To Chaddesly Corbett in Worcestershire and the Harkaway Racing Club’s point-to-point. I must remember that racing clubs are interested for the most part in, well, racing, and apparently nothing else. The organisation was chaotic, with lots of horseboxes and traders’ vans arriving early only to be left hanging around waiting for a tractor. By the time a tractor appeared, most traders had given it up as a bad job and gone home.

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The only plus point to this meeting was that it provided me with a good test-run for my new van, a tiny Citroen C15. It was a bit cramped but at twice the mpg, I’m not complaining. The problem with Chaddesley Corbett was apparent by 1pm. There were more races on the race card than race-goers willing to visit my stand. I suspect that the location of the trade stands may have had something to do with the lack of trade, but this cannot entirely explain away the level of consumer indifference. I packed and left having pulled a zero.

The horrid school shootings in the USA explode onto the screen and the press goes into overdrive with its usual knee-jerk response and hysterical screams for across-the-board gun control. I find this troubling. First, the individual who carried out the shootings has, in common with so many of his fellow mass killers, a record of mental health problems. Yet do we hear cries for a policy that forbids people with mental health issues from owning or having access to guns? No. Never. Yet wouldn’t more mental health screening make sense in a culture populated by violent video games, bloodstreams full of drugs and sugar, raging hormones, every ideology and conspiracy theory treated as gospel and even gospel treated as gospel?

Credit Pete Riches

Credit Pete Riches

Still, even out of this bleak news story comes something positive. Our American cousins have suddenly realised what a cock-up they have committed allowing the Land of the Free to be polluted by the presence of ex-tabloid hack and solipsist, Piers Morgan. Morgan’s ‘size-9- in-mouth’ treatment of an NRA representative on his CNN harangue session has led to a nationwide petition requiring this tat-peddler to be expelled from the US. The trouble is no one has been able to find a destination that will accept him, thus potentially opening up a bold new era for space exploration for the UK. Piers Morgan, first Brit on the Moon. Sorry, but due to cutbacks, we couldn’t afford the spacesuit. Just holding that thought for a minute… and now I’m back in the room.

After a filthy New Year cold, to Larkhill and another ‘racing club’ event. This annual meeting usually resembles a re-enactment of Hannibal crossing the Alps – minus the elephants, obviously, but with extra portions of hypothermia and frostbite.

After Chaddesley Corbett, my trading expectations were low. But I was pleasantly surprised. Memories from previous years of traders being frozen to the ground faded as temperatures rose to the heady heights of eight degrees Celsius. A few to begin with, but then in increasing numbers, the race-goers visited the trade stands and started buying. There may be hope for 2013, after all.

On Thursday, I found a squirrel making free with the contents of a dustbin designated by Monmouthshire County Council as being for cardboard only. The athletic little bastard ran up my arm and over my shoulder to avoid the deadly attentions of Mackerel, the Patterdale terrier. However, the terrier was on the ball, and caught the squirrel just before the woodpile and gave it a good going over before the tree-rat escaped to the safety of a nearby hedge, leaving the terrier to take out his frustration on an innocent tennis ball. I collected the cardboard debris resulting from the squirrel’s bid for freedom. Three days later, the terrier is still trying to rid his system of the pieces of tennis ball he managed to swallow before it was confiscated.

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With the unexpected result from Larkhill, I had high hopes for Silverton Foxhounds point-to-point, held at the mysteriously named Black Forest Lodge. A week of weak winter sunshine boded well before the dreaded cancellation notice appeared on Weatherby’s point-to-point website. Waterlogged ground? Good God! It’s the driest it’s been for over six months in Monmouthshire! With enforced unemployment comes a collapse in standards. Instead of taking money from racegoers, I spent much of the Sunday in question sitting on the lawn monitoring the terrier’s increasingly frantic attempts to get within biting distance of the squirrels, which seem now seem to regard my garden as their personal estate.

By one clock I found I was having difficulty in rising from my seat to go and get some lunch. By half past one I had managed to work out why. The contents of demijohn of weapons-grade local cider seemed to have played their part. Summoning up all the swagger of a man on only nodding acquaintance with his knees, I entered the living room to be confronted by the sight of Mrs Moss in relaxation mode. Seated on her sofa, she was keeping her feet warm with a black Labrador (possessing approximately the same IQ as a hot water bottle). Mrs Moss’s attention alternated between 10-year-old repeats of Judge Judy blaring out of the TV and the iPad she was given for Christmas. Even the Labrador is feeling the draught, as internet games, romantic novels and email now take up Mrs Moss’s full attention.

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I thought about picking a fight by slagging off the insurance and charity adverts that infest new year broadcasts. But why? Life’s difficult enough with one arsehole (Sorry, I don’t understand. Is this what your wife says? Ed.) Mrs Moss could rip me a new one as soon as look at me. I retired to the relative safety of the lawn with a second demijohn and struck up an animated dialogue with the terrier. Only a few more days until the next point-to-point at Tiverton and only a couple of weeks until the Shooting Show.

Philip Moss


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