Derby Day and soppy stuff about my family


Derby Day is another book that I’m not sure I would have gone for if I wasn’t doing this challenge but that I ended up really enjoying. The seedy Victorian world of rigged betting and bill broking is magnificently conjured. I don’t know the period well enough to vouch for accuracy but this is a novel that breathes authenticity whilst wearing its erudition admirably lightly. I get highly irritated by novels that regurgitate research at me in tailored chunks. None of this here; the setting and language are woven neatly into a faultlessly smooth narrative.
I started it in London and finished it in the garden of my parents’ house in Cornwall. Then after an hour or so at the beach we wheeled my little boy around until he went to sleep and then we went for lunch.
I’ve been thinking since my previous post about how certain books make you want certain drinks. It is the same with food. I ordered the whitebait, only then realising that I’d been fancying it since reading about Mr Pardew and Jemima eating it in Richmond. (Mr Pardew is a very bad lot indeed.)
Over lunch we discussed the book.
‘Is it about the actual Derby?’ My dad asked.
‘Yes, and trying to make lots of money by not letting your own horse win. It was all very crooked.’
‘Still is.’ He said.
I crunched through my whitebait and watched the sun shine on the maritime museum as we reminisced about how we used to go to the races a lot when we still lived in our pub in Yorkshire. We talked about the time that Albert had his pocket picked at Ebor Day and the Geordie lads who had spent all their money and were eating wasps in return for beer outside The King’s Arms in York.
Last night at dinner we were listening to The Dubliners when The Galway Races came on.
‘This is a bit like that book,’ said my Dad. ‘About all the life at the races.’
I’m typing this now on my phone, eating a bowl of fruit that my mother has made for me. My little boy is doing coloring with his granny and my dad is pottering around singing bits of The Galway Races. ‘There were people from Cork City who were loyal, true and faithful…’
Which he is. And is.
The sunshine has vanished and the rain is slating down. There will be no beach today and our ferry trip to St Mawes is off but I as am happy as a girl can be in a house full of books and with three out of the four people that I love best in the world with me.

The photo is of the garden in the rain. Yesterday I was out there reading under the tree and feeling like Anne of Green Gables.

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