Wednesday, September 23, 2009

While that big girl is basking in her success

and not keeping an eye on her bucket...

It's the moment for a soft-footed kitty to profit from the occasion ..

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Elena's Big Day, or 'I am a racehorse'

Well, it came at last. 23 September 2009. Three and a half years since Elena first became part of the Gerolstein family, and changed her maiden name of ‘Bromac’ for the rolling ‘Elena de Gerolstein’. She’s been through quite a lot since then, including that big operation on her throat, but since she returned to training and then to the workouts track, it’s been evident that she can run somewhat, and that she would undeniably make a racehorse. But fate still had the odd sneaky to throw at her. When she went to qualify something went wrong. When she was about to go a second time, we found that her corpuscles had been up the spout the first time and she wasn’t yet quite over it. So we scratched. Today was the third time. And this time…
It still wasn’t all smoothness. But not because of her. First of all, although it didn’t rain here, it did at Bank’s Peninsula, leaving a soggyish track which would slow the horses by a couple of seconds. Then, we arrived at the track, only to find that the naughty mare had left her bridle back at Gerolstein. So I wandered across to the Edmonds homestead to borrow a replacement. There I met a middle-sized dobermann named Weasel. When I took no notice of him, Weasel pouted and buried his teeth in my calf. So I returned to the racetrack, with bridle, but sticking-plastered behind, and with blood dribbling down my leg. Someone said it’s good luck to get bitten by a dog. If so, thank you Weasel, but next time choose a bit of me that isn’t naked.

Elena’s qualifying heat had drawn a field of … two. But the other starter was a richly-bred Christian Cullen filly from the stud of my old amateur-driving colleague Mike Stratford, trained by the all-(or nearly all)-conquering Tim Butt. Classy company.
Off the mobile gate, Elena powered straight to the front, and Murray [Edmonds] kept her there, hooning along at safely a bit faster than the qualifying-rate needed, towing the other fellow along, until the home straight, where he loomed up greenly outside her. Murray let him loom, and when he zipped past, Murray let him zip. He knew he was five whole seconds inside qualifying time, and there was no sense in gutting our gigantic girl by giving chase uneccessarily. A qualifying trial (unless you are trying to sell your animal and want to look impressive) is just that: all you have to do is beat the clock, and you’re a ‘winner’. Elena not only did the time, she clocked 3 ½ seconds better than the time. On a soggy track, and with an unforced last 400 metres. Excuse us if we’re delighted.
I haven’t got any photos of the race. Well, I have several photos of Elena’s backside: she was gone too fast before the shutter closed! But I do have this one, as she came off the track, and I love it. Wendy hurrying to say ‘well done, our girl’ as Murray brings her in... a qualified racehorse at last!

One last (for the moment) Elena photograph. I can’t resist it. Standing by the float, waiting to be loaded for the homeward journey. Upright and haughty, with that look that made me fall in love with her at first sight at Bromac Lodge in February 2006, saying: ‘I require to be taken home now, if you please’

Tomorrow, on the other side of the world, Ténor will have his turn at the ‘quallies’ at the racetrack of the city of Caen … if he can do as well as she, this will be a wonderful week. Give or take a Weasel-bite.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Half a century ago in the West End..


It's amazing what you find when you start on a big spring-clean and chuck out..

Look at this. It was taken in February 1962, on the occasion of the London production of Noel Coward's musical Sail Away. That, of course, is the not-yet-Sir Noel looking self-consicously sphinxial in the middle. And the cute little feller with glasses is my Ian ... Ian Archibald Winchcombe Bevan of Australia .. a dozen years before we met.
I wonder if this picture has been reproduced before, or whether I'm adding something to the historical pictorial-data box.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Flu and fire

It’s a week since I landed in New Zealand. A week of jet-lag and of the most awful Qantas cold (I would definitely count it as flying flu) which, between them, have stopped me from getting sufficiently out and about, even around the green, green paddocks of Gerolstein.
I limped forth for doctor, blood-letter and dentist, I made it to the local racetrack to watch Elena rehearsing for her Big Day on Wednesday, I crawled through the grocery and the hardware shops and fulfilled other such necessities of life, but otherwise … well, I have barely even hugged a horse.

