‘Balertwine Barry of Black Dog’


The second tale of the turf is the true story of how Barry gained the prefix ‘Balertwine’, it comes from high on Haldon Hill on a rather inclement day in April back in 2004. Feel free to comment.

Exeter 06/04/04

Simon Nott

The national TV was a bit vague about the South West weather, the Racing Post hedged its bets too but local knowledge is a wonderful thing, and if you’ve ever been to Haldon on a bad day you know to go prepared regardless of the forecast.

The early bird punters and bookies alike were stood under the awning near the Tote when the first drops of rain started to fall, ‘Tiz going to be a nasty ole afternoon’, declared a voice from the back of the gathering. ‘How do you know that?’ piped up one of the local bookmakers staff, he looked back towards from where the words of wisdom came, ‘Because’ said Barry of Black Dog, ‘The rain is making them there big splashes, and that means a nasty ole afternoon we’re in store for’. Nobody laughed, but a few people smiled.

In the meantime Barry from Black Dog had a good look into the sky, his well weathered and lined, but still handsome in a rustic sort of way face, peered and grimaced as if in deep thought. He dug into his bag and dug out some seriously heavy-duty dark green waterproofs and pulled them on, before he did up the zipper on the coat he produced a yellow and blue bungee strap and secured his outer strides with it. With that the sun came out and all the bookmakers sensed the worst was over and set up their pitches, Barry included, he did look a bit hot but didn’t remove his waterproofs, even though they would have looked more at home on a Brixham trawler in January than the races in April

The bookies joints were put up with the speed expected after years of practise and the time honoured wait for the first race ensued. Barry was stood minding his bosses joint while the boss did what ever bosses do, meanwhile the sun beamed down. A face in the crowd spotted him, very nicely dressed the face was too, a gentleman of Tiverton origin having a day at the races and attired accordingly. ‘Barry!’ he shouted, with enough volume to make most in the vicinity look around, albeit briefly, ‘What are you expecting, a hurricane?’ He slapped Barry a hearty and friendly slap on his waterproofed back and made back to the bar from whence he came.

As the runners lined up for the first race the sky darkened and large spots of rain began to fall, Barry pulled his hood up and carried on with his job, reporting to the boss through a concealed microphone. Thunder growled. The rain was pouring down by the time Almaydan passed the post the 7/4 winner. Barry was still dry when the wind picked up and up, our hero held on to his hood and continued his job, bookmakers all around the ring were gripping onto their outsized umbrellas as tightly as possible trying to stop them blowing into Cornwall. Barry, unfazed, carried on with his work steely eyed as the rain got no further than his outer garments while all around him got soaked. The wind didn’t put off Tinoveritas who won at 9/4, but the punters in the line for payment when the rain turned much colder were somewhat less happy to be out in the conditions. Any winning punters that looked to their left would have seen the hail bouncing from Barry’s waterproofs as he talked with purpose to his boss. He was not oblivious but impervious to the bombardment.

Noble Baron (fav) and Twisted Logic (8/1) won the races that followed as the weather continued to do its best to keep everyone undercover. Mother Nature pretty much succeeded her task, well except for Barry, who stood in what ever she could throw at him with full confidence in his waterproofs. His well-dressed mate who had commented on the possible weather conditions of the day joined the queue to draw some winnings was in a rather soggy state and getting soggier by the minute as he waited the line of winning punters before him.

HiFi was well backed to win the last in a blaze of sunshine, Ian William’s horse duly did the business at 15/8 though unseen to most during the race Barry decided it was prudent to remove his trusty waterproofs. The member of bookmakers staff who had had the early ‘big splashes’ conversation with the now newly proclaimed Michael Fish of the betting ring shouted across, ‘Well done Barry, you got the weather right, but tell me, why the bungee to hold your trousers up?’ Barry looked up as he extracted his bone dry left leg from his cardboard like waterproofs and furrowed his puzzled brow before uttering the immortal words ‘Because I’d used up all the balertwine!’

© Simon Nott

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