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A Pools Maniac

The extract below comes from Monica Dickens' book One Pair of Hands. It shows Monica in her first job as a cook-general. She has by this time made some friends among the tradesmen. One of them, a grocer, whom she has nicknamed "Grosher"* for his lisping, has infected her with his enthusiasm for the Football Pools, and every week she and Grosher spend an hour or two together filling in their coupons and discussing the chances of various football teams.

* (Grosher - grocer, Arshenal - Arsenal, Mish - Miss, Sho - so, etc. - the spelling in the text reflects the character's lisping.)

I was getting to know all the tradesmen so well that I felt as if I had been in the place for years. The milkman, who suspected his wife of carrying on with a travelling salesman, often dropped in for a cup of tea and a bit of advice on how to treat women, but my real pal was the 'Grosher'. He was a pools maniac, and he got me so infected with his enthusiasm that, with his assistance, I took it up.

His was the first finger every morning to give me the nerve storm still produced by that dreadfull bell. I would give him the orders first, before I forgot, and then we would get down to the more important business of selection, interrupted here and there by reminiscences of his pools experiences.

"When I won shixteen poundsh by a lucky shot with me four awaysh" was an anecdote I never got tired of hearing, or he of telling. Despite the fact that it was two years ago, and he hadn't won a penny since, we were not disheartened. Thursday mornings, when he helped me to fill in my form, were grim and earnest affairs, involving much heavy breathing and licking of a short stump of pencil.

"Arshenal, Mish? Never touch 'em meshelf. Chelshea neither, for that matter - too variable. Put a cross in 'ere - sho, heresh away win - sho," as we put in the last mystic sign. "That ought to bring us home thish week. Gawd shave us if that new centre forward isn't worth his prysh money."

Monday morning found us slightly damped but not discouraged, and we would discuss with undaunted optimism the new week's chances. Dear 'Grosher'! I wonder whether he has ever repeated his historic success. I gave up the pools when I went elsewhere, as I couldn't do them without him. Whenever football is mentioned I think of bicycling clips; it keeps his memory green.

(One Pair of Hands by Monica Dickens)

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