Monthly Archives: March 2012
I would analyse yesterday’s rubbish spewing from the Chancellor’s maw (first name Gideon until he changed it), but you know what? I can’t be bothered. I’m too tired. And be warned people, that is how they will keep getting away with it. It will be because people like you and me, with no money, who work but can barely make ends meet, will not have the energy to keep opposing the coalition government policies.
We won’t have to time to protest, and if by chance we do, we won’t be able to afford the petrol or the train ticket to get there. We will be In Our Place and we will be silenced and those cock-eyed, ignorant pillocks on the government Front Bench will keep feathering their nests and those of their mates. Apparently, the money a millionaire will save in tax, thanks to yesterday’s budget, will keep them in a new Porsche EVERY YEAR. Meanwhile the pensioners’ ever-diminishing pots will continue to be raided. Under a stimulus package for growth, things are starting to pick up in the States. Over here the austerity cuts have had had a negligible effect on the deficit and many of those of us on modest incomes aren’t spending because we are tired and miserable and fed-up. I can’t speak for people on benefits, but my professional experience shows me that to be a benefit claimant under the coalition is little different from being a fox hunted by a pack of hounds. The current benefit regime is putting people constantly under pressure to find jobs that either don’t exist, or that they are wildly unsuited for.
Gideon Oddball and his loathsome spamhead mates are nothing more than throwbacks to the Victorian landed gentry. I wish someone would kick them out and find them a more natural home where we can pay through the nose, only if we want to see them.
I have written before about how my life is inhabited by music. Tunes and snatches of lyrics pop into my head and either add to what I am doing, or deeply distract me. Sometimes when the radio plays something, particularly in the car, it feels like a hand has come out through the fascia and grabbed me, ‘Listen, this means something!’.
Some music stops me in my tracks. Some music follows me in my tracks. Yesterday was the latter when I was walking on Hackney Marshes. Round and round it was going ‘never go back, you can never go back…’ I couldn’t place it. I couldn’t place it this morning either. These things don’t go away until I do. And to place things I have to stop thinking about them; create a little space in my head where the answer can pop in quietly. There’s an obvious tension in that: needing the answer but not being able to find it for looking. I can apply that across the whole of my life too, not just my inner songworld.
Then, this afternoon, there it was. A little louder on the mike. I could hear it clearly. The words had become distinct. Don Henley’s ‘Boys of Summer’.
Out on the road today I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac
A little voice inside my head said
“Don’t look back you can never look back”
I thought I knew what love was, what did I know?
Those days are gone forever, I should just let them go but…
The original music video is copyrighted fiercely to the power of infinity out there on the net, problem is, it’s not copyrighted in my head. So, I will just link to it here anyway; god knows how long it will stay up.
It’s for Emily, who is right, as usual (see comments).
The current dog had never been to my old regular haunt on the Marsh. I rectified that by being accidentally in London today. It’s a long time ago that me and my old dogs used to walk, or run, with me there and a lot’s changed since then. A new car-park and new wooden-clad changing rooms. Over the White House Bridge, access to the East Marsh is now forbidden; it being carved up between Olympic Park needs and the relocation of the travellers’ site. The old travellers’ site closed when it was swallowed up, along with Waterden Lane, underneath the monoprint of one of the Olympic stadia.
In my mind, my dog Rudi was going to open up the throttle across the marsh. In reality, there were still a cacophony of football matches being played cheek-by-jowl. Each game was notable for the lack of spectators; all the noise came from the pitch. The only thing I could make out was an urgent ‘Carry on, carry on!’. The rest, I imagined, was in Turkish. I sent Fabrice Muamba positive thoughts; the London Chest Hospital that is treating him is only a few miles south of the Marshes. My own ancestor (a baker from Grays) died there in the last century. I hope that Fabrice will be alright, although his career will be over, which is a tragedy in itself. Because of the football, we skirted along the banks of the old River Lee. I was hoping to see a familiar sight: a comorant perched on a thick branch drying its wings. In the end, the final twitching list included: magpies, seagull, chaffinch (probably – even with glasses it’s hard to be definitive with my eyesight lately), mallards, ruddy or teal-type ducks (pretty anyway) and one dipping-in-flight green woodpecker. No cormorants.
How things change. Across the marsh the skyline has moved on. Still the Post Office or Telecom Tower and the Gherkin, now joined by the nearly finished Shard, that I photographed at closer quarters last year. It dwarfs the others, soaring well above the apex of its nearest rival, St Mary Axe. What hasn’t changed on the wide expanse of Hackney Marsh is the cold wind. Yet, the water looks dirtier, the industry heavier. Two new multi-coloured towers for private housing sit on the west bank of the canal part of the Lee. I remember the workers clocking on and off when the site housed the old Lesney Matchbox factory.
Opposite the old flat, more travellers have fetched up like a line of driftwood on the far edge of the cinder pitch. Children play outside the caravans. A dog sniffs where my own used to avidly hunt dead chicken bones. Back on the marsh two Orthodox Jewish men cycle by, chatting. It occurs to me that you never see an Orthodox Jewish woman on a bicycle. There is no-one else about. Where the capital city strains against the Olympic Park there is more space than where the hell I came from. I wonder about the wisdom of progress and walk back to the car carrying a piece of wood. No doubt I make a strange sight. I am used to this. This does not change.
