14th April 1945

O’Neil spent a pretty terrible night at the White Lion, which was the only place where he could get a bed.  The Rose & Crown refuse to take any visitors unless they are a) American, b) crooks, or c) friends of the management.

Spent the whole morning with O’Neil, who then went back to London.  Letter from dear Ann, who is ill again with rheumatism.  Must try to go to see her, but have no money or time for such a trip. 

This afternoon went to the Wisbech Gymkhana, held in the field behind Bank House, “by kind permission of the Hon. Alexadrina Peckover” as the posters announced.  Am quite sure the dear old lady has not the least idea what goes on at these gymkhanas (whatever the plural may be).  Never have I seen such a mob of horse-thieves, gangsters and general riff-raff.  There were three bookmakers (professionals) with their stands, all quite illegal of course, but ignored by the police who were on duty on the ground.  There seemed something quite disgusting in the sight of little boys and girls of not more than 10 or 12 years old betting in 10/- notes with these “bookies”.  The real point of the afternoon was the “flapping” races.  It was for all the world like a Rowlandson picture, such a mob of odd-sized, odd shaped, odd-coloured horses, ridden by as queer a crowd of jockeys as one would wish to see – youths with long hair, little girls, coarse blousy women.  The main race included every type of horse from a 12 hh pony to a second hand race-horse, with about 25 entries in all.  Some were handicapped to such an extent that the runners were placed all the way round the course.  There were about 4 laps, and by a miracle nobody was killed, but two of the smaller ponies came down heavily.

There were two or three rather good looking turnouts on the ground, the best being the thickset black cob belonging to the dealers in the Horse Fair.  On the whole the horses were a very poor lot.

Rain all the evening, cold and windy.  Sat up until 11, reading, writing and talking the most amusing nonsense with Dorothy Brewer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


ER was alarmed at 10 or 12 year olds placing bets of 10/-, this is equal to £19.97 today!
I assume they were placing bets for adults in case the police did take action!

Mike Dennis