Thursday, 29 January 2015

It's All Greek To Me

When Homer penned the Iliad in about 750BC he included the first ever report of a horse race. I don’t know who won, but I do know that the horses were harnessed to chariots and that the winner’s prize was a “women skilled in women’s work”. It wouldn’t be allowed nowadays of course – but there is still plenty that we can learn from the Greeks.

This week they elected a new Government – one that is challenging the notion that Greek fiscal policy should be dictated by bureaucrats in Brussels. And why not? It was the Greeks who invented democracy about two and a half thousand years ago, so you’d imagine that they might want their votes to count for something.

On Monday Yanis Varoufakis, the new Greek Finance Minister, was interviewed on Radio 4’s Today programme. Having accepted the host’s congratulations by admitting that his country was bankrupt and that he'd “picked up the poison chalice”, he proceeded to quote Dylan Thomas - best known for being a Welsh poet and for winning the 2007 Prix De L'Arc De Triomphe when trained by Aiden O'Brien.

With unusual candour, Varoufakis informed listeners that his party’s pre-election exchanges with Brussels had included “a great deal of posturing on both sides”. Then he announced his startlingly brilliant new idea for debt repayment.

“We want to bind our repayments to our growth,” he said. "We'll make the rest of Europe partners to our success, not our misery." Which got me to thinking: What if I could convince my bank to do the same? I'll repay my mortgage - but only in months when I can beat the bookie. Horse gets beaten a short head: nothing to pay; horse wins at big odds: everyone's a winner! The bank can be a partner in my success, not my misery.

Back in Britain, political matters took an unexpected turn this week when an examination of Green Party policies revealed that they intend to “end the exploitation of animals in horseracing, greyhound racing and all situations where animals are commercially raced".

A spokesman for the British Horseracing Authority felt compelled to comment, "Within an equine population of around a million in Britain, racehorses are among the best looked after two per cent of horses in the country. Welfare standards in racing far exceed those proposed in animal welfare legislation. We fundamentally reject the suggestion that horses bred for racing are exploited." 

Absolutely right. If I were to be reincarnated, my first choice would be to come back as a horse. Not a Trojan one, presented by Greeks as a gift to wary financiers, but a chaser like Kings Palace (this week's selection at Wetherby),
following in the hoof-prints of nearly 3,000 years of history, stuffed with healthy food and pampered every day by an adoring team of stable staff.

Incidentally, if you haven't been to Wetherby, I can thoroughly recommend it - not just because Jonjo Sanderson (the Chief Executive there) asked me to, but also because the staff were so warm and friendly when we visited on a freezing day two weeks ago.  

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