Category Archives: Blog

New things, old things and free things

Some of you might have been wondering where I’ve been. An occasional glance at my blog may have made you think, ‘gosh, it’s a long time since she’s posted.’ You might have even been thinking, ‘she’s not really been on FB and Twitter much! She’s been really quite quiet online.’

Others of you might be thinking, ‘what on earth is she going on about? I haven’t noticed anything’. Well, to both of you I thought it was high time I came out of the woods of writing. You will all know that upon occasion I disappear into them. When I’m trying to finish a first draft, going through edits or working on proofs. Of course, the day job doesn’t help with this, I’m always rather tight on time! But this time it’s a bit different.

Yes, I have been doing all three – I’ve been in the woods of writing, editing and proofing. Yes, that’s right,

I’ve been working on a new book!

It’s all very exciting actually, and some of you may have picked up on it. The reason it’s different is two-fold, on the one hand the genre’s different to what I’ve published before, it’s a fantasy novel in the style of Lord of the Rings and Narnia (for adults, although I still LOVE Narnia, and as far as I’m aware I’m a grown up). On the second-hand I will be self-publishing this novel.

Fantasy, you say?

To my loyal readers, let me just quickly take the time to say that I am still writing historical romance! Have no fear on that count, that genre’s going no where from my writing loves and agenda, but you see, I’ve always enjoyed writing fantasy. In fact, I’ve written it since before I tried my hand at historical romance. The book I’ve been working on was first written when I was seventeen, a decade ago, and revisited over a year ago. It’s a story I loved writing the first time round and have truly enjoyed editing. It is called, The Edict (click here to read the blurb), and follows the story of a courageous heroine called Kiara, a brooding Prince, a damned race and conniving courtier…

And of course, there’s love, a great love story. So for those of you who read my books because you love the love stories then The Edict could be your next read.

Self-published, hmmm…

There might be a few of you who cringe at hearing that. Truth be told, I used to cringe at the thought of it. But a lot has changed over the last ten years and now some of the best authors I read and know are entirely self-published (also known as independently published). New York Times and USA Today bestsellers, winners of Readers Choice Awards, B.R.A.G.G. indie author medallions and book cover design competitions. The honest truth is, that there are so many quality authors out there, the traditional publishing houses can’t keep up with them, and the opportunity to publish quality books, with access to Print On Demand companies, free eBook Conversion tools, formatting guides and freelance cover designers & editors, is better than ever before.

I’ll be honest with you, I sent The Edict to every Literary Agent I could find listed in the Writer’s and Artists Yearbook and a number of publishers, but it was all to no avail. It’s making me cringe writing that (apparently I cringe a lot), but I think it’s worth being honest, because there’s a lot of you out there who have had to suffer through literary rejections and I’m sure that’s not my last. It’s funny, because in my arrogance I thought it would be easy if I already had a publisher with three books published, but it wasn’t. The fact is, I love the story, and I’d already had several friends read it who loved it and were so encouraging with their feedback, and it was a book, just sitting there in my draw, waiting to be shown the public light of day. It seemed silly to keep it there.

So, naturally, I was frustrated that no one wanted it from the traditional publishing world, but I had always thought to myself, if I can’t find an agent I’ll release it myself. It’s not like it’s easier, to be honest, it’s LOTS more work, more investment both in terms of time and money. But it’s one of those things I felt compelled to do. I just want to share the story with everyone. So that’s what I’m going to do.

When’s the next book out?

So, if you’ve read this thinking you want to find out when my next book The Edict will be coming out then watch this space. You’ll be hearing more from me on The Edict in the coming weeks and months…

What can you read now?

Fool Me Twice - Historical Romance - Philippa Jane Keyworth

Fool Me Twice – Free on Kindle

But for now, why not pick up Fool Me Twice for free on Kindle? That’s right, for FREE!!! Wohoo! Grab it while you can as the offer’s only on for a few days.

Reviews are my friends

And if you do read Fool Me Twice then you could support it by reviewing it on Amazon. Reviews are so important, not just because it’s great to hear when you’ve enjoyed the book, but because it gives credibility to the book in both readers’ and Amazon’s eyes! If you think it would be something others would enjoy then please review it!

