Not Now, Kauto


My thanks go to Mrs V.F. of Paris for alerting me to this banned Paddy Power TV Advert. It’s a fair bet that, whether or not Kauto Star is fit and well enough to run this year, the Cheltenham Festival will definitely be able to welcome this lot to the losers enclosure.

I trust that Mrs F will be spending placing her shilling each-way bets as sensibly as is her usual ?

 

Happy Families


Just after the war, 1947 I think it was, my father was arrested trying to place a bet for his then future father-in-law. Clutching a filthy little tanner in his filthy little hands (cos he was one of the boys), Jerry (for that is my dad’s name)walked smack bang into a police raid on an illegal betting shop above a grocers in Erith, Kent. Dad spent 4 hours in a cell before being let off to get a bollocking from his mum. Bill, the father-in-law saw neither his half-crown nor a betting slip. Dad’s always been a kind of hero to me for that. I bet he shit himself at the time. Even moreso when my nan got hold of him.

Jerry Bealing Enjoying his Freedom

But dads sure can be an embarrassment. Snooker star Ronnie O’Sullivan‘s old man, for example. Ronnie Senior spent 17 years in jail for the racist attack and murder of a bloke in a club in the King’s Road, Chelsea. Cor!, eh ? How embarrassing ! I’m sure his son’s nice, though.

Then there was the case of the father of England soccer captain John Terry who was filmed by a former newspaper dealing cocaine. Dear old Edward Terry passed three wraps of cocaine to a News of the World (remember that?) reporter in a bar in exchange for £120 per wrap, presumably to pay for his wife’s (John’s mum – do keep up) shoplifting habit. What a lovely family they make ? Christmas  lunch must be a real treat around their house with Edward free-basing, Mrs Terry in her oversize coat , and  John with somebody else’s wife, all sitting down for a festive lunch.. Merry Christmas, one and all – I know John loves a good Dickens. Who doesn’t ?

Now we read of dear old Wayne Rooney‘s pater. Wayne Senior (not to be confused with Ronnie Senior) was arrested along with 8 other men (including his brother Richie) regarding suspicious betting patterns during a Motherwell vrs Hearts match. Apparently the police’s suspicions were aroused when they were alerted that 9 people were actually watching a Scottish football match in the first place. Never in the history of Scotch sport have 9 people offered money on the match outcome. They must have stood out like the Archbishop of Golders Green.

Wayne, Wayne and Wayne on Holiday.

I don’t know if this sort of behaviour is confined to the parents of famous sporting stars, or whether all our mums and dads have the potential to make us hang our heads in shame. My mate Mark was a fantastically gifted rugby and cricket player, though strictly amateur. When he died at an uncommonly early age his dad ran off with all the money Mark had bequeathed to his nephews. Go figure. Must be the pressure of being a dad. Or perhaps he’s just a thieving cvnt.

I regularly try to, and often succeed in embarrassing my kids. They think I dress like an old bloke (check), am fat like an old bloke (yup) and tell all the same jokes all the time, that weren’t funny in the first place (got me again). My stroke has slowed me down a bit, emphasising just really old I am, in their eyes at least. My youngest has already made it known that she expects the lion’s share of whatever is in my will (what will?). You can hear her totting up the cash every time I have a slight relapse.

But it’s all in good fun (he hopes). Dad’s main function is to embarrass the kids. If I partake in a spot of old-man dancing, listen to too much Status Quo or emit nauseous gases every so often when standing up, or sitting down… or just sitting still, come to think of it, then that is part of dad’s prerogative. I haven’t killed anyone in a racist frenzy with a six-inch knife, like Mr O’Sullivan (senior), or contributed to the drug cartels’ coffers like Mr Terry (senior, of course) or even fucked off to Ramsgate with the family money like my mate Mark’s dad.

On me ‘ead, Ted. Or up me nose, I suppose.

Wayne senior’s crimes seem small-fry compared to these, and he will doubtless blame his abberation on the embarrassment he feels when watching his son arse about on the football field like he did last night against Mesopotamia. Wayne may still blame Wayne, of course (in any order you like) for the headlines regarding the hair transplant/manky old prostitute/betting shop anomaly  (delete where or if applicable).

