Thursday 3 August 2023

When I was your age, I could flyyyy…

Race Week 1992: I step off the boat from France, onto Irish soil for the first time. Double Vision starts in print six weeks later, and after thirty one years I’m still inflicting DVs upon you.
Below find one of my most cherished encounters, described in a DV from April 2005, during the Cheltenham Festival.



Stepping out of the Westside bookies I stop in my tracks. Beside my car Betsy the Blue Bubble, another is now parked, and a young woman is helping an older woman out of the back door.

She’s taking her time to emerge, so I hang back.

For once, I’m in no particular rush, and realise that if I walked up to my car now, the lady might feel under pressure, possibly even intimidated or embarrassed.

So I wait at a distance, as gradually she emerges from the silver Nissan in an elegant slow-motion swirl.

Feeling it’s now okay to move closer, I walk towards my car, only to see said woman clutching a healthy wad of €50 euro notes.

She stands for a moment like a statue, as if frozen in mid-run, poised like a predator with scent on the air, her body pointed toward the shops.

As a gun dog at a kill, her head slowly moves along the row of buildings, her eyes scanning for prey.

“It’s over there, Ma, the blue building on the far right!"

A second after assimilating her daughter’s directions, yer wan raises her hand with wad of notes high above her head, and marches at high speed directly towards the bookies,

Any more confident stride I am yet to see.
Poopers! I wish I knew which horse she had!

With a Galway smile etched onto my face, I turn back to the cars, wondering at how great it is to be living in Ireland, where an older lady can feel safe waving her dosh around like that.

Just as I’m about to open my car door, the front door of the same Nissan opens to reveal an older gentleman, who for the life of him looks like he stepped out of an Irish Tourist Board advertisement.

He couldn’t have looked more Auld Ireland.

Impeccable, with tweed jacket, flat hat and blackthorn cane, he turns his freckled lined face to me, and I smile back.

As he talks, his long chin moves up and down.

His eyes betray the weariness of age, although they shine too, with humour and a sparkle of gentle wit.

“Ye’ll have to be patient young man!”

“Oh, absolutely!” says I, not feeling particularly young, and eager to put him at his ease.

“There’s no rush,” I offer, “It’s a lovely day, and the races don’t start for another hour!”

By now he has swung his legs out of the car, and I hesitate to offer a helping hand, because he radiates an atmosphere of individuality and independence.

He stretches out his arms in well-practiced manner, and assuredly lifts himself out and up
onto his feet.

“Ah, yes, everything takes a little longer than it used to…”
he explains, as he turns back into the car to reach for his cane,
“…and on occasion, that can be a very good thing!”

As this septuagenarian’s double entendre sinks into my mind, a coin through jelly, happily surprising me on its merry way, he walks right up to me, engaging me close, eye to eye, his breath on my chin.

“Mind you…” he whispers, somewhere between wistful and a challenge,

“…mind you, when I was your age, I could                                  flyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy..............”

As he exhales the last word, he lifts both his voice and hand high to the sky, and for a second or two, I believe he could.

We stare into the other man’s’ eyes, laugh, and wish each other good luck on the gee gees.

I drive off, thrilled that a gentle encounter with a perfect stranger has left me enthralled; charmed; inspired.



©Charlie Adley