Vacuuming the cat

The other day, I was using the vacuum cleaner with the small brush attached so that I could clean around the computer. My young cat, Tommy, began nosing around, so I put the nozzle close to him. I expected him to take fright and run away but to my surprise he seemed to like it and put his nose in the nozzle, and then rolled on the floor to play. I brushed him gently with the vacuum and cleaned him all over and he seemed to think it was wonderful. The noise around his ears didn't worry him, nor did it concern him when his tail disappeared into the suction pipe. It was unexpected and funny and it made me think of other unexpected, funny and freaky things that have happened. So, here are a few of my favourite things.

If the pants fit, wear them
Sour taste in the mouth
A Ticket in Tatts
Phone order
Exhibition billiards match
Behind the curtain
Cycling in Europe
Cheval-stop in Mousey
Lost luggage mystery
Unlocking a lock-up
A Big Surprise
The Gift
Double digit dumbness
Appearances are everything
The new butcher
Embarrassing a scientist
Man on the moon
Climbing Graeme's Folly
Hit the deck!
The Great Red Spot
Funny Money
The nickel touch
Shares versus horses
The hare and the tortoise
Pirate Bird
Getting muddled
Dreams go by Contraries
Long wait for a winner
Inside Information
Coincidence - 30 years on
The Master Manipulator
Beating a bookie
Whistling a different pitch
Lennie the Loser
Card-counting comedy
Quit while you are ahead!
Killing the table
Ten cards for 21
ESP, or luck, or what?
Going to The Cup
NOT going to The Cup
Playing to lose

If the pants fit, wear them

In 1997, I had a business partner who was 40 years younger than I am. During a business trip to Melbourne, we went to a clothing store because I wanted to buy a couple of pairs of pants. While I was in the fitting room, the middle-aged lady shop assistant asked my partner if I was his father. Although we are not related, my partner told her that I wasn't his father but that I was his grandfather! When I came out of the fitting room the lady was as nice as pie to me. The dark trousers were about six inches too long and she made a note of the alteration to have them shortened. I then returned to the fitting room to try on a pair of light trousers. My partner told me later that the lady said she was amazed at how young I seemed to be. When I came out of the fitting room she was even nicer to me than before – all over me like a rash, as they say. These light trousers were about an inch too short and again she made a note of the necessary alteration to have them lengthened.

A week later, we returned to the shop to pick up the trousers. The same lady was on duty and almost fawned over me when she handed me the altered trousers. I said that I would try them on to be sure they fitted. When I put on the dark trousers I was surprised to find they were longer than before the alteration and now completely covered my shoes. The lady was in shock!

I then tried on the light trousers and got another surprise – they only reached a little way below my knees. Wearing my new trousers, I pranced out of the fitting room, strutting like a model on the catwalk, and I thought my partner and I would die laughing. After recovering a little, we looked for the lady but she had gone. The manager apologised and then remeasured me for new trousers. When I picked them up a week later I asked after the lady but was told she now worked in women's lingerie.
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Sour taste in the mouth

Many years ago, my uncle made some wine; from elderberry flowers, I think it was. At a family gathering a few months later, uncle opened a bottle of his brew and we sampled it. It tasted awful but a friend of the family, Les, took a tiny sip and declared it "Very, very good."

A few minutes later, I noticed Les move to the back of the room. He continued to face inward and from time to time added his voice to the general conversation. Suddenly, he put his glass of wine behind his back and tipped it into a pot plant.

As he placed his empty glass on a tray, uncle offered him a refill, but Les said he had to drive home and had had too much already and that it was "Very, very good."

As I farewelled Les, he said, "Ye gods, that wine was terrible, but I didn't want to upset the old boy."

I replied "That's ok, Les, I saw it all. I only hope you haven't killed my pot plant."
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A Ticket in Tatts

Where I live used to have the biggest lottery in Australia. It was run by a business called Tattersalls, but popularly known as "Tatts". It became a common thing to give or receive 'A Ticket in Tatts' as a gift.

At one time I worked for a friend in his jewellery shop. Whenever he sold engaged couples their engagement or wedding rings, he always gave them 'A Ticket in Tatts' with a wish they might win the big prize. One particular young couple arrived to choose their ring, and it was evident that the young lady was well endowed in front. I think it soon became apparent to all, including the young lady, that the most engaging items of interest were not the engagement rings. I think my friend struggled to concentrate on the sale, his mind not being on the job. Eventually the couple chose a nice ring. On completion of the sale my friend, still with his mind elsewhere, presented his lottery ticket gift, saying, "Please accept 'A Tacket in Titts' with my best wishes."
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Phone order

A few years ago, nearly every weekend, I used to get a telephone call from a person who would ask: "Olympic Bakery?"
I always answered, "No, you've got the wrong number" but still the calls persisted, week after week. What to do about it? At last I dreamt up a plan.
The following weekend the call came in as expected.
He: "Olympic Bakery?"
Me: "Yeah, what do you want?"
He: "This is TRIPLE X [a corner shop]. I have to order some things."
Me: "Ok, what do you want?"
He begins reading from a list and I make out that I am writing it down. I make it realistic, telling him to slow down and make him repeat some items. I fake my pencil breaking and that I need to look for a sharpener. I leave him hanging while I make a coffee. I then tell him that I have found a biro and he continues with his list. When he completes it, I ask him to repeat everything so I can check it off against my 'phantom' list, and I make out that I correct a few minor mistakes. My favourite is apologising for having written down 16 and not 60 after having asked him to tell me how many five dozen really is.
I then say, "We will deliver this to you in one hour. Ok?"
He replies, "Very good, very good."
I then settle down to drink my coffee and prepare Plan B.
A couple of hours later the phone rings and it is the fellow from TRIPLE X.
He: "Olympic Bakery?"
Me: "Yeah, what do you want?"
He: "This is TRIPLE X. Where's the stuff you promised an hour ago?"
"You're not getting anything. [I yell at him, and I ignore his attempts to protest and act getting more and more angry]. You owe us so much money. Thousands! When are you going to pay your bill? You get nothing until you have paid every last cent."
Then I slam the phone down and start sipping my coffee and I don't answer the phone when it rings a few times over the next hour. I have never since had a call from TRIPLE X.
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Exhibition billiards match

I have played in a billiards and snooker league for more than 60 years. One time, when I was a young bloke, my club was invited to spend a social evening at the local RSL. It so happened that the league's best billiards player, Alan, was also a member of this RSL. The evening was enjoyable. They entertained us with carpet bowls, darts, cards and refreshments and their billiard table, which they rarely ever used, was in continual action.

Well into the evening, it was suddenly announced that Alan would play a short exhibition game of billiards. Alan was a skilful cueist, a real stylist with some beautiful shots at his command and so there was a buzz around the room. The tiered seats either side of the billiard table soon filled with about 50 eager spectators. Out of the blue, I was approached and invited to be Alan's opponent. I accepted, but as the evening had been light-hearted I assumed I was basically only there to make an occasional shot for the continuity of his exhibition. My own cue was at home and so I grabbed a nondescript stick from the cue-rack. It felt as useful, or as useless, as a broom-handle and had probably been one years before!

The game was only 50-up, that is, first to reach 50 points wins, which usually takes about a quarter of an hour to play. Scoring is simple in that each scoring shot is worth either two points or three points. After a scoring shot a player plays another shot and continues until he fails to score. The total points from such a sequence of scoring shots are called a break.

The game began, Alan playing his delicate little shots with finesse, me having an occasional whack at something. I had no idea of the score-line, except Alan was clearly in front, but I couldn't have cared less, it being a fun game. I waited in the corner during Alan's visits to the table. The same corner each time, except once, when I moved quietly to the opposite side of the room. While there, I overheard a whispered remark, "Who's this bloody idiot they've got playing Alan?"

When it was my next turn to play I emerged from the corner and walked directly to the scoreboard and looked at it for the first time. The scores were Alan 38, me 12. I noted that if he had my 12 points he would have 50 and win and conversely, if I had his 38 I would have 50. There was, however, only one place to get those 38 points and that was on the billiard table. Although I liked billiards, snooker was my main game but I had confidence in my stance and cue action that were considered by many to be the best in the league. I aimed with great care and played with the speed and spin to not only score but to send the balls to a position to ensure that the next shot would be an easy one. By repeating this process, shot after shot scored and relentlessly my total grew. I listened as the referee called the break ... 30 ... 33 ... 36 ... 38. I expected him to call "Game over" but he didn't and so I aimed for one last shot and smashed the red ball to the back of the corner pocket. In my whole life, that is the hardest I have ever hit a ball with a broomstick or anything else. I then turned and shook Alan's hand and was instantly surrounded by people slapping me on the back.
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Behind the curtain

When I was in Vienna in 1957 I suddenly had the idea that I would try to go behind the 'Iron Curtain' by traversing Yugoslavia to get to Italy. This was the Cold War era and although it was not illegal for Australians to go into a communist country it was certainly not encouraged. But Yugoslavia under Marshall Tito was pink rather than red so I thought it would be safe. Firstly, though, I had to get a visa and so off I went to the Yugoslavian embassy. I was surprised to be ushered into the ambassador's office to be handed my visa by the gentleman himself. He shook my hand and in perfect English wished me a pleasant stay in his country.

Before I left Vienna I went to a bank and bought some Yugoslavian dinars. They were cheap with an exchange rate of several Yugoslavian dinars to one Aussie deener and so I bought a lot. When I got to the customs at the Austro/Yugoslav border I had to fill in a form that was written in both Yugoslavian and French and it was this form that eventually caused me a serious problem. One question seemed to be asking, "What foreign money are you taking into Yugoslavia?" At this time, black-marketing was rife and liable to heavy punishment and particular so when currency was involved, therefore I was most careful to itemise the several currencies I had picked up in my travels, the French and Swiss francs, German marks, Dutch guilders, Austrian schillings plus English and Australian pounds. The form was filled out in duplicate and I was handed one copy for presentation to the custom's checkpoint when I left the country.

