There is a huge crater at Kelso Racecourse, not unlike the one that the Clangers live under, on their planet far away from Earth. We know all about the Clangers because they were filmed by Peter Firmin, who died this week, during his astrological studies of the night sky.
I have never believed the rumour that these space documentary programmes were actually scripted for children’s TV by Oliver Postgate, Firmin’s friend, who is also no longer with us, having died ten years ago.
It’s only natural that people would doubt the existence of Clangers, because Firmin and Postgate collaborated so successfully to produce many of Britain’s best children’s television programmes including: Bagpuss, Ivor the Engine, Pogles’ Wood and Noggin the Nog. It’s no exaggeration to say that their contribution helped to define British popular culture in the second half of the twentieth century and shaped the minds of the people that are now running our country. Heaven help us.
But even though I believe that the pictures of the Clangers were entirely real, I can reveal that the alien landscape behind the grandstands at Kelso has not been created by an angry Soup Dragon or even an Iron Chicken. It has been dug over by a friendly digger driver called Peter, who occasionally brings ice-lollies into the office for the racecourse team, who have been overheating amid the unusually brilliant Scottish sunshine.
The ground-works take in an area where the Betfred betting shop used to stand, which will now be incorporated into a new Parade Ring. We’re in the process of excavating the foundations for a viewing terrace, which will enable many more racegoers to get a view of the horses. The viewing terrace includes five wide steps, for tiered viewing, as well as three broad circular platforms which will be easily accessible for less mobile individuals including anyone who uses a wheelchair.
The new parade ring is the first phase of a plan that has been developed to improve the racecourse facilities over a period of years. Later stages will include new saddling boxes, better Weighing Room facilities, more toilets, additional seating, a dining area for racehorse owners and, eventually, another grandstand. The Parade Ring sits at the heart of all the improvements, both physically and emotionally. It will be the centre of activity – where the horses collect and spectators gather. It is intended to be a welcoming and sociable space that will reinforce Kelso’s reputation as ‘Britain’s friendliest track’.
Only one small issue clouds the horizon – and no, it’s not my selection for the weekend (Jack Devine, 4.55pm at Market Rasen on Sunday).
There isn’t a lot of time until the start of Kelso’s next season on 19th September, when horses will parade at the back of the grandstands, come what may. We need all the help that we can get. Which is why I’ve decided to awake Bagpuss. And when Bagpuss wakes up, all his friends wake up… including all the mice on the mouse-organ.
The mice, if you recall, were the work-force of Firmin and Postgate’s programme. I can hear them outside now… “We will fix it, we will mend it, we will make it new new new.”
Perhaps they’ll even plant a music tree next to the crater… I mean Parade Ring.