Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Film journalism: Dogtooth Review

Published for Subtitled Online May 2010~


REVIEW: Cinema Release: Dogtooth

Dogtooth

Release date: 23rd April 2010
Certificate: 18
Running time: 94 minutes
Director: Giorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Christos Stergioglou, Aggeliki Papoulina, Mary Tsoni, Hristos Passalis
Genre: Drama
Studio: Boo Productions
Format: Cinema
Country: Greece

We’ve all heard arguments that children these days are wrapped up in cotton wool by overprotective parents. Director Giorgos Lanthimos takes this critique and runs wild with it, demonstrating the cost of maintaining a perfect family in a film of obsession and isolation.

Dogtooth offers us a glimpse into the life of a Greek family, structured around a foundation of discipline and order, regimented by a compulsive father (Stregioglou). His determination to shield them from the outside world extends beyond the anxiety of a dutiful father and his vision of an ideal family is embedded so deeply in his mindset that his grown-up son and two daughters (Passalis, Tsoni and Papoulina) have never been allowed to venture further than the bottom of the drive. Using the ignorance installed in the childish minds of his children and ultimately manipulating their fear both of him and the unknown, he rules in his own familial prison. Na├»ve and younger than their years, the children have been brainwashed with a false reality painted by their parents and reinforced by their seclusion. Brought up to believe in an elusive brother who defiantly left to live on the other side of “the wall”, they await the loss of their dogteeth to signify their authorised readiness to follow suit and leave the confines of their house.

Q&A: Oddball Studio

Written for Imagine magazine April 2010.



Oddball Studios

“Sanity is a madness put to good use”: identical twin brothers Sam and Peter Foster’s ethos is summed up by the toilet door inscription on the grotesquely chaotic Oddball-Studio’s website. The Wigan-based duo caught up with us to talk about the method in their madness, the inspiration behind their surrealism and to give us a glimpse of their latest project.


What is Oddball-Studios about?
Oddball-Studios is a website name and was intended to describe the bizarre twists to that of a normal world. The style of the creations are very much inspired from the 90's era of children's cartoons such as the creator John Kricfalusi known for Ren and Stimpy. Most of our past animations are done using 'cut-out' or pose animation techniques but we are now looking into traditional 2D animation for our future projects [see pictures].

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Interview: Mark Taylor

Prepared, conducted and written for Imagine magazine, April 2010.


Interview: Mark Taylor

Standing in the foyer of the A Productions headquarters stands a giant wolf: the studio’s director Mark Taylor is about to discuss Cbeebies’ new animated series Driver Dan’s Story Train. Standing next to him is another giant wolf, its cartoon eyes and comical grin leering at visitors. Behind a desert of unoccupied desks and tables lies a small staircase leading up to Mark’s office where a conversation about green screens and Abu Dhabi ensues.

Driver Dan's Story Time
What is Driver Dan’s Story Train?
Driver Dan’s Story Train is a pre-school series, currently running on CBeebies. It’s an animated show with a strong cast of characters and it’s got a very strong literacy angle to it, but it’s not an educational programme. It’s all about telling stories. It’s done in a fun way, so we’re not being prescriptive or lecturer-y. We have an interaction element with viewers at home; in the title sequence, we introduce live action children and then we go into Driver Dan’s world, but we hear real kids in voice over, who we record. Driver Dan turn[s] to camera and ask[s] questions and you hear kids’ voices talking back. It’s a very inclusive idea.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Q&A article

Compiled and written for University Business in April 2010.


Do students get enough contact hours for their fees?

Universities are facing accusations of failing students by providing insufficient contact hours, valuable time in which students attend lectures and discuss feedback with lecturers. A recent survey of 2000 undergraduates by The Times concluded that 16% of humanities students get less than five hours of contact per week, but some members of the sector argue that students should accept more responsibility and read their subjects rather than expect lecturers to hold their hand throughout their course. With fees set to increase, contact hours are becoming a hot topic in higher education.

Professor Clive Upton, Professor of Modern English Language, University of Leeds
“Reading” for a degree means just that, the onus being on the scholar to learn, with the tutor facilitating that learning. Students should be availing themselves of the opportunity for one-to-one meetings, in consultation hours scheduled by tutors but little used by students. It is easier now to gain a university place than at any time in the past, with staff-student ratios being steadily eroded as more and more students have been provided with places, staffing levels not keeping pace. Tutors are not only teachers, but are researchers and administrators too… time must be allowed for it. In their defence, students are doubtless unaware of the many calls upon the small number of staff who can be deployed to teach them, though as adults they could be expected to reflect that there might be such before reaching easy judgments. Perhaps we are in error in not making sufficiently plain to them the realities of a higher education system that has expanded to give them places, places denied to previous generations.

