Monday, 12 November 2018


Should it take a Mary Poppins song composed by the Sherman Brothers to inform the way we should manage our lives? Yet it seems so obvious, I thought, when I saw an anecdote about drugs and sport – not normally an amusing topic – in the Times. This involved (probably apocryphally) The Duke of Arundel, a trainer, a jockey and a horse. The place Melbourne Australia. The year 1960.

The Duke a fanatic owner, follower of racing and a stickler for probity noticed the trainer surreptitiously feeding the horse a substance in the parade ring. He rushed up puce in face and asked what the hell was going on. Quick as a flash the trainer said ‘Little lump of sugar Your Grace, have one yourself’. The Duke suspiciously examined the sugar then ate it as did the trainer who popped one into his own mouth. As the jockey mounted about to gallop to the starting gate the trainer said:
‘Two furlongs out take the brakes off. No one’s overtaking you unless it’s me or the Duke.’

Nearly everyone I know is essentially an optimist – even many of the homeless have hope. I saw one with a  little poster which said: ‘No home, no money, no food, still cheerful’. I gave money to this guy (yes I know we are supposed not to but I couldn’t help it. Besides the smile of gratitude made it worthwhile.)

Talking of the poor homeless I’d really like to go round at Christmas giving them all bottles of wine but that would get me into terrible trouble with the do-gooders, the ‘Happy-Christmas-here’s-a pair-of-socks' brigade. Talking of wine I was walking home in the rain on Friday my umbrella turning inside out in the wind when a cultured but slightly inebriated voice said:  ‘Escushe me do you know how to open a bottle of wine?’

She was young, pretty and miserably holding a bottle of pink champagne. One handed I removed the ‘muselet’ – that’s the wire cage over the cork. She looked impressed but still nonplussed. I told her to grip the cork and turn. Loud pop. Happy laughter.  Should I have confiscated the bottle and told her about the joys of sobriety? Not much fun that. Do I know how to open a bottle of wine!

Our world is full of mustard, lemon juice and chilli powder…not enough laughter, niceness and sweetness. I belong to the Richard Curtis school of schmaltz  (by the way ‘schmaltz’ originally referred to the fat rendered from geese or chickens).

Good news for those like me that the all-time great Christmas films are on Channel 5 non-stop between now and Christmas – everyone a tear jerker full of young love, loneliness made happy, bad made good. Only watch if you’ve a handkerchief.)

Back to the Sherman Brothers. Here are more of those lyrics:
‘In every job that must be done
There is an element of fun’
Go on, Mary, enjoy that lump of sugar.

No comments: