Monthly Archives: February 2009

Obama’s Dog and Salary (the former being far more consequential!)

Well the burning question about the new administration has now been answered.  The Obama family have plumped for a Portugese Water Dog.  According to the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning, blogs are better (more widely read?) if they are rooted in time and place, offering the opportunity to be treated as socio-historic virtual documents for posterity.  So I think it eminently worth noting the breed that will be entering the White House at the end of April after the First Family have enjoyed a spring-break. 

The breed is not common in the UK but I can see its popularity growing, where the US leads we will follow, if you will excuse the cheap pun.  Related to the Poodle, a German Water Dog, and as I prefer to call them Das Pudel, I can vouch for the intelligence and beauty of the family.  Apparently they also have webbed feet…

The other thing in the news today has been the former Chief of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s pay-off pension deal.  According to reports he is on an annual annuity of £650,000.  Now what I wonder is how anyone could actually believe that morally, what they delivered, was worth that much whilst gainfully employed.  So how that sum could be acceptable in retirement beggars belief.  Well obviously if you are Fred Goodwin himself your belief is actually richly endowed, but his belief in what?  His part in the bank today posting the biggest loss of any British corporation ever, running into billions?  It strikes me that the arrogance required, not to mention the bare-faced cheek, is of equally gigantic proportions to the financial loss of RBS.

To put it into perspective, the US President can expect to earn a salary of $400,000 annually, which in today’s market equates to  £277,120.  So for actually working at the White House, Obama is receiving less that half of that which Fred is getting for putting his feet up. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not against fat cats, I have one at home myself who lands like a sandbag every time she jumps down onto the floor.  Managers and Directors are paid a lot because they have a lot of responsibility, both corporate and statutory and the majority work hard and conscientiously for shareholders and employees.  This situation just ain’t right whatever way you look at it.  Sir Fred hasn’t yet offered to hand some of his largesse back.  Maybe he will do the decent thing and drop a few bags of gold back off at the Treasury, maybe he won’t and the media hue and cry started (again) by Mr too much power for my liking Peston will force the government to try and do something.  Frankly I don’t care, it’s too late.  The fact that it was agreed as a deal in the first instance shows what a warped way of going on we had got into.

At least Obama is in a job and, despite the low pay, I am confident he will do slightly better than make the dog’s dinner of it that the taxpayers of this country are currently digesting.

Cycling towards a joyful event…

After about the 10 miles mark I concluded that cycling hard in wellies (albeit pink paisley ones) is not conducive to looking the part or indeed feeling the part of a sophisticated and effortless charity biker.  I can confidently state that my feet have hitherto spent nearly 40 years without sweating but the conditions they endured in my gumboots today changed all that!

I had plenty of time to think about things on my epic, nearly two hour cycle, but all that I managed to come up with was:-

  1. how much rubbish there was to be found in the verges of the highways and byways
  2. how boring cycling can be in a flat landscape
  3. how cycling spirits improve when you hit the coastal view
  4. how halva is an essential part of this cyclist’s survival kit
  5. how I might look in a photo shoot wearing pre-requisite padded cycling shorts with aforementioned wellies
  6. that I MUST cycle to Suffolk for Easter in the sure knowledge bowls of chocolate would await

So nothing too deep or profound there then.  I noticed that the physical of effort of cycling merely gave me sweaty feet but sadly had no effect whatsoever on the stray nervous tic I have rehomed in my eyelid.  That’s very annoying frankly, I am hoping it will be gone in the morning…   It is in the same eye as the wretched and premature floaters and my vision is getting interfered with.  At some point on the bike ride I worked out the probable reason the optician didn’t give me a prescription at the last eye test.  It is because my field of vision deteriorates immediately after the wall they hang their eye tests on!  I can read most of their letters (even the small ones) through a process of squinting and deduction.  Unfortunately that method really doesn’t do for driving, watching ballet or football, or cycling into a North Sea wind from Siberia.