After several days in Yugoslavia I eventually reached the customs office a few kilometres from the Italian border. I handed in the form only to have it handed back with an indication to fill out the one empty box. The box asked, in French, "What foreign money are you taking out of Yugoslavia?" This was the critical question but I had no worries because I had only spent the dinars I had bought in Vienna. I simply copied the list of foreign currencies from the other half of the form, signed the declaration, and handed it to the customs' officer. A moment later it was apparent that there was a problem. The two customs officers, neither of who could speak English, pointed to the currency lists implying that something was radically wrong. Being in a communist country trying to resolve a currency situation with two armed customs officials who are becoming annoyed is not the happiest place to be. Attempts to find a common language failed as I could not sprechen Deutsch nor parli Italiani and they had even less French than I had. My almost desperate insistence by sign language that my two lists of currencies were identical only made them more and more angry. I had visions of a future in a Siberian salt mine but it was suddenly dispelled when a woman spoke to me in English but with an American accent.
"Are you havin' some trouble here?" she asked.
"Yes, but I don't know what it is. Something to do with the list of foreign money."
After she looked at the list she said, "You never spent any money in Yugoslavia. What did you live on?"
"Yes I did. I had heaps of dinars that I brought into the country. I spent most of them drinking vino in the pubs trying to talk to the locals."
"But you didn't list that money on the form," she said.
"I didn't have to. The questions only ask about the foreign money I brought into the country. Dinars aren't foreign money."
"You've read it wrong," she said. "The form asks 'How much money is the foreigner bringing into the country? and 'How much money is the foreigner taking out of the country? They want to know how much you spent in Yugoslavia. To these two guys it looks like you spent nothing."
"Oh, for God's sake! Would you please explain it to them for me?"

Within a couple of minutes we were all laughing our heads off and slapping each other's backs. Even so, once that big rubber stamp was on my passport I scampered as fast as I could go across the few kilometres of "no-man's land" and into Italy.
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Cycling in Europe

Many years ago I cycled from Holland into Germany. As I hurtled down a cobble-stoned street I waved to the local people to acknowledge their friendly waves and calls of welcome to their country. My German is worse than my Greek and I could not understand their greeting though I imagined it was probably the exact opposite of "Auf wiedersehen." or "See you later." There were one or two nice buildings but this was a heavily industrialised town and not on the usual tourist route which probably accounted for the enthusiasm of the townsfolk at seeing an obvious stranger. I felt somewhat guilty for my ignorance of the language and not knowing what was being called to me. In the hope that I might come to some understanding of the greeting I began to listen more intently. "Einbahnstrasse! Einbahnstrasse!" As I rode on I puzzled over its meaning: "Ein, One; bahn, bahn?, er er, railway; strasse, street. One railway street?" Suddenly it dawned on me! "One Way Street" and I was going the wrong way.

A few weeks later I reached Switzerland and began cycling up and down the countless bends of those high alpine passes. One hot day I took a delicious drink from a cool stream that came tumbling from high above. Wow! It tasted ever so nice! A short distance from this stream a side road headed upwards and looked so inviting that I took it with the hope of a good view from the top. It was steep and I had to wheel the bike but an hour later the steepness flattened out to the high grassy plateau of an alp. The view of the distant snow-capped mountains was breathtaking. As I wandered beyond a grove of pine trees on this beautiful alp I was surprised to find a compact little village. The immaculate chalets were ever so pretty with that sparkling brook weaving past them and disappearing into the valley below. Suddenly I realised the source of my thirst-quenching stream. It was here! This stream was virtually a sewer for it received the effluent of the septic tanks of the village.

During the next month I cycled my own Tour de France. One mild evening I rode a few kilometres from my country hotel to a neighbouring hamlet. After having a look around the few monuments and memorials in the town centre I sought a refreshing glass of vin blanc at the local hostelry. This part of France was called Champagne and not surprisingly the wine was tasty. The company, too, was convivial and the language barrier proved less and less so with each new sparkling glass. Eventually, the time came to bid a sad farewell and to take the road. I mounted unsteadily onto my bicycle and wobbled off in a series of sinusoidal curves. One of these wobblings put me flat on the road; another wobbling hurled me into the table-drain. On I rode undaunted until another fall had me on the road once more, still firmly clutching the handlebars but with the front wheel twisted into an ellipse. I lay there, half-stunned, but within a minute I was being lifted to my feet for I had fallen immediately in front of the house of my rescuer. In my semi-inebriated state I failed to realise that I was incapable of riding my bike or even to realise it was unrideable and though I sought to continue my journey my rescuer was firmly opposed. We had no common language but I vaguely understood his point when I noticed that the funny hat he wore was that of a gendarme. With his help, I managed to stagger up to his home and into a room with a comfortable bed onto which I plopped gratefully and immediately fell asleep.

The next morning, I opened a bleary eye and took a look at my surroundings. The room was bare but brightly lit by the early morning sun shining through a high window. Suddenly, last night's half-remembered events filled my mind. I jumped out of bed but, still partially under the influence, bumped into the wall and gave a moan. A moment later the door opened and there was my gendarme saviour greeting me with "Bon jour, mon ami." A few minutes later found me at his kitchen table munching a bun smothered in strawberry jam and with a massive bowl of coffee to wash it down. Communicating with my new friend was difficult but when I said I was an Australian he produced a photo album and began pointing to various characters. I began to realise that he had formed a friendship with Australians who had fought in this part of France in World War I.

We then shared the fixing of my bicycle, which proved to be less damaged than first appeared. Now it was time to leave, but first the good gendarme wanted to show me something. Back into his house we went and toward my bedroom of last night, but instead of entering that room he stopped and rolled back the carpet. This revealed a door in the floor. He slid back the latch bolt and swung the door upwards on its hinges, revealing a staircase leading down a dozen steps to a small cell-like room. He uttered some words that I failed to understand and then the door was shut and the carpet replaced. It was now time to depart and after a handshake and a hug I was on my way, riding away wondering, as I wonder to this day, strange questions but with no answers: Was that cell a hiding place during World War I, perhaps concealing Australian soldiers? And did I spend a night in gaol or was I the guest of a Good Samaritan?
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Cheval-stop in Mousey

Many years ago, I hitchhiked around Europe and it was wonderful and fairly easy to get picked up. In Europe, hitchhiking was called "auto-stop" and the "hitch" signal was done by flagging with an up-and-down hand movement and not by pointing one's thumb down the road.

When a car stopped to offer me a lift the driver would usually say, in his or her language, "Where are you going?" I would say a placename and that would draw the appropriate response: either I went to the place or missed out on a ride.

I soon learnt a clever trick. When a car stopped to pick me up I would quickly ask the driver, in his or her language, after having checked that from the car's number-plate, "Where are you going?" Regardless of what place they said, I always replied "Hey! That's where I'm going!" Inevitably, this took me to places I never considered visiting and it also took me on some long trips! Marseilles to London was the longest. It took two days, including a night crossing of the Straits of Dover by ferry!

My favourite hitchhike occurred as a result of my "go wherever the driver goes" policy stranding me miles from nowhere in a tiny French village called Mousey. Despite hours of waiting under a hot sun, no car came around the corner to save me! My patience was rewarded when some transport eventually came into view. It was a horse and cart. Time stood still as the horse shuffled sleepily down the lane. Its driver, a fat French farmer, with his hat pulled down all around, shading his eyes like a miniature umbrella, might have been asleep. In sheer desperation, I gave the "auto-stop" hand-signal and I am delighted to say that he stopped. "Where are you going?" I asked as usual. "To the wine-bar down the road" is what I think he said (my French is not too good). "Hey! That's where I'm going," I replied as usual. And that's where we went! We drank a lot of vin rouge and nibbled fromage and somehow communicated. He set his usual drinking mates laughing by telling them about my auto-stop or, as he preferred to put it, "cheval-stop." An hour or two later I said my au revoirs and walked unsteadily away, eventually getting a "hitch" to somewhere.
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Lost luggage mystery

In 1989, I flew from Melbourne to Cairo, via Athens, with the Greek airline, "Olympic". There was a 10-hour stopover at Athens and so my partner and I visited the city. Nothing was needed from our baggage and so it remained at Athens airport. When we returned to the airport to complete the Athens - Cairo leg we found that passengers had to carry their baggage onto the plane, the logic being that if you had a bomb in your baggage you wouldn't want to blow yourself up. My partner's bag was there on the luggage trolley but mine was missing. An intensive search was made of all possible luggage storages both in the airport lock-ups and on the plane but my bag could not be found. The plane had to be delayed half an hour before we flew off to Cairo. Throughout that journey I wondered how I would manage to track down my bag or even get things started as we were arriving in Cairo on a Friday, the Moslem day when everything is shut. At Cairo airport there are a whole lot of baggage carousels in a great long hall. One carousel was completely empty except for a solitary bag. I never paused or missed a step as I grabbed that bag. It was mine! But how did it get there? Amazingly, it now had a Royal Danish Airline sticker! Who carried it onto the plane at Athens? I never found out.
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Unlocking a lock-up

On Easter Sunday, 2006, my niece phoned me from 2000 km away on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, where she was holidaying. She had a problem. She and her boyfriend had placed their valuables in a locker of a lock-up facility but when they tried to access the facility their key codes would not function. There was no attendant on duty, or likely to be until after Easter. She is, however, a resourceful person and realised she needed to break into the system, but as she is also honest, she called the cops for help. Two officers arrived with a key that unlocked a panel giving access to a computer screen and a keyboard. It was obvious that the lockers were controlled by this computer, but neither officer knew how to work it. Busting open the locker door was considered but she suggested they allow her to try triggering the program. With the policemen and her boyfriend watching she entered a few key strokes and a new screen appeared. After a few more key-presses, the screen suddenly displayed the C:\ prompt, to show that it used an old DOS system. Her memory is pretty good and she remembered that about 25 years ago, when she was an inquisitive 7-year-old, I had shown her how DOS commands made a computer run. She entered the command DIR and a long list of entries were scanned but were instantly lost as they whizzed off the screen. It was at this point she rang me.
"What do I do now?" she asked.
"Enter DIR/P and you'll get one page at a time. What do you see?"
"COMMAND.COM is the first item."
"Ok, now enter DIR *.EXE/P and tell what you see."
"There are a few listed. One called LOCKERS.EXE sounds about right."
"Enter LOCKERS and see what happens."
"Hey! We are in. We have the screen where we keyed in our codes yesterday."
"Ok, call me later."
Half an hour later, she called me. "We got all of our gear without a problem. Actually, we only went there for our roller-blades. The officers thought I was a computer whiz-kid and began questioning me. Maybe they thought you and I were a pair of hackers. I told them that computers were not my line and that I was only the speech-writer for the premier of Tasmania. They didn't believe me until I showed them my credentials. 'You learn something new every day,' said one cop. 'You sure do,' replied the other.'"