Sally Hunt, General Secretary, UCU
Students do not want, and should not expect, to have their hands held during their time at university. What they do have the right to expect is high-quality teaching, research and advice from experts in the field, although we do share the concerns of students and their parents over the likelihood of increased class sizes and fewer contact hours with staff. You cannot make cuts without serious consequences. We believe the cuts could lead to thousands of jobs being lost and the staff who survive the cull left with more students to teach and less time to spend with them. Anyone who thinks this won’t massively impact on the quality of education in this country is living in a dream world.

Nick Lloyd, Lecturer in Defence Studies, Kings College London
A physics undergraduate requires numerous contact hours, many of which are based in the laboratory. Such close instruction and experimentation is an essential element of mathematical and scientific work. An arts and humanities degree course requires no lab work, only the time to read and reflect. In order to understand lectures, write essays and take a constructive role in seminars, students need to spend their time in the library reading. Perhaps universities should enforce compulsory reading classes for six hours each day. At least it would beef up the number of “contact hours” students would have.

Wes Streeting, President, NUS
The amount of time it takes to receive feedback on coursework was highlighted as a cause for concern, with a quarter of students having to wait more than five weeks for feedback, which is wholly unacceptable. Our research found that only 25% of students receive verbal feedback on their assessments, compared with 71% who would like it: 40% of students in higher education are choosing to study part time.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Forensic Animation Article

Written for Imagine Magazine, April 2010.


Forensic Animation

Imagine a hushed, reserved courtroom, jurors’ heads bowed, quietly contemplating the evidence that may or may not convict the man in front of them to life behind bars. He shot a pedestrian in cold blood, they are told. They have been given motives, fingerprints, DNA; but he protests his innocence. The stillness is broken when the jury’s attention is stolen by a screen in front of them: it plunges them directly into the crime scene. Everyone in the room is guided through the scenario: they retrace the suspect’s footsteps, they look around at the wet pavement behind them. When their gaze is returned ahead of them, they meet the victim, digitally resurrected to convict his killer. Animation has surpassed the business of entertainment and reached the realms of law.

Forensic animation has been growing in popularity since the early 90s, but recently Vancouver College of Art and Design has pioneered a 3D animation course that includes forensic animation. It has increasingly been used to inform and convince juries in court by presenting them with 3D diagrams of settings or even placing them at the scene. Forensic Visualisation Models (FVMs) have been developed so that jurors can relive crimes at 30 frames per second from the courtroom, bringing judges and lawyers up to speed with the experts. Animators collaborate with eyewitness testimonies and accident reports to recreate the scene of crime, complete with interactive camera angles. Before the animation is shown in court, police investigators can explore locations, analyse events and experiment with hypothetical situations with a view of enhancing the evidence already gathered. In theory, they need never visit the site themselves, saving time and money. Using laser scanning techniques, small but vital details can be recreated and added to digital scenes: in one case, skid marks that existed three years previously were added to an animation created for a car accident case.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Product Reviews

Written for Imagine Magazine, Feb 2010.


Wacom Intuous4
Supports Windows XP (SP2), Microsoft Vista and Mac OS X 10.4.8 or higher.
RRP: £200 - £650


Available from A6 to A3, the Intuous4 redesigns the pen tablet. Customised shortcuts, modifiers and touch ring means that time becomes much more disposable for the animator. Some loose change might even be left to clatter in your pocket since it comes with its own mouse and a selection of downloadable software including Adobe, Corel and Autodesk. The au naturale digital pen is completed with Wacom’s second generation proprietary tip that provides 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, meaning accuracy and detail flourish on the screen. For some one starting out, the Bamboo MTE450KEN will be better suited and less overwhelming, not to mention easier on the wallet. For the professional, though, this is ideal.



Stifkas
RRP: £2.99 upwards

“It’s simply fun!” Stikfas claims and they’re not wrong. Albeit, you need to assemble the 3cm figures yourself, so watch out for sharp jabby nubs, but construction is simple enough to leave the instructions in the box. Depending on which kit you get, the opportunity for customisation is virtually endless. The Blisters packs - perfect for no-frills extras - are basic, yet still perfectly dexterous to position believably. The rest of the kits, though, come more than well-equipped for you to make your figures unique. Stikfas have expanded to endorse numerous themes: superheroes, warriors, spacemen, jungle explorers and fairies are common occurrences in the lands of Stikfas, leaving you little reason to go looking for stop motion fulfilment elsewhere.



Cracking Animation: The Aardman Book of 3-D Animation
RRP: £19.95


With six Oscar nominations and three Academy Awards under their belt, any book written by the masterminds of Aardman should be essential reading for budding animators across the globe. Slightly archaic in its approach, Cracking Animation omits any computer-based methods and focuses almost exclusively on more traditional techniques. Full of exercises designed to let the reader experiment and experience for themselves, this book offers reliable advice and guidance for the amateur. Ideal for enthusiasts just embarking on the path of animation, and of course for taking advantage of the dedicated Aardman fanbase, Cracking Animation is also best left on a student’s library card.



