Saturday, May 11, 2013


Anyone who has watched racing in Britain today will know that it's been pretty grotty pretty much everywhere.  Ascot had some vile showers.  Nottingham looked very wet.  Lingfield ("good, good to firm" in places in the morning paper) ended up "soft" but looked close to heavy.  Even here, over on what has been all week the dry side of the country, we had a real storm for 10 minutes or so mid-afternoon during which the rain was very heavy and the wind even more alarming.  Fortunately it was only brief, and fortunately the secondary storm which blew up during evening stables was less violent, even if the rain was largely falling as hailstones during it.

But what was most odd about such inclement weather was that it was presaged by another really lovely start to the day.  The first couple of hours of daylight were really special.  It was still crystal-clear at 8.00, but by 8.30 we were completely covered by cloud.  Amazing where it came from all of a sudden.  So that was lovely, even if short-lasting.  But, temporary though the lovely conditions were, they're now immortalized in the illustrations which adorn this chapter, all taken during first lot, starting with a view in Exeter Road on the outward journey and ending with St. Mary's Church as I rode past it on the way home.

It was thus only first lot during which the conditions were idyllic, so Frankie (Douchkirk) was the horse on whom I enjoyed them.  He's running tomorrow, so the in-form William Kennedy (and it's great to be able to say that) very kindly came up here to school him over the artificial hurdles on the AW strip up on the Links, obstacles which aren't dissimilar to the ones which he will encounter at Worcester tomorrow.  He's an excellent jumper, but it was good for him to have this refresher course, just to get/keep his eye in.

It was very good of William to come up, but the good thing was that he didn't have to come all the way up from Lambourn: he has two sisters living in Essex, a daughter of one of whom was due to be confirmed this morning.  So William had stayed there last night and popped up here this morning to school the horse before heading back in time for the service.  I rode Frankie up to the Links, met him there at quarter past seven, and then rode the horse home while William headed off to church.  Frankie seems really well at present, so I took him home the long way to give him a good canter along the Cambridge Road AW on the way, just so that he won't be too fresh for his two-and-a-half mile race tomorrow.

Speaking of a church service, I'm very bad because I don't go to church nearly as often as I should.  In fact, I only go when there's a specific reason (most usually a funeral).  However, this week I had a very pleasant reason to attend.  My friend Roddy O'Donnell, who is a doctor at Addenbroke's but who is also a fellow of Selwyn College in Cambridge, had asked me a while back whether I would like to spend an evening at the college with him some time.  The vast majority of Roddy's professional commitments are at Addenbroke's, but he spends most Thursday afternoons during term-time at Selwyn, giving lectures and tuition to medical students.

This activity is the result of an old link which the college has with the hospital, and Roddy was recommended for the post a few years ago when its previous holder moved on.  The remuneration is negligible, but the real bonus is that, after having held the post for a while, Roddy was made a fellow of the college.  So what he generally does on his Thursday afternoons is go to evensong in the chapel after he has finished his teaching, and then dine in the hall on the high table.  And he kindly invited me to join him as his guest - which for someone whose favourite TV programme is 'Morse' was a real treat.

We were, of course, in Cambridge, not Oxford  (and not at Lonsdale College!).  And no one was murdered.  But, otherwise, we could have been in an episode of Morse.  It was a really special outing, one which made a lovely break in the routine of someone who has virtually no social life other than riding out in the mornings and going to the races.  The service in chapel was wonderful, even if under-appreciated: Roddy and I probably represented about a third of the congregation, whose members were outnumbered probably 4:1 by choristers, who collectively produced the most beautiful sound.    As it was Ascension Day, it was a special service - and all in all it was a very special evening.

Let's hope that tomorrow can be a special day.

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