A Day At The Races

It has been a long day today, alarm off at 5:15 – all the more depressing as it was still dark.

It’s funny how one becomes complacent about things. When I first flew anywhere I used to make sure I was at the airport in plenty of time. Always aiming to arrive at least two, usually three, hours before the flight.

Now I am a frequent flyer the novelty of hanging around airports has worn off and I can get the trip down to a fine art now, especially with online check-in. Now I aim to arrive at the airport 45 mins before departure.

Of course there is a risk with this strategy, you need a clear route on the roads but so far it has not let me down.

I have mixed feelings about low cost airlines, they have certainly made flying available to the masses and, if you buy at the right time, you can get some incredible bargains. I must admit I go online and check every day to see what offers are available.

However, the airlines (or at least a certain Irish carrier) does seem to recruit some “interesting” cabin crew. Take today’s flight from London to Shannon.

The senior flight attendant was, as usual making the announcements,  and it was immediately clear that English was not his first language. However it soon became abundantly clear that it was not his second or third language either – it was impossible to comprehend 80% of what he was saying, his English was so bad. That may not be a problem if he was trying to flog you Duty Free. However, in an emergency, he would be responsible for making the safety announcements and if nobody can understand what is being said the potential does not bear thinking about.

Anyway the flight arrived safely and after a Full Irish breakfast in the airport restaurant it was off to pick up the hire car. On arriving at the rental office it was deserted – a land locked Marie Celeste. Shouting, banging on the counter produced no response.

Eventually, after about ten minutes, this chap strolls in, all smiles, “are you being attended to?”

“No, I have been standing here like a bl**dy statue for ten minutes,” was my somewhat ungracious response. At least the wait got me a free upgrade.

Even after 30 odd years racing I still get more than a twinge of anticipation when I visit a course for the first time, wondering what will greet me. Although I have to confess with most Irish courses there is also the nagging doubt about actually finding the course.

In the UK virtually every course has either a brown sign or if not that, temporary AA signage on racedays. Whereas in Ireland any signage seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

You can therefore imagine my delight that as I approached Thurles I found myself behind a horse box. I don’t think the chap in the car behind me was too impressed as he was wondering why I did not want to pass this slow  horse box when there was plenty of space to overtake him. The withering look as he eventually over took myself and my guide would have frozen the surface of the sun.

I must confess without my horse box guide I would have struggled to find the course easily but soon, after passing the Greyhound Stadium, I caught my first glimpse of running rails.

The next think I looked for was the Grandstand, which usually gives a clue as to where to park. All I could see, however, was what looked like a truncated Nissan Hut plonked on top of some concrete steppings – yep Thurles was another of those beloved rustic courses.

I have to be honest and say that despite the somewhat decrepit facilities Thurles is one of those courses where you really do enjoy the racing. Viewing is excellent and there was a very strong betting ring with over forty bookmakers standing.

Despite it being a midweek afternoon meting there was also a very healthy crowd, so busy it was almost impossible to get close to the parade ring to see the runners.

The fields were invariably big and there were several shock results with all four odds-on favourites getting turned over and some spectacular falls, not least in the first race when the first two in the betting were battling it out for the honours and both fell, independently, at the last fence.

It was, as is often the case, a very enjoyable days racing in Ireland, where the crowds are friendly and, win or lose, rain or shine, you invariably have a good day.

The only disappointment is there were some Cheltenham prospects being touted before the meeting – I’m afraid none of the runners on display this day will be gracing the winners enclosure at Prestbury Park in a couple of weeks time.

The journey home ended up being quite surreal as well and it shows how little thinking goes into what some airlines do.

As part of the sales pitch, there are a great deal of sales pitches on low cost airlines, they were selling copied of The Irish Independent, with a flight attendant walking up and down the aisle showing the front page on full display.

Unfortunately, dominating the front page, was a huge photograph of a plane that had crashed the previous day in Amsterdam. A plane of exactly the same type we were about to fly in.

Very clever!!!   



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