So this time I was determined to have a proper break. I was to go and stay with my most beloved cousin, in her delightful and comfortable house, and then have a week at Cheltenham. It was to be a thing of light and luxe.
Holiday, schmoliday. In the week running up to the festival, I woke at dawn, sitting bolt upright at 6am, immediately thinking whether Bobs Worth or Silviniaco Conti would win the Gold Cup. I kept making mad dashes into Cirencester to order the special Cheltenham Guide from the very understanding people at Waterstone’s, and to buy a spanking new pair of binoculars from the lovely camera shop, which is manned by experts who understand every nuance of the lens.
Then obviously I had to try and re-try all my Cheltenham outfits, and keep a running eye on the weather forecast. As the cold fronts came roaring in, special new thermals were ordered in from John Lewis, to be despatched by overnight express. (That really was a sort of miracle. I was sitting in Gloucestershire, tapping my credit card number into my keyboard, at seven at night, and the vital articles arrived the next day at 7.30am. No wonder John Lewis is practically the only retailer in Blighty that retains its national treasure status through thin and thick.)
By the time the great Tuesday of the Festival dawned, I was a nervous wreck. I was convinced all my ante-post bets were nonsense, that my absurd scarlet hat with the pheasant feather would not work, and that my lovely suede boots would give me blisters. I was necking iron tonic like it was going out of fashion. (Actually, iron tonic has not been in fashion since about 1937, although I can hardly walk a yard without it.)
In the end, it was all worth it. I had driven 550 miles specifically to see the mighty Sprinter Sacre in the flesh, the first time I had the chance to do so. He did not let me down. He was a Stubbs picture of equine grace and brilliance, and, in the first glancing sunshine of the week, he romped home to an imperious nineteen-length victory over the finest horses of his generation. My two Irish darlings, Hurricane Fly and Quevega, stormed up the hill, inspiring such waves of emotion that I burst into tears and flung my arms around a perfect stranger. The brave and bonny little Bobs Worth, a small horse with the heart of a titan, roared home in the Gold Cup, with my money on his bold back. I saw an array of the most beautiful thoroughbred horseflesh in the isles of Britain and Ireland, and shouted until my throat was raw. The hat went literally and metaphorically into the air.
Now all I need is a little holiday to get over my holiday.