It feels like it’s rained for a month. The going at most race meetings is described as either heavy or abandoned, so whenever a meeting actually survives there are so few runners that it’s barely worth watching, let alone betting. But I do, watch that is, as a means to pass the time semi-constructively when I’m at the office. In fact I’ve been getting a sort of wholesomeness kick out of it, watching – as I do, for research purposes only. The consequence of all this is that I have been plunged into the hebdomadal purgatory of football betting.
I’m no expert, but I sort of analyse matches on the basis of backing myself to assess whether one of the teams is decent or shit. And it works well. Especially if you consider losing every single bet as a barometer of success. Big Tooth helps too, in that l’enfant-naïf truthfulness spirit that seems, despite itself, to get to the very essence of everything. For my part, I have resolved to a system of sorts. Doubles don’t quite deliver the odds – something between 3/1 and 7/1 as a rule, for which I do not have the stake to shake off the bonds of penury. A four-fold is asking too much of my predictive powers, and so mine has become the treble, which, given my unshakeable confidence in the underrated, will generally yield somewhere between 10 and 20/1. So far, and I’m going back about six months all told on this, before and after prodigating as it were, I’d say that I’d had about forty such trebles, and I bet, no, I know, that about thirty five of them have resulted in an outcome of win, win, draw. Often in that order too, and oftener still, the drawing team has generally been written up in the reports afterwards as having been, variously, ‘robbed, unfairly denied, VAR’d,’ and generally unjustly denied the win that was deservedly theirs. Of course I recognise, as a true and devoted gambler, that the fault is mine. Whether it was the day of match wank, the calculating of returns in advance of outcome, or simply the holding of the betting slip in the pocket with other cash: the fault is mine. Often, after the third match, where my team had gone one up and threatened a second to put the result and bet beyond doubt, only to capitulate and gift a win to an uninspired opposition, the reporter would say in his summing up, ‘Just how Dagenham Toms beat Chertsey Oligarchs is a matter we’ll have to refer to higher beings, because for us, down here on earth, it was no contest. It was Fury versus Wilder. It was Gypsy Creams versus Pound Shop Bourbons.’
When the bewildered managers appear for their post-match interview I have been tempted, and occasionally succumbed to writing consoling, and sometimes, culpability accepting letters. The unexpected loss that cannot be explained was down to me. I was the immovable object that met with their irresistible force.
It helps, of course, as does my burgeoning confrereship with Big Tooth, that I have this outlet to share misfortune. I am tempted to say that all gamblers need that valve – to be able to explain to someone who’ll understand what indignities of misfortune they’ve been forced to suffer. Though now I am beginning to wonder whether that’s true. I suspect that real gamblers, good ones, share nothing, and for those of them that feel sorry for themselves for a moment, when the just and true result doesn’t actually happen and spoils their bet, that they see the near miss as a positive event, and not one which proves that they could stop a train if they backed it to arrive at the next station.
There have been good moments too this month. Various people have alluded to me being in a relationship despite the fact that I don’t yet know Frances’s surname. It feels odd to say that, and though I have really tried to find it out, and cannot believe that for all the time that she spent at the club over the Christmas holidays that it, or her close relatives, have not somehow become known to me, I cannot help but think that it would all be better if I just came out and asked someone about her. Perhaps they can all see that I am lovelorn and they are enjoying my discomfort. But I can’t quite find the means to ask anyone who might know us both what and who she is. Instead I have resorted to trying to seek her out by the odd trip down to Roger’s apartment, and by my own endeavours within the industry, in putting out a Pearl & Dean advert, to track her down by ruling out every other single person in the advertising business in London that is not her. If she is a mere amanuensis to a hermit copywriter I have a long road ahead of me.
Were it not for Big Tooth, who I have taken to accompanying to the match – both codes, I would have spent most of these wet weekends of January and February tramping up and down the businessy looking parts of the West End, when Frances is anywhere but. In fact, I’ve often been grateful of Big T’s company, not just for honing my analysis of the many matches we’ve watched together, but also for encouraging me farther afield, to places like Richmond and Twickenham, all be them Big Eggo territory, so that we might spot her lurking there somewhere on the periphery of some gang she doesn’t like.
Though, to date, we have not.