A day at the races

I got some funny looks from the commuters on the early-morning train and it wasn’t because I’d got Weetabix grafted to my top lip.

No, it was because I was dressed up to the nines in a long, floaty dress, sparkly high heels and a pink feather in my hair.

Not the usual get-up for a Friday but this wasn’t the usual sort of Friday. It was ladies’ day at Epsom and Holiday Autos had invited me to join them at the races.

Arriving at Epsom, I met up with Liz Loukes and the rest of the team and their guests for a civilised glass of Pimm’s. The sun shone and all the guests arriving in the marqueé looked so glamorous I felt like Eliza Doolittle on her outing to the races.

The place was a sea of hats of all designs, with feathers, beads, bows and flowers all featuring heavily; a beautiful scene and perfectly British.

With our race cards at hand, we took the lead from Holiday Autos’ Ann-Maria Stacey and Debbie Sowden who were studying form.
There was a time when I thought studying form was what you did when you spotted a chap with a well-turned ankle. However, it turns out I was wrong, and it actually applies to fetlocks and hocks.

I could see that among these experts, I was going to have to do more than simply be grateful to back a horse that had all four legs in the right place.

It turned out that Ann-Maria’s father has a part-share in a horse, so she had a few tips for us, as did Sue Macalinden, purchasing manager at Wexas Travel, whose husband is a bookie. So, before lunch, we placed our bets.

I caught up with Fred Olsen’s Lol Nichols and wondered why his face was so flushed. It was a warm day, and we’d had a drink, but there was more to it than that. It turned out I’d caught him just as he’d made a faux-pas in the best ‘Carry On’ style.

He’d been standing with a mixed group of guests when he’d looked beyond them and announced: “Oh, there’s the lady with the big jugs!”. At which point all the gentlemen turned their heads with the expectation of seeing someone of the proportions of Big Brother housemate Lea, only to clap eyes on a hard-working waitress with a jug of Pimm’s in each hand.

Over lunch, Paul Fumer from TravelRepublic.co.uk informed us it was his first time at a race course and he was enjoying his beginner’s luck, having won the first race, while those of us who’d been studying the form carefully and muttering things about speed over final furlongs were nursing sore wallets.

Food that moves you

Julia Alcock, contracts manager, at CSMA, sat on my right and together we decided we would rely on the tips from Richard Game and Andy Stevens of Carrentals.co.uk who looked like pros as they read out sections from The Racing Post.

The main course arrived and everybody helped themselves to the rocket salad, which looked so fresh I could swear it moved.

Liz told me my eyes hadn’t deceived me, the leaves on her plate really were shaking, as she’d discovered a giant bug beneath them. The restaurant manager was called.

To help us over the shock of discovering insect life in the salad, the sympathetic manager offered us a complimentary bottle of champagne and we all enjoyed a medicinal glass.

Sue, who sat to my left, was continually diving into her bag for her phone as her husband was texting furiously with betting tips. Julie and I couldn’t resist putting our money on his selection, while Sue chose some random nag which romped home, netting her a cool £170.

I left the race course happy, but none the richer, after a fabulous day full of champagne and laughter.

Admittedly I couldn’t remember the name of the last horse I’d bet on but, I put that down to my age.

Please Sir, can I have some more?

Back in the office and complaints about food featured large. Whether it’s a first-class trip with Eurostar or a coach holiday, nothing seems more important than what’s on the menu.

I have to admit my Eurostar clients have been unlucky when travelling to Paris. No matter what carriage I put them in, by the time the waiter gets to them, one or two of the dishes on the menu are no longer available.

One lead passenger rang me upon his return. “We didn’t win, they did,” he said cryptically. “There were three dishes on the menu, smoked haddock, fish pie and chicken and guess what? By the time the waiter had reached us, the chicken had gone.”

The waiter’s explanation that French people prefer fish while British prefer meat had not washed with my client. “They’re still getting their own back for Waterloo,” he said.

Later, an elderly couple came in to complain they’d been offered carrot cake with a scoop of ice cream for pudding in the hotel they had stayed during their holiday.
“My husband didn’t want the carrot cake,” said the wife. “But they told him he’d have to pay for a second scoop of ice cream!”

“What did you have for your pudding?” I asked her.

“I didn’t fancy it, so I didn’t have anything,” she replied.

“Couldn’t you have ordered it and given him yours?”

“Oh, we never thought of that!” she said looking at her husband in disbelief. “That’s why we like to book through an agent. You know these things.”