White out. Blizzard Berkhamsted. I swear we get more snow here than can be justified for a soft, southern, home counties location. Bulbourne Valley seems to act like a beacon for the white stuff: fat, snow-laden clouds homing in on my house with unerring accuracy. Is it just me that takes the weather personally?
Last year about this time I was chiselling packed snow off the pavement and road out the front. The subzero temperatures had spot welded solid sheets of ice onto the freezing ground in a near permanent seal. I distinctly remember hacking away laboriously with a shovel, trying to clear enough space for the kitchen fitter to arrive. We had a half finished new kitchen in the week before Christmas and the weather was threatening to keep it that way until after the big day. Not a pleasant prospect.
This year the snows have arrived bang on cue. Another white Christmas in prospect. It’s beautiful out there.
So not much horse racing reportage with which to crackle the airwaves. Apart from two cracking days at Cheltenham last weekend a belter from Fairyhouse on Wednesday, the turf season has run into a snowdrift. Hope it’s back on track for Boxing Day.
The closest I’ve got to any racing recently was a good old chinwag with Walter Swinburn’s all-weather gallops maestro at my mate Gordon’s 50th birthday bash last weekend. Dave has worked with Swinburn and his Father-in-Law, Peter Harris for nigh on 30 years at the stables in Aldbury. He was full of great stories about Walter courting Arab Princes and financiers for investment in the stable. He wants to move away from Peter’s syndication philosophy and the small-time owners. Dave told me that Walter is an ambitious perfectionist. His mantra is ‘We don’t want to be known as just an all-weather stable, do we guys?’. Dave shrugged his shoulders. “Tell the truth,” he said, “most small-time owners just want to see their horses run. I bet you’d be happy to turn up to Wolverhampton every day if you thought your horse would be turning out, wouldn’t you mate?” I grinned and glugged some more ale. If I was in horse ownership, I can’t think of anything worse than cheering on the sand donkeys somewhere near Sandwell.
Church Farm has had a good season. Stable star Stotsfold brought some precious Group class success and they had over 50 winners. Though sadly, Stotsfold has since died. Dave, a big bloke with an open face and more than his fair share of tombstone teeth, is very loyal to the Swinburn team. “He’s a genius. Just look at his record as a jockey”. Despite the changes, he clearly loves his job and the horses. It’s a nice insight to the local yard. I’ve been promised a tour round.
Gordon’s party was a cracker. Two local real ales on draft, authentic paella served up in a massive cast iron dish that wouldn’t look out of place at Jodrell Bank and good company drawn from every stage of Gordon’s 50 packed years. It was a night for hearty blathering and rib-tickling banter. However. The disco was a bit of a let down. Despite my pleading, I was allowed nowhere near the set list. As a result there was precious little Motorhead, no Metallica and a shocking absence of Obituary all night. It didn’t stop a rash of exuberant Dad Dancing around the midnight hour though. A vote of confidence for any party.
I’ve been to that venue before. The Hockley Club at Cow Roast recently hosted a comedy night in which a gang of eight of us indulged. For rural comedy, I have to say the standard was very good. The compere, Mary Bourke was excellent. A softly spoken, dry as dust, Irish comedian with a killer put down. She’s on the way up.
That particular night ended in carnage afterwards at Becky and Gordon’s. A duet with Becky for the full 8 mins and 28 seconds of Paradise by the Dashboard Light; throwing some collective bad lead guitar shapes to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s version of Heard it Through the Grapevine; and a throaty massed voice chorus of Ultravox’s Vienna were probably the lowlights of an unsolicited outbreak of singalongasadness.
This ice is making us housebound. Could be time to reach for Abba’s Greatest Hits.
PS. Good luck AP McCoy in tonight’s SPotY review. I’d love him to win, if for no other reason than as a lifetime achievement recognition. But that might bring Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor into the reckoning as well!