A racehorse trainer wanders through empty stands and paddocks amid the ghosts of past revelry – mostly just glad to be there at all.
She was not there. Where we meet every year, there was nothing but a muddy corner of a deserted car park. We see each other for only five days a year, but we greet with a hug and a kiss. And she ensures that I have the pick of the cornflowers that sit amid the myriad display of colour on her stall. I looked where she always is, and it was sad to see nobody there.
They were not there. The rows of cars that have nudged and edged their way into their usual drop zones in the owners and trainers car park and have spilled their contents onto immaculate tablecloths. Tables that groan under the weight of the finest wines and champagnes. Plates filled with smoked salmon, prawns, dressed crabs and oysters. Fillets of beef and vast saddles of ham. I looked where my friends always are, and it was sad to see nobody there.
It was not there. The tented village where that magical and much-missed pre-parade ring used to be. No White’s, no Turf, no Brook’s or the Garrick. No Jockey Club or Royal Ascot Racing Club. No champagne bar abuzz with the beautiful and the louche and the downright decadent. No laughter as another cork heads skywards. No waves and smiles from old friends seated in the sun around white tables covered in bottles, racecards, tattered newspapers, fag packets and iced coffee. I looked where my friends always are, and it was sad to see nobody there.