I am, in short, desperate for glasses.  If anyone’s got a spare +0.50 prescription or pair of specs I’d be eternally grateful!

Am I a Diva Yet?

Well, am I!

Well, am I!


There’s a long way to go sadly.  A touch of Nice’n’Easy hasn’t really improved matters on the hair front and I seem to have either been covered in mud and/or hair all weekend.

I’ve got a stubborn crease under my left eye too which is vastly, if intermittently, distressing.  So far it is resisting all remedies and although I am now slapping on a SPF15 daily I suspect I am shutting the proverbial stable door.

I also realised I’ve never worn a long dress or gone to a ball.  Oh woe is me!

You can have too much of a Good Thing

Biophilia in this case.  Standing around outside on a freezing and damp Essex marsh whilst the half-term children leap about generating kinetic energy to stay warm.

I think there’s more of it tomorrow too.  Standing around at not-so leafy Lingfield watching the Winter Derby Trial amongst other things.  I remember going there one autumn half-term with the kids.  Drew a total blank on the nags and had to run the gauntlet past some kind of python shipped in for the kids entertainment.  I felt like grabbing a visor myself that day.  Speaking of which, well done to Young Mick, George Margarson and the team out in Dubai as he lifted another 1m4f race.  Not as prolific as he once was, his wins nevertheless have a special place in my heart.

Our Young Mick

Our Young Mick

Punters or Biophiliacs?

I am still in recovery mode after making what are, for me, bold pronouncements about the Cheltenham GC.  Which is, after all, still over three weeks away.  Don’t get me wrong, I would love the marvellous Denman to be back to his brilliant best but if it were possible mentally, I am convinced that there is not enough physical time.  The question I can’t decide the answer to is – how much better than many horses is a below-par Denman?  Who knows.  What is certain is that he has what many generous animals have, the  indefinable collection of qualities termed class.

A day’s racing never fails to set me straight for weeks to come, win or lose.  I put that down to the time spent outdoors, enjoying the horses’ athleticism, the work that has gone into them at home and that which is showcased on the track.  Apparently there is a word for enjoying this oneness with nature and it is biophilia.   As humans our default setting is to be biophiliacs and Cheltenham racecourse, with the backdrop of Cleeve Hill, certainly has one of the most splendid settings in which we can indulge this interconnectedness.

Ok, you might wonder what the heck I am on about if you stray into one of the more raucous bars later in the day, before or after one of the bankers of the meeting has sunk or sailed, but I am convinced if you scratch the surface of your average racegoing punter you’ll find a biophiliac lurking underneath.

Speaking of bankers – World Hurdle, Thursday 12th March, Kasbah Bliss.  An absolutely class act, this horse in trained by Francois Doumen, he of Baracouda fame and I can’t see this one getting turned over.  Fingers crossed.

The banker of the meeting in relaxez-vous mode

The banker of the meeting in relaxez-vous mode

Gold Cup Day – Cheltenham

I thought I might work this backwards given the connection.  The next Friday the 13th is next month, which will be Gold Cup day and the final day of that which is known simply as “The Festival”.

As I said yesterday, it is now about that time, namely to take a view or two.  Given that there is 4 days of quality racing with over 20 races to assess it’s not going to happen in one blog entry (not with meaning and sincerity anyway) so I will give  a brief overview as I see it for the big one.  For the last five years I have managed to form an accurate view of this race but this year I will admit that the picture is not as clear as I would like.  If push came to shove right now I would go for Kauto Star but…

Neptune Collonges (3rd last year) advertised his wellbeing at Leopardstown yesterday with a facile win in their Hennessy.  His stablemates, Denman and Kauto Star, if they were watching would have seen nothing however to unduly worry them although I am particularly worried about the former.  Known as “The Tank” Denman’s reappearance at a hastily reconvened right-handed Kempton last weekend was not all that his fans could have hoped for.  Even with all the negatives about the track for Denman and the possibility that his conqueror Madison du Berlais had improved significantly, Denman’s run did not really cement his chances of scoring for the second year on his return to Cleeve Hill.  In fact the bookies eased him out (polite) or pushed him out (less) in favour of his next-door-neighbour and last year’s runner up, Kauto Star. 