The Animator’s Survival Kit Animated
RRP: £745


Ten years ago, Richard Williams, who brought us Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and the animators behind Pixar, put his fifty years’ worth of experience into a book called The Animator’s Survival Kit. It was the bible that animation needed. Now it comes to us on DVD: sixteen of them. Taken from lectures at Blue Sky Studios, the discs cover anything from games animation to stop motion. You can be lectured by Williams and then go and put his advice into practise, rather than spending hours brooding over his sacred script. Over 400 animated examples can be slowed down to study frame by frame and any questions that come to mind are likely to be thrown at Williams by his audience. If £745 is a bit steep - and, let’s face it, animators aren’t the highest earners in the world - then you shouldn’t have any qualms about falling back on the book.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Writing for Children: Flying Pigs

Published in First Edition Magazine, Aug 2009.


Flying Pigs.

Holly clambered up the oak tree after the red squirrel who nimbly leapt over knots in the rough bark of the trunk.
“Slow down!” she panted, as she found a foothold on a branch. But Holly knew that her friend wouldn’t slow down until the family of cats who had been sitting hungrily on a lower bough was out of site. “I think we’ve got away…” she said as she peered over her shoulder and saw that she was wrong. A plump green and purple cat was clawing its way up the trunk and was gaining on Holly, who suddenly recognised the danger that her feet were in.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Writing for Charity: HorseWorld Updates

Animal updates, published by HorseWorld, Oct 2008 - Feb 2009.


Name: Apache

Year of Birth: 1986

Arrived at HorseWorld in: 2003

Favourite food: Apache likes to make sure her breath is nice and fresh and likes mints more than anything.

Overview
Apache has been busy entertaining the crowds at presentations and being the centre of attention. She enjoys all the cuddles showered on her from visitors.

Training
Since Apache arrived at HorseWorld, she has disliked her legs, belly and chest being touched, as they were very sensitive. These areas have been desensitised and now we can groom her properly with no discomfort to either Apache, or the grooms she used to nip! Apache’s clicker training has continued, and she is learning lots of new tricks to show her fans.

Treatments
Apache’s hooves are being looked after by a barefoot trimmer who makes sure her feet are balanced and comfortable without wearing traditional metal shoes.

Special Occasions
Apache celebrated her birthday with her friends here at HorseWorld, who spoiled her with cuddles and mints. She’s also been enjoying her clicker training between showing off at presentations.

Friends
Apache has found a new friend in Berry and the pair roam around the field like old women! She also likes spending time with Jodie, but she still has a soft spot for her friend Sunny.

Likes and Dislikes:
Apache likes: food and playing with her three best friends, Jodie, Berry and Sunny.
Apache dislikes: being told what to do, which can sometimes make training a challenge!




Name: Cowslip, Benjamin Bathmat & Bluebell.

Year of Birth: March 2005

Arrived at HorseWorld in: October 2005

Favourite food: Pony nuts in their food toys.

Overview
Cowslip, Ben and Bluebell were all very busy over the Christmas period, when they joined forces with Eeyore and raised lots of money at the carol service.

Training
Cowslip has been reacting fantastically to her clicker training and dazzles the crowds with her new tricks at presentations. She loves to show off and impress onlookers. Ben and Bluebell are quite happy to watch her hog the limelight whilst they snack on pony nuts!

Treatments
Ben had a skin irritation at the end of the summer, which he saw a vet for. It has cleared up now and we have three very healthy donkeys!

Special Occasions
Cowslip, Ben and Bluebell enjoyed helping out at the carol service, where they strutted their stuff donning hats and tinsel whilst amazing the crowds. Cowslip thought it a perfect opportunity to flaunt her latest clicker training. Visitors to the Donkey Den adored the Christmas atmosphere created by the donkeys.

Friends
The three donkeys live with seven others in the Donkey Den, although Ben gets to stay with the four older donkeys at night so that he gets extra hay to build up his condition.

Likes and Dislikes:
The three donkeys like: Interactive feeding time, when they can play with their special food toys to get pony nuts from them.
They dislike: Cold wet weather as donkeys are not waterproof!



Name: Eeyore

Year of Birth: Approx 25 years old

Arrived at HorseWorld in: 1995

Favourite food: Ginger biscuits and polos.

Overview
Eeyore came out of retirement in December and made a special appearance in a carol service at church, where he met lots of new people and enjoyed all the attention he got.

Training
At 25, Eeyore is stuck in his ways, but the prospect of new fresh grass gets him scouting around and burning off those biscuits!

Treatments
Even donkeys can’t escape the dentist and Eeyore had to have his biannual check up in December, which he faced with the courage most of us wish we had! Eeyore has recently been troubled by one of his front feet, which we suspect may be infected. He is being treated by the vet and our grooms are making sure he’s not too uncomfortable.

Special Occasions
Eeyore helped raise money at the carol service by getting into the Christmas spirit and sporting a rather fetching hat with lashings of tinsel.

Friends
Eeyore enjoys nothing more than sharing polos with his best friends Dinky and Ben in the Donkey Den.

Likes and Dislikes:
Eeyore likes: food!
Eeyore dislikes: bad weather and winter, as well as being away from Dinky – they are inseparable.



