Garnering a little praise

December 15th, 2019 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

I made the effort to watch The Long Summer of George Adams a couple of days ago. The dvd is not readily available now and I wanted to watch James Garner once more before sending my copy to a fellow admirer for Christmas.

I’d watch Garner in anything, going all the way back to Maverick from 1957 onwards. It was on quite late at night, ITV I think, and my parents disapproved but I’ve spent most of my life recovering from late nights; all that happened in the end was that I needed only five or six hours’ sleep anyway.

Nothing much happens in The Long Summer of George Adams, which was made for television in 1982. It’s just a near-perfect depiction of small-town America, with a slow train and a dog as amiable as Garner himself. He was once asked why he chose relatively obscure roles and said: ‘I’m an actor; I hire out’. It was a typical Garner response. He was never worried about hurting his so-called image and we loved him for it, or I did anyway. As one reviewer memorably put it, ‘He’s the scaredy-cat who we know won’t let us down in the end.’

Of course, being amiable takes a bit of work and I should know. Anyway, Maverick and Flyingbolt in the Tripleprint Gold Cup in 1965 and George Adams and Warthog in the Caspian Caviar in 2019. Nothing much changes and I was up late the night before both races, trying to work them out. It’s hard to believe now, but Flyingbolt carried 12st 6lb to victory, a fact imprinted on my memory like 34092, City Of Wells, West Country class, in the old Southern Railway days.

Whilst nothing was likely to cheer me up after the West Ham game, not even hearing that Call Me Lord had gone in at a cramped 2/1, it was good to see the sprightly City Of Wells at Bury Bolton Street Station as the star attraction of the East Lancashire Railway Steam Gala on the Yesterday TV channel. There’s probably a Tomorrow channel, as well, but that would hold little or no interest for me, like ‘sci-fi’, or anything futuristic or, heaven help us, ‘dystopian’. It’s hard to read a book review now without ‘dystopian’ putting in an appearance. Toy Town has escaped so far but Big Ears was always a bit too clever for my liking, so you never know. Incidentally, I’ve only just gotten over the loss of Mr Golly, a kind-hearted, successful businessman whose only flaw, if you can call it that, involved his irritation when Noddy insisted upon sounding the horns of cars that Mr Golly was trying to fix. His departure had more to do with the pc brigade disapproving of his name, so he was air-brushed out. Crazy, really. Still, you can be around at the right time and, under the new administration, garage proprietor in Toy Town might have been beyond him anyway.

Some of the analysis before Thursday’s walk-over in the general election was fanciful, to say the least. When the opposition is poorly led and wholly disorganised the favourite wins, it’s as simple as that. You won’t back a bigger certainty this winter, though I’m sad to say relegation for Southampton is not far behind.

The appearance of City Of Wells (previously seen beside platform one, Southampton Central, Weymouth to Waterloo circa 1962) encourages the thought that ‘plus ca change’. Not true, of course, as my dad, a Geordie miner from Blyth, would no doubt have pointed out when the constituency returned a Conservative for the first time ever last week. It’s the only time I’ve ever felt relieved he went on ahead many years ago.

When we went on the interminable overnight journey on a Royal Blue coach from Southampton to Blyth well over sixty years ago, the two things that struck me were the biting wind off the North Sea and a mighty slag heap hard by the Isabella Colliery. These things stay with you, like the huge mound of rice on the quayside in the 1966 film A Man Could Get Killed, starring James Garner and Melina Mercouri.

If you’re ever asked about the film in a quiz, ‘huge mound of rice’ is worth half a point. But a better answer is: ‘It features the opening bars of Strangers In The Night, the first time the future Sinatra hit was heard in public.’

When your team congratulates you, marveling (with no little envy) that this otherwise entirely useless snippet has stayed with you for so many years, you can shrug and smile and give the impression that it’s nothing, really. You will come across as charming and modest and, with a bit of luck, amiable as well.