So let’s leave Wayne’s dad alone. It must take some doing, living under the enormous shadow of his son, Shrek, and the circus that follows him and his frightful missus around. I’d be prone to rash decision and dubious actions, just like the ‘Motherwell 9’ if I were in that position. If my kids ever find out I actually bet a fiver on England winning the Rugby World Cup they’d disown me for life. Like the England Rugby team, the whole Rooney family is an embarrassment to each other. At least they bloody well should be. Dad Wayne should be left merely to receive a bollocking from his mum and a cash award from the SPL for bringing Scottish Football to the attention of the world for the first time since Archie Gemmill danced his way through the Dutch defence (as easy as a Bosnian Serb strolling past a Dutch roadblock).

Vive la France.

This Story Has Legs


I think it was Arthur Daley who, when his minder, Terry, said to him ” ‘ere, Arfur, lend us a tenner, I’m a bit short” replied:
“Well if you’re short, I’m a dwarf “.

Aren’t short people fascinating ? And there’re a lot of em about. Hitler and Napoleon (Boneparte, not Solo) to name two – not that I’m suggesting they’re still around. Al Pacino, Tom Cruise, Charlie Drake, Diego Maradona never excelled at the High Jump at school. Guy Fawkes too was a tiddler, though admittedly that wasn’t until he had his legs sawn off for being naughty underneath Parliament.

There appear to be no records of Fawkes height either before he was caught or indeed post hoct te proc, but suffice to say I doubt if he was a happy little Guido after becoming deficient in the leg department to the tune of two. Then again he wasn’t alone: short people are invariably a miserable bunch- especially the male of the species. Short Man Syndrome is well documented and we all know at least one snappy little git, intent on making amends lack of stature.

So many of them become leaders of (taller) men too. The aforementioned Adolf, and Boney had reasonable success in their chosen careers (mass genocide and continent-conquering), Maradonna captained his country, before he started eating it and the French are currently led by a bloke who carries a box under his arm in case he has to reach a microphone (or kiss the missus). I’m unsure how tall Gaddafi is.

I was traumatised by an early Ginsters Pies ad campaign which seem to depict their factory entirely manned by midgets (“Ginsters Pies: Made By Dwarves”. Remember that next time you’re in a service station).

Then there’s Ian Hislop and Ricky Ponting, who may-or-may-not be one and the same person. Hislop edits a satirical magazine (the name of which escapes me) and Ponting leads the Australian Cricket team. Ok,  at 5’10” Ricky isn’t technically a midget but for the purposes of this rubbish he could be considered the world’s tallest short bloke. He certainly scowls and chunters around the pitch like he’s short. A tragic victim of Short Bloke’s Disease.


Ricky hasn’t had a very good winter. He and his team lost The Ashes (again) during which Ricky hurt his finger. He hurt it so much it makes him grumpy. All winter long he’s been even more grumpy than usual. He’s been throwing his tinnies out of his dunnie, screaming at his hapless bowlers and arguing with the umpires even more than usual. Poor old Punter. He’s not gonna be that chuffed tonight after his mob lost to Pakistan. Perhaps the Aussies didn’t have enough dollars to have a whip-round for the Pak bowlers, but just when Ricky needed to see the sight of a dodgy bookie in the oppo’s changing room, there came none.

Hislop;Ponting: Never seen in the same room together.

The recent weeks have seen a lot of funny old results. Ireland vrs England (cricket); Ireland vrs England (rugby); Bangladesh vrs England (cricket again – are you beginning to see a pattern here?); then there’s the hilarious Italy vrs France (rugby again); not forgetting Gaddafi’s Loyalist Troops XI making a spectacular comeback in extra time against The Rebels U18 XI, just before the Rest of The World XV threw in a couple of subs (and strikers).

Tonight’s rugby match between England and Ireland was just the latest in odd results.  Maybe it’s the Supermoon ? It looks pretty super to me. All I know is tonight’s ref (a nasty little Kiwi I think) had little legs. QED.

