I recently had the good fortune to be accepted as an exhibitor in the prestigious Festival Mall at Cheltenham Gold Cup Race Festival.
If, like me, you enjoy people watching, this is probably one of the best places to spend your working day. An observational office par excellence!
An atmosphere of conviviality amongst the traders was soon established as the wealthy race goers made it obvious that they had plenty of exquisite handmade luxury items on their shopping list.
And this was apparent even before the first race was won!
I enjoy the relationship that is established between traders, good or bad, and it really does show human nature at its finest.
Read into that what you will but some traders remain friends
and meeting them again at future venues becomes a pleasure, where as some…..well you just don’t!!!!!
Human nature, now that is an entire years supply of blogs, but for this little epistle let’s combine the heady mix of alcohol and gambling. Heady mix indeed!
The cross section of people at the races is astounding. We all know there will be punters among the crowd betting there last shilling on the nose of some chosen runner. So much is depending on its success or more likely its failure, some of these race-goers caught in the grip of a pitiful gambling addiction, this time it’ll come in…this time… So many thousands of people must have an untold story of how the next win is going to solve everything. Mix that with a few pints of the black stuff and you have something akin to a Molotov Cocktail waiting for its wick to be lit.
The Guinness Stand was bulging throughout the week, it was really a little self -contained village to enable the precipitation of the lethal combination of booze and dreams and adrenaline. It was almost a Roman Amphitheater fashioned from the under belly of the stands with a live Irish band and bars brimming with a “few scoops” an expression often used to describe a couple of pints of the Irish Stout. And of course the ubiquitous Tote.
As each day progressed towards early evening, the Guinness stand took on a burping roll. Every so often a Mr. Murphy or Mr. Kelly or O’Connor was ejected or self- propelled (did he fall or was he pushed….)from said Lions’ Den into the arms of a ‘visivested’ officer of the law. I swear there was actually a sunken trampoline by the entrance gate that projected the said gentlemen straight into the back of a police wagon….
‘Twas around that sort of the time of the afternoon when a curious incidence occurred in The Festival Mall.
My gentleman neighbour Jonny Beardsall maker of fine fur hats noticed that the £1800 hand made Ocelot had been snatched. Another trader tore over simultaneously to report that a gentleman had just pranced out of the marquee wearing something very similar to Jonny’s fine creation. Jonny leapt into action to pursue the rogue. Meanwhile we ladies decided that one of the officers at the guinness gate should be purloined and brought in on the treacherous act.
Two burly (quite young and handsome actually- yes I have reached the age where police officers are all young enough to be one of my sons!!!!) bounded up the stairs, notebooks and pens at the ready. Jonny, poor dejected Jonny returned saying it was like looking for a needle in a haystack or almost as impossible as picking the winner in the 4.15!!!
But never fear Clare and Claire are here. My other starboard (or is it port, wrong sport frankly) neighbour and I decided to hang around outside to see if said ‘Ocelot’ made itself visible………”OMG! There it is…” Spotted!!! and underneath it was a be suited gentleman, shall we say, tacking against the wind and managing to defy gravity and the indignity of a faceplant by a hair’s breath.
“Stop Thief!” Can you believe I actually said that…..well I did, simultaneously leaping down the stairs like a gazelle and doffing the gentleman’s hat for him into my waiting arms. Other arms were waiting for him however and he too was bounced into said police wagon.
Oscar, the Ocelot was saved and restored to his noble position atop his wooden hat stand, peace and calm was restored and no one actually ever knew who won the 4.15pm at Cheltenham.