Monday, November 08, 2004

Day 7

Much easier going today, although I was at the keyboard for about three hours according to Keris. It was probably easier becuase I'm coming to a bit where I know what's going to happen. I've got a day off Monday to look after Harry, hopefully should get 3000+ down to compensate for Tuesday when I'll likely get next to nowt written.

“If you think lucky you will be lucky!” Shuggsy said, from the other side of the kitchen.
“Mm?” I muttered, looking up from the paper to see Shugs clutching the self-help book that the guy with the dead wife had given me.
“Bloody hell, listen to this; ‘Lucky people focus on the things in their lives that are working for them. They are aware of their failures but quickly move on. They continue doing what works and QUICKLY discard anything that is not,” Shuggsy went on, “what a load of bullshit!” He lowered his voice for the last word, in case mum happened to be listening from her bedroom. Shugs had obviously been in search of something else to toast and had decided to look at what he had found lurking behind the toaster, before he slotted it in. Seeing that it was inedible, he tossed it onto the kitchen table before raiding the bread-bin and exclaiming upon finding two sweet waffles, still just in date. I idly picked up the book and opened it, skipping past the introduction and Mr Pube Head Mattinson’s write-up. The introductory chapter didn’t promise any more than the excerpts Shuggsy had read out.
* Lucky people always seem to believe that something good is about to happen.
* Lucky people see the good even in situations that others might see as bad or troubling.
* Lucky people operate out of a belief in abundance. There is no scarcity of luck or opportunity. They do not believe that by them being "lucky", that it takes anything away from anyone else. They also believe that when other people are lucky that it takes nothing away from them. They enjoy other people's success.
* Luck people believe 100% that they deserve everything they get. The funny thing is that unlucky people seem to believe the same thing.’

Shuggsy joined me at the table sliding my paper out of the way to make way for his groaning breakfast plate and side plate of buttered bread.
“Whose is that anyway? Must be Marlene’s eh?” he observed. Shugs wasn’t a massive reader and was always impressed when faced with someone who was, I always tried to talk him out of this trait, you can still be a voracious reader and be thick.
“Er, no it’s mine actually. Well, it were given to me by a bloke who came in the shop.”
“Thinking of being lucky eh? That’ll make a change for you.” Shugs said as he mopped baked bean juice from his plate and dabbed the bread into the yolk of his fried egg.
“Yeah, not with this though I don’t reckon, it looks a bit wanky to me. The guy in the shop said it worked for him, but you wouldn’t have thought so looking at him.”
“Mebbe’s it’s like that thing that were in that Simpson’s ‘Treehouse of Horror’ episode when Homer buys that monkey’s paw and it just passes on bad luck to everyone who has it, but they think it’s good luck.”
“Hmm, cheers mate you really know how to buck me up.” The talk then turned to what Shugs was up to at work that day and then mum came shuffling in with her stick so I forgot about what he said. Wish I’d taken more notice now, as he often does, unconsciously, Shugs had hit the nail on the head.

We’d taken mum up to Bolton Abbey, just past Skipton in the rental car the day before. It was one of her favourite places and one of the few places that’s easily accessible with the wheelchair. It had been one of those rare Indian summer days you sometimes get in October. Afterwards, we’d come back to Skipton and had a meal in a cosy little pub before Shugs drove us back at a speed mum wasn’t entirely comfortable with, I was dozing in the front so hardly noticed. Mum had enjoyed the whole day, I could tell because she mentioned it about fifty times on the journey back, probably to cover up her fear of Shuggsy’s driving. Now it was Mondy morning and we waited for her lift back to the home, sitting in the living room with a cup of coffee. The car generally arrived around eleven o’clock and I had an arrangement with Grant to start work at noon, staying a couple of hours later to compensate. If anything we had more custom in those extra two hours with people passing on their way home but I hoped that Grant would never cotton onto this fact and decide to stay open later every night.

The car actually arrived earlier and I helped mum out to it and put her case in the boot. She seemed a little sprightlier that day, she never complained about having to go back to the home, it’s just that sometimes when we’d had a good weekend at home she was more reluctant to return. She kissed me goodbye and I watched the car as it disappeared around the corner at the end of the road. When I went back into the house, I tidied up in the kitchen, putting the dishes into soak and then went to fold the newspaper back up, cursing as the copy of Be Lucky! slid out from underneath it and landed on the floor. I picked it up and my attention was grabbed by a cheesy photograph of a well-dressed man, surrounded by braying women saluting with a champagne glass as a racehorse crossed the winning line, flanked with rather more downbeat punters ripping up betting slips. The caption read:

Lucky people really don't notice how lucky they are. They expect things to turn out the way they do. They expect themselves to have these things in their lives. It is NOT unusual for them. It is a way of life.

