Sunday, August 08, 2010

Glorious Goodwood

I’m sure that I have written before on Glorious Goodwood, an annual horse racing meeting in Sussex that attracts the famous and infamous. But I can’t resist it, even if I am about to write much the same description.
Margreet and I had once more been invited to attend by my cousin (aged 88) who is now much in demand for wreath laying in Normandy, being among the first soldiers on D-day to land by glider near Caen and still be able to drive a car to France.
We met near Chichester and reached the racecourse slowly in his membership-badged/invalid-displayed car.
There, in sunshine and shade, we drank and ate in the open and watched the crowd. And what a fascinating crowd it was.
Among the male participants were elegant gentlemen in tropical fawn suits, polished shoes, and Panama hats with coloured hat bands displaying the colours of Goodwood membership or their club – sporting or otherwise.
Other men seem to lean more toward the fringes of society. Their suits were flashier, more pronouncedly striped, and of shinier material. Their shoes might be of patent leather or related to trainers. Generally speaking, the men’s clothing was fairly drab and mundane. Women, however, sparkled.
There were plenty of old trouts to be seen, some elegant and underplayed, others recalling, especially to themselves, the days of fashion in their time when they were in greater demand and more youthful in appearance.
Skirt lengths varied enormously this year, with some long, some of medium length, and some so short that most of the leg was on show, undercarriage that often would have been far better concealed.
There were many bared cleavages with breasts well flaunted, and bouncing to display their full worth.
In many an instance there were the dolly-birds, dressed as if in rather cheap Christmas wrapping paper, and tied with string, soon to be undone by their often much older and pot-bellied escorts.
Hats for the ladies were worn to enhance and attract – the most resplendent probably to attract the TV cameramen rather than for punters and their partners. These crowning glories varied from the odd feather to a fully displayed hand of them, to the short-brimmed pill box, to those with huge floppy brims – the latter flapping around uncontrollably in the notorious Goodwood wind and having to be held on by one hand.
A few sensible women chose to wear low or wedge-shaped shoes, sometimes shiny silver, or gold. Those dressed to the nines sported high stilettos, which sank into the grass aerating the soil, no doubt much to its benefit.
The three of us each wagered on every race until the last when we left to avoid the crowds.
Margreet’s theory was to pick horses that were not favourites but which our newspaper pundit reckoned to be a danger to the favourite. She lost a bit on the day – but not much.
Our host bet only on horses that had previously been the winner of at least one race. “They know about winning and the pleasure it gives.” He also favoured the nags that had been sent to the racecourse from afar, on the assumption that it would not have been worth the trouble and expense if it had no chance of winning. He broke even on the day.
My own method was to select the fourth favourite (or thereabouts) and bet on it each way, especially if the horse had an unpleasant or difficult name. The result was a good profit over and above the wager money. It was enough that when we returned home tired and hungry it enabled us to eat out on steak tartare and freezing vodka.
The gods had looked kindly on us all, showed us their bounty, and made it all a lovely day out.