I am not, by nature, one of life's gamblers.
I do, it is true, buy raffle tickets and occasional draw tickets - but only with the view of supporting the organisations
concerned not because I am excited to "have a flutter." As regular readers know, I never expect to win the raffle at the U3A monthly meeting or any of the other August Gatherings at which I find myself. This means I am never disappointed. I have attended race
meetings - both of the dog and the horse variety - but I generally leave the actual betting to Mr B. Though I do, in occasions, draw his attention to particularly evocative names: granddaughters Katie and Eleanor will always remember Running In Heels at a
local Point to Point. No, neither Katie nor Elle was running in heels. Nor was I, for that matter. Indeed, now I come to think if it, nor was the horse who bore this name. I suppose Running In Horseshoes wouldn't have had the same ring about it.
Last Friday, when our lovely next door neighbours came round to ours to watch the footie, the conversation at half-time turned to the next day's Grand National and the likelihood of Lord Windermere delivering on the
Office Sweepstake. This in turn prompted me to find the page of Runners and Riders which Mr B had cut out of the newspaper and look for Likely Winning Names.
In the early days of our courtship (what a delightfully
quaint, old-fashioned word that seems these days!) I recall Mr B inviting me to choose a horse from the race card for a particular meeting. After a minimum of deliberation, I chose a horse called Castlereagh on the grounds that it sounded grandly majestic.
Being too young to legally enter a betting shop at the time, I was left outside the establishment as Mr B disappeared inside into its smoke-filled interior. When he emerged, a little later, he confessed that he had put his money on a completely different runner,
on his sure and certain view that Castlereagh was a non-starter. Or, even if he started, and finished, he certainly wouldn't win. He (Castlereagh, not Mr B) romped home in the lead - but I'm sure you were there before me.
Our neighbours suggested that, since we were still talking about this unfortunate experience more than fifty years on, the wounds must have gone deep. We reckon it's just part of the rich tapestry of our life together, with all its ups and downs. Fortunately
for us, more ups than downs.
It occurred to me that a wager on the Grand National might lift Mr B's spirits. I remembered how, once again in those days long ago before we were married, he and my Grandad enjoyed
many a Saturday afternoon going through the whole race card of this meeting or that, picking winners (and, it goes without saying) losers. It was one of Grandad's pleasures, a trip to the bookies to put a few bob from his old age pension on what he called
Among the horses running in the Grand National was one named Pleasant Company. What better omen, I told our neighbours, when, thanks largely to a win for Brighton, we had enjoyed an excellent
evening in Pleasant Company. Just to be on the safe side, Mr B checked form and decreed that Pleasant Company was "a good bet."
I am sure that betting shops have changed enormously over the last fifty plus
years and are no longer the kind of place a well brought up woman would enter. It is certainly true that I am no longer too young to enter such an establishment. Nevertheless, l couldn't quite bring myself to present myself in person at the counter where I
would have to display my ignorance of All Things Betting Related - so I went on line.
I know what you're thinking - at least those of you with any knowledge of the outcome of the 2017 Grand National - Pleasant
Company not only didn't win but wasn't even placed.
It's true. But earlier in the week we had had a visit from an old friend. We ate fish and chips and he bought me a quite magnificent orchid. His name is
One For Arthur duly raced to victory and we picked up a quite amazing sum in winnings. Mr B stoutly affirms that the victory was completely down to the fact that the winning jockey was one Ruby Walsh.
It was the only reason, he says, that he was prepared to indulge my fancy.
I'm not saying a word.