THE recent Grand National was a fresh experience for favourite race commentator Jim McGrath.
It was the first for years not covered by the BBC - so he could put his feet up.
As well as regular trips north to Aintree, Jim has also been to Blackpool - to see his daughter dancing in Hot Ice. His absence from this year’s equestrian event sent my mind racing back to working with him in Hong Kong during the 80s.
I was more of a racquets than a racing man. Gentleman Jim was a member of the Hong Kong Football Club, in Happy Valley, where he played squash.
“Pop down, mate,” he offered one afternoon in our South China Morning Post newsroom, “we’ll have a game some morning.”
“How about tomorrow?” I asked eagerly.
“Well,” the celebrated racing correspondent mused, “I’ve to watch the gallops at Sha Tin first thing. Say about 8am, then - though we could be running late.”
Next morning I was pacing outside the famous rugby club, attracting attention in my white shorts (and legs).
An hour or so later I was still there but now going red in the rising sun and increasing bad temper.
A car pulled up slowly with some Australians loafing in its air-conditioning. The driver’s window eased down and Jim’s Melbourne drawl drifted toward me.
“Sorry mate, too late to play now, but how about breakfast with us – at the Jockey Club?”
Bitterly disappointed, my sweaty face set in a grimace: “If I’d come here for breakfast then I wouldn’t be wearing blooming shorts!” Off I stalked.
Later at home, overlooking Happy Valley racecourse, I considered breakfast at the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club there might have been a winner after all. Also, Jim was top pedigree and I had overstepped the mark.
However, when we met later at the office the great man was all smiles.
“Sorry again, mate,” he said, patting me on the shoulder. “I like your pluck though - not bad for a Pommy! Let’s go for a beer instead.”
We also played some squash. I beat him but Jim still gave me his hottest winning tip ... Don’t back horses!
l Roy’s books are published on Amazon and through the Arts Council. Visit roy edmonds-blackpool.com