That’s all for now, I hope it gets you excited for my next book. More to follow…

 

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Reconfiguring: Why attending the HNS conference is essential

I attended my first writing conference at the beginning of September. It was the Historical Novel Society conference held in the beautiful town of Oxford and it was a truly wonderful day.

You see, I’ve never experienced it, that incredibly swell of excitement when you walk through a crowd of writers. When you know that every one of them, if you were to stop them and tell them the buzz you get from writing; the fact your characters don’t behave; and that you’d give anything to walk through 1790s London; would be able to understand.

There’s something rather special about that. 

Historical Novel Society Conference | Oxford 2016 | Philippa Jane Keyworth

And then there’s so many of those authors that you admire, and you’re getting to sit with them, meet them, hear them give there tuppence worth.

Mixed with this crowd are the heads of industry, the titans who have previously only been a name on a website, in an article or on your query letter. You get to hear them talk about historical fiction, its importance, its direction, its future.

My highlights in no particular order were: meeting Authors I’ve known online for years, normal author-people, and the warm welcome made by everyone.

1. Meeting people I’ve known online for years

It really was an absolute pleasure to meet people I’ve known online for years, interacted with, promoted books with, had guest blog posts and interviews with, in the flesh!

In fact, it was one of the first things I did when I came through the door. I spied out the authors who I knew and went straight up to them introducing myself. It was wonderful to chat to Helen Hollick who had done a fascinating and popular post on my blog about Riding Aside. She’s lovely by the way.

Then there was Anna Belfrage, a woman who’s writing and knowledge I admire immensely. We chatted about POV (the bane of my life by the way, which Emma Darwin made a little better in her workshop) and writing. Anna has a lot of knowledge bouncing around in her head.

And Paula Lofting, who I have tried to meet before at a book signing which was cancelled. It was great to see her in her re-enactors garb, shouting war cries and threatening the conference-goers. What a rush. You can see the picture I tweeted here.

And of course, it was a pleasure to meet Laura Purcell, Jacqueline Reiter and Lizzy Drake – more about this lot later.

2. Normal author-people being there.

This was fabulous and mainly down to one lady (though I assume that the majority of attendees were normal ;-). I thoroughly enjoyed Jean Fullerton’s workshop on creating believable historical characters.

Jean is just so normal and practical. That’s the kind of person I can relate to. She gave the most straight-forward, applicable and easy-to-implement advice on creating believable characters. Especially interesting were her points on attitudes in the past and how to best represent them in your stories.

Although I wouldn’t usually go for her era of books, I have to say, in this case after meeting her, I’d make an exception!

3. There really was a spirit of camaraderie.

I walked into the large, glass entrance hall not knowing anyone in the flesh for a Saturday of conference lasting 9am-6pm. I’m a chatter, but there are times my heart is in my throat. This was one.

To say that the staff and delegates were friendly is an understatement. I was greeted by two ladies on the reception table who were lovely, and not only told me all the info I needed, but we’re very warm and welcoming.

When I had grabbed my coffee and looked around nervously for some people to hang with I recognised Laura Purcell from afar. I’ve known her online for some time and she had sent me a friendly message to come and say hi and so you know what? I did. I went over and introduced myself. Laura was with Jacqueline Reiter and Lizzy Drake and they were all so welcoming. They were so friendly and made the whole thing all the more enjoyable.

Finally, at lunch, I had been chatting too much and at workshops etc, so only had half an hour to quickly eat. Most people had eaten or were already in groups, so I quite happily sat on a table on my own, checked notes I’d taken and any tweets. Lo and behold, I hadn’t been sat down five minutes before a fellow author just came and sat down with me, asking if the chair was free, introducing themselves and becoming a lunchtime companion. No sooner had they then disappeared, but another person did the same! How friendly can you get?

So, it turns out, that though I had been accepting that I may well spend the day ‘alone’ with people at the conference without anyone to chat to, the opposite was the case. I’ve been to a few work conferences and nothing quite rivalled this one in the spirit of unity amongst all the authors and industry professionals. It wasn’t like we were there, worrying about copying each other’s notes or industry secrets.

We were all together, on the band-wagon that is historical fiction, and we were laughing and joking and enjoying the ride.

I guess that’s what made it so great.

The only thing which would have made it better, would have been if I could have attended with M.M. Bennetts. It was wonderful to be around people who knew her, and to hear her commemoration when the M.M. Bennetts Literary Award was given, but I would have loved to have sat with her again and listened to her satirical comments on all the happenings.