Today, however, dawned a perfect spring day. It was impossible to stay indoors, even to mull my plans for building myself a beautiful bathroom as an anniversary present. I’ve never had one. A beautiful bathroom, that is. Even in my Mayfair mansions, even in my St Paul de Vence triplex, glorious and luxurious homes that they were, the bathrooms wouldn’t have passed muster in a two-star hotel. And this one is the worst of all … see below. You couldn’t swing a starving kitten in it (sorry, Minnie). So, I have called in ‘Revamp Design’ and he is coming the day after tomorrow to look at smashing down a wall and …

Getting ahead of the act, I this morning started a major spring clean and chuck out (‘if you haven’t used it in two years…’), which resulted in a vast heap of burnables, which needed to go on last year’s vaster pile of tree-toppings-in-the-paddock-waiting-to-be-burned, which meant that the mares had to be got out of the fire-paddock, and since the Grand Duchess is nine months gone, it was the perfect day to strip off her winter coat and let her feel the sun on her back, before she was moved on to the lush grass in a fresh and maternally-provocative paddock..
The Duchess is looking splendid. Big, motherly, glowing and splendid. Normally, she will foal at the beginning of November, so I had better make sure to be here. Even though, of course, the child she is carrying is not mine. Being already in possession of quite enough baby horses, I have loaned Duchess this year to The Man Who Knows More About Breeding Than Anyone. But, of course, I shall still be a godfather.

So. I’ve burned the annual fires, and with them I’ve thrown out great chunks of my old life: stuff that I’ve hiked, down the years, from London to St Paul to New Zealand. I know, on occasions like this you can burn too much. But I don’t think the National Museum/Library of New Zealand will want Gänzl manuscripts and memorabilia. This country has never really considered me a ‘New Zealand author’, any more than they consider my brilliant brother a ‘New Zealand poet’. (I will say however that the Library does annotate my cards ‘author is a New-Zealander’). Oh dear, ‘funeral’ pyres do provoke extraordinary thoughts.

But in a way, that’s what this is. During the winter, Wendy has worked magic in transforming the farm. It has never looked so lovely. But it is different. So now it is up to me. It is time, nearly three years on, to turn this place into ‘Kurt’s holiday home’ rather than ‘the place where Kurt and Ian lived, and Ian died’. The bathroom will be a good start. Go for the bathroom…?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Livia de Gerolstein


Now, those of you who read this blog will know all about Elena de Gerolstein, Lucie de Gerolstein and D’Arcy de Gerolstein – how could you not --, but you may very well not have heard, except in passing, about Livia de Gerolstein..
Yes, another one.
But Livia lives not in New Zealand – nor even in France -- but in Australia.
And, yes, she’s ours. Mine and Wendy’s.

How did we come to own a horse in Australia? Well, its like this ….

During the weeks before I leaped on the late lamented Gazellebank and headed for Europe, half a year and more ago, a yearling sales catalogue came through the post. I do wish they wouldn’t. In the years when I wanted these catalogues, I couldn’t get them. Since I actually went and bought a horse (Elena), they never stop coming. And this one, for heaven’s sake, was from Australia. I remember it was an evening when Wendy was out, and I was dully watching Trackside and, for some reason (dull Trackside?), I picked up the despised catalogue and whoops … it opened at Lot 171. Bay filly Live or Die-Estelle Bromac. The said Estelle just happens to be my Elena’s sister. And there, on the pedigree page, were the names of our dear Tui (Hot Blooded Woman), Cliffie (Lite Gasp), Wilma (Lite Phantom) …
What on earth was this horse doing in Australia? Ah, well…
But in the days that followed, I kept opening that catalogue, until page 171 became stained with coffee, highlighter and ... well, just a little wine..

I talked (as I do), and finally Graeme Lang trekked from Melton to Glenn and Sue O’Connell’s place near Whittlesea to look her over, and reported that she was a nice and not oversized (sorry, Elena) girl…
But the sale was to be the day that I sailed out of Auckland. What to do? Should I? Shouldn’t I? Wasn’t this really a ‘coup de folie’? Well, maybe if she were really cheap…? Elena cost $20,000. So, say .. ten? ‘You’ll never get her for that’ said the pundits. Very well, I’ll go to eleven. Maximum. That way, at least I’ve tried.
And so, on the somethingth of February 2009, as the Gazellebank and I sailed forth for Nouméa, at the price of exactly $11,000, Wendy and I became the owners of Elena’s niece, the filly who we will call Livia de Gerolstein (or as near to that as the Victorian racing authorities will allow us), and who is now in work at Mr Lang’s place in Melton, Vic, with the prospects of making an early two year-old. (Hear that, Elena!).

