Over the stable door: Balls provide respite after bursts before Christmas

Anyone working with livestock may have asked themselves why at some point this winter. Christmas Eve and the start of the racing cancellations was around the time I did. Frozen taps, icy yards, snow drifts and rock-hard gallops all had to be thawed before a day's work could begin and our racing plans were in the bin. Tough as things were they could only get better I thought. How wrong I was!

Checking the horses on Tuesday evening, I unlocked the tack room door to allow Pingu to scare off the resident rodents. I could hear a loud hiss inside. I stepped into four inches of water as a strong spray blasted me sideways. Two bursts were showering the entire contents of the room, including 25 bags of race nuts, rugs, bandages and bridles. A set of clippers was floating amongst the dandy brushes. Even the mice had kept away.

I shut the door. I rarely shed a tear but when I thought how much damage and work this would cause I admit a few appeared. All it takes to pull myself together is to think of those who are less fortunate. Old people without family, the homeless freezing to death in dark alleyways – those with no-one to care at Christmas. Who was I to feel sorry for myself over something so trivial? I am lucky – and I have an Aga.

Tony McCoy may actually be enjoying the public attention he is currently receiving as the new Sports Personality of the Year however much he professes to dislike the limelight. The reason being it benefits the sport. The man who twice finished his season by winning on one in every three rides estimates to have ridden the equivalent of one and a half times round the world during his career.

I first met AP at Cheltenham when I worked for a sports promotion company in the late 1990s. A group of us met for a meal, I was sat beside him. He was serious, resolute, unassuming. He barely ate and didn't drink yet beneath the quiet exterior still waters obviously ran very deep.

The conversation trickled. I struggled to muster more than a few words from him to begin with, until I brought up hunting and his face lit up. It was like opening a door.

Not eating was the hardest thing to deal with he explained as I tucked into my T-bone. "My natural weight is about 12 stone so I keep a tight rein," he said staring at his wilting salad. For someone who has since broken every bone in his body, notches up 75,000 miles a year travelling and rarely enjoys a regular meal, his strength of conviction was clear.

His integrity is unquestionable. Recent comments made by Racing UK, insinuating his lack of commitment to winning on a horse at Ascot, infuriated the champ. He now refuses to speak to them, making it clear unfounded remarks like that would ruin a young jockeys career. A worthy role model with high personal morals is rare.

The season of hunt balls is in full swing. The week before Christmas I ventured to the Sinnington at Ampleforth. The well stocked bar ran out of beer and vodka before midnight. My pal, who rarely drinks due to a leg injury, got carried away and ended up discreetly refilling her pint glass under the table after one too many G and Ts.

Hoping no-one had noticed, she placed it down carefully and moved off, accidentally knocking the table as she left. Apologies to the bucking bronco owner, who later found his clipboard stuck to the table covered in half eaten sprouts

CW 1/1/11