Reader’s Indigestion


According to Pink Floyd it’s the route of all evil today. Liza Minnelli said it made the world go round. Apparently it can’t buy you love, but the Pet Shop Boys wanted to make lots of it. I suppose it must by funny in a rich man’s world, but I’m unlikely experience that. I’m skint and I need a cunning plan. And I ain’t really got one.

I was thinking of writing my memoirs: A no-hold bars account of my life so far, explaining my angst over all the bad things I’ve done in my life and the lies I’ve told, justifying some, defending others, but apologizing for none. I could include a chapter explicitly detailing the sex life with my wife, and throughout the book I could pepper it with references to my closest colleague who took over from me after I left the job. I could then reveal to the world that I always thought he was an idiot, unsuitable for the job, unstable and with a violent temper. I could distance myself from all the cock-ups he made and the disasters that befell the office after I’d stood down from my post. They were, after all, nothing to do with me.

The book would be a best-seller, I’d make millions (I’d ensure it was immediately marked down as half-price in Waterstones and on Amazon, just so even more would be tempted to buy it), and I could travel the country, nay the world giving interviews to the BBC, selling extracts to TIME Magazine and the like. I might even give book-signing sessions in popular stores in big cities.

But what if some of the unenlightened electorate, a section of the great unwashed take umbrage over what I’ve done and start heckling me, or worse start throwing shoes and shit at me. I wouldn’t like that. I want to be loved. I’d have to run and hide, and that wouldn’t look very good, would it? No, perhaps I need to come up with a better plan to make my fortune.

Or perhaps I don’t need to make millions? After all, work is bound to come my way sooner or later, right? Perhaps I just need a cash-injection ? I keep seeing those loan companies advertising on the tv. They offer short-term loans for a modest interest rate. One of the adverts says they offer “typical APR 2689%”. Not sure what’s typical about 2689%, but then again I’m not very good at money. I reckon £20,000 might tie me over til I get myself square. Hopefully that wouldn’t take too long, say a year. If I borrowed it at the typical rate I need only repay £79,565.39. Hmmm…

I’m 46 next month and creeping ever-nearer to the age when I can apply for one of those “Over 50 plans” which Michael Parkinson is always flogging on telly. But life insurance is no good to me, is it? Unless I can get third party.

My complete and utter confidence in my winning the lottery is beginning to wane a little. I haven’t had a sniff of even a tenner for weeks. I dunno what’s going wrong. In the first draft of my autobiography I have blamed The Incumbent for buying the wrong tickets. It definitely isn’t my fault, and I’ll make sue the world knows it. Unless we win tomorrow night then I shall amend the draft to ensure my genius is well documented.

I sought out a dodgy bookie to see if we might work out some way of spot fixing during my next cricket match. He came along to watch the game I was playing in at the weekend. He suggested, having seen me play before, that we might run a book on which part of my body would drop off or explode at any given time during the match. We agreed that on the third ball of the fifth over my right ankle would collapse from under me, leaving me to hobble around in agony. During the 7th over I would make a disastrous attempt of fielding the ball, allowing it to run under my body to the boundary and thus giving the opposition four runs. Finally, before the 2nd ball of the 20th over I would collapse in a heap in the outfield, having gone temporarily blind, and in need of re-hydration. For this I would be handsomely rewarded.

I would have made a fortune if I’d have remembered it was my right ankle that was to give way.Everything else went to plan. Inspector Smellie of the Yard wants to see me, once I have recovered.

But there is a chink of light, a glimmer of hope. There’s a knight in shining armour on the horizon. The 7th Cavalry have arrived and they’ve brought shedloads of cash with ’em. There’s a letter on my dining table which says that Reader’s Digest are going to give me, give me £100,000. All I have to do is wait for a big orange envelope to pop through my letterbox and post back my lucky prize winning numbers. I dunno what I’ve been worried about all along. No bookies needed, no publisher required. Just good, honest, old fashioned, non-intrusive Reader’s Digest. The Milky Bars are on me. Break out the purple quilted smoking jacket and johdpurs.

