Sunday, 25 April 2010
They're under starter's orders...
I don't believe it. Me, a one-time-almost-hunt-saboteur as a teenager, in the sponsors' area at the annual point-to-point races. We have a stunning view of the racetrack, the paddock and it's just a short stroll to the bookies' stands.
I am not quite sure how I managed to get into this ringside position, with the hampers and champers, picnics and shooting sticks. The toffs' trousers - red and calf-scour yellow - the Dubarry boots and the ties and pullovers. It's not what you know, it's who you know, and with Mr and Mrs Champage-Charlie as chaperones, no-one bats an eyelid.
The point-to-point, you see, is run by the local hunt. I am a rural child but I am not a hunt fan, although my views have mellowed over the years, partly in reaction to an urban government imposing its will on its country cousins. So I justify my attendance as an observer, aided by my camera and notebook rather than aniseed spray.
On the first race, I place a very small bet on Tell All, a feisty little creature, while Mr Grigg put his money on Wilde Thing, a horse so laid back it could be a deckchair. The odds on Number 11 go up as an attractive, black stable lass helps lead the horse around the paddock.
'Oooh, I'm backing thic one there,' chorus a group of Young Farmers, wearing sweatshirts carrying various double entendres about squirrels, nuts and bushes. Classy.
Tell All runs out at the first fence, last seen nine miles down the road at Axminster. Wilde Thing comes in third, Mr Champagne-Charlie's horse, Twiggie, is still putting on the wrinkle cream in the M&S changing room, and his wife's steed, also backed by Mrs Bancroft, comes in first. The ladies are just raking it in.
A long refrain of what sounds like a horse breaking wind comes over the public address system, followed by a hectoring rant by the commentator to get the punters to vote Tory on May 6. A child locks himself in a four-by-four and plays a very noisy tune on the vehicle's horn while mummy, daddy, grandmama and grandpapa sit braying around the picnic table, drunk and oblivious.
The final race is sponsored by a firm of funeral directors. At the end of it all, Mrs Bancroft and Mrs Champagne-Charlie are £20 in pocket. Both Mr Grigg and Mr Champagne-Charlie have had two respectable wins. And me? Nothing. Not a bean. Too busy looking at everything else around me when I should have been studying form.
Through the champagne haze, a poster on the other side of the race circuit has been puzzling me for some time.
'Sexhausts and shocks' and then a number advertising a 24-hour service.
In a moment of revelation, I suddenly see another word at the beginning of the sentence. It now reads: 'Brakes exhausts and shocks' and is advertising a local garage.
That's about it.
Love Maddie x
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