It's nice to have things to look forward to, and for me the annual boys trip to Cheltenham is an annual highlight. Gold Cup day, full on Guinness fest, no pretension about being any good at the form, betting etc, what we are good at is tradition, not any tradition but our own. Founding members, myself and Wally have seen 5 Gold cups come and go now, each one surpassing the last, membership swelled to 5 (including the newly appointed C.o.c.k, Cheltenham organising committee kaiser). How does the day run, 2 or 3 planning lunches over the year, a debrief, motions discussed, roles allocated (life chairman is my role) potential expansions of membership (none planned) and then away we go. Meeting at New Street around 9:15 we are resplendent in Tweed, (jacket and cap) jumper, shirt, jeans, hip flask feeling like we are ready for the races. A trip on the 45 minute train ride where we make a few motions towards getting ready for the races, we download racing apps, we look for names we like, text our mates and generally talk bollocks. The train is always packed, we seem to always get a table, and the mood is jovial. Hitting Cheltenham Spa, we eschew the buses for a brisk walk, recounting past glories, tales of daring and interestingly why on earth Barry Norman (of TV film critic fame) has a range of pickled onions. This is to get us ready for the first Guinness of the day, at The Bayshill pub. A cracking pub, Stone Roses playing on entry to the front bar, swift Guinness, self congratulatory comments about how well we are doing, then on to Wetherspoons for a big breakfast, toast, sausages, fried egg, Guinness, hash browns, tomato, bacon, and other sundry things on a massive plate. This meal (one of two of the day) fortifies us for the march to the Race Course. Picking up various free stuff on the way, of special mention this year were the William Hill scarves, excellent quality, obviously a fine bookies, judging by the tat ones dished out by bet fair. Passing touts galore, Comic relief buckets and one or two Lucky heather sellers we get to the gates, A4 paper tickets printed on line concerned us momentarily compared to the badges others sported but we sailed in, and headed for the Black and White village that is Guinness. Weather could have been better, pissed down for the first couple of races - so we hid in the tent, sending runners to put on (losing) bets for me, however the pot (£10 in from each of us) was doing surprisingly well. An amazing highlight was Walshy and Coatsy bumping into Wills and Kate, "bonjour" and we had it confirmed that our future queen is stunning in real life. Wills done good. But by now we were into the vicious cycle, Guinness, bet, watch race, tear up slip, Guinness. In fact such a tight schedule inside the 30 minutes that our hip flasks were essential. A mixture of fine whiskey (Planty) to cooking Brandy (Coatsy) and my JD. Watching the races live on the rails, the horses are huge, Cheltenhams massive, and the hill to the finishing line is punishing. The most shameful thing though was being in front of the horse that was spooked, 5 metres from the line, clear, and threw its rider. No one was hurt, surprisingly given 2 of our number stood to pocket £100 when that horse came in. At least the pot won again. Race 7 always surprises me, especially the need to get my winnings before the bookies run off home ( a lesson learned in year 3), and we start the walk back to town, dodging the cars and discarded bet fair scarves (not giving away our William Hill ones to cold ladies despite pressure). This journey would be worse if we went to the Station to get in the scrum to get back to Brum, so we take a left to the Chinese that is 'Golden Mountain' (4years here so can't be all bad, but equally not all good). As ever, it was rammed, they squeezed us in on the round table for 8 for 45 minutes, then 45 minutes on two little tables, one round, one square wedged in, but nice food, nice string lager, (no tip as a bit rubbish moving us round) but full and having put the world to rights (and confirming we needed no others to join even with Planty leaving this continent). A nice bonus was this all came from the pots success.
We ended up back at the train station, got on, and Wally fell asleep while we polished off a selection of dregs in hip flasks, thankfull that the train was a quick 45 minute one, not the 2 hour trundler from last year, but in saying that none of us woke up the following morning with a kilt pin this year. ..... A final quick one in Baccus to debrief, slap ourselves on the back, and realising we were in tweed out in Birmingham on a Friday night we called it a day, reminded the COCK that his was a lifetime role and all was well with the world.