Name: Garth

Year of Birth: 1963

Arrived at HorseWorld in: 1975

Favourite food: Ginger Biscuits and Guinness.

Overview
Garth has had a difficult few months; maintaining his condition and appetite has been a bit of a struggle, but the grooms have discovered that adding Guinness to his feed helps, much to Garth’s delight!

Training
We have been training him to eat all of his food by adding Guinness and soaked ginger biscuits.

Treatments
Garth has been visited by the vet to make sure his lack of appetite wasn’t a symptom of illness. The dentist also removed some of Garth’s remaining teeth which were making eating difficult for him.

Special Occasions
One of the Visitor Centre’s grooms, Lin Horwood, has known Garth for thirty years, and is counted amongst his best friends. When she returned to the Centre after some time off, Garth perked up considerably.

Friends
Garth is still completely inseparable from Rosie.

Likes and Dislikes:
Garth likes: Guinness and ginger biscuits and his best friends, Lin and Rosie.
Garth dislikes: Being unwell, although we hope that the fresh, nutritious spring grass will help him improve.



Name: Gracie May

Year of Birth: 1995

Arrived at HorseWorld in: 2001

Favourite food: Haylage and the occasional polo.

Overview
Gracie has been taking part in our presentations, where she behaves very well. She has been developing her repertoire of tricks to impress spectators and earn polos. She enjoys bossing around her two buddies Seth and Samuel.

Training
We have been training Gracie to stop dragging us along with her when she walks to and from the field – our grooms don’t always share her enthusiasm! She is also being clicker trained so she can put on a show at presentations; she has learned to play football, follow a target and is now moving on to bowing.

Treatments
Gracie was visited by the dentist recently, when she had to be sedated; not because she was scared, but because she is so tall that the dentist is unable to reach her teeth when she is standing!

Special Occasions
Gracie enjoyed being the centre of attention during half term, when she did lots of presentations to her many fans.

Friends
Seth and Samuel, the two other heavy horses, are still Gracie’s best friends.

Likes and Dislikes:
Gracie likes: putting Seth and Samuel in their places!
Gracie dislikes: being led behind Seth or Samuel – Gracie always has to be first!



Name: Nazia

Year of Birth: 1994

Arrived at HorseWorld in: 2003

Favourite food: Most things, but carrots and polos are her favourite.

Overview
Nazia moved to Keynes Farm for a week’s holiday in January, but has had to stay there because the horses in the fields developed a respiratory infection. None of them could be moved as the infection is contagious, so they have remained there whilst receiving treatment.

Training
Nazia’s physiotherapy and prolonged rest at Keynes Farm mean that she isn’t as fit as she was. She has been getting back into shape with our grooms and will drop all those extra pounds in no time!

Treatments
Nazia’s physiotherapist saw her in October and has advised that due to poor conformation she needs to keep her muscles toned. Some good exercise should get her muscles and fitness sorted out!

Special Occasions
Nazia’a cart was turned into Santa’s sleigh by our maintenance team for Christmas, which she impressed the crowds with at the carol service. A few bells and tinsel got Nazia right into the spirit. Santa’s reindeer had better watch out!

Friends
Iris is still Nazia’s best friend; the pair get up to all sorts of antics together.

Likes and Dislikes:
Nazia likes: showing off her cart driving skills.
Nazia dislikes: being told to diet.



Name: Pickle Lily

Date of Birth: 17th July 2007

Arrived at HorseWorld on: 17th July 2007

Favourite food: Pickles loves getting pony nuts out of her toy.

Overview:
Pickles is approaching the terrible twos, although no one would know as she is so gentle and well behaved. The last six months have been very busy for her with the training from the grooms and playing with her dad and friends.

Training
All of Pickles’s basic handling training has been completed and she is happy to be led, to have her feet picked out and to be groomed. The next goal for Pickles is to get used to the dentist – something most of us still haven’t conquered!

Treatments
Just like us, Pickles needs regular dental check ups and Pickles’s is due soon. This can be a stressful experience for animals and people alike, so we will have to be very gentle with her.

Special Occasions
Pickles is calm enough to make appearances at lots of our presentations. She helps educate our visitors about donkeys and caring for them properly, which is very important. She behaves very well and adores being the centre of attention; no one can resist such a pretty young donkey!

Friends
Pickles lives in the Donkey Den with nine other donkeys, including her mum and dad, Patty and Benjamin Bathmat.

Likes and Dislikes:
Pickles likes: playing with her dad; they often spend hours galloping around the field together and they even play football!
Pickles dislikes: walking over the drains in the yard, but she is gradually getting braver.



Name: Popeye

Year of Birth: 1997

Arrived at HorseWorld in: 2004

Favourite food: Anything edible, and is not in the least bit fussy, although apples and carrots take priority!

Overview
Popeye has enjoyed the last six months at the Visitor Centre, where he has continued his training as a riding pony. He participates in presentations, where he can be the centre of attention and he also joins in the 12:00 feeding, which he looks forward to as he can play with his food ball.

