Omar’s Diary 1st April 2017

Today is the 1st April 2017 and I am being very careful not to be fooled by any little tricks Man Servant may try on me today. This morning he has already told me that there are no more Dreamies in Omar Towers as he and Lady Servant have not had time to go to the shops this week to replenish my supplies. This is very disappointing and hurtful that my needs have been overlooked.

Even before the sun was up here in The New Forest Man Servant and I have already taken a quick look through the headlines in The New York Times (TNYT). There was really nothing that indicated that this august paper was trying to fool it’s own readers with some fake news story such as there being a spaghetti harvest or that a farmer in Greece called Aprilius Moron had set his plough and unearthed the missing arm from the Venus de Milo.

The black type headlines on the front page made several references to the family name of ‘Trump’. Man Servant refers to someone of that name as POTUS. There are articles under the name referring to family wealth, political alignment, trade talks, a curse and a parrot. I am sure that J K Rowling could conjure up a wizard story containing all those themes and have Hogwarts relocated to The White House. The name ‘Trump’ appears so often on the front of this paper that one could say it has been well and truly ‘Trumpled’ on.

The reason Man Servant has subscribed to this newspaper is threefold. Up until two years ago it was possible to buy hardcopies of it in the main newsagents here in Ringwood. Man Servant considers himself as a liberal internationalist and although this paper is very American he believes that it provides an objective coverage of major stories here in the UK and Europe. He also believes, and I very much agree with him, that now more than ever there is a desperate need for a free press but that freedom has to be funded and part of that funding must come from people who read the press.

The coverage of the delivering of the Article 50 letter to Brussels earlier this week was treated with a deep respect and analysis that such an historic moment is deserving of. This was in stark contrast to the coverage of this historic moment on BBC Breakfast on the day. Despite its significance for the country and Europe all the two link people on the red couch could talk about was whose pillow the letter was kept under before it was delivered. How trite and dumbed down! This coverage caused both Man and Lady Servant to drop their marmalade, reach for the remote and switch over to Radio Three where they could listen to some Mozart.

This morning the BBC News website has more coverage of the contents of the Article 50 letter mainly in respect to Gibraltar. One of the bedrocks of the LEAVE campaign was to restore Britain’s national identity. In some ways I think this was a harking back to the days when Britain had an empire and ruled the waves. So, what I find most surprising is that the letter to Brussels failed to mention this one last bastion of Empire; Gibraltar. Now, as a result of this omission Spain has threatened to use it as a bargaining chip in the forthcoming negotiations in an effort to regain some sovereignty over the place it lost some three hundred years ago. Oh dear Foreign Secretary BOJO, that is going to be a difficult one to resolve.

Almost as difficult as the standoff I am having this morning with Man Servant about the lack of Dreamies in Omar Towers today.

One subject TNYT regularly is British horse racing.

In Clare Balding’s first book,My Animals and Other Family , she recounted how when her younger brother was at school the class was asked to name the seasons of the year. An eager young hand shot up.

‘Yes Andrew, what are the seasons of the year?’ the teacher asked.

‘National hunt and flat Miss’ was the confident answer.

Today marks the beginning of the 2017 flat season on the turf. There has been flat racing taking place all winter on all weather tracks but today marks the beginning of the new season on the turf which starts at Doncaster in Yorkshire. The first major handicap of the season is the Betway Lincoln (Heritage Handicap) which is to be run at 1535. It is worth £100,000 to fastest of the 22 runners over a mile.

Why is the race called the ‘Lincoln’ when it is run at Doncaster in Yorkshire? Well, in one of those all too many idiosyncrasies that run through not only racing culture but also British culture it is because the race was run at Lincoln from 1849 until 1964 when the racecourse at Lincoln was closed. It was transferred to Doncaster and to be honest ‘The Doncaster’ as a name for the race would not have quite the same tone to it as ‘The Lincoln’ does.

For fun Man Servant and I have studied the form assiduously and have come up with a couple of selections. Our first choice is ‘Third Time Lucky’ which is priced this morning at 14/1 so that would be a fair priced each way bet in this handicap. Our second choice has not used our imaginations at all as it is the 9/2 favourite ‘Yuften’.

I have just found out that I have been April fooled. Just as we finished typing this diary Man Servant waved a fresh bag of Dreamies in front of me saying ‘April Fool Omar’.

