The Blog of a Blog.

 " From the dew-soaked hedge creeps a crawly caterpillar,
   When the dawn begins to crack.
    It's all  part of my autumn almanac.

     Breeze blows leaves of a musty-coloured yellow,
     So I sweep them in my sack
      Yes, yes, yes, it's my autumn almanac"

 Autumn Almanac " by Ray Davies of the Kinks.

Thinking about this song and because 2014 is  readily coming to an end, I thought I would look back in a two part review of the year.


On January 2nd 2014, the great jockey Terry Biddlecombe died.

 Terry won the Gold Cup,  on " Woodland Venture " for me at 14/1. It was the first time I'd ever been to Cheltenham Racecourse. At that moment he became my friend for life.
 Here is the rest of my blog entry:

Woodland was ridden by Terry Biddlecombe and he instantly became my hero. He always seemed to be one of the lads, who you could have drink with in places like Tewkesbury. He rode with a cavalier style, with a great will to win. In my mind's eye I can see him  now driving up the Cheltenham hill on a grey called Sea Tale.  A winning smile, betrayed his quiet determination to get the best out of his mounts.

What, I  have only just  recently learned, was  the day before his Gold Cup ride, Terry had badly torn his knee ligaments, in a fall. But thanks to 'unofficial ' pain-killing injections, he was able to take the mount on my winner. What a brave man!

Before injuries took their toil Terry amassed a grand total of 908 winners and was Champion Jockey on three occasions; 1964- '65; 1965- '66 and 1968 - '69, when he tied with his brother-in-law Bob Davies.

In 1995, Terry married trainer Henrietta Knight and became a highly visible part of Knight's training operation; particularly with her star horse ' Best Mate, ' who went on to win three Cheltenham Gold Cups ( 2002- '04 ) ; a feat  last achieved by the great " Arkle " in the 60's.
Pictures of Hen and Terry embracing in the winner's enclosure at Cheltenham remain among the most endearing captured in this sport.

Terry Biddlecombe 1941 - 2014   R. I. P.

January also bought the sad news of my Aunt's death. This took my family to Harrogate in Yorkshire for the funeral. The funeral was held in Harrogate Cemetery, which also housed the Commonwealth War Graves.

This was a deeply affecting sight and proved with this year's centenary of World War 1,  to be a template for 2014.

In January, D. and I made our annual visit to Slimbridge Wetlands Centre.
The day was bright and golden  and the wildfowl looked especially perky.
Here is a photograph taken looking down from the observation tower.

Flamingos Ahoy


This was the month I  chose to write tweets  at every home game until the end of the season in May, in order to encourage Cheltenham Town AFC.

It became an interesting chore:  here is one example:

Cheltenham Expects: " Tide like form will always turn. The water will retreat and dry land will promote confidence again. COYR " (Come on You Robins )

My avatar was Lord Nelson; hence ' Cheltenham Expects. '

My poems that month concerned breakfast and in particular bananas.

Banana yore.

1 Because bananas contain relatively high amounts of potassium, Bananas are naturally radioactive.

2  There are approx. 1000 types of Banana plants, but most are unpalatable. The commercially favoured variety is the Cavendish, of which each plant is a perfect clone of one another; making them all susceptible to disease.

3 Bananas are the 4th largest crop; after wheat, rice and corn (maize). A hundred billion bananas are produced annually.

4 Banana plants actually, being herbs, properly should be called berries.

5  A group ( collective noun ) of bananas is known as a hand, making a single banana a finger.


March, of course in Cheltenham brings The festival of Horse Racing at the local Prestbury Park Track.
The above photo  from  the 15th March, the day after the festival  finished and  you can see ' bookie ' Paddy Power's balloons ready to be taken down.
Here's what I said about this year's festival:

So what did we learn from this festival:

1 The order is changing, younger horses are taking the place of the older ones. Big Buck's and Hurricane Fly did not run up to form. Big Buck's the hero of eighteen successive victories, including four World Hurdles, was wisely retired from racing. Bob's Worth and  Sillviniaco Conti, the two horses at the top of the betting didn't get home. We saw the next generation of winners on parade; including two scopey Irish juvenile hurdlers  Vautour and Faugheen from Willie Mullins stable. Names to keep an eye on.

