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The Weekly Blog

Invasion Thwarted

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a 1978 science fiction horror movie in which the key protagonists discover that humans are being systematically replaced by alien duplicates. The cloned aliens are perfect copies of the humans that they’ve replaced, except in one vital aspect: their zombie-like personas are devoid of any empathy or humanity. In this respect, watching the film is similar to sitting through one of the recently televised election debates with political party leaders.

At the end of the film, the main character (played by Donald Sutherland), is hailed from across the street by a rare human survivor. But instead of responding with human warmth, the camera zooms in on Sutherland’s face as he lets out the high-pitched whining noise made by the other aliens (an eerily familiar sound, in fact, if you’ve ever listened to Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show).

I was saddened to learn of Sutherland’s death, this week, at the age of eighty-eight. While he played some great characters during his esteemed career, all of them are eclipsed (in my mind) by that final shot from the Body Snatcher movie.

It’s the moment when you realise that the film isn’t a survival story – it’s a chilling parable about individuality being swallowed up by the system. It matters not whether the over-reaching system is “Premier Racing”, communism or consumerism (one of the characters spends all his free time mindlessly watching television advertisements, a trait continued by his alien clone), individual independence is swamped by the boring and uniform.

How heartening, then, to look out of the window and enjoy the reality of the scene outside. Kelso Racecourse has a unique character. The eclectic mix of grandstands, including the two-hundred year old Listed Grandstand, are located uncommonly close to the track – allowing racegoers to get really close to the action and create a crackling atmosphere.

Each fixture at Kelso has a bespoke theme. Starting with the Borders Carers Centre Charity Racenight in September, the season quickly gathers pace for Family Fun Day on the first Sunday in October, before hitting further peaks – including when ITV broadcast the Scottish Borders National in early December.

There will be two huge After-Parties, following the fixtures on Edinburgh Gin Steeplechase Day (26th October) and the Festive Fling Raceday (29th December), for racegoers wishing to stay, sway and socialise.

Kelso, like most other racing venues, is a melting pot for humanity – a place where Kings and Queen’s (like the owner of this week’s selection – Desert Hero in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot) can mix with a diverse audience of punters displaying the fullest range of human emotions.

Racegoers will be animated as they celebrate winners, commiserate with losers, and generally interact in a way that would immediately betray the presence of any zombie-like aliens.

Take heart – for as long as horseracing exists, the alien invasion will be thwarted.