That being said, I am sure I shall be attending again when I can, and as I only made the Saturday this year, perhaps I’ll manage to make more of it next time.

Essential attendance?

You know what makes it an essential for writers? Writing is a lonely occupation, and this event makes you realise you aren’t in it alone.

Thank you, one and all

Thank you to the organisers, the volunteers, the authors, the industry professionals and everyone who made it such a blast!

Carlton House | Georgians | Catherine Curzon | Philippa Jane Keyworth

Carlton House: A Lost Palace by Catherine Curzon

George IV is a man whose name is synonymous with profligacy, debt and debauchery. He is the king who did nothing by halves whether it was eating, gambling or wenching and nobody, but nobody, could spend money like George. He wasn’t all about the pleasures of the flesh though, and had a passion for art and architecture. When he got his hands on the keys to a residence that was, to put it politely, in need of renovation, it wasn’t long before the most illustrious architects in London were called in.

 

Renovating Carlton House

George’s first major renovation project was Carlton House, a residence given to him in 1783 when the then Prince of Wales came of age. With the rambling house came a stipend of around £60,000, which the prince was supposed to use to renovate the shabby building. It was a spectacularly ill-judged scheme, as his father, King George III, was soon to discover. After all, what harm could possibly come from giving a young man who loved to spend money and have the finest of everything a home that was not in the best of repair? It’s hardly as if he would immediately commission an eye-wateringly expensive programme of repairs, renovations and improvements, is it?

Of course it is.

The prince snatched at the cash with both hands, moving into Carlton House with indecent haste. Here he started spending as though money was no object, commissioning the famed Henry Holland to make extensive and ruinously expensive renovations. It was with some horror that the king learned that the prince, with his £50,000 annual allowance, was spending more than £30,000 of it on stables alone.

The Carlton House Set

Surrounded by his friends and hangers-on, the influential Carlton House set, George’s residence became the most fashionable in London. The repair costs spiralled out of control, with George approaching his father and parliament for ever more money to satisfy his debts and ensure that the house might one day be finished. No expense was spared to ensure that Carlton House had the very best of everything and by the time it was completed, the house had become notorious, representing extravagance of the most extreme sort.

Newspapers devoted whole articles to the interior of the magnificent royal residence, taking readers on a room-by-room tour and describing the stunningly rich drapery, the enormity of the chambers and the magnificent decor. It was a world that few could ever dream of being part of but one who was was Lady Lyttelton, and she wrote:

“Carlton House is very beautiful, very magnificent, and we were well amused looking at it yesterday. I don’t know whether you are worthy of the beauties of old china vases, gold fringes, damask draperies, cut-glass lustres, and all the other fine things we saw there. I can only tell you the lustre in one of the rooms, of glass and ormolu [sic], looking like a shower of diamonds, cost between two and three thousand pounds. I write the number at full length, that you mayn’t fancy I have put a cypher too many. However, it is such a peculiarly English manufactory that our heir-apparent is right in encouraging it.”[1]

George loved Carlton House and learned no lessons from it, going on to repeat the same financial mistakes when he began work on the Marine Pavilion at Brighton. The house remained in his ownership as he became first Prince Regent yet by the time he was crowned King George IV, his attention had wandered to Buckingham Palace.

The End of Carlton House

The house that had once been his pride and joy was demolished. For all the expense of its renovations and rebuilding, Carlton House had lost its romance for George and he shed no tears for its loss. For those of us who study the era, painting and written description are all that remain, a tantalising glimpse of this temple to one man’s monumental ego.

By Catherine Curzon

About the Author

Catherine Curzon is a royal historian and blogs on all matters 18th century at A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life.

Life in the Georgian Court | Catherine Curzon | Philippa Jane KeyworthHer work has been featured by publications including BBC History Extra, All About History, History of Royals, Explore History and Jane Austen’s Regency World. She has also provided additional material for the sell-out theatrical show, An Evening with Jane Austen which she will be introducing at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, in September (tickets are available here).

Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, she lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.

Her book, Life in the Georgian Court, is available now from Amazon UK, Amazon US, Book Depository and all good bookshops!

Life in the Georgian Court is a privileged peek into the glamorous, tragic and iconic courts of the Georgian world, where even a king could take nothing for granted.’