Have a nice day everyone and watch out for the tricksters.

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Is this what British politics have become?

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

This expression that lies at the very core of any democratic system has been mistakenly attributed to Voltaire. I say “mistakenly” as when I was researching the actual quote and its source I came across the website “Student Activism” where Angus Johnston has attributed the quotation word for word to Evelyn Beatrice Hall in her biography of Voltaire published in 1906. Her intention with this expression was summarise Voltaire’s thinking on freedom of speech as succinctly as possible.

Earlier this month, March 2017, Lord Heseltine stood and spoke in the House of Lords during the debate on the triggering of Article 50 to commence the process for Britain to leave the EU. He wanted the Act of Parliament to be debated properly in both chambers allowing members of both the opportunity to fully debate the bill and if necessary pass amendments. He spoke expressing his deeply held belief and conviction that the bill should be allowed to follow due constitutional process. His speech was also based on his deeply held belief that Britain should remain in the European Union.

At the time of his speech, 16th March 2017, he held three advisory positions in the Government. These were purely advisory and if the relevant Minister wanted to take the advice or leave it that was entirely their choice. Minutes after the vote, which was against Lord Heseltine’s views he was removed from these advisory roles by the Prime Minister for not following the party whip.

One of my companion books is “Profiles in Courage” by John Fitzgerald Kennedy. This is a collection of extended essays he wrote about American politicians who stood up and spoke according to their beliefs and convictions. They spoke from their conscience rather than the desire to win the next election. Senators, congressmen, Republicans or Democrats are included in this book. It is about how as a result of not following the party line they suffered political and social ostracism. In the final pages is an extract from a eulogy read by Senator William Pitt Fessenden for a fellow Senator about the internal conflicts all politicians in a democratic political system are constantly battling with:
“….of all the ever recurring contest between a desire for public approbation and a sense of public duty….”

After the vote in the House of Lords and his sacking I did write to Lord Heseltine expressing my views about what had happened to him. In his reply, which was a standard letter, as he had read and had to reply to “many hundreds of messages” he said that not only had he received letters of support but a few from LEAVE voters “who in various shades of language, wish me silent. They will be disappointed. A handful have had to be referred to the police.”

Whatever happened to our politics in this country that an elder statesman of the stature of Lord Heseltine receives letters that have to be referred to the police? Whatever has happened to the tenet of the first sentence of this piece? Surely now, after the tragic events in Westminster on 22nd March 2017, Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s paraphrasing of what Voltaire held true has never been a more precious belief, conviction that we should all be committed to protecting, cherishing, nurturing and enhancing for today and all of the todays to come?

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An Each Way Double for Thursday evening

I had a quick canter through the race card for Chelmsford for Thursday 23rd March 2017 and there are two handicaps with horses running that could be an interesting win or each way double.

In the 1820 (British time) there are 15 definite runners.  The cards this evening showed that King’s Julien is doubtful.

My choice in this race is ZEBEDEE’S GIRL priced at 6/1 at the time of writing.  She has had progressive form this campaign showing 6th of 9 over 6 furlongs at this course nad most recently on 8th March was 4th of 12 over 1 mile 2 furlongs.  In this race she was held up at the back then claimed 3rd on the run in only to be overtaken into 4th by less than a length.If backing each way this race only pays out on the first three places at 25%.

In the 1950 there is a wide spread of handicap weights of 12 pounds.  Because INTENSICAL is being ridden by a claimer who is allowed 7 pounds off any weight the handicapper allocates he is well down on the weights and consequently is a strongly fancied favourite priced at 9/4.  If backing each way this race only pays out on the first two places at 25% of the SP’s.

I like a punt but I also like to build in a bit of safety so I would be going for an each double with these two selections but for those of you with the stronger constitution for these things a win double could reap handsome rewards.

Good luck.

 

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Funeral Buddies

My Dad was nearly 93 when he died recently.

It was not unexpected given the combination that he was very old and was suffering from a brain tumour as well.

Following his diagnosis with a brain tumour I had some real quality time with Dad as I was able to see him often. In his final months I could ask him what he did on his twenty first birthday during World War II. He could recount in forensic detail how he drove a Crossley truck across the Rhine on a pontoon bridge at the head of a ten truck convoy. Ask him what he had for lunch that day and he would answer ‘I knew you were going to ask that and I can’t remember.’

