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 The Grand National

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PostSubject: The Grand National   Thu 03 Apr 2014, 14:40

Saturday, 5th April 2014, will see the running of the most famous steeplechase, and arguably the most famous horse race on the planet.

The race dates back to the first half of the 19th century, the first official National was in 1839 though there had been races in previous years.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_National

The word "steeplechase", means precisely that. It was originally a cross country horse race using the easily observable features of church steeples as landmarks. The very first steeplechase is believed to have been a wager between Cornelius O'Callaghan and Edmund Blake and was run over 4 miles between Buttevant and St Leger churches in County Cork in 1752. Unfortunately, History does not record who won.
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PostSubject: Re: The Grand National   Thu 03 Apr 2014, 14:53

Red Rum wins the 1973 National;



the first of his three GN victories
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PostSubject: Re: The Grand National   Fri 04 Apr 2014, 09:26

The 1967 National won by 100-1 outsider Foinavon;

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PostSubject: Re: The Grand National   Fri 04 Apr 2014, 20:56

I have been to the Grand National twice.  The second time it was 100 years since a New Zealand horse, Moifaa, won.  After the second time I wrote the following for the newspaper.  (Don't remember if it was published or not.)

Horse-racing might be the Sport of Kings but there was also room for a record 70,000 ordinary  people at Aintree for the Grand National last week [2004].  We had been part of it before in 1980.  That visit has been memorable mainly for the state of the toilets.  I can’t remember much about the course or the racing, nor who won the Grand National, and not even if we had our three-year-old son with us.  But I remember the toilets with horror.  Here at one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world the loos were filthy, not from the day’s use but from never being cleaned. Panes of broken glass, smothered in dust, lay in corners.  I was pleased to see in this year’s official guide an article vindicating my memories.  It said facilities were so run-down in the 1980s that the seat of the toilet designated for Princess Anne was broken in half. 

It’s doubtful if the horse-racing will be the lasting memory of our 2004 visit either.  Surely, though, even if we forget the name of the winning horse (Amberleigh House) we will always remember [no, I hadn't] it was trained by Red Rum’s owner, Ginger McCain. In the 70s Red Rum won the Grand National a record three times. Earlier in the week some newspaper had said Mr McCain now, at the age of 73, tended to be discussed ‘with patronising affection’. Why didn’t I remember that when I was looking for some romantic reason to back a horse?  Red Rum had won three times in the seventies and his trainer has been hoping for another winner ever since. 

But it is the travel to Aintree that will be my main recollection this year, I think. Travel in Britain is always the source of much planning and worry.  Which route to take?  What delays should we expect?  Will the M62 be less congested than the A580?  How long will it take to get out of Sheffield? 

We set off very early – at 8.30am to arrive at races not starting till 2pm.  Liverpool is some 130kms from Sheffield.  Our son, now 26, navigated and though we headed in the wrong direction just 100 metres from home this was turned to our advantage and we chose a different route.  We zipped along happily and without problems until close to Liverpool when traffic slowed to such a crawl that Rod was able to get out and take photographs of the traffic.  Other young men from other cars also got out and made their way, not very discreetly, to the bushes.  “This is the sort of thing the police would arrest you for,” said Rod.  “Urinating in a public place?” “No, getting out of the car on the motorway.”

The hold-up turned out to be caused by three lanes merging into two due to traffic cones left in one lane.  I couldn’t believe that someone hadn’t checked such obvious delays – there were no actual roadworks happening.  “They are private contractors. Why should they bother for the Grand National – this is what people expect every day on their way to work?” said my semi-British son. I still think an event of this magnitude should be better organised.  

One of our spare hours has disappeared. We still have plenty of time and need to decide whether to take the Park and Ride (leave your car and bus to the centre).  My husband is unkeen – we have heard of someone with police connections who gave up his Aintree tickets because of a terrorist concern.   “They might target a bus.”  “Three hours before the start of the races – hardly!” 

But we continue driving.  Signs lead us to Aintree and we arrive there quite quickly.  Crowds are walking, generally dressed in light fashion clothes.  “Can we expect a fine day, then?” I wonder.  “Not necessarily. The British dress to look good, not for comfort.” 

No signs to a parking place or indeed to anywhere now.  “Where do we park, mate?” we ask a uniformed attendant.  “Just keep going along there and you’ll come to the Park and Ride.”  That’s where we had been an hour before.  Saved us getting there far too early, I suppose. 

Our bus was not blown up.  As far as we know there were no security worries at all. We queued to show security guards our metal bits and my handbag was given a very cursory search – perhaps they didn’t realise just how deep its pockets are. Later we are pleasantly surprised at the end of the race when people, including us, charge onto the track and clamber over the hedge fence where only half an hour earlier several horses had fallen.   Police on horseback wander round but none of them stop the fun.  

Thirty-nine horses start the Grand National, but only eleven finish.  They do not include my choice, Southern Star (picked for obvious reasons), which at least had the decency to be pulled up straight in front of us. Hedgehunter, which led all the way, managed to fall at the very last fence. For the first time no horses have been injured though two jockeys were taken to hospital. This is very satisfying to hear since watching the horses fall is definitely entertaining but hearing of their deaths is not. 

