Wednesday, February 27, 2008

This country!

How's this for timing? I wrote a chapter last Friday in which I lampooned the nanny state's insistence that everyone should be treated as if they are six years old and have every aspect of their lives overseen and regulated. So what happened? The following morning's post brought an unsolicited leaflet from one small branch of what one could call 'The Qualification-Manufacturing Industry' which the nanny state has spawned, from a firm calling itself 'bts training', offering me the opportunity to send staff (or myself, presumably) on various courses. So we have options including a two-day course called 'Strimmer/Brushcutter' (£192.50 + VAT); 5-day '5 Day Basic Chainsaw' (£495 + VAT); four-day 'Climb Trees and Perform Aerial Rescue' (£550 + VAT); one-day 'Hiab (Lorry Hook)' (£195 + VAT); one-day 'Transport of Animals (Short Journeys)' (£67); three-day 'Fell Small Trees' (£330 + VAT); two-day 'Chainsaw Maintenance and Cross-Cutting' (£230 + VAT)'; one-day 'Aerial Pruning Techniques' (£115 + VAT); one-day 'Stump Grinder' (£104.50 + VAT). I'd been planning in writing out this list to italicise the more startling aspects of the titles, but then I realised that the whole list would be in italics, so I've just left it as it is. As Alan Partridge would say, "This country!".

To move on to topics less likely to make one tear one's hair out, another piece of good timing came with my writing about the pleasure which I had gleaned from Richard Sims' winner that day. This turned out to be merely the first of three nice results. The following afternoon we went to Horseheath for our local point-to-point, the Thurlow, the highlight of which for us was watching John Morrey ride his own horse into second in the Hunt race. Although strictly speaking this was not a win, it was as good as: not only because John, in addition presumably to having enjoyed the thrill of the ride, could savour the experience of a job well done just as much as if he had won, but also because the horse effectively was the winner of the Hunt race. The thing is that nowadays Hunt races have been largely phased out because of being too restricted and therefore uncompetitive, so what passed for the Hunt race was actually a race confined to horses qualified with one of the several hunts who hold their point-to-points at Horseheath. Over and above the prize for the winner, there was also a separate prize for the first horse home actually qualified with the Thurlow, which John won, the winner being from another pack. So I don't think that it's stretching the point too much to say that John and his horse won the Hunt race.

So that was nice win number two, and news of nice win number three followed shortly afterwards when Squeaker rang me to tell me that he'd ridden a winner at Taby that afternoon, his first success since he had visited us on his holiday. He'd had five rides since his break, for a win and a second, so he's obviously getting on with 2008 as successfully as he fared during 2007, which is great.

Which brings us on to another great character. She's be horrified to think that there is any similarity or connection at all, but when compiling a list of remarkable people who seem to be a fairly constant thread through life, Barbara Lockhart-Smith would feature on it nearly as highly as Squeak. So, sure enough, we had our first visit from her of 2008 yesterday. She and her friend Sue appeared here out of the blue yesterday afternoon, entertained us with a steady stream of Barbaraisms, departed to keep Geoff Wragg on his toes during his round of evening stables, and then returned for dinner, where the brahmae continued to flow thick and fast. To many Barbara's name won't mean anything, but the best way to sum her up is that she was the archtypal formidable, fearsome and redoubtable female trainer long before anyone had ever heard of Jenny Pitman; those familiar with her name will doubtless recall her charges Steel Bridge (second under Richard Pitman to Highland Wedding in the 1969 Grand National) and Sartorius (fourth under Terry Biddlecombe to Arkle in the 1966 Cheltenham Gold Cup), although of course those horses were at the time (because women were not then allowed to hold training licenses) officially trained by her long-suffering husband Lt-Commander R. A. Lockhart-Smith, RN, who must have made the most unlikely trainer ever, having apparently no interest in or knowledge of horses or racing whatsoever. The irony is, of course, that in those days someone like Commander Lockhart-Smith could be granted a training license even though completely unqualified to hold one, and everyone, including those who gave him his license to be his wife's public figurehead, knew the situation; but nowadays, although things are supposed to be better run, he'd still get his license and nobody would understand the problem, because he'd attend a load of bts training-type courses, brandish a sheaf of certificates supposedly proving how well qualified he was and everyone would be happy.


Alan Taylor said...

If You Can't Beat 'Em Join 'Em.

John, your problems are solved.You can set yourself as a bts training establishment.

The result of this is that David pays you £300 a week for your assistant trainers course.Hugh and Martha pay £200 per week for your horse husbandry and riding course and maybe you could enrol Emma on your journalism and office procedures course at a discounted rate of £100.I am sure she would benefit from your expertise and maybe later she could advance on to your photography course!

You now have no wages to pay and are positively awash with the"folding stuff."Of course all the above prices do not include V.A.T.

The Lemon said...

talking of governments and crazy schemes i think in a round about way it gives a chance to look at ridiculous laws. did you know that in California $500 fine will be given to anyone who detonates a nuclear device within city limits (a great anit terrorism initiative if ever i saw one!!). In Hollywood It is illegal to drive more than two thousand sheep down Hollywood Boulevard at one time. In Florida if an elephant is left tied to a parking meter, the parking fee has to be paid just as it would for a vehicle. I could go on all day but instead for amusement please look at

Azamour said...

Great to hear Sqeauk is getting in done!! Congrats on a being year married!! ........

John Berry said...

Thanks Azamour - always good to receive a reminder just in advance of one's anniversary, as that lessens the chance of the major faux pas of forgetting it.

No doubt you shall be celebrating Emma's and my anniversary with a covering or two. I'm confident that you'll make an excellent stallion and look forward to watching your offspring running, which by my calculations should be from 2009 onwards. No doubt several of them will come under the care of the same gifted man who handled your career; that should maximize their chances of success.