Fair Girls and Grey Horses
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Are your twins normal?' Mrs Pullein-Thompson was asked. 'Good God, I hope not,' she retorted. The twins were Diana and Christine who, with their elder sister, Josephine, wrote more than 150 books, which have sold in their millions around the world. Fifty years after the joint publication of their first book, It Began with Picotee, the siblings wrote about their extraordinary childhood with lovable, but often unreliable animals and unforgettable humans. Their charming, nostalgic memoir offers a glimpse into the lives of three remarkable sisters who went on to become household names to a generation of readers.
typescript of It Began With Picotee, which still needed a tidy-up and an illustrator; I was soon to find one, Rosemary Robertson, among my fellow workers. Epilogue Diana My sisters say some of my contributions are too gloomy. Yet I remember my childhood at home as extremely happy, so is it this very happiness that causes the cruelties of humans, nature and chance to stand out in my mind? And was I more conscious of my failures than my sisters were of theirs? I have forgotten to mention
made more effort to understand Cappy. We were brought up to be brave, stoical, merry-hearted and physically tough, but not to be especially sensitive to others’ feelings. The Pullein-Thompsons said what they meant and expected everyone to do the same. ‘Don’t hint,’ was my mother’s frequent cry. So I grew up without realising that not everyone is capable of saying what they mean first time round, without grasping that hints can signify a wish, a longing or a commitment which needs encouragement if
and pinching my toes when he considered them too low in the water. Having a cross, six-foot-two man swimming behind me was terrifying enough, to have him pinching my toes made it far worse. I did eventually learn to swim, but to this day I remain a poor swimmer. Every year Mamma went to France to stay with Granny. I always felt bereaved then, we all did – my father once wrote a letter to her with a drawing of the house gutters crying for her. We all wrote letters. In one I mentioned that Cappy
brother, Pete (who became a gamekeeper). But, despite these tragedies, Joan had an unquenchable, earthy and often ironic sense of humour. She was calm, with a slow, unconsciously seductive smile. Mamma liked her immediately and, after a happy and pleasant job interview, Joan left gaily, only – she laughingly relates now – to be bitten on the back of her leg by Pippin as she went through the gate. She didn’t complain. She had fallen in love with The Grove. Dogs were dogs. And she had taken to
and yellow, with envelopes to match. Observing gloomily that ‘Shades of the prison-house begin to close,’ Mamma seemed far more affected by our parting than I was. I minded leaving her and Pip and the ponies, but it was only until Friday and then I would be home for the weekend; she saw a gulf opening between us. I think the family finances must have improved at that moment, for Bouncing Bertha, incapable of twice-weekly drives to Oxford, vanished to the scrap-yard and a small, brand new Ford