My poor mum is in the hospital. Even though the news is hopeful and she has fabulous doctors and the treatment in Aberdeen is second to none, I hate the thought of her on a ward.
I take my mind off it with horses. First of all my own, who have survived a night of wild gales, but still have so much wind up their tails that they give me a bronco show all round the paddock. Even the quite tubby, quite elderly mountain pony does pirouettes and leaps and spiffy cantering.
Autumn the Filly, true to her mighty Quarter Horse breeding (she is by some tremendous Western champion, who keeps winning things), does her great ventre à terre gallop from one corner of the field to the other.
Red the Mare, not to be outdone, puts on her full Spanish Riding School of Vienna performance. First of all there is the tail, vertically in the air, flying like a flag. Then there is the actual increase in size. I never quite know how horses do this; it’s like watching them assume superpowers. I swear when she draws herself up to full height, she grows about a hand. Then there are the amazing slow motion bucks, the rolling canter, the leaping turns. And finally, most glorious of all, the floating trot. It is as beautiful and stately as anything you might have seen in the Olympic dressage, but because it is a thoroughbred doing it, it’s higher and finer and lighter. It is an astounding combination of elegance and wildness. I laugh out loud, it is so lovely.
Then there is a fine afternoon of racing: the return of the brilliant Hurricane Fly, back to his pomp, a great old amateur record smashed by Mr Patrick Mullins on his father’s delightful mare, and the continuing winning streak of the bold Pete the Feat. He turns out to be wonderfully well-named, as he puts up a gallant front-running performance to record his fourth win in a row, with my money on his dear back.
All my favourite Twittering racegoers are out in force. It’s a whole new thing, watching the racing with a virtual gaggle. They are all incredibly funny and nice: quick to congratulate on a winning bet, generous with their praise of horses and jockeys, profoundly knowledgeable, fired with an enthusiasm which is leavened with a very British, very dry irony.
People tend to get grumpy about social networks, saying they are a poor substitute for real people. But, as I sit, 500 miles north of the racing action, I find my heart gladdened by the metaphorical hats which go flying in the air when a thrilling race is won. It may be virtual, but it is actual too. It is a proper community, and it illuminates my pleasure in the game.
I think: oh, I wish my mum had been able to see the glorious Fly back to his rampant best. She loves Ruby Walsh so; she speaks of him with a maternal fondness. (‘I hope he is eating enough,’ she will say, over the breakfast table. ‘It’s such a hard life for those jockeys.’) Still, let us hope those good Scottish docs fix her right up and send her back to us.
Another selection of my Christmas day photographs:
Here I am doing training with Stanley the Dog and the canine of The Older Niece. Who, incidentally, won the Waggiest Dog competition at some very serious London dog show. (The canine, that is; not the niece.)
I hope you are having a good weekend, too.