How many lottery tickets can you buy with £100,000?

A Spot of Bother


Flat.

I remember feeling like this before. I’d seen Ben Johnson win the Olympic 100 meters final in 1988. I’d watched the race live on tv and it was a fantastic spectacle. Johnson was sensational. He mullered them.

Except he wasn’t and he didn’t. He was stripped on the gold medal, having taken performance-enhancing drugs. I took it personally. To have enjoyed such a magnificent performance, then just hours later to have that enjoyment dashed by learning that the Canadian was a drugs cheat. I felt hollow. It was a real downer.

I suspect I wasn’t alone when my initial joy at seeing Usain Bolt run for the first time was tempered by the fear that he too may be on something. I remember turning to The Incumbent and saying “oh god, I hope he’s clean”. Bolt was a new face, a fresh face, with a touch of class, a bit of the rebel about him. He had a cheeky smile and a rehearsed pre and post-race comedy routine.

He didn’t act like a middleweight boxer on the blocks:- sniffiing and snorting, punching the air like these sprinters tend to do. He winked at the camera, he struck the pose, he actually looked like he was having fun. “For Christ’s sake let this bloke not be a drugs cheat”. Pleasingly at time of writing Usain seems to run short distances in very fast times without the help of any illegal stimulants (though I’m told he loves a Guinness or three) .

Cycling and F1 seem forever to be making headlines for some form of cheating or another. The lack of moral fortitude that surrounds Grand Prix racing is well documented, at one stage a F1 team impelled a driver to risk death to both himself and to the watching spectators by crashing his own car into a wall at high speed. All for the good of the team.

There is a school of thought that professional cyclists couldn’t possibly perform to the high level they do throughout the season WITHOUT taking drugs, such are the pains and stresses the riders put themselves through. Drug abuse in this sport is rife. Almost accepted.

So common are the instances of cheating in the above sports that it’s difficult to see any fan (and there must be some around, surely ?) getting too upset when the next scandal is exposed. It’d be a bit like a soccer fan having his week ruined because he saw a center forward dive in the box, or a midfielder feign injury, or a player wave an imaginary red card to get his opposite number sent off. It just happens far too often.

When South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje was discovered to have accepted money from a bookmaker in exchange for making certain decisions on the field, the world of cricket was plunged into a mire of cheating, gamesmanship and skulduggery. Part of my world, and of cricket fans the world over, fell apart. Cronje, up until that point, was universally regarded as a good egg, a model sportsman. Our beloved game was in danger of being dragged into the murky depths previously thought to be the domain of baseball, Italian football and national hunt racing.

The very phrase “it’s not cricket” was born out of a sport which prided itself on fair play, the corinthian spirit, and the feeling that ours was a noble sport, played by gentlemen (conveniently forgetting that the greatest of all english cricketers, W.G.Grace was one of the biggest rouges, diddlers and rapscallions the world of sport has ever known.) “It’s not cricket”. It’s not fair. It’s not right. It’s not how to play the game ! If Hollywood ever portrays an old English duffer they’ll invariably write “it’s not cricket” into his dialogue to illustrate he’s both English and clings to this quaint idea of “fair play”

Cricket, apart from being the greatest of all games, is perfectly set-up for betting and therefore cheating. There are so many opportunities to bet on each part of the action, and if people can bet and make a lot of money on those events, then you can bet your favourite testicle that someone will have worked out how to fiddle the outcome, con the bookie and make even more wads of cash out of it. And that leads us on nicely to the current scandal which has erupted over the weekend.

Several players on the Pakistan team currently playing against England in a series of matches have allegedly received money from persons unknown to bowl ‘no-balls’ (foul balls) at specific times during the match. Evidence gathered by the London News of the World newspaper suggest that specific moments were singled out for these illegal acts to occur, and right on cue that’s exactly what happened. Apparently it’s called Spot Fixing (as opposed to Match Fixing). It doesn’t seem to have altered the outcome of the match (the Pakistanis lost heavily, and would have done so in any event) but the inference is that if these lads have been found out to have taken cash for intentional cock-ups here, what else has been going on ?

