My Animals and other Family, By Clare Balding
One is most amused
Sunday 07 October 2012
Possibly the best legacy of the 2012 Olympics has been Clare Balding. We always knew she was there, the springy Labrador of BBC racing. But since the Games, she has proved that swimming, diving, show-jumping – any minor sport – can be exciting, so long as she's presenting.
"Why can't everyone be Clare Balding?" demanded the Daily Mail. "She can do anything," Caitlin Moran pronounced. "If there were four more Clare Baldings, we'd have our empire back. Six, and we'd be colonising the Moon."
Now, she has written a memoir of her youth and, needless to say, it's brilliant. Actually, before we get carried away, this should have come as a surprise. Balding is a sports personality from a racing background. As she acknowledges, racing folk aren't communicators. They speak their own language and deliver it in military barks. They do not emote, except through animals.
In this, Clare is true to her tribe; each chapter is centred on a dog or horse she has loved. And yet, it is as much about frightful humans as lovable nags. The stories canter along, Clare turning out to be a deft raconteur, telling stories such as when she nearly hit the Queen with a sausage, or about the time she was suspended for stealing some wind-up chattering teeth from a corner shop.
Her father trained racehorses for the Queen, though he was less gifted at raising a daughter. "Do you love me more, now I'm thin?" she asks after losing weight for a race. "Yes, I think I do," he replies. But then, he's just as gauche with the monarch: when she asks his opinion of Thatcher after the 1979 election, he says: "Well, it's going to take a while to get used to a woman running the country."
A tomboy as a child, then a horse-mad teen at a cool boarding school, Clare is the permanent outsider. She is tough yet needy; sporty yet academic. Some might have wanted more on Balding's sexuality, but it doesn't define her. After trying boyfriends, she returns them like library books and decides she's been "looking in the wrong part of the library".
What could have been a dull stroll round a Berkshire pet cemetery turns out to be a gallop through all the most powerful human emotions. Balding's writing reveals her to be the bastard love-child of Jilly Cooper and Gerald Durrell, via a spell at Malory Towers. But best of all, she is always simply herself.
There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turningTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 2 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned PR disaster
- 5 Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Downton Abbey fans outraged at Kindle sponsorship adverts
Cilla, episode 2, ITV, review: Sheridan Smith continues to shine as the young singer
Kendrick Lamar announces new song 'i' following leak
Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned PR disaster
Top Gear to launch in France after Jeremy Clarkson banned from driving on roads
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God