A Scottish Jinx?

I have to say I consider myself a reasonably level headed person. Coming from a scientific background I tend to believe fact and evidence rather than more nebulous facets such as fate and superstition.

However I am, just ever so slightly, beginning to wonder if I am jinxed when it comes to going racing in Scotland.

Now being based in the soulless concrete monstrosity that is Milton Keynes I have to confess that racing trips to Scotland tend not to be spontaneous. Usually they are planned weeks in advance and they are generally carried out with the assistance of either Mr O’Leary or Stelios – aren’t budget airlines a boon?

My problem is my last eight attempts to go racing in Scotland have all been thwarted for various reasons.

It begins last summer when I was planning to go to Perth. It was a lovely, sunny, summers morning as I left home for the airport at 5:30. The flight was uneventful and I landed in Edinburgh in glorious sunshine. My hire care was waiting for me at the airport and I was on the road by 10:00. Requiring some refuelling myself I stopped at the motorway services for some breakfast and decided to take advantage of the free wi-fi to check for any non-runners.

I had to do a double take as my screen was emblazoned “Perth Cancelled” – despite the current glorious blue skies Perth had seemingly been hit by a cloudburst of near biblical proportions overnight, resulting in patches of false ground making the track unsafe.

To make matters worse the next flight back south was not until 6:30 in the evening so I had to kill the day being a tourist – although that wasn’t all bad as I did drive up to Arbroath and treated myself to some lovely fresh “smokies” for lunch.

Next up was Hamilton. As I get older I am starting to become a creature of habit and one such habit has been my annual “pilgrimage” to Hamilton Park’s final meeting of the season.

Now last year I managed to double book the day having, without initially realising, bought my wife some concert tickets for a concert in Dublin the same evening and no matter how many times I looked at the airline schedules, doing both was a non-starter.

No problem, there were plenty of other meetings at Hamilton, so I booked flights for one in August. Now August was a busy month for me with my nephew getting married in the middle of the month. Luckily he was considerate in planning the wedding for a quite racing day (although I somehow suspect that was more due to luck than any consideration for his Uncle). It did mean I had to miss the Shergar Cup for the stag day but there you go.

My nephew is half British / half Australian, my wife’s brother having emigrated out to Oz some 30 years ago. Of course they were all coming over, on a very rare visit, for the wedding and it was great to see them. Indeed it meant me meeting two of my nephews for the first time.

Their travel plans were quite fluid and not clarified until the last minute but it was decided, whatever dates their flights were, on their last night we would have a big family meal.

I will allow you one guess as to which day was their last day and the big family meal!!! Yep, the day I was meant to be going to Hamilton. Two meetings thwarted.

Less dramatically were a number of attempts to get to Kelso (twice) or Musselburgh (three times). All five attempts thwarted by either the meetings themselves being Cancelled or the flights being cancelled due to snow in south east England.

Which brings us onto the most recent attempt – last weekend.

As I have already said, I am becoming a creature of habit and another “tradition” that seems to be developing is a trip to the Scottish Grand National. Normally I have gone on the Saturday as a day trip, this year I decided I would do both days.

The weather building up to the meeting was glorious and the forecast was equally promising. What could possibly go wrong?

Unless you have been living without radio, television and newspapers for the past week you will know precisely what can go wrong.

A cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland, which grounded all flights.

I was due to fly up on Friday morning and on Thursday afternoon they were hoping the restrictions would be lifted by 07:00 Friday morning. However I received an e-mail from my airline early Thursday evening telling me my flight had been cancelled.

I got in touch with Richard Hoiles, who I knew was also going to be flying up on Friday, albeit with a different airline, and he had also received similar news and he was going to start driving up Thursday evening.

I toyed with setting off then but decided I would get up very early on Friday and try to miss the traffic.

I set the alarm for 4:00 Friday morning but, as is often the case when you know you have to be up early, I hardly slept a wink all night. So when the alarm did go off I was absolutely shattered.

I then had one of those rare sensible moments, where I decided it would be foolhardy in the extreme to attempt a seven hour drive, feeling as tired as I was. So I went back to bed.

I think the decision may also have been swayed by the fact I would have to face the seven hour drive back again on Saturday evening.

So that was Scottish meeting number eight thwarted.

This is now where I switch into public service mode and I issue two warnings to you all.

May I strongly suggest you avoid Ayr (which may be subjected to flash flooding) or avoid flying on and around May 27th – as that is when I next plan to go racing in Scotland.

An even more serious warning will apply in the last three days of June, when I plan to visit three Scottish racecourses over three consecutive days. The Scottish Parliament may wish to declare a state of emergency as they may be attacked by seven plagues.

Alternatively if any Scottish readers would like to pay me substantial sums of money never to plan going racing in their country again, I can be contacted by e-mail.   


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