J and I just made our annual trip to Ladbrokes for Grand National Day. I did the old-school-scribble-on-a-bit-of-paper, and J carefully filled in six proper betting slips. He backed six horses each way, and I backed four to win.
Ladbrokes was very red inside, and stuffy. Men puffed on fags as they stared hard at TV screens. At the front of the shop as you came in there were two eager young men in red 'Ladbrokes John Smiths Grand National - Here to Help' T-shirts. All the men in the shop were studiously ignoring them - even the ones who had no idea how to fill in a betting slip and had clearly been sent there by their wives and children for the annual family flutter looked like they would rather die than ask another man for guidance on such a Proper Bloke Activity as betting on horses. I distinctly saw one man furtively copying his neighbour as he filled in his paper.
My mother used to live by the racecourse in Aintree when she was a little girl, she said you could watch the race from the Blue Anchor Bridge at the bottom of her lane, or from the Railway Embankment to watch the horses go over the terrifying Bechers Brook. She told me about Jump Sunday, when locals would walk the course the Sunday before the race and swap tips and inspect the jumps. When I was a few months old Mum took a bet out in my name and I won, so she bought a horse mobile that hung over my cot. So betting on the National is a family tradition, and we have done it for at least three generations.
Hope no horses or people are hurt this year. The National is a brutal race.
I put £45 on. Come on Hedgehunter, Innox, Garvivonnian and Jack High! One of you must be able to pull it off.
UPDATE: Damn, why am I a risk-taking mupppet, backing everything to win? J sensibly backed his horses each way, and got first and second and third, so we made about £30. I recommended him Numbersixvalverde, the winner, though, so I feel a small glow of victory. We spent our winnings on satinwood paint for the new shelves and some dinky small paint rollers. Rock n' roll.