Saturday, 20 March 2010


In racing, the adage about the king is dead, long live the king is very acute. Kauto Star was expected to win the top prize in jump racing yesterday but I knew that his jumping could be dodgy. I’d tipped Imperial Commander for the Cheltenham Gold Cup to anyone who was asking and so was well pleased to see him win.
The only problem was that, apart from an ante-post yankee which had fallen apart in the course of the festival, I wasn’t on Imperial Commander; I was on Denman, though the old tank wasn’t carrying much of my money.
Myself, Ange and Mick were in one of those ale and pie pubs that are absurdly expensive and make their money out of corporate entertaining. We were there because they were showing Cheltenham on the telly. As I walked in a posh man was at the bar with his son; they were dressed like Princes Phillip and Charles visiting Gordonstoun in 1963, and sounded like it too.
There was a time when I would have sneered at them. But I have little class war left in my soul. The past 13 years of “social democracy” has made me realise we have a great deal more to lose than our aitches, to paraphrase my hero, George Orwell. Or as my mate Butch says: ‘I thought I hated Thatcher till I saw Ed Balls.’
Anyway. One useful thing about the wealthy is that they’re usually tight with money. This puts them in a sort of canary in a coalmine role in the marketplace. Thus, as I approached the bar I heard the older man say, with well-modulated incredulity, ‘I beg your pardon? Six pounds ten for a glass of wine?’
I felt like elbowing him in the ribs and saying in my best Alfred Doolittle, ‘aye, cap’n, a man can’t get himself drunk without laying out a fortune. Tax, captain, tax and brewery greed. It’s how socialism fucks you up the arse twice. Tax.’
The difference between conservatism and socialism, really. Once up the arse or twice.
I watched him shell out the money. It amused me. Perhaps I have got more class war left in my soul than I thought.
We settled down and watched Berties Dream hold off Najaf and win at 50/1 in the County Hurdle. Ange, who is a coincidence bettor, had it in a 25p trixie with Thousand Stars, which had won the previous race at 20/1. So she was £300 to the good already. If her third selection, Balthazar King, pulled it off in the conditional jockeys’ hurdle at 4.40 she would be in for over £7,000.
Both my bets in the previous two, Tito Bustillo, Fionnegas, had gone west. But I didn’t mind because my third top bet of the festival, Soldatino, had won the Triumph Hurdle at 6/1 with £50 quid of mine on its back.
If you’re into racing I think there is three different types of bet: a racing man’s bet, a punter’s bet and a mug’s bet. I mainly do the last two, but occasionally I’ll pull off the first type and it gives me a kick. I saw Soldatino win at Kempton a few weeks back – backed him as a well – and I thought: here’s class. French class as it happens.
The race was for me the best of the festival. Barizan had front run and was at one point 20-odd lengths ahead of the rest of the field. Soldatino was lost in mid-division. Then he came wide and started to slowly reel Barizan in, all the way up the hill, and won. I nearly put the whole lot on Tito Bustillo in the following race. But it was good that I didn’t, because he was beat halfway.
I’d had a racing man’s bet on Sizing Europe the first day and that had also won at 6s. During the week I’d had punter bets on Big Zeb, which won at 10s, Albertas Run at 14s. I couldn’t complain. I’d had a few losers and all my multiples had gone west but I’d made a profit, which I then dissipated with fermented liquor and its ancillary expenses.
As we sat in the pub – me drinking ESB, which is a hell of an ale – I suddenly looked at the screen and saw Denman had drifted to 5/1. I thought: McCoy, champion jump jockey and remorseless winning machine on *Denman*, the barrel-chested tank? At fives? So, even though I tipped Imperial Commander to everyone, including in my role as the tipster Flash Harry in a friend’s publication, I decided to back Denman. I was right in two ways. Kauto Star’s jumping let him down, Denman would be better value than Kauto and Imperial Commander would win it. Paddy Brennan is my favourite jumps jockey, so it was very cheering to see him chin Denman on the way up the hill.
We strolled up to the Ladbrokes to watch Ange’s race. Balthazar King looked good and was having some mighty money punted on him. He opened at 20s and was soon down to 10s. I had a small each way. Ange was nervous. ‘I just want to get this over with,’ she said.
Balthazar King had a talented three pound claimer on him but fell after about four fences. Ange picked her 300 up and we went to the nearby Wetherspoons for a bottle of competitively-priced veuve cliquot.
On our way out of the betting shop we saw Fat Boy and a rather sly Asian youth who is sometimes referred to as ‘p**i on the moon’, for reasons I will explain below.
They are a sort of double act. Fat Boy aged about forty-five, white, with the choleric face and massive waistline of a veteran form lager addict. Sanjif, to give him his proper name, is thin, about 30 and, if the rumours are true, slowly conning his crippled uncle out of his savings. They both only back favourites, to ‘buy money’, which is the most pathetic form of horse playing, in my opinion. They always look miserable when the big meetings come round because they lose their money as short-price favourites get turned over again and again.
They don’t like us, I feel, because we *gamble*, we have sport from it. They could never do this, the pain would be too great for them. They’d rather lose on a ‘certainty’ than win on a proper tilt. They feel more comfortable that way. They both employ ‘prison queue’ tactics in the betting shop towards people they don’t like – “accidental” shoving, barging in front at the betting window.
On my way out I smirked at them – they knew we’d had a win, but they didn’t know how much, so we acted like we’d picked a few grand up, just to annoy them.
The reason for the Asian man’s unpleasant nickname among the pub/bookie’s denizens is that he once borrowed ten pounds off Charlie, the fence and gambler and failed to pay the money back. Charlie said to him in a loud voice in the middle of the Corals: ‘If I don’t get that tenner by Friday, Sanjif, you’ll be the first p**i on the moon.’
Please don’t shoot the messenger; this is reportage.
I’d seen a mug bet that morning. Pigeon Island, in the Grand Annual at a massive price. I’ve always had a soft spot for that horse because it appears to have been named after the popular but unofficial name of that little area outside Tooting Broadway Tube where the statue of Edward VII is and which is home to hundreds of
Anyway, in all the to-ing and fro-ing I forgot to back it. Yes. It did.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Last Chance to Smash the Pigsty!

