Staying the course
The Derby Day outing to Epsom on the Groucho Club coach was a day to remem- ber and I only wish I could remember more of it. The start of it was as awful as Captain Brown's start to the Grand National. I got up at 6 a.m. to write something and Monica and I needed two or three vodkas to get going. Sometimes she needs oiling. That done there was a champagne breakfast at the club at 8 a.m. The bosses didn't offer me a glass, which niggled me slightly although I don't drink the stuff, but I sup- pose it is on the bill. Never mind, Absolut is excellent.
I told anyone who cared to listen that Commander in Chief would probably win and I think a couple of receptionists who stayed behind backed it. Of course most mug punters backed Fatherland because that man was riding it and although I men- tioned the horse I had gone right off it when the words were barely out of Moni- ca's big mouth. Fatherland was out of his class.
Once on the coach the drinks appeared as though on a conveyor belt, thanks to the helpful and willing staff. So many people resent their jobs nowadays. Can you imag- ine the nightmare of going to the Derby on the Dumpling Inn coach and being served by Chinese waiters? Only the Ming could handle it. So for lunch we had fresh salmon followed by strawberries and cream and that is blotting-paper that went to Eton.
Then the racing and the betting com- menced. What odd horses the uninitiated back. In fact, there was an American woman on the coach whom I had never seen in the club who irritated me somewhat by picking five out of six winners while not knowing a horse from an ostrich. It is luck enough to be a woman in the first place but that is pushing it. My old friend Gordon from the Coach and Horses whom I had taken had no luck at all, but at least I saw to it that the level in his whisky tumbler didn't fall below the obligatory two fingers. I suppose we must have looked like two old codgers to the others, being as we were firmly stuck to our seats for the entire day. It is a small fringe benefit of drinking spir- its that the dehydrating effect enables you to go for hours without having to pee.
But there was one strange bet struck by one of our party, Jim Baker. In the last race he backed all nine runners to win in the hope that the eventual winner would be returned at 8-1 or more. In the event he lost. Oh, lucky Jim. He is best remembered by me for being the man who introduced me to my last wife after a considerable amount of nagging on my part. 'Please introduce me to the woman who owns those legs I keep seeing walking along Old Compton Street,' I used to plead. Pathetic really.
It was an exhausting day, what with the combination of a steady flow of Absolut and the bore of mental arithmetic, working out people's bets. By the time we got back to the Groucho for 'just the one' I was out on my feet. At last I was escorted home and crashed out only to wake up at some unearthly hour bathed in sweat. I had dreamt that Mia Farrow had won custody of me in the High Court. That had me groping in the fridge for ice and more vodka. Should it ever come to it that I get adopted or taken into care I hope to God it is either by Anna Haycraft or Beryl Bain- bridge. In either case life would be what racing people call a gas.