Bibliography

Anonymous. George III: His Court and Family, Vol I. London: Henry Colburn and Co, 1821.

Baker, Kenneth. George IV: A Life in Caricature. London: Thames & Hudson, 2005.

Black, Jeremy. The Hanoverians: The History of a Dynasty. London: Hambledon and London, 2007.

David, Saul. Prince of Pleasure. New York: Grove Press, 2000.

Hadlow, Janice. The Strangest Family: The Private Lives of George III, Queen Charlotte and the Hanoverians. London: William Collins, 2014.

Hetherington Fitzgerald, Percy. The Life of George the Fourth. London: Tinsley Brothers, 1881.

Huish, Robert. Memoirs of George the Fourth: Vol I. London: Thomas Kelly, 1830.

Irvine, Valerie. The Kings Wife: George IV and Mrs Fitzherbert. London: Hambledon, 2007.

Lloyd, Hannibal Evans. George IV: Memoirs of His Life and Reign, Interspersed with Numerous Personal Anecdotes. London: Treuttel and Würtz, 1830.

Smith, EA. George IV. Bury St Edmunds: St Edmundsbury Press, 1999.

Spencer, Sarah. Correspondence of Sarah Spencer Lady Lyttelton 1787-1870. London: John Murray, 1912.

References

[1] Spencer, Sarah (1912). Correspondence of Sarah Spencer Lady Lyttelton 1787-1870. London: John Murray, p.104.

A human writer’s love-hate relationship with Social Media

I was just thinking this morning how much I hate Social Media. I hate being so connected all the time. As a human it stops me being able to enjoy the present in my life, as a writer it stops me being able to crack on with writing.

Hate

It’s like Social Media causes this fracturing of my thoughts, and where I used to be able to trace a thought from seed, to growth, to conclusion, there are fracture lines which stop me getting to the conclusion and I’m left with a brain like a sieve, feeling like I’m constantly trying to catch up with my to-do list, with myself even.

Human writer's love-hate relationship with Social Media - Philippa Jane Keyworth

It even seeps into my conversations with people. I start a line of conversation and then halfway through forget what I was saying, become confused and get frustrated that my brain won’t function the way I want it to. I swear a lot of it has to do with being so connected to everything right now, this instant, having no time for my brain to breath, to absorb what has been chucked into it, to process at its own rate, and then to function on that input.

Love?

I say a love-hate relationship, but I don’t think I’ll ever love Social Media. I like it, for sure, I can definitely see its uses, I like keeping connected with friends around the world – just this morning I was chatting to someone in New Zealand, and I love getting connected with other writers, getting to know other people who do the same thing I do with the same passion, and who can encourage you and give new opportunities to you.

Human writer's love-hate relationship with Social Media - Philippa Jane Keyworth

Sometimes we need to do it like this guy

But I think I’m always going to be tossing between love-and-hate, like waves throwing my small self about. I think I’m always going to struggle with knowing when to switch off my phone so that the whole world can’t contact me every second of the day. So I can be alone with people in the present to process.

This is especially true as a writer. How am I supposed to have the seed of an idea, let it germinate, and see myself creating another world with its own characters if I never give my brain the chance?

Released

I feel like human beings, and writers too, should feel released to switch off their phones or Social Media accounts sometimes. Maybe for a few hours, maybe for a day, otherwise we really are going to get Repetitive Stress Syndrome from constantly picking up a phone to check a screen. More than that, we’ll end up with Repetitive Stress Syndrome of the mind, where it can’t process and function well.

Remember – if you’re not on Social Media for an hour, or a day, the world is not going to stop. There will be the same stream of good, bad, and ugly posts clogging up your feeds, there’ll be the same great friends to chat to, there’ll be the same buzz of activity, but you’ll feel recharged and capable of enjoying it, not like you’re drowning under the constant beat of the connected waves.

Rocque’s Map of Georgian London, Astley’s Amphitheatre & The British Museum

I’ve been dying to write a post for weeks – it’s so lovely to finally be on here! Although it is quite funny because past me would never have really said that, finding blogging quite hard and all that, but recently I’ve been really enjoying it. Perhaps it’s because I have a bit more time set aside for it.

