Thursday, October 28, 2010


I oughtn't to let my trip to the west country pass without remarking on the fact that I finished what I guess was Dick Francis' last book, 'Even Money', while I was down there. I really enjoyed it. This book was written in partnership with his son Felix, and I presume that the one which is currently out in hardback was written by Felix alone. If that is the case, that means that I have now read every book which Dick Francis wrote - and I enjoyed his last novel as much as I'd enjoyed all its predecessors. I remember that when Dick Francis died, Steve Dennis wrote a lovely piece in the Racing Post about how enjoying Dick Francis' books had been a major part of his indoctrination (if that's the right word) into racing and that they had remained a part of his life thereafter; well, I'd say exactly the same - so now I look forward to reading the first Dick Francis-less Dick Francis (if Felix doesn't mind my saying that, which I hope that he doesn't because it is intended as a compliment, not a slight) and having Felix's books play a big part in what remains of my life.

Something else I have enjoyed in the past week was going with Emma to a concert in the Cambridge Corn Exchange by my favourite songstress Amy Macdonald. I don't know quite what this statement says about me, but it is a fact that the vast majority of the books which I read are written by men and the vast majority of the songs to which I listen are sung by men. Notwithstanding that apparent bias, Amy Macdonald is right up there with my favourites. I know that she's only a youngster and we only have two albums on which to judge her, but I'd say that she is very, very good. She writes really good songs and she is a tremendous singer. And clearly plays the guitar very well too, although that is the least important of her three accomplishments because she, by and large, only provides part of the music (having four or five - disgracefully I can't remember exactly which - very good musicians playing behind her) whereas she is the sole writer and singer. We've all been too all too many concerts where being there has turned out to be no more enjoyable than staying at home and listening to the albums, but this was tremendous: I could have stood and listened to her all night. She did sing one borrowed song, and a great job she did of that too. Her newer album ends with her singing an acoustic version of 'Dancing in the dark', which is great, but she was even bolder in the concert in chosing from her hero Bruce Springsteen's works: she sang 'Born to run' on her own, accompanied only by her guitar, and this was terrific. To make a really good job on her own of a song such as this, which seems when the Boss sings it to rely so fully on its exuberance, noise and energy, was a mighty achievement and speaks volumes for the power of both her voice and her ability as a performer. The whole concert was just very, very good.

Remarkably, we found ourselves in the concert standing just behind a man who has surely never been seen in the same room as Paul Roy. I hope that it was Paul Roy because he has, undeservedly in my view, been having a very tough time lately, so it would have been nice for him to have some relaxation in listening to a great singer (even if, presumably, he'd rather have been at a Mike Pender concert). I really feel quite strongly about the harsh treatment which he has had subsequent to his investment company buying Betfair shares on behalf of some of its clients. The fact that he has been hounded for this, to me, sums up much of what is wrong with the world today. We used to be concerned with matters of God and the Devil, of Good and Evil. However, that became too unsettling in an increasingly secular world, so we moved on to the toned-down versions, ie right and wrong. Now, of course, we are in an era in which nothing is ever anyone's fault and everyone is a victim, so of course right and wrong doesn't really tie in with this - so instead we have to learn to differentiate with appropriate and inappropriate. So it doesn't really matter if what you do is good or bad, you just daren't offend anyone, particularly not anyone who is on the look-out for some spurious reason to take offence and particularly not some talking head on the Great God Television who has nothing better to do than to get over-wrought about trivialities. (No names, no pack-drill). This is political correctness at its worst, and the hounding of Paul Roy sums it up perfectly. Whatever criticisms might be aimed at Paul Roy, one thing which nobody has ever questioned is his integrity - so if anyone thinks that he is going to lessen his commitment to his BHA work because of a decision taken by his company, then they are not living in the real world. So this doesn't affect his fitness as chairman of the BHA - and by the same token, bearing in mind that the Betfair flotation has probably been the most successful initial offering of the decade, recommending to its clients to buy the shares was clearly the correct thing for his company to do. Whether holding on to those shares in the long-term will or will not be wise is another matter - and that, of course, will to a certain degree be influenced by how successful or otherwise the BHA's Paul Roy-led campaign turns out to be - but that is a decision which his company and its clients can take in the fullness of time, just as anyone else who has bought the shares can do too.

Here endeth tonight's sermon. (And, by the way, the creatures illustrating the above paragraph neither work for the BHA nor joined the BHA chairman - or his doppelganger - in attending Amy Macdonald's concert - more's the pity. I just thought that it was possibly rather a boring paragraph and could do with some lightening up).

1 comment:

Alan Taylor said...

Hi John you are possibly right about the boring paragraph, even the owl doesnt seem to give a hoot!!!