Category Archives: 1

A wordpress blog question?

This is my current preoccupation – how do get my tag list not to be underlined?

That is to say, I want them to be free of lines underneath, sans underlining, niet to the U!  How do I turn the fecker off?!

Your advice appreciated ūüôā

None of the above

None of the above


In my search for an image to illustrate my point I blundered into the dark side of wordpress blogs – those all about sewing…

I have discovered my long lost cousins and

but I’m not going there in a hurry unless I’m armed.

The Emirates Stadium

Speaks for itself?

Speaks for itself?


This spot is a lot nicer on a sunny afternoon in April when Arsenal (sporting transferred Russian Arshavin) are playing free and flowing football than on my previous visit earlier this year.  That day was the coldest in London for ten years and Arsenal, be gloved and be hatted if they were allowed, were tight and surly and made an awful meal of beating Bolton 1-0 (thank you green-booted Bendtner).

Yesterday they would have not been lavish in their scoring if the sheet had read 5-o against Man City.  As it was we took the 2-0, although for betting purposes I was looking for a bit of 2-1!  Frankly the North-West were not looking up for it in the last 15, I think they could nearly have lain down on the magnificent turf and sunbathed for all the impact they made.  Robinho (substituted) looked like he was on an early holiday but I took time to admire the workrate and heart of Shaun Wright-Phillips up and down the wing.  It helped that he faced the right way most of the time. 

Yet I was left, as before, with the overwhelming marvel that is the Highbury (sorry) pitch.  It is like plush velvet.  Scuzzy boot marks spring back to vanish altogether within seconds.  Oh woe is me that the Head Groundsman has departed for Real Madrid.  We can only hope and pray that he has taught his understudy well.

Goodbye Paul Burgess, its been a ball, hello Paul Ashcroft.

Goodbye Paul Burgess, it's been a ball, hello Paul Ashcroft.

The Day Strong Men Wept – Grand National Day


Well¬†the quote¬†actually relates to Red Rum’s historic and unlikely to be equalled record of three wins in the race in 1977, but I think it sums up the essence of the day each year.

Some will win and some will lose and some worse but let’s hope perpetually that won’t be the case this year.

I have always loved horses and Red Rum was my favourite as a child, along with the t.v. Black Beauty who was my first pin up.  Now as a weak-stomached adult I can hardly bear to look but as always, the romance and expectation of the thing will see me take my headphones to listen to the commentary at the Emirates this afternoon.

If you are running, riding or playing – good luck and I will leave you with a quote from the ineffable Ginger McCain who wrote in his book “From Red to Amber”

“I said when Red Rum started to become¬†a good horse that I wouldn’t sit on him until he retired.¬† If truth¬†were known I didn’t want to insult him.”

The legend training on Southport beach

The legend training on Southport beach

Grand National Quiz – answers provided!

My great, Grand National Quiz ūüôā

1) In which year did Shaun Spadah win the race? (His victory was notable as he was the only non-faller in a field of 35.)


2) In 1934 Golden Miller became the first horse to won the National as well as the Cheltenham Gold Cup.  What else was notable about his victory?

Golden Miller set a new course record

3) Name the mare who once won the race returning odds of 40/1?

Nickel Coin – I believe the 13th mare to win and also the last (1951)

4) How many yards from the finish did Devon Loch shockingly slither to a standstill in 1956?

Newspaper reports from the time (The Telegraph) state 55 yards

5) In 1957 Sundew won the race – what number attempt was it for the horse?


6) Name the luckless horse? ¬†In 1965 a 7/2 fav beaten 3/4 of a length. ¬†In 1966 it was again beaten, this time 20 lengths at a skinny 11/4…


7) Which number fence caused the havoc in Foinavon’s National?


8) Gay Trip triumphed in 1970.  What was the connection between the winner and the 2nd placed horse Vulture?

They were by the same sire VULGAN.¬† I was also given the answer they both started at 15/1 which is correct and I accept.¬† I can’t verify that they started at the same weight but I am sure they did.

9) In which year of his three victories did Red Rum suffer an over reach injury?

1973 Рduring his victory over the gallant Crisp. 

10) Over which dual Gold Cup winner did Red Rum twice prevail in the race before the tables were finally turned?


11) Which year and whose victory was “the day strong men wept”?

1977 – Red Rum’s third victory.¬† I can’t attribute the phrase but it was coined in newspaper reports.

12) Which Gold Cup winner, ridden in the National by Jonjo O’Neill, sadly died at Becher’s Brook in 1979?


13) We all know how amazing Aldaniti and Bob Champion’s win was because of their battles against cancer and injury but they were also only the 2nd winners to do what (first was Sundew in 1957).

To lead throughout the final circuit

14) In 1982 Geraldine Rees became the first woman to complete the race – in what place did she and Cheers finish?

