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A week of festivals

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Wednesday, 31 July 2013
It is festival week in this house. There is the wonderful unfolding of Glorious Goodwood, the most scintillating gathering of top thoroughbred horseflesh since the Royal Meeting at Ascot. Each evening, the storied Galway Festival carrries on its joyful way, a giddy mixture of jumps, hurdles and flat, over one of the most eccentric racecourses found anywhere in Britain and Ireland. Up hill and down dale they go, with only the most balanced horses able to keep their galloping stride. The ongoing festival of the Ashes is about to get into gear again, and even in my own little village there is a party mood, as the green begins to prepare for our annual highland games.

Having a full highland games at the end of the drive is one of the most delightful privileges of living in this place. I can walk down with Stanley the Dog and find the quiet grassy space transformed into a wild medly of pipers, caber-tossers, hill-runners and Scottish dancers. All the clans gather, with their tents, and their quiet, unspoken rivalries: the Gordons eye the Frasers, the Hays stare beadily at the Farquharsons. (The ancient clashes and sackings and castle-burnings are not forgotten, despite the fact that everyone is very polite and smiling on the surface.)

The greatest moments are the two tours of the arena by the local massed pipe bands; when they march past you, you can feel your heart banging in time to the drums. I never thought I would find myself entranced by a hard-stepping phalanx of pipers and drummers, but each year I look forward to it as if it were Christmas morning.

In the middle of all this, I try to do serious work, and keep up with the voluntary job I do for HorseBack UK, just up the road. But even there the festival mood persists, as the dear old Scottish sun shines down and the new foal, almost three weeks old, is so inspired by the thought of Goodwood that she shows off her newly-discovered galloping skills, hurtling round her clover field as if she were practising for the Sussex Stakes.

I wish I could take the whole week off, deck myself in bunting, and become a one-woman festival myself. But I must sharpen my wits and concentrate and stick to my word count. It is quite hard, as the blue skies shimmer invitingly outside, and the best horses in the kingdom roar over the emerald turf in their jewel colours, and, just occasionally, I can hear the faint, distant sound of a lone piper, practising.

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