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Funny Holiday Creative Nonfiction

I can see it now but it wasn't always that way. My mother, rather than shower me with the necessities of life, handed down an hereditary corneal dystrophy. My father, whose biggest achievement was meeting Queen Elizabeth in 1954, put my eyesight problem down to masturbating far too often. As my eyesight problem was evident at age two, it became obvious the genes passed down included his own masturbation excesses.

Little did either of them realise, eyesight was to provide me with two events of major significance as I journeyed through what is commonly referred to as 'life'.

The first was none of the military services would accept me. Quite unkind! Here I am, determined to join the fight for peace in our time, however all they can do is throw up unwarranted objections. Most of my peers were far luckier than me, having had their birth dates drawn out in the raffle to go to Korea and fight on the side of right, with all expenses paid. They of course didn't quite follow this train of thinking. All were taking classes in how to duck before being shipped out.

The Army insisted I be able to at least see who I was shooting at. The Air Force hierarchy maintained that not being able to distinguish a battleship from a prawn trawler from a height of over twenty feet could be a decided disadvantage. The Navy were even more demanding, insisting that I try to read a chart on a wall when I couldn't even see the wall.

Forced to put those ambitions behind me, I wandered through the next fifty years achieving little that has appeared in the annals of history. What I did achieve does appear regularly in the accepted pattern of how the other half live. Marriage, children and divorce being common to garden ingredients of the mainstream, so experiencing those basics made me at least feel a member of society as we know it.

I digress, it's my eyesight and how to win without really trying I want to bring to your notice.

It's now two thousand and ten and this is where the story really starts to take shape. After thirteen years slaving at our Caravan Park my partner decides there has to be more to life than cleaning toilets and changing bed linen. It's that sort of individual selfish thinking that bought down the Ottoman Empire. Result was we sold the Park for a big enough shirt load of ducats and rubles to finance an overseas jaunt.

This was when I was reminded of my promise to spend six weeks in England once we retired from the Caravan Park. Not quite the last place on my bucket list I wanted to explore, but certainly vying for that position with the Gobi Desert in summer. Rachel, my partner is a Somerset lass, which explains her choice of destination. Not wishing to appear like I had meekly acceded to her idea I offered an alternative of six weeks in the USofA, knowing her attitude to anything American. It is one of the things the English excel at, hating America and all who sail in her.

End result was we decided to do both. At first glance it is the makings of a holiday in hell, a twelve week holiday in hell. Using the word 'holiday' in this instance is a very good example of a contradiction in terms and should form part of any English syllabus as a demonstration.

As the result of our trip has a minimal effect on my eyesight, suffice to relate that I was fascinated by England as I strolled through the pages of history I remember from my limited school days. Rachel wants to go back to the USofA as soon as possible. England American relations have taken a remarkable upturn since Rachel's visit. Mr Trump is no doubt considering offering her a position as a Diplomatic envoy - something very scarce on the ground around Washington at this time.

Now I can turn my attention to the second major positive I can attribute to my eyesight (or lack thereof, really).

I am a gambler, particularly on the noble sport of thoroughbred horse racing. This is considered by many akin to setting fire to $50 bills. There have been days when it became a raging bushfire on a Saturday afternoon at our home.

Being away from home in England, I was anxious to experience racing in another country. I began by reading the form guides. For the uninitiated these are charts which point the discerning gambler in the direction of loser after loser. The long held belief that these so called guides are sponsored by the bookmaking fraternity gathers momentum at a startling pace.

Today is one of those rare English days, the sun is shining. Even the locals where we are staying in Burnham on Sea marvel at the sight. Personally I marvel at why the village is called Burnham on Sea. Burnham on Mud would be far more appropriate. We have been here for 5 days and I am yet to see water, so seeing the sun is not such a big deal. You can almost walk to Wales from here without getting your feet wet.

Time to chance my arm and we head to the bookmaker’s betting shop. Here I must apologise, in England there are no bookmakers, they are Turf Accountants. The reason for this becomes obvious when you understand a bookmaker has limited financial skills in quickly adding up large sums of money, something a qualified Accountant can do without the aid of a modern day abacus.

I used all my experience as a punter to pick my first investment with great care. We live in the tropics in Australia, so backing a horse with Tropical in its name was a no brainer.

Horse does the job it was intended to do and salutes at the juicy odds of twelve to one.

‘How easy is this?’ I say. So far: Turf Accountants nil, me one. My second foray was just as easy. Staying at a place by the sea, a horse with 'Sea' in its name almost demanded I back him. I concurred and did just that. Horse obliges by winning - bringing the score to Turf Accountants still nil, me two. The upside for my new Turf Accountant friend is that he has less money to count at day's end. Win, win for everyone.

It is time to pull up stumps. We are guests in this country and abusing the privilege by sentencing a Turf Accountant to a life of penury would border on being downright rude. There will be other days.

