50p Each Way

Last weekend I spent two nights at a campervan festival on the English/Welsh border. The almost constant sunshine, an enchanting Chester landscape and good company contributed to existing in forty eight hours of outdoor ambrosia.

Re-reading the above paragraph, it has struck me that I’d no need to prefix Welsh with the word English. After all, Cymru (Wales for the uninitiated) borders no other nation than England, consequently added unnecessary wording into the prose.

As my writing tutor would say “Fewer words, more content, Gary.”… Looks like I’ve failed to heed her advice yet again!… My bad.

Last weekends trip was me and my partner Sarah’s first festival experience. Also, our first experience of a rain free campervan trip. The heavens ordinarily opening with a vengeance whenever we sample the ‘outdoor life in a van’.

Additionally, temperatures in the Easter weekend Cheshire sunshine were amenable enough to allow us to sit outside of the van/awning for the first time. Times when, with solar rays basting or face, we chewed the fat (I’m gonna have to get better quality cuts of meat) and indulged in a smorgasbord of silliness.

Not that we were complaining about the fine weather, but the sunbathing came at a cost. Bereft of suitable spf cream, come Saturday evening our faces were as scarlet as the shirts worn by the nearby Liverpool football club.

The gaggle of campervans occupied the outer gallops and fields of Chester Racecourse. A venue which, with its inaugural meeting taking place in the early 16th century, bears the worlds oldest racecourse accolade.

I have it good authority, rumours a runner that day (called T’Old Lad) was so slow it’s still running are untrue… For it to be true the nag would have to be 500 years old, of course it’s not bloody true!!… Well, not unless the snorting equine apparition Sarah spotted when going the loo on Friday night was T’Old Lad… And, before you ask, no it wasn’t my t’old lad!!

Footnote – Incidentally, I’ve no idea if the collective noun for a bunch of mobile homes is a ‘gaggle of camper vans’. However, I couldn’t be arsed to google it and was confident you wouldn’t either so decided to leave it as it was… Although, after just giving the game away, your probably heading straight to the search engine to check that out… Oh, your aren’t as you can’t be arsed either!!

On the Saturday and Sunday, around the stand areas of the racecourse, a food and drink event augmented the outdoor clambake. Various cooking demonstrations, scran outlets and bars provided visitors with a variety of entertainment and sustenance options.

Amongst the entertainment a ladies choir bolstered verve levels with choral takes of contemporary songs. Among those beautifully harmonised refrains, versions of Abba, Elton John and Stevie Wonder hits.

While I videoed them singing a particularly stirring version of ‘Voulez Vous’, a youngish couple arrived, standing just to my front right. Thinking they’d blocked my view Sarah embarked on the following conversation with me:-

Sarah – “Are you recording this?”

Me – “Yes.”

Sarah (pointing at the young couple) – “Look at those silly fuckers there, spoiling your view and making your video unusable!”

Me (after frustratedly halting the recording) – “I could actually still see… However, you calling them silly fuckers has rendered the clip unsharable!… You idiot!”

Talking of racecourses, today is Grand National day. A day of equine drama, jubilation, despair and, for many their only bet of the year.

I include myself amongst that throng of once a year punters; well, apart from the few days a year when I go racing at the York Knavesmire course.

These infrequent gamblers generally picking their annual bets based on the names of the runners in this famous national hunt meeting. A punt completely bereft of scientific approach, in depth analysis of racing form or a tip from a racing insider.

For example, if the once a year punter has a son called Jonny, they would be inclined to bet on the horse ‘My Son’s Called Jonny’. Alternatively, if they were betting online at home and their house was on fire at the time, they would likely plump for ‘My House Is On Fire’.

If there were not horses running in the Grand National called ‘My Son’s Called Jonny’ or ‘My House Is On Fire’, they’ve the conundrum of choosing another horse which somehow relates to their existential zeitgeist.

Footnote – Incidentally, I’d like to think the punter wanting to back ‘My House Is On Fire’ would have higher priorities than choosing a different selection from the race’s participant list in front of them.

My late father, who’d regularly have a small wager throughout the year, formerly placed the whole families Grand National bets at his local bookies. If we won he took the stake money from our winnings. If we lost we didn’t bother paying him our stake money. A situation I believe to be commonly know as a win/win.

A valued regular customer at his local bookies, my dad Malcolm knew the owner and his wife well. I’m reliably informed my old man’s £1.50 a day bet on a ‘Lucky 15’ contributed handsomely towards his amiable bookmaker’s flash car, yacht and ownership share in the horse ‘My House Is On Fire’.

In his final year the old man’s friendship with the bookie led to a very fruitful Grand National day tip. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a hint for a gee gee that was going to bag him a fortune. No, he was tipped off he’d get a free pork pie if he put his bet on after 11.30 that Saturday… My dad, being an archetypal Yorkshireman, paid for the family selections at 11.33am.

Wherever you are now dad, today I hope you still manage to lay a bet and a get yourself a gratis pork pie.

Last year on Grand National day, I woke resolving to choose a name based on the first thing my partner Sarah said to me that morning. Consequently, that fateful afternoon I was sitting at home cheering on a nag called ‘Walk The Dog, Gaz’.

It proved a barren day of betting, made worse by having to pick up three large bags of dog poo!

horse gag

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