Last week we had a blissful few days away, staying in a traditional little black wood-clad cottage in Suffolk. After a hectic year, it was wonderful soaking up the unseasonably warm sunshine and the fabulous scenery, and generally re-charging our batteries.
Not far from our cottage was a stretch of common and a church, so one afternoon we went for a stroll. My husband went to look at the church, while I wandered around the churchyard. I’m not quite sure why gravestones should be so fascinating but they are. I’m always amazed by the longevity recorded on some of the stones, and appalled by the short life of others.
As I was glancing at the names, I came across this stone:
Now if, like me, you were a keen fan of pony books when you were a child, this name should jump out at you as it did with me.
Christine was one of three madly horsey sisters who all wrote loads of books (and did other cool things like run their own riding school when they were youngsters – in the age before things like licensing, qualifications, health & safety and public liability!). Of the three sisters Christine was the most productive, writing somewhere in the region of 100 books (mostly fiction, but some non-fiction) – most of which I devoured when I was young and ponyless. Indeed, one is within reach on the shelves next to my desk as I write this.
My obsession with reading and collecting pony books (mostly written in the 1950s and 1960s) probably contributed to my not fitting in too well at school since my vocab was peppered with the kind of words used by the Pullein-Thompson sisters’ characters (though I’m pretty sure those robust types would have considered me “feeble”!). But much more importantly, Christine and her sisters inspired me to try writing my own pony stories, which in turn prompted a lifelong interest in writing itself, so for that I owe them a huge debt.
Finding Christine’s grave, I was struck by how serendipitous life can be. I hadn’t known she’d lived in this particular village, it was only completely by chance that we’d wandered through the church yard, and chance again that I happened to spot her name. For a moment, I was quite stunned. Christine, you were such an important part of my childhood, I feel honoured to have seen your idyllic resting place in the Suffolk countryside.
If you were a pony-mad child and want a bit of nostalgia, can I recommend you take a look at Jane Badger’s online Pony Book Encyclopaedia which contains an absolute wealth of info about the genre – and loads and loads of cover pictures which will have you misty-eyed with recognition. All Christine’s books are listed, and it’s great to know her legacy lives on.