4 APRIL 1992, Page 50

Low life

That losing feeling

Jeffrey Bernard

During the past few days I have found it almost impossible to work up any enthu- siasm for or interest in Saturday's Grand National. They seem to me to be a pretty moderate bunch of horses this year and there are only six of them in the entire field that could make a single brain cell in my head begin to buzz.

I am also slightly irritated that the excel- lent consultant aesthetist at the Middlesex thinks I can tip her the winner. That is a responsibility I can do without. The National has been a good race for me over the years — for example, I won £1,000 on Rhyme 'n' Reason five years ago — but this year I cannot be more adventurous than to say that I think Docklands Express has a squeak of a chance. I am not a miracle-worker. She is, as is anybody who can put me to sleep for four hours without being a bore. Oddly enough we have a resi- dent anaesthetist in the Coach and Horses. Not Norman, but a customer who, if he talked to you about the weather, say, could enable you to withstand an amputation. He has a lot of gas.

But, as 1 say, the Grand National has lost most of its glamour for me. It is unpleasant and disturbing to see a horse killed but since they modified the fences at Aintree it has become a long-distance handicap steeplechase run on a Saturday afternoon. They don't cushion the walls of the Cresta Run and I would never watch a profession- al fight again if headguards were made compulsory. It was refreshing to watch Neil Fairbrother in the cricket World Cup final batting without a helmet. There are things that should be dangerous. Walking home shouldn't be one of them, though. I now treat my way home at night like a giant slalom course, dodging around different buildings in an attempt to avoid would-be muggers. Difficult with a walking-stick that. It may afford a little protection but it `I hope there will be big grants for the university of life.' marks you out as a target.

And now some relief has arrived. The postman has just delivered a bottle of Fin- landia vodka with a personalised label on it which reads, 'Specially bottled for Mr J. Bernard'. I shall keep it and funnel future Finlandia into it. International Distillers, who bottle Smirnoff, would never do that. In fact, some time ago, when an advertising agency suggested to them that they use me in an ad, they said that I would be a bad advert for the stuff. How very wrong of them. I haven't got this far on muesli. Any- way, I am very honoured to be the recipi- ent of the Finlandia. Maybe the last time they made such a noble gesture was to Sibelius.

And now I have just remembered why I have lost interest in the Grand National. A month ago I struck a very hefty bet, the biggest I have ever had, on who will win more seats in this wretched election. Any bet I could have on the National would pall beside my election one. What is more, I am now convinced that I shall lose my money because of the way things are developing. I could hedge my bet but I shall be stubborn and continue to taste danger. The loss will mean no holiday in 1992 and certainly no dress rehearsal for one that I was going to take in Corsica next month. I must have had a drop of Finlandia when I struck such a large wager. People in the pub keep reas- suring me by saying, 'You never know,' but I bloody well do, I do.