#22 – Put a bet on in a betting shop
I included this on The List because it’s one of those life experiences I’ve just never had. I’m not a natural lucky person – as children if we went to a fete and Mum bought us five tombola tickets each I’d win nothing and my sister would win three prizes. Guaranteed. I therefore grew up with the conviction that me and gambling was a very bad mix, so I’ve avoided it. When writing The List and thinking about everyday experiences I hadn’t had however, I decided that perhaps I should see what betting was all about.
My Grampy (Dad’s Dad) is the only person I ever knew who put bets on regularly. He used to read the racing papers, fill out the betting slips and take them down to the shop to put the bet on. On one occasion, he had to leave to go to football before putting the bet on so we had to go to town to do it for him. I remember going to the sweet shop and choosing some penny sweets, then having to wait outside the betting shop while Mum went in with the slip to put the bet on. As we were not allowed in, betting shops took on an aura of mystery but also a slight sense of being something seedy and somehow illicit.
For a first time bet, what else is there but the Grand National? I checked out the horses online, choosing one by the very scientific method of ‘I like the name’. As I was due to fly into Japan the day before the race was run, it seemed appropriate to put a bet on The Last Samurai. The odds were quite low, so apparently it was something of a favourite.
I nipped out of the office during my lunch hour, and just popped in to the betting shop. I had expected some sort of den of iniquity. I was envisaging a dark, gloomy places with shadows in the corners, probably thick with smoke. I was actually quite disappointed to find myself in a light, bright, orderly room! There were slot machines, screens showing the racing and other sporting events, and copies of the race lists on the walls. Other than the attendant the only other occupant was an old boy in a flat cap studying the racing form, which was very appropriate as my Grampy used to wear flat caps. Clearly I looked out of place as the attendant immediately asked how he could help me.
I explained that I wanted to put a bet on the National and that I had chosen my horse. He asked me if I wanted to bet on it to win or each way, explaining that each way puts half the stake on the win and half on the horse finishing second, third or fourth. I went for each way (given I’m not generally lucky I thought it best not to put all my eggs in one basket). I handed over £20, he gave me a printed slip with the bet on and that was that! The whole transaction was over in less than 5 minutes.
I emerged, blinking, back into the sunshine, with a slight sense of anti-climax. Like most things you’re banned from doing, it seemed much more interesting when I wasn’t allowed to go in.
Technically, since the challenge was to put the bet on, that was it. The 30th of my 40 before 40 completed.
But of course you want to know the end of the story…
I’m pleased to report that The Last Samurai finished second so I’ll get to pick up my winnings when I’m back in the UK. And that will probably be the last time I enter a betting shop!