No doubt, this event has given those two cops a story to share with their families and friends and their fellow-officers at headquarters. I'd love to read their report.
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A Big Surprise

In 2003, I did a flight around the world. When I was in Buenos Aires I phoned my niece to let her know I would be arriving home on the following Friday. She asked what time and I said it would be about 8 pm. She then said, "Oh, that's bad luck. I'm flying out on Friday morning bound for Europe. I won't see you for a couple of months."

My flight was via Santiago, in Chile, where I was to have a 24-hour stop-over. When I arrived at Santiago airport, I made a sudden change of plans. Instead of staying overnight in Santiago, I changed my flight arrangements and was able to fly out that same day after a 10-hr wait at the airport. Everything went ok and I got into Hobart about 8 o'clock Thursday night.

I immediately went to my niece's home. When I got to her front door I didn't knock but instead used my cellphone to call her. We chatted for a couple of minutes about missing each other and when we were likely to see each other again. Then I knocked on the door.

She said, "Oh! There's a knock at the door. What a nuisance someone calling at this time of night."

I said, "That's ok, I don't mind waiting. Go and see who's there. You never can tell who it might be. You might get a big surprise."

She opened the door and got a big surprise!
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The Gift

In 1956, I went to North Wales to climb Snowdon and a few other peaks in this famous region.

I needed something to read – something light-weight to carry in my rucksack. I found just the thing in a Llanberis bookshop – a tiny book of Shakespeare – speeches from the plays and some poems.

Years later, I lent the book to a friend but he did not return it. In 1970, he went to live in South Africa.

23 years later, I was in South Africa and contacted my friend. He produced the book and returned it to me, apologising for the delay.

I said I was delighted to get it back as I had a desire to present it as a gift to my best friend.

He responded, "In that case, I'm doubly-delighted to return it."

I replied, "And I'm also doubly-delighted to give it to you as a gift."
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Double digit dumbness

Doing 'dumb' things reminds me of something that happened where I used to work.

There was a vat that had a discharge opening, about nine inches square, at the bottom. This opening was sealed by a door-plate that was lifted by a hinged lever to allow the contents to flow out. It needed a light pressure to push down against the flow to shut it.

From time to time the vat was emptied for it to be cleaned. During the cleaning the hinged door-plate was raised to access the discharge opening. One time, the cleaner was careless when cleaning the opening and had his finger in the opening when suddenly the door-plate, with no flow now to resist it, fell like a guillotine and chopped off his finger.

Immediately, the supervisor of the department was called and when he fully understood what had happened he contacted the factory manager. When the manager arrived he wanted to know exactly what had happened and so the supervisor re-enacted the events. Unfortunately, he did it too well, for when he raised the door-plate and put his finger into the opening, the door-plate suddenly dropped and guillotined his finger, too.
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Appearances are everything

Many years ago, a delightful fellow called Spider and I became friends. Spider was one of those characters to whom things seemed to happen, or he caused to happen, however innocently, and they invariably turned out to be funny. He and I worked for the same large company. He was a painter and at one time repainted everything in the factory of which I was the manager. He painted a milk storage facility we called 'the dairy' and its walls shone. I praised Spider for the wonderful job. A couple of days later I got a shock. When the cleaner used a steam hose to wash the walls the paint blew off in great white sheets. I immediately called Spider for an explanation. He told me that to make the walls shine he had added varnish and Vaseline to the paint. The story soon went around the plant and everyone thought it was hilarious. I immediately got Spider to redo the areas of damaged paintwork. This proved easy for he had, at least, put down a good undercoat.

There were three giant storage tanks and three milk pumps housed in the dairy. They, like almost all of the equipment throughout my department, and all other departments of this vast complex, were painted in the traditional yellow of the company's livery. Although my tanks and pumps did not need repainting at this time, I chose to get Spider to do them anyway and, against tradition, to paint them white. To finish off the dairy, I had all the stainless steel milk piping polished and the concrete floor scoured with detergent. It was so clean; you could have eaten off it!

There is always a day of reckoning and eventually it came for me. I was blasted for deviating from the company's traditional colour and for buying expensive white paint instead of using any of the company's stock of yellow paint. My budget over-run for excessive paint usage, too, was indefensible, as I daren't mention Spider's big blunder. I was given a severe dressing down by the engineering director [Eng Dir], with threats and warnings against future budgetary indiscretions.

A couple of days later, I received a phone call from the Eng Dir on another matter. He had a VIP visitor whom he wished to bring to my department and requested I meet them at the factory entrance and give the VIP a guided tour. A few minutes later they arrived and after the usual introductions I pushed open the double-doors to begin the tour and invited the VIP to enter. On stepping through the doorway, he entered the dairy, followed by the Eng Dir, and me behind him.

Well! If you could have heard this VIP! He went into raptures about the dairy, "I've heard about your company's reputation for hygiene and cleanliness but I never imagined it would be anything as magnificent as this." This was followed by lots of "Oos" and "Ahs" with the VIP waving his arms around in great expansive gestures like the Pope blessing the multitude at St Peters! He praised the Eng Dir who had no option but accept some credit for this symbol to health and antiseptic food processing. I made sure the Eng Dir received the full extent of the praise by easing back a little, much as underlings do for royalty. Inevitably, some praise came my way to which I answered, almost blandly, "It's just... just the way we do things, here." The tour went off without a hitch.

A few months later, I had to submit a budget for the coming season. Naturally, I was particularly careful about the allocation for painting, making sure it was less than the estimate of the previous year. I don't think it would have mattered, however, for when the review committee sat around the table to consider its pros and cons, the Eng Dir finalised it instantly with, "I think we can confidently accept everything as proposed." Painting was not an issue then or at any time in any future budget.
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The new butcher

Clarrie was a tiny woman, five feet and half an inch in her socks and, tipping the scales at only 100 lbs, weighed less than many a small jockey. Her size, though, was irrelevant when it came to taking on tasks, and the tale I tell of her is of a time she took on a big task.

She was married but her husband deserted her when her child was only five weeks old. Life was suddenly hard for her and a struggle to survive. What little money she had was used to feed and clothe the baby and at one time she ate nothing for four days.

A few years later, this city girl, now in her mid-twenties, moved to the country to become a temporary housekeeper on a large prosperous farm. Clarrie's task was to take over the running of the farmer's house during his wife's confinement for she was expecting their sixth child. This was a big task for Clarrie as the children's ages ranged from 12 to 6 and they, with her own 6-year old son, went to the local school. She needed to maintain the house and prepare all meals including school lunches and a midday lunch for the farmer's three farmhands.

The farmer was also the local butcher and dozens of families in the neighbourhood relied on him for their meat. This was vital to the community and vital to him for it provided a regular and essential income, whereas the farm, though prosperous, was seasonal.

Everything seemed to be going as planned and without a hitch. The new child, a daughter, arrived and the farmer's wife, Dorothy, returned to find her children healthy and happy. She was delighted with the way Clarrie had managed everything and they were to become lifelong friends. But then a disaster occurred. The farmer, though apparently healthy, was diagnosed as needing an immediate operation. Suddenly this family was plunged into worrying. The farmhands said they would stay on for a while but might have to look elsewhere to earn cash. Where would money come from to keep things going? What about money to keep the family fed, and money to pay the doctors and the hospital bills? Who would provide meat for the families in the neighbourhood? Would the butchery close and some rival become the new butcher? Anxiety and despondency cast a sad pall over this usually happy household but suddenly there was a ray of hope.

"Stop worrying," said Clarrie, "I'll fix it. I'll be the butcher while Bill's in hospital."
"You!?" said Bill, "you are not a butcher."
Even in the prevailing gloomy mood this seemed a joke and evoked smiles and laughter.
"I can do it," said Clarrie, "I've watched you doing your butchery work and how you make the cuts and prepare the packages. I use the meat to prepare our meals and so I've seen it at both the beginning and the end, and I think I could do it."
"But you are too tiny to handle those great sides of beef. They are so heavy that you could never lift them."
"That is easily fixed. Your farmhands help you when you slaughter a beast, so get them to help me. They can slaughter and skin it, or I can do that because I've watched you do it. All I need is for them to hang it on a hook. From then on, I'll make the cuts as you do now."

