Starcat 1 by my favourite artist

Friday, 29 August 2014

Come on, My Son - or A Fool and His Money Are Soon Parted

Now this one's going to give away my age...

When I was an infant, my maternal grandfather would often take me out for a cup of hot chocolate to the Top Ten Café near where we lived. How I enjoyed those moments with Granddad in the café! Sometimes I was even allowed to go into the, gasp, back room with him.

The back room was a pretty stark affair, wooden floors, hard seats and tables, a fat ginger tom asleep by the gas fire, enough (Player's Navy strength & Woodbines) ciggy smoke to cure a boatload of kippers, a blackboard(???) and a wall-mounted loudspeaker that chanted exotic names and numbers. Strange to say that all of this chanting seemed to make some of the men there ecstatic and plunge others into the deepest depths of small-bits-of-paper-ripping despondency. 

With the passage of time - decades - I realised that I had spent part of my infancy in an illegal gambling den; licensed betting shops were still a few years away. These days, I suppose that this (coupled with a tot of rum or whisky in my morning tea, administered by my Granddad who also taught me Welsh and how to sup tea from the saucer) would place me firmly on the risk list of even the most cynically disillusioned of social workers.

Looking back, I don't think I was traumatised by it all. In fact, I would argue that in hindsight it was an interesting experience. I, for one, do not gamble. I don't have a knee-jerk reaction of revulsion towards it, nor do I condemn it from any feeling of outrage. I merely pity those who are ingenuous enough to believe that they are going to make, instead of lose, money. More than that, I pity their families who are the real victims of the bookies, online casinos etc. who prey on such weak-minded folk. 

People on both sides of my family lost fortunes on the gee-gees and the financial markets, but heigh ho, that's all water under the bridge.

So finally to the photo I want to publish.

A magnificently dramatic shot of a horse race, 
Sanlúcar de Barrameda. August 2014 Courtesy:

Maricielo Gil Arranda
Every Spring and Summer in Sanlúcar de Barrameda there are cycles of horse races on the beach in the evening. These are the oldest horse races in Spain and amongst the oldest in Europe.

Another powerfully dramatic spectacle. A
supernova sunset at the beach after the last
race of the day (this one's mine).
Thousands of people gather on the beach to watch, indeed enthusiasts come from all over Europe to enjoy the spectacle. And a mighty impressive sight it is too. Let's forget the money side of it all and concentrate on the aesthetics: the sun is setting and there is a certain tension in the air among everyone - whether they have been foolish enough to have a flutter or not. The horses are off and a murmur runs through the crowd, turning into a roar as the horses approach. Then with the an earthquake of hooves and a deafening rumble from crowd, the horses dash past. It's all over in a matter of seconds, but in those scarce couple of seconds you have witnessed a powerfully dramatic spectacle. 

1 comment:

  1. When I was an infant, my mother would take me to have my hair cut in the barber shop of Mr Van Erp. Whether he was actually Dutch or had merely inherited the name from a Dutch forebear I do not know but, as I recall, he was an elderly, rather severe gentleman. On a certain occasion, I heard my mother explain to someone that she felt embarrassment while sitting waiting for me to be attended to by Mr Van Erp. The reason was that gentlemen would enter the shop and pass through it to the room beyond and later re-emerge, leaving the shop without requiring the services of the barber. For some reason, this anecdote fixed itself in my infant memory but it was only years later when it suddenly occurred to me that this strange behaviour possibly indicated the presence in the back room of a then illegal bookie's establishment. There is now no way of ever proving or disproving my conjecture as the barber shop and its elderly and severe owner long ago vanished into the past. I can only hope that Mr Van Erp received his cut, if you pardon the pun.

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