Training
Since Popeye had his right eye removed, he has been finding it difficult to work on his right rein, so he has been doing a great deal of long reining to help him work on both reins. This is assisting his training to achieve his goal of becoming a riding pony.

Treatments
Earlier in the year, Popeye had a bout of feather mites which made his legs itchy, but this was quickly treated and he is now mite free. He also had his annual flu and tetanus shots to keep him healthy.

Special Occasions
Popeye has been taking turns with other ponies to rest in the welfare department and have a break from his life in the limelight!

Friends
Along with his old friend Jasper, Popeye likes to spend time with Burdock and Morag, as well as his new friends at the welfare department, where they relax together.

Likes and Dislikes:
Popeye likes: going for hacks around the countryside and getting nice and muddy although the grooms aren’t so keen on cleaning him after!
Popeye dislikes: being separated from his friends and having to wait until last to be fed, resulting in causing a racket by kicking his door!



Name: Portia

Year of Birth: 1996

Arrived at HorseWorld in: 2000

Favourite food: Portia seems to have developed a liking for slightly healthier food than usual, and likes bananas, pears and breakfast cereal. She hasn’t given up the raw eggs though and often finds the eggs laid by the chickens before we do if we’re not quick enough.

Overview
Portia enjoys a morning walk around the yard before we open so that she can see what the grooms are up to and scout around for eggs and food before anyone else gets there.

Training
Portia’s clicker training means that she can now find a ball under a bucket as well as knowing to pick up and a pass a cup. She has learned to pick up her feet when asked. She also plays with her treat ball to get food from it.

Treatments
Portia has had her feet trimmed, thanks to her clicker training; she has never liked having her feet picked up.

Special Occasions
During the winter months when the Visitor Centre was closed Mondays and Tuesdays, Portia has been able to roam the place as she likes, picking up bits of food along the way.

Friends
Portia’s paddock-mates have left HorseWorld, so she now has the luxury of being the only pig in the Visitor Centre. This is much more to her liking, as she used to live in a third floor flat and was never socialised properly.

Likes and Dislikes:
Portia likes: being able to wander around where she likes and rummaging through the straw beds whilst the grooms are mucking out.
Portia dislikes: the goats who bully her, but she tolerates them well.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Writing for charity: HorseWorld 2. Writing for children.

Animal histories, children's versions. Written for HorseWorld, Oct 2008 - Feb 2009.


Bambino

I’m Bambino and I was eighteen months old when I came to HorseWorld. I had escaped from my owners with four of my friends. We were caught and brought to HorseWorld, where we could be cared for properly, and nursed back to the health that our owners refused us.
My owners used to make us take part in trotting races. We would be forced to trot on open roads with cars and other vehicles, which we could have easily had an accident with and hurt ourselves badly. We pulled our owners behind us in a carriage, which they attached by any harness they could find. My owners didn’t care about using one that fitted, so my body and mouth is now scarred from harsh use of the harness, bit and reins.
Owners like the ones I escaped from make us race so that they can make money; sometimes they can get thousands of pounds if we win a race. None of us horses ever benefit from this money, though, and our owners continue to treat us cruelly.
Such brutal racing on hard concrete roads damages our joints and bones. Even though I am still growing, I already suffer from arthritis and deformed, sore joints, which a much older horse might experience. I now need expert care for the rest of my life. The staff here in my new home provide that care, as well as lots of love and cuddles! I am still very nervous of people, though, because the grooms at HorseWorld are the only humans I have known to treat me kindly and with the respect that all animals deserve. I know that they are here to help me, however, and I am slowly learning to trust them.
Three of my four friends that escaped with me had to be returned to our old owners. Although our injuries were distressing and inexcusable, they meant that Vera and I were lucky enough to be left at HorseWorld because we would no longer be able to win any races. If HorseWorld hadn’t rescued us, we would probably have been abandoned with no food or water. You have stopped this from happening to me by choosing to sponsor me, creating a bright and healthy future. Now I am enjoying a new life with my friends at HorseWorld, both human and equine!


Beauty

My name is Beauty, and I am lucky enough to be living out my retirement here at HorseWorld. I’m 34, an old woman in horse terms, but that doesn’t stop me having fun! There’s nothing better than chasing around with my friend Paco, a maturing gentleman who I am sharing my retirement with.
I’ve been at HorseWorld since 2008, but this isn’t my first time here. Eight years before, in 2000, I was brought to HorseWorld because the family that owned me could no longer keep me. Horses are expensive to keep and maintain and I’m no different. My owners decided that they could no longer afford to keep me, and gave me to HorseWorld. Although my owners had to give me up, I’m glad that they chose HorseWorld, rather than abandoning me like the owners of some of my other friends. Fortunately, the staff here at HorseWorld found them and nursed them back to health.
After my first visit to HorseWorld, a new owner found me and decided to loan me from HorseWorld. I went to stay with her and had a lovely time, being cared for as well as I had ever been. I spent several happy years with my new owner, until she passed away in 2008. I was devastated. I moved back to HorseWorld after my owner’s sad death, and this is where I am going to stay.
Due to my old age, not many people will want to loan me from HorseWorld again. I’m not as fit as I used to be, and lots of work would be too stressful and bad for my health; I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my owner.
With your help, though, I don’t have to worry about being overworked or abandoned, and I can live out my retirement happily with my friends at HorseWorld.


