Sunday, 20 March 2016

A rather extraordinary week. Good, bad; high, low; happy, sad - and all the spaces in between.

I wanted to write you a tremendous report of the last days at Cheltenham, but I ran into the wall of mental and physical exhaustion. Usually, I take Cheltenham week off, but this week I was doing my day job and my HorseBack job and then studying the form and watching the racing and by the end of it all, I hit the wall. I could hardly think, let alone type a coherent sentence.
            Cheltenham is always an emotional turmoil for me, because I love those brave, beautiful horses so much. My heart is in them as if they were mine; they feel like old friends. I love the stories of the humans behind them, and, having grown up in a National Hunt yard, I know well the hopes and dreams and love and care that go into those glittering equine athletes. I am incapable of watching in a calm, detached manner. I pace and fidget and hide my eyes and shout my head off. After four intense days, I have entirely lost my voice from roaring the great champions home.
            This year, quite apart from the fairy tale of Sprinter Sacre coming back in glory, which induced an outpouring of adoration and joy such as the festival has not seen for a long year, there was the hard fact that I was watching these races for the first time without my mum. If I was at home, I would go in to her house each morning and discuss the day, dream of new stars, remember old triumphs, let her tell me about the times when she would watch Arkle soaring over those great fences to his own immortality. If I had travelled down to the racecourse, I would ring her up between each race on the mobile and shout out inarticulate, antic reports of what was going on. ‘There are grown men crying in the Jockey Club stand,’ I yelled, after Coneygree flew up the hill last year. ‘The Champ did it!!! The crowd has gone mad,’ I bawled, when AP rode his last festival winner on Uxizandre, for an astounding pillar to post victory.
            All her favourites won this year, and I felt her absence and wished she could have been here to see Annie and Sprinter and the mighty Don. I cried an awful lot of tears, of joy for the dazzling performances, of missing for a voice that was silent, of memories for a shared passion.
            Today, it was the dear Stepfather’s birthday. It was the first one without my mother, so I made a special effort. I cooked him a fillet of glorious Aberdeenshire Angus beef for his birthday lunch, and he got out a bottle of 1990 Cheval Blanc, which my mother, who knew all about good claret, had hidden away in the cellar. It was one of the most elegant wines I have ever tasted in my life, and we drank it in her honour.

            This has been her week. I don’t really believe in other lives, but if I did, I would like to think that she was looking down, and smiling her sweet smile.


  1. Since we haven't the privilege of seeing past the portal, I decided long ago to make up rules of my own concerning "What Comes After". Over the years, my rules have become as real to me as if they were engraved in some ancient stone. I don't know if we will be coming back here, but if we do, I will be looking for you. We will know each other as we always have.

    1. A funny thing happened with the posting of above. My mother passed in 2003, I cared for her lovely Dragonfly in Amber until her death a few years later. I posted this and Amber appeared as my Avatar. Probably following the some law of cyberspace but it made me smile... Hi Mom.

    2. mer - your mother obviously had great taste in novels/authors, and you are following in her footsteps here.

  2. That certainly is a most elegant, desirable Claret...!

  3. Tania, I feel for you, missing your mum while watching the horse races. I get the same pangs every time I see a classic car show, or the Mecum Auctions on TV. My dad and I had a special bond where cars (especially classics) were concerned. He would take me into NYC for the big car and boat shows and we would revel in all the chrome and metallic paint glory.

    On a completely different note, I want to ask you about claret - since you mentioned it. Since the name of the claret has "Blanc" in it, I'm assuming it's white... but I thought all claret was red! Can you give me a small claret tip? I've been interested in claret forever, since reading all those Daphne du Maurier books and watching Downton Abbey. I recently bought a bottle of Francis Ford Coppola's red claret, and was expecting a sweet dessert wine. Instead, it was like drinking a very small glass of the dryest red wine I'd ever tasted. Not unpleasant, but definitely not the liqueur-ish sensation I had been expecting out of something always drunk from wee little glasses.

    Any claret pointers you can give are much appreciated, "if it ain't out of keeping with the situation". (Christmas Carol reference.)

  4. Your mother was the most tremendous beauty within/without. I can't imagine anything more glamorous than going racing with her, let alone with added excitement of a dashing jockey for a dad. You have been blessed, but I know that you know that. It shines out in every post.


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