my blog for publication day - the spirit of the Horse
That my second book The Spirit of the Horse should be published just after Mothers’ Day was not planned. Yet when I realised this was the case it seemed so right.
My mum died 17 years ago. Sometimes it still seems like 17 months, or even weeks. That urge to pick up the phone to her still seizes me, to share news or amusing anecdotes. On days when I’m hurting or sad I long for the comfort of her embrace. I wonder at how I miss her given the lapse of time. Her loss shook me to my foundations, and jolted me onto a path of discovery which changed my life, and that of others too through my work as a horse-led therapist and coach. A process which has led, more recently, to the publication of two books and emigration to France. How proud she would have been.
Brenda, like her own parents, buried deep a desire and an ability to write. Lack of resources, education, confidence and time meant that these seeds lay dormant. I have early memories of my grandmother, Lilian, crippled with arthritis, holding a rubber topped pencil in both frail hands and painfully typing one letter at a time on an ancient typewriter. She was creating stories for me and my brothers. My grandfather called himself Chas ‘The Bard’ Ellis and wrote limericks and rhymes to make us laugh. When I was emptying Mum’s house after she died, I found a notebook of his, dating back to the war, containing the beginnings of a novel he had scribbled in pencil. The curves and flourishes of his old-fashioned hand are so faint now that the words are mostly illegible. I have kept it nonetheless. And my mother. Well! I found journals she had written on her travels through Europe with her beloved second husband. Describing, in far too much detail for a daughter, the passion they had known and her love for both him and the country of Spain to which she longed to move. Amongst blushes I decided to lay her work to rest, allowing their intimacy the privacy which I felt she wanted.
Born into a poor family in wartime Liverpool, my mother’s education ended on her 14th birthday when she became the main breadwinner for her family of four, both my grandparents being unable to work. ‘You must get a good job. Never be poor!’ she drilled into me as I grew up. Becoming an accountant, or a solicitor, were high on her list of desirable professions for me and equally low on mine. Sitting down to read for pleasure was rarely encouraged yet she was never without a stack of novels at her own bedside, borrowed from the local library.
So it is no surprise that as a young woman I worked hard to develop a ‘proper career’ in business and later as a psychotherapist and coach. Literary ambition was not even on the horizon of my dreams. And then one day someone said, in the course of a conversation about my work as a therapist and the spiritual world which my love for horses had opened up for me: ‘You should write a book.’ And those generational seeds, fallow for so long, received their first drops of spring rain.
‘What if I could?’ I asked myself. Then … ‘Maybe I can.’
And so it began. I did not have the physical disability of Lilian as she placed one letter at a time with the tap of the pencil. However I faltered just as much, encumbered with uncertainty and shame. ‘What if I fail? What will people think? Who would want to read what I have to say anyway?’ So, like my grandfather and my mother had done before, I kept my writing secret.
In time, my first book took on a will to live all of its own which even my lack of confidence couldn’t quash. As it did, my purpose in writing became clear - to speak out for the often misunderstood horse, creatures to whom I owe so much, whilst helping other humans to feel supported and inspired through their troubles. I began to care more about the potential of my book to serve its purpose than I did about what people thought of me. Instead of being gripped by the fear of being vulnerable I glowed with hope to make a difference. And In 2017, beyond my wildest fantasies, The Spell of the Horse was published by Blackbird Books. And on March 16th 2021, my second book is set free to do its work, also with the same publisher.
The adventurous spirit which has been nurtured both by my relationship with horses and my debut as an author, has also brought me to live in France where I spent several years as a young woman. Here for the first time I am able to live alongside my herd at last. By doing so I am fulfilling another dream of my mother’s albeit a little further North. But all that is another story which you can read about in my book …
So today, as The Spirit of the Horse opens up its own world of possibility for me, and for the reader, I remember Brenda, Lilian and Chas The Bard and say: ‘This one is for you.’ That I love to write is your legacy and gift to me. That my books are published and read is mine to you.
This is the guest blog for Being Anne, on March 16th, and my thanks to Anne for inviting me to write it. You can discover her wonderful book and travel reviews on www.beinganne.com.
Pam Billinge is a horse-led therapist, coach and author whose second book The Spirit of the Horse, More Stories of Life, Love and Leadership is published by Blackbird Books on March 16th 2021. You can find out more about Pam and her work on www.pambillinge.com and www.equestlimited.co.uk.
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