Category Archives: He stayed as long as he could

International Human Rights Day

Barack Obama spoke well, I thought today, at the Memorial in South Africa for Nelson Mandela. No Lincoln he, though. It was not a speech with the impact of the succinct Gettysburg address. Still he mentioned the Abraham Lincoln, and the theme shared by such great activists of the world: equality of opportunity for all. Obama reminded the leaders of the world that even as they gathered to remember the life of Mandela, the work was not yet done. Not whilst so many people are imprisoned, as he said, for their political views, their religious beliefs, who they love…

He may have spoken for a little too long, but he did not speak too soon.


‘Starry Starry Night’

This is the bottom of a boat I photographed on the beach much earlier this year. It reminded me of Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone, which in turned reminded me of this song.

Good Neighbour

I thought that there was something incredibly evocative about these photographs when I found them, whilst looking at houses and land for sale in Ireland. Like my roses from yesterday’s post, words are not enough to fill the spaces left by the people that lived here.

I guess you just have to take a look and feel it for yourself.

Photos taken from this property at the Green Valley Properties website.

The Hammersmith & City Line

Earlier this week the children and I hopped on the pink line from Paddington to Liverpool Street.

We passed easily through the station that was my nemesis in my twenties: Edgware Road.
I well remember repeatedly kicking the metal station sign there in a commuting frustration back in the day.

Nearly twenty years later the Hammersmith & City line looks as down-at-heel as I do. This is not helped, although also curiously enhanced, by taking shots with the no-flash rubbish camera on the Crapberry.

Taking photos of people feels intrusive but not so much when they are through the window, across the line and on the other platform. The Crapberry is so Crap that the potential shot that made my heart race was missed as a train rushed through in the opposite direction, obscuring my view at the crucial moment.

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Where rubbish photos can’t go, the words step in. I prefer photos to words sometimes, but they can’t do everything.

Somewhere between Baker Street and Kings Cross a boy gets on with his family, fully in the grip of a panic attack caused by Mind the Gap. He takes a while to stop sobbing, his forehead leaning on his mother’s shoulder. The fear, becalmed, kicks in again as he realises he has to get off the train. His legs, quaking under his emotional overload, look incongruous in the whitest boxfresh trainers. His parents, who look old enough to be his grandparents, treat him with a mixture of sympathy (mother), studied indifference (father), embarassment (both). His mother gives the boy and his sister a Polo Mint each, to help. The sweets are as white as his trainers. His sister wears a hat and no attack of panic.

I cannot help but feel glad that the boy is not getting off at Bank. The gap there is both high and wide, probably because the platform is, unusually, curved. I would ask my grandpa why? if he were alive to ask. I think of the Central Line on the London Underground as his, although he was involved in the extension out further east, past South Woodford. I also think of the time that I nearly lost my youngest down the gap at Bank when she was much younger and smaller.

Yes, Bank is a fearsome station. The trains come roaring in there from the distance, the shiny but furious rails scream in advance of their arrival, the warm wind whooshes in your face.

I am glad that the boy is not going to Bank; riding the Central Line is inclined to make me cry.

For our own journey we have no Polo Mints, wear muddy boots and have no front to maintain. Better to ride the tube like that if you can. There must be many other passengers that want to sob and quake on the trains these days. Who can blame them?

The Tatling (bows out on his 176th race with a win)

The Tatling seems to have been around forever. It hardly seems like yesterday he was group winner; arguably his finest hour coming at Ascot in the King’s Stand in 2004. I say arguably because anyone who saw him motoring wide up the home straight yesterday for an unbelievable, yes really unbelievable, short head win, would have to allow that, aged 14, he really has still got it all going on in the heart-racing stakes. SP returned at a massive 16/1. No-one really expected he was going to win… That he did, just shows. What, I would not like to say. Perhaps that there is hope for the most jaded of us all.

The sight of him yesterday, his woolly winter coat starting to come through, was enough to warm a cold heart.

He’s a really bonny horse too, with a dished head that looks a little like an Arab, or a Welsh pony. Most of the photos on the web are of him racing, head stuck out, ears back, showing all the determination in the world but not his prettiest side. I’ve therefore gone with this one of him from a win earlier this year, by far the most handsome of them all (including Hayley Turner). Photos from yesterday here

The Tatling: 23 April 1997 Perugino – Aunty Eileen

176 races: 18 wins (4 Group races), 53 places
Career Earnings: £687,763

At Yarmouth after one of his 18 career wins

‘My Colourful Life’ by Ginger McCain

Today we said goodbye to trainer Ginger McCain; best known for training Red Rum (pictured together above) and Amberleigh House to win four Grand Nationals between them. Then this year Ginger’s son Donald kept up the family tradition by training another Grand National winner in Ballabriggs.

I read Ginger’s autobiography when it came out a few years ago, this is what he wrote about Red Rum in the chapter Goodbye Red.

Until Amberleigh House won the Grand National for me for a fourth time in 2004, there were those who thought I was a one-horse trainer. I wouldn’t ever say that Red Rum and I were meant for each other. Yet I would say we were good for each other. If I hadn’t got him – and I don’t say this in a boastful fashion – he probably wouldn’t have lasted in racing much beyond the age of nine or ten. Where would he have gone from there? He would never have made a good hunter because Red Rum was Red Rum. He wouldn’t jump a bloody twig if he didn’t want to. And so he was out of this world for me. So, when they said I was a one-horse trainer I said that they were probably right. But I did make a good job of that one horse didn’t I? And I can never be anything but eternally grateful to the old lad.

On his grave at Aintree are written the lines:

Respect this place, this hallowed ground,
A legend here his rest has found.
His feet would fly, our spirits soar.
He earned our love for evermore.

Rather nice, that, isn’t it?

Yes Ginger, it is.

Gone, but not forgotten

Boston, Lincs.

The Fattest Town in Britain.
The Flattest Town in Britain.
Boasting the *Lowest Standard of Education in Lincolnshire.
Where I started school
(Finky Wink finished for me).
She made the journey
From the Pilgrim Hospital
To Boston High School
A short trip, in either direction.
Site of a fatal industrial estate
With an alleged, exploding, illegal still
And home to St Botolph’s Church, 1, Wormgate
AKA The Stump
Which landlocked John Clare **climbed, that time
For his one lifelong view of the sea:
The Wash.

*Source: Wikipedia – of course
** I followed in his footsteps once, before they closed it, I don’t remember the sea

The Stump - 272 feet