A trip over to the excellent Books, Mud and Compost (a blog title which instantly caught my eye, as might be imagined) sent me wheeching down memory lane at breakneck speed.
How I loved pony stories when I was 9 or 10. I must have read hundreds of them, including lots of the titles listed here and here. The only thing was . . . I didn't have a pony, I didn't even ride, and in fact getting too close to ponies in real life made me sneeze and come out in a rash of eczema.
But that didn't stop me rushing to the little village library every Friday evening to exchange one week's-worth of tales of gymkhanas and (I'm sorry to say) fox hunting for another batch of loosebox romance.
This post on Books, Mud and Compost reminded me that I'd just about emerged from this phase of my life when sheer pony heaven suddenly landed on earth with the arrival on television of Follyfoot. It was perfect - horses, adventure, romance, and above all that brooding crush-magnet Steve Hodson. One of the main joys of watching the programme each week was the opportunity it afforded for bursting into deliciously uncontrollable sobbing - there was always a foal being born (or dying), or an elderly horse having to be humanely despatched, or (worst of all, I seem to remember), darling Steve getting caught in a man-trap. And I see that the Follyfoot website crucially includes a 'cryometer' in its episode synopses.
Surprisingly, Follyfoot assisted a number of now-famous film directors along their career paths, among them Stephen Frears and Michael Apted.
A brief, excited rummage along the muddled bookshelves turned up my well-thumbed, yellowing 1971 edition of Monica Dickens's book upon which the series was loosely based. Hooray! One daughter is now too old for it and the other too young, so I may just have to read it again myself. (Although this kind of exercise is fraught with dangers, as I discovered to my cost when I bought a DVD of The Flashing Blade, which I remembered with deep love and affection, only to discover that it was actually quite hopelessly risible and boring - I wish I'd stuck to the romantic memories.)
Without doubt, the most memorable thing about Follyfoot was the theme tune - 'The Lightning Tree', by The Settlers - which became, for a while, my favourite song in the entire world. You can easily see why if you watch the clip below! (cringe)
My sister and I would sing this continuously on long car journeys. In dodgy close harmony. All the way from Berkshire to Devon. And I used to wonder why my parents always wore fixed, long-suffering expressions and would keep trying to point out interesting landmarks on the way.
Oh, happy, carefree days (apart from the sneezing, the itchy rashes and the regular weekly bouts of weeping, of course)
OK, thanks, got that out of my system. You can come back now.