13 MAY 1989, Page 49

Low life

Curtain call

Jeffrey Bernard

To Newmarket last week for the 2,000 Guineas and lunch with Charles St George at Sefton Lodge. It would have been a perfect day but for the awful buffetless trains to and from Cambridge. They used to do a fairly good breakfast. Nowadays I stop the taxi halfway between Cambridge and Newmarket at a pub for ten minutes to regain some composure. I am not quite sure why I should feel embarrassed or guilty about that but I do. I tell the drivers that I need to make a telephone call but last Saturday's one tumbled me and said, 'I think I'll have one too.' In the event he had three on me but I got to the house for lunch in one piece. I found Charles in his yard, where he has 40 boxes. It must be nice for an owner to keep his racehorses at home. He can say hello to them every morning, and what a glorious morning it was that day — beauti- ful horses, birdsong, and I even found a ten-pound note in the yard. It was later claimed by a very small boy, the son of one of the stable lads. Typical of racing people. Did you totter around armed with tenners when you were six? He said he was going to put it on Charles's Frescobaldi in the first. It ran second. Never mind. I am sure there are more tenners where that came from.

Lunch was memorable. Salmon en crofite, fillet of beef cooked rare to perfec- tion, God knows how many excellent salads and then strawberries with meringue and cream plus a cheeseboard of quality. All credit to Christine St George. Most people were drinking champagne but I was lucky to be adopted by a caring butler. With all that grub around I was surprised to watch Lester toy with a tomato, one spring onion and one potato. I should have thought that prison food would steer a man towards the salmon en croilte. But he said he didn't want to put on weight just because he'd hung up his boots. Henry Cooper is still in remarkably good trim and what a nice man he is. His Italian wife is a very good cook and Henry loves pasta but I would guess that the left hook is still in working order. Apart from Lester, another ex-jockey who has not gone to seed or pot is charming Jimmy Lindley, now paddock commentator for the BBC. He won the 2,000 Guineas twice in his day on Only For Life and then Kashmir II. Good jockey, good man.

Came the time to drive down to the race-course I decided to stay in the house. I hate the crowds on big race days and the Rowley Mile isn't particularly good for viewing as it is straight on and you can't see who is in the lead unless they are winning by a street. There was a slight chill in the air — there always is at Newmarket — and someone lit a good log fire. I watched the race on television with six servants who had come in from the heat of the kitchen, and my friendly butler kept me topped up.

Back in Cambridge, I went to call on my second wife who runs a country club there. Well, it has a bowling green in the garden. It was closed as it always is in the afternoon but an old maid said she would look for her. She came back two minutes later and said that the ex was upstairs in bed and asleep. I was pretty sure she wasn't. She once told me that she dreaded racing at Newmarket because I always turned up the worse for wear after the last race. Not true. As I left the club I looked over my shoulder and could swear that a curtain moved inside a first-floor window.

Pity, that. We used to get on so well. I hope she hasn't turned into the Mrs Dan- vers of Cambridge. There is something a little sinister about a trembling curtain that puts me in mind of M. R. James. Maybe she has been locked in her room and made a prisoner. I will check up when I next go for the July meeting at Newmarket.