In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the alien Ford Prefect describes hyperspace travel to earthling Arthur Dent as “unpleasantly like being drunk”. When Arthur asks what’s so bad about being drunk, Ford replies: “You ask a glass of water.”
It’s the sort of thing you think of when you climb inside Krug champagne’s special sensory pod. Through trickery of light and sound, it shows users what it might feel like to be inside a glass of champagne, without getting wet and sticky.
We were in the cellars beneath the Opéra Garnier in Paris, where, outside the pod, we were served a suitably extravagant meal. One course included chicken cooked en vessie (ie inside a pig’s bladder), which then had a light inside and each came with an endless stream of bubbly.
All of which made my 5.45am wake-up call the next morning a struggle. But struggle I had to if I was to get to Aintree for the Grand National. We were there as part of a stag party, but the stag very nearly didn’t make it in because he was wearing a jockey’s outfit. We thought it might be because they feared he might attempt a last-minute entry, but apparently it was because fancy dress is banned. This surprised us, as one or two of the ladies appeared to have dressed up as Willy Wonka’s Oompa Loompas competing on Strictly Come Dancing.
Fashion at Aintree could be a column in itself (all life is there from the exquisitely tailored to the shiny-suited), but the real sight is, of course, the Grand National, which remains one of this country’s greatest sporting spectacles. It is also one of the most expensive sporting spectacles if, like me, you lose on every race during the meeting. While the animal welfare campaigners are still justified in taking issue with it, some of the biggest cheers of the day were not for the winners but for every jump that caused no horses to fall.
There might have been people in fancy dress on Thursday night in the private room above Kettner’s restaurant in London, but I wouldn’t have known as I was wearing a blindfold. Eyes closed, people came round offering me strawberries, white chocolate and butter. No, I wasn’t trying out the seamier side of Soho, but taking part in a tasting for champagne Jacquart, which not only took the week full circle, but reminded me that Ford was right: it’s better to be the one drinking than the one being drunk.