Magazine article The Spectator

Party Time

Magazine article The Spectator

Party Time

Article excerpt

I could not understand on Saturday why a fairly standard Newbury card had brought so many vehicles on to the approach roads. All was explained when I saw a group of merry ladies pulling knickers out of their handbags and comparing them. The old Welsh belter Tom Jones was appearing on stage after the day's racing and he still gets ladies of a certain age waving their underwear at him. I do hope, though, that on such a breezy day those were spare pairs on display.

The so-called 'Party in the Paddock' went with a zing, rather more so than the dinner party reported on last week by one of our favourite guests. On that occasion the claret had proved rather better than the conversation. Worried that her husband had gone missing halfway through, she found him in the next room, fast asleep. When she urged him, 'For God's sake, get back in there and be entertaining, ' his response was, 'Get your handbag, woman. I can't take any more of this, we're going.' At which point it was none too gently pointed out to him that he was at home and hosting the occasion . . .

Racing dinner parties rarely disappoint, though I am still sorry I wasn't at the Lambourn occasion of which I heard tell when writing about the village of sin. The subject had turned to moral standards and sex before marriage. One male guest turned to another declaring, 'I never had sex with my wife before we married, did you?' To meet the response, 'I'm not really sure. Remind me of her maiden name.'

Lambourn trainer Barry Hills, whose biography I wrote last year, retires this week, and it was son Charlie, his successor, who was at Newbury to saddle up Barry's last winner at their local track, the impressive fillies maiden winner Gray Pearl. Barrington W. Hills himself, anticipating the handover a touch, was away grouse-shooting. When I reminded Charlie that his father had been inclined to couple any references to his possible retirement with the story of football manager Brian Clough's purchase of the midfielder Dave Mackay, Charlie's response was: 'Who was Dave Mackay?'

Mackay, for younger readers like Charlie, was the Tottenham Hotspur and England star, by then a veteran, and his then manager greeted Clough's interest with the comment:

'What do you want him for, he's got no legs any more? …

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