Good evening from the Major writing from a crystal clear cold November in North Notts, Gringley on the Hill, as the name suggests bears the brunt of the latest cold front streaming in from the Atlantic, whistling between these old buildings. Draw sharp breath, high-pitched resonance in the roots of my teeth.
All seasons in one day. I rose to snowfall with a ground temperature just too low for it to settle, we just don’t quite have the elevation. Driving to work, as the slip road fell from the main carriageway, I entered a deep fog streaming off the Chesterfield Canal. I stopped the car and got out into the dulled light, sounds and movement, distance all stifled. Somehow the blanket of whiteness, snaking across the land with still canal waters was a comfort, life felt quieted and I wished for once that I might remain there for just a little longer than my travail would ever allow. Someone has to push the wheel.
Regular readers will know that like many folk, the Major often veers from a straight thinking track. This week, like many was, one of those. Something innocuous troubled me and an anxiety so acute, it felt like an insect, buried deeply, gnawing away.
I could never claim that I have suffered the full face of depression or anxiety but I do sometimes feel like these illnesses brush my cheek. Of the two, I would guess, in my naivety, that depression is the more comfortable, dangerously so. An apathy and a darkness but one that lacks the horrid chemical urgency of an anxious mind.
My issue passed as easily as it had arrived, like the fog it lifted and new things occupied my thoughts, new space was created, a fresh canvas.
For a reason that is foreign to me, I am starting to look greatly towards Christmas with a fondness I have not previously felt for the season. Call me Scrooge but Christmas was something that was a distasteful noise until 23rd December when I might start entering the spirit of the thing. This year, I am already committing valuable brain time as to what I might prepare for the table and how the Major’s two sons might be wowed by their morning. My heart is maudlin for those who have less and I am wondering what has happened to me, the me I know, the one that was dead on the inside.
Don’t think this is improvement, I am not sure what these signals mean am I have not settled yet on how I feel about them.
Enough of this self-reflection. I do not wish to be a terrible bore to you.
That Chesterfield Canal is a lovely stretch. It runs to the Trent and was used back in the day to run iron and coal from Derbyshire to the Trent and then the Humber. The canal also ferried most of the stone used to build the current Houses of Parliament which was quarried just a few miles from my office and thus passed just a few miles from my house, 175 odd years prior.
Never enough time. Running out on me. I have to organise a stag do for @frankelslobro. I have to write a 15,000 word dissertation to complete my MBA studies. I have a business to run and a family. In amongst it, there is little time to think. The maelstrom whirls around and around, I find myself washed up here agin, the weekend upon me, the fire roaring and the supermarket shiraz (I didn’t feel I deserved better) slipping down.
I don’t have the simplicity that the great military leaders enjoy. The certainty and fortitude required to act with the confidence not that you thought you were right but that you knew you were. The sort of arrogance that would expect God to rise and greet you to the dinner table.
It won Trafalgar for Nelson and allowed Wellington to galavant across Spain and Portugal. I am a ditherer, I want the analysis and I will change my mind.
In the case of the latter, his self-absorbed hubris was not beyond observing the same in others. He said of Napoleon that his nemesis had the equivalent effect of adding 40,000 troops to the theatre.
The system of war is corrupt without a simple truth. The person who has to break a moral code and conduct some violent action can only do so with a faith, remorselessly trained into them, in those people who supply the orders or at least the system, the hierarchy that does. Likewise, the person giving the order can only do so, knowing they do not ultimately carry it through.
If there is one thing in our modern politic that I dislike, it is the rise of the moral perfectionist, the idea that the ideal is attainable. Not that I am against the dreamers, I am one myself. I am against those that still the true nature of the world under a deception that no ill is necessary. Nothing will be perfect, get used to it. Terrible difficult decisions have to be made.
Wellington said a whole number of things. He called his men scum, drunks and suggested that as many signed up because of their bastard children as did those with a romantic draw to war. His singlemindedness can be heard in some of his quotes too. He said;
I shall see no officer under my command is debarred …. from attending to his first duty, which is and always has been to train the private men under his command that they may without question beat any force opposed to them in the field.
and on his great victory at Waterloo…
It has been a damned serious business – Blücher and I have lost 30,000 men. It has been a damned nice thing – the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life…By God! I don’t think it would have done if I had not been there.