I, of course, haven’t yet met Livia, but Wendy managed to grab a couple of days respite and dash across the Tasman Sea … ermmm, cousin Tracy may not be David Hamilton with a camera, but at least Wendy has now driven our youngest ‘daughter’ and I – until I in my turn dash across the great divide, have a kind of a photo.

Welcome to our little family, Livia. Along with Elena, Tenor, Rosy, Lucie, D’Arcy, Rose, Mikie… from Les Baux, Normandy, to Sefton, New Zealand, by way of Melton, Victoria…

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Two tired travellers...

at Sydney airport..

Amelie only has to get from here to Bondi Beach..
Kurt has a five-hour wait for his delayed Emirates plane, and a 3-hour flight to Christchuch, and all that time the Qantas cold bug that I caught on leg one of this cavalcade is germinating horribly away ..
Ah, travel!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Look Homeward, Gänzl

Well, right now New Zealand is the nearest thing to a home I have … and it's more than half a year since I set foot there. And summer has come to an end in Europe, or at least its threatening to, just a Christchurch is bursting into blossom… so, it’s clearly there that I should be, isn’t it?

My last couple of days in Berlin were as eventful as all the others.
Geerd returned from his romantic voyage to Switzerland, Horst resurfaced, Kevin’s friend (and now mine, too!) Florida Eser descended from Givrins for a flat-hunting expedition in Berlin, and we all headed for an evening out dining very agreeably indeed at the Fischerhütte on the banks of the Schlatensee.

The next morning, Kevin chauffeured Florida around some of the choicer residentially-possible areas of Berlin … we took in breakfast on the Stuttgarter-Platz in Charlottenburg (I chose a Bavarian breakfast, which was a pair of very perfumed white sausages with mustard and bagel) …

and then continued on to Prenzlauer Berg. The lovely old buildings of the area are rapidly being converted into dashing restorations, or giving place to half-million euro apartments, but a few derelict buildings still remain to remind you of the East Germany of not so very long ago.

Then, a few hours later, I was on my way to Tegel airport. With my red cabin bag, stuffed with the necessities of life.. and nothing else.
Booking flights on the Internet is fraught with hazard. The Internet – notably the Travel Overland website -- doesn’t tell you that Air Berlin doesn’t book people and suitcases through onto Qantas, and that you therefore have to leave an extra hour between flights to allow for recuperating luggage, re-checking in etc etc. It just sells you almost impossible collections of theoretically adjoining flights and leaves you to get out of the merde thus created all on your own. My bad BMI Baby experience of last year had, fortunately, made me wary. I checked, and became aware that, with suitcase, I wouldn’t make it. So my suitcase remains in Berlin whilst I am now in New Zealand.
My thirty-something hours of airports and airplanes weren’t, surprisingly, all bad. Both the Air Berlin and Qantas desk staff were splendidly helpful and cheerful, and the dreaded change between the said two airlines (without luggage) at Frankfurt went like a dream, thanks to a chance encounter with an angel. Ravishing, 21 year-old Amelie from Charlottenburg (rising international TV presenter and surfing instructor), off for a few months backpacking round Australia, took me under her wing, got me safely to the plane, and we spent the flight to the other side of the world in jolly company. Amelie’s voyage to the Southern hemisphere will now, hopefully, include New Zealand.
The only hiccough in an otherwise comfy and punctual trip was the lateness of my final flight: Sydney-Christchurch on Emirates. But their plane was easily the nicest … so I may use them for the whole trip next year. If they promise to be on time…

But that’s a good few months away. Right now, I am revelling jet-laggedly in being back at Gerolstein. A spick-and-span Gerolstein (Wendy has done amazing things in the gardens etc), glittering with white sunshine as it doffs its winter coat and prepares for spring. The grass is green, the plum-blossoms are out and the magnolia buds are cowering from the morning frosts. The horses are still as shaggy as mountain goats, but it won’t be long… the New Zealand summer is on its way.