Christmas 2015? In the words of big Charlie Dickens ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times’.
The day itself has never held the same appeal to me since they stopped doing the Only Fools & Horses Christmas specials. However, I put a dampener on proceedings myself by steaming in and losing 120 notes on football from the Arabian Gulf League. Even money shots Al Shabab Al Arabi could only manage a 1-1 draw away to Al Wasl, meaning I had a face like a smacked a*se as I chowed down on my prawn cocktail starter while listening to the Queen’s speech.
Fair play to HRH. The Royal Family catch a bit of stick but how many Queens around the world would deliver a message to the nation immediately after enjoying their own bit of turkey with all the trimmings on December 25? I mean you never see any dirty plates, discarded wrapping paper or jars of mint sauce kicking about her gaff when she’s on TV, though I’d wager just out of shot, The Duke of Edinburgh is slumped in his pants eating Quality Streets.
The Arabian Gulf League debacle was a bitter pill to swallow. However, I have the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir to thank for keeping me solvent and getting me enough money to go out on the lash on Boxing Day. On Christmas Eve morning I heard a whisper that the NHS Choir were going to beat Justin Bieber to the Christmas Number One spot, and duly rowed in at 7/4. A Bridge Over You did indeed end up Number 1, sparking wild scenes of jubilation in Chez Punt as I belted round the living room singing “Ole Ole Ole Ole” while riding my nephew’s Segway.
Football, good racing, gambling and drinking. Boxing Day is essentially Christmas Day for grown-ups. I was out on the beer from noon sporting a rather snazzy suit jacket that wouldn’t have looked out of place in an episode of Miami Vice. The fact that I was sporting it in a boozer called The Steelworks meant I got more than a few dodgy looks from disgruntled locals.
A squad of about 15 pals had assembled and the craic was superb. Not even Vautour – who I backed at 7/2 to win the King George at Kempton – losing by a head could dampen my enthusiasm. But my disappointment was nothing compared to a friend of mine, The Big Woodowski, who was waiting on Arsenal to beat Southampton in the late kick-off for over six grand. The Gunners of course had been flying while the Saints had not won since early November. Our man was bullish and had already bought two trays of sambuca for the troops, or “nerve settlers” as he called them. Alas it was the Gunners who played like they had been on the shots as they fell to an almost-unfathomable 4-0 defeat at St Mary’s. Lesser men would have ran out of the pub in tears. The Big Woodowski simply shrugged his shoulders, sauntered to the jukebox and stuck ‘Fairytale of New York’ on again.
For New Year I took ‘er indoors on a rare foray out of the house and up to Edinburgh. Six of us went on the train and it was all very civilised at first. Then we changed trains at Newcastle and began drinking pints of vodka and lemonade. I’m not absolutely sure if there is a good time to drink pints of vodka and lemonade. But 9.40am on a Thursday morning definitely f*cking isn’t advisable.
We were all sozzled by the time we landed in the Scottish capital, and to be truthful the whole three days are a bit of a blur. However I did allow myself time on New Year’s Day to lose a few quid in the local Betfred up there.
Indeed, just as I was bemoaning the fact that the favourite for the 3:05pm at Cheltenham, Top Notch, was being given a beastly ride and going down like a dog on the highway, an unkempt local staggered up to me. He gripped both my arms and then wheezed through black teeth and tobacco-infused breath, “Failin’ means yer playin’ pal.”
I thought about this for a second, before realising he was basically saying it is better to be losing than not taking part at all. Essentially, it was his way of saying be thankful you are alive. A rush of euphoria gripped me. Who was this Svengali carrying a Lidl shopping bag and Daily Star under his arm dressed in two-stripe tracksuit bottoms and brogues? Was he the Messiah? Sadly not. As the next thing that came out of his mouth was “mony a mickle meks a muckle”. And then he proceeded to be sick into a bin. Thank you Scotland, and goodnight.
Cheeky’s Punt of the Week: Chelsea to win the FA Cup at 7/1 (Hills/Paddy Power)