Monday, November 30, 2015

The highest standards

Gee, life doesn't get any less busy.  It's always busy in the few weeks before Christmas, hence my more or less having weaned myself off the tyranny of the Christmas card routine, but I suspect that I'll be even busier this December than usual, not least because I seem to have mayoral commitments every second day for the next three weeks.  Aside from that, though, I'm terrible for putting things off until manana unless they absolutely have to be done today.  But the end of the year tends to focus the mind, so I'm trying to catch up on a few things previously left undone - while, of course, still trying to fit in the things which do absolutely have to be done today.  It's actually almost feasible as long as I do nothing else - so if you come across me and think that I'm being an unsociable t**t, that's why.

I actually got quite a lot of previously ignored administrative tasks done last week as we didn't have any runners, but this week we're busier (and there are still plenty left to do).  We should have runners on three consecutive days: Tuesday (ie tomorrow), Wednesday and Thursday.  Tuesday and Wednesday are both Lingfield (jumps the first day, AW the second) and then Thursday is Kempton (AW, needless to say).  Zarosa, Cottesloe, Indira.  The last-named will have to run in my absence because Thursday is prize-giving evening at Newmarket Academy (ie upper school) and I ought to be there, not least because one of the prizes is the Mayor's Award.  So Hannah will be heading down there on her own, which certainly won't decrease her chances of saluting the judge.

So we've got those runners to look forward to.  And we've still got Alfie Westwood to look back at.  I was pleased to read in the comments' section of the last chapter that David Winter had enjoyed his company, as so many people did.  Colin Williams rang me after the Racing Post had published its tribute to Alfie, suggesting that, while it did justice to what a special person he had been, it hadn't done justice to what a good rider he had been.  I enjoyed Colin's reminiscences of working with Alfie, who was a jockey with Harvey Leader when Colin was an apprentice there, and I hope that I'll put them down on paper in this blog sooner rather than later (but not tonight, as I'm busy) as these things need to be logged.  This is anecdotal racing history at its best, and the problem with anecdotal history is that, unless it is committed to paper, it only lives as long as the story-teller.  And none of us lives forever.

But what I will do here, because it won't take long, is to tell you another Alfie anecdote which has been shared with me in the past few days.  Alfie used to go to the swimming pool regularly, and about 10 years ago he had a funny turn while swimming.  The word was that he was about to die, but fortunately he pulled through.  Anyway, as Ian Watkinson related to me last week, when Ian next saw Alfie after this incident, he said to him, "We all thought you were a goner, Alfie.  I went out to buy a black tie to wear at your funeral - but I don't need it now, because I see you're still with us."  Alfie's response, completely unfazed, perfectly summed up this man of the highest standards: totally serious, he said in tones of potential admonishment, "I hope you bought it at Golding's!" (Which, as you probably know, is the gentleman's outfitter in Newmarket High Street).

In the first two paragraphs you can see Zarosa in a schooling session up at the Links last Friday with Jack Quinlan (when we saw a rare slither of blue sky, albeit briefly).  Her mate is Tommy (ie Platinum Proof), ridden by Jack's sister Jess.  You can then see her in the third and fourth paragraphs having a roll in her stable after work yesterday.  And then this photograph (of Tommy being washed down after exercise on Thursday) sums up what conditions have mostly been like recently: like the rest of Britain, we've been battered by the tail-ends of a succession of hurricanes, so it's been wet and windy, and generally dismal (albeit not cold during the storms).  We're on Hurricane Clodagh at present.  No doubt Desdemona is waiting in the wings.

No comments: