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
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
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.