This happened a couple of times so I stopped asking him what he had for lunch.

In one of our quality times together we broached the subject of his end of life wishes. His local surgery had given him a pack that included a form to detail these wishes. It felt easy while we were doing it as Dad was very lucid and given suggestions was perfectly capable of making his own rational choices. Rational choices over issues such as ‘Do Not Resuscitate’, organ donation and his funeral service. For his funeral service he wanted to have one exactly the same as Mum’s. The same hymns, same location, cremation and burial of ashes next to hers.

After we finished working through the entire package I got in my car to drive home thinking ‘that went well’. Two minutes later I felt the energy drain from me and although I was not visibly shaking from exhaustion I knew that inside I was. Instead of driving straight home I went to a beech overlooking Poole Harbour that I knew Mum and Dad spent a lot of their time together. I sat on the sea wall looking across The Purbecks trying to find some energy. Just looking at the softly lapping water on the shore. The oyster catchers flitting from one spot to another dipping their bills into the sand for a morsel only worrying about their next meal and not about their parents. And the timeless view across The Purbecks restored me. The ocean is where we came from and so often it is where return for comfort and rejuvenation.

I could never stay long enough on the shore; the tang of the untainted, fresh, and free sea air was like a cool, quieting thought.” – Helen Keller

At least two years passed between Dad and I going through his end of life wishes and when I received the phone call from the hospital that he had passed away.

That plan was a saviour. Dad had made all the necessary decisions. None of us in the family had to ponder over what he would have liked or not liked and then gone into the dark land of self doubt over the correctness for Dad of what we had decided. Everything was in writing. Everything was crystal clear. That clarity was one of the greatest gifts Dad could have left.
Death is one of the two certainties of life. Taxation being the other. We know when our taxes are due but none of us, even those of us with terminal conditions know exactly when that other ultimate certainty will happen. Taxation is a subject we brush to one side; always putting off until tomorrow the preparation of a tax return until tomorrow morphs into the final deadline day As with taxation, death is a subject we brush aside thinking that we know it will happen but are deterred from preparing for it as if any preparation is a recognition of our own very personal mortality. Unfortunately when we reach the deadline of death it is too late to prepare for its arrival. If we miss a tax deadline all that happens is a fine and a chance to correct our behaviour.

My middle brother knew he was under the constant shadow of death due to a heart condition. That did not stop him living and if anyone was a walking talking example of carp diem then he was as perfect as a Michel Angelo sculpture. His life was full of travel, meeting people, keeping in touch with family, making fun for himself and those around him and giving so much of himself to others. On one of his travels with his wife to Spain they stayed at a friend’s farm in the hills above Barcelona. My brother and his ‘best’ friend sat on the terrace smoking cigars and drinking local red wine watching the evening light fade into the darkness of night. On quiet evenings like this with close friends hearts open up to talk about hopes and fears, mistakes and the future. My brother knew his future was limited and his friend knew this as well. That night over some rioja and cigars they both talked about and then wrote down how each of them would look after each other when either of them died. This final wish list went down to the finite details of which music to play during the service and where reception after the service would take place.

When my brother’s wife phoned me about his sudden death she told me about his best friend and gave me his contact details. I spoke to him. He told me about the arrangement made that night in Spain and all I had to do was look after my parents to make sure they got the funeral. The ‘arrangement’ mentioned the best friend looking after everything for my sister in law from providing her with good comfort to sorting out the legalities surrounding his death.

The ‘best’ friend was in fact a ‘best man’ but for a funeral instead of a wedding.

This ‘best man’ arrangement made my sister in law’s life much easier at a very stressful than it would have been if my brother had not made any arrangements. It was hard work for the ‘best man’ but he told me that it was the least he could do for his own, very own best friend.

When my mother died neither of my parents had made any plans so Dad and I more or less had to wing it. I was with him when he collected her ‘Cause of Death Certificate’ from the hospital along with the impersonal green bag of her last few possessions which some three years after her death lies unopened in a wardrobe in Dad’s flat. We had to find our own way through registering the death and then making funeral arrangements. Dad was in dep shock even though Mum had been ill for years. So, if he had been by himself how on earth would he have coped. I had to be his ‘best man’ for Mum’s funeral. It was the first one I had organised so I did my best but it may not have been my best.