8th and last

15) In the same year Grittar won with Dick Saunders on board.  Saunders was the oldest jockey to win the race Рhow old was he?


16) On Midday Welcome, Geraldine Rees achieved another less notable first in 1983 (Corbiere’s victory). ¬†What was it?

First women jockey to fall at the first

17) Who’s father trained Hallo Dandy?

Nicky Richards’ father Gordon

18) West Tip won in 1986 carrying scars from two old non-racing related injuries – can you name either one of these incidents?

He got tangled up in barbed wire as a 3yo in Co. Kildare and then was involved in a collision with a lorry in 1982

19) Rhyme and Reason won in 1988 but not before making a horrendous blunder at which fence?  
(BTW the newspaper reported that “at that moment odds of 1000-1 would have looked most unattractive” ¬†Betfair anyone?!)

Bechers (first time round my quizzers informed me!)

20) Which horse first broke Red Rum’s racetime record (set in 1973) by 14 seconds?

Mr Frisk

21) Which horse named after the sponsor won the race and in which year?

Seagram 1991

22) In 1993 the race was declared void but how many horses went on to complete the course?


23) Name Jenny Pitman’s two National winners?

Royal Athlete and Corbiere

24) What links the 1965 and 1980 winners, Jay Trump and Ben Nevis?

Both won the Maryland Hunt Cup (it seems Jay Trump won it three times and Ben Nevis twice)

25) What links this year’s Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed with Highland Wedding who won the National in 1969?

The trainer of Well Armed Eoin Harty is the son of Eddie Harty who rode Highland Wedding.  Variations of that answer accepted!

26) For how many guineas did Ginger McCain buy Red Rum at Doncaster Sales in 1972?

6000 guineas

27) In his autobiography McCain writes “Everyone who could hit a horse, from Lester Piggott downwards, hit Red Rum.” ¬† How many times did Lester Piggot ride Red Rum?


28) Willie Stephenson was the third trainer to saddle a Derby and National winner – who was his National winning horse?


29) Which horse was the first Scottish-bred horse to win the National?

My answer was taken from the Hotspur report in 1960 where he said “For the first time in the history of the race a horse bred in Scotland won the Grand National on Saturday.¬† Merryman II etc.¬† Merryman was bred at Hopetoun, near Edinburgh, by the late Marquess of Linlithgow”

However we have also unearthed Old Joe who appears to have had at the very least a Scottish owner, I found his hooves in this link but no information on his breeding!  Rubstic was Scottish-trained.

and 30) is Which horse will win the 2009 renewal?

Congratulations to Mon Mome, Liam Treadwell, Venetia Williams (who broke her neck in a fall as a rider in the National) and all connections and punters who backed him at 100/1.

Commiserations to Comply or Die who we all thought had been a) handicapped out of it b) was out of form.

An honourable mention goes to this year’s pin-up State of Play whose jockey and trainer thought was coming to win 2 out but just got tired (and sure who wouldn’t!).

R.I.P. to Hear the Echo, an Irish Grand National winner and like Exotic Dancer who we lost on Friday, probably was too damn honest for his own good.


The Grand National Post

Firstly I will nail my colours to the mast as it were.¬† I don’t really like watching this race but I respect the tradition and the courage of the horses and riders.¬† I also was Red Rum’s biggest fan as a kid so I support the race but I don’t exactly enjoy it.¬† I’ll be at the Emirates Stadium tomorrow about that time, so I don’t suppose they’ll have split big screen to show it and I’ll be saved hiding upstairs as I have for the last few renewals!


These are my horses РState of Play, Rambling Minster and Darkness.  The last-named will either float round on a silken thread or duck out in the first few.  State of Play has the class and reminds me in stature and build of Rummy and Rambling Minster has been my National horse since Haydock.


Nonetheless I feel that the great expert on breeding of the thoroughbred, Federico Tesio, bears lengthy quotation here, lest we forget what we ask of these noble and generous beasts tomorrow.


We have ascertained that steeplechasers are incapable of passing on their skill over jumps, but we have yet to discover the cause of this phenomenon.  Here is the explanation as it occurred to me.


One evening I had gone into the country to dine with a friend who owned a stable of steeplechasers.¬† Near his villa three horses had been turned out in a fenced paddock ‚Äď three steeplechasers, winners of many races over jumps.¬† They were enjoying a month‚Äôs rest at the time, to restore their limbs and their spirits for further breathtaking feats over walls, rails and ditches.


When I arrived it was seven-o-clock, time for their evening meal. Sorry but I have a vision of equine fine dining here… The three famous acrobats of the turf were pacing nervously up and down by the paddock gate, waiting impatiently for a man to come and open it and take them to their stable where they knew their feed would be ready for them.


