All this week, I’ve seen peculiar names trending on Twitter. They’ve all turned out to be names of horses, and that’s how I found out that this week is Royal Ascot week. For those not acquainted with Ascot, it’s a place near Windsor in Berkshire where there’s an old horseracing track. Every year in June, there’s a week of races where the Royal Family show up. I think it’s normally the Tuesday where it’s Ladies’ Day, and this is supposed to mean “women only” but is in fact … well, far from it. On Ladies’ Day, you get women dressing up, wearing poncy hats or fascinators. Men get dressed up too.
Seeing as how I’ve actually been to Ladies’ Day at Royal Ascot once, I thought I’d write about that today, instead of reviewing something.* (Not trying to procrastinate finishing off the Lady Chatterley’s Lover review, or anything … *cough*)
The reason for being there was because it was my then to-be-sister-in-law’s hen do. Plan was to set off by bus from Nottingham early on Tuesday morning and come back early evening on Wednesday. I was umming and aahing for some time before I finally decided I’d come along. Having to dress up (ugh) to see horse racing (snore) among craploads of people being loud (eek) … not a good combo for someone who finds most social gatherings to be really difficult and draining. In the end, I thought “sod it, I’ll give it a go – got to get out of the comfort zone at least once in my life, right?”
Bus journey down to Ascot was fine. Sat next to my mum-in-law, with whom I ended up sharing both the hotel room, and also the day at the races. (Very good, and very needed, bonding experience.) When we arrived in the parking lot, everyone helped out bringing the food out, so we had a bit of a picnic before heading off to the racecourse, which was within walking distance.
I don’t really do fascinators and fancy hats, so I was wearing my old straw hat. Because I happen to like it, and it’s like the one hat I have! (Update October 2021: LOL. I have more hats now. None of them are, uh, particularly feminine.)
After eating we headed off to the racecourse. One of the things about Royal Ascot is the Royal Family, and they were due to show up, so Mum-in-law and I positioned ourselves to get a good view. Had to wait for some time before their carriages showed up, but then they finally came, one carriage after another, horse-drawn and all. Couldn’t tell you who the vast majority of them are, though, but I’ve actually seen HRH Queen Elizabeth II in person! Okay, so she was maybe 50 metres away, at least, but still. Never been anywhere near the Swedish Royals! It was really exciting. 🙂
Anyway, we were at the races. If you’re at the races, you need to place a few bets, right? I’m a very cautious person when it comes to risks and rewards, so I placed the lowest bet possible (£2) and did one bet in every race, I think, and used the “either way” option (another £2), which means that if the horse you bet on comes in first OR second or something like that, you win.
How I picked the horses? Randomly. We had a copy of the Racing Post in the bus, so I closed my eyes and pointed my finger at the pages and wrote down the result. Came away from the day £30-odd ahead! It would have been considerably more, but in a “aww shucks, shall we just skip the last one?” way, Mum-in-law and I decided not to bet in the final race. The horse we both were planning on going for wasn’t likely to win … which of course it bloody went and did. So had I placed that £2 bet, I would’ve won about £100 or a bit more. D’OHH!!!
After a long and tiring – yet surprisingly enjoyable – day, we went back to the bus, which drove us to a hotel not too far from there. The next day, we stopped by at Bicester Village, a retail outlet, on the way home. Didn’t buy any clothes personally, as “OMG special awesome designer discount prices!” still meant “wait, fucking how much?!!” Read: things I’m not into: fashion. (Put it this way: I got two tops for £8 at Tesco yesterday and was chuffed to bits. Although, George of Asda are better quality.) Some of the other ladies on the bus were well pleased with their £100 Jimmy Choos and equally discounted pricey designer jeans. Personally, I really don’t get it, I’m sorry. They’re just shoes/jeans, what’s the big deal?
When we got back on the bus again, we saw Mamma Mia! on DVD. It made the journey feel shorter, but my gods it didn’t make it more pleasurable in the slightest. What a truly dreadful movie that is. And I’m saying this as someone who a) loves romcoms, b) happily watches films with either Colin Firth or Pierce Brosnan any day of the week (förlåt, Stellan!), and last but not least: c) has loved ABBA since she was about eight or nine years old (which means for the past 20 years). Eww, no. NO, no no no. No! It’s horrid! And to think one of the other options we could’ve been watching was Dirty Dancing… That would at least have been worthwhile.
The film finished only a few miles from the final stop, and then it was just a short journey home. We’d only been gone a couple of days, but it was fun. Sometimes, stepping out of your comfort zone isn’t so bad after all.
*Okay, I started writing this yesterday, but got busy doing work stuff instead, and same thing today, basically. Hopefully things will be a little less manic again next week.