The Members' Blog
Truth is sadder than fiction…by Lissa Oliver
I’m trying not to be too active as I recouperate, so I’ve had plenty of writing time, although features rather than fiction. One feature is for my regular welfare slot and we’ll be looking at the abuse received by trainers, usually from disgruntled punters. It really is highly personal abuse, threatening and offensive, directed at both the trainer and his/her family and staff. The levels are shocking and it’s disgusting to see what people can sink to when their wallet or judgement is hurt.
Once again I’m reminded of how fiction so closely reflects fact. In my quest to find a plot not already used by Dick Francis and co I simply look at the everyday racing life and try to pick up something supposedly minor and use it against a character’s weakness or fear. But as I grow older I’m realising the minor things I took for granted are the genuine weapons I’m turning them in to.
We used to find Sidney The Algerian and the few others in his corner highly amusing when we raced in France. We couldn’t speak French and understand the abuse he shouted at the losing jockeys, but we got the gist, particularly of the simple replies by the said losing jockeys! It seemed pretty harmless at the time, but I did think “What If..?” later when I wrote Chantilly Dawns and subjected the hero, Marcel, to such abuse. What if it was more than just Sidney The Algerian, and every aggrieved punter? What if it was directed at Marcel in his own home as well as at the racecourse? What if it opened old wounds from a bullied childhood and broke him completely?
Sadly those “What If..?”s are reality. Abuse no longer ends at the racecourse, is no longer the harmless chides of Sidney The Algerian and it does cut through to the bone, whether there are past wounds to reopen or just fresh ones to be made. People can be broken completely, not just by thoughtless abuse but by the deliberate ‘malice aforethought’ meticulously written into an email or letter and sent to a trainer’s address that was searched for online. That’s not Sidney’s spur-of-the-moment outburst. That’s the product of a vicious, spiteful and sick mind. The next time you choose to place your money on a horse you have selected, think twice before heaping abuse on its connections when it lets you down.
(c) Lissa Oliver
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