It was, indeed, a Grand National.

As you saw previously, today (or Saturday 14th April, as I didn’t get this out on time) was the day of the Grand National. The annual horse race where animal rights activists scream at their tellies, and the glue factories rub their hands with glee. I posted that previous message, went to do something…. and entirely forgot to make a note of which horses I’d put a bet on. D’oh. Normally, I’d sake a screenshot, or save the results page on Evernote, but I literally got gripped by an episode of Tipping Point that was reaching its conclusion on one of the satellite channels. Oops.

12 O’Clock game, and I left the house to meet up with Accomplice for our “yearly” excursion to watch The Grand National in other locations than our front rooms. I have a 31-year tradition where I will not miss the race. No matter where I am, I will watch it under any circumstances. The closest I came to missing it was when I was in Edinburgh, exactly 11 years ago today… I ended up perched in the doorway of a betting shop, on my tiptoes, then rushing back to the hotel to watch the replay in the room.

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Then there was last year, at the Speccy meetup in Manchester. I watched the whole race from a queue at a bar in Manchester. Still didn’t miss it!

Accomplice is well aware of my little “traditions”, and is willing to take part in this one when possible, despite the fact he follows horse racing about as much as I follow the life and times of a sewing machine. Yeah, not very much, then

As it was only early, and with it not physically being possible to spend 5 mours in Newcastle, we headed off to the Metrocentre first. Of course, I have two stops which have pretty much became a religion now… the sweet shop in the yellow sector to stock up on cherry lips, and the American sweet shop in “The Village” to stock up on “Wild Cherry” Pepsi. You can’t get that over here, not the full sugar variety anyway. For some reason, over here, the government have one of those “things” against sugar, which I’ve yet to understand. I mean, they introduce “sugar tax”, in order to “save our health”…. and then lead us blindly into World War III by bombing Syr…. oooh, sorry, I almost came over all political there for a second… Let’s get back on topic.

So, The Metrocentre was plundered for its sugary goodness, and we headed into Newcastle city centre, for a brief look around. Now, Maplin was one of the stops that we usually make. Of course, due to their recent difficulties and imminent disappearance from the high street, they’re having a sale. I managed to pick up a USB3 powered hub, and two 11-watt PL-S fluorescent light bulbs. These are the type that my desk lamp takes, and considering LEDs are taking over, I thought getting a stash of these would be a good idea.

Once again, back to the main subject, the Grand National. Race time ticked ever nearer. My feet were sweatier than a yoga instructor’s jockstrap. It was time to find a comfy seat for the race.

Our first, and what I thought would be our only port of call, was “the Gate”. A strange complex, where every unit is either a bar, a restaurant, or a casino. It has a Wetherspoons, going by the name “the Keel Row”, or something like that. We went in, and it was heaving. It always is, due to the footy. Accomplice said we’d never find a seat. He vacated the premises, while I found a table. I did! A perfectly vacated table, with nobody on it. I plonked my arse down, and waited. I thought Accomplice was right behind me……. nothing. I tried to call him, only to encounter one major issue with “The Gate” – there’s no mobile signal in it. At least not on Vodafone. Gaaaaaah.

I left the vacant table, ran outside to see him standing by the escalators. I gestured for him to get inside, as I hurried to by newly vacated table…. only to find it occupied, along with all of the others. I know I don’t swear on here, but as Daddykins, and my aunty and uncle probably haven’t read this for years, I think I can safely say, in capitals… FOR FUCK’S FUCKING SAKE.

So, what now? Granted, there were many pubs in Newcastle. The chance of getting a seat in any of them were NIL. Absolute zero. Zip. Nada. Could this be the year that I actually miss the Grand National?

We head down… the road that I can’t remember the name of, but it’s the one with all of the charity shops on, and also “richer Sounds” – a TV / Hi-fi shop. It was 5PM at this point, and the race was due off at 5:15. Hurrah! They had it on *every* telly in the shop! But it’s a really small shop. How could we pad out time enough to pretend we’re looking for something, without buying it? They have a demo room! Brilliant! We sat on the couch, and I could still see a telly with the National on! Everything was starting to go great… until the shutters started to come down. Oh.

We were once again on the streets. Would we find somewhere in time? There wasn’t long to go at this point. Thankfullyy, there’s a betting shop over the road. I don’t think I’ve ever fully stepped foot in one in my entire life, but something seemed odd. It was empty, and, literally, a few minuted from the start of the big race, they were showing a generic jumps race from Newcastle. I asked the lady who was more than willing to throw a betting slip down our throats , if they were showing the Grand National. Accomplice thought this was the most amusing part of the day. Therefore, I must explain my reasonaing. Flashback to Edinburgh. I watched the race from a betting shop that I couldn’t even get into. It was crowded. Here we are, seconds before the race, and they’re showing no buildup, nobody is in to watch it, nothing to say that the world’s greatest steeplechase was just about to start.

It was an innocent enough question. I wanted to see the race. If they weren’t showing it, we would still have enough time. What if Ladbrokes had lost the rights to show it? There was still a Yates’s a few hundred yards away I could run to. In almost 40 years of life, this was the deppest I’d ever been into a bookies. There was bought to be the odd stupid question.

