Thursday, November 03, 2016

Life and death

I had loads of stuff that I was going to write about, but I've left it so long that I can't remember much of it.  And the small amount of things which I can recall seem on reflection so dull that I'm not sure that there's much mileage in droning on about them.  (Although one might say that that doesn't usually stop me - and indeed it doesn't).  I think that there has been as much bad news as good, which was a thought that kept going through my head when we were at Pontefract with Sussex Girl last month.  I kept thinking of going there last autumn and being involved in one of the longest post-race interviews that you'd see.

Racing UK must have had only one meeting that day, because when Tom O'Ryan and I started on the post-race interview after Blue Sea Of Ibrox had won, we just kept chatting, and chatting, and chatting.  Such a lovely, kind man.  So very much missed.  As now, of course, is the man who would have been Peter Easterby's stable jockey while Tom was an apprentice: Mark Birch, another great man taken too soon.  He was nearing the end of his distinguished career when I started training, but I was honoured to have him ride on of our first runners - possibly first Flat runner - Statistician at Thirsk, April 1995.  A very nice man as well as a great jockey.

The last time I saw Mark was several years ago when Emma had an assignment to photograph some horses in various stables in Yorkshire, and I went on the journey with her.  She had one horse to photograph in Kevin Ryan's stable on top of Sutton Bank.  It was thick fog and drizzling and it felt as if we were heading off the edge of the earth as we picked our way into the stable - and then Mark walked around the corner, and I was so pleased to see him.  Another good man taken too soon.  And more recently we've seen the death of Simon Griffiths, only in his early 50s.  I never knew Simon, but I remember S. P. Griffiths riding plenty of winners for David Chapman in the Glencroft era, and training more recently.  So sad.  And now we've had what has clearly been a very bad accident for Freddy Tylicki, one of the most pleasant men in the weighing room, as well as a very good jockey.  All we can do is pray.

Closer to home, we had to bid Adieu to our two old greyhounds, Stan and Bean, 13 days ago.  They made it to 14 and 13 respectively, great ages for big dogs, but no creature can last forever.  At any time in the last three years I would have told you that I felt that Stan was in the last year of his life, but he kept proving me wrong.  But, of course, he couldn't do so forever, and the hardest decision of all presented itself.  Stan lived here for over 11 years, and Bean for not much less than that, and I hope that they loved their home.  They remained in good shape and heart far longer than one can expect a greyhound to do (the pictures of them were both taken in the past few weeks) and that's all that one can ask.

By a happy coincidence (and it was a coincidence, because it had been agreed that we would have a puppy from a particular litter if and when such a litter came about, so it was pure chance that little Blakeney arrived less than a month before the greyhounds departed) we have a puppy.  He's Blakeney, a Kerry Blue, and a delight.  And so well timed.  Losing his friends would have been a jolt for Gus, but as it is he's been fine as he has his little apprentice, and they are a perfect pair, as this photograph, taken yesterday, suggests.  And for us - well, there are always tears and sadness in a household when there's a death, human or animal, but nobody can be glum for long when there's a puppy in the house.

No comments: