It was good to hear the unmistakable tones of veteran racing commentator Peter O'Sullevan on the radio this morning, talking about Cheltenham. Prompted by the interviewer, O'Sullevan recalled that he had his first winning bet at the age of 10, when he backed Tipperary Tim in the 1928 Grand National. That race was run on very heavy ground, in thick mist, and in the course of it every single horse fell and/or unseated its rider - except the 100-1 shot Tipperary Tim, who duly ran home the winner, followed by just one other finisher, whose rider had managed to reseat himself. Oddly enough, my father too had taken a punt on Tipperary Tim. He was then working as an apprentice in an engineering works (his father having refused to countenance a university education) and his colleagues were mightily impressed by his sporting acumen, pestering him for tips for some while after, until they realised it had been no more than a lucky fluke.
Peter O'Sullevan celebrated his 97th birthday earlier this month, and hearing him put me in mind of another great nonagenarian who is happily still with us - Richard Wilbur, whose 94th birthday fell a couple of days before O'Sullevan's 97th. As it's Friday (?), it's time we had a poem, so here is a slight, witty little piece by Wilbur, one that at once celebrates art and the casual disregard of art...
The good gray guardians of art
Patrol the halls on spongy shoes,
Impartially protective, though
Perhaps suspicious of Toulouse.
Here dozes one against the wall,
Disposed upon a funeral chair.
A Degas dancer pirouettes
Upon the parting of his hair.
See how she spins! The grace is there,
But strain as well is plain to see.
Degas loved the two together.
Beauty joined to energy.
Edgar Degas purchased once
A fine El Greco, which he kept
Against the wall beside his bed
To hang his pants on while he slept.