If you, like me, hate both parties and believe that the deadlock created by the current intellectually and morally bankrupt political class needs to be broken, then vote Labour.
A hung parliament will likely mean that the LibDems will shore up a Mandelson-dominated Labour Party. This would be bad as it could lead to a new centre left party with all the terrible assumptions and sense of entitlement the Political Class but hardened into a broader power base.
The coming general election could prove tumultuous. At present the Labour government is borrowing £500million a day to maintain the illusion of a functioning economy. If the Tories win they will stop it, allowing Gordon Brown and the Labour Party to blame the consequent hardship and misery on the Tories, even though he would have had to have stop the borrowing if he won. It would also allow Labour and its supporters to blame the consequences of the economy they wrecked on the Tories - a game they play every time they are voted out.
No, only an outright Labour victory will do. A Labour victory would destroy the party because its owners, the union Unite, would then expect preferential treatment in return for bankrolling the party. However, the money is all gone, the budget deficit as a wide as the jaws of hell and we're a year or so away from the I.M.F bailing us out so Labour won't be able to satisfy its client base and will consequently collapse into internecine warfare.
A Labour victory would also destroy the Conservative Party, because if they can't win against Gordon Brown in the current situation they'll never win again. This is also good.
Potentially, the deadlock created by the two utterly useless ruling parties taking turns to mess up Britain could BE BROKEN ONCE AND FOR ALL! So, Vote Labour and smash both of them to pieces! You know that removal of power or or the possibility of power is the best way to punish these people.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Save the Beeb

It’s interesting that the BBC has chosen to start throwing ballast - or what it thinks is ballast - out of the balloon. Reality must have penetrated Portland Place at long last. By reality I mean that the piss-taking of the upper echelons has now made the BBC the target of all parties and it is now a case of jump before you are pushed. It didn't need to be this way, but it was always going to happen after John Birt had control. He set the course for the micro-management membrane that has taken over the whole corporation.
Before its recent run of bad publicity I was fully in favour of abolishing the BBC on the grounds that it had moved from being the boldest experiment in public education in history to the boldest experiment in propaganda.
Ten years ago, when I started complaining about the BBC’s left/liberal bias, my intelligent friends – bar Butch – all thought I was mad. It struck them as a lunatic proposition, like accusing a maiden aunt of being an axe murderer. (Notice how nobody calls it Auntie anymore?)
These days, the same people get more exercised about the BBC than I do. The main complaint being that ‘it’s out of control’ and there are whole areas of news and culture it cannot approach objectively – you know, climate change, the Middle East, immigration etc.
I now annoy my friends by saying that in some small respects the BBC has improved. Which is why I don’t think it should be abolished. Its most intolerable phase, what I like to call the Africa Lives on the BBC*/Jonathan Ross years, may have passed.
I think it could be reformed and for once I agree with Jeremy Dear, the Chavez-loving Bennite dreamer who leads the union I used to be an official for, when he says that if executives at the very top had not arranged themselves vast salaries and perks then workers further down the pipe would not be facing redundancy. It’s one thing you see again and again with the liberal media class in its middle years – having spent all their youth acting as if concern with money was infra dig and morally shabby, they are now completely obsessed with getting vast amounts of it for themselves and sod the consequences. See Yentob, Mandelson, and many others.
But yes, the BBC needs to be saved and reformed. Which is why cutting the Asian network and the website is the wrong thing to do.
Cut all the frivolous crap like antiques and property shows and so on. BBC drama needs to be reformed and desperately needs fresh and radical approaches. By radical I mean telling stories about life in Britain from a non-Guardian feature viewpoint. Just think; the realities, tensions and consequences, good and bad – as opposed to the odd heavily deodorised, happy-clappy doc or drama – of the Labour government’s vast social engineering project 2000-10 has never really been accurately reflected on the BBC. That’s a bit like the BBC going from 1960 to 1970 without mentioning the Pill or the Beatles. Not really public service broadcasting after all.