The other thing that had not changed was the police helicopter having its regular Sunday whir over E9. How they afford it, I do not know.
I can’t let the Festival week end without noting the general workaday heroism of our jockeys, both jumps and flat. They often come in for a lot of stick (excuse the pun) and if you don’t ride you can have no idea of the physical demands made on their bodies every day, and that’s not including kicks and falls and wasting to make weight.
For my money, these guys are the toughest athletes we have. Early starts, long journeys, seven day weeks on little food – no wonder Andrew Tinkler tweeted this morning that if he’d been lucky enough to win the one million that one of Nicky Henderson’s stable staff did this week on a yard five-timer, Tinkler would be straight off to Heathrow – not riding work the next morning as indeed the lottery winner was (full story here).
Anyway, props to Ruby Walsh and Tony McCoy for yesterday; not just for having the wisdom to preserve the beloved Kauto Star after nine fences jumped, nor indeed the looks like you won’t even be placed ride on Synchronised to lift the Gold Cup. No, massive, massive respect for this brief exchange, redolent with meaning, between the two friends and competitors during the running of the Gold Cup, reported in the Racing Post.
Ruby said: “I was thinking about pulling up when
AP [McCoy] said ‘if I were you I’d be pulling up’.
The rest is history.
On another cockles-of-my-heart note, Paul Nicholls is parading Kauto Star, Big Buck’s and Rock on Ruby through Ditcheat this lunchtime, in that order. Kauto Star in front, where he belongs.
There’s something about Gold Cup Day. For me, Champion Hurdle Day used to be the most nerve-wracking day of the Festival because it was Day One and I was always in love: Rooster Booster, Detroit City, Harchibald, Brave Inca and Hardy Eustace. It was the race I had invested in most heavily emotionally, and sometimes financially, because it felt more like a bit of me. It spoke to my passion for flat racing and as a lot of the contenders had flat racing pedigrees I had another angle in on the form. By Gold Cup day, I was too knackered to do anything more than enjoy the last championship race.
Then a few years ago in a conversation with a fellow punter, sitting in those elevated seats overlooking the course at another Cheltenham meeting, I mentioned that, to me, the Champion Hurdle had started to feel more like a sacrifical altar than a race. As I said it, I was looking out towards Cleeve Hill and imagining all those Champion Hurdlers coming round the top bend. It was one of those things you say, but weren’t expecting to. Since then, Tuesday at the Festival has seemed a little less vitally important.
Gold Cup Day, now on a Friday, stands alone. It never has seemed like a sacrificial altar to me and I don’t want it to start now! After all, if you’ve (the horse) have made it there with a serious chance its just like that line in the Sinatra song New York, New York about making it anywere…King of the Hill, Head of the Heap, Top of the List, King of the Hill la, la, la…
Sorry. No doubt about it, the Gold Cup is a culmination. It is the culmination of the working week, it is the culmination of our National Hunt season, it is the culmination of the Festival and it is the culmination of a jumps horse’s career.
To culminate means to bring to a point of greatest intensity or completion, from the Latin root culminare meaning to crown, or culmen meaning the summit. And there is more. It also has a meaning relating to astronomy. To culminate in astronomical terms means that a star, or other celestial body, reaches the highest point above an observer’s horizon.
Gold Cup Day has its own Star today and I, along with most of the racing fraternity, are hoping beyond hope to see the culmination of Kauto Star’s most magnificent career. If he wins, I will surely be enjoying my own culmination: following the Star into my own celestial meridian.
P.S. If Kauto Star doesn’t win, please let him come back safe with all the rest, and I know we will love him just as much, if not more, as before. And I will still play the Frank Sinatra tune tonight and toast the greatest jump horse I have ever seen.
Big Buck’s: the once distressing errant apostrophe has now become part of racing legend.
Today I think of him, Inglis Drever, Baracouda and Iris’s Gift, who shared a possessive apostrophe with today’s defending champion.
That is all.
I spoke to Wray Barton about Cheltenham today after she enquired how it was going. Well it’s not really I had to reply. My heart’s not in it – one reason for that being that it (my heart) is going to be in my mouth until after the Gold Cup.
That state of being in the world has not been helped by the fatalities so far, five as far as I am aware. Two yesterday in the Cross Country, another in a separate race and two today in the Coral Cup. It’s an unusually high number, and it sours the whole thing. That’s racing, people usually say. That’s life as well. Knowing it doesn’t ease the blow though.
Hurricane Fly is odd-ons favourite to successfully defend the Champion Hurdle today.
What a great study this is of him on the course at the foot of Cleeve Hill.
I hope everyone has the Festival they wish for.
‘In my chest, my heart leapt in my mouth, my lower limbs are numb.’
I just read the news from Paul Nicholl’s yard that Kauto Star will run in the Gold Cup this Friday afternoon, and the saying came immediately to mind. My heart is in my mouth, and it’s going to stay there until the race is run on Friday. It’s difficult to organise your thoughts when you feel like that, so here’s some more from The Iliad, Book 22.
Just as some horses,
sure-footed, prize-winning creatures, make the turn
around the post and race quickly as they strive to win
some splendid prize—a tripod or a woman
honouring a man that’s died—that’s how these two men raced,
going three times round Priam’s city on their sprinting feet.
And here is a picture of Kauto Star and Long Run. It’s interesting to note how the old warrior looks quite perky and the new kid on the block looks a bit, well, knackered.