Showing posts from January, 2011

Just around the corner

  ……the Cheltenham Festival that is. Not the kebab house. Six weeks to go. Touching distance. Tickets bought, gaff sorted, travel planned. And most importantly, ante-post bets being struck and demolished on a daily basis. That’s how I know it’s close enough to smell. It’s been the highlight of my year - something like Christmas, birthdays and holidays rolled into one big adrenaline-soaked betting frenzy - for the last 10 years. But my participation in the 2011 version has been in some doubt. I’ve shared that glorious festival decade with my erstwhile pro-punting mate Bacchy. We have ridden the highs and lows together. Confided the intimate details of rash exactas, embarrassing Lucky 15s and salvage trade-outs. We’ve eaten monumental kebabs, tackled Auntie Mona’s mountainous high teas and ridden the Queens Hotel party wave. In that time Bacchy has graduated from a £10-a-bet mug punter (like me) through escalating commitments of disposable income and finally to fully fledged, full-ti


**Miserable blog alert** I hate Preston.  I did when I came here as a student to visit my mates. I did when I came last January on a one-day work-related round-trip. And I do tonight when I’m here again on a return work visit, passing under the pigeon crap covered ‘Welcome to Lancashire’ red rose above the station exit.  Only this year, I need to stay overnight.  It’s a soulless, bleak town. The wind whistles through the bland, exposed shopping and business area propelled unremittingly down the valleys from featureless surrounding hills. The buildings are unambitious, dull and utilitarian, filled with clone-town-Britain retail outlets and coffee purveyors. There is a lot of infill development conceived in the 60’s and 70’s as part of the Central Lancashire New Town, of which Preston is the hub (in a theoretical sense), granted City status in 2002.   There aren’t many cities and large towns I dislike in their entirety. Manchester, all muscular and assertive civic and commercial ar

Sun, sea and biscuits

Not much horse racing in Tenerife. I don’t think there’s a bookies on the island. On the other hand, sunshine is ubiquitously available in glittering and glorious skyfulls. And I can’t recall a trip to see Mrs A’s sister (and there have been many) when Family Atkinson has appreciated the weather quite so much. Escaping ice-bound, frozen-track Britain for 10 days was pure pleasure. Sis-in-law is a tremendous host. We descended on her splendid apartment on Boxing day as wild-eyed daylight starved refugees and left after New Year as bronzed, wined and dined cats-that-got-the-cream. Thanks Auntie Sue. Don’t know who let those messy locusts in. Sue's terraaaace One of the best bits about visiting Sis-in-law at that time of the year is the chance to have a 2 nd  Christmas. So on Welsh National Day (that’s 27 th  Dec to the unititiated. Although, confusingly, it’s 8 th  Jan this season. And that’s subject a 10am inspection this morning. Still with me?), we had buck’s fizz, chocolat