Nottingham

The ‘Incident of the iPhone in the Loo’ is finally resolved two weeks later. I had cancelled my insurance towards the end of the first free month, but not before they had prudently taken my payment for the next, so I was unexpectedly covered for one of the apparently 600,000 loo-related mishaps every year. Not quite instant karma, but pretty close to it.

One of the hoops I am required to jump through is a visit to the nearest Apple Genius Bar to obtain a piece of paper that says “This man has dropped his new iPhone down the loo”, but despite having an appointment I am spiralled into a convoluted queuing system and set off for Nottingham an hour late. This is an hour late from my already optimistic timings, and an accident en route means that I arrive at the course just after the third race.

On the way I have a sudden panic that I have already been here, and the schedule has spasmed itself into a duplication and the whole thing is ruined. Then I remember it was Leicester that I visited earlier, and relief sweeps over my fatigued brain. I’m beginning to get a little weary now, and I still have the big trips ahead of me, not that you care probably. And rightly so.

A nice man on the desk lets me in on a concession ticket as way of compensation. Even inside, Nottingham is quite reminiscent of it’s close cousin Leicester. The entrance gives way to sweeping manicured lawns big enough to host a polo match I suspect, even though I know nothing about polo (note to Nottingham management – you can have that brilliant idea for free, further consultancy shall be invoiced). It’s quiet, and the sprinkled racegoers saunter in the sun between facilities and parade ring.

The sunny and spacious Nottingham

The sunny and spacious Nottingham

The first race I watch is the fourth, although I later discover that I’m looking at the form for the fifth. That is why number 4 was available at an absurdly generous 10/1 and runs a shocker. In the next race the real number 4, who is also known as Steve Rogers (that’s the horse, not the jockey who is known as Frederik Tylicki) stays on late to beat a wall of horses who formed at the furlong marker, and I get a nice winner.

This puts me within touching distance of the holy grail that I have been chasing now for weeks – being ahead! I simply love playing games, and this is a very real and expensive one spread over 80 days and probably in the region of 300 different rolls of the dice. I am meticulously keeping score, but have refrained from publicising that score because my mother-in-law knows the address of this website, but suffice to say I am agonisingly close now to winning.

So it’s heads down for the final race in an effort to find that elusive game-changer. There are seven 3 year olds in this contest, six of whom haven’t run this season and could have progressed to an unknown degree since being 2 year olds. It’s a bit of a guessing game, and I guess wrong. The finishing line shall have to wait for another day, although it’s a constantly shifting finishing line as I severely doubt I’ll stop if and when I reach profit.

I leave to meet Jason. We go to an excellent poker club and enter a tournament with the toughest players I have played against anywhere in the world. I kid you not, the play in Nottingham puts Galway and Edinburgh, London and Vegas to shame. It soon becomes apparent that I am woefully out of practice and at the wrong end of the old adage “if you can’t spot the fish at the table in the first five minutes, then you are the fish”.

That I manage to eek it out for 4 hours and briefly hold the chip lead at my table with some moves that baffle the experienced members only proves that the monkeys and Shakespeare principle can also be applied to poker, at least in the short term. Jason has also built an enormous chip stack at his table, to the raised eyebrows from the locals, but crashes out soon after me when it becomes apparent he hasn’t got the faintest clue what he’s doing.

We break rule number 1 for the evening and play some blackjack to wind down from the intensity of battle at the poker tables. It’s chalk and cheese, with punters bonding over the battle to beat the common foe that is the casino, rather than fighting each other. This is very reminiscent of my comrades at the racecourse; I shall rejoin the fray at Pontefract my friends, and just one more battle victory may tip the scales in the war against the bookies.