Whoops…if you’re relocating to London and a faithful follower of my “Weekend Warrior Saturday: What You Can do Today to Prep for Your London Move” series, my sincerest apologies for skipping this week’s. I was off to the races yesterday, sort of…
“H” is for HORSES HIGH-JUMPING HARROWING HEDGES!
Yep, I’m talking about yesterday’s famous British event, the Grand National. The first Grand National horse race was allegedly in 1839, when a horse named Lottery won what was originally called the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase. The Grand National as we know it today continues to be held at Aintree, Liverpool, and it is arguably the world’s roughest ride—a true test of strength and skill for horse and jockey.
Since moving to London in late 2008, my husband and I have made a tradition of viewing this race every April—not from the stands in Liverpool wearing a bonnet, but, rather, from the Sporting Page pub in London wearing a horse head.
Uh…yeah. The Sporting Page is a small, equestrian-themed pub in Chelsea tucked away in the quiet residential streets between Fulham and the Kings Road. It draws a rather posh crowd, especially on Grand National days when the ladies like to doll up as if they’re in attendance at Aintree. Not us, though; we play it pretty casual, with the exception of the huge rubber animal mask that adds class to any occasion. Adding to our tradition of the last three years has then been to move on to Henry J. Beans, right on the Kings Road in Chelsea as you approach Sloane Square from the west. Why we keep going there afterward, I just don’t know. Probably because April in London is the most gorgeous month anywhere that you could enjoy, and Henry J. Bean’s has an amazing beer-garden out back. Otherwise, on the inside it’s your standard American-style bar and grill, complete with ’80s and 90s rock hits blasting over the conversation you strain your voice to maintain among friends.
Anyway, back to the horses and hedges. The Grand National comprises thirty—count ’em—thirty hedge fences that the horses have to jump during this four-mile race, which can last almost ten minutes. This is a race that always leaves me yelping at almost every jump because there are a lot of crashes. This year’s in particular was a difficult one to watch with a huge number of horses falling and jockeys flying. It was so bad that the surviving contenders actually had to run around two of the fences on their second approach because a horse had broken its neck or back at each one during the first round. So, sadly, millions of us watched those two horses die on live television yesterday: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/racing. One of the jockeys is also in critical condition. Hm, in the wake of the bullfight last weekend, I’m starting to see a morbid pattern develop in my weekend recreations…
In any case, horse-racing is a popular tradition here in England, giving the womenfolk plenty of chances to step out in their fine bonnets. The next big event coming up is the Royal Ascot from 14-18 June, which is also a real fashionista event à la My Fair Lady. But, as with the Grand National, Londoners are able to join in locally via their television sets, and the abundance of William Hills and Ladbrokes around here make it easy for you to get in on the betting as well—our friends won £140 yesterday!
As for me, the next hedges I’ll see will be in Hyde Park and Regent’s Park this week, where I’ve made plans to sip coffee and stroll with my friends. You can rent horses and take riding lessons in these London parks, but we’ll keep it to our own two feet and forgo fancy hats for pony tails; that’ll keep it horsie enough. 🙂
Until then, let’s enjoy the rest of our weekend, and good luck to you as you research your London move—it’s so nice outside right now for finding a London apartment to rent!