The Newcastle race faded out of view, and they did indeed dut to Aintree. It became clear, as I settled into my position that eye contact in here was really something that should be vaoided. Granted, I’ve got eyes like 20-past-12 anyway, so that’s not difficult, but there was one bloke in front of me, juggling mobile phones he’d just bought, trying in vain to insert the SIM cards.

The TVs switched over, and the live coverage began. Phew. I peered over the edge of the mobile phone guy, still avoiding eye contact, not just with him, but everyone in there..

The Canal Turn came. A shout from behind announced that I’d a certain horse won, then someone would be able to pay their gas bill. A depressing thought, but at least the weather is getting warmer now so they won’t freeze to death.

The rest of the race completed, Tiger Roll crossed the line first, and the place cleared. Had I won? I still couldn’ t remember what I’d put on.

We left Newcastle behind, and I’d returned home to log into my setting account. Imagine my surprise when it said £15! YES!

OK, so my overall winnings came to only a fiver, but a win is a win.

It’s The Grand National! Again!

Ah yes, it seems a long time since I’ve posted about my favourite horse race of the year. I know I didn’t mention it last year, as I was in Manchester last year, and I couldn’t be bothered installing anything on my phone, or fiddling about, trying to remember my login details.

I have placed my bets, but for fear of fate biting me in the arse like it seems to do every year, I’ll not post on here. Let’s see if I make my tenner back, eh?

Hartlepool. It’s a town on the… grrooOOooww.

Ah, it’s not the first time I’ve ripped off a Simpsons quote for a blog title, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I’m feeling a bit of a commoner today. I’ve been out and bought tickets to one of those footballing match things. You know, where grown men go around and kick a bag of air around for 90 minutes, whilst slack-jawed on-lookers shout things like “poppycock” at the referee, and question the poor man’s eyesight. Suddenly we’re all opticians, are we?

Of course, I jest, but it does seem a bit odd for me to actually plan in advance to go to a football match. It’s something that’s only happened three times before (we won 1-0 against Brentford in the 1991-92 season), lost against Oxford in… some other season, and lost 5-1 to Newcastle United in a friendly. So, I’ve got a 2-1 loss record on seeing Hartlepool play. It’s not looking good.

You see, the reason I bought the tickets, is that it’s a pivotal time for the club, and the town as a whole (not discounting the tickets were only a fiver). The match is Hartlepool V Doncaster, and it’s pivotal for both clubs, and the mathematics goes something like this…

If Hartlepool win, and Newport lose, Hartlepool stay in the league. If Doncaster win and Plymouth lose, they become League Two champions. In three days time, Hartlepool might be out of the English football league for the first time in their entire history. There’s been some squeaky bum moments in recent years, but I think this is the greatest yet.

Now, don’t quote me on this (bit hard, seeing as this is a blog), but I have a sneaking suspicion it could finish the once proud club off if the worst were to happen. Imagine if they go down to the conference, the club would be worth less, yet the area of land that the ground stands on is prime real estate, and with only a large car park behind it, a leisure centre well past its use-by date, and a great little pub, I can see the land being sold off to developers, and the whole area being yet another great big retail park. Which is something the town is crying out for, he says sarcastically.

So, Saturday evening could see a load of grown men cry. In fact I cried today, after they charged me £1.50 surcharge for using my credit card to buy the tickets. Robbing gits.

Being John McCririck for the day

Following on from my absolute disaster yesterday, I almost never put a bet on today. If I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.

Still, if you want to flush a fiver down the toilet, without the effort of going upstairs, you can’t go wrong by putting a bet on these…

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Good luck! You’ll need it!

UPDATE: If you backed any of those, even each way, you’d have came out penniless. Oh well. Here endeth my Aintree updates. And now, back to stony silence for another several months while I think of something to post about.

Aintree pt2: Well that was a complete disaster…

I did intend to just post an update on the previous post, but I went on a bit longer than I intended.

As expected, my fiver went down the pan. Thankfully, my horse in the Topham chase made it all the way round, unlike two poor horses who may, or may not have left Aintree on the back of a dog food lorry. Admittedly, it wouldn’t have been so bad if the Grand National is based in France. Any horses that get put down can just get shipped off to the local butchers.

It did leave to one of those “Oops” moments on Channel 4 though. Naturally, the fall looked rather nasty when it happened, and so Channel 4 omitted Becher’s Brook during the in-depth replay that they have.

Someone in charge of the slo-mo tape machine must have got their fences mixed up though, as when they said “And onto Valentine’s”, they cut to a close-up of the fatal incident. Whoops.

Takes me back to memories of the 1989 Grand National, where the late Julian Wilson commented that they were omitting Bechers Brook due to a “dead horse”. Let’s hope they go and quickly do some training before tomorrow.

Usually, I don’t watch the Grand National itself while in the house. Last year, I was in a random pub in Manchester. Unfortunately, this year, it looks like that isn’t going to happen. I shall be watching the race in front of the telly, and I presume the laptop. I’ve yet to pick out my horsies. I’ll probably do that in the morning. I think I’ll just go for a random five.

Oh, and because it’s not exactly necessary, but I’ve already uploaded it, here’s the worst betting slip in history.

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