MAN’S WORLD: I’ve raised a gambler

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Friday night. And I was deep in concentration. Totally focused. Determined to be successful.

Won the Scottish National. Right time of year for it… Can’t have that one, it’s only seven… Good going. Soll? Night in Milan?

Yep, the Grand National had rolled around again – and despite all my mental anguish and midnight oil it seems a good few years since I was queuing eagerly to collect my winnings.

Maybe I chose the wrong side of the fence. Those happy days when I acted as the school bookmaker and the deputy head furtively sidled up to me at break.

How I chortled when his ‘dead cert’ came down at the first.

As regular readers know, I am not averse to a small wager. Although it has to be said that Jane has generally confiscated any winnings. To think that Sunderland once spent a whole season winning promotion, only for my wife to instantly translate nine months of anticipation into a new dishwasher.

Regular readers also know that the apple has not fallen far from the tree. My beloved daughter is not averse to a small wager either.

“I’ve opened an account with Paddy Power,” she casually announced before the World Cup.

“What?” I spluttered. “That’s disgraceful. I’m appalled.”

“Did you take advantage of the free bets for opening your account?” I asked five minutes later.

As soon as Jane had left the room, obviously. No point watching the England game with a black eye…

Anyway, Jessica was home for Easter. And casually asked for my Grand National advice over the dinner table.

“You’re not still betting are you?” I said. “I’m not sure I approve of that.”

For some reason my wife had started flapping her arms and making clucking noises. “What’s wrong with you?” I demanded. “We don’t need the Birdie Song with our dinner.”

“Chickens,” she said. “They come home to roost.”

I was just trying to work out a smart answer when Jessica shook me to the core – yet again.

“I don’t use my Paddy Power account much now,” she said. “I’ve switched to Betfair.”

“Betfair? Are you mad?” What comes after ‘spluttered?’ I was even more horrified.

“What are you doing, Jessica? Backing or laying?”

My daughter looked slightly baffled at that one. “Look, Jessica, if you don’t know what you’re doing on Betfair you can get into serious trouble. Do you understand decimal odds?”

“It’s fine, Dad. We all do it at uni. When we’re not at the casino…”

My knees went weak. This was all my fault. My dodgy genes.

Fortunately the boys didn’t have the slightest interest in the National.

Jane only watched in case my horse was beaten a short head and I needed medication. Clearly the buck stopped at my desk.

I was so shaken I could barely study form for the rest of the evening.

That one’s too slow… Many Clouds? No, far too much weight… Damn it, how many bets has Jessica got on…

She let me stew for an hour and then told she’d been joking. “Seeing as I wasn’t home on April Fools’ Day, Dad.”

I should have known. Was this not the little girl who’d lain groaning at the foot of the stairs? So convincingly – “I can’t feel my legs, Daddy” – that I’d been on the point of phoning an ambulance before mother and daughter reminded me of the date.

I was so relieved I put two bets on for her.

Soll and Night in Milan. Those were the ones I backed as well.

So, yep, I’ll be carrying on with the day job.

My beloved daughter? She’s back at university. In the library.

Working. I’d bet on it…