My favourite bit of the BBC is Radio 3. Yesterday I listened to composer of the week – Chopin – as I did some yoga before going to work. There was some winter sunshine outside, a tiny herald of spring; and intelligent talk between the nocturnes and mazurkas. Chopin, like all great music, takes you beyond words and coherent thought. I lay in the corpse pose at the end, watching the dust spin in the sunbeams above me, thinking without words. You don’t get that from the One Show with Adrian Chiles.
I shaved as Lunchtime Concert came on and, as I occasionally do, I thought: this is it for the beeb – it’s not about Jonathan Ross and rap stations, it’s about civilisation; the best that has been thought and said; it’s about high art and, when it is middlebrow, it should be the best middlebrow. Keep following that disastrous mix of dumb-arse populism and media studies-level leftism and it’s a dead duck in the long scheme because anyone can do that.
Of course, the TV execs in Charlotte Street restaurants wouldn’t agree, but so what? If they knew anything television wouldn’t be as awful as it is.

*The actual catchphrase of a series of programmes that gave a smiley, decaffeinated Marxist, all-the-fault-of-white-men overview of the continent.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Extract from an email to a pal

'Yes the Tory slump is wonderful. I hate Cameron and Osborne, because they’re our generation and we know what they think and what they’ve done why they’re full of shit. As you say, they’ve spent the last eight years preparing for power on the mistaken idea that Blair © was the new reality. What people want is Billy Bigballs, not trendy vicar.
I want Labour to win because that will bankrupt the country fully and irrevocably. Some of the shit and vomit will get splashed on Obs readers finally and they won’t be able to be righteous when an axe wielded by a socialist humanitarian falls on public services. The Tories will be destroyed: good.
With the money all gone and the IMF knocking on the door all those little consumers who are living in la-la/ryanair land now will suddenly wake to find themselves in a sort of post war country with a lot of draughty shopping malls getting boarded up; Europe will end up having the bits of control it hasn’t already got; immigration would go on as it is now, causing further rent rises and pay slumps; queuing and overcrowding would get even worse; unemployment would soar; the country’s credit rating would be downgraded, there’d be no growth, massive budget deficit, tax hikes, super tax, race riots, a General Strike, militant Mohammadanism running amok (on taxpayers’ money, given to ‘promote non-radicalisation’), the extreme right boneheads fighting the Muslims and everyone else, barbed wire enclaves in Burnley, the handing back, by Miliband, of the Falklands to the Argies with a little smirk; mutinies in the armed services when Labour try and merge them with the French forces*, and possibly even a coup d’etat if we’re very lucky. And in the middle of it all that lying, autistic fucking dunce Brown. Someone will shoot him.
It would be such *fun* to watch, so much better than four years of Cameron and Osborne and with the added piquancy of seeing a proper bit of history: the swan dive to EU banana republic.

Exile: I doubt the doc will be done well, because Jagger will have control of it and he’s never had any idea about that sort of thing and doesn’t understand the appeal of the band or what makes it great and never has had. The Stones were just lucky that they could hire the hippest filmmakers in any given period – Godard, Robert Frank, Scorsese. As Keith Richards said when Watts asked him what he thought of Godard’s Sympathy for the Devil: ‘crap – but we look good in it.’
Jagger said when the record was released: ‘There’s a lot of rock and roll on it. Too much. I like to experiment, I don’t like to go over the same thing again and again.’
Trouble with that is that the reason the Stones were great, particularly on Exile, is because Richards DID like going over the same thing again and again. If he hadn’t liked jamming the same four chords around for hours on end with Taylor and co All Down the Line etc would never have got written. And the world would be worse off.
Experimentation, on the other hand, took the Stones to Their Satanic Majesties and Undercover of the Night.
I rest my case.

Punk will become the property, if it hasn’t already, of academia, which will distort it even further into a Marxist reading of 70s social history.

Reading wise: I read Roger Lewis’s Seasonal Suicide Notes. Funny stuff, if a little too in debt at times to Waugh’s later diaries. He can be very funny though. Do you remember that letter I got from him after I wrote how much I laughed at his Burgess book? Scruton’s new wine book is a very fine read, but I hardly ever drink wine these days.
I had another bash at Crime and Punishment recently but it’s such a monumental bore and the lack of style makes it ‘hard shoulder’. Bits of Conrad’s memoirs. I’ve been reading some Simon Raven. Ever tried him? Funny, half-queer, snobby, public school, cricket, cad, army, gambling, writing; sort of Captain Grimes with a bit of Stringham. Very clear stylist and fun on the train. He disgraced his regiment through his gambling on horses and was warned off. But at one point he had a yankee up for about five grand in the early fifties. Can you imagine? He bought a Bentley with some of the winnings.

*See left wing think tank’s proposals for the armed services. Reported on by the BBC’s website as A think tank. Have you noticed it doesn’t prefix left wing think tanks with ‘left wing’ but always does ‘right wing’ for right wing think tanks?'