A.F.E Smith, the talented fantasy writer, is to blame. Or rather, I should humbly thank AFE, not blame her. It was an interview with AFE that brought ‘The Horse with the Green Nose’ back to my mind. Now, I can’t get that horse out of my thoughts, what’s more ‘feeding the horse with the green nose’ has become my catch-all phrase for my own fiction writing.
You see, ‘The Horse with the Green Nose’, by Agnes Frome, is one of the earliest books I can remember reading. It had been passed down the generations in my family; battered and worn but with a fabulous soft cover and a unique smell. I can’t tell you much about Agnes though. It seems likely that Frome was a nom-de-plume, taken from the town in Somerset. Some clever genealogical work has discovered that she was probably really Agnes Dora Rimmer, born c 1895. She definitely contributed to a series of ‘Herbert Strang’s Readers’, written for the Oxford University Press, which can be found in second-hand bookshops and all look to be the products of a very bygone age; as, of course, they are.
Apart from ‘The Horse with the Green Nose’ by Agnes Frome.
This story concerns a young boy who has a picture in his nursery of a nice horse with a green nose. The horse also has its legs on back to front, but as I recall that didn’t really matter – not a plot point. What matters is that the horse is trying to eat some very red apples. The best apples ever. Unfortunately they are permanently out of reach. A very sad situation, I’m sure you will agree.
So, the boy did what any young boy would do. He went into the picture to feed the apples to the nice horse. The horse was very pleased about this, as any horse would be. The story had more to it, but this is the bit that mattered to me: happy boy, happy horse, excellent!
And ever since I read this book, this is what I’ve been doing. I’ve been going into the picture to feed the horse with the green nose. At first, stories that I thought needed fixing or that could be improved – usually by the introduction of a blond, freckled, full-of-beans young boy, with one slightly sticky-out ear and a very tricky surname. Books, films, radio, I didn’t care – it was, and still is, the story that is important.
Before the stories became my own – mostly. Written at first in my head, lying awake at night playing them out, over and over again, until they reached a point of such familiarity that I could just lie back and enjoy watching them. I had my own cinema in my head, accessible as required.
Still do it too, feeding the horse with the green nose. I couldn’t think of a better name for it, so thanks for that AFE and good luck feeding your own horses too.
This cover of the book is not from the copy I had all those years ago. If anybody out there finds another let me know, or better still, give it to a freckled, full-of-beans young boy or girl – the sticky-out ear is optional.