What a load of shite, I thought, not for the first time after reading something in this book. What did make me stop and read further though was the following page, which had obviously been left blank by the author in order for the reader to record some of the results of the techniques described in the previous chapter. On the page was some names written on the left hand side and some figures on the right. At the bottom was a total of the numbers which came to 1,250. Over the page was a similar set of names and numbers this time totalling 3,472. The names didn’t mean much to me, but I deduced that they were racehorses, given the proliferation of names ending in ‘Boy’ and ‘Lady’. What really made me look again was that the two pages had been written over just two days. A comment at the bottom simply said ‘see page fifty two’. I turned there straight away, the promise of easy money suddenly making me like Guy Mattinson a whole lot more.

As I walked into the bookies three doors down from the Book Exchange later that morning, I wondered what the hell I was doing. Funnily enough for a sport-hating geek I had actually been into other bookmaker’s shops quite a few times. Da used to take me on a Saturday if he wasn’t working and mum was out shopping or something to ‘put a couple of lines on’ as he put it. Generally, this meant hanging around for a couple of boring hours whilst the nags that da had saddled with the enormous responsibility of his wager laboured around a track and limped home some distance behind the winner. His occasional winners actually made him more melancholy and a few times he actually got as emotional as I’d ever seen him. He never was much of an animal lover but he’d been brought up near a racehorse trainer’s stables in Waterford and had spent some time there as a boy, dreaming of becoming a jockey before a growth spurt in puberty had put paid to those ambitions. One of the last times I accompanied him to the bookies was also the only time I saw him cry in public when the Irish horse Dawn Run won the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The whole clientele of the bookies seemed to have backed the horse and even though da had only won about sixty quid he was clutching complete strangers and weeping as if he’d owned the bloody thing. He sobbed three months later when the news came through that Dawn Run had been killed in France after falling but that was in the house. I don’t think he’d ever even cried when he’d pulled dead kids out of burning houses but he was a contradiction in that way, his professional life was one thing that he coped with by gallows humour and getting drunk but tell him about a dead horse that he’d never even met and he was inconsolable for days.
Anyway, armed with the advice from the book and the passage that the guy-with-the-dead-wife (I wished I’d taken some ID now, if only so I would know what to call him) had underlined, I had withdrawn twenty pounds from my account and was now preparing to use ‘my gut instinct’ and ‘visualise my selection crossing the line first’ whilst sticking a pin in the copy of the Sporting Life on the bookies’ wall. If I lost my money I was going to lose the book as well, but if I walked away with a few quid, well I might give it another go. The hours spent in similar establishments with da hadn’t been totally wasted and even though I’d never put a bet on since he’d won on Dawn Run, I knew what I was doing at least. There were the usual selection of dossers and work-dodgers inhabiting the shop, and the air was heavy with the familiar miasma of old bloke’s piss and hand-rolled fags. I selected a chair slightly away from the fug so I wouldn’t contract lung cancer in the few minutes it took to put a bet on and pulled out a betting slip to record my selections. It was easier to use the gut instinct technique than the visualisation thing because it was hard to imagine my nags that I’d never set eyes on running at some racecourse I’d never seen. My selections ended up being based on the flimsiest associations. I chose one called Helloitsme because it was named after a Todd Rundgren song, another called Hands Solo even despite the awful pun, an odds on favourite called Beehive Boy (because of our local), and a twenty to one shot called Marlene’s Choice for the obvious reasons. I couldn’t visualise that one coming in anywhere but near the rear of the field but I hedged my bets, literally, by putting them together in a Lucky 15. Bet that surprised you didn’t it, I did tell you that I was paying attention when I was with da, and being a teenage nerd I was interested in the mathematics of the betting process. Basically it meant that I had betted on all my horses singly, plus four doubles (if Helloitsme won, the winnings went on Beehive Boy and so on for all combinations), four trebles (same as a double but covering three races) and one accumulator which meant that all four selections needed to win. It amounted to fifteen separate bets, in essence, but meant that I had more chances of winning even if not all of my horses won. Also, if only one horse won, they would double the starting price. I had no expectations of winning even more than my stake back, but as I placed the bet, I could almost feel da at my back patting me on the head and urging me on. It felt strange. Then I went to work and forgot about the bet until I got home and found the slip in my wallet and checked the results on Teletext. Minutes later I grabbed a stunned Shuggsy and dragged him out to the Beehive for a pint and stuck a malt whisky in front of him to chase it down. All four of my horses had won and I had relieved the bookies of five thousand, two hundred and forty five pounds.

Daily Word Count: 2,054
Total Word Count: 12,450
% over target: 6.69%
Words to Go: 37,550
Word of the Day: miasma


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