2. In this sport small stables can still win the big prizes. Gary Moore, who trains at Cisswood Stables at Lower Beeding, West Sussex, has a modest string of horses. They are not usually good enough to compete for the biggest prizes; but this year his horse Sire De Grugy, ridden by his son Jamie won the  Grade One Queen Mother Champion Chase, over two miles, being the top race on day two of the festival.
The story gets better. The horse is owned by a Mr Steve Preston, who was given it as a fifty birthday present, from his family who had a 'whip-round ' to pay for it. It is his only horse and needless to say it didn't cost a lot of money. Incredibly  having won two grade one races previous to the festival  Sire de Grugy now has amassed £500,000 in prize money.

3 Jockeys realize that each race contains the possibility of victory, losing, narrowly losing and worse of all injury. Daryl Jacob, stable jockey of top trainer Paul Nicholls, is a case in point. He lost a race by a nose and was so upset broke down in tears. Later on day four  he finally won, only to be taken by Gloucester Hospital injured from a fall  on his way to the start of the next race !

4 The jockeys all showed great dignity in victory  and comforted those who they had beaten. There were no arguments and the communal bond between the jockeys helps to enhance the sport.

On The 29th March, I wrote that the temperature had  reached a high of 20C at one ' o clock at Evesham.

I took the above pictures of a floral tribute to the Spring.


In early April, D. and I visited Newark Park, a National Trust property, near Dursley, Glos.
We saw an art exhibition by local artist Steve Roberts.

I liked the wood bark  used in the top picture. Notice  also the ' distressed frames '.

The bottom picture shows an imaginative ' heel ' picture.
I hope he enjoyed a successful season.

Art was also in the air, when graphic artist Banksey came into town to display his latest installation upon the corner of a street wall in Cheltenham. Naturally, yours truly,  joined in the fun.

The picture, by the way was a comment by Banksey upon the ' listening' undertaken by nearby GCHQ.


In May visiting Gloucester Docks I espied this Sculpture called the Candle. It measures 21metres in height and is dedicated to the fallen local heroes of war. Around the base is an inscription from the Late Gloucester WW1 poet Ivor Gurney.

" Pour out your bounty, moon of radiant shining
     On all this shattered flesh, these quiet forms;
     For these were slain, so quiet still reclining,
     In the noblest cause was ever waged with arms. "

Inspired, I penned these words shortly afterwards :


For Ivor

Nor trees; nor masts did I espy in
Gloucester Docks; on a drizzled May day.
Rather, afore me, a copper-coloured
spiral candle, reaching upwards to join
the sea-gulls lamenting the departed
Gloucester brotherhood; who wore boots
dripping in Flanders mud and gore.

Looking down to my feet, an extract 
from your requiem for the fallen heroes.

How wonderfully, bloody apt.

Today I bought a shirt made in Vietnam
and wondered at the absurdity of it all.
I felt humbled,to have reached retirement
age, without hearing a shot fired in anger.
Unlike you, Dear Ivor.

You were taken from Cotswold elm and beech
to a battered tree-stumped landscape fashioned
by trench warfare.
No beauty here, no salve for the soul.
Respite only through memories of Severn land.
a shell-shocked return with war-scared thoughts.
withdrawn in '22 from the Shire.
Removed from:
Cotswold scarp and meadow-lands,
alive and vital through  the mind's eye,
able to anoint the paper with flowing prose.
a written legacy in music and rhyme.
Keeping us:
twixt, meadows. hills and woods
savouring Severn-Side as we follow
in your tracks.

The  month took D. and I to Brockhampton Estate.
From where I took this rather appealing tree photo.


In June I was lucky enough to attend three concerts: Royal Philhamonic Orchestra, playing Sir Edward Elgar's Second Symphony (Malvern Festival ) ; The Magic Band (  Fleece Bristol ) and The Eagles (02 London). All were excellent events and  gave me a diverse musical choice. Here are some photos.

The crowded space at the Fleece

An 'Eagle's ' view of the proceedings 

The Malverns which inspired so much of Elgar's music.

Finally in June I wrote these words which I rather like. Obviously on a good day.

A word rubs shoulder with another
And so makes more letter friends
until a phrase is formed
Will it  be useful ?
Can I comma-deer 
And sentence it?

Perhaps, if I am lucky it will
Spawn and extend into
Rhyme and reason.
This happens;

Well that was a little jaunt through the first six months.  The conclusion coming  next week.

Have a great week, remember to get those Christmas Cards written
Cheerio for now


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