Not being an intimate of His Grace, the proprietor of Goodwood racecourse and sundry surrounding hectares, we cannot vouch for the truth of this anecdote. We only mention it because it is symptomatic of the kind of plausible tosh that you hear in the champagne bar on the lawn of the Richmond Enclosure at Goodwood.
The summer festival of horse racing called Glorious Goodwood does not impose such a draconian dress code as Royal Ascot: the closest thing to a uniform at GG is the Panama hat sported by about half of the gentlemen present. Otherwise, just about anything goes. In the Bentinck Bar, beneath the Duke's private box, haunt of the older racegoers, gentlemen wore blazers and ladies peered from beneath vast conical straw hats. Small boys were reluctant Fauntleroys in miniature checked jackets and cravats.
In the champagne bar the sartorial stakes were higher: racegoers here were dressed to be noticed. As well as the fawn linen suits there were rumpled silk shirts in rich colours, TV- static ties, designer shades, diamond rings the size of sugar lumps with matching bracelets. We felt as if we had gatecrashed a convention of Ron Atkinson impersonators.
A video director scribbled a series of complicated wagers on his racecard while conducting an enthusiastic conversation with someone in Los Angeles on his mobile phone; there were whoops and yells from the corporate hospitality lounges, a steel band played and business was being done on all sides. At Royal Ascot this kind of thing would provoke blimpish expressions of outrage, but at Goodwood it doesn't matter: everyone is having too good a time to bother about protocol.
There is a quieter spot adjacent to the course, where mobile phones are few and far between, and what you don't wear is as important as what you do. Looming above the main entrance to the course is a steep hill called the Trundles. During Glorious Goodwood canny racing fans park their deckchairs on its vertiginous slopes and watch all the action free of charge. The entire course is visible from up there: a pair of binoculars is useful, but that is also true in the pricey grandstands, and the Trundles has everything else you need for an enjoyable afternoon's racing: a little line of bookies, a twee Tote kiosk, a hot-dog stand, an ice-cream van and, halfway down the hill, a Portaloo.
A fair chunk of the crowd were coach parties. They spread out over the hill in a wide arc around the bookies' line, and unwrapped picnics. Small children made new friends and zoomed from blanket to blanket, grabbing crisps and sweets on the run. Their fathers stripped to the waist, revealing nut-brown bellies and networks of tattoos, and studied the form with cans of beer or shandy. Mums peeled back sleeves to the sun and, between shrieks to errant children, provided sardonic responses to the burbles of the Tannoy.
"There are still two exciting races to go here at Glorious Goodwood," the emollient announcer said, "and we hope that you are all having a fun day's racing . . ." "Oh lovely," a matron shouted, leaping to her feet, "throwing our bloody money away!"
But they were a good-humoured crowd. Les Bidwell, a smiley silverhaired sort, had come with a coach party of friends and relations from Surrey. "We do Goodwood once a year, and it's a lovely day out if it doesn't rain," he said. "The only trouble is the toilets - it's a tough old climb back."
But Les & Co weren't going to let the small matter of an inconvenient convenience get in the way of their enjoyment. They were used to the big- race atmosphere, after all. Whereabouts in Surrey do you come from? "Epsom," Les replied. "Tattenham Corner, to be exact."
MORE money trouble in rugby union: 12 boys have been suspended from their school in Cornwall after shaving their heads to raise money for the town rugby team. The boys, all aged 15, were sent home from Wadebridge School, near Bodmin, last Monday, after their humourless headmaster decided that their hair-cuts would "distract fellow pupils". Their sponsored head-shave raised pounds 400 for the Wadebridge Camels rugby team and we feel that they deserve praise rather than censure. So Almanack says: "Justice for the Wadebridge 12!" But not until this nice warm spell is over, eh?
A WONDERFUL Test match at Old Trafford. But three blots:
1. Those idiotic yellow cards that say "4" and "Out".
2. Umpire Cyril Mitchley's gesture for four runs scored: a little too much of the Wehrmacht, we feel.
3. Raymond Illingworth in those bloody silly sunglasses.Reuse content