And so it came to pass that there was a new butcher in the community. The farmer had his operation and gradually recovered and returned to his butchery. After things were back to normal a strange thing occurred. When his customers came to pick up their meat they asked where the 'other' butcher was. The women, in particular, wanted Clarrie to stay on as butcher.
"She prepares the cuts just right," they declared, "Obviously she knows how to cook and knows what good cuts look like and prepares them perfectly."
Bill was somewhat shocked at this revelation, that the women preferred Clarrie's butchery to his, but being a friend as well as a good businessman he made Clarrie an offer.
"Would you like to stay on and run the butchery while I concentrate on the farm?" he asked.
Clarrie answered, "It's a wonderful offer, Bill, but I'm turning it down. You are ok now and Dot is looking after the kids again and your sons will soon be old enough to help you. I've still got other lives to live."
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Embarrassing a famous scientist

In the early 1950s, I was the youngest member of the Astronomical Society of Tasmania. I did a lot of observing and at each monthly meeting gave a short talk about what could be seen in the heavens during the ensuing month. At this time, Dr Grote Reber attended the monthly meetings. Dr Reber was famous for being the world's first radio astronomer, but even that needs to be put into perspective. Radio astronomy was an entirely new science that he brought into being. Dr Reber was a happy soul and a great raconteur and told us some exciting stories of his researches and discoveries and of his current work in Tasmania, where, incidentally, he settled and lived out the rest of his life.

At one meeting, in my monthly address, I named the giant southern galaxy NGC 253 as an interesting object for observation. The thought suddenly crossed my mind that such a significant object was a possible emitter of radio waves. I said as much but to get an authorative opinion added "Perhaps, Dr Reber could tell us if he has detected radio waves from this source."

All eyes turned to Dr Reber but he said not a word, for he had dozed off. After a nudge or two he awoke and looked from side to side wondering, no doubt, why everyone was staring at him. He asked what was up and several re-asked my question. This proved futile for the dear Dr was somewhat deaf and the volume of his hearing-aid was set to zero. After the necessary adjustments and an apology, he responded to the question but what he said I don't recall. I think I was probably a pretty boring speaker and when I thought about it after the meeting I concluded that he had shown good common sense in turning me off. My admiration for Dr Reber rose a notch or two.
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Man on the moon

In the early 1950s I was a young draughtsman in an engineering design office of a large factory. A thing I liked about this office was that we (there were seven of us) were encouraged to share anything we read in trade journals or magazines or found interesting in the world of engineering, technology, science, or, in fact, virtually any field whatsoever. It was stimulating and, essentially, it made us better engineering types and more inventive. The result was that we were always discussing something of interest and we learnt to simultaneously do our work and participate in these verbal free-for-alls.

At the time, my hobby was astronomy and mucking around with telescopes. During our discussions, I said I believed Man would stand on the Moon in the 20th century. Well, that was like a red rag to my colleagues. Despite their usual forward-thinking ideas and progressive attitudes they vociferously disagreed and I was laughed to scorn for my over-the-top ludicrous idea.

I still maintained my opinion to the day I resigned from that job in August 1956. In October 1957 the first man-made object, Sputnik, went into space. In July 1969 Man stood on the Moon only 13 years after I had been decried for saying it would happen within 44 years.
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Climbing Graeme's Folly

When I was 15, I had a flat on the first floor of a house that had an old-fashioned laundry on the ground floor. The laundry had a copper that was heated by a wood fire with a tall brick chimney that reached above the roof of the two-storey house. Between the laundry chimney and the brick wall of the house was a gap all the way to the top.

At this time, I had got interested in rock-climbing and began to learn the technique. For example, a wide vertical crack in a cliff is called a chimney and is climbed by wedging one's way to the top. When I looked at that gap between the laundry chimney and the wall of the house it reminded me of a mountain chimney.

"What a wonderful place to practice chimneying," I thought, so, instead of walking up the stairs to get to my flat, I decided to climb the gap and get in through a back window.

I put on my climbing boots, and began the ascent. Progress proved easier than anticipated for the mortar between some bricks crumbled away exposing tiny ledges and creating minute finger and toe holds. I should have realised that the very sandiness of the mortar exposed a weakness in the structure. When I was about half way up, I heard an ominous crack down below. Suddenly, the whole chimney-stack, from top to bottom, swayed outwards. It fell in a great arc with me riding it down like a jockey to crash into the backyard veggie patch. The chimney lay completely shattered amongst the broadbeans with me on top of it, uninjured, but black from head to foot. I was covered in the ancient soot that had emerged and now billowed over the scene.

The landlord was in a fury but was pacified when my uncle said he would repair the damage. Within a day it was rebuilt, better than ever, but I had to promise never again to attempt the first ascent of Graeme's Folly.
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Hit the deck!

National Service began in Australia in 1951, during the Korean War. 18-year-olds were called up for basic training and I did mine in the army. Weapons training was comprehensive and included throwing hand-grenades. These were live ones, not dummies. We recruits, two at a time, stood behind a thick, chest-high, earthen wall of a bunker where two instructors, both corporals, explained how to throw our grenades. This was their instruction: "Pull the pin, aim at the target and bowl it, don't throw it. Bowl it, like a test cricket bowler, like Ray Lindwall or Keith Miller bowling a full-toss, so that it lobs on the target. Watch to see if it lands where you aimed and then get your head down behind the wall - Quick! Real quick!"

I was the first to throw my grenade and it went more or less according to the instructions except that I missed the kerosene-tin target by a couple of metres. It was then the turn of my companion. His name was Horace and Horace had led a sheltered, sedentary, inactive life. He was extremely tall but unbelievably thin like skin stretched over a skeleton. His skinny little arms were without a muscle and as soft and snow-white as a baby's. And he was frightened. He feared his grenade and what it might do to him. After considerable urging from both instructors, Horace at last pulled the pin. His eyes bulged, his legs shook and his knees knocked. "Bowl it, Horace, bowl it," ordered the instructor. Horace swung his arm in a giant circular cartwheel.

Suddenly the instructor yelled, "Hit the deck!" We did, except for Horace who stood as petrified as a marble statue and had to be dragged to the ground by the instructors. Within a few seconds there was a big explosion barely a metre away. Then the instructor started laughing, "When I saw Horace let go of that grenade I thought he had dropped it INSIDE the bunker. Lucky for us he dropped it on the other side of the wall." We all, including Horace, joined in the laughter.
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The Great Red Spot

I did my National Service in the army in 1953. My most unpleasant memory of that episode of my life was having to shave in cold water.

My billet was in Hut 22. From the very first day, Hut 22 became notorious for the gambling that was run there by two of my fellow recruits, Jack "Shieldsy" Shields and "Punchy" Skidmore. The gambling game was "Unders and Overs" and Shieldsy and Punchy won a lot of money, although not much from the 18-year old recruits but plenty from the professional soldiers, the NCOs, who were to train us to be soldiers. One lance-corporal, who went broke, was said to have sent 'home' to England to get more money from his mother.

I never had a bet but, along with everyone else, watched the play as there was nothing else to do. "Unders and Overs" is a dice game played with two dice. The total score showing on the dice determines who wins. A score of Under 7 or Over 7 pays even money. An exact score of 7 pays 4 to 1. This gave the two operators a big 16.7% edge and a big profit.

The spots on both dice were black except that the single spot on one die was coloured red and was much bigger than the others. In the course of the game, I noticed that this red spot seemed to pop up quite frequently. To get some idea of how often, I listed the red spot's appearance. On average, it should have turned up one time in six spins but it turned up about one time in five. Clearly, that die was biased, but not enough to make the Unders a favourable bet. But then another factor came into play: The two operators, to coax more participation, offered better odds, 5/4 instead of even money on the Unders. Those new odds, coupled with the biased die, made the Unders a favourable bet and this brought me into the game. Sometimes, the 'boys' offered even better odds on the Unders, 6/4. This was over the odds mathematically-speaking, and coupled with the biased die, made it a certain winner and I won a heap of money.

After our first fortnight in camp, we were given leave and I headed for the city to spend my winnings. The first thing I bought was an electric razor, a Philishave, just about the first electric razor ever sold in Australia. Back in camp that electric razor did the rounds of Hut 22 every morning. No one, ever again, shaved in cold water.
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Funny Money

I once had $ 20,000 invested in a major bank's highly-recommended venture. My account grew very nicely with two annual interest payments, nevertheless, on the day the second interest was added I decided to close the account. The money came through quite ok and I even got a separate cheque for $ 00.03 for the new interest earned, presumably, for the 10 minutes it took to finalise my account. The very next day the bank declared its venture had gone bust and its investors got nothing. How lucky was I? I have kept my 3 cent cheque as a souvenir.

An odd thing happened one time when I had to bank $ 5,000. I rolled the notes into a sausage-shaped scroll and slipped it into the fob-pocket of my trousers and headed out for the bank. When I got there, the money was gone. I got a nice surprise to find it floating loose inside a fold of my pullover.
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The nickel touch

I used to play the share market, buying and selling whatever took my fancy. In the late 1960s, a Tasmanian-incorporated company called Tasminex began exploring for minerals. I decided to invest $250 in 500 Tasminex shares which at that time were available at their par value of 50c each.

I mentioned Tasminex to a friend, Allistair, who said he knew nothing about shares but because of my enthusiasm he, too, would like to put $250 into Tasminex.

My usual procedure to order shares was simply to phone my stockbroker, but this time I did something different. Because Allistair knew no stockbroker, I suggested introducing him to my broker, and at the same time we could place our orders. This particular day was a Friday and we only ever worked half a day on Fridays, so it was convenient.

We arrived at the Murray Street office of my broker about 1:30pm to find his office closed and a "Gone to Lunch" sign on the door. We had other things to do, and as Allistair had no real interest in shares and I bought and sold shares willy-nilly this was no big deal so we agreed to leave it to next Friday.

From this point, things for me went pear-shaped! You will note that I have failed to place my order for 500 Tasminex shares. By Tuesday the shares had risen to 55c cents and by Friday, a few more cents. The market goes up and down, so I delayed buying the shares, anticipating a drop in the price. It never happened! Three months later the share suddenly sky-rocketed to $92 each, and I didn't own even one. I missed out on $46000 which in modern terms would be about a quarter of a million.