Have they previously thrown matches ? Have they gotten themselves out earlier than they would have naturally have done so ? In the multi-billion dollar world of cricket betting it’s impossible to predict you’ll win a match, but much easier to chuck a match, or drop a catch or bowl a ‘no-ball’. There’s been a suggestion that some of these young men don’t merely enter into these nefarious activities because of the financial rewards offered by the odd dodgy better or bookie. Allegedly players have been intimidated, families and friends have been threatened, some have even been kidnapped. All very murky, if not distasteful and distressing stuff.

But it’s much sadder than that. One of the headline-grabbing names accused of taking bribes is that of Mohammad Amir, an 18 year old fast bowler who has been quite magnificent this year. Watching him bowl gave me the same goosey feeling that I had when I saw Bolt run the hundred meters for the first time, when I watched Ian Botham skittle the Aussies in ’81, and Freddie Flintoff destroy bowlers in 2005. I never saw George Best play as a kid for Man Utd (before he hit hit the bottle) but I reckon if I did I would have been awe inspired, realised this was the next great player. Amir has been sensational. The youngest bowler to reach 50 wickets in Test cricket, he plays the game with a smile on his face while all the time retaining that nasty streak all great fast bowlers need. But the headlines wont say that in the morning, or for weeks to come.

If these allegations are substantiated, Amir will be forever associated with this next sorry episode in cricket’s recent squalid history and not his fantastic feats on the field of play . He won’t be the first (or the last) from his nation (or any other) to be involved in back-of-the-hand deals with back-streets betting sharks. But if you’d have watched him this summer, as I have, you’d be as sad as I am for having that joy of seeing the beginning of a brilliant new career replaced by the despair of yet another young talent seduced by the dark side of professional sport.

Flat ? You bet I am.

.

The State of Play


Finally, there’s something to smile about, something to feel good about, something to look forward to. As the vinegar-strokes of Spring burst forth and the new season sprays its seeds over the flora and fauna of my garden and along all the lanes and byways of the sleepy little borough of Lewis Ham the sun, which has been in winter training south of the equator, make’s an early attempt to be over the yardarm before a mid-day thirst engulfs me.

As the sun’s rays stream through the patio doors, shedding shafts of dusty light over last night’s discarded lottery tickets I hear unmistakable sound of my faithful chien noir pawing at the door in a bid for freedom. He tries this every now and then and the chances are he’ll return pronto, but who am I to keep him forever at my side? I open the door to let my four-legged friend out and, as they say in the song, let the sunshine, let the sunshine, the sun shine in.

I stand at the threshold, inhale lung-fulls of chill, spring air, let the pale,weak solar beams wash over my ever-growing face then realise I should have put some clothes on before exposing my ample frame and dwindling genitalia to the neighbours in the surrounding houses and gardens. I quickly pull the curtains, leaving the rays to illuminate the beaks of the blue tits feeding on my nuts, and to dry out the cat shit on the lawn

My mood has been improving gradually over the past couple of weeks, as it tends to do this time of year. The first indicator that winter is over is the clocks going forward, then Boat Race, then the following weekend by The Grand National (that’s a horse race) and the US Masters (a rather important golf tournament) . The National and The Masters, two events separated by the Atlantic Ocean and 20 degrees Celcius, but almost inseparable by their postitions in the league table of sensational sporting events. Both have huge fields of brightly dressed runners, many carrying too much weight for their own good, most immaculately shod and watched by thousands of animated, vocal and knowledgeable fans. Though admittedly there are rather fewer pissed scousers at Augusta than turn up at Aintree (John Daly’s not from Liverpool, is he?).

