Some People Never Learn

Last night just before turning in I watched a programme on BBC2 about a compulsive gambler. Iíd read about this in the Times TV listing but decided not to watch it; Iím glad I changed my mind because the gambler in question was someone I once knew personally.

I couldnít believe how mouthy he was, even though he was like that when I knew him back in the mid-eighties. The truth is I thought heíd have learned his lesson, but he hasnít. He looks good I must admit, heís a bit overweight but he plays a lot of sports and is very active physically. He certainly gets around, including to Australia where he had a working holiday. Heís married now, has a young, quite attractive wife, and a young daughter, and heís making a living out of gambling, or at least he appears to be for the moment, though heís obviously riding for a fall. Or rather heís riding for another fall.When I met Harry The Dog back in 1984 we were doing time at HMP Highpoint, and we had both ended up there because of our gambling. [I think it was 1984, I was at Highpoint from March 1984 until March 1985]. The big difference is that I learned from my mistakes, while Harry hasnít learned from his. In the course of the programme he was contemptuous of ordinary working people, or the very least of their lifestyles. Working for a living is a mugís game, he said. I wonít disagree with that, Iíve no time for work either, not hard work anyway, but for the overwhelming majority of people work is not something they do for the love of it but because the alternatives are far, far worse. One of those alternatives is what Harry is doing. Yes, heís doing fine now, or he appears to be, but like I said, heís riding for a fall. One of the things he told his audience was that shortly after he and his wife married he took her to the Continent where they watched a soccer match. She was six perhaps seven months pregnant, and Harry had wagered everything he owned in the world by his account on an odds-on bet on his fancied team. They needed either to win or draw and he would get back his forty grand plus his winnings. By Harryís account he had stacked his entire future, and that of his young pregnant wife on one roll of the dice. What sort of man does that by choice? A mug, thatís who. Iím one of the mugs Harry is so contemptuous of - although I donít exactly work for a living - but heís the bigger mug. He was quite boastful about this soccer bet, but of course if the team had lost...and the next time he mortgages his future for one roll of the dice he may not be so lucky.

In the programme he said that many years ago heíd met a Hungarian philosopher who gave him some sound advice. What he didnít mention though was that this ďphilosopherĒ was another inmate of HMP Highpoint, at least until he was ghosted out for some disciplinary offence or other. Harry hardly stopped laughing and never once stopped mouthing throughout the programme, but the laughter will be short lived, thatís a racing certainty. Heíll end up in Highpoint again for sure, or in the gutter.

July 10, 1999


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