Arrogance does not quite cut it.
To the sports.
Betfair Chase Day
Six go to post in the big one and it is a quality field although it is a shame we have lost Menorah.
We have a French raider which is an oddity but in the form, there is nothing to shout about.
After that, five quality British sorts. Double King George winner Silviniaco Conti; Grade 2 hurdler and impressive listed chase debutante Seeyouatmidnight; Champion Bumper, King George Winner and two-time Betfair Chase winner, Cue Card; Irish Cavalier, who defeated Cue Card and Menorah in an already busy season (his fourth race) and finally, novice Gold Cup winner Coneygree.
Irish Cavalier gets my line. I like him but I am not sure the soft conditions are going to be ideal. He is versatile but this will go to a ‘toe in the ground’ pro.
Cue Card just faded in the Charlie Hall. I have never been the biggest fan of Cue Card, a little like Hurricane Fly, it has cost me dearly many times! He strikes me as the sort that will do well in his senior years and he is getting there, he will run the Gold Cup as an 11-year-old this season. It is tight, but at 13/8 I have to say, no. That said, he has been so consistent that a fading effort at Wetherby can hardly be the evidence on which to retire him can it!
Christ, what will we see of Coneygree? If he is back to form, he wins, that is my view. It is just a big if. You might argue 2/1 bakes that in but does it? Against this lot? Yet, he is unbeaten after five goes over the big obstacles but he needs to be tuned up and after a period on the sidelines, who knows.
Conti, paired with Fehily, my favourite of jump jockeys is enticing at the price. 8/1 is plenty generous for a horse that has shown plenty of class but has a good share of critics.
I write as I think. The head is swaying towards Cue Card, the more obvious sort. The gambling instinct in me wants to play Coneygree and how sweet that would be, to hold the winning ticket as he swoops through. There is a value itch for Silvi and Seeyouatmidnight is exactly the unfashionable under-rated sort I often play too.
I am going to back the second best horse in the race, the favourite, Cue Card. 15/8 Paddy Power. In the end, I hope he wins too. As much as I love undefeated sorts, Coneygree will be defeated. There is not really the option of being undefeated in the sorts of races he runs in. Coneygree has the opportunity of securing a great feat ahead. Maybe the second horse to regain a Gold Cup. Yet in the Betfair, Cue Card can cement his own name by securing his third win in the race, surely that is worth cheering on.
If I had to make the forecast, I’d say Coneygree to beat Silviniaco Conti.
Coral Hurdle Tip – Ascot
Only five rock up for this Grade 2 so all runners will pick up a minimum of £2.5k, not bad for fifth.
Anyway the winner will be Yanworth who is incredibly available at evens. Tasty. I enjoyed seeing this horse last year and feel JP has a good one here. The course Barry charted in the Neptune seemed to think Yanworth wanted a lap of Gloucester Cathedral and still he almost beat Yorkhill. I have always been a Garde La Victoire fan but am not a fan of horses campaigned over fences and hurdles in a zig zag pattern, no thank you.
Yanworth – Order up the good steaks.
Something Else for the Weekend Sir?
So far, I have offered you a 15/8 fav / joint fav and an evens shot. Ouch. Well, few of you come for any info, you are all here to imbibe in my poor state and read an opinion on the racing, a diseased opinion.
Haydock 1.15pm – Mysteree is a very interesting runner. Michael Scudamore does not get many very good horses and when he does, he campaigns them smartly. There is a bit of me thus, that thinks, that this horse might have a day marked up later in the season but money tomorrow would be informative. Scu sends plenty up north but not that many to Haydock and Richard Johnson is an interesting booking (5th booking in two years, no wins in that time).
Chase the Spud would have been my pick because the yard form is solid and the horse is match fit.
Again, it is a classic, head v heart encounter. Mysteree… has the nod.
In the football… I’d have Stoke to beat Bournemouth at 5/4.
I hope your dinner is taken in good company. Mine will be. Old friends, good curry, more wine that the doctor would say is right.
Courage, roll the dice.