Tasminex created a boom in the share-market and caused such a gigantic increase in activity that the morning and afternoon sessions were rolled into one. No longer is there a break for lunch. I find it particularly ironic that the share I wanted to buy to make my fortune eliminated the thing that caused me not to buy it!

And why, O why did this happen on a Friday? Any other day of the week and I would have placed my order by phone. So why am I laughing about it?
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Shares versus horses

From 1958-62, I worked closely with an office colleague, Arthur, who was 30 years my senior. At the time, I used to buy and sell shares and also used to bet on racehorses and I was frequently on the phone to my stockbroker or to my bookie. Arthur over-heard many of these calls but, of course, only my end of each conversation.

Arthur knew very little about stocks and shares and absolutely nothing about racehorses. Nevertheless, he praised me for my stock exchange dealings, which he called investing, and criticised me for my racecourse dealings, which he called gambling.

I ignored his opinion of both my pastimes but as he persisted in commenting about them, sought to challenge his viewpoint. One day, I told him I would make two phone calls; one to my bookmaker and the other to my stockbroker and that he was to listen carefully to what I said and then tell me which was which.

I made both calls in the usual fashion, but was careful not to utter giveaway words such as "shares", "options", "odds", and "starting prices". When I talked to the stockbroker I named the stock I wanted to buy, asked its price and then stated how many shares I wanted. To the bookmaker, I named the horse I wanted to back, asked its price and then stated how much I wanted to bet on it.

When I asked Arthur which call was which he said they sounded so alike that he couldn't tell the difference. I remarked that there was no difference, except that whether I won or lost on the horses would be known within one minute, whereas, it might be a year before I knew whether I had won or lost on the shares.
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The hare and the tortoise

Aesop's fable tells how the tortoise got so far behind the hare that the hare stopped for a rest but the tortoise kept going, went past the sleeping hare, and won the race.

My story is not a fable but a fact, a true story. It tells how the tortoise got so far behind the hare that the tortoise stopped for a rest, not the hare. The hare kept going. Then the tortoise, as in the famous fable, went past the hare and won the race. How could that happen?

When my race-horse Sobig won a race at Brighton, I was congratulated by, Tom, an old trotting identity. He told me that a few decades earlier he had also won a race at Brighton, when it was a bush track. He owned a mare called Trial Offer that he trained and drove in its races. The horse wasn't much good and in this race she was the rank outsider with the bookies. Despite having little chance of winning, Tom bet on her for a small fortune.

Brighton racecourse is a big track, about the size of Elwick, and on this occasion there was a patch of fog at the back of the track opposite the grandstand. The race distance was a little less than two laps, so the race started about a furlong down the track from the winning post. The race got under way and Trial Offer trailed along, like a tortoise, at the rear of the field. When Tom entered the fog patch he stopped his horse and took her to the outside of the track and hid behind a clump of trees. The race continued and a couple of minutes later the other runners came around on their second lap. The moment they went past Tom, he brought Trial Offer out of hiding and tagged onto the tail of the field. On the home turn he made his move, urging her out wide down the home straight. In the dash to the winning post, the other runners, now tired from their prolonged exertions, were unable to withstand Trial Offer's burst of speed.

During the short delay awaiting validation of the race, Tom wondered, "Did the stewards fail to notice Trial Offer wasn't there the first time past the post, being only concerned with the horses they saw in front of them?" And would he be collecting the winner's trophy and the prize money and a fortune in the bets he had with the bookies?

A minute later the All Clear siren sounded. Tom had got away with it! The tortoise had won!
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Pirate Bird

In the 1960s, I was a keen racegoer and used to bet on the horses. One horse that caught my eye was called Pirate Bird. He was no champion but was exciting because he was a front-runner and would always race a long, long way in front of the rest of the field in long-distance races. Not surprisingly, his extremely fast pace would cause him to become exhausted, but it was only in the last furlong, at the very end of the race, that he would be run down and beaten.

The first time I thought Pirate Bird could actually win was in a race over a mile and a half at Rosehill Racecourse in Sydney and was to be ridden by Clark Little, who always rode him. The bookmakers offered odds of 33 to 1 and I bet on him. He won that race when he led all the way. A couple of weeks later he raced again over a mile and a half at Rosehill and I bet on him at 16 to 1. He won again. I didn't bet on him at his next race as he was in an unsuitable race on another track. He lost. At his next start, he returned to a mile and a half at Rosehill and the bookies offered 40/1. I bet on him again and he won again. His next start was on a different racecourse but I didn't bet on him and he lost that race. In his next start he was back to his old familiar territory of a mile and a half at Rosehill but this time he had to compete against very strong opposition, the top horses, for this was the Rosehill Cup. He was the rank outsider at 66 to 1 but despite those long odds, which implied he had little chance of winning, I bet on him again and he led from start to finish.

He was then entered to run at Randwick Racecourse over a mile and a quarter. Because this was less than his preferred distance, he would have to run at a faster pace than he usually did and this would exhaust him in the closing stage of the race. However, I noted that Randwick racecourse has a slight uphill slope in the home straight. It is called the Rise, but it flattens out again just before the winning post. My assessment was that Pirate Bird would be going full speed up the Rise and have just enough momentum after topping it to get to the winning post before he tired. I bet on him at 10 to 1 and had a big collect when he led all the way.

So, my favourite horse, ever, is Pirate Bird 5 bets for 5 wins at giant prices.
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Getting muddled

I recall a time when I had to make a choice between two things but got myself muddled. How can one get muddled with only two choices, you may well ask? Well, I did!

I used to go to the racetrack and it was there that I got muddled. Tasmania's best horse, a stayer called Macdalla, and Majestic Master, the best sprinter in the state, were to meet in a sprint race. This race was ideal for Majestic Master. He had been winning easily in recent sprint races, and not surprisingly was the 6/4 favourite. Macdalla, the winner of two Hobart Cups, was having his first start from the spelling paddocks and was still fat and in need of several races to get fully fit for the longer events that were his forte. He was a 33/1 outsider.

It was the usual custom to list horses names in order of the weights they were handicapped to carry, the top-weight being No.1 saddlecloth, the second top-weight being No.2 saddlecloth, and so on. However, in this particular race Macdalla and Majestic Master were to carry identical topweights. The usual procedure where there were horses with identical weights was to list their names in alphabetical order. Macdalla is m-a-c and Majestic Master is m-a-j.

The tote, also, uses saddlecloth numbers rather than names, and so if you want to make a bet, you make it on a number, not a name. I picked Majestic Master to win and went to the tote and made a $20 bet on No.2. I then went to the grandstand to watch the race. Majestic Master ran a wonderful race and had it in his keeping until, in the shadow of the winning post, in the very last stride, he was beaten by Macdalla. I cursed my luck to be beaten by a nose.

In despair, I descended the grandstand but when I casually glanced at the semaphore board it displayed Winner 2, Second 1. Surprised by this unexpected result, I pointed to the board and said to a friend "Oughtn't that be 1 2 not 2 1?" My friend opened his race-book to check for me. "No, it's correct. Macdalla is No.2."
"I can't believe it," I said, "I've accidentally backed the wrong horse and accidentally won hundreds of dollars."

To this day I don't know why the usual practice of numbering was reversed. Perhaps the person who organised the race thought Macdalla was spelt Mcdalla or Makdalla but whatever the real reason I couldn't care less!
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Dreams go by Contraries

Back in 1962 a friend of mine named Eric was following a horseracing system which, believe it or not, rarely lost. The system was highly selective and only rarely produced a horse to wager on but on "Debutante Stakes" day at Caulfield it nominated two horses in consecutive races. Eric backed them both and had a nice collect when Young Victoria won the Debutante Stakes for fillies and Time and Tide won the Debutant Stakes for colts. Amongst other things, Eric bought a motor-mower out of his winnings.

Exactly seven weeks later he had his next system horse. It was a three-year old colt named Jerkin and was to be ridden by Melbourne's top jockey, Roy Higgins. As 5/1 was readily on offer by all the bookies, I visualised my friend's future if Jerkin won. "A motor-mower last time, Eric, a motor car this time. Heh! Wacko!" I said to him, clapping my hands to express my excitement at his likely success. Imagine my surprise when he told me that he was not going to back Jerkin. I asked him why not. "I've had this dream," he said, and now I quote him verbatim, "I interpretated my dream using Zurko's "Book of Dreams" and it says I'm going to have bad luck with my horses." A few minutes later, when I had managed to stop laughing, I asked him, "Eric, I know the only thing in your life is horses but how in the hell did you work that out?"

He told me that in his dream he was mowing the lawn with his new motor-mower when the mower broke away from him, charged across the lawn running over a dove and killing it. The motor-mower then split down the middle. "What's that got to do with anything?" I asked. "Everything! Everything!" he replied, with feeling. His interpretation of the dream, with the help of Zurko, he explained as follows: Because a dove is a bird of peace or good luck, he was due for bad luck for killing it, and because the motor mower symbolically represented his horses he had lost control of them and was due for bad luck. The motor-mower splitting apart only emphasised the breakdown of his method, therefore, he was not having a bet.

Nothing I said could persuade him to show some commonsense. I pleaded, "This is your system, Eric, and it's won almost every time. It's seven weeks since you've had a bet and your last two horses both won so you can have this bet for nothing. Put something on it, anyway!" Nothing would change his mind. "Consider the horse," I said, "and the jockey. Jerkin has won 4 of its last 6 starts, 3 out of its last 4 races, and Roy the Boy, Higgins, the best jockey in Melbourne is in the saddle and you've got about 10 times the true odds. You've gotta be crazy not to bet on it. What more do you want?" No! Nothing got through to Eric, he was adamant. "Well, Eric," I said. "You are crazy! But I'm having my twenty quid on it because Jerkin is gonna bolt in."

