How the result came in this afternoon…
…what I at first thought I’d heard.
The mind can play odd tricks on you. Still not sure, though, which would have been the more surprising story. (Stomach good-to-soft).
“There was a period of remorse and apology for banks and I think that period needs to be over…I really resent the fact that you refer to this as blackjack or casino banking or rogue trading,” Barclays’ Diamond Bob goes on the attack at the Treasury Select Committee, 11th Jan 2012
“The reports in the media this morning are both inaccurate and premature.” RBS denies reports of £1m-plus bonus Stephen Hester, 18th Jan 2012
(SKY NEWS) Stephen Hester is to get a bonus of almost £1m, a figure which has drawn criticism of pay deals at the taxpayer-funded institution. Stephen Hester is to get 3.6 million shares in the bank worth £963,000, along with a salary of £1.2m. RBS group chairman Sir Philip Hampton said the company was “aware of the difficulties in trying to reconcile the competing objectives of all our stakeholders”, especially on pay. RBS doesn’t deny reports of £1m-plus bonus Stephen Hester, 27th Jan 2012
“We’re well on the road to recovery. Fingers crossed all the bugs have been got out but we feel a corner has been turned…things back to normal by early next week.” RBS Stephen Hester on the, still to be fixed IT problems which has seen millions of customers’ accounts frozen. 27th June 2012
“Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond has admitted for the first time that the bank made a conscious decision to falsify Libor rates in order to protect the bank at the height of the financial crisis.” Left-wing tabloid rag The Daily Telegraph cranks up the pressure on Diamond Bob over his knowledge of dodgy deals within Barclays. June 28th 2012
“Barclays boss Bob Diamond says he will not resign.” Shock news in a BBC headline, June 29th 2012.
“Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds have been accused of systematically rigging financial markets in a growing international scandal which wiped billions off the value of shares in Britain’s biggest banks.” The Daily Telegraph with more good news for RBS fans and customers. June 29th 2012
“Stephen Hester admits to stealing from his own granny, murdering Lady Diana, selling dodgy Olympic Tickets and starting the Second World War. Diamond Bob admits to shooting, butchering and eating Shergar. Both men say they are “determined to ride out the storm” The Sharp Single, June 31st 2012.
The Incumbent suggested I might like to look up on Youtube the latest sensation to take to the stage in Britain’s Got Talent. In the spirit of Susan Boyle, the producers have unearthed a young lad with the face of a fat Ross Noble and the voice of an Italian fiver. The missus was drawn to tears by the young man’s performance, and quite right too. I always cry when I watch a show including David Walliams but this time I had moist mince pies not because the poor man’s Michael MacIntyre was on the box again, but because he was on a panel (how ? HOW?) judging the worth of various acts. This eclectic bunch had, presumably, seen he’d had his own TV show and thought “well, if he can make a couple of quid with bugger all talent at all, I must have half a chance”.
Walliams, like the other half of the new BBC Sports line-up, John Bishop, is about as funny accidentally ending up at Michael Barrymore’s holiday home in Homs, Syria where he’s holding a comeback swimming pool and toilet brush party. Recently, in lieu of telling shite jokes, the gruesome twosome have donned swimming trunks and taken the place of horse racing, Formula1, cricket, Football and Rugby. Just in case you find yourself enjoying it, Mike Bushell pops up to fuck up all the continuity announcements, and Boom Goes the Dynamite. The half time entertainment is provided by Freddie Flintoff naming the flags and national dishes of Commonwealth countries.
So Walliams with his fellow smug arse Simon Cowell (I neither have time nor space to discuss him here) hold the power of life and death over a motley collection of talented (or otherwise) men and women, boys and girls (or otherwise) who perform on stage in front of a tv audience of millions. It’s mostly pretty buttock-clenching stuff, but every so often they unearth a Susan Boyle or a Jonathan Antoine and his friend Charlotte (who The Sun exclusively reveal today is an aspiring model !!!! Who knew ???)
The boy John really can sing. He has a fantastic pair of lungs. (I’m not posting the video here because a bit of me thinks every click justifies Cowell and Walliams existence and that’s not what I’m here to do. Honestly. ) But it got me around to thinking that after the success of Subo, the fat and ugly clubs of the UK have been inundated with Simon’s talent scouts looking for someone with a face like a blind cobbler’s thumb and the voice of a Disney cartoon nymph to “surprise” the panel for the new series. If you happen to have a face like a bulldog licking the piss of a thistle, expect a mic thrust under your nose on the off-chance you can knock out a tune like Engelbert Humperdink – or even maybe in tune.
