Wednesday, December 07, 2005

So farewell then Christine Pullein-Thompson

It's awf'lly bad luck on Diana,
Her ponies have swallowed their bits;
She fished down their throats with a spanner
And frightened them all into fits.

John Betjeman, "Hunter Trials"
No, I was never a great lover of pony stories, but it was hard not to feel nostalgic coming across the Telegraph obituary of Christine Pullein-Thompson.

As regular readers of Liberal England will know, I grew up on the children's adventure stories of Malcolm Saville. In those days Armada paperbacks had striking two-tone covers - one day I would like to fill a shelf with them just for the effect - and advertisements for other books at the back. Many of these were for books by the Pullein-Thompson sisters, of whom there seemed to be about 20.

As the obituary shows, there were three: Christine, her twin Diana and their elder sister Josephine. Their mother was Joanna Cannan, a cousin of the writer Gilbert Cannan who had quite a vogue in his day and ran off with J. M. Barrie's wife.

I once come across an Armada paperback by one of the P-T sisters in a charity shop. It was from the later 50s or early 60s, and had a Jamaican boy living in Britain as its hero. So perhaps there was more to them than fetlocks and jodhpurs after all.

1 comment:

Tom Barney said...

You should perhaps look out for "The Hidden River" by Diana Pullein-Thompson. I remember reading a copy I found lying around at my primary school. The story as far as I remember is: country boy goes to stay with aunt in London, having heard from a farmhand about the Fleet river. He has to brave contempt of his aunt (mild) and cousin (scornful) who think he is a bumpkin. Left to his own devices during the day he engages in some quest for the Fleet and gets lost. A strange woman helps him by instructing him how to find his way on the underground back to his aunt's flat. Arriving there he finds everyone still out but then meets his aunt's lorry driver husband on the stairs when he arrives home from some time away on a job. The husband turns out to be much more friendly. Can't now remember what the denouement is. Anyway you see what I mean: there is indeed more to at least one P-T than jodhpurs etc.