Ten days ago, we had the grandchildren to stay and we took them to the Point-to-Point at Hackwood Park, an excellent event organised by the Vine and Craven.
At a time of mounting concern about the pernicious impact of gambling on society, the Youngs plead guilty to corrupting our grandchildren in the same way as we corrupted our own children.
Our children spent part of their formative years at the Slough Greyhound track. Their first words were “1 and 6 Reverse Forecast”; and they understood the language of the tic-tac men before they learned to read. (This latter skill has been rendered redundant by the advent of technology, as today’s bookies wear headsets and our children don’t lipread)
Part of the children’s inheritance was invested in a pedigree greyhound puppy, bought from a fellow MP who promised me that it would pay off the mortgage. It spent its first year with us, and jumped through a double glazed window chasing an imaginary rabbit. He was fed on the best steak to develop his calf muscles, while the rest of the family ate spaghetti. When he was a year old, he was sent off to be trained in Catford. We got a call one morning from Mr O’Sullivan to say that our endowment policy had sadly broken a leg in training and had been despatched to the great kennel in the sky. (Whether this was the case, we will never know. The story may have been a fiction and the beast may well have gone on to win the Greyhound Derby and paid off Mr O’Sullivan’s mortgage)
Back to Hackwood Park, where the hard ground led to many runners being withdrawn. There was only one horse in the first race and so the 2.15 was replaced
by a Childrens Race - on the flat. An improvised handicap on the basis of age took place on the finishing straight. There was much bumping during the race – and a strong demand for a urine test on the winner was turned down by the stewards. The Young grandchildren entered and finished, and got an Easter egg for their efforts.
They showed some incipient ingenuity with the horses; the deal was that they were each allowed a small bet, and, if they won, they kept the winnings; and if they lost, I kept the losses. In a three horse race, they decided they would each back a different horse and, I suspect, agreed that there would share the winnings between them later. Later, I discovered where all the country’s £5 notes have gone. They are in the large leather bags carried by the bookies. Yes, I was handed a fistful of £5 notes by Peter Houghton of Swindon, bookmaker to the landed gentry at Hackwood. This was not, I fear my winnings. It was the change from a large note, used to place a bet on a horse in the 3.15. Sadly, the horse would not even have been placed in the Childrens’ Race.