The sad fact about life is that the older you get the less uncles you have left. I have a few left, well a couple, from my mum’s side of the family, Uncle Alan and Chris. They aren’t really into their gambling beyond the lottery, scratch cards and Grand National. It proves they do gamble which is something. My Dad’s side were much more into their gambling. They would have a decent bet. This was back in the 70s onwards, but not beyond the 80s. Uncle Keith, Roy & Fred would go to the Eastern Festival at Great Yarmouth. They loved their horse racing and come sun or high water they would be on the Norfolk coast every September. It’s the reason why we go every year as a Merry Pilgrimage to enjoy three days of horse racing but remember and pay respect to those loved ones who are sadly gone.
How wonderful it would be to go back in time and just watch my Dad and family enjoy themselves. Without doubt, they knew how to enjoy themselves.
I have little doubt I wouldn’t have gambled if it wasn’t for my father. I don’t regret his influence in that department at all as it has been a real blessing. It turned into a passion and my livelihood.
Sadly, my father passed away in 1998 aged 62. Life is so unfair as he was such a hard worker and if anyone deserved a decent retirement it was him. It wasn’t to be. I would gladly have given decades of my life for him to have got to 82. Make sure you give yourself time to enjoy life because it isn’t a given any of us will be here tomorrow.
My Uncle Roy had even less luck in life passing away in his early 40s of a heart attack. He was such a lovely man. I remember Dad coming home and telling us the terrible news. The first person from our family I had lost. I went to bed that night feeling as if part of me had gone. It crushed my heart. Roy loved to play on the fruit machines and I used to be by his side pressing the buttons. I couldn’t help but collect every win while he liked to gamble until I pressed it once too many times and I got told off. He used to save his change all year so when we went on holiday to Caister-on-sea (the same time Dad would be going to the races at Yarmouth) so we would have plenty of money for our sessions in the arcades. As they say, all the fun of the fair.
Bitter sweet memories.
In the latter years I used to go visit my Uncle Keith and Auntie Pam. They lived together because my aunt was widowed and my uncle a bachelor. Many thought they were man a wife. It was truly lovely to go round there’s on a Saturday morning and chat away over a cup of tea. My cousin Danny would turn up to add to the fun making us smile with his stories. It was an absolute pleasure to be in their company. Sadly, my aunt and uncle have passed away. They both lived into their 80s and made the best of their life without really spreading their wings.
Uncle Keith used to take part in my Saturday Horse Racing Tipster Competition. In fact, aunt Pam did too. Keith would pick his selection and I would pick one out for my aunt. It cost £10 an entry and about 20 punters played. It was competitive but fun. I’m not sure my uncle won but I had a win or two for my aunt.
Uncle Keith used to like a bet on the horses. He couldn’t get his head round the fact that some people can beat the bookies. And he would let me pick his selections for a win or each way Yankee. And I made him money. It used to annoy me a little when he used to smile as though he was certain I couldn’t make my betting pay. But he came round with a few wins. He was such a lovely man that in my older years, when opinions are just opinions and nothing personal, it would simply make me smile. It was a sad day when my uncle and then aunt passed away.
I remember my Aunt Pam saying after Keith passed: ‘You will keep coming round, won’t you?’
It almost brought me to tears.
I went round every day and helped her and kept her company. Such a lovely lady. I was was with her when she passed away in hospital saying how thankful I was for all that was good. The doctor came into the room after Pam passed away and asked if I had any questions.
I said: ‘No, I’m just sorry she had gone.’
He touched my arm with understanding and left the room.
I left Addenbrooke Hospital the next morning to see the house martins flying from nest sites on a building wall. I was a sign from all saying: ‘Life is harsh but beautiful, and it goes on.’
I wish I could go back in time to those days of innocence. Days where I didn’t know what I had until it was gone. Perhaps that was a blessing. Perhaps not. But it was a fact. I am proud to say I am a betting man like my uncles.
When my cousins and brothers, and friends, meet at Great Yarmouth’s Eastern Festival this September I will look to the grandstand and say: ‘Thank you. I love you all.’
Photo: At the Lord Nelson Public House, March, Cambs. (friend, Dad, uncle Roy)