The posh voice over the loudspeaker at the Point to Point announces that the next horse is running in heels. We all exchange mirthful glances, wondering if we had heard correctly and should we really be looking out for
the Number 10 horse mincing along at the back of the pack in four inch Killer Stilettos?
The truth is much less colourful - Running in Heels turns out to be the horse's name. You can probably guess that we
now all want to put our money on this horse to win at a tasty 3-1. All but Mr B who grumbles that we are just being fanciful and not paying proper regard to the Form Guide. He wants his five pounds to be deposited on the Number One horse's comparatively safe
shoulders (what are a horse's shoulders called? Is it withers? And, if not, from whither did that thought come?)
We are celebrating Our Katie's 18th birthday at the Parham Point to Point. Her birthday is not
until Thursday and her party (combined with her parents' Silver Wedding party) is not till June. But why have one Coming of Age celebration when you could have three, as I always say. Which is, of course, a fib - it's the first time I have ever voiced such
a thought. Though, in my defence, I have often said something similar.
I ask Mr B, who knows about these things, why the Point to Point is so named. He tells us that these races were customarily run
on courses measured out between two church spires. Which is why they are sometimes called "steeple-chasers". A tall story! We all look round for two church spires but cannot see so much as one. When I google the term, however, I discover that the very first
Point to Point was in 1752, when two Irish farmers challenged each other to a race over four and a half miles of stone walls, ditches and hedges between two churches, keeping their sights on the second church spire to help them stay on course. Mr B has been
right all along.
He is also, unfortunately, correct about the result of the first race. Running in Heels kicks off his Killer Stilettos but can still only manage second place to what would have been Mr B's
choice, the favourite Carnglave Cat. I know very well from experience that he will not let us forget this till every race is won and lost - and then some. I therefore refrain from making any further rash predictions based on a jockey's colours or a horse's
name or - heaven forefend - its super swishy tail.
The Eldest of the Darling Daughters has packed a quite delicious picnic and we tuck in with relish, telling ourselves that it really isn't so very cold. This
piece of positive thinking works beautifully because the day does warm up. We will all go home feeling that rosy glow which comes from a day spent in the Great Outdoors.
I don't think I am properly dressed
for the occasion in my ordinary boots and red Marks & Spencer jacket (the one with the annoying floppy hood, a major design fault if ever I saw one). I should be wearing green Wellington boots and a Barbour jacket and, perhaps, a fetching red trilby to
help me stand out from the crowds. I see one fella decked out in checked jacket and trousers and a stonkingly fabulous deer-stalker. I point him out to Mr B as a worthy example of sartorial appropriateness (Mr B is wearing what he always wears, being no great
fan of Dressing Up) but he is too busy studying the Form Guide in search of the next odds-on favourite on which to entrust our housekeeping money.
We watch the falconry display. There is a blustery wind which
does the smaller birds no favours as they wing over the crowds, battling against the elements to get back to the safety of the show ring. From on high above the trees, a circling buzzard appears to have a wickedly beady eye on what is going on below. I miss
the terrier racing and the Pony Club races but tell Katie and Eleanor how their Auntie Hilary would have just loved to be a member of the Pony Club but had to make do with ownership of a couple of space-hoppers which she exercised diligently every day in our
back garden and stabled in the airing cupboard.
We leave before the last race to miss the traffic. Mr B has had two winners, three seconds (which didn't count) and one forced bet on Running in Heels. He hasn't
exactly come into money but he is generally satisfied with himself. If not with us.
Back home Katie opens her present from us and we watch Phantom of the Opera before we set off for our favourite Indian restaurant,
Shafiques. The older grandchildren have been coming to Shafiques with us since they were about seven or eight years old. The previous day I had taken along an "18" balloon and home-made cake with candles, as two more surprises for the Birthday Girl. I don't
think she saw them coming.
Ah, yes, Katie's present. It's a word picture of memories of special times we have spent together since she was born - especially memories from the many holidays she spent with us
before each Christmas and in the summer holidays.
The artist who put the word picture together must have been wondering what on earth we were like - but every word or phrase has meaning. "Hungry Seagull"
will remind Katie of the bird who swooped on her while she was sitting on Brighton beach and made off with her last chicken nugget, complete with plastic fork attached. "Bath-Video-Bed" was our bedtime routine when she was just a very little one. "Best
Seats at the Pantomime" recalls Mr B's heroic efforts every Christmas to secure the most favourable view in the theatre by booking our seats so early that we never knew what panto we would be watching. "101 crabs!" marks a truly splendid crabbing session on
the River Arun at Littlehampton last summer.
Of course the storing of memories won't stop, just because the Eldest of the Grand-daughters has reached 18. We are still clocking them up, each time we get together.
If I were putting the word picture together today, there'd be one sure-fire winner for inclusion:
"Running in Heels."