Cheltenham Races from a Pub

I’d a few pints with two friends, John Dale and Ian Handey, recently. They are both in their 80s though you wouldn’t think it. They were mischievous in their lives with hilarious stories to endorse their adventures. In the pub, in direct proportion to the number of pints, they reverted to their youth: playful teenagers giggling out of chiselled faces.

They enjoy a flutter on the horses and were bemoaning that they won’t get to Cheltenham in March because of coronavirus, their age and mixing with people being a concern. So, I said: “Why not bring Cheltenham to our local pub? All we need is a plan.”

To cut a long story short, they became animated. By the end of our drinking session we’d guaranteed the landlord a minimum number of seats for St. Patrick’s Day, decided on a fish buffet, planned the seating layout, where the TVs should be located, organised taxis to get everyone home, made a list that lengthened beyond the capacity of the pub. We even planned how we’d decorate the place in shamrocks and green bunting for the saint’s day and who’d be bookie.

The two elders tripped out of there like juveniles and left their ages behind them.

I enjoy the odd flutter myself. David Cooke’s poem about his Irish father hits the spot:

He had taken us all to Ascot races,

and once took me to the dogs,

where the speakers bounced
their fractured echoes,


the track suffused in lights
and where, with my own small bet,

so much depended on the hare’s

mechanical, panicked blur.


Unschooled, he’d never read Pascal,

but knew what he needed to know
about risk, and went to Mass on Sundays.

The odds on Heaven were evens.


First published in Swindon Link

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *