Magazine article The Spectator

Traffic Problems

Magazine article The Spectator

Traffic Problems

Article excerpt

Cabinets have their ups and downs, but the most dangerous stage is when they start becoming a joke. `What's the difference under this government between paraffin and petrol?', a teacher friend was asked last week. `You tell me, Jimmy.' `Easy,' the infant replied. `There are two Fs in paraffin and there's no effin' petrol.'

In my day that would have got you a clip round the ear for profanity; today it probably earned him a pupil-of-the-week badge. But a little more enforced rail travel to the racecourse does at least enable you to overhear more of life's philosophers. `It had never struck me before,' said a gangly youth getting on at Reading, `but a McDonald's hamburger smells exactly the same as a wet dog.' It put me in mind of the enterprising pair in an American town, a vet and a taxidermist who set up shop next to each other with a sign emblazoned over the two premises: `Either way you get your dog back.' Sadly, at Newbury on Courage Best day, I had five bets and got nothing back, but it was decent day's sport.

The most courageous performance of the day came from Mark Johnston's consistent two-year-old Bouncing Bowdler in the 50,000 Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes. Headed in the last furlong, he came back under Richard Hills to beat Pomfret Lad. Owner Paul Dean was delighted. `That's answered the question, then,' he said. `He does stay six furlongs.' My selection clearly wouldn't have stayed the six on the back of a lorry but Bouncing Bowdler did so with style, and Mr Dean explained to us the origin of the horse's unusual name. A ballroom dancing enthusiast, he named him after John Bowdler, the organist at Blackpool Tower, who has a habit of bouncing in his seat. But although you could have had 10-1 about Bouncing Bowdler's chances, Mr Dean had not availed himself. `I don't back my own horses,' he said. `You tend to look at them through rose-coloured glasses.'

Wise fellow. That might explain why I went home skim and Mr Dean went home to count the takings from his 22 betting shops around Manchester. Mind you, even bookmakers don't get it all right. Mr Dean used to own Deano's Beeno and parted with him when he went jumping, only to see the horse rattle up a series of victories with Martin Pipe. …

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