Over the stable door: Cutting it fine

Country Week columnist Jo Foster. Picture by Tony Johnson.
Country Week columnist Jo Foster. Picture by Tony Johnson.
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Our airport shuttle chugged along and eventually pulled up outside the terminal. “Oh, terminal one,” I said to my perspiring Irish friend, “and we’ve got 34 minutes before our flight leaves – terminal two.”

The driver must have taken pity and set off with increased vigour towards terminal two where he virtually drove in to the departure hall. We ran like kids who’d been caught shoplifting. Coats, bags, belts and shoes thrown off as we hurried breathlessly through security; 21 minutes to go. Gate 152, the board flashed mockingly, ‘closing’. I followed Paddy as he sprinted the length of the airport carrying coat, jumper, bag and belt in one hand and holding his trousers up with the other.

I was laughing so hard my stomach hurt and I kept having to stop. When I finally caught up at gate 152 I was wheezing like a horse needing a wind operation. He was pleading with the air hostess as he rethreaded his trouser belt. My pal is gifted at talking people in to things. “Ah don’t break my heart,” he looked her directly in the eye. “A lovely Cork girl like yarself wouldn’t see us stuck.” He smiled warmly.

On he continued with his banter as she unlocked the doors and led us to the plane steps. “Dat was a close one,” Paddy chuckled. My shirt was stuck to my back and I suspected the Guinness I had enjoyed earlier was at serious risk of making a reappearance but I couldn’t help but laugh.

Tris collected us from the airport. A strong whiff of ageing perspiration sat beside us as we sped towards Wharfedale in his freshly valeted car.

Next day was the Bloodstock Sales. I rode out as early as light would allow whilst my friend enjoyed a full English. At the sales, we went our separate ways, each with a list of horses to view. Paddy was catching a flight home that evening and, with seven hours to spare, I was determined our trip to the airport would be relaxing and sedate this time.

A few purchases later I met him for a drink. He had one horse left to buy. It was 160 lots away. Staying for it would risk missing his flight home I pointed out. He looked at me, eyebrows buried in his fringe. We stayed. He bought the horse. The drive to the airport was neither relaxing nor sedate. 15 minutes before the departure of Leeds-Dublin flight 19.25pm I dropped him outside the airport.

No way, I shouted. Watch me, he replied. Two hours later I received a photo message. It was a pint of Guinness with the words ‘Never a Doubt’ underneath.

And now I am writing this, late in the evening, from a hospital bed in Leeds General, but that’s another story…