And there I was trying to shield Renée from the inevitable pet/death scenario for as long as possible. So, pray tell me, what on earth was I doing allowing us all to watch The Grand National as though it were a prime-time episode of Fifi and the Flowertots? And not only that, but actively encouraging both of my children to become as obsessed with the race as I was quite a few years ago.
Just a little bit of background quickly - National Velvet was my favourite film. (Sorry Tara - I forgot to include that on my list for your last post). Horses were my thing. In fact my ultimate ambition was to become the first woman to win The Grand National. Or was it to actually be Elizabeth Taylor? I'm not sure. But you get the drift.
So fast forward a few years. Renée is now 4 and a half. Old enough to choose a horse, follow it through the race and get excited when it finishes fifth and beats her sister's horse which finishes 17th. Or something like that. Give or take a few places.
Instead, this is what happens...
I read out the list of 40 horses. That's 4-0 (ie quite a few). She could choose any of them. Any.
"I want 'Hear the Echo' Mummy. I like that name. It reminds me of the tunnel leading down to the seafront, where we make noises. That's an echo isn't it Mummy? Yes, I want that one."
And there it was. Out of 40 horses she had made her choice. It was as simple as that.
The choices made on behalf of Edie, absent husband and myself are irrelevant. Suffice to say we didn't bother the bookmakers one bit. Of note though, is the fact that my eldest child entered into the spirit of the race with a childish abandon even I would have been proud of 30 years ago. She looked distraught when there were not one, but two false starts. She screwed up her face when her Daddy's horse fell at the first fence (told you we didn't trouble the bookmakers). She listened intently for any mention of her horse, of which there were quite a few, seeing as it was, for the most part of the race, a leading contender. She teased her sister (and her Mummy) when our horses were pulled up (I did say). And towards the end of the race she urged her horse on, as though it was her who had taken the pains to breed it and train it.
'I think I'm going to win Mummy', she said with two fences to go.
I could almost feel her excitement. Damn why hadn't I chosen that horse for myself?
And then I heard it. And I looked at Renée. And she looked at me.
"What does it mean Mummy? Collapsed on the run-in." She asked me. For this is what had happened. After 30 fences and 4 and a half miles of jumping and racing, 'Hear the Echo', Renée's chosen horse, her friend and pet, albeit for 20 minutes, had collapsed and died just before the finish.
"What happened Mummy? What happened to my horse? What happened? Where's 'Hear the Echo'? Why didn't he finish?'
I could have cried. Actually I almost did.
'I think he's just had a heart attack darling. He died. I'm so sorry.'
She ran to her bedroom, distraught.
However much you try to shield children from the inevitable, it will happen sooner or later. At least it wasn't the cat. Although at 14 years of age, that could be just around the corner...
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