Anyway, it’s nice to be back. I’ve had Fool Me Twice taking up all my writing time – along with sorting some promotional bookmarks and business cards with a graphic designer called Emily Rose Nazer (who I’d recommend by the way) – and so there has been, alas, no time for blogging. Though I find solace in the fact that Fool Me Twice  is now finished! Wohoo!

What’s made not blogging more unbearable has been the fact I have so many things I want to share! Mostly they are about research that I’ve been doing for Fool Me Twice and some bits I got for Christmas  (yes, that’s how long I’ve been out of action with writing and illnesses etc!) Specifically, something which I LOVE and was given to me by my sister-in-law, is a reproduction of Rocque’s Map of Georgian London 1746.

Now, in truth, I never really used to get this whole obsession with research that historical authors have. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great – but me, myself, I never really felt a burning desire for it. However, what I’ve been learning recently, is now that I actually have the time and I’m not frantic about getting everything done in life, I quite enjoy pottering through articles online, images of historical objects or places, and pouring over books and maps in my search for information for a novel or just to sate my appetite for learning. The time I most enjoy research, in fact, is when I don’t realise I’m doing it. I’ve just gone on one of those long Google link trails that has led me down into a cavern of information.

I’m sure there’ll be a time when I get frustrated and don’t want to do research in the future. Perhaps when I’m writing and just want to crack on with a story, but for now, I’m enjoying it and wanted to share a little.

So, one of the scenes in Fool Me Twice takes place at the British Museum, and another at Astley’s Amphitheatre, both in London. Rather than vaguely guessing where they were I found their addresses using the BM’s website and another present for Christmas, Georgians Revealed (I went to the exhibition the book is based on at the British Library with a friend a few years ago), and then I looked them up in my new Rocque’s map, cross-referencing it with Google Maps to get an idea of where it now stood in present-day London.

Here are some pictures of the map to show you what I’ve been looking at:

Rocque's Map Box

The map comes in a neat little box reproduced over 4 sheets

Half Rocque's Map

This gives you an idea of how big it is – I’m using the scientific comparison of my tootsies (which I’m only showing because my to nails are painted 😉 This is only half of the map and by the way, London is MUCH bigger now

Montague House - BM Rocque Photo

This small section shows Montague House where the British Museum originally opened to the public in 1759

 

the_north_prospect_of_mountague_house_jamessimonc1715

This is the north prospect of Montague House c.1715 It backed onto Montague fields where the infamous field of the forty-footsteps was accordingly to Wikipedia at least…

Astley's Rocque Photo

Westminster Bridge, to the south of which was Astley’s Amphitheatre, home to horse acrobatics and the predecessor of the circus until it moved in 1795

astleys_amphitheatre

Etching of Astley’s Amphitheatre c.1777 by Charles John Smith

It’s definitely been fun doing this kind of research, it’s collating various sources (books, online articles, maps, etchings, prints) to get a better idea of the layout of London, travelling within it and where different attractions lay as well as what they looked like and what one did inside.

 

Georgian & Regency Drinks

As Christmas draws near I find myself sitting at my family’s old kitchen table with my sister-in-law enjoying my first port. At the point at which my neck connects with my chest there is a warm feeling where the port has left a little residue in my throat. It turns out I rather like port.

I have been told I am enjoying a smooth, easy-drinking traditional port (which encompasses all the full-bodied flavour of red wine which I like so much), and which is particularly ‘leggy’, meaning that when you tip the glass from side-to-side the liquid leaves dark red viscous drips down the glass’ side. It’s all very rich and delicious.port_wine

I also tried a tawny port, without the deep red colouring it instead is more translucent with a brown shade. Earlier I was enjoying a draft cider at the pub after a carvery for my sister’s birthday. Before that a bottled ‘fruit-shoot’ cider that a child could drink without wrinkling their nose – not that I condone children drinking mind.

As I was chatting to my sister-in-law over this port, I said that it was a pleasure to be drinking a beverage which would have been drunk in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. It made me think of all the drinks we read about character’s reading and how a very few of them have been tasted by myself though I force them down my character’s throats regularly. In the end, it has inspired a little research so I thought I would jot down some of my notes from my readings:

1. Port

A great article in the Guardian which describes Port as the drink of choice in the Georgian period and Samuel Johnson as saying, “All the decent people in Lichfield got drunk every night and were not the worse thought of…” But of course, can you blame them when alcohol was the reasonable alternative to poor quality drinking water? Or perhaps some went farther over the line than others…I’ll let you decide on that.

