As one of Paul’s racing pals kindly mentioned by him, Bernard(aka Bernardo,Bernie,Bern and a few unprintable ones), I thought it was about time I supported him by contributing to this website of his(a great idea by the way) losing my blogging virginity at the same time. It has proved a little more difficult than I anticipated- probably down to me and my lack of IT skills- but no need to bother you now with the details so here goes.
I first met Paul about 25 years ago when he arrived in the office opposite mine as the new fresh faced Finance Director. I was heading up the property function of the business which Paul was to oversee and I wondered how I was going to get on with this young man as my boss reporting to the relatively new MD(therefore my boss’s boss), John, a unique larger than life character from Belfast with the constitution of an ox whose brain operated at the speed of light. John and I are the same age Paul about 10 years our junior. I cannot claim I am immediately reminded of the Holy Trinity(you know the Best, Law and Charlton one) but rather more in fact of the famous sketch featuring John Cleese in his bowler looking down on Ronnie Barker in his trilby, in turn looking down on Ronnie Corbett in his flat cap and muffler. You see John shares his name and Oxbridge background with Cleese, Paul is bespectacled like Barker with a sort of quiet, dry, whimsical sense of humour, and yes, you’ve guessed it, at 5’6” I am the little guy rarely seen at the races without his flat cap. The similarity ends there really because we are not actually funny despite the fact that, on a couple of occasions over the years, late at night, just as the Guinness “full” signs start to appear in John and Paul’s eyes, I have overheard the remark “so who do those 3 comedians at the bar think they are then?”.
Anyway we soon discovered that we shared a passion for sport but particularly football (I am a Baggie stuck with 2 Foxes) and vitally NH racing which only means 1 thing – Cheltenham in March! As we also shared an insatiable thirst for real ale and Guinness (which came in handy as we were running a pub co at the time) the seeds were sown for the brilliant and close friendship we now enjoy.
My first Festival was 1992 and though the 3 of us all made our separate ways there we got together one night in the company of others for dinner in the Queens Hotel and have done so ever since as part of the ritual our annual pilgrimage has become . John and I have stayed in the same accommodation more often than not and now it is just the 3 of us in our “home from home” which is ideal as the occasion has become much less hectic than the old days.
We 3 may seem an unusual combination at first but I wouldn’t swap my 2 racing breaks at Cheltenham and Dublin nor my 2 travelling companions for the world. The Festival I love looms large in my thoughts at this time of year. Every year we say the same “ don’t know how but this year has been the best yet”. With Bay of Freedom this year the anticipation is even more intense. You see Paul’s dream is our dream and if I stepped into Paul’s shoes this minute I don’t think I could be more interested/nervous/excited/worried etc. than now. Paul has been very generous with the amount of involvement with Bay of Freedom he has shared with John and I and Galway on 26th October 2014 was simply the best experience at the races I’ve ever had. At the time I wasn’t sure anything could top the feeling as he powered home in the hands of Katie the Great but if he does run on the 11th March that will do it never mind the result and the best bit is, as they say in Boston,” this dream aint cost me a nickel or a dime”. Anyway talking of dreams I guess I need to give you the inside track on my snoring and the saga cruelly mentioned by Paul. May be next time.