And before you ask, no – I have not been approached by a team of researchers with a tape recorder asking me to warble Old Shep for Amanda Holden to weep over. And weep she would, for all sorts of reasons. Weeping is also rife in my house – and not just when The Incumbent watches young singers on talent shows. DIY SOS gets me, if you really want to know.
So big Johnathan and his sister got through to the next round and I suppose the recording contract has already been signed (even if it hadn’t been by the time we saw him on our screens). Is Susan Boyle still a going concern ? I don’t know but I suspect she is making shedloads of cash from sales to every other mothers in the land. Johnathan, I suspect, will be heading for a similar, successful career.
If you really want to see talent, take a butchers at the below, sent to me this afternoon by The Talented Mr Rapley (raconteur, bon-viveur and wit) who couldn’t help himself from reminding us all of the great talent that were Gladys Knights Pips (and that’s not a euphemism). If Johnathan could squeeze himself into either one of these magnificent flared suits, or even Gladys’s poncho, and perform these moves he’d get my vote every week. But in the meantime, no weeping just sit back and enjoy these chaps at their peak.
Shove that up your arse, Walliams.
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 ?
Whenever I have thought about getting a pet for myself and the incumbent Mrs B, a gee gee has never really sprung to mind. I know they’re lovely animals and all that, but you could never sit on the sofa watching a weepie with a 3/4 Arab laying at your feet, or send your 15 hand Palomino round to Mr Singh’s to pick up the Grauniad on a sunday morning (that’ll be after they adopt Mr Murdoch’s 7-day publishing ruse, which they surely will), and keeping a(nother) stallion in the the house would play havoc with The Incumbent’s carpets.
No a horse is not for us, and even if it was we couldn’t afford one. I mean have you seen the price of one ? And it’s not if there’s anywhere you can just hire one or loan one out.
Oh , hang on a minute, there is !
It seems Rebekarhhh Wade loaned a nag from the Old Bill. There is a (very) little-known scheme in which the boys in Blue lend out their old dobbins to selected members of society to ride them ragged and return them in poor health in the twilight years of their lives, just before poor old horsey snuffs it – as happened in this case with Wade’s borrowed nag called Raisa (which would also explain what happened to Mrs Gorbachev).
As an aside, yes I know Rebbbekah pretends she’s married now and her name is now Brooks, but she says a lot of things and pretends much, so I have no reason to believe her when she says she’s married any more than I believe her when she says she knows nothing about phone hacking. And anyway, who’d really marry that ? Yeuch.
According to The Telegraph “Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe expressed his surprise at the arrangement saying there was a lengthy waiting list of people who wanted to re-home former police horses.” But then again few in that lengthy waiting list have furnished the boys in blue with massive wads of cash for privileged info like Rebekahkaka and her mates have. At least I would hope not. There is a lengthy queue of hacks, Masons and MPs waiting to donate sackloads of bunce to plod in return for preferential treatment, of course.
The paper also added that when the horse was returned by Wade (who, funny enough pretends to be married to a racehorse trainer) “Raisa was regarded by officers from Mounted Branch to be in a poor but not serious condition.” Perhaps her “husband” didn’t have any spare nags lying around to loan to his “wife”, nor did he have time to look after the beast properly.
But I suppose if mass, consistent and organized bribing of public officers can’t get you the last few miserable years of a working horse’s existence, what does it get you (apart from an enormous pay-off and the unflinching backing of one of the most powerful men in business) ?
But money, mass corruption, animal cruelty, and fraud aside, a horse has never been for me. When I was a kid my mother would always turn on The Horse of the Year Show to watch Harvey Smith and David Broom, resplendent in their red hunting outfits take their mounts over the jumps at Olympia, or Wembley or maybe Hickstead, ably commentated on by the BBC’s Raymond Brooks Ward (or Raymond Wade Ward as he was known in our house). “C’mo-o-o-n Da-a-a-vid” he would shout though the mic. Which was odd because Princess Anne was in the ring at the time. But who knows what he was thinking of ?
But while mum was jumping up and down during the jump off against the clock, my brother and I were waiting for the gee gee to slam on the anchors and the jockey vault over the handlebars into the wall/hedge/water below. It was our only enjoyment gleaned from the event. We didn’t want the horses harmed, but cared little for the powdered ponces sat astride them.
