Chris wanted to go horse racing. He had never been before and had been asking me if he could come along for a while, so we set off bright and early one morning, en route to Lingfield Park.
Upon arrival I soon made my way to the nearest Tote window and set about filling out a Placepot bet. Chris showed great interest in what I was doing, so I spent the next few minutes explaining to him that you needed to pick a horse in each of the first six races that would be placed. If successful then you would share the winning pool with other lucky punters. Soon after he started choosing a list of horses with names he liked and entered the numbers onto a ticket of his own.
The afternoon passed by and at the end of the last race, I saw him checking his ticket. “I think I’ve won!” he said, with a hopeful look on his face.
“Let me check!” I replied, taking his ticket and going through his selections one by one. He was right!
The dividend was declared and Chris made his way to the Tote booth to collect his £210. I stood on the spot in a state of shock, not believing what I had just witnessed and bemoaning a grand slice of beginners luck.
A week later, the phone rang, it was Chris wanting to come racing again. We again decided to go to Lingfield and unbelievably the same thing happened. It was only £80 this time, but by now he had decided that this was his way to wealth and fortune. I tried to bring him back down to earth by explaining how lucky he had been, but he was utterly convinced and all that could be seen were the £ signs rolling in front of his eyes.
Our next trip was to Plumpton and this time I watched over his shoulder as he made his selections, copying them onto my slip. I had decided that if he was going to win then so was I. The first race came and our horse got in the frame, and the 2nd, then the 3rd, 4th and 5th. It was beyond belief, he was doing it again!
Both of us were on the favourite in the last race and after jumping the penultimate fence, the horse was cruising about 5 lengths ahead of the field. Up to the last and by this time I too was starting to dream of a sizeable return and planning how to spend my winnings. The horse took off and in what seemed liked slow-motion, promptly ploughed straight through the middle of the fence, depositing his jockey on the turf in front of him. The dream crashed to earth just as quickly as the horse.
Chris was crestfallen, as was I. Strangely; he never asked to go racing again!
With lunch over, it was time for another in the daily epic series of football matches to take place at the top end of the school playground.
Our boys – we liked to think of ourselves as the “Whizz-Kids”, playing against that nasty, evil “Hodges’ Mob”. We didn’t particularly like Hodges or his mates come to that, and there was always a score to settle, with bragging rights to secure for the remainder of the day.
Amongst others, our team featured Twinkletoes up front, he being so called because he could dance his way through any defence line, and his initials were TT anyway. Ossie held up the rear in goal, more often than not unwillingly as he was always desperate to become an outfield player, and little Coggie out on the wing, with the heart of a lion added to the aggression of a tiger with raging toothache. He would be prepared to run straight through a brick wall if you asked him very nicely!
And there was myself, the midfield general who, at the tender age of 11, unbeknown to all my friends and foes on that blissfully sunny afternoon, was about to forevermore enter school playground folklore.
Located behind the school at the rear of the playing field, was an egg packing factory, where periodically, large lorries would trundle up the small lane at the end of the playground, on their way off to being loaded. All that separated the lane from the school was a brick wall which had been extended upwards by a few feet with a chain link style fence.
The ambition, past and present, of all small boys at the school, was to kick a football over the wall and for the ball to bounce off the side of a passing lorry and end up back in the playground. Many had tried and to our knowledge, all had failed, but the honour and glory of being the first to achieve what was considered as "the impossible” was well worth incurring the wrath of the Headmaster who had strictly forbidden any such activity.
The match was in full flow when out of the corner of my eye I noticed a lorry had entered the lane and was slowly creeping up toward the back of the playground. Just at what I considered to be the right moment, the ball was passed in my direction and not giving a thought to any repercussions that might ensue, I launched the ball upwards, in the direction of the lane and the slow passing vehicle.
The ball flew away from the end of my shoe, gaining momentum as it soared over the fence toward the truck. Then it clattered against the lorry and after a few heart stopping moments unbelievably bounced backwards, just managing to clear the fence back into the playground.
It was like scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup final. Twinkletoes, Ossie and Coggie all started screaming, followed by the three of them all jumping on top of me in celebration. Hodges’ Mob had temporarily put aside their animosity and were celebrating, and even some of the girls at the bottom of the playground momentarily showed a modicum of interest in all the commotion, before reverting back to whatever it was they usually did in the lunch hour.
The next thing I heard was my name being called by the Headmaster, directing me immediately into his office for a dressing down, but I couldn’t care less. For that short period of time I was a hero!
The egg packing factory is now long gone having been replaced by houses and the lane is now a major thoroughfare serving the new housing estate. The school closed down many years ago with its buildings being converted into luxury apartments.
But sometimes on a sunny afternoon, if you listen very carefully, the echo of a ball clattering against a truck can still just be heard in the far distance and just for a split second, I become the hero again!