Flame

I’m a chestnut Arab and I love the company of people. I used to help children learn to ride in my first home, which was a riding stable. I had lots of friends there, some owned by the owner of the riding stable, like me, others owned by riders who chose to keep their horses there. Unknown to any of us, this riding stable was nowhere near as safe and friendly as we all first thought.
In 2003, we started getting attacked; we were regularly stabbed and slashed with a knife. My owner reported the incidents to the police, who started an investigation, and she even appeared on BBC television with an appeal to find our attacker. If only we could have told the police the truth: that she was our attacker.
The attention she gained from media appeals and the police encouraged her to continue harming us. Riding lessons were the only times that I knew I was safe. I had fun with the children, who were nice to me; I could escape the cruelty I had to suffer outside of the school. I dreaded returning to the yard or the field.
The police managed to discover the truth, and my owner has been banned from keeping animals for life, so no other animal will have to suffer at her hands like we did.
When we were rescued, I found a home with a kind, caring family. They treated me well and their daughter rode me like children used to in my old home. Sadly, their daughter outgrew me, so they found me another home here at HorseWorld.
I can no longer be ridden because of injuries caused by the riding school owner, so I am going to stay here, where the long-term care I need can be provided. The grooms treat me as well as my old family did, and my first owner seems a world away, even though what she did to me has caused lasting damage to my body. I know that she is an unfortunate exception to human kindness, though, which is plentiful at HorseWorld. Your sponsorship means that I can stay here with my lovely friends, and be cared for properly. Thank you!


Jumble

I’m Jumble and I’m nearly three years old. I arrived at HorseWorld in spring 2008, when I was two, because my owner didn’t want to care for me anymore and had abandoned me in my field. I had no food, water, shelter or love. Lice and mites lived in my fur, and without a farrier, my hooves had been allowed to overgrow, making standing and walking painful. Since I’ve been at HorseWorld I have been nursed back to health; my hooves have been trimmed and the lice and mites are gone. Now I get plenty of care and attention, as well as food – but not too much!
I was probably neglected because my owners couldn’t ride me, as I was born with deformities that make my back and body an unusual shape. Luckily, it doesn’t hurt me at the moment, but the staff at HorseWorld want to make sure that as I grow, my deformity doesn’t become painful for me. Even though I look different than the rest of the horses, I get on well with the others here; Bambino came to HorseWorld at the same time as me, so we explored our new home and settled in together. We have become great friends!
When I first arrived at HorseWorld, I was shy and scared of humans because I’d had so little contact with them before. The grooms at HorseWorld spent months gaining my trust and now we’re firm friends. I let new grooms train with me before they help other horses who are more nervous than me, so that the staff can then rescue and care for horses from the cruellest of homes.
By sponsoring me, you have given me a second chance to have a comfortable, bright and happy future at HorseWorld. Thank you!


Paco

I’m Paco and I’m 24. I’ve been here at HorseWorld since 2006, and I am going to spend the rest of my retirement here. I haven’t always lived in the UK; before I came here, I lived in Athens in Greece. There, I was kept at a riding stable with lots of other horses. Our owner didn’t take care of us though, and we weren’t fed properly. When our rescuers first saw us, we were thin, bony and hungry. We weren’t used to human contact, because our owner spent so little time with us, so we were frightened because we felt threatened by people. One of my friends from Greece came to the UK with me, and the staff at HorseWorld wanted to feed us up and get us healthy, but my friend died of colic.
Due to how I was treated in my old home, I now have lots of health problems, which HorseWorld are helping me with. Putting on weight and keeping it on is very difficult for me. I am fed twice a day, even if I’ve been out grazing. Even during the summer, I am often fed in addition to grazing during the day. Good company also helps; when I spend time with my best friend Beauty, I put much more weight on! That’s probably how I find so much energy to get into all sorts of trouble with her!
Another problem of mine is that I have no front teeth. Grazing is very difficult as I can only eat long grass, so the two meals I get fed by the grooms have to be made up of special soft food that they know I can eat.
My time at HorseWorld has showed me that not all people are as cruel and careless as my previous owner. I now enjoy human company and I am glad to know that I am going to be spending the rest of life with such kind people and good friends. Without your sponsorship, I would still be at my old home, where my health problems and I would have been ignored. Thank you.



Published updates to follow.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Writing for charity: HorseWorld

Animal histories, adult versions. Written for HorseWorld, Oct 2008 - Feb 2009.



