A year ago I was living the dream. I had just passed the halfway point in my quest to watch racing at all the British courses in eighty days, trying to comprehend what I had started, and whether I would finish it. A year on it still seems a bit like a dream, but the passage of time has allowed the roots to take hold in reality.
It really has given me a new perspective on the breadth and depth on offer throughout the land’s racecourse portfolio. I see a venue on the television and think back to where I stood and the characters I talked to, the roads I travelled and the places I stayed. I see a racecard in the paper and hundreds of extra nuggets of knowledge are at my fingertips.
The fixture list now has a familiar rhythm to it that was unapparent last year. I know instinctively that Ffos Las follows the Grand National, an evening meeting at Plumpton precedes the Sandown finale, and this small break in the jumps programme is filled by Nottingham and Pontefract. A scan through the Racing Post today reveals the card from Pontefract. Horse names like Normandy Barriere strike distant chords, and a confirming glance in the form pages reveals that he did indeed win on that bitterly cold day 12 months ago.
My mind skips again. That afternoon I walked back from the course to the surprisingly impressive Castleford Premier Inn, buoyant that I was finally ahead in the betting account. It looked like it was ten minutes away, but actually took three quarters of an hour. I didn’t mind – I felt happy to be alive after the taxi driver had nearly killed us on the way there. The next day I continued north to Sedgefield to sample the delights of their extraordinarily themed ‘Around The World In A Jacket Potato’ raceday. I wonder what they’ve cooked up for tomorrow.
I was not in Nottingham yesterday, and I will not be in Pontefract today or Sedgefield tomorrow. But the more time that passes since the completion of my grand folly, the more I have a creeping recognition in my core that I actually did it. The tour itself was shadowed by difficulties and doubts, but as they recede in the memory they are replaced by a weird, warm satisfaction. I actually did it, you know. I actually did it.
And I also have a growing appreciation of the many collisions of circumstance and fate, not to mention the grace and patience of many good people around me, that all came together to make my escapade possible. I really was very lucky. You are probably not fortunate enough to be in that position yourself, but you do have the opportunity to trace my journey and relive the fairytale with me.
To celebrate my achievement of the absurd, and because the sun is shining (in between the snow showers), I have instituted a May Madness promotion, which is so crazy it is actually starting in April! I am now offering my book, Around The Races In Eighty Days, to my loyal followers at the extraordinary rate of half price. Just £10 (plus £3.95 postage and packing) will secure you this slice of exquisite eccentricity, the perfect companion for those long, lazy, sunny afternoons in the back garden. Depending on where you live, that’s probably cheaper than driving to Sedgefield.
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