The Pony Club Diaries (Cecilia Peartree)

As far as I know, I only have one Pony Club Diary in my possession, so I apologise for the slightly misleading title of the post, and also to anyone who thought this would be written in the style of Jilly Cooper.

I haven't ever belonged to the Pony Club, although I grew up in a village where I'm sure some people did, and I don't know how I came to own one of their diaries, complete with horse care hints and tips. I can only surmise that someone in the family gave me this one as a joke, because of my long-standing aspiration to go pony-trekking during family holidays instead of playing golf or at least following my parents round golf courses morning, noon and night.

I had forgotten about the diary until I inadvertently unearthed it the other day while moving some board game boxes about in a vain attempt to make room for my new printer. This storehouse of memories was in a bag of odds and ends that I vaguely remember collecting when we were clearing out my mother's house, now over ten years ago.

I had also forgotten that the year of the Pony Club Diary was one of the few years in which I actually recorded something meaningful every single day of the year. And what a year it was! Not only did I see the Beatles live ('ears ringing, voice gone... FAB!!!'), but I also went to Germany twice, saw Willy Brandt speak in Berlin and gazed over the Berlin Wall into the no-man's-land beyond, imagining what it would be like to live in a divided city within a divided country.

I went to the island of Tiree on a school trip in the spring, and can still remember wearing all my clothes in bed there because it was freezing, and in the summer I somehow passed all my exams and got into university despite playing tennis about five times a week through the spring and summer, sometimes playing in a match on Saturday morning and then going to a coaching session in the afternoon. I wish I had a fraction of that energy now.

Oddly enough, one of the things I remember best in the midst of this whirlwind of activity was that the whole family stayed up until after 4 am on the night of the election at which Harold Wilson got into power for the first time. I certainly don;t have the stamina to do this kind of thing now. The best I can do is to wake up in the night and look at Twitter on my tablet, which in some recent cases has resulted in my being unable to go back to sleep due to stunned disbelief.

Some of the contents of the diary were more baffling than others. I can't recall any particular incident that would have made me resolve to be 'less vain' or 'more intellectual' the following year. And parts of it are almost illegible because I wrote in a very small space with a very thick pen.

My first reaction as a writer, on browsing through the entries for the weeks and months, was that I could convert it into a memoir of some kind (perish the thought!).
My second reaction, as a parent, was a sense of guilt about not giving my children as exciting a childhood (or young adulthood) as I had experienced myself. No facing men with machine-guns across the Berlin Wall for them! But no Beatles concerts either, sadly. And where on earth did I go wrong in the case of sport? You would think someone who apparently played tennis in every spare waking moment as a teenager, and who had  parents who more or less lived on the golf course, might have done a better job of interesting her children in some kind of physical activity that didn't involve a joystick. Only of course, there are more things competing for people's attention these days.

I wonder how many young people write their innermost thoughts in a diary now. Perhaps most people don't use diaries any more, but just post all the ideas that cross their mind on social media instead. But perhaps that's just as well - some of these things are really only meant to be ephemeral and not to be dredged up years later and looked at through the prism of hindsight.


Umberto Tosi said…
Yours sounds truly like a fascinating youth, described so evocatively. You're lucky to have found your pony diary, even more fortuitous that you wrote so assiduously in it during the year of you coming of age. True. Such a different childhood from those of our relatively sheltered, electronically intermediated children's. Certainly it contrasts to my own, growing up as a kid on the wrong side of Los Angeles' Hollywood district, friends with kids whose parents were bit actors and grips for the studios. No ponies for me. Just a Lone Ranger mask, white cardboard Stetson and two silvery cap pistols strapped to my fake chaps in which to parade about pretending to ride Silver, hi ho!
Bill Kirton said…
It amazes me to confess that I kept a diary - a whole page a day thing - for about 26 years from 1989. I've no idea why. I do know that I stopped, however, when I realised that I'd probably been saying the same things on every page. I used to write it in bed just before turning out the light and, while it did record anything interesting or out of the ordinary that had happened that day, it was mainly about how I felt at the moment I was writing it - so, rather than a record of my days, it was a record of my sort-of-between-ten-and-midnights. I'm sure it would make a very boring book.
Umberto, my brother used to have some cowboy stuff too, despite the fact that we lived thousands of miles from the wide open prairies! There was a craze for singing Davey Crockett when we were young too.
I hadn't realised I'd had that one really amazing year until I read it again. I don't think the other years were as interesting!
Bill, that's fantastic! I know one of my sons has been keeping a diary for years, mostly in a series of big notebooks.
anne stenhouse said…
Hi Cecilia, what a great find. I start off all holidays with a journal and that lasts about 60 hours before it gets in the way and I give it up. I regret that, too, because it's a really good way of remembering what a hotel, restaurant, venue was called and where to catch the train etc. I also pocket business cards and that's a great wheeze. You can show them to taxi drivers who have no hope of understanding your Scots' accent and I've also recovered my camera because I had the car hire firm one - left it under the front seat, Doh! I'm always much struck by the honesty of some diarists. I'm sure I always edited when I did do the childhood ones. Anne Stenhouse

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