Sunday, November 06, 2016

I don't pretend to know what you want, but I offer love

It has been a wonderful Breeders' Cup Meeting, with an epic duel between two champions in the BC Distaff followed by an epic duel between two champions in the BC Classic.  But that, sadly, can't alter the fact that the dominant feature on our racing landscape has been the fate of Freddy Tylicki, paralysed after his fall at Kempton last Monday.  That is so tragic, particularly so as Freddy (pictured here on Roy Rocket, at Brighton last year) is one of the most pleasant people I have ever met.  One wouldn't wish that fate on anyone, but particularly not on someone of his decency, friendliness and guilelessness.  Just so very. very sad.

I can only hope that Freddy can retain the positivity which has always been his hallmark.  'Always look on the bright side of life' is, of course, good advice.  But it is advice which is much easier to heed when the problems in one's life are relatively minor ones.  We're all here for a limited time, and it's clearly a good idea to make the best of what at times can be a bad job for whatever time we have here.  One sees it when people are diagnosed with a terminal illness: it clearly remains the case that it's best to make the most of one's limited timespan, but harder to do when the clock is ticking audibly, when it can become all too easy to be overwhelmed by one's problems.

Woody Allen put it well in the movie 'Love and Death', based (I don't know how loosely as I've never read the book') on 'War and Peace'.  He's been sentenced to death on a trumped-up charge, and muses, "Like all of mankind, I've been sentenced to death for a crime I did not commit. But for most people the sentence will be imposed at some unspecified time in the future, but for me it's six o'clock tomorrow morning."  (He adds, of course, the great Woodyism that, "It should have been five, but I got a good lawyer.").  Similarly with a life-changing dose of bad news: it's easy enough for us to stand on the sidelines and pontificate about the benefits of making the best of a bad job, but much, much harder to do that when the bottom has just fallen out of one's world.

The Paralympics have shown us that life doesn't end with immobility, and within the racing world we have seen the likes of Jimmy Harris, Mikey Heaton-Ellis, Michael O'Brien, Jonathan Haynes, Shane Broderick, Dick Hern and now Robbie McNamara shrugging off their debilitating injuries to train from a wheel-chair.  I am not for a second suggesting that Freddy should do that (I'd hesitate long and hard before recommending a training career to anyone) but, God willing, he can join those heroes in demonstrating that a life-changing injury doesn't mean the end of a worthwhile and fulfilling working life.

We know that, unfortunately, such injuries bring great expense over and above all the more obvious problems, and thankfully he'll get great help from the Professional Riders' Insurance Scheme and the Injured Jockeys' Fund.  Happily, he'll also get plenty of help from the donors whom Matt Chapman has rallied: £170,000 already in the fund in one weekend.  That's wonderful.  And I hope that, over and above the practical benefits which the money will bring, it will also - one might argue equally importantly - provide massive moral support in Freddy's time of need.  Apparently Spike Milligan used to tell a story about a time when his woes and perceived woes had overwhelmed him, and his morale had packed up.  He had retreated to his darkened bedroom, and was lying alone on his bed, crying, utterly demoralised.  He felt a presence in the room, and looked up to see his young son standing at the foot of his bed, holding out a glass of water.

His son didn't know what was wrong with Daddy, and didn't know how to help.  But he wanted to help - and he knew, from his own experience, that when there was something wrong with you, you often found the people who love you offering you a glass of water.  So that's what he did for Daddy.  The result was, of course, that the problems which were overwhelming Daddy remained unaltered - but Daddy suddenly found his burden much easier to bear because of the demonstration of love.  Neil Finn wrote a very good line in 'Distant Sun': "I don't pretend to know what you want, but I offer love."  Spike Milligan's son didn't pretend to have the cure, or even know what the cure was, but he cared, he offered love; and that was, if not the cure, a massive help.  We, the racing community, know that we can't do anything to cure the dreadful injuries which Freddy has suffered, but the overwhelming response to Matt's call to arms has shown that the community does care, that we offer love.  Freddy's burden remains a massive one, one which only he can carry; but I hope that this demonstration of love might make it easier to bear.

1 comment:

neil kearns said...

in my experience war and peace takes about three months to read assuming about a chapter or two per day and whilst bits of it are brilliant (the story)the navel gazing thoughts on the state of mankind are frankly tedious and make the whole thing a chore only for the masochists amongst (and those of us who had bought a new kindle and always wanted to read it but couldn't be bothered carting the book around - and as they say other e readers are available)