A similar thing happened when I watched War Horse last night. The lead actor was riding the eponymous hero through the field when they approached a stone wall. The horse came to a sudden halt, through its rider up and over, through the air and eventually onto his arse. I didn’t want the horse hurt, I just wanted the rider to fly though the air, miss the wall, hit the camera full in the lens, shattering metal and glass, which then speared Steven Spielberg, the writer (one can only assume there was one) and the producers of this shite into each other and impaled them all onto a barn door behind. The rest of the cast crew and horses could then mount (geddit??) an asserted and brutal attack on all those who forced such a woeful excuse of a movie onto the general public.
War Horse is a children’s book adapted for the big screen. I just don’t know who it was adapted for ? There are so many “homages” to old movies (Lawrence of Arabia, Gone with the Wind, Lassie Drop Dead) which will surely be lost on the kids. Meanwhile any adults watching (and I include The Incumbent and I) will be bemused in the hokey storyline, Dick Van Dyke accents, Teletubbies sets and crow-barred emotions that the temptation to throw horse excrement is tempered only by the site of so much of it on screen already (both literally and figuratively.)
SPOILER ALERT – ISH
I’m convinced you will take my word for it and save your well-earned cash by not bothering to go see this movie (like WWI itself, it never seems to want to end), but just in case you ignore my advice I shall take you though the final scene:
After the end of the first war, we’re back in Blighty , Devon (apparently), which is indicated by the huge red sky, piercing evening sunlight with the embers of Atlanta burning in the background. Joey (our horsey hero) is back home after his labours, and surrounded by his fiends and family: Albert, Ted, Rose, Uncle Sandy, Ricky, Old Shep and Bernard Cribbens. All of a sudden Skippy and Flipper hove into view and tell Joey the whereabouts of Lee Van Cleef’s buried treasure. Everyone hugs and laughs and Albert marries Jenny Agutter who, in a moment of sobriety, has forgotten to take her clothes off for this scene.
Or it may as well be.
England – 0 vrs 1 – Normandy
By John Moatson in Hastings
14th October 1066
Here this evening the English suffered yet another in a long line of humiliating defeats at the hands of the unfancied Normandians when an extra-time clincher was grasped by veteran shooter, Dominique Strauss-Khan, sending the home side down to what seems to be a final, crushing blow. For much of the early action, Strauss-Khan’t had gone missing, concentrating his efforts on his controversial “rape and pillage” tactics, particularly the former. But when an unreliable serving-wench (and some clearly mad slapper scribe) shouted foul, Dominique returned to doing what he does best: sticking his balls in the old onion bag (whatever her name is).
The Citing Committee have since decided that as all that nastiness may or may not have happened over two hours ago, Mr Strauss-Can has no case to answer.
From the outset the Frenchmen were not considered a threat, such was the animosity between the players and the coach during the warm-up, and the amount of money they, along with the Holy Roman Empire, have recently had to stump-up to bail out the non-tax paying scroungers of the ancient world. So the English were hoping their opposition would be distracted, but you never know which French side will turn up. Gallic flair, so loved by commentators and Bob Symonds alike, was brought to the fore and after early hiccups, had the English on the back foot.
The English, to be fair, were in disarray from the beginning. Their chief tactician The Silver Fox, (or Le Renard Fraude, as the French know him) had decided to listen more to his close friend and confidant, Squire Werritty, than any of the battle-hardened knights around him. It was clear that Werritty had seen little of real action before and seemed only interested what was in it for him, his sponsors, the Children of Israel, and other generous peoples across the oceans, yet to be discovered.
The English Cavalry were also ineffectual, their horses refusing to budge, the knights having been banned this very morning from administering the whip or spurs to encourage forward movement from their charges. The infantry seemed as if they had been drinking of too much of the mead, or kissing of the Dwarf the night before. All this as well as reports that the Normans had discovered vital English tactical information in a nearby park wastebin, apparently deposited there by some feckless English nobleman (the oddly Gallicly-named Le Twin) have thus far been totally rejected by team manager Johnno the Huge-Disappointment. Johnno added that if England could next time pick more Samoans and New Zealanders, they might just have a chance of winning.
Whatever the reasons for their downfall, it wasn’t long before the English were down by one-King-to-nil as the Norman strike partnership of Strauss-Khunt and Waine Le Rue Née picked out the English figurehead, and it was one in the eye for them. In truth, Harold was not hard to pick out, he being the only one on the field of play wearing German kit. Shortly after, Le Rue Née was asked to leave the field, being deemed to be too violent and stupid to take part. Waine was originally picked for the English squad, but in an interview later he stated that he didn’t mind which “fookin side” he played for as long as he could kick some “fooking coonts up the arse”. It is assumed he will be offered the post of Commissioner of the soon-to-be-formed Metropolitan Police.