Bambino

When Bambino arrived at HorseWorld at eighteen months old, he was terrified of people. Bambino’s fear of human contact is so deep that we are still trying to gain his trust almost a year later.
We found Bambino when he and four other horses had escaped from the travellers that owned them. Driven to take hazardous and dangerous attempts for freedom, the small herd had strayed onto the roads of Bradley Stoke in Bristol. So desperate were they to get away from their owners, that, according to locals, this was sadly becoming a regular event. The animals gathered in a car park, where they were caught and brought to us. Three of the horses had to be returned to the owners, where they will inevitably continue to be mistreated until they escape again, but the travellers decided to leave Bambino and Vera with us, undoubtedly due to the condition that they had been allowed to reach.
Bambino’s mouth and body have been scarred by ruthless use of bit and harness, which we suspect were used when horses were forced into illegal trotting races. Horses are forced to relentlessly trot on open roads pulling a two-wheeled carriage behind them, putting the horses, as well as other road users, at huge risk of collision and injury. The welfare of these poor animals is severely compromised simply for the financial gain of their owners and punters; thousands of pounds can exchange hands in the world of gambling that surrounds trotting races. Constant trotting on concrete and the burden of the carriage that is permanently attached to the animals with ill fitting harnesses all put massive strain on the horses’ joints and bones, particularly in young horses like Bambino, which are frequently forced into these races. Bambino, still a growing yearling, now suffers from the damage, both physically and psychologically, that this disgusting mistreatment has led to.
Bambino was far too young to be broken in. At just eighteen months old, he was already suffering from arthritis and deformed joints resulting from outrageously aggressive racing.
He is now in need of long-term care, which means that he is unlikely to find a new home with anyone else. The money you have kindly chosen to donate to Bambino means that we can continue to gain his trust and give him the care and love that he has been denied.



Beauty

Beauty is a lively mare and, at a grand age of 34, she gives most yearlings a run for their money! Along with Paco, her retirement partner, she still manages to keep our grooms on their toes! This is her second stay at HorseWorld, and is more than likely her final visit, as well as her final home.
Beauty first came to us in 2000, as her previous owners were finding her a compromise on their finances, which they simply could not afford. Many horses find themselves in a similar situation, but they are not all lucky enough to have owners who take responsibility for finding them a suitable new home. Shortly after arriving at HorseWorld, her irresistible charm attracted a new owner who loaned her from us.
For several years, Beauty enjoyed a life of happiness, and the proper care and attention that a horse requires from its owner; a life that unfortunately many other horses here have been deprived of. Beauty’s future looked secure, until in 2008, her owner passed away. By loaning animals out, rather than selling them, we ensure that they will never face the threat of homelessness again, and Beauty returned to us that summer.
Whilst Beauty’s age clearly has no effect on her energy levels or character, it is likely to prevent her finding a new loaner. It would be cruel to push her into strenuous work and vets’ bills will inevitably increase as she gets older. She will need much more attention, which would become very demanding for the average owner. We have therefore decided that Beauty will not be leaving us again. Thanks to your support, Beauty has escaped a future that could have been as miserable as some of her companions’ pasts. We can provide this friendly sweet-natured animal with the safe, healthy retirement that she deserves, thanks to your sponsorship.



Flame

Flame is a gentle chestnut Arab, who helped many children learn to ride in her previous home at a riding stable in Gloucester. Unfortunately, this riding stable was not as friendly as it seemed to riders who had lessons or kept their horses there.
The owner of the riding stables started reporting attacks on the horses residing at the stable in 2003. The animals were stabbed and slashed with blades on a regular basis. Not until the police started their investigations was it discovered that it was actually the owner herself who had been mutilating the animals with a Stanley knife. The attention from the police simply fuelled her aggression. She had even appealed on BBC television to find the attacker of the horses. Not only had she been stabbing her own horses, but even those belonging to other people, causing distress and trauma for all involved; human and equine. She was taken to court and was banned from keeping animals for life; due to her perceived mental condition, no prison sentence or community service was ordered.
For the horses to fully recover, both mentally and physically, from such barbaric, selfish and utterly unthinkable treatment seems impossible but incredibly, Flame’s sweet temperament has remained consistent and she has been heroic enough to prevent her past from affecting her present and future.
When Flame was auspiciously rescued from the torment of the stable yard, she found herself a kind, new family who showed her the love, care and compassion that she deserves. Inevitably, Flame’s young rider outgrew her, and the family knew that to continue riding Flame would be unkind so they found her a place at HorseWorld.
The injuries suffered at the hands of her first owner have developed so that Flame is now unable to be ridden again, so finding a new home for her would be very difficult. Such a lovable animal would be overwhelmed with kind people wanting to keep her, but Flame’s previous owner not only made her past an unbearable struggle for survival, but has compromised her future as well.
Your sponsorship has helped this brave animal defy her previous owner and find a secure home that provides Flame with the attention and treatment that she rightly deserves. With your help, Flame is now receiving the long term care that she needs.



