While browsing the shelves of Waterstones in Carlisle last weekend, I picked up a copy of Tuesdays with Morrie, an account of enlightening conversations between an American journalist (the author Mitch Albom, who portrays himself as a bit of a schmuck) and his former college professor who is dying from a degenerative disease.
First published in 1997, the book offers wisdom on life, death, love, family, work, money, fear and forgiveness. Nowadays of course we don’t have to talk to old men because we have the internet instead. Thus we can gain all the useful information we need without having to repeatedly shout embarrassing questions into an old person’s ear before being required to shift their pillows or change their colostomy bag; it’s a lot less messy and it’s possible to do without leaving your desk. (If you think the above paragraph misses the central thesis of the book, go straight to the top of the class).
So in a search for answers to life’s big questions, I switched on my computer. In response to ‘Will I go to prison if I throw milkshake over Nigel Farage?’ Google gave me 288,000 possible results. By changing the name to Jeremy Corbyn the number of results increased to 398,000, which suggests that the leader of the Labour party excites a significantly heightened level of interest – until you review the 9 million search results available to those who are worried about the consequences of throwing milkshakes at Boris Johnson.
Google returns more than 28 million search results for the phrase ‘Hate Boris Johnson’. But anyone who thinks that’s significant should reflect on the fact that ‘Love Boris Johnson’ returns three times more – 84 million search results.
Maybe, just maybe, this has nothing to do with Boris Johnson but everything to do with the fact that love is stronger than hate. When googling ‘Is love important?’ you’ll obtain 2.8 billion results – about the same as ‘Is money important?’. Which is interesting because when you type ‘Where can I buy love?’, Google will suggest 5.5 billion possible answers.
The more enlightened of us, including anyone who remembers the music of The Beatles, will know that money can’t buy you love. Which is why you’ll get 7 billion results when you google ‘Where can I find love?’. And while I didn’t pause to look through them all, I’m pretty certain that at least one of them will point in the direction of Britain’s racecourses.
A day at the races offers answers to all life’s questions. There are winners, there are losers. The results of the races are, at the same time, both vitally important and entirely inconsequential. The value of money is reduced to the role of gaming chips. And love is everywhere: on the faces of the children in the funfair at Cartmel, between the generations of the families seated on picnic benches at Beverley, in the hands of lovers as they stroll across the Champagne lawns at York.
Needless to say, I also googled ‘How do I find a winner?’, to which there were 600 million search results – but none so good as this week’s selection: Altruism in the £40,000 PSR Marquees Handicap Hurdle race at Cartmel on Sunday. Go and watch – it’s more fulfilling than staying at home and surfing the net.