I went to Aintree to see the Grand National this year. I have already “talked” with Ayak about it....I suffered all kinds of guilt pangs. I don’t approve, it’s awful, .....but, I love most sporting occasions, and I love doing things with my daughter Jess, who lives in Liverpool......and Jess thought it would be a good day out !
So, guilt was put to one side, apologies expressed to Ayak, and I went to Aintree.
A champagne breakfast at Jess and Matty’s flat was followed by a walk into town to get the train to Aintree. Getting in and out of Aintree was incredibly well organised. It did not go unnoticed that it was a week before the anniversary of Hillsborough, and it is very clear that safety, getting huge crowds in and out of the course was a very high priority.
The crowds were enormous, and amazingly dressed. I saw higher heels, fancier hats and more gorgeous dresses than at any other sporting venue I have ever attended. I understand the dreadful Daily Mail did a piece on Scouse girls fashions, showing drunken, tasteless images.....I saw none of that. I don’t know where they found their images. I saw young women wearing beautiful outfits, with stunning hair and make-up.....all glammed up, intending to have a good time. Most of the men wore suits, and it was clear everyone wanted to enjoy themselves. Everyone was friendly, smiling, happy, and the atmosphere all afternoon was exciting, and never anything but joyful.
My only other horse racing experience was in Carcassonne last year. That was very low key, and I really enjoyed it. This was something else ! I wasn’t nearly as close to the actual racing as I had been in Carcassonne, but it was actually the crowds that fascinated me the most.
|I didn't hear their accents.....but I was pretty convinced the Peaky Blinders had come up from the Midlands....I should point out, there was no evidence of razor blades in those caps.|
I still have lots of misgivings about the whole event. Apart from the distress to horses, which must exist, even though the jumps are now not as outrageous as they used to be......the money involved in it all seemed out of all proportion with normal life.
£50 was the cheapest entry.....( that was us ), no seats for that, just the ability to stand anywhere in the ground ( except for the bits where you clearly had to pay much much more to enter ). The prize money at stake for the winners, trainers, owners etc is craziness. However, it was the rows of bookies, lined up by the course, taking bets ( incredibly efficiently, I must say), that really shocked me. They were all dealing in cash, and just had wads and wads of it, stashed in their hands, pockets, security boxes etc. I cannot imagine how much money changed hands during the afternoon.
Despite it all, I have to admit that I did enjoy it all though. We laughed, we bet, we won some, we lost some, and we enjoyed the spectacle.
|AP McCoy's last Grand National, riding "Shut the front door"|
We cheered AP McCoy as he paraded by, we shouted along with the crowds as our horses led or fell behind. We gasped along with everyone else when a horse fell, and cheered when they got up again.
Finally, we left, gently and safely led back to the trains, which were every 7 minutes.
Would I go again ? Maybe....but I would want to be able to sit down. I think I’m getting too old to be able to stand for hours on end in a large crowd. I will certainly go to the races again in Carcassonne, where the colours, the atmosphere and the beauty of the horses will be on show. There won’t be the razzamatzz of Aintree, and I don’t think I’ll wear my fascinator in Carcassonne ! I don’t suppose there'll be any Peaky Blinders there either.
|Jess's heels proved too high for the journey home.....many women wore flip flops that were being given out free of charge, as they left the arena !|