Of the Booker Prize, Betting Shops, and James Naughtie

Where I live there are lots of betting shops. I do mean lots. At least five over a stretch of half a mile or so. Today I wish I knew how to use them. This may seem barely credible, but in all my life I have never placed a bet in a betting shop. I have taken part in sweepstakes at work, spent a happy evening losing five pounds at the greyhound track, bought the odd lottery ticket, numerous raffle tickets, but the world of Paddy Power, William Hill et al is a mystery to me.
But tonight it is the Booker Prize, and I want to put my 50p on Will Self’s Umbrella. It isn’t the book I want to win, that is Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, which is sublime, but she has won already with Wolf Hall, and a second win for the second book in her trilogy would be less than likely.
I went to the Royal Festival Hall last night to hear all those short listed read from their books. I learned that I have been pronouncing Mantel’s name wrongly all this time, placing the emphasis on the first and not the second syllable. I also learned that her creation Thomas Cromwell sounds entirely different in her mouth to in my head. Interesting.

The event was chaired by James Naughtie of Radio 4 fame. He was full of Scottish bonhomie, and rather full of himself. He seemed unable to let the authors answer his questions without butting in and finishing their answers off for them, Alison Moore, whose first novel, The Lighthouse, is shortlisted, bore this with grace and patience. Not so Will Self. I am not a fan of Self. He seems to face the world with a permanent sneer on his face that I find wearisome. However, I have to concede that Naughtie was pretty wearing himself. Self riposted wittily if not always politely. There were several moments when the comments were more than barbed. The Green Room must have been a laugh.
The winner of the Booker Prize will be announced at the Guildhall tonight, and we can see it live on the news on the BBC at ten. Unless I learn how to place a bet between now and then, the result will not make me financially richer, but unlike the Grand National, no horses are likely to die in the process.


9 thoughts on “Of the Booker Prize, Betting Shops, and James Naughtie

  1. I have to admit I was shocked when I moved here and saw all the betting shops. I’m not used to that at all. I’ve been to Vegas, but never placed a bet on an event: book or sporting. I’m a little scared to go in one of the shops–what if I get hooked. More than likely I’ll look like an idiot who has no idea how to act cool and say, 50p on Self!

  2. I have only been in a betting shop once, for the experience, with a friend and it turned out simple enough. We lost. Go in and the person behind the counter will help, I’m sure, then you can add a new experience to your life. Although I’m not sure what winnings you would get off the joint-favourite in a five horse race! Go and have a go!

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