Saturday, April 30, 2011

The English Horse Races!

I can't begin to tell you how excited I was for my first British horse race. This was to be a highlight of our visit to London

For the uninitiated, my family is horse mad with most of my youth spent riding horses and many happy family outings to the track.  I was happy to take this obsession England side on our latest adventure and was ready to loo fancy while still going a but berserk.
"C'mon! Go number 6! 
RUN Devil's Horn! 
Get after him Johnson!"

I was particularly excited as the English really do it up. As generally sloppy Americans, the races are attended in the ubiquitous jeans & a t-shirt with plastic cups of budweiser beers being marked up to to $7.  

Not so for the Engs. Locally brewed cider, pims (which we still missed trying-next time), ales, and bitters are on hand for the same price you'd find in a pub. And the hats! For everyone who saw The Wedding (you know what I am talking about- don't act like you didn't watch the royals get it on), you are now well aware they are into hats. Feather hats, bowler hats, big hats, teensy hats were on display. I actually quite liked them and think I will be looking for one of my own. 

The most important difference, however, is the racing. In the US race tracks are common, but jump racing is not. Our horses run almost exclusively on dirt and flat on the ground. The races we were going to see were Jump races. 

Important Differences between flat & National Hunt (NH):

  • Weights: Flat jockeys in the UK are expected to ride at weights between 7st 5lbs (103lbs) and 10st (140lbs). NH jockeys on the other hand carry weights between 9st 7lbs (133lbs) and 12½ stone (175lbs). Many people think that a jockeys height is important; it is not possible to be too tall for racing, but ability to do weight is a must.
  • Distances: Flat racing occurs between distances of five furlongs and two and a half miles. Jump racing occurs over distances of two miles to four and a half miles.
  • Start: Flat racers begin races from a starting stall, which is much like humans starting running events from blocks. They ensure an accurate, fast start (whether or not runners or riders wish to take them up on that is another matter!) However, jump races begin with a flip start, involving a tape spreading across the track, and being dropped: a level start is not quite as important in jump racing due to the longer distance of the race.
  • Falls: Falls happen more in NH racing (for obvious reasons!). Jump jockeys generally have shorter careers than their flat racing colleagues due to the higher chances of falls - jump jockeys are reported to fall, on average, once in every 12 rides.
  • Titles: Jockeys who are new to either types of racing are allowed to take a bit of weight off their horses back - this makes up for their lack of experience and will hopefully encourage trainers to use the services of a newcomer on some of their horses. The majority of riders are able to claim 7lbs at the beginning of their careers, although in some circumstances, riders can take upto 9 or 10lbs off their horses back. Once a rider has achieved 15 winners, he drops to claiming 5lbs, i.e. with greater experience, the jockey can no longer ride with such a useful weight allowance. Many claimers drop from 7lbs, to 5lbs, and then to 3lbs: once they reach a total of 90 winners, they lose any claim they had. Jockeys who are open to these weight allowance in flat racing are called apprentices, in jump racing, these people are called conditionals. Many people term them as (7lb/5lb/3lb) claimers.
  • Season Length: The flat racing season begins in March and ends in November. Here after, flat jockeys either ride abroad, or stay to compete on the All Weather racing circuit. Jumps racing has no such 'holiday' - NH racing occurs throughout the year, although summer jumps racing does not generally run at the high level of the winter months.
  • Money: Riding fees in jump racing are greater than in flat racing. NH jockeys earn approximately £115, while their flat colleagues earn about £85
I could barely contain myself as we took the train out there and actually walked across the course to reach the grandstands from the train station.

English Horse Racing
Parade Arena on a gorgeous day
grass racetrack
Walking on the course to get to the stands.

Sir Ian

English Horse Racing Steeplechase
First Pass

Steeplechase English Horse Racing
Final Jump


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cambridge: Quaint as F@#%

A lot of people seemed surprised we chose Cambridge over Oxford, but for us it seemed natural. Knowing we were going to be spending the majority of our time in London, a city we had at least briefly visited before, we wanted to see something different. And while Oxford is a legitimate city, Cambridge is kinda a prestigious yet sleepy college town. Perfect, we thought. Someday we will back & probably explore Oxford, but I can't say we were wrong in our estimations of what we would find in Cambridge.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ian tries to Speak British

Had a lovely time in Cambridge & have just arrived in London. Ian is having a grand time picking up the local accent.

