Beverley

The family and I have been watching the latest Bear Grylls diet programme ‘The Island’ where mostly slim young things get even slimmer (if not younger) on a desert island which appears really nice from a distance but actually resembles 1980s Beirut at close quarters. I’d bought a prawn sandwich after dropping my eldest and his mates, and in deference to the bravery in the face of food adversity that The Island-ers display, I delay eating it until 11am. As the minutes tick down this gets more and more painful, until a Pavlovian response in me as the clock digits flash over means I inhale the poor thing without pausing to taste it. But it must be easier for them on the Grylls programme – they don’t have to stare at prawn sandwiches for over an hour!

I feel I can cope with things better when I have a Racing Post with me, and I know that makes me sound a little bit weird. I’m sure when Armageddon erupts around me I’ll be nipping to the nearest newsagents to make sure I can face the end of the world with some statistics to peruse. The mini-apocalypse that has me diving into WHS today is the usual and inexplicable hold up just past the Tibshelf Services on the M1. Traffic jams are doable if there is form to study.

I face eight hours driving today, and I’ve been wondering for a while about the differences of opinion between my speedo and the satnav. Which of those two would take precedence would make an interesting case in a court of law. I’m favouring the satnav to be the more reliable (how quickly you have devolved power to it, Neil, in less than two months). This isn’t just because it allows me to drive a bit quicker, but the GPS aspect must surely make it more accurate than a guy at Ford’s putting a plastic dial into a plastic dashboard? I hope so, or pretty soon I shall start getting letters from the DVLA telling me to surrender my license.

I don’t often listen to the radio, or even a CD, when I’m driving. Perhaps this is the way of an ex-teacher who craves silence, or even solitude? I wallow in the luxury of allowing my mind to wander where it will, unhindered by the pressures of the modern world, but part of me also sees this as wasted time and feel I should be learning Spanish, or fighting with Siri over the content of the next blog.

Beverley is just gorgeous. For the avoidance of doubt, and because the wife does read these, I mean the racecourse at Beverley is one of the finest examples I have ever seen of what a day at the races should be like. The Racing Post informs me that Chief Executive Sally Iggulden was worried about the 12.30 start, a trial by the BHA race planning team to spread out the action on a busy Bank Holiday Monday, but everything here seems just dandy.

Despite a big crowd, bars and food outlets are efficiently run by experienced staff and it’s easy to get a pretty decent drink or a bite to eat. There are loads of little touches that make the racegoers day a better experience. Beverley must win the award for most number of benches per head, and the plethora of stands means it’s easy to get a fine spot to watch the action over the undulating circuit. And of course, an early winner always helps sweeten your view of proceedings.

At this point I am drawn to a bizarre scene playing out yards away as a 9 foot tall flower totters carefully past the betting ring. Many punters give it a wide berth (it doesn’t look all that steady on its roots, after all) and a toddler in a pushchair screams in horror. I ponder briefly whether I’ve finally cracked, but my investigative reporter urgings decide that I must confront this benevolent Triffid.

“Dare I ask why you’re dressed like that?” I say to the mutant daisy.

“Why are you dressed like that?” the flower fires back, in a strangely Scottish and dreamy lilt, “I started small….and I just kept growing!”

This last sentence is accompanied by a scene straight out of the ‘Playschool’ locker, where the flower bends low and then reaches for the sky. Is she on drugs? And if so, can I have some please, because I’m unsure how to continue this interaction otherwise.

“Genetically-modified?” Nice comeback Neil – have some of that, you stupid tall daisy, if you think I’m the odd one out in this surreal duet!

But she is still gurning at the sun and babbling incoherently in a way reminiscent of the programmes you get on Radio 4 in the early hours of the morning. It appears that I really am getting the worse of this exchange as I’m the one standing listening to this lunatic flora, so I try one last effort at bringing it back to some sort of normality with the staple of any racecourse conversation.

“Had any winners today?”

“No, I don’t have any money, you see – I’m a flower!”

A mutant talking daisy gets the better of me at beautiful Beverley

A mutant talking daisy gets the better of me at beautiful Beverley

Right, that’s it. I can’t stand any more of this nonsense and bail out of a ‘conversation’ I should never have allowed myself to be drawn into. I go back to where I feel secure, and start studying the form for the fifth race. At last I find a favourite that I like (it’s taken days) and astutely wait for 2/1 to appear just before the off. Rousayan leads all the way and just holds on in a driving finish. It’s the first photo finish I’ve won in 7 attempts on this journey.

On the hefty drive back down to Fakenham, I can’t stand to be alone with my thoughts any more. I’m feeling slightly bruised after being outwitted in a debate with a giant talking flower, and so turn on the radio. The studio has just cut to an on-the-scene roving reporter and occasional ‘Royal-expert’ who is explaining that the new Princess Charlotte has been given the middle names of Elizabeth Diana in deference to Her Majesty The Queen and the late mother of Prince William respectively. Really? Thanks for that. Time for a CD.