The Twelfth Night is the eve of Epiphany, the festival on which we celebrate the arrival of the three wise men at the crib. Although Epiphany falls annually on 6th January, there is an ambiguity which leads to a regular discussion in our household (let’s not call it an argument), as to whether the twelfth day of Christmas (the day by which we must pack away all the Christmas decorations) is actually the day before the twelfth night or the day after – the day before the wise men arrive or the day itself, which can only be the twelfth day of Christmas if the festive period actually starts on Boxing Day.
In my book, the day on which to pack up the decorations is undoubtedly 6th January – because the night before is all about celebration, which makes no sense if we've already taken the tinsel away. In days gone by, the night was so significant that William Shakespeare even wrote a special play to celebrate the occasion. At least I only have to write a short blog…
The Twelfth Night was traditionally an evening of licensed disorder. A ‘Lord of Misrule’ would be appointed, usually someone of low status, in order to impose a temporary inversion of the general order of everything. Servants would dress up as masters, the head of the household would temporarily fulfil the role of a slave. Shakespeare’s play adhered to the traditions of the festival by exploiting a plot device whereby a beautiful girl, called Viola, dresses up as a boy and makes a fool out of everyone – a bit like Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet.
In seems to me that the team at Chelmsford, where racing takes place tonight (the twelfth night), have missed a bit of trick. For one night only, the jockeys should have been allowed to officiate – while the stewards, the judge, clerk of the scales and clerk of the course should have been forced to ride around the track.
Meanwhile, the trainers could have led the horses up in the parade ring, while the stable staff entertained racehorse owners in the bars and restaurants. The ground-staff could have been occupied in the kitchen while the caterers were employed on the track - filling divots can’t be much different from filling vol-au-vents, although one would hope they wouldn’t use prawns and thousand island sauce, because that would just be messy.
I know, I know… they only have to harrow the sand-based track at Chelmsford to level out the divots – but you can’t fill vol-au-vents with a tractor, so I’m assuming that the catering staff would be more comfortable doing the job by hand.
As for this weekend’s selection, I’m relying on Wishfull Dreaming to invert the natural order of the form book by reverting to winning ways in the last race on Sandown’s Saturday card. If racing be the food of love, gallop on!