So what are the chances of another Nicholls 1-2-3 and with the same horses as 2008?  I expect you would not get fancy odds about that tricast.  Personally, I do not think Denman is going to rediscover himself by March 13th and although I am a great fan I think he is going to struggle to place.  Have I really said that???  Yes, although the temptation to delete it is quite strong!  My reasoning is this.  The horse has had problems, the horse who hitherto was a good-doer (i.e. found it easy to keep condition (weight) on) lost an awful lot of weight and whatever the scales may say does not appear to have put as much muscle on as this time last year.  Added to that lack of rear drive horsepower, he had a hard race in last year’s Gold Cup and though some may not find the idea entirely savoury I am convinced hard races do leave a mark on some horses.  This can be psychological.  In Denman’s case it might be both.

There are a couple of other horses still in the race who are worth consideration at prices.  At the moment I would be paying close attention to the following, whether they remain in is beyond my control.  Exotic Dancer will be freshened nicely for this and the string at Jackdaws stable seems to be hitting top gear right about now.  The Pipe yard have both Denman’s conqueror, Madison du Berlais, and Our Vic in and although it is a bit of a stretch to have them winning I would certainly be interested in the latter each-way.  The problem with Our Vic is twofold, he needs Timmy Murphy on board to kid him into being interested and he is not getting any younger at 11.  if we assume Tom Scudamore takes the ride on MdB then Murphy could well be on OV but I would imagine Pond House fancy the younger horse.

We have 3 Cheltenham Gold Cup winners in the entries, apart from Kauto and Denman we also have War of Attrition who won in 2006 and has been nursed backed patiently from injury by Mouse Morris.  His form since his comeback this season has been unspectacular and short of his old best, but with this the target all along he deserves some consideration at least, if only to then be discounted.

Lastly there is a proper bonny little sort in State of Play.  He ran in the race in 07 but did not get the clearest of passages.  That said he was not impeded from winning, but, as a former Hennessy winner with a fresh pair of legs I can confidently predict I will have a hard time not backing him each-way although the leap of imagination to get him in the winner’s enclosure is wider than even I can make at this point.

So in summary – the talk and hype around the Nicholls contenders and the potential for an historic second  1-2-3 means that a few worthy sorts are maybe going to get overlooked and therefore with GOOD in the going description I would be looking to see Kauto win, with an old reliable like Exotic Dancer place along with perhaps one of the unmentioned up and coming chasers.  On going that has SOFT in the description Neptune Collonges must be nailed on for a place at the very least, could he turn over Kauto?  I think he could.

Overall I have to say I am not looking forward to this year’s renewal that much.  To my mind there are too many fine reputations and records to be dented and not enough possibilities to offset the damage that might be done. 

The late and great Best Mate

The late and great Best Mate


Thats what my poor blog is doing at the moment.  Get up you beast, like Lazarus, and walk!

I was going to blog today about “Taking a View” but as the only view on my chart is that of a blog in cardiac arrest I find  that, I too,  don’t have the heart.  Added to that I have a trip to Devon to prepare for and some things on my mind workwise.  All adds up to not feeling too creative.

Not to worry, I’ll be back with a bang, taking a view on the Cheltenham Festival later this week 🙂

Friday the 13th x 3 – (part 1, yikes)

There are three of the blighters in 2009, today, one next month and then one in November.   If you are extremely worried about these dates on the calendar chances are that you have paraskavedekatriaphobia.  Fantastic.  If you merely have a phobia about the number 13 and are not fussed if it is Friday are not you merely have a case of triskaidekaphobia – fascinating huh?