The race was duly run and Jerkin "bolted" in, winning easing-up by a neck that could have been many lengths if Higgins had ridden him out. Eric was astounded and extremely dejected. I had expected him to wager a few hundred pounds on Jerkin, so it represented a big difference to his bankroll. Despite his sad state I insisted he celebrate my success and I forced him, a teetotaller, to drink my health with a glass of champagne. Eric's downcast spirits did not improve when I pointed out to him that his dream had, in fact, come true. "Huh? How do you work that out?" asked Eric. "Easy! Eric, easy! Easy as pie, have another drink." You see, Eric missed out on backing a 5/1 certainty which is about as bad as a punter's luck can ever get.
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Long wait for a winner

Eric's wife was a staunch soldier of the Salvation Army.
"How come you tolerate Eric betting on racehorses?" I asked her.
"He doesn't drink or smoke and he has to have some freedom, so I don't mind his betting. Besides, he is careful and has few bets, and usually wins and always buys something with his winnings."
I can vouch for that. Eric rarely had a bet but when he did it was always a giant one. I know, because I used to help him spread his bets over several bookmakers.

One day he made a weird declaration: "My next bet will be on a horse called Siwai. I am not having another bet until I've backed it."

"But where is Siwai?" I asked. "It races in Victoria but it's gone for a spell and could be in Queensland or Tassie or anywhere for months and its next race could be God knows where."
"I know," said Eric, "but I'm sending away for newspapers all over Australia to check the race entries to see if Siwai is listed. Also, I bought a terrific radio that can pick up race broadcasts all over the country."

This was decades before easy communications with cell phones and the Internet and it took days to get some newspapers.

And so that's how it went for months! Siwai, where are you? One morning, when I opened The Mercury, there was Siwai listed on the race page, first up after a spell and entered to race up the bush in Victoria.

Eric and I worked for the same company, so I raced up to his department to be sure he hadn't missed it. He wasn't at work. Was he sick? Might he have missed Siwai after all of his trouble to search for it? I thought about taking time off to go to his home but I was too busy.
"I reckon he will see it," I thought. "Anyway, I will have twenty quid on it in case Eric is right."
I phoned my bookie and placed a bet, taking the 9/2 that he offered. I managed to escape from work for a few minutes to hear the race broadcast. It was a great result, Siwai won easily! I thought of Eric, praying that he hadn't missed out.

That night I drove to Eric's home. He was there alone and he was celebrating. As was said before, he never drank but this was a special occasion and so a drink was appropriate.
"Come and have a drink," said Eric, in a voice that slurred enough for me to realise he had had quite a few. And was he celebrating with champagne as you might expect? No, it wasn't champagne. From the remains of a flagon of cheap plonk he poured me a great glassful. It tasted dreadful but I toasted him, anyway. He was no judge of wine but he was a great judge of horses.
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Inside Information

Many years ago, my friend, Eric, received a letter that went like this: 'I get secret information from a top horse-racing stable. I will send you the name of a sure winner of a future race. Don't pay me for telling you, just put a bet on it for me and send me the winnings. There is no point in me sending you losers, otherwise I will get nothing. To show my good faith, here is your horse for next Saturday's races at Flemington: Put a bet on "Fighting Force" and put something on it for me.'

Eric didn't put a bet on Fighting Force but it won the race. He then got a second letter from Mr X, this time touting a horse called "Pandie Sun". Eric didn't bet on Pandie Sun either, but it also won its race. He then got a third letter suggesting he place a bet on "Ark Royal". Just like before, though, Eric didn't bet on the horse but just like before the horse won. Suddenly, Eric was hooked! He was determined to bet on the next horse he was tipped and on every future one. I told him he was stupid, that there must be a gimmick, but he wouldn't hear of it. How he waited for that next letter and then plunged on "Matinee Idol" including an extra $100 on it for Mr X, the letter-writer. To Eric's amazement Matinee Idol lost the race. Letter after letter arrived with Eric betting like crazy on the tips. Problem: No more winners!

Eric couldn't understand what was wrong. I pointed out, after examining the race listings, that his bets were always in small fields of about six horses. My guess was that this guy, Mr X, was sending six letters to six different states with a different horse named in each letter. He was always on a winner. Those three winners in Eric's first three letters were just a fluke.
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Coincidence - thirty years on

When I used to go racing I often talked to an old bloke called Vic. He liked to reminisce about horses of the past. These were usually not the great champions but rather those good courageous horses that could carry the grandstand and still win in a tight finish. One day, Vic praised one of these honest horses more than usual. Thirty years earlier, he had backed it many times and it had won a lot of races. He told me its name but I had never heard of it.

That night, when I read the Saturday Evening Mercury, I looked down the names of the horses that had won on the various racetracks around Australia that afternoon. In Adelaide, the winner of one of the races had the same name as the long-dead horse Vic had been praising. I was amazed. I felt sure that Vic must have heard this horse's name or read in the newspaper and confused it with his horse of the past.

Then I had a strange idea. What time was it exactly when Vic told me his story? That was easy to work out from the times in the race-book. And what time was it exactly that the same-named horse was winning in Adelaide? After allowing for the half hour time zone difference they were identical. In other words, at the exact moment Vic was telling me about his ancient horse there was one with the same name winning a race in Adelaide. Next race day, I told Vic about the coincident names and he was flabbergasted. He confirmed the name of his horse and declared he took no interest whatsoever in Adelaide racing. That's weird!
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The Master Manipulator

Back in the 1960s, Mike used to bet on racehorses but lost his money just like all the other punters. But where he was different from the average gambler was in cunning, and he worked out a way to win.

He usually placed his bets with a leading Hobart bookmaker called "Dasher" Eaton, who, decades before, had been one of Tasmania's greatest-ever footballers. Typical of most bookies, Dasher laid the odds on races at the well-known racetracks that punters liked to bet on. Mike, though, rarely ever bet on those races but chose insignificant races on remote, minor racetracks across the country that no-one else was interested in. Mike only ever made tiny bets but lots and lots of them and Dasher was prepared to hold them. No local radio stations or newspapers bothered with these minor interstate events and so Mike had to provide Dasher with lists of runners. On large sheets of paper, he listed his selections and included the amount he wanted to bet on each one. There were so many bets that Dasher was snowed under. To get rid of the irritation of handling these trivial bets, Dasher invited Mike to write his bets onto his official betting form but had his clerk double check that it was entered correctly. Next day, Mike returned with the "Sun" newspaper that had results of all the races he had wagered on. Dasher even let Mike tick off the winners on the official betting form and once again had his clerk check it. It sounded like a pretty straightforward procedure, although a bit of a nuisance for Dasher, but almost for sure, a profit-maker for him.

The amazing thing was that it was Mike who made the profit. Dasher was astonished that Mike was winning because punters who make lots of bets never win. The amount Dasher lost to Mike's tiny bets was microscopic, and so it never in the least threatened Dasher's highly successful business. He didn't believe that Mike could win, yet it was happening. He felt sure Mike was cheating him, but couldn't work out how. He became so fascinated with the problem that he continued to accept Mike's bets, in the hope of catching him out. Dasher put his suspicion directly to Mike with a threat, "I know you are cheating me, somehow, and when I find out you better watch out."

One time, Dasher invited Mike to his home for dinner and slaughter­ed a fatted lamb especially for the occasion. Mike declared its chops to be the best he had ever eaten. Why Dasher wined and dined Mike is a mystery but it got him no nearer finding Mike's cheating method, assuming he was cheating, that is.

Most of Mike's bets were if-any each-way doubles. In other words, he bet on one horse with a proviso that some of his winnings, if any, would automatically be bet on another horse in a later race. This meant that if his first horse failed to do any good there was nothing to bet on his second horse. That first horse being successful was, therefore, vital for him to have a winning day, so he just had to get that first one right.

Every now and again both horses won and he had a big collect, but bookie's odds are less than the true odds and the ultimate fate of punters is to lose and Mike was a punter. The amazing thing, in his case, was that he didn't lose! Despite only a few of Mike's bets being successful, they managed to wipe out all his previous losses and he finished in front. To repeatedly achieve a net profit despite the bookie's odds was mathematically impossible. No wonder Dasher believed Mike was cheating him. And Mike was cheating him!

Mike had very little money, and so his bets were small. He usually made a list of his selections but in a few places left it blank, with the blanks to be filled in later. His next move was clever, though crooked. He went to the telephone box next door to Dasher's betting shop and with a pocketful of 20c pieces made an interstate phone call to radio station 2KY in Sydney. He asked the 2KY racing editor for the latest race results from the various New South Wales country tracks. He then filled in the blanks on his betting sheet with the names of winners and placegetters but, as a blind, also included horses that had got beaten and even scratchings. He then quickly went into Dasher's betting shop to place his bets. To Dasher and his clerks, Mike's long list of bets, including the winners he had just written into the blanks, to all intents and purposes, looked as though it had been written out over the last hour or so.

Mike phoned 2KY so often that they got to talking on a first name basis, although Mike used the pseudonym Wayne. They got so used to his calls, and so friendly, that they often let him listen in to the actual call of races direct from the track. On hearing the name of the horse first past the post, Mike could rush into Dasher's and bet on it. Even if Dasher had a direct link to that very track, and at the actual time, and made enquiries about that particular horse, he would been told that it had won but that correct weight had not yet been announced. This would cause Dasher to regard Mike's bet as honest beyond doubt.

Had Dasher seen Mike on the phone, which he could so easily have done, but apparently didn't, he likely might have tumbled that something was amiss and been shocked the swindle was being set up on his door-step, but he remained oblivious. Given the then cumbrous ways needed to make interstate phone calls, when compared to today, one can see why it would be almost impossible for Dasher to work out Mike's ingenious scheme.

