|Black Caviar coming down the straight at Royal Ascot|
Behind the Barr in Britain
Last week Edgar and I successfully travelled to the other side of the world aboard one of Qantas’ massive Airbus A380 aeroplanes. The lie-flat seats of Business Class certainly helped to minimise jetlag. When we touched down at Heathrow we were invited up into the cockpit to meet our pilot, Captain Woodward. To Edgar’s delight he was allowed to sit in the “driver’s seat” and discuss at length the plane’s flying capabilities and technical details.
It is amazing being in London with all its history and magnificent architecture. This extraordinary city was founded over two thousand years ago and today has a population of nearly eight million people. Last Friday we visited St Paul’s Cathedral for a couple of tranquil hours. First founded in 604 AD, the magnificent present day building was designed by Christopher Wren and completed in 1710.
Certainly it is a building that allows you to feel closer to God. I very nearly got a whole lot closer… as we were leaving I wanted to cross the street to get a better photograph. Believing I was crossing a one-way street, it wasn’t until a loud blast from the horn of a large (and very close) red double-decker bus coming the other way that I realised my mistake. Was it divine intervention that allowed me to run faster than Sam Barr in his 100m dash at the Barham High School’s Athletic Carnival earlier this year? Or did I hear a mighty voice say softly, “Damn, missed again.” ?!
On Saturday Edgar and I dressed in our finest outfits and set out for Royal Ascot catching the train from Waterloo Station. The first race meeting ever held at Ascot took place over three hundred years ago on 11 August 1711 and was instigated by Queen Anne. Royal Ascot is held annually over five days with members of the British Royal Family attending each day.
Ron Clark and his family met us at Ascot train station and took us to the Macdonald Berystede Hotel for coffee and a chat before the races.
|Edgar with Ron Clark|
Ron and Edgar had both flown together in 100 Squadron during World War II and this was the first time they had seen each other since the war ended. We spent a great hour with Ron and his family before being transported to Royal Ascot where we joined 60,000 people who had also come to see Australia’s champion mare Black Caviar race in front of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
We spent the afternoon in the Furlong Club where we enjoyed excellent views of the day’s racing. Seats were at a premium so while Edgar went off in search of champagne I hunted down a couple of spare seats next to some fellow race-goers; I introduced myself to Aileen, Carol and Adrian who had come down from Suffolk to watch the races. They were great people and very welcoming, pouring me a glass of Pimm’s before I’d even had a chance to sit down.
Around 2pm the Queen, Duke of York and other members of the British Royal Family arrived in horse-drawn open carriages. Rain threatened but fortunately it held off until the Royals had completed their parade. At 3pm I left Edgar with our bottle of French Champagne and took my camera to the mounting yard to catch a glimpse of BC before her big race.
Arriving back at The Furlong Club (quite a distance from the mounting yard), I found that Edgar had managed to secure a prime viewing spot on the outside balcony next to a beautifully statuesque blonde named Dawn and her husband Paul. The atmosphere was one of extreme excitement and anticipation as the horses jumped from the starting barrier.
By the time the horses had come into the home straight the cheering had reached a fevered pitch. From where we were watching it looked as though Black Caviar had started her final sprint a little too early and suddenly the two French horses Moonlight Cloud and Restiadargent where closing the gap with alarming speed. It was about then (had I thought of it at the time), that it may have been appropriate for me to quote the line from “My Fair Lady” as recited by the late Audrey Hepburn and shout, “Move your bloomin’ arse!”
A subdued mood descended upon the crowd as we all anxiously awaited the results of the photo finish. The suspense nearly killed me and I along with the rest of the crowd let out a collective sigh of relief when Black Caviar was announced as the winner.
After the last race The Queen Alexandra Stakes, the day concluded in the finest of English traditions, with singing around the Bandstand. We were provided with complimentary union jack flags and songbooks with the words to classics such as Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory and the British National Anthem. It was an uplifting experience to hear thousands of merry race goers singing along together.
Getting back to Ascot train station was looking like a logistical nightmare for Edgar and his wheelie walker amongst the thousands of people. Our new found friend Dawn came to the rescue and flagged down a police car, who then pulled over a hire car and directed the driver to take us to the station before picking up his pre-booked customers. Once at the station yet more police guided us through the masses and got us safely onto the train.
Our memorable day ended with a late dinner at the Wolseley Hotel, just down the road from our accommodation at The Royal Air Force Club, Piccadilly.