Statistically we are all less likely to have had an accident today because we are all being so extra careful, unless you live in the UK and were driving in 1993 on Friday 13th in which case statistics show the opposite. Statistics tend to do that though, don’t they, change their flipping mind?  The linking of the “unlucky for some” number 13 and Friday is a relatively modern phenomenon.  It’s a pretty boring one to my mind too.  Sure, isn’t there enough to worry about, like whether bad things happen in threes (refer to my earlier “one joyful event!” post)?

One bad thing

One bad thing

Another very bad thing

Another very bad thing

The worst and the last bad thing for today (I hope)

The worst and the last bad thing for today (I hope)

I feel I will end the day with a fully-fledged fear of the number three.  Apparently that’s just plain ol’ triskaphobia and it is a fear of the number 3 or any of its multiples 6,9,12,15…
That’s a pretty hardcore phobia, so a shout out and sympathy to any real sufferers – this year is going to be a nightmare 😦

Wearing the wrong clothes

Does it ever happen to you that you get to your destination (work, where else?, wherever) and find that you are dressed all wrong?

This happens to me.  Today the mishmash was too skinny cord trousers with hipster waistline and a strange excuse for leg-of-mutton sleeves top.  The overall and displeasing effect was to make me look like an wrestler up top, with the legs of Gandhi (who has his spectacles on sale soon I read this week) but even they wouldn’t have helped.

How to avoid such sartorial silly business.  Dunno actually.  Iron ones clothes, so you actually have a functioning wardrobe at short notice springs to mind.  But there’s always something much more interesting to do, isn’t there?

Yeah, right!

Yeah, right!

In training for one joyful event

As I said a few posts ago, this year for me is about trying to offset unknown mishaps with a joyful event. Before I knew any of this however I had signed up to do a charity bike ride from London to Paris to raise money for the Big Issue which supports homeless people to help themselves. I regularly meet perfectly good people who had perfectly functional lives until some sideswipe from life knocked them off their feet. Once knocked down, it is not so easy to get back up again (unlike the song by Chomba Womba) and some people find themselves unravelled and on the street. What shocked me lately was reading about the lack of access to healthcare for people on the street and the bare fact that their life expectancy is as low as 42 years old, half that of the general population.

Of course I am not entirely motivated by charitable purposes, I am also after a physical challenge for myself, to improve my fitness and to see what I am able for. So I filled out the forms last year and signed up. Now with the weather and my inability to deal with flat tyres and adjusting the seat to the right height I find myself somewhat beset with worry about what I have taken on. That is even before I start the panic about raising the sponsorship money! I had my first anxiety dream last week where, curiously, we were on a coach leaving Scotland for France. All very confusing.

At the moment between snow, ice and flood it has been difficult to get the training in. I identified a spare hour today to squeeze in some hard pedalling before child collection (their being 6 & 4 precludes training with them so far although I have a plan). Frustratingly I spent 45 minutes of the hour:

  • looking in the sheds crammed with rubbish for a bicycle pump
    locating a pump
    finding the pump, or I, at fault and deflating the front tyre instead of the opposite
    ringing two people who are more acquainted with on the Health & Safety issues associated with inflating bicycle tyres on garage forecourts with air meant for vehicles
    reassured I was unlikely to explode myself to and the bike with said air, walking to the garage with the bike
    finding garage air “Out of Order” and walking another half a mile, in high dudgeon, to purchase a swanky and expensive idiot-proof pump
    cursing whilst pumping tyres, complete with pressure gauge, outside the shop (humiliating) wondering if it would be safe to reach 60psi as recommended by my telephone expert (achieved half that, tyre about to burst?)
    5 minutes cycling to collect girls from school

Which left me with five minutes spare to hang round waiting for the kids to released from the corral.  I considered getting another 5 minutes training in riding round the playground but decided that would qualify as “embarrassing” as far as the eldest goes and dangerous as far as school Health & Safety is concerned.

No matter, I now have the tantalising option of setting off for my evening meeting in the dark, the wind, the cold and the rain on a newly inflated tyre.  Fat bottomed girls have nothing on me.