A Day at the Races. For twenty five years Edward and I have been going. Usually at Xmas,this week at the break out of autumn. Its as always Plumpton in East Sussex. Down market, sweet as, in the shadow of the Downs . Its raining. It’s the middle of November, whats new. At Clapham Junction you meet the usual suspects waiting on platform 13 for the Eastbourne and Hastings train. Some still hung over from last night’s poker, others beaver fresh with confidence with the new day,a few clutch life saving cans, and some like me only interested in an away day on Planet Plumpton.
The bars are crowded, we find a place. A middle aged man with tie, suit, clean raincoat is sitting with us. He is looking intelligently at the race card. We get talking. Houses in Sevenoaks and Fulham. Season ticket holder.He is an accountant,a pension trustee.The son of a turf accountant, a book maker. That taught me how to lose gracefully. We are hooked.
He goes through the card nothing can beat the odds on in the first, in the second great hurdling ability, third,oh I cant remember but he gives us something in every race. Now we have a plan, an idea we are ready. The bookies stand firm.
First some food. Well you don’t go to Plumpton for the food. A sad sausage sandwich is followed by a miserable sweet and sour chicken. New age pop up food has not got to Plumpton. Its still raining and the first race and second drink are coming up. We’re off.
In the first ,in trots the 1/3 favourite. A small sum won and as I collect, the bookie John Bevan(Euros taken) says Well Done. Do I catch a hint of irony. Onto the second. The horse gets to the start but doesn’t run. Well at least we didn’t lose. From then on a succession of plucky seconds and narrow thirds do little to brighten the financial gloom. But hey, we are sports,we are in with a shout until the final jump we have had what they call value. That is your horse does not come last.
And as for our tipster friend. Fulham season ticket holder obvious loser. We are financial journalists and we trusted an accountant, a pension trustee. As Manuel would say, we know nothing. But as Edward says A bad idea is better than no idea. Really?
We give the last two races a miss as the trains only run every hour. And I’m off to a literary event that evening. On the way back we have a dram on the train and chat with a charming English teacher on her way back to Prague. I make her day by deliberately understating her age by ten years. She beams. So not all was lost that day. As one of the royal regiment of losers we chatted to said, it beats working. But then I don’t.