It was the Grand National this weekend - the famous annual British steeplechase. This year, I was completely shocked by it.
Fallen horses and cowering jockeys, ringing of tills and careless cash made the whole thing seem a futile way, motivated entirely by money, to entertain a country for twenty minutes.
It reminded me, however, of National Velvet, the book by Enid Bagnold, and the film starring the late Elizabeth Taylor, that I loved as a little girl. Based around the Grand National of the 1920s, when strictly only men rode in the race, a girl called Velvet Brown, inspired by her mother swimming the English Channel some years before, decides to ride a horse that she won in a raffle in the Grand National, and wins.
All images are screengrabs from 'National Velvet' (1944)
She is found out, of course, and disqualified, but becomes a reluctant national heroine. It's really a story of achievements against the odds, and women disregarding their imposed limits, and one that I loved as a horse-crazy little girl.