What was it, I wondered, that kept them from jumping that four foot gate?  All three had won many races involving jumps of five feet and over, and this with the added burden of a man on their backs and with no incentive to justify their efforts.  Yet there they were, hungry and impatient to get at their feed, waiting for a boy to come and open the gate for them.


I could only find one logical explanation: the act of jumping is contrary to the natural tendencies of the horse and is performed only under compulsion. If he is on his own a horse will avoid large obstacles and frequently even small ones.  Of course one can teach a horse to jump out of a paddock over the gate at feeding time, but this would still be a form of compulsion.  When a horse discovers that he cannot get at his oats unless he jumps a gate, he will undoubtedly jump it exactly on time every evening (provided, of course, that he is physically capable of doing so); but if he knows that a groom will eventually come to open the gate for him, he will with equal certainty await the man’s arrival and will not jump of his own accord.


A hungry lion will not hesitate to jump a six foot stockade to get at a calf.¬† A cat will ‚Äúgallop‚ÄĚ away to escape danger, but he will seize the first opportunity to jump up on¬† a window-sill or down into a cellar.¬† Yet everyday we see loose horses galloping helplessly along a fence rather than jump it.


The physical build and mental qualities of the cat are well suited to jumping: a long, supple back, hocks close to the ground, springy feet, excellent eyesight and powers of concentration.  Those of the horse, instead, are exactly the opposite: a short, rather rigid back, hocks well off the ground, hard feet and poor eyesight.


In motion the horse has four gaits: the walk, the trot, the canter and the all-out gallop.  This last is the final recourse, even of trotters, in the face of danger.  Jumping is a form of acrobatics imposed on the horse by man.  It is without natural origin and it is for this reason that the aptitude cannot be passed on to his offspring.  A child learns to walk without a teacher, but 50 generations of acrobats will never give birth to a child who can perform on a trapeze without being taught.


So we conclude that only natural characteristics can be inherited, not those acquired artificially and under pressure.  Horses are incapable of passing on the ability to perform feats of jumping because high jumping is an artificial and unnatural trick.


Federico Tesio “Breeding the Racehorse”

Little State of Play with trainer Evan Williams

Little State of Play with trainer Evan Davies

The muse (if it ever came) has left me

All I can think about at the moment is renaming the few hills that live in Essex, in particular sunny Southend-on-Sea.

Beast Hill, Bastard Hill, Gregg’s Hill, Long, drag lose the will to live hill.¬† Actually I am glad to live along the hill, if only becasue when global warming really kicks in I should be safely out of harms way when the tide rushes in – selfish eh?

What names I am going to have to come up with on the South Dwons (dec;ared a National Park or something this week) I shudder to think.  The bottom line is I live in fear of hills and having to cycle up them and I am putting the bloglessness down to that particular preoccupation.  Sad but true.

The Big Hill and Me

The Big Hill and Me

Help – the blog’s flatlining – stand clear!

I’ve been watching a few episodes of “House” on DVD, having comprehensively¬†missed them all when they were shown on terrestrial vision.

I’m quite enjoying them actually, despite the worse case scenario being death, in every episode.

In¬†which case it is nearly too late for the makemeadiva blog to be saved by Dr Greg House ūüė¶

The man we know in Britain as Hugh Laurie
The man we know in Britain as Hugh Laurie


Maybe I should finish my blog off myself and relaunch under the “StoptheRot” banner?
Comments welcomed!

Train hard, race easy…

The object of my desire

The object of my desire


Nuff said.

I’m cycling to Paris

I’m cycling to Paris

It’s going to hurt my bum

I’m cycling to Paris

For a fiver from my mum!

Strong possibility Ill be more rank and sweaty than gold and glowing

Strong possibility I'll be more rank and sweaty than gold and glowing

Thank you!

Bureaucracy in the bicycle hut

I have signed up for the government scheme “Cycle 2 Work”, a salary recovery scheme that saves you money when you buy a bike using their voucher system and pay them back monthly for a year.¬† Essentially you get a good discount on the price when using the scheme.

You run into trouble in the administration of it though.¬† The scheme my employer runs (although annoyingly I believe this is changing for the new financial year) means I can only get a bike through Halfords who don’t supply the bike of my dreams.¬† I was told this was no problem as Halford could simply purchase from another supplier and then sell to me but, as of yesterday,¬†Halfords have ridden over¬†this dream unequivocally.

Apparently I could not use the voucher and re-apply under the new scheme, but having prevailed upon various managers to countersign documents and send off in a hurry as the scheme was closing I can imagine this might not go down very well…

Why oh why can things just not be lovely and straightforward?  I have enough to do worrying about finding actual time to do the training and starting to panic about fundraising without having to do battle to get the right conveyance!

Interesting footwear...

Interesting footwear...

If you would like to support the homeless charity “The Big Issue” please visit the page above for more information.¬† All donations most humbly and gratefully received ūüôā