Port wine is a fortified wine which means that during its production process either grape spirit or brandy is added. Generally, it is a sweet wine thanks to the brandy or grape spirit being added before the end of fermentation ensuring the sweetness of the grape is retained, often referred to as a dessert wine, which is part of the reason it was often drunk after dinner.

Produced in northern Portugal in the Duoro valley the region was officially demarcated in 1756 funnily enough – making it a particularly Georgian drink.

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2. Claret

Ah, Claret, mentioned numerous times in M.M. Bennetts’ second novel Of Honest Fame, thanks to it’s being the favoured drink of one enigmatic Jesaudon.

I understand that Claret, from the 1700s onwards, referred to a dark red Bordeaux wine. It was often a richer and more expensive Bordeaux.

3. Bordeaux

Bordeaux wine is any wine whose grapes are grown and whose liquid is fermented in the Bordeaux region of France. It is often drunk in the modern day, and the name in modern parlance is used interchangeably with claret, though in the Georgian period there would have been a demarcation between the two, no doubt largely based upon the expense the wine incurred, seeing Claret as the finer of the two.

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4. Ratafia

This is a classically feminine drink which is constantly mentioned in Georgette Heyer’s fabulous Regency romances, often being partaken of by the heroine.

Fermented from fruits, making it a sweet wine or liqueur depending upon the process, it is a sweet syrupy beverage and was served at Almack’s. These leads us to the conclusion that it was considered a proper and conservative beverage due to its being offered at that exclusive assembly rooms in London.

5. Madeira

Another fortified wine, Madeira takes it’s name from the Mediterranean island of the same name. This wine is created by heating and re-heating the wine bringing out the sweeter flavours of caramel, hazelnut and sugar.

According to Wine Folly, this heating and cooling was mimicked after seafarers realised that the ships passing from Madeira through the tropics, cooling and heating the barrels, deepened the flavour of the wine.

l-assemblee-nationale-gillray1

6. Gin

Ah, gin, those lovely G & T’s on a hot summer’s day are a far cry from William Hogarth’s gin lane. A cheap alcohol, it was often consu-

william_hogarth_-_gin_lane

Hogarth’s Gin Lane c.1751

med by the poor and considered a depraved drink compared to beer as the latter was respectably British. This is depicted in Hogarth’s contrasting engravings of Gin Lane and Beer Street contrasting depravity and chaos with order and productivity.

 

Gin is derived from juniper berries and as it was originally allowed to be produced without a license was cheaper than other imported drinks until the 1751 Gin Act brought it under heavier regulation.

7. Ale

beerst1

Hogarth’s Beer Street c.1751

I don’t have a lot to say about this drink apart from that it had its origins in the Middle Ages, unlike beer it is not made from hops, and was often drunk with breakfast.
8. And for those of you not that into alcoholic beverages, Joseph Priestly invented fizzy drinks in 1772 so you would just have had to wait another 100 years for Coca Cola’s appearance in 1892!

 

So there you have it, by no means an exhaustive list, but nonetheless a helpful one when understanding exactly what that favourite character of yours is swigging down.

 

Christmas Nighttime Pony Escape

This is a true story – it happened to me and a bunch of my friends the other night:

 

The wind is getting up a bit but it doesn’t matter because I am in the car. It’s about 11pm and we are driving a friend home. We’ve pulled over to let them out. I am looking through the passenger window, calling goodbye, and then as the door shuts and I turn back, what did I see?

10 loose horses and ponies appearing from out of the darkness and running past the car, the little ones cantering to keep up, the bigger horses trotting. They all shoot past us before any of us in the car can quite comprehend what is going on. We watched them turn down a country lane on the left and run into some farmer’s fields.

Well, this was not what I expected on the way home from a Christmas party. I jump from the car and crane my neck over the roof, squinting my eyes and trying to make out where the escapees might have gone in the gloom.

I’m a horsey lass, and thankfully, so is the guy we are dropping home and his wife who is already in bed. He goes to wake her and I trot around in my heeled boots on the road for a few minutes, trying to spot the ponies but having no luck.

