CRINGLE: Up close and personal with horse’s bottom

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THERE was a better class of visitor in Douglas last week. I don’t mean me and Grandma. We don’t count as holidaymakers. But Miss Grace Cringle, aged seven, over briefly from her home in London, did. She raised the tone a little and then lowered it when confronted with a working tram horse’s bottom.

The Ramsey grandparents and the Douglas grandparents worked out a time share arrangement whereby, suitably enough during the Olympics, Grace was transferred from one to the other, like a relay team baton.

Full details of the exchange, I should add, were worked out amicably at Grandma level. Grace took it all in her stride. She knows how to cope with Grandees, even when the latter don’t know how to cope with her.

I was allotted the trip on a horse tram. Grace and I sat with the driver, Tristan Kewley, who had some compelling observations to make on the skill of car drivers in coping with horse-drawn transport. Like the other tram drivers he also has to spend his working days up close and personal behind a horse’s behind.

We were hauled by Teddy who, without a tram to pull, would have easily won gold at the Olympics. Grace was able to stand up and look down at what was hanging behind him. ‘What’s that?’ she asked. I told her it was a horsie’s nappy and they all wore one.

She studied the track ahead of us. ‘They’re not very good shots,’ she said; well, I think it was shots. ‘Look at all that poo down there.’

The conductor was Trevor Johns who, while taking the money, is a self-appointed guide to horse tram travel. He explained how the Victorians had built the surface between the lines at tram stops so that when the horses had to start off again they had just enough downward gradient to make it easier. Grace nodded her approval gravely.

Trevor is a tram veteran. He worked on them when he was a student. Now he’s back in his retirement and back at Derby Castle he produced the Polo mints for children to feed to Teddy. Grace slipped him two which he snaffled up gratefully.

‘That will make his breath smell nice,’ she said with satisfaction.

After this Grandma took over. Impeccably dressed, coiffured and made up as always, she took Grace on the crazy golf at Onchan Park. They were halfway round when the rain started again.

I was in the cafe with a double raspberry ripple. I had come off best. It’s all in the Grandee Game.

•In his Sunday morning programme on Manx Radio David Callister MLC invited listeners to send him proverbs and he read one as follows: ‘The coroner and the lawyer grow fat on the quarrels of fools.’

This was followed immediately by a commercial for Mann Benham Advocates.

•Ian Keeble reports a picture in the Manx Independent showing a photograph of a man called Ian Galloway ‘following his head and beard being shaved off’ in a fund-raising effort.

Top that.

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