If Cape Town couturier Susan Hansen ever gets around to writing her memoirs, she may single out my rushed visit on 25 January 1997 as one of the most unusual of her professional career.
In those days the J&B Met was a huge social occasion, but the hospitality side of things still had a lot more room for growth. For example, the picnics in the members’ car park were – quite literally – served out of car boots. Shade from the summer sun was limited to a few beach umbrellas.
Given this background, I may have played a role in pioneering the way things are done now. I arranged several adjacent picnic sites, which I enclosed with picket fencing, and then covered with a free-standing marquee, much to the consternation of the club management. This became my own hospitality area, for which I sold tickets to an extended circle of friends and acquaintances. It was such a good day at the races that I received pre-Met calls for years after I decided it was all too much work.
On the day in question I went through to Kenilworth early in the morning to set everything up. However, I was aware of having left a rather emotional Andrea at home, bereft at not having anything to wear to the races. So, on my way home (on a very tight timeline) I popped into Susan Hansen’s shop in Claremont.
Committing a series of acts that could very easily have become matrimonial suicide, I not only selected an outfit, but also gave instructions for its quite extensive alteration – without the intended wearer being present!
Susan must have thought I was mad, but cheerfully got on with the rush tailoring.
Not only was the outfit loved … and it fitted perfectly. Given my successful gamble I may have been tempted to think my luck was in that day, but I cheered London News home without even one cent at risk.