So that's Mike's swindle. Each swindle bet put part of its proceeds into his pocket while the rest of it became a free bet on a horse in a race later in the day. If that horse lost it cost nothing but if it won and was a longshot he would have a big winning day.

Of course, if Mike placed swindle bets only, they very likely would start to stand out, particularly with Dasher conscientiously trying to find his method. To conceal his roguery, Mike secreted his swindle bets in a morass of tiny genuine bets to tire out and frustrate Dasher and so cause him to give up his fruitless search. Another thing Mike did was to bet backwards. Mike could lose money on this particular bet because it depended on the result of a race much later in the day, and, naturally, Dasher treated it as a perfectly genuine normal bet. In fact, it was a variation of the swindle, in that Mike bet on the last race of the program with an if-any proviso to put a bet on the horse that his phone-call told him had won only moments before.

Mike was quick to see opportunity where others wouldn't think of it. When Dasher invited him to enter his bets on the official form, Mike instantly saw another way to cheat Dasher. He usually made small to medium bets, from a $1 to $20, but with no apparent order in the chaos. When he wrote his bets into the bets column of the official form, he deliberately left a tiny gap to the right-hand margin. When he came to enter the results the next day, if the horse carrying his $2 bet had won, he would slip a 0 or 5 into the gap alongside the $2 and suddenly he would have $20 or $25 on the winner. Other tricks were to convert 1 into 7 or 9, and no trouble to turn a 3 into 8. Mike was so quick inserting these little extras that Dasher's clerk never noticed them.

Mike, the master manipulator, has retired and Dasher has passed on, and their little private conflict is just one of the thousands of weird and wonderful stories one hears on the racetrack.
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Beating a bookie

One meets some odd characters through life, including a few rogues. What is rare to find, though, is that occasionally one of these crooks will tell his story with complete honesty. Such a character was Mike and here is a despicable episode he divulged with relish. Mike liked to bet on racehorses. The trouble was he was a poor judge of horses and had no idea about the mathematics of odds. However, what he did have was cunning and the knack to see opportunity where others would not notice it.

It was Wednesday, and as usual he bought a weekly horseracing newspaper called The Sporting Globe which came out every Wednesday. It was printed on a distinctive pink paper and had a reputation for accuracy. When he opened to the inner pages he read the headline "Nyah Trots tonight" and below were listed the fields for eight races. Nothing unusual about that, it being a typical announcement. He then bought the daily newspaper, The Herald, and opened it to read the race results that had been run the previous day, that is, the Tuesday. He was surprised to see the results of Nyah trotting races that had been run Tuesday night. He compared the horses named in the results with the fields listed in The Sporting Globe. Amazingly, they were the same. The supposedly infallible The Sporting Globe had made a mistake.

Mike's mind moved into another gear. How could he take advantage of this mistake? He often bet with an illegal SP bookie, another rogue, in other words. So off he went to see this bloke and found him halfway up a ladder on the side of his house.

"Can I have a bet on tonight's trots?" Mike asked, waving The Sporting Globe.
The bookie came down the ladder and had a look at the paper.
"Ok," he said, "but you will have to bring the results around tomorrow morning."
Mike had already marked his selections, being careful to make it look normal. Obviously, he had marked a few winners but to make it realistic he included horses that had been beaten and even a couple of horses that had been scratched. Overall, he wagered an amount typical of previous days.

Having got his bets arranged he now had to complete the swindle. At home, he cut the Nyah race results from the Wednesday edition of The Herald. There was a problem, however, for on the back of the race results was a news story that showed it to be Wednesday. He could not risk the bookie seeing this article, so what was he to do? Then he had a brainwave. He glued the black and white race-results below the race fields of the pink page of The Sporting Globe.

"There was only ever one danger and that was if the bookie tried to remove the race results," said Mike, "but I needn't have worried. After he had paid me about $3000 he was a bit upset but not too bad.
"Here," he said, handing me the results page, "take this away, I'll be glad to see the back of it."
"I took it with a smile, and thought, lucky for me you can't see the back of it."
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Whistling a different pitch

Mike was an honest crook. Well, not a real crook but just someone who could never make a living in the conventional way but somehow managed to survive by using his brain in unconventional ways. One time someone actually offered him a job saying "Would you like to make an honest dollar?" Mike's reply was "Does it have to be honest?" Needless to say, he never got that job, nor any other job as far as I can recall.

Although he had no obvious means of support, he somehow managed to find a few bob to bet on the races, both horse racing and greyhound racing. He was a hopeless gambler and always lost his money but seemed to prefer losing it on the dogs rather than the horses. His failure as a punter didn't deter him and he was always trying to think up a way to win.

One time, he had a brainwave and had a serious go at trying to make it work. He knew this bloke who owned a few greyhounds and he offered to 'walk' one of them, the best one, in fact. To 'walk' a greyhound is much as it says. A greyhound needs to be exercised, and it used to be a common practice for greyhounds on leashes to be led along suburban streets every night.

Now, this greyhound given into Mike's care was to be his pathway to success. Mike doted on the dog and called him "Toby." Toby also doted on Mike because Mike fed him every time he called him and gave him his favourite bits of meat. And that was the basis of Mike's plan. One time when Toby was lying asleep, Mike blew three short blasts on a dog whistle. The whistle was pitched far too high for human ears but just right for dogs. Toby woke up and instantly Mike fed him his favourite delicacy. Mike repeated this procedure religiously, day after day, and it wasn't too long before Toby became conditioned to the sound of the three short whistle blasts and came running as fast as possible to get his reward.

So, where was all this leading? To the racetrack, of course!

At last, the big night came. Toby was entered for a race at the TCA track on the domain. Mike borrowed as much money as he could and bet the lot of it on Toby. He then positioned himself so that directly in front of him he would be able to see the dogs coming down the home straight in their run to the winning post.
The race got underway, and Toby raced along in the middle of the field. When the dogs entered the home straight Toby was running fifth. Mike gave three short blasts on his whistle and Toby, hearing the familiar sound, redoubled his speed, charged through the field and won the race running away in track-record time. In fact, the whistle worked even better than Mike expected for the other dogs, hearing the whistle for the first time, were so distracted in their race that they slowed down.

Mike's success was short-lived. Toby's owner was over the moon with Toby's win and immediately took him to the mainland in the hope of winning all the major races. Toby was an utter failure. He obviously lacked something. Despite the amazing success of his brilliant idea Mike was not prepared to do it all over again and so dropped the whole thing.
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Lennie the Loser

One meets some rare characters on the racecourse and one of the rarest I ever met was Lennie the Loser. Lennie the Loser loved betting on racehorses. He was a died-in-the-wool punter, and would bet to his very last dollar. After I got to know him, though, I realised a big mistake people made about him and how wrong or even ridiculous it was to call him Lennie the Loser, for his name was Mike.

He was always losing his money. Sometimes he nearly won but somehow or other his selections would manage to get pipped on the post.

Then Lennie the Loser had a brainwave, although there probably wasn't much brain used in what he thought up. He invented a system and he let me in to its secret.

"I've worked out a sure way to win. Because I'm known by everyone as the loser, I'm going to ring up the owner of Melbourne Cup favourite, Let's Elope, and tell him he had better give me $1000, otherwise, I'll bet on Let's Elope and it will get beaten."

Of course, Let's Elope's owner never gave Lennie the Loser a $1000, not even a single cent, and Let's Elope went on to win the race. So what about Lennie the Loser? Let's Elope was the horse he said he would cause to lose by betting on it. Surely he must have won for a change.

But no, he didn't win. He didn't even bet on Let's Elope because he had already gambled away his money on earlier races and had nothing left to put on Let's Elope, and so Lennie the Loser's winning system still remains unproven.
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Card-counting comedy

One particular dealer was always friendly to me and sometimes hinted at card-counting, implying that I might be a card-counter (which I am). One night, when the count went positive I put out an appropriately larger bet, this being a perfectly sensible thing for a card-counter to do. I drew 16 and the dealer drew a 10. The strategy for the count indicated, "Don't take a card" so I said "No card."
The dealer didn't move to the next player as expected but, instead, asked me a question, "Don't you want a card on 16?"
"No thanks," I said, "not when I've got a big bet out."
At the end of the shoe he gave me this little lecture, "You shouldn't alter your strategy because you've made a bigger bet."
I replied, "I always chicken out when I make a big bet. I know I shouldn't but I always do."
He said, "God! I thought you were a card-counter. A few of the croupiers think you are. Maybe you should stick to basic strategy."
"I think you are right," I said, "I'll try to do that in future. I might have a go a card-counting later on."

After that, I always tried to play on his table. I would ask him about points of basic strategy and take his advice when it happened to agree with the count. Our falling out came when I had made a very big bet out and had drawn 15 against his 10 with the count way up high. The strategy for the count indicated no card, so I said "No card."
He pleaded with me, "You've got to take a card. Don't you remember the 16 against my 10? You've only got 15 this time. You've got to take a card."
"No way," I said, most emphatically, "not when I've got that much out."

He got worked up, almost screaming, "You're hopeless, you wouldn't make a card-counter in a million years. If you're a card-counter I'm Mickey Mouse. You can't even play basic strategy."

After that, he refused to offer any further advice. In fact, he wouldn't talk to me at all.
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Quit while you are ahead!

Always quit while you are ahead!
It's obvious when you think about it.
You can't win if you do the opposite.

I got this sage advice from this bloke, Andrew. I was there when he had his flash of insight.

I am sitting at one end of an idle BJ table, sipping coffee. Andrew, who for the umpteenth time has lost his dough, is sitting at the other end engaging the dealer in conversation. He says some things about blackjack and she, regardless of what she actually thinks, politely agrees with him.

