Wednesday, February 23, 2011

This one's for Johnny; who ever he was, poor fellow

I just read something in M.M.Kaye’s Golden Afternoon that made me double up with laughter. I thought I would include it in my blog (though I seriously hope I don’t get into trouble regarding copyright issues for doing it).
Ah well, it is hilarious enough (at least I think it is) to be worth the risk.
While reminiscing about the Raj years Kaye writes about the Horse Show Week in Delhi (circa 1929, I believe) which at that time was the greatest among all the “Weeks” that were held through out India during the cold weather. Here are a couple of incidents, in Kaye’s own words, that took place at that time.

“To give an example of their unique entertainment value, there was an occasion when a friend of ours, one McCandlass (better known as ‘loopy Mac’), whose enthusiasm for riding was not matched by his skill, when competing in an owner-riders race sponsored by the business community, came tearing into view on the first lap and, to wild cheering from his supporters, a full two and a half lengths ahead of the field. Unfortunately there was a narrow side track ahead of him - possibly for the benefit of any rider who had lost a stirrup or otherwise come to grief and wished to retire from the race. But since his horse was in fact bolting, and not even faintly under control , it made straight for the side track and tore off down it - followed by the entire field, who either thought this was the correct way round, or whose horses had also got the bit between their teeth and intended to forge ahead or else….. The whole lot followed Mac’s lead, shot off the course and disappeared with the speed of diving ducks into a fairly dense patch of wooded land, which at that time bordered one side of the course. After lengthy but unknown adventures, they eventually emerged, looking exceedingly sheepish, wreathed in strands of creeper and assorted greenery and brushing twigs and bits of bark out of their hair.

There was also a more dramatic occasion when one of the amateur jockeys parted with his mount a mere yard or two from the winning post, and crashed to earth among a forest of hooves. At which point a girl rose like a rocketing pheasant from her seat in the stand, and, shrieking his name over and over again, fled down the aisle and across the grass, scrambled over the rails, and, still screaming, flung herself down on his recumbent form yelling , ‘Speak to me, Johnny! Speak to me!’ whereupon his wife broke the deathly silence that had fallen upon the stands by turning impatiently and remarking in a carrying voice: ‘Silly bitch! He’ll never forgive her for this.’ I gather she had got used to her husband’s frequent straying and come to terms with it.
You didn’t get those sort of dramas included in the price of the tickets during Ascot week or Newmarket.”

I couldn’t agree more, even though I have never been to either Ascot or Newmarket and missed the Raj years by a good quarter century or so.
But at least I can read about it and that is almost as good as being there in person.