This Grand National is the 100th anniversary of the time when a New Zealand horse won.  Moifaa’s achievement was subsumed in the official guide to the story of the British horse Manifesto which in 1904 took part in the race for the 8th time, finishing to huge acclaim in last place. The guide talked of Moifaa being shipwrecked on the way to Liverpool and having to swim to safety, something I thought was now recognised as a myth, but is still being written about in 2004. Great story, anyway. 
Apart from the usual losses, we leave quite satisfied.  The only real disappointment is that, because we follow events in the £10 plebs area (where people dress suitably for the damp weather) we miss seeing any of the celebrities and fashion icons.  Princess Anne, Michael Owen, and David Jason are there reportedly but might as well be in New Zealand for all we see of them.                



 
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PostSubject: Re: The Grand National   Sat 05 Apr 2014, 08:40

The dress code perhaps needs to be a bit stricter these days - and perhaps some more litter bins?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2596282/Glamorous-revellers-pull-stops-vie-title-best-dressed-racegoer-10-000-Caribbean-holiday-Ladies-Day-Aintree.html



http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/horseracing/grand-national/10742520/Aintrees-Ladies-Day-too-risque-as-punters-stay-away.html


But then this is an interesting comment from a Telegraph reader (the Telegraph is a paper for very posh people in England):


The Telegraph Taste Patrol is out in force. I'm finding a lot of these views pretty scary to be honest. It's just people having a day out. I think there is more outrage here caused by some questionable taste than if there were pictures of people being killed in Syria.
How rude to call women stupid and ugly on a public message board...comments about ordinary women's legs...tasteless chavs and slappers. Appalling. I always thought a mark of a gentleman was being polite so however superior some of you people may feel, you are coming across a bit like low life.


Discuss.
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PostSubject: Re: The Grand National   Sat 05 Apr 2014, 11:04

I've tried, without success, to find earlier pictures of fashion - outrageous or otherwise -  at Aintree.

This is Ascot, 1910.



I can't help but think of George V's line from The King's Speech: “Who will stand between us, the jackboots, and the proletarian abyss?”
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PostSubject: Re: The Grand National   Sat 05 Apr 2014, 11:51

I can do you Ascot in 1905.

The original caption says:

'Royal Ascot (below) presented a remarkable view of the "perched" hat, for in this year fashion decreed that dresses (in the palest shades where, indeed, they were not white) should be as low as possible on the ground and hats should be as as high as possible in the air.'



PS : Just realised that the dresses are black in Temp's pic of Royal Ascot in 1910 because society was in mourning for Edward VII. The same source as for my 1905 photo (The Pageant of the Century. publ 1933) has a similar one to Temp's for 1910 captioned: 'Ascot in mourning - The frocks at the fashionable race meeting were either in black, or the black and white of half mourning, owing to King Edward's death. Ribbon bands were replaced on grey or black top hats with felt and only black ties were worn.'


Last edited by Meles meles on Sat 05 Apr 2014, 12:52; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: The Grand National   Sat 05 Apr 2014, 12:11

The Telegraph does seem to have been changing its spots recently (or at least putting a bit of makeup on the to hide them, still the same bastion of wealth and privilege at heart).
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jul/02/telegraph-no-longer-torygraph

I've given up on the Grand National - too many horses get killed in it.
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PostSubject: Re: The Grand National   Sat 05 Apr 2014, 19:23

Thank you for those pics, MM. How elegant the ladies look - and the straight backs! Beautiful posture.

Fings most definitely ain't wot they used to be - not bloody likely!

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PostSubject: Re: The Grand National   Sat 05 Apr 2014, 21:04

In my 1905 photo I'm intrigued by the lady, third from the left ... she appears to be quite dark skinned.

Is she actually a black lady which is what she appears to be? ... or is she perhaps Indian, possibly a maharaja's wife or daughter?  ... or is she maybe just tanned, Italian or Spanish...?, or is her apparent dark skin colour just a function of shadows and the inexact processing of early photography? But whatever the reason, her dark colouration does rather stand out.


PS : And just for you Temp, here's an example of the black-and-white half-mourning dress, again as seen at the 1910 Royal Ascot (same source as above):



...  that is some hat, you have to admit ... it's almost big enough to be the sort of thing the Kaiser would wear!


PPS : This book ('The Pageant of the Century') I've only just redicovered in a box in the attic amongst a load of other books, papers, diaries and photos that were moved here after my parents died. But POTC is special for me .... it was always a favourite of mine when I was young, and though at the time I didn't necessarily understand all the history, I still liked all it's photos, and its mix of trivial (say, fashions at Ascot), alongside the serious things I did already know about (eg world war 1). 'The Pageant of the Century'  No.1 published in 1933 was intended to be the first of three volumes chronicling the whole 20th century. Volume 1, which I have,  covered the years 1899 to 1932 ... but the series' editors were over ambitious, or fate intervened, and so volumes 2 and 3 (which were intended to cover the period up to the year 2000) were never produced ... at least not by the same publishing company.

So brace yourselves! Now that I've found this treasured volume again you're likely to see a lot more stuff culled directly from it .....


Last edited by Meles meles on Sun 06 Apr 2014, 09:50; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: The Grand National   Sun 06 Apr 2014, 04:29

@Temperance wrote:
Thank you for those pics, MM. How elegant the ladies look - and the straight backs! Beautiful posture.

Fings most definitely ain't wot they used to be - not bloody likely!


Bit difficult to slouch when they were squeezed into whalebone corsets though Temp. The only way to find any comfort (or to breathe) in the things would have been to hold yourself as straight as possible.
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PostSubject: Re: The Grand National   Mon 07 Apr 2014, 12:21

Really have to post this one today;

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The Grand National

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