The one consolation to England from losing this day to the Normans is that it saves the embarrassment of losing to the Welsh (which this mob surely would) in the next round the following week. Two questions remain for the English Press Barons: Have the Normans peaked too early?; and has conquering King William married the wrong sister?
Very much so, in fact.
Took my youngest daughter Kate to play football for her new team on Sunday. Great to get back into the swing of it. A new season, a new team-mates, new coaches and new competitive dads to stand next to on the touchline. Her, sorry our, team won 3-0, with Bealing junior putting in a solid performance at centre-back. Several hefty clearances with the boot, powerful headers into touch were accompanied by two crunching (but completely fair in my eyes) tackles, which led to two free-kicks being awarded against her.
Afterwards the coach congratulated her for her overall game, and said that although her didn’t mind the odd free-kick, warned her “not to get a reputation”. That’s my girl. In the car later I told her that a reputation was exactly what she should strive for, especially one of a tough, uncompromising defender.
Returning home in the guise of contented dad, I let myself dream of my daughter eventually becoming the next Norman Hunter, Roy Keane or Graeme Souness, albeit of the womens’ game. One girl in the U18s had already secured 3 England caps, so Kate had just 3 years to perfect her tackling and heading, perhaps turning herself into a Lampard-esque attacking midfielder (just hopefully with fewer hair products). Oh football isn’t such a bad game after all.
Then I started browsing the sports pages…
An assistant coach of Togo’s national football team has been suspended for three years after he took a group of imposters masquerading as the national side to play a match in Bahrain. Last week, Togo’s sports federation said it had no knowledge of a friendly that took place between a team representing itself as Togo’s national side and Bahrain on September 7.
Bahrain had been surprised by the ease of their 3-0 victory in Riffa on September 7, coach Josef Hickersberger describing it as “boring” and their opponents as unfit. “They were not fit enough to play 90 minutes; the match was very boring. “Basically it was not good for us because we wanted to get information about the strength of our team, especially playing with many of our professionals.” (Yahoo News)
Seems that they’re not the only ones pretending to be someone they’re not…
Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Apoula Edel has been interviewed by police over claims he lied about his age and identity.
Edel’s former coach and agent Nicolas Philibert, who claims that he is owed 30,000 euros by the player, is reported to have accused the 24-year-old of actually being a 29-year-old named Ambroise Beyamena. French magazine Le 10 Sport had published documents accusing the Cameroon-born Armenia international of lying about his age and identity, documents handed to the authorities by Philibert.
Philibert claims he coached Edel in Cameroon, lending him money and helping him move to Armenia, and that he is actually Benyamena. (Eurosport)
From imposters to would-be assassins…
A Turkish professional football match was suspended after the manager of one of the teams was stabbed on the touchline by his own brother. Mersin Idmanyurdu boss Yuksel Yesilova was watching his side play at Samsunspor in a first division (second tier) match on Monday when the incident happened.
Forty minutes into the match Yesilova’s older brother, Murat, jumped out of the crowd and attacked his brother, stabbing him six times in the stomach and hip. The match was immediately suspended and Yesilova was rushed to hospital. His injuries were ruled not to be life-threatening, and he was released from hospital on Tuesday. (Eurosport)
Meanwhile over in Honduras….
An angry Honduran goalkeeper shot at a journalist with an air gun at the weekend over criticism in the sports daily Diez.
In an act reminiscent of an incident involving Diego Maradona in 1994, Motagua goalkeeper Donaldo Morales shot at reporter Saul Carranza with an air gun over criticism of his performances in the sports daily Diez.
Carranza was interviewing midfielder Jorge Claros after a practice at the Estadio Nacional in Tegucigalpa when Morales appeared with a gun and shot at them, hitting the reporter twice and the player once, according to a weekend report in Diez. The paper said that Morales later asked Carranza to forgive him but the reporter refused. (Reuters)
Yes, it’s a lovely game, yer soccer. As happy as I am with the crowd chanting “Kate Bealing bites yer legs”, I’d rather she didn’t have to learn the art of manangercide. I wonder if I can persuade her to take up rugby instead ? I could go down the joke-shop for some blood-capsules. Or I could get her a fake Pakistani passport so she could ply her trade as a seam-bowler (there are likely to be one or two vacancies coming up). Or snooker ? Horse racing ? Boxing seems to be a straight-up sport. Motor-racing anyone ?
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.
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.