Most mornings you would find my mum scanning the Daily Herald and the Mirror.
Not for her the headlines on the front pages or the stories of banking scandals, or even the obituaries of famous people.
No, mum was focusing all her attention on the back pages, where the likes of Bouverie or Newsboy were holding forth on which horse would win the two thirty at Ascot or Alexandra Palace. Such was her immersion in the written word of these racing guru’s, that no one would dare to interrupt her.
It was like she actually believed that the horses that these tipsters were putting forward as likely winners, were going to give her a good return on her sixpence each way five horse accumulator, (total outlay one shilling).
I’m not sure how this bet works but I think it is something like this, a sixpence is placed on the first horse to finish in the first three, if it is successful, the winnings are placed on the second horse, and if that finished in the first three all the winnings would go on the next horse and so on. But if one of the horses fails to finish in the first three, the whole bet would be lost, and the book-maker would pocket all the stake money, one shilling!
This is how bookmakers or turf accountants as Gordon, my brother in law called himself, make all their money. He called himself ‘Tom Astor Turf Accountant’. His office was behind ‘The old Lodging House’ opposite Tommy Garrett’s shop. Gordon drove a nice car so he must have made it all pay.
Mum never gambled with the house keeping or anything like that. She was a bookies runner for Gordon, she would use the commission she was paid for the bets she collected from our neighbours.
By the way there were several bookies runner’s nearby, Hoppy Wells in Barker Road, Sykey Balchin in Pyrcroft Road and my Mum also in Pyrcroft road. There must have been a great deal of gambling in our little area!
The amazing thing is, she once won with this sort of bet, probably about five pounds, a week’s wage for some. I remember the joy on her face. Her Non de plume was EE Wegs, and at the bottom of every betting slip was, AFC, (Anything To Come) and then another five horses, and so on. It was not about the winning but the taking part, she might have said. She was never upset if she lost, but she liked to tell us, ‘if only that horse at Ascot had finished, she would be in the money’.
Unlike some of our family, I never had the betting bug. I would take and collect the bets my mum had collected and realised it was nearly always a one-way trip. Although, I have done the Lottery since it started, I am afraid to stop as all my numbers are birthdays.