They make movies about toffs in country houses and TV shows about vicars who solve mysteries in villages, but in my opinion to capture something indelible about Britain they should make a film about the British point-to-point — steeplechases so-named because they would take place from one church steeple to another – from one point of a steeple to another.
I started attending point-to-points with my in-laws — my father-in-law has an interest in racing — and now it’s one of the social highlights of the year. One of the things I like best about going is bringing along fellow Americans to experience this particular example of British culture. And oh what an example it is!
Tweed. Horses. Hounds. Posh people wearing colourful trousers. Country folk wearing flat caps. Everyone sipping Champagne or drinking beer and betting on the races. It all takes place in a field and this year it was the kind of weather that makes you feel really British: wet, a bit chilly, the slightly spongey ground compressing under your wellies.
My usual American companion couldn’t come this year but I was lucky enough to be joined by Susan from Best Bits Worldwide, who adopted exactly the right attitude: appreciation for standing outside for several hours, trying to figure out which horse to bet on, watching amateur jockeys and their steeds leap over hedges, and invaribly not betting on the right horse. (She did pick a winner in one race, but gave up before placing her bet when she saw the queue at hte bookie’s stand. Whatever you do, don’t ask her about horse number 10.)
You don’t have to love horses. You don’t have to love the hunt, which the point-to-point supports. You just have to enjoy countryside culture in one of its most democratic. If you enjoy people-watching, drinking Champagne, wax jackets and authentic English country culture, then — like me — this should be on your list every year.
The point-to-point season runs in the late winter, typically between March and June.