Magazine article The Spectator

Rogues and Funsters

Magazine article The Spectator

Rogues and Funsters

Article excerpt

At Cheltenham this year I was once again a guest of racing tipster and bon viveur Colonel Pinstripe. The Colonel is famous for his rambling, gossipy, sexist, often libellous telephone tipster line, the avowed goal of which (seldom attained) is to send callers home with 'bulging trousers'. Serious, high-rolling gamblers who ring up his tipster line must be surprised to find themselves invited by the Colonel to repeat solemnly after him, as if it were a mantra, the words 'bulging trousers', having earlier learnt, at a pound a minute, about the Colonel's obsessive passion for the wife of Irish trainer Willie Mullins.

In chalet 47, a nomad-style tent within a tent full of other nomad-style hospitality tents, Colonel Pinstripe hosted his annual party of lords, knights, politicians, bankers, venture capitalists, racehorse owners, trainers, gamblers, agents (football and literary) and journalists, all of us qualifying for our invitation by virtue of being, in the Colonel's words, either a 'rogue' or a 'funster'. 'Rogues and funsters! Rogues and funsters!' piped the Colonel throughout the afternoon.

It's an education, chalet 47. By circulating and saying how-do-you-do, you can learn more about how this country functions in a single afternoon than you can by studying the newspapers for the rest of the year. (By all accounts, we're presently a bit like Zaire under Mobutu. ) As well as a free bar, there was a sitdown lunch and afternoon tea for those on solids, and three waitresses anxious to satisfy our every whim, almost. There was a television set in the corner to watch the races. And to save everybody the trouble of walking the 20 yards to the Tote, a dead ringer for Michael Caine, both in looks and sardonic wit, was personally taking bets. So, in theory, one didn't have to leave the table. Parvenu that I am, however, I preferred to trot along to the Tote because Zara Phillips was often to be found there placing the royal tenner, and, elevated by Mumm champagne to the point of insanity, I fancied my chances. His Royal Highness Prince William could also be seen among the hospitality tents. Tall and slender and blushing continuously, he seemed to spend the entire afternoon marching purposefully between his chalet (no. 48) and the Tote, anxiously pursued by three detectives, the largest and slowest of which had the facial expression of a man who has committed every sin in the Decalogue. …

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