Nelson (and Billy) never forgotten here

July 19th, 2022 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

The Jolly Sailor at Bursledon is not a bad place to contemplate one or two major Goodwood investments. It’s also one of those hostelries where you wonder if casual customers, especially tourists, know anything of its past. Nothing controversial like the Blind Beggar on the Mile End Road or the Plumbers Arms in Pimlico, it has happier connections, having served as the watering hole in the BBC’s rather superior soap Howards’ Way many years ago.

The final episode was screened in 1990. Sometimes I hesitate before writing about events or characters from the dim distant past. No one is likely to ask me which fictional character I most closely resemble  –  a Q & A which crops up in one of the ‘classier’ weekend supplements  –  so I haven’t had the chance to reply ‘Bret Maverick, as played by James Garner in the original tv series’. Perhaps it’s a shade fanciful anyway and the other day, having re-read Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy, I acknowledged that his Guy Crouchback is closer to the mark. (My friends would instantly opt for Maverick, but I know the answer is Crouchback.)

Who remembers any of them? We don’t know, do we? But we take heart from the number of television advertisements which rely on music from the 1960s and 70s to bolster the product on screen. So there must be quite a few people  like us, that is to say people like me and some of you. And if I want to cheer myself up even further, I remember Jeffrey Bernard once telling me that ‘only an idiot tries to write for everyone’.

Of course, to look out over the River Hamble is to gaze upon immense wealth and to be reminded of my old French teacher R C Williams. ‘Never forget, Carnaby, one half doesn’t know how the other half lives’.

True enough, though I very much doubt that living quietly and sensibly as a non-gambler would have brought any of the magnificent blue and white craft I see before me that much closer. You may feel the same way. If you’d never gambled, it doesn’t mean that all the money saved would be sitting there on the hearth, a massive pile of ready to go wonga. You’d have had a Maserati, a lover in Maida Vale, a homburg.

I am reluctant to leave the Jolly Sailor, which is right next door to the Elephant Boatyard, where HMS Elephant, the ship which took Nelson to the battle of Copenhagen, was launched in 1786. But the Rose Bowl and the afternoon session between Hampshire and Warwicks beckons, after which it’s the long drive home and a doctor’s appointment the following morning.

For a while they favoured piped music at the surgery. 2 to 5 Vivaldi of course, nice and light. I suppose, if they played Allegri’s Miserere, half the patients would stagger out, we can all see that. My last doctor but one was Robin Lambert, who had a passing interest in racing. It picked up appreciably when Dr Richard Newland started training winners, notably in the Grand National, but it didn’t stretch to buying a Racing Post so it was only when I felt rough that he got the latest news.

As one who remembers Ashurst Wonder winning the Stewards’ Cup my thoughts drift in that direction. Patient Constable was a great day, so too Rex Imperator but my favourite has to be Evens And Odds at 20/1, trained by the late Dandy Nicholls and ridden by Billy Cray, red cap, 5lbs allowance et al. Billy Cray! Had to be a Londoner and only a single consonant away from people making Blind Beggar connections. Billy Cray, who only rode Evens And Odds twice and disappeared to further his career in Australia.

I tipped the horse in every box, complete strangers bought me drinks and, like most gamblers, I was rich for a short time. If I’d fancied a hat I’d have bought a homburg. Well, one out of three’s not bad.