Thirty odd years ago I attended my first live race meeting at Fontwell Park, taken there by my friend Tony, who had himself been taken there as a child by his Grandfather.
In those days we were usually skint so the racing was invariably in the Silver Ring, now no more at Fontwell and indeed no more at most courses.
We may have been away from the main enclosures and unable to see the runners in the parade ring but we were close to the action and it was no surprise I was immediately hooked.
Since then Tony and I have spent many days at the races, mostly at Fontwell , although not as much as we would have liked to have done as now living in different parts of the country and with work and family commitments it has never been easy coordinating diaries.
My most memorable racing trip with Tony actually involve a trip to Sandown, when we both still lived in the Portsmouth area. It was, again, in the days when neither of us were well off and before I had a car but Tony had an old classic motorbike with a top speed of about 50mph.
It was Tingle Creek day and bitterly cold, I’m sure racing must have been in serious doubt but we set off all the same. Being a regular rider Tony had all the gear, I didn’t. On the pillion seat I was inadequately and inappropriately dressed. All I had on my hands was a pair of woollen gloves.
We arrived in Esher after what seemed an eternity and I was frozen to the core, I’m sure I must have been clinically hypothermic. I was so cold, my fingers were actually paralysed and I could not bend or straighten them to get any money out of my pocket. I recall we found a chippie in Esher High Street and I had to wrap my fingers round a bag of chips to defrost them.
To rub salt into the wounds I don’t think we backed a single winner between us that day.
As regular readers will know I had planned to finish the end of December but the racing has become increasingly less enjoyable the past few weeks.
I will admit the decision has also been hastened by one sad, toxic mouthed individual.
Our paths would have crossed some point over the coming weeks, so to avoid what would have been the inevitable unpleasant scene had we met, I felt it more prudent to walk away now.
Of course in their particularly warped view of the world they will think they have “won” - nothing can be further than the truth as time will invariable tell.
To be honest I almost, but only almost, feel some pity for them as they do live a sad, lonely life, which probably explains why they have nothing better to do than spout utter stuff and (factually incorrect) nonsense and wallow in their own self-pity.
Thankfully most of the messages I have received in the past few weeks have been very kind, generous and supportive and for that I am genuinely grateful.
I briefly thought about finishing after Kelso last Saturday as Kelso was, a few years ago, the course that completed the full set of UK courses for me and that would have been a rounded finish.
I then remembered Fontwell is racing this coming Sunday and thought it would be a perfect way to complete the circle. When I contacted Tony to see if he could make it and he said he could the decision was made.
On Sunday I shall be back where it all began.
Will I regret walking away?
Who knows but life is too short to have too many regrets and there are plenty of other things to do out there.
I’ll let you know how I feel on Monday morning.