It was being in that situation with Mum and Dad that helped me to help Dad with his end of life wishes when the opportunity arose. As a result it has been possible to lay the foundations a funeral in less than a day in time spread over two days including speaking to dad’s vicar about her role at the funeral.

So, based on this highly personal experience I cannot suggest strongly enough, implore and even plead with anyone who reads this article to take some time out of denying their own mortality, find someone who could be your ‘best man’ or ‘best woman’ for your own funeral and sort out some plans including writing up a will.

Being that organised will be the best legacy anyone can leave behind for their friends and family.

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Martin Gale’s Racing selections for Saturday 3rd February 2017

As the weather looks inclement for tomorrow the opening day of the Six Nations Rugby Championship Martin Gale is concentrating his selections on the all weather racing taking place at Lingfield Park.

No hanging around here, no in depth analysis, just four quick selections for you to follow while the rain batters against your windows:

1250 SALEH (5/1)

1325 MISS TIGER LILLY (5/1)

1430 BURNING THREAD (7/1)

1540 HEADSPACE (5/1)

To keep an interest for this sort of selection Martin Gale normally places a ‘Lucky Fifteen’ which puts all of the four horses in a series of singles, doubles, trebles and one four horse accumulator.  This Lucky Fifteen can also be placed as an each way giving the punter thirty bets.

Good luck.

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Omar’s Diary for Friday 3rd February 2017

On Sunday, Trainer Servant  made a house visit and stayed for dinner. That I did not mind as he is very kind to felines like myself although I have not given him the privilege of picking me up yet. That will come later and will be entirely on my own terms. What I do mind is that Trainer Servant insists on bringing his canine named ‘Annie’. Her breeding may be excellent but oh my goodness does she need to learn some manners.

Firstly, it is not the best of form when one is a guest in a house to pursue the number one feline, me, cornering me on the telephone table in the hallway. Secondly, it is most uncouth to beg for titbits from the dinner table. It just looks so degrading and is something I, a well-bred feline, would never in my wildest dreams ever consider doing. Even for the most delicious morsel that happened to appear on the Servant’s table.

annie

Annie – the Welsh Terrier – no manners at all

The Servants were away the other night and so Chav and I were looked after by Itinerant Lady Servant  who served our breakfasts. This is a most welcome change in the routine as normally my Servants are up very early and serve feline breakfast at about six or six thirty. This is just too early as at this time of day it only seems like a few minutes ago that I have hung up my smoking jacket and retired for the night. No, nine in the morning is a much more civilised time for breakfast for the well-bred feline like myself and the Chav just has to fit in with the rest of the household as far as meal times are concerned.

I understand that while the Servants were away that Man Servant got into a spot of bother with Lady Servant. From what I gather he was being the perfect gentleman, wherever they were, by telling Lady Servant he would bring her smart clothes from the car for her to change into somewhere in the dry.. The day they were away it did rain an awful lot. Man Servant took her bag out of the car and placed it on the pavement. He then took his out of the car, locked it and proudly walked into the coffee shop where Lady Servant was waiting. She took her bag and went off to change. All was good until she returned to their seats still wearing her casual clothes.

‘My clothes are soaked!’

‘How?’

‘Look, the bag, it’s soaked, my trousers, my sweater and my blouse for this morning….all soaked!’

What happened was that Lady Servant’s bag is a light canvas holdall and when Man Servant put it down on the wet pavement the bag made quite a decent effort to dry up a puddle outside the coffee shop.

Oh dear, it does sound like things were a bit stressed.
Lady Servant rushed around the charity shops and managed to recover the situation.

Man Servant apparently said that she looked smarter than she would have in the original choice of clothes. What was he thinking after all those years reading about diplomacy? My self, personally, I would not even have thought of saying that sort of thing. I gather the drive home was very quiet that afternoon.

This morning they were both away early looking very tired.
Recently Man Servant bought a subscription to an online newspaper. Without divulging which paper, I hasten to add that it is a quality one that when he does buy a copy is still in broadsheet format. This means that I can no longer peruse a paper of such good standing as often as I would like to. So, I have to make do with the free ones that come through the letter box. The local paper is mildly interesting and did get rather heated correspondence leading up to the BREXIT referendum and just after. The publishers blocked all letters raising such high political issues just before Christmas. Instead the letters are much more local on subjects such as the bus service. Doesn’t affect me as I have my own limousine and chauffeur. Ideas for reorganising the traffic. Doesn’t affect me. Then there are the short articles about achievements at local schools and local sports teams. All very important but I must admit quite parochial.

