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Easy Money (Cheltenham 1992)… part one

Submitted by on April 2, 2014 – 2:47 pmNo Comment

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Here is the first part of a four-part short story… We will be publishing the story in its entirety over the next four days. Had we been clever or better educated, we may have done it to co-incide with the actual Cheltenham Festival, but the joskin who handles our emails forgot all about it, despite the author sending it on time. Anyway, here is the opening…

I love a gamble, life’s one, and I love life. The trouble is I’m an unlucky sod. But it doesn’t really matter in the long run cos it’s the day that counts. I mean I look back on the biggest bets I’ve had what’s it matter now if I won them or lost them? If I won then the money is spent on some piss up or some new carpet that’s grown old and if I lost, well I aint dead am I?

The pinnacle was Cheltenham one year. Me and Big Tony had paid ninety odd pound apiece to go on this trip with the Evening News. It was a real bargain- they picked you up by coach on the Wednesday morning, drove you to Cheltenham, gave you your tickets in, picked you up after racing, took you to a four star hotel about forty mile from the course, gave you a continental breakfast the next morning, then took you back to the course, gave you tickets for the Gold Cup day, and come back for you after racing and dropped you back in Manchester skint and happy.

Only one small problem- the tickets were for Tattersall’s, which is your poor man’s stand. It didn’t matter to us; I and Tony had spent a lifetime jibbing into football so the wrong tickets meant nothing to us. To get in the Members Enclosure was fifty quid and for your money you get a shitty piece of cardboard with a bit of ribbon through it.

When they dropped us off on the Wednesday, we see all these Hooray Henry’s, wondering around with sky blue on giving them access to any part of the course they fancy- while our tickets put us in a pen for the duration. Me and Tony are suited up and half pissed so what we do is taxi it into town, go in a newsagents, buy a roll of different coloured ribbons and a packet of these cards that they have for separating telephone indexes.

Tony asks the girl behind the counter can he borrow a pair of scissors and we cut the sky blue piece of the card to the size of the Members ticket, pop a hole in the top of it and insert the ribbon. Then we stick it in our breast pocket- tie the end of the ribbon through our button hole and we look like every other punter. Before and after the races it’s crowded entering or leaving the Members that the security aint got the time to check every individual one so you just brush past them motioning to your button hole and you’re in-no problem.

What was it that Mexican bandit said in that Boggart film”The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”?

-Badges? Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges.

So there’s me and Tony- pocket full of money from an earner, gonna out gamble everybody including the Irish. As if…

The earner had been a sweet one. We met this plant man (not the Alan Titchmarsh type), he worked for Manchester City Council and he decided what did or didn’t go to auction. Mick Kelly he was called, what a rum truffle. We visited him at his work place. He tear arsed around the place wearing this silly blue overall, practically tugging his forelock if any gaffer walked past but in reality he was selling the place around them and they couldn’t see the wood for the lack of trees.

He had a little office near the lodge and he had the two security guards in his pocket. They might as well have been his Mam and Dad for all the attention they paid to his dealings.

-Not long till the Tories privatise us, he said, so I might as well get in first.

Any way Big Tony knew a man who’d bought a farm and was converting it into a house for his family. The would be Dingle needed a dumper, a couple of porta-cabins, a mixer and what other plant we could lay our deviant hands on. On the face of it there didn’t seem much chance of getting most of it- then we met Mick. Talk about a split personality – Bob Cratchet by day and Burlington Bertie by night. We got his name from a mutual friend who says he’s well sorted, that he might not look the part but that he is one of us.

What did an old mate of mine Murray say when he wanted to test someone’s reliability?

-Leave twenty quid lying around near him- if the man takes it he can be trusted.

We go to see Mick at his local, the Alliance on Rochdale Road. He’s half pissed, playing cards for big stakes. If he loses a kitty he laughs and says
-a mere bagatelle

He couldn’t give a rat’s arse. We tell him what we need and what we’ll pay. He tells us to double it and add the first number we thought of and we might have a deal. In the end we reach a compromise. So me and Tony and me go visit him on the Monday with a struck off drunken plant engineer we know called Leng. Mick’s yard is like an Aladdin’s cave- he’s got everything from jigsaws to JCB’s.

-Fuck me, I say, is all this for sale?

He smiles and says
-Everything in here has got a price on its bottom apart from me.

Lengy checks out the stuff. It’s all okay.

Mick says half the money up front and the other half when he delivers. This is music to me ears. He’s throwing in the transport free of charge. It all goes like clockwork and me and Tony have a pocket full of the folding stuff with Cheltenham on the horizon.

Any back to the course, on the Wednesday we concentrate on getting pissed, we have just a few ‘interest’ bets and finish up in front when Elfast obliges at 10/1 in the last.

After racing the coach takes us to this large hotel in a rundown part of Wolverhampton. The forty or so on the coach check in. Most of the coach party set off for something to eat. Me and Tony head off to our room to hide our betting money

-if you’ve robbed many, don’t trust any

We count it- we’ve got nineteen hundred and seventy between us. So we tape eighteen hundred under the draw of a dresser. That way if it goes it’s one of us two. The rest we split fifty-fifty and head for the bar.

The beer costs an arm and a leg but big deal we are only spending the Manchester rate payer’s money, so no skin of our noses. It’s getting late- Tony’s at the bar with three Bristol lads, sound lads, racing men like us. They’re all exchanging hard luck stories. Tony can drink a Catholic Bishop under the table but the trouble is that after a few he likes to sing, which wouldn’t be that bad, but he can’t so it is that bad. The bar’s pretty empty now.

Tony comes back with a beer and a vodka each. I neck me vodka and I bring the conversation round to tomorrow’s Gold Cup. It’s the race we are here for after all. It don’t matter really what Tony fancies cos I’ve made my mind up. We’re going for broke on ‘The Fellow’.

Tony vaguely agrees that we are on ‘The Fellow’, but he has reservations

-Carvills hill has done nothing wrong, he says

-‘The Fellow’, I say and smile.

Then he starts singing
-Collyhurst Road I have forsaken
It’s not me poor heart is achin’
It’s the whisky and the rum that I have taken
For that darlin’ little girl down Collyhurst Road’

Every head in the room turns. I wouldn’t mind if he was in bloody tune. I take the door key off him and head off to bed. I leave him boozing and singing with the Bristol lads. The strains of ‘Dirty Old Town’ can be heard as I mount the stairs, as I do so I hear the bar manager tell Tony

-Please sir no singing. Some of the guests are in bed

To which Tony replies

-When you’re smiling the whole world smiles with you.

I think ‘good luck’ to the Manager. I’ve been trying to stop the arsehole singing for twenty year and I still haven’t succeeded.

…part two tomorrow….

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