The day came three days later. There is major race meeting at York. What really made this of interest was an Australian horse by the name of Star Spangled Banner, whose progress I had followed back home, was competing in the main race that day. The irony of an Australian horse with an American name racing in England could hardly pass without mention. After comparing the local form with that of Star Spangled Banner, I could see Mr Turf Accountant going down to a three nil score line. All I had to do was confirm he still had three legs, the horse that is, not the Turf Accountant. That would then put it in the sphere of 'the more you put on, the more you get back'.

Betfred is the Burnham Turf Accountant, so it was to his establishment I once again presented myself the day prior to the race. My thinking was to bet early and get top odds before the English punters found out he is a very good horse. This I did using my profits from day one on the punt and took the odds of two and a quarter to one for fifty pounds each way.

Friday, the day of the race dawned with another weird day, the sun was again shining. This created a new record for Burnham, two days of sunshine in the same month. Heaven on a stick for us visitors. We arranged to have lunch at the Crossways Hotel where we hoped to watch our finances increase to the detriment of Betfred. This was nothing personal, in fact I was becoming

quite friendly with the staff at that establishment, so much so I went back for another bite at the cherry and invested a further twenty pounds each way. This differed from my first investment. In betting on tote odds you put the number of the horse on your betting slip, whereas taking fixed odds

you write the horses name on the slip. In England they do not put up lists of race fields, they conserve their money and pin up the newspaper racing page. Important race day and Betfreds is quite crowded so getting close to the displayed fields was very difficult. This left me trying to get the number for Star Spangled Banner from a distance far beyond the capabilities of my eyes. I thought I saw a horse beginning with S, so I took that number, number 8, went to the counter and invested my twenty pounds each way. I put the ticket in my pocket without looking at it, a habit developed over many years. We set out for Crossways.

The first thing I asked Owner/Manager Steve was did the hotel have a TV set so I could watch our race? I noticed Steve looking around behind me, to the side, in fact all around me. He was in fact looking for my seeing-eye dog. Directly in front of me was a TV the size of a normal room wall, so yes they did offer that facility. It is normally, at this time when I exhibit extreme stupidity, Rachel tells everyone she is only my ‘carer’ and she will have me back in the home soon after lunch.

When everyone else, but me, stopped laughing, lunch was ordered. Without incident I should add. Ten minutes to three I decamp from the restaurant to the TV area, this time finding it with consummate ease. I am nothing if not a quick learner. The horses are parading prior to heading to the starting barriers and the commentators are assessing the chances of each runner as they come past. In the background I can see Star Spangled Banner. He is not one you could miss. A magnificent looking chestnut with a prominent white blaze, he stands out. As he comes in full view the announcer says 'here is our favourite for the race, number six, Star Spangled Banner'.

My first reaction was 'stupid man, he is number eight', closely followed by a look at his saddlecloth. Number six easily discernible so no joy there. I followed quickly by looking at the ticket in my pocket which plainly said number eight Sole Power. As if to enforce my second bout of stupidity for the day the commentators comment on number eight Sole Power was ‘no idea what this horse is doing in the race, could not beat me, one hundred to one'.

My partner Rachel for the most part has a great sense of humour, unfortunately it does not run to acts of stupidity, particularly when forty pounds is involved. Even more worrying, she has this unshakeable belief that things happen in threes. I'm already two up and we have not yet finished lunch. Decision to be made, and quickly. The race is about to start and Rachel is now standing behind me to watch Star pay for lunch and a couple of meals at that great French restaurant just off the High Street. I'm not the sharpest steak knife in the set, but I can judge the way a horse is traveling during

the race. This became my saviour at the time I was about to turn and tell Rachel what I had done. At this stage Star was steadily making ground on the leaders after a slow beginning. Rachel was quite happy with this as she knows how fast he can finish a race off. I am far more excited as Sole Power, our one hundred to one outsider is about to hit the lead.  He does this and sprints three lengths clear with only Star Spangled Banner any chance of catching him. Picture this, Rachel barracking for Star while I am barracking for Sole Power without mentioning his name. Rachel thinks I am cheering Star on and when he loses by half a length says 'he didn't get there'. My reply was 'yes he did'. It was time to show her the ticket which clearly said twenty pounds win, twenty pounds place number eight, Sole Power. I had just backed the longest priced winner of my punting life. The ticket I held donated to our holiday fund the equivalent of five thousand Australian dollars.

Betfred and I remain friends. The staff assured me there is no need to send food parcels. Better to use the money to upgrade to a seeing-eye dog that reads newspapers and can tell the difference between a six and an eight.

As a foot note, Sole Power became Irish horse of the year two years in a row and won races in several countries amassing over $4 million dollars in prize money. Not a bad effort for a horse that had no right to be in the race at York according to the 'good judges'.

We thought of their comments as we later flew over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter and landed on the top. The toast we drank for our champagne breakfast was initially to Sole Power and Betfreds.

 The second one was to my mother, “Thanks for the dystrophy, Mum!”

June 28, 2022 23:36

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1 comment

Nancy Richy
00:01 Jul 07, 2022

I like the way the author is candid about his eye dystrophy; anyone who can make a joke about themselves is ok in my book. The story was a fun read with quite a few droll, witty comments. A fine job!

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