Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mexican Diary #7: A Night at the Races

You can see pictures of my mosaics on my website: www.martincheekmosaics.com
The Barbados work is shown on page:
www.martincheekmosaics.com/html/barbados_floor.html

Mexican Diary #7: A Night at the Races

Last night I was invited to accompany Dolores and Alex for a night out at the races. It was agreed that I should join them after my Spanish lesson. Dolores wrote special instructions for me to hand to the taxi driver and I was set.
Dolores had explained that they both liked to have a weekly night out, betting on the dogs and never having been to a dog track – even though there used to be weekly meetings at a racetrack in Ramsgate – I decided that it would be an experience at least, and besides I wanted to be sociable towards Dolores and Alex after all of their many kindnesses.
I was dropped off outside a casino, where I was immediately frisked by a security guard. My bag was searched and I was asked if I had a camera on me, which was strictly forbidden. “Oh I guess that’s because you don’t want me to use flash and frighten the dogs?” I surmised. “Si Senor!” replied the bouncer – rather sarcastically I thought. I made my way inside and was dismayed and disappointed to see that it wasn’t a dog track at all. Instead, what greeted me was a sort of beautified, glorified, Ladbrokes betting shop –clad with those intimidating wall to wall TV’s and decked out with comfy chairs complete with waiter service et all.
Alex and Dolores had beaten me to it and called me over, making me immediately welcome as always, offering me a drink. I plumped for what Alex was having: coffee with a glass of Anis on the side. The Anis was Mexican – nothing like Pernod or Ricard – it was a sticky, ever so sweet liquor, but went down very well with the coffee nonetheless, which incidentally, was the first decent coffee I’ve had since getting to Mexico. The reason that I was late was because I had stopped off on route to buy some wonderful Mexican cigars: TE-AMO ‘Miniperfectos’. I had decided to get these because, like many, when surrounded by a company who all smoke, I find it easier to resort to join in and start smoking myself. I know that this is weak wiled, spineless and shows complete lack of mortal fibre and fortitude, but then again, it’s a form of survival – and at least I don’t inhale harmful cigarettes. It’s a strange thing that even though I often start smoking cigars when abroad – for example in Greece, I also find the hot climate paradoxically contusive – I am able to immediately kick the habit on return to England with no noticeable cravings or regrets.
So there I was looking for all the world like the last of the great gamblers -complete with coffee, liquor and cigar and here’s the rub - I had already decided NOT to bet. I’m not judgemental about it or anything like that – it’s just not my bag. Twenty-six years ago, as a student, I had had a fantastic win: the 66:1 ‘Baron Blakeney’ o which I put £5 each way + tax, having eavesdropped over a conversation in the local pub. My £335 winning exceeded a terms grant at the time, it was 1979 and £335was a heap of money in those days – for example, my rent was £20 per week – all in. Anyway, when I admitted my ‘crime’ to the unwitting tipster – Alan Rogers – who became a good friend – he was delighted, but gave me a lecture. He told me that I was that rare thing – a winner – so long as I stopped there and then. He made me promise that I would never bet on horses again and thus remain on top. I agreed and have kept the promise I made to him that day.
Another interesting observation is that I simply don’t BELIEVE that I am going to win. As I sat there surrounded by all of those people: the bookies, the waiters, the cleaners, and even those dreaded security guards, (not to mention the owners of this establishment - who no doubt intend to make a profit,) I realised that they were all being paid and that their wages were funded by the ‘ill gotten gains’ taken from those ‘punters’. I’m sure that this desire and belief to win has to be there in order to enjoy the thrill and I’m afraid to say that I couldn’t muster it up from the depths. Not so though Dolores & Alexander – they had the grim determination of winners, indeed they made up for my wooliness in bucketfuls.
Alex followed the horses, on those ubiquitous TV’s that lined the room above head height, whilst Dolores favoured a game similar to our Lottery. She showed me how to mark her cards for her – choosing any amount of numbers from 1 – 10 on different tables. Every ten minutes these numbers changed on the TV screens and you won or in her case, Lost, accordingly.
I’m really sorry to report that both Alex and Dolores continued to lose – BIG time. They then made the classic mistake familiar to all gamblers – they started to increase their bets in order to win back the money that they’d already LOST – Which is of course a mistake. It was around about this time that I started to lose interest – it all seemed so inevitable all of a sudden – and so I began to take more notice of my surroundings.
The two ladies on the next table were clearly ‘working girls’, one of them had the longest, most amazing false fingernails that I have ever seen in my life. These must have made even the simplest of tasks – like tying Her shoe laces – impossible to accomplish, but then again, I don’t think that this was the first and foremost thing on her mind. I was both astonished and amused in equal measures to witness her switch allegiance from each of the three men sharing the table, as they paid her the attention that she so craved. The main procrastinator was a born orator and even though I couldn’t understand a word he said, I could still tell that he was a crashing bore. Dolores told me that he was talking politics, Surprise, surprise – he was left wing – natch – and wanted the rest of the room to know it too. I think that the best definition of a bore is someone who doesn’t realise that he is being boring, and this summed him up to a tee.
Dolores was very scornful of the girls on the game and suddenly- out of the blue – as far as I was concerned At least, announced to me that I was sitting too close to her and that in her country, my proximity was an indication that she was “like those girls over there!” I shamefully inched myself to a respectable distance – no doubt crimson faced as indeed I always had been as a child when ‘someone’ in the classroom had committed an offence – even though I wasn’t that naughty boy, my crimson face spoke otherwise – refuting my innocence.
After what seemed like an eternity of increasingly desperate and unlikely bets, we finally left. On our exit, Dolores commented that the place had definitely gone down hill – allowing ‘those girls’ in. Alex agreed and I had to admit that they didn’t seem too bothered about placing any bets but then again, neither had I. Paradoxically this had turned out to be the cheapest night out that I have ever had.
On our way home, we stopped off at a tortilla bar on the street. Alex absolutely insisted on paying – he had taken his bad luck with characteristic charm and good humour. What a lovely man he is.
Well I guess it wasn’t the experience that I was expecting but an experience it WAS nonetheless!

04.07.05

There is a postscript to all of this but it’s untidy. I know that I’m not a great writer but I DO try and keep it tidy – round things up neatly – but of course, LIFE isn’t like that. Last night – the following night to the one above, I was struggling to finish the dinner that Dolores had prepared for me. It was very rich and as usual a bit too spicy for my delicate English taste. It was at this point that Alex gave me a lecture, telling me that God would be angry with me if I didn’t eat my meat and went on to tell me about all of the starving people in the world for whom, even a tiny piece of meat would be welcome. I agreed wit him but the irony of him losing more than my entire rent for the duration of my stay in one night ‘at the races’ was not lost on me.

You can see pictures of my mosaics on my website: www.martincheekmosaics.com
The Barbados work is shown on page:
www.martincheekmosaics.com/html/barbados_floor.html

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