This, That and the Other with Hastings Battleaxe

The This is a flat white. The That is manic Battleaxe thoughts on issues of the moment, including the Grand National, Starmer, Tories, Trump and other similar horrors. And the Other? An outing where I have not taken a single photo – a lovely trip to Lamb House in Rye with my WI Book Club chums.

So, prepare to yawn through bursts of mind-numbing trivia. Above are flat white coffees. Coffee has been a great trouble to Battleaxe (and Philospher, for that matter). Battleaxe likes a coffee in the morning, but so often when you go out the liquids you are given are either weak as dish-water or far too strong and bitter. Often, too, I like mine decaff… For years had stuck with Americano, then Cappucino, but there you just get a layer of chocolate flavoured froth on top of the underlying dish-water, bitterness etc. Lattes are too big and milky. When we were in Spain and Portugal we asked for either ‘café com leite,’ or ‘café con leche’. (Further trivial aside. Why are Spanish and Portugese languages so different? Portugese seems the most difficult to learn. But up in Northern Spain, Galacia, where we were, much is in Galacian, which favours ‘x’ all over the place…sigh.). Anyway, coffee abroad. We were given smallish cups of mellow, very frothy coffee – frothy all through. When we came back we started asking for flat whites. Eureka!

Phew, enough of that, they cry. The world is going to hell in a handcart and all you can do is rabbit about coffee? So. let’s swiftly move on….

How many horses died or were injured in the 2023 Grand National? - Wales Online

to the Grand National, which this year was disrupted by animal rights protesters. One horse died. Now, sadly, horses is one of the many, far, far too many, topics where Battleaxe imagines herself qualified to put forward an opinion. As I have probably mentioned, I was a pony-mad child, had my own pony for a bit, and when I grew up in Ireland my parents were very keen on racing. We’d go to unregulated point-to-points and I saw horses fall over impossible fences and quite probably get killed in front of my impressionable little girl’s eyes. So, am no sentimentalist, and I love horses. But, let’s look at some of the spurious nonsense you see on the media, from both sides of the argument.

Firstly, the ‘Let’s abolish all horse-racing’ line. No, sorry, if that happened, so many thousands of horses would go for slaughter (many more than do already) and the beautiful Thoroughbred, as a breed, would die out. The racing industry, which is massive, would vanish. ‘But it would get rid of all that gambling’. No it wouldn’t. Those folks who enjoy/feel compelled to gamble would find something else. Pooh-sticks or something. They may as well bet on horses.

‘But all racing is dangerous for the horses’.  Well, maybe. More horses will die at home, in their fields, on the roads (far too many). ‘They are forced to race.’ No, false. Horses, except maybe for the fattest and laziest ponies, like running. (But even the fattest and laziest likes to gleefully take off with an unsuspecting small child on its back and head for low-hanging trees…) Thoroughbreds are bred to race. So yes, they do enjoy it – up to a point… see later. There is another spurious argument here.. ‘you can tell they love it by the way they carry on racing after unseating their rider’. No, horses are herd animals. They run with the herd. It’s instinctive, and many poor creatures hurt/kill themselves in their attempts to keep up.

‘Those horses live like royalty. They get five star treatment.’ Of course they do. Why wouldn’t they? They are incredibly expensive, valuable items. You could hardly keep a horse in the back garden, feed it table scraps and expect it to run in the Derby. Anyway, the argument about how well horses are kept at home is totally irrelevant to them dying on the racecourse. But trainers etc keep trotting it out… ridiculous. Mind you, many horses will be drugged to enable them to compete when they are unfit, and trainers also use nasty things like tongue straps – see this. Read the link if you don’t know what that is. The racing fraternity maintain that of course horses don’t mind racing with an elastic band strapping their tongues to their lower jaws, and the practice is quite legal in the UK,  but come on, tell the truth, it is cruel. I read that tongue-strapping is banned in some other countries, eg Germany. Ban it here too, says Battleaxe.