When my friend’s wife comes out she shouts to call the police, which is swiftly done, and immediately walks down the track after the ponies. The rest of us follow in our car. When we’ve gone down the half road, half track and stop by the farm houses I leap out and run up to where the pitch-black fields stretch out before us. The wind is up, gusting against me, making me wish I’d worn hot pants under my dress for modesty and making me long for some more to cover me than some tights, a dress and a little blazer in December. This is most inappropriate clothing for catching escaped ponies and horses. But it doesn’t matter. We need to make sure they don’t go anywhere near the road.

Some of the big ones will be near to half a ton and if they are involved in a road traffic accident there could be a risk of fatalities. This is serious. Not to mention the fact that as an avid horse lover I don’t want any of these animals hurt either.

We peer through the darkness and then, suddenly, there! A white one, one of the big ones, I can see it, heading up the little herd, leading them across the fields towards the…the MAIN ROAD.

The neighbours are up with flashlights wondering what has caused the clattering, my friend begins explaining, but there was no time to lose. We turn back to the car.

“Come on! We need to get to the main road before they do!” My friend calls.

In the car again, bumping back along the small farm road. I’m tapping the dash, asking my husband to go faster, left back onto a side road, left again onto the main road. Thank goodness it’s night and quiet, with any luck the ponies won’t reach the road anyway. We pull up where we think they might be in the field and me and my friend start clambering through ivy and bramble infested undergrowth, avoiding grabby tree branches. I realise I’ll need some new tights after this.

Then we see them! There they are, metres from the road in the non-fenced field, but they see us and scarper! Trotting and running off back into the field. As my heeled boots find the field I realise there is mud, quite a bit of it, but it must be ignored. We jog after the ponies, another friend joins us with a flash light. I can just about make the ponies out. My friend who’s horsey says we should slow down, we can’t afford to spook them, she’s right. We spread out, all three of us, into a line between the horses and the road. They’re right back by the hedge line now.

I can see them wondering right and we follow them, that is until a 5 foot deep, 4 foot wide ditch opens up before us. I look left, the cheeky little ponies have jumped it. We have to too if we want to keep between them and the road. I shimmy down the bank so far in my heels, thankful for the darkness hiding some of the danger, and jump to land on all fours across the bank. I scramble up the bank and we’re back opposite the ponies.

By this time the police have arrived. Their estate car is patrolling down a lane, their flashlights peering into the field, I gesture towards the ponies, but soon the car drives off. They haven’t seen us.

Then the ponies turn, going left again, towards the farm houses and the small side road. We follow them back across the field, and again I shimmy down the bank and cross but this time both my hands land in bunches of stinging nettles I couldn’t see. The stings immediately lick there way across my palms.

“Ugh! I just landed in stinging nettles, son of a gun! These ponies better be damn worth it!”

My friend laughs across the bank, but we’re still focused, the ponies are moving faster now. Then, suddenly, I lose them. It takes me a while to realise they’ve gone behind the farm house. I run ahead and am so relieved when I see my friend appearing out of the darkness. I’m not alone in a dark field!

She starts running to head them off before they get back to the side road. She cuts across a field and I run the main farm track in my little heeled boots. I find out later that she thought the white horse was the leader of the herd too, but in the darkness a smaller black pony couldn’t be seen leading them, she had tried to get out in front of the white one but the black one was already ahead and suddenly they’re on the side road again, exactly where we didn’t want them.

Then I see them turn left.

They’re heading for the main road.

This is a nightmare.

I’m running full pelt now. Someone could get hurt. There could be an accident. My friend goes back to her house and picks up her car to follow the horses and I continue running, turning left onto the side road and I see the ponies trotting miles up ahead, about to turn into the main road.

I’m praying there won’t be an accident. My lungs are burning. I’m afraid of turning over on my heels, I don’t care, I have to run, my heels pound the pavement. I look ridiculous. I don’t care.

I see my friend’s car shoot up past me. The horses are already somewhere on the main road. I see her hazard lights go on, she turns left. I’m a little way behind but when I reach the road I see she is rounding them up with my husband’s car on the other side of the herd, trying to keep them from turning back. I run into the middle of the road, it was probably a dangerous idea, but imagine if a car came tearing up and crashed into them?

