It was a big sporting day last Saturday, what with the Grand National and the Boat Race, needless to say it felt like the television coverage was longer than any training the athletes for either of these events would have done.
Gary and Harry held a sweep stake and most people in the road did take part, even Mr Roger Misery, although I did notice that he and Suzy had a few words when he told her that he had spent money on this.
In order to make the sweep stake more of an event Gary had managed to get hold of an old rocking horse which stood outside the shop from the Wednesday before the race up until the results were announced; he decided that the names of all the horses that did not complete the course would be put into a hat and the person whose nag was drawn out would win the rocking horse as a consolation prize.
I thought this was quite a nice gesture, although it did nothing to prompt me to buy a ticket, Reg, as usual, was having none of it. ‘Who wants an old rocking horse cluttering up their house, especially one that’s likely to have wood worm. I’d rather be given some horse meat sausages, or at least a couple of pony cutlets.’
Caroline looked offended, ‘Reg, you wouldn’t? That’s disgusting.’
‘Of course it’s not, when in Rome and all that, my Margaret loved a bit of steak de chameau when we were in France, not that unlike chicken’.
Now I’m no French speaker but I was convinced that Reg had not just described eating horse, I quickly Googled it and discovered that he had in fact referred to camel, mind you, if presented in a sausage formation I don’t think that would faze him.
On the day of the race Gary and Harry were both dressed up as jockeys and were doing a roaring trade for charity charging the children for rides on the rocking horse. They had put a television in the shop and were serving cold drinks and ice creams at the front.
The miseries were there, Tom and Caroline, Mand and Garth, who for once had not come in fancy dress and whose flip flops finally suited the weather, although not his whole outfit as he still wore a winter hat and heavy coat. Reg and Margaret were also present and he took no time in telling us all that he thought his horse, Rebel Rebellion, suited his personality perfectly and was a sure fire winner. I don’t associate a sausage fixation with rebellion, but perhaps he was a true dark horse.
The race began and Tom, Mand and Reg were soon wearing the face of defeat as each of their horses either fell or pulled up at the fences, Mand was still quite excited as she had her eye on the rocking horse but most excited of all were the Miseries.
I have hardly heard Suzy speak, let alone express emotion but soon she was leaping up and down and shouting at the top of her voice, ‘ Come on Many Clouds, come on’. Roger although clearly pleased by the turn of events still looked extremely embarrassed by his wife’s exuberance and he took a step away from her.
Garth looked delighted at his friend’s good fortune and moved closer to cheer with her, much to Mand’s disgust. They cheered louder and louder as the horse neared the finishing post and when it finally crossed the line they shouted with delight and threw their arms around each other. It was certainly a moment to savour, Roger looked like he’d swallowed a wasp and Mand as if a mechanical device were needed to close her mouth again. There was an awkward silence as Suzy and Garth untangled from each other, the hug having lasted just a moment too long.
The small crowd dispersed quite quickly after that and I could hear Roger saying, ‘Really Susan’, and a small voiced Mand scurrying after Garth with the words,’ We need to like talk, like.’
Gary chose this moment to come from the back of the shop with the bucket of the fallers and failures and I pulled a name out which he looked at and then put it in his pocket.
I saw him deliver the rocking horse the next day, knocking quietly and then leaving it outside number 12, it wasn’t there long though and could clearly be seen on top of a skip in the neighbouring road that very afternoon.