Jumble

When Jumble arrived at HorseWorld in May 2008, he had been found abandoned and crawling with lice and mites. His neglect had led to the overgrowth of his hooves, making standing, much less walking, uncomfortable and even painful.
Jumble’s awful condition alone was not what distinguished him from other horses. He has a rather unusual appearance due to deformities we believe he has had since birth. Jumble has no withers and his spine and ribs are twisted, so that riding him would be awkward and cruel. Sadly, this is more than likely the cause of his abandonment and his original destination of the meat-market. Fortunately, whilst Jumble has been with us, he has showed no signs of suffering resulting from his deformity; his appalling past has impacted him more than his misshapen body.
Jumble was shy and nervous when he first arrived with us at HorseWorld, having been deprived of human care and attention during his two years of life. Our staff spent months befriending him and gaining his trust. Their hard work has been rewarded and Jumble is a changed animal.
This scarred animal has worked his way into the hearts of our grooms, who Jumble now trusts so much that they can train with him before they move onto animals who are as nervous as Jumble used to be. By sponsoring Jumble, you are therefore not only helping him live the life that he, and every other animal, deserves, but you are securing the future of HorseWorld and our animals, both present and future. Without horses like Jumble, we would be unable to train our staff to the standard that we do.
Unfortunately, Jumble is unlikely to find a new home in the foreseeable future. Due to his deformity, Jumble could only ever be a companion horse, unable to be ridden. The staff at HorseWorld intends to monitor his deformity as he gets older, as growth may aggravate his deformity, causing stress, pain or a restriction of his movement. Sponsoring Jumble means that you have created a healthier, brighter future for him, which he could never have known without your care and support.



Paco

Paco arrived at HorseWorld in 2006, from a little further afield than most of our horses; Paco was kept at a riding stable in Athens. Unfortunately, he and the other horses were deprived of the care that they needed. Paco arrived in the UK with another horse from the same riding school, who we hoped we could also help. When they were rescued, both animals were incredibly emaciated from starvation and were nervous around people. Sadly his companion died of colic. Paco was lucky enough to survive and fight for his health, discovering human kindness on the way.
Paco’s sad mistreatment has left him with more health problems than the average 24 year old horse. Gaining and maintaining weight is a challenge for him, as well as for our staff looking after him. Paco is given hard food twice a day for the majority of the year; even during summer he spends very little time relying exclusively on grazing. Nursing Paco back to health when he first arrived was therefore tough work for all involved. Good company seemed to help though, as his weight happily increased when he was kept with Beauty, his closest companion. Part of the cause of Paco’s weight problem is his soft palate and lack of front teeth. Naturally, this makes grazing and even eating the food given to him incredibly difficult; our staff have to give him specially selected meals that we know he can eat.
Luckily, yet strangely, Paco’s energy does not seem to suffer from his weight problem at all, even at his age! He is a lively animal who always keeps our grooms on their toes. He has firmly overcome his fear of people and is comfortable around the staff that look after him.
Unfortunately, Paco’s health problems leave him needing permanent specialist care for the rest of his retirement here. This is why he will not be leaving us. Thanks to your sponsorship, Paco can continue to lead the life that he was denied and he can now received the long-term care that he has been left in need of.



Children's versions and updates to follow

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Prose: Paragraph Planet: New

A story in 75 words...
Published on Paragraph Planet 21st June 2009.

New.


A new home, a new town, a new start. I crunched through the forest near my new house, exploring  the area. The mid-spring sun was fighting the clouds that threatened to smother it, just as the scent of wild garlic piquantly smothered me. On a tree was stuck a note, so I wandered over and read it. "Look north, south, east and west." So I did. And there it was. Freedom was staring right at me.

Prose: Paragraph Planet: Childhood at the Stables

A story in 75 words...  
Published on Paragraph Planet 24th March 2009


Childhood at the Stables.

Cold, crisp winter mornings. Warm breath billowing in front of my face. Layers, like a cake, wrapped around my small body. T-shirt, fleece, coat, jeans, socks, wellies, socks, gloves, more socks. Still my toes are delightfully numb. Puffs of dust mingle with clouds of breath in the air. When I inhale deeply, I can smell the musty scent of straw and hay. I stomp around the yard, ice and frost crunching underfoot.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Breaking my Blogger Virginity

This afternoon, as I was wandering up and down the street trying to find a shop that sold what I was after, I got chatting to a man who was heading in the same direction. It turns out that he is a journalist, and, amongst other suggestions he cheekily made, starting a blog was one of them. When I was much younger, I used Livejournal, and kept at it for years. But that was just angsty ramblings about a teenager's life. We've all done it. But whilst at uni, "blog" became a bit of a buzz word, and I never really understood why, until this mysterious stranger explained the benefits. I don't have to whine about boyfriends and work to keep a blog. I can keep a blog with the intention of collecting all my published work in one place, and this is what I am going to do. I hope to post all of my published work on here by the end of this week: I'd love to get on and do it now, but I am trying to live the life of a film journalist, and I have film reviews to write. So, until the next time, which shouldn't be too far away, adios.