the shove I needed. I found it a thought-provoking, sad but life-affirming book. I adored Eleanor and her way of viewing the world, and was rooting for her so whole-heartedly from the off. The other characters she encountered, Raymond and Mrs Gibbons, Sammy and Laura, were wonderful too, and I got completely lost in Eleanor’s journey and in this little story about loneliness, bravery, and the indescribable difference friendship can make to a life.

And it’s definitely been the month for getting to long-awaited books as I have also just finished reading Michelle Obama – Becoming, which I’d started away back last year and for one reason or another only got a little way into. Coming to it now, I have so thoroughly enjoyed it. Writing with dignity and poignant reflection on everything from her kindergarten days to navigating parenting in the White House, the former First Lady draws such an vivd picture of her incredible story. This was a wonderful book to read, uplifting and inspring, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It’s been a good month’s reading – it’s never a bad one when it involves my beloved Bridget, I enjoyed racing through a holiday read, fell in love completely with Eleanor Oliphant and have really enjoyed spending the last couple of weeks sitting evening after evening with Michelle Obama’s strong and inspiring voice for company.

Looking forward to mapping out what to read next – heading into my 33rd book of the year having coincidentally just turned 33 this week – my birthday bringing with it (as well as lots of truly lovely family time ❤️) many more books to add to the to-be-read stack! I’m so enjoying all the books I’ve been reading this year and journaling on them all too!

Hope you are all having a lovely weekend. X