Posted by Tania Kindersley.
I went to see my dad today. He is almost eighty and his body is bashed all to hell from years of riding, and falling. He broke his back and his neck twice, and the doctors said he would never ride again, but he did, in the Grand National, after months in a steel brace. So everything hurts now. He was never going to be the kind of man who might welcome age, see it as an excuse to retire into his study and read Pliny. (I once heard a thing on Radio Four about a retired clergyman teaching himself Ancient Greek at the age of 91 and have never quite forgotten it.) My father's cerebral contortions these days consist of trying to win the Saturday accumulator.
It was sad to see him so thrashed by time, and when I got back to my cousin's house I wanted suddenly to remember him as he was, in his pomp. He was incredibly strong and marvellously handsome when he was young (also very naughty and not at all safe in taxis). And, wandering about on the internet, I found this photograph, taken by a gentleman called Edward Cazalet, of my father and grandfather when they were joint masters of the Mid-Surrey Farmers' Drag. (For those of you unfamiliar with horses, drag in this context does not mean men in frocks, but hunting a laid scent instead of an actual fox.) My dad is on the right, and my grandfather in the middle, and the man on the left is Ian Patullo, the whipper-in.
I adore this picture. Not only does it show my old fa in his glittering youth, but also it gives us all a tremendous reminder of what a really good pair of britches should look like. See how stern my tall grandfather looks (he had a voice that could carry for three fields), and how my father looks very slightly sheepish, almost certainly because he has a hangover and was up to no good the night before. And my God, look at the polish on those boots.