Ian Porter Everybody!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Booking Activities in England

We re-focused, got our shit together, and are almost ready for England. Kinda.

We discovered Groupon UK which people have been onto for eons and it is saving us loads of money. We are going to Sandown Park for jump racing for 19 pounds - which includes entrance into the premier section, 10 pound food voucher, and a 2 pound bet. Sounds like a dream date to me. Nice try wooing me Ian, I'm already your wife! Sucker.

We have also come upon some fascinating booking options. First, our booking for Hamlet at the Globe Theatre on Easter:

Has to be a joke, but we were dying to pit Baroness, Colonel, or Princess Ian for our title.
Then again, maybe it's not a joke. Europeans in general are obsessed with title (see Royal Wedding). In Germany, it is correct to use every title a person holds, like:
"Good evening Herr Professor Doktor Schmidt!"

Another encounter we have had in booking is investigating how to get to Sandown Park- the racetrack. Our poor asses will be heading there by the cheapest means possible. The very helpful website also included the most expensive, by helicopter:

Oh England, I can't wait to become better acquainted.

Really crazy excited about the horse racing. There is barely anything but flat Thoroughbred racing in the States (which I love) but man, oh man I can't wait for this. Count how many times a riderless horse is in the top 3:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bad Habits in Trip Planning

Ian & I have the bad habit of planning a trip...and then planning another on top of it. We are heading to England over Easter,  but his dad just booked his tickets to visit in Berlin so now we are busy planning his travel arrangements and side trips to Denmark & Italy. The problem?

  • Do we have a place to stay in Cambridge? NO
  • Do we know what horse track has steeplechases during this holiday weekend? NO
  • Do we know if the Roald Dahl museum is closed? NO
  • Do we know how to get from Stanstead to Cambridge? NO
  • Do we know if we should take the train or bus in & out from the airport? NO
  • Are all of our dishes washed? Again, a resounding NO
Need to get back into that Engy excitement. This may seem as if it would have the opposite effect, but I am going to explore some English cuisine and culture to get my Brit back.

Friday, April 8, 2011

It's the Little Differences

Just got back from a grocery run and one of those little differences Ian & I just can't get past occured.

Woman with a cart was running all over the store. About 10 min after she pushed (literally) past  us, I saw her knock a champagne bottle to the floor. Wet floor & glass = instant the US. There is much to be said about the negative effect of our litigious history, but this seems like common sense. Not so for German Netto clerks. Another 10 minutes and it's still there. We even have to tromp through this slick glassy patch to get to the register.  We watch two little boys slip in it and barely escape falling on the glass as we stack our items on the conveyor belt. Thinking maybe they just didn't know, Ian asked if she was aware. A simple "Ja" cemented it- FEND FOR YOURSELVES!

As I said, it's the little differences 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

These are my People

My dad is actually first generation American. His parents and older brother were all full-bloodied Eng. And despite that, all 4 boys could not even imitate their parents accent. Seriously!? Alfred's accent seemed so exotic and sophisticated, which is something for a man that was fist fighting well into grandpa-dom.

Despite frequent goadings, my dad & uncles are vague in the extreme about their parents. Some of our favorite stories are well preserved

(the family friend of a mafia man my grandma wouldn't let in the house; the theft of a farmer's pig while my grandpa held the title of "game warden";
the terrible driving due to the loss of one eye in "the war";
the battles with rooster "Rambo" in his California suburb)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Berlin- Then & Now

Incredible pictures of Berlin 
images merged between 1945 & today.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Beautiful Berlin Brunch

Out to brunch with Ian today and had one of those moments (as the sun was shining, brunch halfway in our bellies, band played) that reminded us of why we are living in Berlin.

Sorry for the shaky quality. Trying not to throw off the cool vibe of the place, yet I am sure we did. I am mostly unremorseful as we are still stuffed with greek dolmades,  cous cous, crepes, fruit, chicken nuggets, stuffed peppers, fried mushrooms, pasta salad, variety of cheeses, chicken wings, caprese salad, and giant milchkaffee. How I love the Germans loose connection with "traditional" Brunch foods.

We're Back in Berlin Ja!

We're Back in Berlin Ja!
ebe & ian at Yak-toberfest 2008