Suddenly he makes his insightful remark, saying "Always quit while you are ahead! That's it! That's what we all should do. I was winning early. I should have quit while I was ahead."
"But Andrew, you are, you are," I call to him.
Andrew half-turns to look at me and says. "What do you mean?"
I reply, "Andrew, you are a head. You are a dick-head."
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Killing the table

I recall a funny happening in a no hole-card game at Jupiters. With the true count on 4, I placed a $300 bet. I drew A9 against the dealer's 6. The first player, watched by his friend, had the biggest bets out, namely 2 boxes of $500 and nice hand totals on both. By the time the dealer got to me the true count was up to 5 so I took the soft double, it being the correct play for that count. There were a few gripes at my play, but nothing like the gripes when the dealer hit a 9 and a 6 to get 21 and wipe everyone out.

What would have happened if I had not doubled was then discussed. The dealer would have received different cards, of course, but the 'post mortem' found that the dealer would have needed one more card to finish her hand. The first card out next round would be that card and we all waited with bated breath to see what it would be. When the card was dealt it was a 10! The dealer would have busted! I copped abuse from everyone.

The big player, in a fury at his $2000 turnaround, jumped up, grabbed his chair and hurled it across the room between the rows of empty BJ tables. I don't think he aimed it at me but I'm not sure. He then stormed out of the casino only moments before the security arrived to quell the disturbance.

A few days later, as I slid in to play box 1, I was met by an icy stare from the player at box 2. It was the friend of the big player.
He growled, "You're the bloody idiot that took that stupid double the other day. My mate is still spewing over that."
I replied, "Your right, I'm the idiot, but tell your mate that I'm spewing, too."
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Ten cards for 21

In a 6-deck blackjack game, I once drew a ten card 21. A spectator, Bill McDonald, recorded the sequence on his business card and gave it to me. Here is the order of the cards as they fell: A 2 A A 2 A 5 A 2 5.

My hand was A 2 against the dealer's Queen. After I had drawn A A 2 my fellow players at the table suggested I take no more cards, but as I only had Soft 17 I drew again and got an A to make Soft 18. Again they suggested I stand, but correct play against a Q is to take a card on Soft 18 so I drew and hit a 5 for Hard 13. I then drew A 2 for a nine card hand of 16. The other players were now almost screaming for me not to take another card but the correct play was to take a card and I hit a 5 to get 21 with ten cards.

There were some interesting constraints. The dealer's card had to be 7 or higher. My first two cards must not be Aces. The cards had to fall in an order that jumped over the soft standing totals of 19, 20 and 21.

So, what are the odds against drawing this hand?
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ESP, or luck, or what?

An incredible thing happened one time I was playing blackjack at Wrest Point. It was Saturday night and the casino was packed and, not surprisingly, the table I played was also packed. A blackjack table has seven boxes and I played box 3. For more than an hour the game proceeded as usual with a reshuffle of the 6-deck pack of cards about once every 20 minutes. In the course of one particular round of play I made a bet of $30. I drew a pair of 10s against the dealer's 10 card.

To the surprise of some and the complaints of others, I asked to split my pair of 10s so as to make two separate hands. I was strongly advised against splitting them, it being pointed out that I already had an excellent hand and it was bad play to break it up, and particularly risky against the dealer's 10 card.

"I'm definitely going to split them," I said, and placed an additional $30 bet on the table.

The player prior to me, on my right, that is, had already drawn a card to his hand; it was an Ace of Spades. As I split my pair of 10s, and to make a joke of it, I pretended that I only now noticed my neighbour's Ace draw. I pointed to the Ace and said "Oh, there's the card I wanted. Please give me an Ace of Spades, too."

The card was dealt and it was an Ace of Spades and a roar of surprise went up from all the players. "And could I have an Ace of Spades on my other 10, as well please?" It, too, was an Ace of Spades. An enormous cheer went up from the players and from several spectators. I was tempted to say, "And give the next player an Ace of Spades, too," but restrained myself. The unbelievable happened. That player was also dealt an Ace of Spades and the uproar was deafening. The dealer then drew cards to her hand and it busted and we all won.

In the ensuing 'post mortem' I was asked, "What possessed you to split your 10s?"

I replied "It was the only way to stop this lucky dealer. If I had not split my 10s she would have got another blackjack and beaten us all." Everyone immediately realised that's exactly what would have happened. That, though, was not the reason I split my 10s.

It certainly had nothing to do with mathematics or chance, for the odds against four Aces of Spades coming out one after the other after many reshuffles of the 312-card pack must have been extremely high, quite astronomical. Also, it was weird that I not only made an abnormal, freakish play that could only be improved by drawing aces, but that the cards I named fell as if magically ordered to do so. The incredible thing is that the moment that first Ace of Spades was dealt to my neighbour's hand I knew that the next three cards were also Aces of Spades. Was it ESP, or luck, or what?
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Going to The Cup

In 1978, a couple of weeks before the Melbourne Cup, a 25-year insurance policy of mine matured. Now, what was I to do with that money? I decided to go to the Melbourne Cup. The Caulfield Cup had just been run and because I regarded that particular race as the toughest lead-up race prior to the Melbourne Cup I studied it to work out what I thought might win the big race.

The winner of the Caulfield Cup had incurred a 3.5-kilogram penalty for the Melbourne Cup and that put it out of serious contention. The horse it had beaten by a nose had no penalty and so I thought "That's the one for me!" Its name was Arwon.

At Flemington racecourse on Cup day, the bookies offered odds of 5/1 about Arwon. I made a good-sized bet and then went up into the grandstand to watch the race. I didn't take a seat amongst the crowd but stood on the staircase so as to get a clear, uninterrupted view of the track and of the winning post.

In the running of the Cup, Arwon was well back but after coming around the home-turn he charged through the middle of the field and careered away down the straight with three others in hot pursuit. I had no worries for I could see that he had them well and truly beaten and he won by half a length. Although I had seen many hundreds of races over the years, that particular win still gave me a big thrill.
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NOT going to the Cup

There is an old racing adage "In the wet, don't bet" but, as most punters lose, it's probably wrong. My story is about a time when I wished it was wet, so that I could make a bet.

In 1997, I arrived in Melbourne with the intention of going to the Cup the next day. I invited a friend to go with me, but I had a condition, which may sound crazy. The weather had to be raining and the wetter the better. If the weather was fine and sunny I wouldn't bother going.

My friend was amazed at this and I had to explain my reason. Two years earlier, the Melbourne Cup had been won by a horse called Doriemus and he was my selection to win again this year. However, in my opinion, Doriemus could only win if the track was heavy, that is, wet, very wet, and preferably a bog. If this were so, I thought him to be a certainty and wanted to be there to have a big bet on him and watch him win.

The next day, Cup Day, dawned overcast but, sadly, soon turned bright and sunny without a sign of rain and the track was dry as a bone, so there was no way I was going to the Cup. The question now was, if Doriemus couldn't win, what would win? I selected the winner of the Caulfield Cup, a horse named Might and Power, and we bet on it at the TAB. We then went to my friend's flat in Spencer Street to watch the Cup on TV.

Might and Power jumped out in front while Doriemus trailed along near the tail of the field. Might and Power was still well in front in the home straight and looked like winning easily. Suddenly, Doriemus, having weaved his way through the packed field, came flying home to catch Might and Power on the line and beat him. Or, did he? Doriemus's jockey obviously thought he had won, because he was cheering and waving his whip in celebration.

"We've lost our money," said my friend, "You should have stuck with Doriemus."

"I dunno about that," I said, "I've watched a lot of races in my time. There's nothing in this, and I think we might have won. It's a photo-finish so we'll soon know."

The photo showed that Might and Power had indeed won. He had led from start to finish and had hung on to beat Doriemus by a nose. But how far would Doriemus have won by if there had been as much as a passing shower?
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Playing to lose

Recently, I played a best of three frames of snooker against an A-grade player. My opponent, Paul, won the first frame and so I needed to win the second frame to survive.

In the second frame, the balls ran into very tight scoring positions. This not only made it difficult to pot a ball but made a succession of pots virtually impossible. The fifteen red balls had to be potted first and then, in sequence, the remaining six coloured balls, yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black.

Half way through the frame, I held a small lead. Paul then missed an easy shot and left the red ball in front of a pocket and I potted it. In subsequent attempts, Paul again missed easy shots, resulting in me scoring easy shots. I became suspicious and thought he was deliberately trying to lose the frame. But why? I think he wanted to play a third frame in the hope the balls would run more kindly and he could make a spectacular score. Because he was not trying to win the second frame showed he was confident he could beat me in the third.

As the second frame drew towards its finish, I led 26-20. Only two balls remained to be potted, the pink ball, worth 6 points, and black ball, worth 7. If I were to pot the pink I would win the frame.

Paul played a soft shot and the pink rolled toward the pocket but it didn't drop in. It came to rest on the very edge of the pocket. I thought "He's painted me into corner where I can't possibly miss potting the pink and winning the frame."

I didn't want to fall for his trickery, but what could I do? I potted the pink with a slow shot and the cueball followed it into the pocket. Foul shot! Paul got 6 points for my foul. The scores were now 26-26. The pink was re-spotted. Paul left me another easy shot on the pink and I potted it; score 32-26. Now, the result hovered on who got the final ball, the black, worth 7 points. Paul trickled the black to the mouth of a pocket leaving me a fine nick shot. I made out it was too risky and aimed to play a safety shot off a cushion. I am a good cushion player and know exactly where the cueball will rebound. I played the shot very softly so as to come to rest touching the black but carefully aimed a minute fraction too thin. The cueball grazed the black very gently, glanced off it and dropped into the pocket.

Foul shot! This gave Paul 7 points and so he won the frame 33-32.

An hour later, Paul confessed he had deliberately tried to lose the frame. I told him I had guessed as much and had deliberately fouled to make him win. We shook hands on it and both declared it a game never to be forgotten.
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