With thanks to Stephanie Zia at Blackbird Books, I’m both honoured and delighted to be launching the blog tour for The Spirit of the Horse by Pam Billinge on publication day. The paperback is £9.99 and available to order from Waterstones, all good bookshops and the usual online platforms: the ebook is £3.99 and available for kindle via Amazon, through iBooks (that’s the US link) and for Kobo. I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to review this one – but instead, I’m featuring a guest post from Pam that her publishers called “elegant”, and that I thought was absolutely beautiful and a privilege to share. So I’ll hand over to her without further ado, and you’ll find the usual book description and author details at the foot of the post – she’s called it This one is for you, Mum.
That my second book The Spirit of the Horse should be published just after Mother’s 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.
My mother, 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. 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 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 owed 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 today, 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.
Pam, thank you… that was just perfect. And here are the book details…
Sequel to The Spell of the Horse. Pam continues her exploration into the true nature of horses, their power to heal and the spiritual dynamic between human and horse.
When Pam follows her dream to a farmhouse with five acres in northern France, she is able to live alongside her horses for the first time. Here, in the heart of nature, deeper insights are revealed into the healing connection between horse and human and the incredible power of presence to transform. Might it be that learning to honour and communicate with another species helps us to reframe the way we perceive each other, as well as how we might see ourselves?
A pioneer in embodied horse-led therapy and leadership development, Pam’s story is interwoven with those of inspiring individuals and groups she has supported: from people experiencing relationship breakdown to large organisations looking for culture change; from the bereaved or lonely to the confused wishing to explore what next. Steeped in simple wisdom, the stories offer the reader a pragmatic, mindful template for personal transformation.
‘It is with grace that horses lead us gently to a place where forgiveness is possible and self-compassion takes the place of contempt. They draw us into a non-linear dimension where we can sink into the infinity of the moment and know deep peace and harmony.’ – Pam Billinge
About the author
Pam Billinge is a therapist, coach and author who specialises in embodied horse-led learning. This unique approach relies entirely on the emergent relational process between horse and human. At her bases in the UK and in France, Pam supports people of all nationalities, ages and walks of life with their personal and professional development. Through her workshops and her writing Pam wishes to share the healing wisdom of horses whilst advancing the cause of this sometimes much-misunderstood species. She hopes also through her work to reconnect us with the natural world from which we are too often separated.