Thursday, 28 June 2012

Bread and circuses

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I am very tense indeed. There is a glitch with the book which means it cannot yet be read by the editor.  (It’s too dull to go into the logistics and merely thinking about it makes me want to cry.) So I have to be a grown-up and wait, for who knows how long, for the verdict on the rewrite.

I am grumpy about the endless bad weather and gloomy about the state of the economy. There is very little good news, just now, it seems. The glory of Ascot seems in another world.

I go up to my mare. She is in the most enchanting of her moods; her moochy, dopey, old donkey mood. She is so sleepy and the weather is so dreich that I give her a day off, and just stand with her for half an hour. That’s all I do: stand, in a field, in the rain, with the beautiful head of my beautiful horse resting, heavy and trusting, on my chest. And I feel better.

It made me think about bread and circuses. The Old Gentleman who comes to do my lawn was round a couple of days ago. He is old farming stock and I love talking to him and hearing tales of the land. I told him I had been in the south for the races.

‘Ah,’ he said, nodding his sage old head. ‘All those people cheering and shouting while there are no jobs and there is no money. I’m not sure what they have to cheer about.’

He is usually sanguine and smiling, so this was quite unlike him. I thought perhaps it was not the time to tell him about Frankel the Wonderhorse.

‘Perhaps it’s when times are bad that people need something to distract them,’ I said.

I can hardly watch my favourite political shows any more because it seems that no one knows how to rescue the country. Certainly, no one has a clue how to save Europe. They all fly off and have very important meetings and look very serious and grave and earnest. Then they come out of the very important meetings and not a damn thing has changed. I believe in politics; it is rare I grow disillusioned. But just now, it seems that no one really knows what to do. Watching The Daily Politics at the moment is like watching Dr Who: I have to do it from behind the sofa.

What with the weather and the book and the economy and everything, I have invented a small bread and circus of my own. In the afternoon, I take an hour or so off, and I watch the racing. I have a little bet, a pound here, a fiver there, and shout on my fancy. Yesterday, I had a six horse accumulator. Five of them won. I was looking at five hundred quid from a two pound stake. It just needed a nice horse called Pitkin to do his thing and I would be rich.

He finished third.

I thought very much of my dad. This was exactly what he used to do. Maybe blood really is thicker than water, I thought.

More fun than the punting is watching some of my favourite old horses and discovering new loves. Yesterday, there was the glorious Lexi’s Boy, who danced round with his ears pricked, having the most romping good time; and then a new filly I had not seen before called Oh Poppy, who also runs with her head up and her ears forward and an expression of delight about her. There was also the keen pleasure of watching the seventeen-year-old Willy Twiston-Davies get his horse home in the tightest of finishes, flashing past the line a nose in front, in the big race at Carlisle.

Twiston-Davies is not only incredibly young to have such talent and drive, but he does the rather amazing thing of riding over the jumps and on the flat. Very few jockeys switch between disciplines, because they require quite different skills, and also differing physical attributes. I’ve seen Twiston-Davies ride over the huge Aintree fences, and now, it turns out, he can triumph on an outsider in the closest of finishes in a fast flat race.

I know it really is the terrible great-aunt in me, but every time I see him ride I think: his mother must be so proud.

Racing, I suddenly think, is the perfect bread and circus. It has the aesthetic pleasure of the horses, the thrill of the bet, the human stories, the intellectual demands of studying the form, even the prettiness of the green turf. Sometimes, when it is stinking weather here, I’ll tune in to dear old William Hill TV, and there will be the lovely emerald sward of Bath, say, or Newton Abbott, bathed in sun. Somewhere in this benighted old country, I think, there is at least a ray of sunshine.


Too wet to take the camera out, so here are a few pictures from the last days:

28 June 1

28 June 2

28 June 3

28 June 4

28 June 5

Action hen:

28 June 8

(That one is especially for the Dear Reader who loves the hens.)

Myfanwy the Pony:

28 June 8-001

Red the Mare:

28 June 10

Red’s View:

28 June 9


28 June 12

I love that slightly quizzical look. I love all her looks, but that one is one of my favourites.

The hill:

28 June 15


  1. Woohoo! Look at those hen's feet go!

    Thank you for that, dear Tania. I'm sorry about the gloom; it's very pervasive and a lot of the time I feel close to losing all hope. But today's sunny in London and there was something funny in the paper this morning as brave counterpoint to all the gloom (tho' I'm damned if I know what it was) and now - now! I have a hen on the run.

    (Are they feet? Or claws? Feet, I fancy.)

  2. I think we need the distraction sometimes.

    At the moment politics is making me very cross, the more I think about it the crosser I get (this is because I love politics and believe in it so people who get to work in politics not seeming like they love it and believe in it makes me cross).

    I have plenty of distraction of the positive kind at the moment though, with house guests and getting married. It is needed to remind us of why politics and kindness matter, and they do matter.

  3. Ahhh the accumulator Dad used to do these too. When he won, Mum would have flowers and I might get a little box of Lego, or a colouring book.
    Rubbish week isn't it? It's so muggy here I feel like I can't breathe. Have been told I'm anaemic too which goes some way to explaining how very drained I feel. The physical part anyway. What iron tonic do you take? I have floradix until I can get to the doctor.
    George is to be christened on Sunday. Something good on which to hang my hat.


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