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How I Parted Company with Greyhounds for Ever

I once lost £32 on thirty-two consecutive races. This cascade of ill-fortune occupied no more than a few days, and drove me to make a demonstration at the stand of a bookmaker with a lisp called Walsh, a combination of circumstances which led to him being known as Old Time Waltz.

"What," I cried audibly, "is the good of going on when I've backed thirty-two losers in succession?"

Old Time Waltz responded promptly, although he was busy taking a lot of sixty to forty* about the favourite, Milly's Mick. "Shut up!" he hissed, bending right down from the box. "Go away! You're upsettin' me customers."

* (sixty to forty - there are ways of betting on horses: either on the totalisator or with the bookmakers. If you bet on the totalisator (or "tote") the amount of money you receive if the horse you have put your money on wins the race or comes in the first three depends on the total sum staked by all the backers minus the amount deduced by the people who run the race. The bookmakers, on the other hand, offer odds against the horses beforehand, so that you know how much they will pay you if your horse comes in first, second or third. For example, he may offer odds of 6 to 4 on the favourite (the horse considered most likely to win), which means that to each 4 units of your money he will pay out six if the horse wins. You may put your money on a horse "to win" or "each way". The latter will entitle you to a certain amount of money even if the horse comes in second or third.)

One or two punters with currency in their hands did, indeed, seem to be on the verge of holding back, impressed by the reasonableness of my complaint.

"Well, what's the good of it?" I said, "My information's all right, but the damn things fall over every time."

I thought he was going to strike me with his satchel. Instead, he said "Here - I'll stand you a free bet on the favourite - thirty to twenty Milly's Mick. There's your ticket. Get outa this!"

I accepted his offer. If Milly's Mick won I'd owe him only £ 2, a payable sum, and if it didn't, which was much more probable, I'd be no worse off than before.

The race, of course, ran exactly true to form. Through a fault in the mechanism the hare flew off the rails at the third bend, most of the dogs leaped over the fence in pursuit of it, and Milly's Mick was found soon afterwards barking its head off at a cat in the park. The stewards declared "no race" - the most readily supportable judgement they'd delivered in weeks - and I parted company with greyhounds for ever,


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