Over the years both Grand National and Masters have cost me a fair few quid as I pour goodly amounts of my hard earned cash into the open wallets of the bookies while trying to predict who will win. Most part-time punters remember their few National winners, it being such a lottery and successes come so rarely. My love of the race started in 1975 when I had 50p each-way (probably paid for by my mum) on l’Escgargot which romped home at 13/2. This is easy, thought I and embarked on a, thus far, 35 year quest to repeat my success and adorn myself with the riches of the Indus. I waited 30 years for my next win when, somehow, I bet on the 2005 winners, Hedgehunter which won as 7/1 favourite. Hardly odds on which to retire.

Of course, I was nowhere near last year’s 100-1 Mon Mome, not even in the office sweep. No, I was on State of Play which finished fourth, so I just about got my money back. No-one would ever (or shouldn’t ever) bet ‘to win’ on this race, as a field of 40 horses jumping over 30 sodding great fences over 4 1/2 miles is anyone’s race, so my little ‘each-way’ wagers each year have just about kept my head above water.

So it was with curiously mis-placed optimism that I sat down to watch yesterday’s race. I’d spent long hours studying the form, listening to professional pundits and looking for funny names, but eventually I went with State of Play again, (which this time came in 3rd), while my mate Rob (who has absolutely no interest in the Sport of Kings) had a last-minute, completely uninformed and lucky fiver-each way on the winner, Don’t Push It (10-1) and thus went home with a smile on his face and a bulge in his wallet. Oh goody! How I laughed.

Meanwhile, across the pond in Augusta Georgia, The US Masters has for years had a similar grip on both my interest and wages and, up until Tiger showed up, was as unpredictable as the gee-gee race over in Blighty. Any one of the 90-odd players in the field were capable of winning and picking the winner was very much a game of chance. Once Woods came onto the scene, things became a little more predictable, but by no means a sure thing. Nevertheless, in 20 years of handing over my crisp notes to the good bookmakers, I have yet to collect anything back off them by way of winnings. Again, each-way bets would seem to be the key to all this, not that I’ve even gotten a 4th place.

When Tiger zipped up his trousers and decided to make his comeback at this year’s event, I resisted the temptation to put the house (or even a shilling on the side, just to make it interesting) on him. I was banking on the past 6 months of chaos and media frenzy that has followed young Eldrick Tont Woods around would have put him off his stroke (on the golf course, at least). No, I plumped for the plump Lee Westwood of Ing-er-land as this year’s conduit of delivering my money into the safe clutches of turf accountants of the world.

Lo and behold, my man Lee is having a stormer!! After two rounds he was leading the field with his fellow Brit Ian Poulter, and at one stage during the third round he was 7 shots ahead of Tiger, Phil Mickelson or anyone else. SEVEN SHOTS!!! It was in the bag. Lee would have to drop about a dozen shots to drop down to fifth place, to where my each-way bet wouldn’t bring me any money back. But chances were that he was gonna romp it. In my head I began counting my winnings: £10 at 25/1 is…er..£250, plus my stake back, that £260. That’s 86.6667 pints of Guinness in O’Neills (81.25 in The Crown). Even if Westwood stumbled a little and came in, say, 3rd I’d still get a percentage of the odds, enough for a pint and a curry in Khans.

Hang on a minute.

I logged onto to my online bookies, just to make sure I hadn’t put 50 quid on him (I had had a little drinky when I placed the bet) and thus about to become a very rich man indeed.

Sadly I hadn’t bet 50 pounds each-way, or even 10 pounds each way. I had, for reasons best known to God and Arthur Guinness, placed ten pounds on Lee Westwood to win. TO WIN! No-one bets to win on anyone but Tiger. No-one except bad, drunk, amateur gamblers, that is. As I looked up from my computer screen, Lee’s lead had been cut to three shots. The one shot. Then he was level. Then he was one shot behind. Bollocks. By the end of play Westwood was again top of the leaderboard, but by one shot from Mickelson, with Tiger looming ominously only a couple of shots back.

So that’s that, then. My one chance in 20 years to clean up at The Masters gone, duck-hooked out-of-bounds, sliced into the long grass. Unless it isn’t and Westwood holds strong and wins. In which case I shall celebrate by drinking just enough to put on a well-judged wager. Lib Dems at 200-1 one look tempting. On the nose, of course.