Thursday, July 21, 2022

Another Milestone


Yes, folks, I made the Books We Love bestseller list for 2021. It's always a pleasure to know that readers have been appreciating your books. Every time I say I'm putting writing behind me and retiring, I come up with another idea, then I reach a milestone like this, and off I go again. 

My next book will be another contemporary western romance entitled Loving Georgia Caldwell. The blurb is written, the cover image selected, now I just have to write it. Publication date is September 1st, 2023. I can't think of a better way to celebrate what will be my 80th birthday! It's more than a year away but I can't quite believe it. Where have the years gone? Has anyone got any ideas?

The Magic of a Horse


Belinda and Lancer

 Most people have an interest or hobby about which they are passionate. It could be gardening, golf, quilting or fishing. For me, it is horses. My parents, as non-horsey people, never understood where my passion for all things equine stemmed, but I lay this lifelong love of horses squarely on my father’s shoulders.

He faced a lengthy recovery period after surgery at the end of WWII that had nothing to do with war wounds. His occupational therapy of choice was making soft toys for his then unseen baby daughter. He arrived home when I was two years old. I promptly howled at him but was quickly pacified by the beautifully made animals he brought with him—a pink rabbit, an elephant, two dogs, one white and the other black, and a blue felt horse with an arched neck and flowing mane and tail. ‘Horsey’ became my instant love and constant companion.

In the post-war era, we still had door-to-door deliveries, and I quickly learned the sound and names of the vendors’ horses and ponies. At six and seven years old, spending long summer holidays in Cornwall, I knew and rode every one of the beach ponies. At eight years old, I had my first formal riding lesson. At nine and ten, I spent the summer holidays with my grandmother and two cousins who were as horse-mad as me. It wasn’t long before we found riding stables where we worked all summer for our rides. We handled the most bloody-minded ponies imaginable, unaware at the time of the valuable lessons they taught us. When I was thirteen, we moved to an urban area with not a horse in sight, but I read about horses, drew horses, and hand-crafted horses from pipe-cleaners and wool.

When I was sixteen and contemplating a career, my parents refused to let me leave home and take up the prized working-pupil position I so coveted, which would have earned me a horse riding instructor’s certificate. At eighteen, I left home anyway and worked in a hunting stable until marriage and family ended that career. When my daughter, by now a teenager, became interested in riding, we haunted our local riding stables. Most evenings after riding, we would go to the local pub, The Ragged Cot. It was here one evening that, after some quick calculations on a napkin, she announced, “You know, Mum, with what we spend at the stables, we could have a horse of our own.”

My old dream of having a horse resurfaced. If we did this together, then having a horse became financially viable. Between us, we agreed on our criteria. Our horse would have to be of medium height and hardy as, having no stable, it would have to live out. It had to be good in traffic as we had the prospect of a lot of road riding before we got to bridle paths and other off-road tracks. Sex, age, and colour were optional. Versatility for combining our equestrian ambitions was essential. We started scouring the classifieds and travelled all over our county and two neighbouring ones, only to become quickly disillusioned with the vagaries of advertising.

A horse described as ‘onward bound’ had no brakes. A mare described as a ‘good jumper’ was and proved it several times by jumping out of her paddock. After four days of a two-week trial and seeing the probability of numerous looming liabilities, we returned her to her owner. As summer came to a close and we had not found our dream horse, we decided to end our search for that year. Then, in the last week of September, I opened the local paper and was immediately drawn to an advert that read: ‘15hh chestnut gelding for sale. Six-hundred pounds including tack.’

Right size, great price and, I thought, too good to be true. I put the paper aside but picked up the phone two days later. The young woman who answered sounded breathless, as if she’d been running, and said, “Oh, I’m so glad you called!” Did we know each other? But no, Diana was simply anxious to sell her horse as her wedding to a non-horse person was only weeks away.

“Could you tell me a bit about your horse?” I asked.

“Well,” she began, “his name is Paunt House Royal Lancer, and he’s a full-bred Arab and—”

I stopped her there. We didn’t want a full-bred anything, especially something as exotic as an Arab horse.

“But you must at least come and meet him,” she exclaimed. “He’s a lovely person.”

Now, the concept of a horse being a ‘lovely person’ was a bit beyond me, but I got swept up in her enthusiasm and arranged to meet her and her horse the following Sunday. She said to look for a white-walled house with a red-tiled roof beside a bus stop. We had no trouble following her directions. Paddocks and neatly kept flowerbeds surrounded the house. As my daughter and I walked up the garden path, the front door opened, and Diana greeted us like old friends.

“You’re perfect,” she said as she looked us over. “Lancer is going to love you. This way.”

We followed her around the back of the house, slightly bemused by her certainty that we would be Lancer’s new owners. We stopped at the paddock gate, immediately entranced with the sight before us. Beauty, it is said, is in the eye of the beholder, but here beauty stood almost knee-deep in lush green grass.

Here was a horse whose coat glowed as brightly as the crust of a loaf of bread fresh from the oven. The graceful curve of his neck and head, the crescent-shaped tips of his ears and the flaring, questing nostrils declared him a true Arab horse, the fabled drinker of the wind. Behind the fringe of his thick forelock, we could see one full, round eye, gleaming with interest, intelligence, and unmistakable kindness.

We stood silent and stunned as he came toward us. His legs parted the grass soundlessly, making him appear to glide rather than walk. His warm and moist, sweet-smelling breath washed over us as he gently nuzzled us in turn. We drank in the magic of his greeting and called him ours.