I raise my arms either side of me as a car approaches and make slow downward gestures like a bird while I rake air into my lungs. I keep turning back to see what the ponies are doing and they have turned back on themselves. The black one is leading them past my friend’s car, towards me. I’m used to horses and ponies, but having ten of them coming towards you is a little disconcerting. I can’t cower, they might trample me, I consider grabbing the head collar on the black one, but I might be dragged, that could be dangerous, or he could kick me if I lunge at him. I’m making the low sounds every horse person knows to try and calm them, my friend and I have been doing it for the past half hour to forty minutes we’ve been with them in the field.

They don’t listen, they run past either side of me, I’m fortunate not to be bumped and thankfully they shoot BACK down the side road again. This just feels like a repeat.

My friend turns her car around and slams on her breaks just beside me.

“Get in!” she yells.

It’s like we’re in an action movie. I leap in the back and we bomb off after the ponies – obviously no where near them, we’re not scaring them, they’re too het up to calm down anyway.

We slow as we draw nearer and they’ve made it to the level crossing. They slow down. They stop…ON THE LEVEL CROSSING.

The barriers are up for the moment, but now we’re looking at a MUCH larger accident. I see a little grey welsh mountain turn to look down the track. If they start down there we won’t be able to get them out and with ten of them on the track they might derail a train. This is horrendous. I’m so close to tears, so is my friend.

“We have to get them off the track!” my friend calls.

“I’ll go.” I open the car door while it’s still moving, not really realising, I stick my foot out and the back tire of the car catches my heel. I yank my leg and I have no idea how but my foot doesn’t go under the tire and I leap out.

I am close to tears. I am also starkly aware, as is everyone, that if nothing is done in the next few seconds these ponies might go down the track, or the barrier might come down, this is awful.

I run forward, clapping my hands, hoping beyond hope that I spook them off the track, not down it. My manliest, loudest voice comes out without intention, it must be the fear, the knowledge that this is so serious, and I run at them.

They shoot off the track and back onto the road on the other side. Thank the Lord. We follow them, now I am just walking, recovering from the adrenaline rush. Then we catch up with them and they’ve shot into the front of a caravan park on the right. My friend is out of her car, I’m not sure when that happened, and shouts to me.

“Pip, block the other entrance!”

I jerk to the right, heading for the entrance. The ponies are running fast. I stand in the middle, clapping my hands, shouting, but it’s no good, they run past me. I can’t believe we got that close to trapping them and they got out!

Then we’re chasing them down the road again for the second time in the same direction. I can’t believe they’re heading for the main road for the second time tonight.

Then, out of no where, at least that’s what it seems like, a police car, THE police car we saw earlier, comes out of the darkness towards the horses and ponies, he swerves right, driving them into a driveway and garden.

I run into the head of the driveway. The horses have gone around the back but they’ll circle back when they realise they’re trapped.

“Shut the gate!” yells the policeman.

How did I not see there was a gate? This is ridiculous.

I leap forward and grab up the gate on one side, dragging it shut. The policeman tries to get the other but the ponies are coming back, he explains later he has no experience and in this moment it shows a little, he doesn’t go into the drive to try and get the gate. Ignoring the ponies I run across the entrance and get the other gate.

They are secured!

Or so I thought, I’m so thankful for cleverer people, the policeman who told me to shut the gates, and my friend who immediately says,

“We need to check the fencing is secure.”

She and I go into the enclosure, ignoring the ponies, they are still trotting around but they don’t actively engage with us. At the back my friend sees some holes in the fence work and we put up panels to cover it and then stand there in the dark, watching the silhouettes of ten horses and ponies who are milling, some starting to eat, and we both start giggling, already reminiscing over running through the field, on the road.

“Of all the people who could be dropping my husband home.” she says, referring to my horsiness.

“I know! Thank goodness it was outside your house.” I reply to the horse owner.

My husband comes into the garden with a coat for me, he’s followed by my friend’s husband, they leave the gate slightly upon, almost in unison my friend and I yell without kindness.

“SHUT THE GATE!” Both finding it incomprehensible they might have left it ajar after a chase of over an hour. But then we start giggling again.

The ponies are safe. There has been no accident. My friend and her husband sort out the herd’s water and stay well into the wee hours with the ponies and the police.

When I wake up the next morning I wonder if it was real. When I move beneath the covers I realise my hands are stinging. Yep, that happened.

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