Grand National fever grips the household
Saturday: This morning, the young lad arrived into the kitchen with his cupped hands full of coins. 'I want you to back two horses in the Grand National for me,' he explained, and I worried that he's been spending too much time in my company.
Deciding I wouldn't try to sway his opinion, I opened the newspaper and let him have a read through the field. 'I like him...and him,' he said, pointing to Imperial Commander and Teaforthree. 'Two fine choices,' I told him, and jotted his choices on the list that I would later take with me to the bookies. The younger lad was given a horse too, as he is still too young to make up his own mind on such important matters. And he was saddled with Harry the Viking, for obvious reasons. Then the good woman had her say, opting for Tarquinius and Quiscover Fontaine while I opted for Balthazar King, and Chicago Grey – though I found it difficult to be confident about any of them this year.
At 4.15pm, as we gathered around the television, eyes brightened by deluded hopes of financial gain, I had flashbacks of my late grandmother and how she used to send me to the bookies to place a five-punt bet for her on Grand National Day. And here was I, all these years later with a little tribe of my own, and they getting as excited about the unfolding action as millions of Irish people have done ever since the race was first run in 1839.
Irish people have always had a huge role to play in the race either through breeding, training or riding and of course there is the financial support that their compulsive gambling provides. For me it's one of the best days of the year, even if I haven't collected a bean from it for the past two renewals.
As it turned out the young lad was the only one who collected this year, as Teaforthree finished third to 66/1 'shock' winner Auroras Encore. For the rest of us it's back to the drawing board, and we promised each other that next year we'll stay away from any horse that has decent recent form in the build-up to Aintree – surely a kiss of death. Then again they do say form is temporary, while class is permanent, and Auroras Encore showed plenty of class today. Next year, I'm going at it with a blindfold.
Sunday: It has been a week of lists. Shopping lists; DIYD (last D is for Don't) lists; lists of things to do about the house before the good woman catches up with me, and lists of horses that may or may not perform at Aintree. However, the two most memorable lists to surface over the past week were issued by the BBC, and the Times Educational Supplement respectively. One focused on popular music choices and the other concentrated on favourite books. BBC Radio 2 was the first to deliver, with their listeners' favourite 100 albums of all-time, as chosen from a list of the 100 most played albums on the station.
Public decisions rarely fail to prompt scoffing, and with Coldplay's A Rush of Blood to the Head voted into the number one slot, the members of the 'credible-music-loving jury' were up in arms. Keane's Hope and Fears was in second position, while Duran Duran's Rio came in third; music die-hards and critics the world over would have tumbled from their bar stools at the omission of The Beatles/Floyd/Rolling Stones/Bob Dylan/Simon & Garfunkel etc from the top three.
On the second list, 500 teachers were asked to name their favourite book of all-time, with Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice coming out on top. However, To Kill A Mocking Bird, by Harper Lee, was the runner-up. If I was to advise anyone to check out a classic that they have not got round to reading, then this is it (or anything by Jilly Cooper).
If you would like to read both lists in full then Google BBC Radio 2's all time favourite albums and BBC News Pride and Prejudice, and enjoy the debate that will ensue both inside and outside your head.