Friday, 29 October 2010

They're Like Little Horses - Part The First

It was almost like you were chancing upon some illicit secret. The way we always used to get there involved parking up on a nearby side street and then heading towards the train tracks. aiming for a small, nondescript archway in the wall along the side. This lead you to a bridge leading over the train tracks. A couple of turns and then there it was in front of you. The bright gleaming neon, the sounds, the smells, the fake mechanical rabbit. Ah, Catford Greyhound Stadium, how we miss you.

We always loved a trip down the dogs, quite often with Nana and Grandad (Pop's Ma and Pa). I imagine that the cleaners were also pleased after we had visited. You see, for some inexplicable reason, Bro and I became obsessed with collecting the discarded tickets from the various different touts; even the ones you got from the Tote betting back then were quite stylised, like old bus tickets. Happy were we and despairing were our parents when we would come home with arms full of old and useless betting slips (all of which were discreetly disposed of shortly afterwards; not that this was ever a concern as, like the buckets full of mouldering conkers which also regularly vanished, these would be replenished at a later date). The key thing was that it kept us quietly occupied for much of the time, running up and own the steps outside.

The other occupier of the junior dog-goer's time was that of "spotting the hare". Fairly straightforward, you may think, surely it always starts in the same place. Not so, for the start line varies depending on the length of the race and so too does that of the hare. (OK, if we'd worked out where the start lines were for all of the different races, we'd have known but we didn't hold that info in our little heads.) There were two ways to perform said spotting - one was from afar from the comfort of the indoor stands and the other was from up close at track level (although, what with us being very short and the track being raised, we still had to be up on the stands a little bit).

If you were inside, a cry of "Thahare izrunig" would come over the PA and eager youthful eyes would scan the track for a glimpse of the rattling, wobbling, possibly supersonic (to our young minds anyway) faux lapin. If you outside, an electric hum would start up to be swiftly followed by a whistling, clattering sound as the automated circuit began and those eager eyes would begin their robotic rabbitic searching. There was no prize for the spotting of the hare, just the satisfaction of knowing that you had spotted it before the dogs had - everyone likes to be able to feel superior to a greyhound.

To Be Continued

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