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Clare Balding has been presenting sports on TV since 1998. One of the very few highly respected female sports presenters, Clare is there for her knowledge and quick thinking, not just her looks. Clare has presented the Olympic Games, the Winter Olympics, the Paralympics, the Boat Race, the Grand National, rugby, tennis and much more, and has even earned herself an OBE for her services to the sports journalism and broadcasting industry. Although, if you read Clare's autobiography, you might wonder how she ever got her OBE after more than one run in with a certain member of the royal family!
As the title suggests, this autobiography is about the animals (mainly the horses and dogs) Clare Balding grew up with. It's also about her family life. But it's much more than this. The animals, Clare's family and her experiences have all helped shape the woman we see before us today. Without her family and the animals she grew up with, I doubt she'd be who she is today or where she is today - presenting the Grand National, the Olympics and many other sports on our television screens. My Animals and Other Family is very much a tribute to the people and animals who have helped shape her life. The animals even grace the chapter titles, each with it's own sketched portrait.
Clare Balding's autobiography is a funny and enlightening story. It certainly had me chuckling away to myself a number of times! Clare definitely got up to quite a number of antics as a child and certainly tested her parents' patience. She usually meant well, but the outcome would usually be quite different to what she'd planned!
Growing up as the daughter of a racehorse trainer gave Clare an interesting, privileged, but not always easy, childhood. Her father's clients often visited to check on the progress of their horses. His clients included American philanthropists, British entrepreneurs, members of the British aristocracy and even the most famous person in the United Kingdom - The Queen! Imagine bursting into the dining room for breakfast only to find the Queen sat at the head of the dining table with the rest of your family. Imagine bursting into the room, delving into breakfast and sending half of it flying across the dining room table towards the Queen! That's how funny some of the stories in this autobiography are!
There are, of course, some sad moments too. The death of family dog or racehorse felt particularly hard in the Balding household.
The earlier chapters give us a great insight into Clare Balding's family history. For instance, I didn't know her great-great uncle was the brewery magnate, Sir William Bass. Clare would make an interesting participant in an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?.
My Animals and Other Family is full of adventures and such, and is very honest. So honest that Clare admits that and her brother came to learn their place in the family pecking order - behind the horses and dogs!
I must admit that I'm not a big lover of horses... On the few times that I've ridden one, it's either refused to move or galloped off with my clinging on for dear life! However, watching the Grand National and placing a bet or two has become an annual habit, as has the Boat Race and one or two other programmes Clare presents. I've always enjoyed Clare's presenting. She's very knowledgeable and doesn't panic when faced with the unexpected.
If you've ever watched Clare presenting sport on TV, then I'd definitely recommend reading My Animals and Other Family, and getting to know the woman behind the TV personality. The book itself takes us up to her university days and can only hope there'll be another book to follow.
I love autobiographies, mainly because I am so nosey. I have read quite a few over the last few months as I read them before bed to wind down. My most recent read has been Clare Balding's autobiography - entitled 'My animals and other family'. I bought the paperback version of the book from Amazon for £3.85 (currently still on sale at this price) and is also available as a hardback and ebook too.
For those of you not familiar with Clare Balding, she is a Sports TV presenter most famous for her coverage of horse racing, as well as her fantastic coverage during the 2012 Olympic games in swimming and equestrianism on BBC. She even picked up a BAFTA at the 2013 awards this last week in recognition for her presenting coverage over the years, particularly for the Olympics. The reason I purchased her book wasn't because I'm into sport (in fact I'm not that keen on it) but from watching the Olympics with the rest of the world, I found her to be a very down to earth and likeable character. I was intrigued to read about her life when I heard she had released this book.
The book is split into chapters, each being based around animals that were part of her family and each chapter is appropriately named after them - mainly a mixture of dogs, horses and ponies. Before I bought the book, I had read previously from other reviews that the book was laid out in this way and it did put me off buying it a little but I am so glad I didn't let that deter me and I went ahead with the purchase. I was under the impression that the whole book was going to be a case of telling the reader about each of the animals for the main part which I assumed could get a bit boring if there was only the odd personal story here and there, but this isn't the case at all. The animals are mentioned throughout each chapter but around each are many tales and the animal takes a bit of a back seat in most chapters but whom she refers back to occasionally whilst telling the main stories.
It was one of those books that I didn't really want to put down to go to sleep - it is written in such a manner that it impossible to put down. She tells a lot of personal stories throughout the book that I sometimes found hilarious and also sometimes felt quite surprised by. Especially when she was very young, she seemed to have such an old head on young shoulders and was very decisive about how to spend her time with her younger brother round the family estate. The book is written in quite a light hearted way, she tells of her life very methodically but adds a lot of humour to almost every page - I found myself laughing out loud a few times. It is clear from reading that she had a very eventful time growing up, much more so than your average Joe Bloggs. It is also clear from reading that she adores the animals and that they mean a great deal to her.
There were things mentioned that I didn't know about Clare, for example early in the book she mentions that the first pony she took care of was actually given to her family when she was born by none other than the Queen herself! I had the impression that she came from a privileged background but this made me realise how privileged it must be. Mentions of a 14 bedroom house also cemented this. Putting mentions like this aside though, sometimes you really wouldn't think she came from this background from some of the wonderful and down to earth stories she tells.
There is a slightly more serious side to this book too. She often makes references of how her father rarely took holidays away from his work to spend quality time with the rest of his family as when she was growing up he was a very well known and recognised horse trainer and that was his whole life.
The only minor downside, although I assume this will be addressed with another sequel style book, is the fact that her life is detailed across childhood but her later adult years aren't really covered very much at all, something I was interested in reading in detail about too. Hopefully this will mean another (just as entertaining!) book to read though!
I would thoroughly recommend this book as it is light hearted throughout but not without some more serious notes to it too. The book does talk about horse racing and training in detail throughout which I did expect from seeing her presenting, but I didn't think that made the book any less interesting, even though horse racing isn't a favourite of mine personally. I was in fact surprised how much I enjoyed reading about her upbringing in a family whose life was all about the horses, I really wouldn't let this put you off.
I rate Clare's book 5 stars as it was a very entertaining read.
Thanks for reading :o)