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A post about a jigsaw that turned into one about something else

There has been a lot of nothing lately: nothing on the blog, nothing in my head, nothing out of the window. This because I have stopped. I have at least learned by now that if you don’t want nothing in life (double negative noted) you have to do something…

Something will be thrust upon me soon enough when I return to work on Monday, but since I stopped I wondered if it was, in fact, the kind of thing I wanted to do after all. This is a stupid thing to think I chide myself. One must be grateful for a job, not just a job either, a job that one enjoys, a job that gives one a sense of purpose. I always thought a human should have a sense of purpose you see; I have always thought that without that a person would just vanish into thin air.

I don’t think that is the case, any more. It is perfectly possible to vanish into thin air with many a sense of purpose, in fact it can be the purpose that does one for in the first place. The person seems to conflate self with busyness and before long, when they do finally stand still, you cannot see them at all.

I once had a dream that I should like to sit under a tree trying to do an old jigsaw of the racehorse Red Rum. I have pieces missing, so it would be like a Sisyphean task, one that I would never get to the end of: the jigsaw would never be complete and that’s how I would spend the rest of my life. I am not sure that that is my dream any longer. I have spent two weeks, not doing a jigsaw, but reading a book and I have still not finished it. The book has made me realise that there is some part of me, some part of you, that never ends. We, whether we sit under a tree with an incomplete jigsaw, or slump on the sofa in front of Celebrity Big Brother, are never ending. We are not just a solid mass of particles, we are in fact all fluid energy that flows out to meet the tree, or the sofa, the jigsaw piece, or the television. It is the energy that is the thing, you see, and I wonder what I will choose to do with mine now I have had a while to realise it.

This is the book (and below). I recommend it.

Red Rum on BBC Sports Personality 1977

Red Rum and Ginger McCain interviewed here by a slightly nervous Frank Bough.

A classic moment when Red Rum hears his jockey Tommy Stack via black and white video link…

‘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

The Grand National: the Greatest Horse Race?

I don’t see the Grand National that way; in fact I usually don’t see it all, as it makes me so nervous. Nowadays I would prefer any number of flat races, but as a child I knew what the race was alright: a black and white horse racing bonanza that Red Rum nearly always won. As a child in the 1970s, I knew, because I saw them, that Red Rum was the greatest racehorse, Muhammed Ali was the greatest boxer and Nottingham Forest were the greatest football team. End of the matter. And even with various horses and boxers winning in glorious technicolour since, I have not changed my mind about the first two sporting legends.

Red Rum was the last horse to win back-to-back Nationals (his second in 1974) so with that being nearly 40 years ago you could say with statistics on your side that Don’t Push It has a mountain to climb in defence of his crown this afternoon. On the other hand you could say that the statistics could be offset by the power of the man in saddle: the McCoy factor.

I won’t be saying any of those things. I will be backing State of Play in the National for the third time in this race. This year he races off 10 stone 6 pounds (his lightest weight ever in the race) and he goes to Aintree with no prep run at all. In fact, if anything, his prep run was last year’s 3rd place in the Grand National. I don’t know if this will make any difference, but his trainer, Evan Williams, seems happy enough with the horse and he has a fair enough chance.

Fingers crossed for all the runners and riders at 4.15 this afternoon: they are all a lot braver than me.

From Ginger McCain’s My Colourful Life.

Around the time the time we acquired Red Rum, I was struck by the fact that world champion boxer Sugar Ray Robinson had taken his own hairdresser with him wherever he went. I thought, well, if Sugar Ray had a personal hairdresser, Red Rum can have his own blacksmith. So, when Red Rum went racing, Bob went with him…

…From the moment we first saw that Red Rum had his problems, Bob took care of him. No other person ever shod him. He wouldn’t let anyone else touch his feet. Neither would I.

Pssst they say there’s a horse race this afternoon…

It’s the Grand National again apparently.

Listen, I love the tradition, the romance, the old stories, but I can’t bear to watch the race.

Do you KNOW how big the big fences are? Did you know a grown man can only cower in the shadow of Becher’s drop? This race is a massive test of man and beast. Don’t watch it lightly.

Red Rum @ Southport

I want State of Play to win. Other than that I will settle for safe return all round.

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