I mentioned briefly the other day that I had been to play polo. That may have been a slight exaggeration, given my physical prowess on the sporting field. What I did do was go to the ravishing Coworth Park for the day, under the aegis of the lovely people at Barbour to have a polo lesson. (Coworth Park is a jaw-droppingly lovely-looking country house hotel, which just happens to have a full size polo field. As you do.)
About ten or so of us had been invited: the charming Henry Conway (who looked a damn sight better in his pale pink Barbour polo shirt than I did), a smattering of editors, Savile Row businessman Patrick Grant, myself and lovely Richard who handles my affairs at Curtis Brown.
You approach up a driveway, with meadows of wild flowers all around: so romantic, like an Impressionist painting brought to life:
I had absolutely no idea what to wear for polo, but I did know that you needed proper footwear, so I borrowed a pair of the most amazing Spanish riding boots from Penelope Chilvers,
paired them with my Goldsign skinny jeans and hoped for the best. Turns out everyone else plumped for jeans too (apart from a solitary pair of baggy-bottomed jodphurs), including Richard. (Here he is, wondering if anyone would notice if he surreptitiously ‘borrowed’ this rather nice Barbour bag)
We spent the morning practicing our swing, mounted on wooden horses, before being allowed to actually mount the real, live polo ponies. Mine was a pet, although his being called Lucifer didn’t exactly fill me with confidence at the beginning. Then we played a series of short matches against each other – at walking pace. Apparently the guys in charge didn’t fancy the sight of a load of novices charging around waving polo sticks in the air. Can’t think why.
Holding the reins in your left hand and swinging the bamboo polo stick 180 degrees in the other is a matter of extreme concentration – especially when you have to think about not just avoiding bonking your pony on the head with the business end of the stick, but also steering the wonderful beast. I kept getting confused & giving him conflicting aids with my knees, but the dear animal just soldiered on, no doubt huffing to himself about ‘bloody amateurs’.
I loved every single minute of it, (even if I did fail to find an Argentinian polo player to seduce a la Jilly Cooper’s Polo) and am wondering if I can possibly justify more lessons. After lunch, we watched a proper match, jaws dropping as we now realised JUST how skilled you have to be to play polo on a galloping pony. And brave too.
The guys on the right below are the Household Cavalry team, some of whom were just back from Helmand Province, so I think we can take the brave bit for granted.
We had a see who can hit the polo ball the furthest competition, followed by a keepy-uppy contest, which I am very proud to say Richard won by a mile. Yay us.
LLG was a guest of Barbour at Coworth Park.