There’s been much sadness in the family in the last week, but oddly enough, today I did not feel sad. I remembered my father, who died on this day three years ago, with a gentle, easy fondness. I smiled, rather than wept.
I spent a long time in the sunny field with the red mare, chatting to her. As the spring springs, I decided to give her a well-deserved day off. We mooched about together, in low harmony, communing. She was in her happiest mood, at peace with the world and herself.
‘Oh,’ I said out loud, ‘Dad would have loved you.’
Later, I did a nutty accumulator, in honour of the old gentleman. I put in it all the horses I loved, rather than the ones I thought would win. I do that sometimes. They are heart bets.
The first up was Thousand Stars. He has been a top class horse in his day, but he has not won anything lately, and the suspicion is that the mighty campaigner is past his best. In the glittering Irish sunshine, he set off across the green, green grass of Fairyhouse, ears pricked, leaping over his hurdles for sheer delight. I’m not sure I ever saw a horse enjoying himself so much on a racecourse. He went straight to the lead, and stretched out the field, and I thought, well, he’ll have his fun and then he’ll come back to them, and it’s just as well that acker was each-way.
But he did not come back to them. He kept on galloping, his big, strong stride eating up the turf, his jumping true and straight. They tried to get close to him, but he seemed to say: no, today is mine. He gathered his lovely athletic body and roared clear, to win by ten lengths.
It made physical tingles run up and down my spine, as if my whole body was dancing with delight. It’s one of the happiest sights I have seen this season. Everything about it was right – a faithful competitor coming back to his best, a beautiful thoroughbred doing what he was born to do, a horse at ease with himself on the bright emerald turf.
Dad would have loved that too. Especially if he had taken the 5-1, early doors.
As I think of him, I gather all the Dear Departeds to my heart, and keep them there.
Dad, with his serious riding face on. I love those boots:
Dad, with his naughty I’m flirting with someone else’s wife face on:
This picture makes me laugh and laugh, because my father looks so naughty. On the left is Mum, in a perfectly ravishing frock, and the smiling gentleman with her is Dave Dick, who rode the winner of the Grand National in 1956. I’m not sure about the date of this photograph, but I suspect they might have been toasting his victory.
Stanley the Dog, who has been particularly sweet this week, lying guard by the side of my mother’s bed whilst my stepfather was away at a funeral:
Red, after our ride yesterday, with her most demure look:
Signs of spring:
Sometimes I think all the world is in that eye: