Don’t look skint, even if you are! Book excerpt.

An excerpt from the rough draft of my book.

[The Boss]  made no secret of the fact that times hadn’t always been as good for him as they were now, he was after all, the richest man in the, albeit fairly small, village. He told me that back in 1960’s when betting shops were legalised the on-course market was hit very badly, the waiting lists were not needed then. His advice to me was that nobody has to look skint even if they are. It was, and still is, always a good idea to look affluent especially in the bookmaking game. To that end he let me into a little secret, quite often back in those days  things were so tough he’d have a job scraping up the tank money to bet with. Of course he didn’t want the punters to worry that he may not be able to pay so he used to wrap the few notes that he did have around a toilet roll. When it came to paying out he’d get his ‘wad’ out from his trouser pocket and peel off the money required. Of course there would have never been a problem paying because he ran a tight book out of necessity. It was a strategy that sees him still  betting in the ring today having watched the ‘flash’ firms come and go in their droves.

Another story he told of his skint days was when arrived to bet at a point to point at Bratton Down near Tiverton, only four bookmakers turned up so they had to pay the betting fee pre-agreed with the hunt between just them. This took him by financial surprise, he had expected more like a dozen to share the expense. This left him with very little money to bet with so in desperation he bought ‘The Pointer’, a point to point ratings and tipping guide. He decided to go for the top rated in each race, in other words duck it totally and have it winning him the sum of what he had taken on the other horses. This particular day the guide came up trumps and went through the card. [the boss] was so flush when he left the course and counted the readies he was able to upgrade his car.

Being able to pay wasn’t always the way though. [The boss] told a great story about another bookmaking firm who were betting up on Trundle Hill at Goodwood way back in the mists of time. A tactic employed by some of the more dubious members of the bookmaking fraternity was to pay out the previous race with money you have taken on the next. The idea being that sooner or later a result would come to their aid. This was a very high-risk business fraught with danger especially considering places like Trundle Hill were largely un-policed. On this particular day the results had not gone the way of the bookies. When the last favourite, which they had stood for much more than they had, won there was no money left to take and none to pay the winning punters with. The floorman tried to hold up payment for as long as possible while the team worked out what to do. All the while his boss frantically begged his fellow layers to lend them some money as large hostile crowd was gathering.

There was no money forthcoming from others bookies, they had lost badly too, besides the firm’s dubious nature was well-known. The crowd started to jostle and things started to look a little dangerous when one of the team spotted a dog-collared member of the clergy. He hopped off his box and begged the man of the cloth to intervene. With a performance that was said to have been worthy of the stage he explained how someone had dipped their hod and made off with the entire tank. He lamented that his boss was mortified that he couldn’t pay the winning punters. Of course he was desperate to do the right thing but that they wouldn’t believe them and bookies feared for their lives.

A few minutes later the crowd listened intently as the vicar explained that the poor gentlemen of the turf they were threatening had in fact been victims of a heinous crime themselves  This seemed to appease them somewhat. So much so that the priest was soon was busily collecting names and addresses of the winners to where  cheques would be sent in the next post  Meanwhile the bookie and his team hurriedly  packed up their gear, including  all the field money from the last race, and scampered to their car .

Quite what the man of the cloth’s reaction was when he had completed his task only to find the bookies long gone is anyone’s guess. We can assume it was less than charitable!

(C) Simon Nott 2012


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