Jack empties his Xmas Sack!


Lately I’ve been struggling to follow racing commentaries, which seem more garbled than usual. Listening to the commentary of the fifth at Randwick last Saturday, I couldn’t make out what the commentator was saying over the car radio, but it sounded like a horse called Wet Whore was racing towards the tail of a 2000m event.

In the final stages, it was clear that Wet Whore was coming hard down the centre. In the final stride, it got up to win by a flash of flesh from my fancy, Lord Ardmore. Cursing, I pulled the car to the side of the road and grabbed my form guide. Then the penny dropped. The winner was French import, Heutor (16-5). Instead of Hew-tor, the commentator had, I thought, pronounced it Wet Whore.

For some odd reason, my Spanish girlfriend thought my mishearing of the name was either the result of perversion, or a Freudian indication of what I thought of her. ‘I can’t help what I hear!’ I protested. ‘Oh yes you can!’ she countered, slapping my face.

Now as it happens (and this is true, mind) an organisation phoned and offered my Spanish girlfriend and me a free hearing test on Monday. Naturally, we went. In this economy, you take whatever free services you can get, even if you don’t want them.  In my case, though, I wanted to find out if I was starting to lose my hearing, if my eardrum had become a salacious receptor, or if the French were to blame for making up a horse name that sounded sleazy.

Another reason I went was to ask if they had earplugs effective enough to block out ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ when it gets played in shopping malls. If I hear one more ‘Pa rum pum pum pum’ this Christmas, I’m going to kick the nearest Santa Claus in the balls.

The SoundMajik man said the company helped people hear, not block out sound. My Spanish girlfriend then piped up to say she was hoping for a way to tune me out completely, especially when I started talking about soggy putas. The technician then snapped, ‘Do you people really want to be here, or what?’

‘My hearing must be deceiving me,’ I responded. ‘It sounded for a second as if you had snapped at us. If that were truly the case, I would have to punch you in the nose. Lucky I’m half-deaf, ‘eh, mate?’

The techie was much more polite after that, and after five 10 minutes of pressing a button when we heard bleeps, we got our results. My Spanish girlfriend has excellent hearing, but I have lost a fair bit of hearing in my left ear. This is called ‘The Van Gogh Effect’ after painter Vincent van Gogh, who cut off his left ear and gave it to a prostitute (a heutor?).  This was on 23 December 1888, two days before Christmas.

It is well attested that, just prior to the slicing, Van Gogh and artist pal Paul Gauguin had had a flaming row in a placed called the Yellow House, in Arles, France. What is less well known is that a Christmas choir had been singing popular French song, ‘Patapan’ for the pre-Christmas diners. As my research shows, ‘Patapan’ was the inspiration for American Katherine Davis, in 1941, when she wrote, ‘The Little Drummer Boy’.

Suddenly, it all made sense. My piss-poor pre-Christmas attitude was the result of a perfect storm of temper-raising factors: degenerating hearing, an awful French song that had crossed over into the Christmas Carol repertoire of shopping malls, an awfully named horse, an awful girlfriend, an awful Covid-bedecked world (‘Deck the halls with strains of Covid, Fa la la la la, la la la la’), and an awful old age stretching before me like a white, freezing blanket of despair.


To restore balance, I put my Spanish girlfriend on a plane to Madrid last night. Her family hates me as much as she evidently does. The only time I went there, her mother pointed at her daughter and shouted at me, ‘Why you not give her a ring?’  ‘I will, on my mobile phone,’ I replied, then quickly ducked a paella pan.

I will, then, spend Christmas alone. My only company is a print I bought of Van Gogh’s masterpiece, ‘Self Portrait with Bleeding Hanky’. Looking at it earlier today, I realised that it was not only my hearing that’s going – my mind is too. I looked at the portrait for ages, trying to figure out why – having cut off his left ear – it was Van Gogh’s right ear that had the blood-stained hanky over it. Was he trying to construct a cryptic left-ear, right-brain metaphor? Or had he really wanted to cut his right ear, but didn’t because the local hearing clinic said it was the better one?


It was only after a couple of drinks that I finally worked it out. Van Gogh had, of course, been looking in the fucking mirror when he painted the self-portrait.  Left ear was right and right ear was left. Arse about face was pretty much the way the poor bloke saw the world anyway. ‘Het leven is verschrikkelijk’ (Life is terrible) is the message he put on his 1888 Christmas cards. The message was in red, and contained plasma and platelets.

Some of you will, naturally, suggest that the solution to my Christmas depression is staring me in the face: hire a heutor for the holiday weekend. I thought about that but, instead, turned to Vincent for advice this arvo. He referred me to his 1887 painting, View of a River with Rowing Boats, and I Googled it. OMG! Penny drop time, again. The racing commentator had been calling ‘Wet Oar’ not ‘Wet Whore’.

A single wet oar is a reference to the idiom, ‘Only one oar in the water’ – loopy, nuts, psycho, batshit crazy. Vincent definitely had only one oar in the water during the run-in to Christmas, 1888.  I am, I think, in fragile space amongst the 2021 Yuletide craziness but nothing like that.

Spare a thought this Christmas, then, for those discombobulated by the end of year festivities. We’ll be sitting on our own while others gobble turkey, exchange presents, and pull crackers instead of going crackers. Lots of lives will unravel this Christmas. It happens every year. I recommend that we all do our level best to keep both oars in the water. 

And if a heutor is the only way to get some company, don’t shout ‘Ho, ho, ho’ during your climactic moment. It won’t go down well.

As for the horse, Heutor, put him into your black book for next year’s stakes races. This five-year-old Archipenko (USA) gelding has won five of 12 starts, and all three of his Aussie races. His damsire is Prix de l’Arc de Tromphe winner, Peintre Celebre (USA), and Heutor could well prove effective over 2400m. Trained by the father and son team of Peter and Paul Snowden, Heutor is in excellent hands.  Santa says this one will fill a few stockings next year.  – IRC.

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