I DO NOT NEED NEW BOOTS I do not need new boots, I do not need new boots, I do not need new boots…
Even though I had gotten off the 130 to head for the 7, I was feeling equivocal about going to the horse show again. I had had quite a lot of it on Friday, I wasn’t sure I was up for the crowd, and the weather, which I dressed optimistically for, looked to be turning on a ten cent euro piece.
But today, I had my very own press ticket…
There was no queue at the ticket collection point, a change indeed from Friday’s desperate scrum. I secured my envelope, and found that there was, in addition, a special pass for a photographer. I hadn’t asked anyone along — I hadn’t even been fully convinced I was going. Hmmm.
Those photographers get to nip out directly onto the field!
But I couldn’t exactly swan out there, armed only with my phone.
I walked around, and realised that there are many more random kind of stands in the hall than purely horsey ones. I have no need, sadly, for lead ropes and halters and numnahs. I DO NOT NEED NEW BOOTS! I bought a Joules sweatshirt, a streamlined deal that had all the benefit of a outwear of that designation without the bulk. I looked at boots that I DID NOT NEED. Nor did I need, or want, an oil painting of a horse I didn’t even know, or a huge freestanding amethyst crystal, or a posh hat, or a random candle or bar of soap, or even a needlepoint pillow slip. I didn’t need to shop anymore, so I went out of doors.
A torrential rain had fallen on Dublin on Saturday night, causing localised flooding and shutting down the Port Tunnel and many major roads. The ground looked forlorn, deserted, the going not so much soft as pulp, the two main rings that flanked the Anglesea Stand desolate, empty of equine activity. There was no queue for the chip wagon. It was a different show altogether.
The Simmonscourt sand arenas were in much better nick. I watched the last few rounds of the horse club team championships and imagined myself doing the course. It was a toughie, the ring rather small, it seemed to me, yet there were a number of clear rounds. I could have watched it all day, as much as I feel I could jump a course all day.
Oops, look at the time! Time to head for that press box, and the Gran Prix. I wove through the crowd, thinner now that the competition had clearly started, and unerringly found my way to the hidden blue door.
No one was manning — or womanning, for that matter — the blue door. The Committee Stand, as announced by a nondescript sign. I turned the knob and walked in, as if I had been turning that knob and walking over that threshold my entire life.
I almost made it to the front row before someone politely asked for i.d. — and a flash of the press card, dangling nonchalantly from my neck, soon had me ensconced in another ringside seat.
The Gran Prix is not as hot a ticket as the Aga Khan Cup, and I wonder if it’s the individual aspect of it. Perhaps horsey people are more inclined to the team events. I don’t know, but I do know that I was that bit detached from the thing. It occurred to me to leave after fifteen, or twenty jumpers had gone, none of them clear…
And of course I didn’t. It’s hypnotic, this showjumping caper, and I couldn’t possibly leave until I’d seen everyone go… and then what was the point of leaving before the ten finalists took the new course? Irishwoman Jessica Kuerten went clear in both rounds, a particular achievement in the first round, and the crowd held its breath as one as she took the final three fences to victory.
I was in a state, mesmerised, verging on falling down in a heap as I rose to leave. A woman in a long waxed coat [glad I didn’t buy one of those, don’t want to go around looking like a steward; I almost bought a waxed hat, one of those Crocodile Dundee yokes, when I realised that my new jacket lacked a hood, but common sense reigned supreme] — anyway, she came up to me specially to let me know that Jessica was ready to meet the press, if I cared to nip directly out onto and across the field.
Me? With my silly clothes — cropped trousers and MBTs and a continual change of a oversized white shirt for the new sweatshirt, because the bloody weather kept changing — and my floral Joules shopping bag? I had a pen, I think, but certainly no paper — and I almost told her as much, before I snapped out of it, thanked her, mumbled something about the loo, and legged it.
Back in the hall, I thought about buying a baseball cap, because of course it’s going to rain on me on the way to and from the yard, and I can’t manage a brolly with the big kit bag and the long stick, so I do need something for the auld head. I kept walking — I can buy a baseball cap anywhere… although it occurs to me that I’ve never bought myself a ball cap in my life, they’ve always simply appeared. Seemingly unable to leave the place without reaching for my wallet, I bought a head covering thing, the like of which I expect Xtreme sportspeople wear: it’s like a cowl, or something, and it pulls up over you head but it’s not as loose as a bandana. I almost bought a new long stick, just because they were there, but I abstained. And:
I DID NOT BUY NEW BOOTS.