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.
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.