How to describe the Worcestershire vista? How can I do justice? PoorlyI think.
I write from a Worcestershire drifting from the summer light, the vibrancy fading, dying. Such a glorious death too, lavish streaks of red pink light flash across the azure blue, darkening into the abyss. The cool air speaks of Autumn and of fences to come, be still my beating heart, be still.
Ever since the death of Sir Clement Freud, the position of the Majors hero has remained vacant. I am not rushing to fill it, I need an exceptional candidate after all, good with the bottle, look of devilment, some fair damn fine skill and a dash of je ne sais qui. Aye, you have to be choosy in your role models.
She is too fine a person. Malala. Yet, my heart aches when I hear that tinkle of a voice, in that lovely sing-song lilt. Well, it reduces me to fond thoughts, it drives the shadows from my mind and welcomes the tide on which rides the call for me to be a better person.
Malala. To be shot for being a good school girl and to stand strong for what you believe, education for all. A Birmingham lass as well, at least by adoption, I am sure her heart is more Swat valley. Quite the orator. I don’t know what magic is required in crafting words that discharge such charisma to immediately force your change your mind. Read the opening lines of the Gettysburg address and tell me it is not witchcraft. Malala carries some of that.
Sadly though, she is too proper and too little of my time is spent in such hallowed cleanliness.
If he were alive, Chinese Gordon would be a candidate. Again, never the finished article, too damn dangerous and a bit too moral for my money but quite the man. I say too moral, in recuperation in Palestine, he became a devout Christian, I always find them an ultimate bore.
Gordon came to grief in Khartoum. On the way, he took in all of the triumph and disaster of British Victorian might, projected around the world. The Crimea, India and his crowning glory, China. He marched on Peking defeating numerically daunting foe in the field with his french allies, commanded by Montauban. He marched up to the gates, got the treaty signed, burned the summer palace (under orders from Elgin, grandson of the other destroyer of the arts) and returned victorious.
Khartoum though. My God, Khartoum. Put simply and concisely, which is all I have time for, Chinese Gordon was sold out.
At the time, Egypt was a British Protectorate, the French had built the Suez canal, but British engineers laid the railway, all the way to the Red Sea from Alex, far more humanely too.
Sudan and Egypt have often fallen to war and never quite managed a peaceful trust. Sudan was a major benefactor of the Eastern Slave routes. As prosperous and almost as numerous as slaves moved over the Middle Passage from the muggy Western African coasts, was the trade in the East. The Arabs bought slaves out of East Africa and transported them to India, across the Middle East and Turkey. Considering what we know of the American Slave trade, this side barely gets a mention. Not that another evil quiets the first.
Sudan was in ruin when the mighty Britannia called a stop to the heinous business. It fell to war with its Northern neighbour but the unrest was also religious. Darfur was eventually beset by Mahdist revolutionaries who worshipped their leader Muhammed Ahmad and Chinese Gordon found himself sat upon the bonfire.
Being a fine military mind he turned the residents into a fine defence force. He organised the guns and in the face of a far superior foe and with London unwilling to reinforce, well… He must have known his fate.
Indeed, he did. It would have been possible for him to take his relief but he never did. He could have secured the whole country too had less experienced folk listened to him but pride prevailed.
In the end, Britain called for him to leave but Gordon could not. Here I depart slightly from my hero, as a coward will in the face of real courage. He knew to stay would be death but his honour would not allow him to go. Even his enemy, Ahmad, would have been willing for him to go before he sacked the city. Probably self-preservation, even the staunchest Mahdist must have realised that to kill one of the white Queens main figureheads was to call upon her vengeance with all of the horrible forces that bought against you.
Gordon stayed and fought. He died, heroically depicted taking a spear as he defended the steps from his enemy.
His statue used to stand in Trafalgar Square under Nelsons gaze, between the fountains. Quite an apt spot for a man whose essence was the British Imperial. Exporting his own version of fairness, christianity, commerce and civilisation. I do not pretend these adventures were without ill as we gaze back from our lofty heights. Yet, he was willing to die for it, he felt justice so strongly.
My admiration is as strong for the heroism as the foolishness. On that note, we enter the fray of the weekends betting.
To the sports
Tips for Cartmel, Goodwood and Beverley.
I must confess that Cartmel is high on the list of race courses unvisited. The sizzle of BBQ meats in the car park, in the foothills of the magnificent lake district, the setting is spectacular, even if I cannot report as an eye-witness. The lakes; Surely God exists to paint such greens and blues.
Anyway, I was asked to review the Cartmel card and being a sucker for a request, here it is. I would want to look at trainer form at such a course, noting the good to soft ground and beside that, have an eye for those good Northern jockeys.
Yes, to hell with the big Saturday races (not that big this week), we are in for Cartmel. @gregor31 asked for it.
Not many that Henderson sell go on to better but Killiecrankie left under a cloud and is now swimming in quite waters. The yard have won with two of their runners here but none of the other four placed giving me to think that it is statistically irrelevant. That said Henry Brooke is their go to jockey 9 places from 14 runs.
Killiecrankie is a tremendous each way bet but Scrafton is the winner at 5/4. Skinny, yes but a recent winner and Brian Hughes in the saddle.
Bougietopieces is the Elliott runner in the second and with a strong record at the track, I am interested. It is a young racer but the signs are not promising, even dropped into this grade. Could be a day our for connections.
No, my money rests on Izsbushka. Having the best jockey in the race is a bonus, Mr Hughes again, as balanced as Ruby but less of the flourish. The horse does not have the pace for the flat anymore but Cartmel and jumping will suit. They rarely finish in a heap here and ours might be doing the best he can muster at the end. 7/1, thank you.
3.15… 40/1. 40s, that is some price. The 3.15 is a poor poor race. I can make arguments for them but none are convincing. That leaves me with an itch to bet Mystified who is too old to improve but might not have to play a part. Granted, I need the top two to fail but they may well do and my old champion has conditions to suit.
I can’t make it through the Cartmel card. So my last bet is 4.25 and Solway Legend. It is another Hughes ride (he will bring us winners my friends). Exposed as the rest on the Cartmel card but not disgracing himself at all.
The Beverley Bullet
Maarek is the class act in the race. This is definitely a step down in class for the Group 1 winner who loves to get his toe in the mud. There is the problem. He has never won anything without soft or heavy in the description and there lies the problem. He needs rain, lots of rain.
I like two three year olds in the race. Northgate Lad and Diktar Del Mar are both with a good chance, yet not as good as the ‘class-dropping’ Line of Reason’ who I reckon is worth a right tasty punt!
Goodwood – The Celebration
Kodi Bear has won two of the last three, one a G2. Yet it is hardly a bullet proof 4/6 shot and I want one at a bigger price.
Cable Bay is my pick at 6/1. One could describe the horse as a fine juvenile that never quite got that high again. Some of that is true and while I accept the limitations, in the face of a dodgy odds-on shot, I will happily get amongst the ne’er do wells in the cheap seats.
I am too tired to cover the football or cricket or tiddlewinks.
I shall say this. May your dinner be taken in the best company. You know that sort, whose style is geek. Ponytails and ginger, wide-eyed, almost innocent but damn knowing and rendering you fluttered. Their mouths widen in smile with an innocence I wish I had. My heart longs that I might be worthy.
The Martin Hill: Mystified and Solway Legend… e/w double
Courage, roll the dice