I do hope when Man Servant is out and about over the weekend that he does bring home a decent newspaper as I really do want to catch up with what is happening in the wider world.

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Omar’ Diary for 29th December 2016

Bank holiday Sunday

Pointed toilet paper, weight based insults and a model

Man Servant was awake and up early this morning. He even managed a short walk to the local shops which most sadly did not yield any Dreamies for me which although it is nice to see him up and about my disappointment outweighed my pleasure. Lady Servant had to go off to something called ‘Work’ whatever that is. A big red car collected her and took her away.

Her absence gave Man Servant and myself the opportunity to enjoy some shared quality and feline servant bonding time. He sat down with a cup of coffee and I had a few Dreamies from my now rapidly diminishing supply. He spread his newspaper, The Times or Old Thunderer as it used to be nicknamed when all newspapers came from Fleet Street.

I was deeply offended when Man Servant drew my attention to an article on the front page headed ‘Middle in denial over alcohol and weight’. I know I might be a member of the ‘middle aged’ set but I definitely do not partake of alcohol. As for being overweight I keep informing servants that my adequate bulk is adequate for me and is my breed standard. My muscular structure may be a tad relaxed at the moment but I am not overweight.

paper-20130319_144447-1

In the letters page there has been a debate running about why hotels fold the end of the toilet paper into points. Both Lady and Man Servant are quite well travelled and thought it was a way of showing that a room had been serviced. Apparently this is not the reason. It is done this way to assist sight impaired servants to find the end of the roll. Felines do not use toilet paper even if we do have en suite facilities and anyway, where we would dispose of it? Oh yes I remember, we have servants to do that sort of thing.

Horse training servant made a house visit today to Omar Towers. I was very comfortably ensconced on the sofa and he sat down right beside me. The last servant to do this went away with some scratches. When this particular servant sat down he looked at me and mentioned how good looking I was so I really could not be bothered to put up any resistance until I heard the comment:

‘He’s big.’

I may be big but as I have mentioned on more than one occasion I conform to breed standards.

I gave a reactionary stretch to try and push him off the sofa. It didn’t work so I curled up and tried to get back to sleep which was fine until I heard:

‘I can’t see which end is which, where’s his head?’

That was it! I gave one huge stretch and managed to get my hind claws into his flesh. Two seconds later he was making polite comments about having to rush off back to his farm to get some work done.

Lady Servant returned to Omar Rowers and we all settled down for a cold winter’s evening in. While Lady Servant was watching the TV Man Servant brought out a model making kit which was one of his Christmas presents. He laid all the shiny and brightly coloured parts out on the table. Temptation exceeded self-discipline and I just could not resist getting on to the table and look at all the little parts.

omar-and-the-models

‘Oh look’ Lady Servant said ‘he wants to join in and help.’

‘Oh no I don’t’ I thought.

Lady Servant won’t be quick enough to intervene to prevent disaster and I know Man Servant won’t be able to lift me because of his surgery so the paw came out to touch one set of parts to gauge reactions.

‘Omar! Leave it, I can see what you are up to’ Man Servant said.

I then swiped my paw at the smallest shiny parts I could see. They were scattered across the carpet. Before man Servant could react I then took another swipe at some bigger parts. These too went across the carpet. Man Servant was much distressed. Lady Servant just smiled and said something very placatory about me not being given the opportunity to join in. Man Servant harrumphed under his breath as he scrabbled around the floor looking for all the dispersed parts.

‘I think I’ll leave it until tomorrow. I will need an extra tool from my box in the garage…….goodness knows how they think an eight year old could build that model’ Man Servant declared as he put all the little parts back into a plastic bag.

Our evening finished with Man Servant checking the weather for the next day. One weather site said that the overnight temperatures will be above freezing.

‘Good, that means that I do not have to scrape the ice off the car tomorrow morning for my first drive in two week’ Man Servant said.

And so the day ended with Man Servant looking forward to a frost free morning.

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