‘The Grand National is an unnecessarily dangerous race, run for money and the cheap gratification of the masses.’ Unfortunately, this is true. Some token measures have been taken to reduce the danger, but not enough.  The Grand National fences are still the highest anywhere, and Aintree is a dangerous course, with sharp turns – the horses take some fences at an angle, causing them to bunch together at the inner corners of the fences. The current field of 40 horses is far too big. Statistics show that most horses come to grief at the first few fences, before the field thins out. Although they have tinkered with the entry requirements, too many still enter who have no hope of winning. Make the criteria more stringent, and drastically reduce the field number, says Battleaxe. The start is a disorderly mess that stresses the horses. That needs sorting. Some say, further reduce the size of the fences. Possible,but I don’t think that would help – they’d just rush at the fences faster. Some horses are pushed beyond their comfortable endurance limit by use of the whip. Ban whips, says Battleaxe. Of course, the racing fraternity argue that whips are needed for ‘safety’. No.

Finally, ‘that horse died because of the protestors.’ No. The trainer said it was ‘hyper’ before the race, because of the delay. At a normal Grand National the horses have the delaying business of the parade, the National Anthem etc. They don’t know the difference between one type of delay and another. If the trainer felt the horse was unusually upset it should not have run.  Jockeys are sufficiently experienced to hold their horses back if they are approaching a fence too fast. That horse was presumably hampered in a crowded field, and broke its neck.

Phew, enough of that. The world is going to hell in a handcart and all you can do is talk about horse-racing? Get a life, Battleaxe. Move on.

This is Keir Starmer's moment — but victory is not yet assured | Financial Times

Superman Starmer? We wish. For goodness sake man, get your finger out. It is so horrible to imagine but I can see those dastardly Tories winning again… But as I have said before, it is hard for Labour/Starmer to know what to do. The Tories will just pinch whatever ideas they come up with before the election. In addition, as the country will be totally bled dry by the time when/if Labour wins power, the mind boggles what they could tackle first… with no resources. But still, I think Starmer needs to be braver, clearer, more visionary, and to stop pandering to right-wing nonsense.

One of the zillion things that puzzles me about politics is this. On the one hand, you see Trump ‘arrested’, the loathsome likes of Raab and Johnson subject to various forms of enquiry, yet somehow we we never hear the results of these until absolutely ages after the events, when the pots have safely gone off the boil. When you have a trial in court, the jury come back with the verdict and there you go. When I used to help with disciplinaries at work, you could scarcely leave deciding on the cases for months and months… you had to decide and act.  How can you put off delivering verdicts until ‘after the election’ or whatever? It is obvious why they do it, but wny do they get away with it?

Trump-wise, I’m glad we are not liberal-minded Americans. That would be worse than being British, awful though this is. If politically, the Americans carry on like they are, they are opening themselves up to China and Russia, fatally weakening the West – it endangers all of us. Why can’t the fools see that? And just don’t get me started on abortions, guns etc…

Lamb House | Sussex | National Trust
Lamb House – off the National Trust web site

Oh, move on. Trip to Lamb House in Rye. Sadly it was a wet day, so we couldn’t go out in the garden. For those who don’t know, Lamb House is best known as being the home of writer Henry James. Confession time – Battleaxe has never managed to finish a Henry James novel. It is a smallish property, but interesting.  I have been to the house three times before – back in 2018, and in 2016, for some readings with Miriam Margolyes, and another early Book Club outing in 2014. Sadly, now, the little tearoom has closed down.

This time, we all went on the bus – with our bus passes of course, and on arrival, had coffee in Jempsons. Despite Battleaxe’s on-going battle with stubborn weight, one of her friends said: ‘Take your pleasures where you can, Steph’, so of course that immediately translated into a jam doughnut… Then, on to a yummy lunch in Haydens. Felt so full could only face an apple for tea….






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