I must be the only 64 year old on the planet who, until this week, had
never listened to Pink Floyd.
When Messrs Gilmore and Waters were penning "Dark Side Of The Moon" I
was already absorbed in establishing my antiques shop in Arundel. I
listened to a lot of Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. Still do. But
Floyd was a bit too subversive, a bit too dangerous for an ambitious
antiques dealer still wearing Harris tweed sports jackets and Viyella
shirts with hairy ties.
For the same reasons I`m the only person I know not to have tried
marijuana. Also I`m afraid I`d like it too much.
But this week my friend Paul Farnham, at the start of a long day in the
car off viewing auctions and visiting dealers, played me Pink Floyd.
If I`m being completely true to myself, I`m still a bit frightened by
their "Dark Side" album. All that seditious crashing and tinkling.
But "Wish You Were Here"............oh "Wish You Were
Here".............I`m incapable of listening to each track without huge
tears, enjoyable, indulgent tears rolling down my face.
It`s gone straight into the musical programme for my funeral along with
"Days" by The Kinks and "There Are Places I Remember" from Johnny Cash`s
American Sessions. Bit of a challenge though for the string quartet.
It almost makes me want to be cremated. The curtains could close to
those eerie, swirling hurricane sounds from the end of "Wish You Were
So far it`s been a year of belated self discovery. I`ve also realised
that I`m not cut out to be a gambler. Not because I don`t win, but
because I do!
If you thought my superstitions in the world of antiques are a bit
crackers, lucky purple socks, lucky boxer shorts, always turning
right, these are nothing compared to the knots I tied myself into
during the recent Cheltenham Festival.
My father took me horse racing, lifting me over the turnstiles at the
Brighton Races at the age of eight. Nowadays, the only week of the
year that I am guaranteed to take off work are the four afternoons of
It was perhaps not a good idea to continue the ritual this year with a
team of men replacing our roof at home. Another team of plumbers
replacing the bathrooms and a third outside on the scaffolding painting
With my work ethic, I couldn`t bear to let any of them know that I was
at home during the day, let alone that I was watching horse racing.
So, I barricaded myself into the sitting room, closing the shutters
very slowly in the hope that they wouldn`t notice, closing the doors
and rigging up a curtain of wrapping blankets across the kitchen so that
they couldn`t see me from the back garden.
It was then that the superstitions started to gain hold. It`s all very
well to be reasonably certain that the purple socks and now frayed
turquoise boxers work a treat for buying and selling antiques. The
combination is infallible. But would it work for betting? Even worse,
if it didn`t work, would the magic powers drain away forever?
I settled on a superstition neutral combination of dark blue pants and
lime green socks which I have noticed recently have resulted in some
good sales. But it didn`t feel right so I got undressed and settled for
the magic combo of purple and turquoise once again.
I did toy with placing the bets on the internet. It seemed a good
option because I could do it without revealing to the builders that I
was in the house. But that didn`t feel right either.
Slipping out of the front door whilst Freya lured them into the back
garden with a tray of coffee and ginger biscuits, I adhered to the
same route as always down the road to Mr William Hill the bookmaker.
Even here I did not escape the tirade of omens. I had to get my betting
slip from the same plastic holder, likewise with the pen and then place
the bet with the same man at the same window.
Twice during the week I had to leave and return tens minutes later
because the wrong employee was standing in the wrong window. By the
third day I had to risk admitting to the staff of my neuroses and ask my
regular man to move windows to take my bet. He appeared to think this
was completely normal behaviour, so maybe I am not alone in my betting
OCD after all.
I slunk back to the house and installed myself in my cocooned room. It
was all going perfectly well. Ruby Walsh on the Willie Mullins trained
horse, led all the way and was now coming to the top of the hill, 10
lengths ahead and 4 furlongs out from the winning post. I was already
calculating my pay out and then.............the tv screen turned black
and all the lights went out!
Blowing my cover, I erupted from my chair shouting "NOOOOOO!" It took
an eternal ten minutes for the now very nervous looking electrician to
fix the blown fuse. But Mr Walsh had duly obliged, and went on to
deliver two more winners for me that afternoon.
I once more slipped out of the house unseen by builders, who I thought
must have been on another tea break as it was very quiet outside, and
set off on the same route to the "office," as it is fondly named
locally. On entering Mr Hill`s premises to pick up my winnings, a
familiar voice cried out "I didn`t know that you were a betting man Mr
Swaffer, says Pete, my roofer "I`ve got a good tip in the last!"