Live and learn, so they say. You are never too old to learn something new.
Even at my Great Age, I would add - based on my
experience at our regular Sporting Memories meeting this week. We were in the middle of the weekly quiz, which always taxes my brain, given that I don’t have the most extensive sporting knowledge. I have taken, however, to hazarding a wild guess in answer
to some questions and, amazingly, this occasionally pays off. Mostly I just sit, nursing my cup of coffee and trying to resist another of Rhona’s home-baked treats, and marvelling at how much sporting information the combined minds of our group members
come up with. Rarely is there a question that not even one of them can answer.
There was this week, however, one question which stumped (if you’ll excuse
the pun) the lot of us. Which day of the year is considered to be the birthday of every race-horse born in the Northern hemisphere? Puzzled faces all round. There was one member of the group who undoubtedly would have known the answer as he owns part of a
horse but he was away watching a cricket match on Thursday morning. No, it wasn’t the horse watching the cricket match, it was our absent friend, don’t be silly. As an aside, I’m not sure exactly what part of the horse he owns but I’m
sure it must be an essential part - maybe a hoof?
We all had to give up in the end - the answer was January 1st, also known as New Year’s Day. In the
Southern Hemisphere, apparently, the given birthday is August 1st. I am, to put it mildly, overwhelmed by the sheer unfairness of it all, being one who believes that a birthday is always, but always, uniquely special and a day to be celebrated. Fancy having
to share your birthday with everyone else born in the northern (or southern) hemisphere!
I was still pondering on this the following morning when I joined
other members of our Singing for Pleasure group. We were singing Ascot Gavotte, from the musical of My Fair Lady, so I took the opportunity to ask who knew that every race-horse born in the northern hemisphere shared the same birthday? Most people looked as
perplexed as I had been but four members waved their hands in the air to signal that this was - at least to them - common knowledge. How, I enquired, admiringly, did they know that? It turned out that they were all avid readers of Dick Francis novels which
just goes to show the importance of being widely read.
Apparently setting a standard birthdate for thoroughbred horses makes it simple to determine its acceptability
for races based on age. Though it does mean, I might be inclined to argue, that a horse aged 2 years and eleven months could well be racing against another aged 2 years and one month - and where’s the fairness in that? Mind you, the same could be said
of school years, I suppose, where a September-born child is in the same class as one born the following August.
When I was about seven years old, my teacher
decided to prove a point by telling us all to line up in order of our birth dates. This was enormous fun, as I recall, given that there were fifty of us in my class so the whole exercise - shuffling about, checking each other’s birthday, changing places
time and time again - took up most of what would otherwise have been a boring lesson. The teacher then pointed out the difference in size between those born in the Autumn and the summer babes among us. I, born in June, was incensed at what I considered the
blatant discrimination, having somehow in my head equated size with brain power. The fact that Philip Brown and Audrey Gates were nine months older than I didn’t occur to me - I was, in my defence, only seven….
I’m still worrying about those poor horses, unable to celebrate their actual birthday with a cake and a banner (“Dobbin is three”) Even Her Maj, forced by custom and the weather forecast,
to celebrate an Official Birthday, has her own birth date marked.
Plus, ( you can see my mind is going into overdrive) what happens when a horse from the northern
hemisphere (birthday January 1st) competes in a race in, say, Australia (my geography has always been sketchy, to say the least, but I’m pretty sure the Land of Oz is in the Southern Hemisphere)?It’s all far too much for me.
Where is Dick Francis when you need him?