A bit about Clare Balding
Although Clare Balding has been the face of BBC’s racing coverage since 1998 I would only catch it now and then and never really followed the racing avidly (ducks head as I’m living in Ireland’s racing country now). However I did catch Clare on other TV programmes and I always found her interesting to listen to.
Recently of course Clare was the shining star of all the commentators for the Olympics and Paralympics which is when I watched her the most. Clare’s infectious enthusiasm for all things sport really had me hooked to nearly all the events she commentated on. If Clare was there you knew you’d get all the information you needed in an easy to explain fashion plus some fun to go along with it.
So what great timing it was – aka great PR – for her book to come out a few weeks later just in time for my birthday present request to my Mum. “My Animals and Other Family” is the story of Clare’s childhood and teenage years growing up “thinking I was a dog” and learning from animals how to love and be loved. Her family are unusual and eccentric but very, very interesting.
Bit about me and my animals and other family
At this point I have to say I felt an affinity straight away just from reading the jacket cover. Although my family aren’t even a tiny bit as interesting they were a bit strange; Mum and Dad living apart, but still sort of together, three much older brothers and of course lots of dogs throughout my childhood who I considered my best friends.
Those who follow me on Twitter and Facebook know my immense love of animals. I have an auto retweet of @lostfoundpets to try and help reunite lost animals with their owners. I’m sure it means I lose followers but I don’t care as for me the lost animals are far more important. Of course my three dogs and two cats are the meaning of my life now too.
From when I was about 3 years old we had dogs; Dobermans, German Shepherds, a Red Setter and an amazing Border Collie called Lassie that arrived first and left last at the grand old age of 18. And at my grand age of 18 I found out that my “youngest” brother used to offer to take me for a walk in my pram when I was a baby, only to be left at the local pub to play amongst the German Shepherds behind the bar. After he’d had fun with his mates he’d take me home therefore being the golden boy for looking after me for a few hours.
We’d never have known if I hadn’t gone into that pub when I was 18 and the landlady was over the moon to see me all grown up and told me the full story. My Mum never knew but at that point my brother was in his 30’s so he’d got away with it.
Back to the review of “My Animals and Other Family”
So you can imagine I felt a familiarity with Clare preferring to talk to her dogs and horses as that was always my past-time too. Clare bases each chapter on one of the horses or dogs that were important in her life and her childhood story grows from there.
Her father was the champion trainer dealing with incredibly rich owners but remaining completely “blinkered”, only focussing on the race horses and their form, neglecting his family the majority of the time too. Clare’s mother probably wouldn’t be up for mother of the year award although you know that love for her children does exist there somewhere, maybe not as much as for the dogs and horses though.
The horrors of boarding school and not fitting in probably resonate with a lot of people who have been through that and fair play to Clare seeing her way through it and actually coming out on top. The episode when she met the Queen at breakfast is just classic and had me in stitches, as did a lot of other parts of the book. Later on when Clare is racing, her descriptions are so good you actually feel you are right in the race with her and urging the horse on.
All in all the book is hugely entertaining and also very sad in parts as obviously some of the horses and dogs have to pass on. The only drawback I have is that in the epilogue it briefly brings everything up to date. I was looking forward to the next book about Clare’s life after the teenage years. But I guess there is still a possibility of that….I hope.
You can buy the book from “all good bookstores” but if buying online then Amazon is probably handy and I believe you can find out where Clare is still doing book signings on her website. Please also follow Clare on Twitter where she is very chatty and sometimes says hi back to you.
Needless to say I highly recommend a read of “My Animals and Other Family”.