AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

SIMON NOTT: Carpe Diem

I’m very privileged to be able to earn money working as part of the Star Sports #BettingPeople series.

Since Ben thought of it back in 2017, I have had the pleasure of meeting 200 incredible people. Professional punters, bookmakers, TV celebrities, jockeys, captains of industry, racing’s movers and shakers trainers and even royalty. For someone who was brought up on a council estate with no racing background or academic qualifications, I’ve often had to pinch myself and check I’ve not dreamt it all.

I’ve become used to the train and long journeys for an interview, then back on the rattler to Devon the same day. Last week was one of those. The 6.50 to Darlington via Paddington and King’s Cross to interview Tom Wilson. Luckily, I wasn’t heading all the way back to Devon. Star Sport’s Ben owner had kindly offered to take me out for a curry and put me up for the night as I was interviewing in London the next day.

Unusually, I hadn’t been able to do all my homework on my interviewee. A Google search didn’t pick up much, but I was assured that the elderly lady I was to interview had a whole host of stories that would make a fascinating addition to the #BettingPeople series. She had shares in a string of horses and her husband had made his fortune in gaming leaving her wealthy widow. I was intrigued and very much looking forward to meeting her.

Ben is a busy man, so I was out on the streets of London a fair bit earlier than when I’d arranged to meet her. I decided to walk. When I got there I was still an hour early. I had a wander around but decided that rather than kicking my heels I’d call her and let her know I was there.

Not everyone wants me to come to their house, but this lady was more than happy for me to do so. Wow. What a house it was too, not the sort I’d normally be invited to. We had talked a few times on the phone so I wasn’t totally shocked as I knew the address was a very good one, but it was still a jaw-dropper. She was delighted when I told her I was outside and was there in a flash to welcome me into her home.

There on the table in the room she led me to, the walls of which were full of her own artwork, were a pile of photos, illustrating how well connected she and her husband had been. I started to unpack my interview kit but she insisted on making a pot of coffee and having a chat before we got started. I was expecting tales of the rich and famous, judging by the photos, there were to be plenty of those to entertain us. When we started chatting, as if I was an old friend not somebody she’d just met, rather than the glitz and glamour surrounding her husband’s business I was expecting, she told me about her own background. There were laughs and there were tears, I was so engrossed in her story that the coffee went cold before it could be poured.

It seemed very soon, but a couple of hours had passed when her late husband’s ‘right hand man’ arrived to add greatly to the story unfolding. We were joined by the lady’s daughter and family friend and the conversation flowed and the photos passed around. At one o’clock I was told that a table had been booked at a nearby restaurant, so we set off, no interview in the can yet but we’d be doing it after lunch. Lunch was jovial, red wine was shared, as were tips on a healthy life from the lady. I should keep an eye on my posture was one tip, I was no doubt slouching and stiffen my back immediately.

Long lunch over, we walked back to the house, by this time it was 3.30. My host was understandably tired and asked if I’d mind awfully if I returned at a later date to conduct the interview, I thought that was a good idea, it had been a wonderful day and I relished the idea of seeing her again.

That night back in Devon, I think of nothing else and regaled my wife with this wonderful lady’s stories.

That night, I even dreamed about her story, I called as early as I deemed acceptable on Friday, 9am. The lady told me that she’d really enjoyed the day yesterday and was keen for me to come back but couldn’t talk to me now. She was off to the races for two days and was leaving at 10am and needed an hour to get ready.

I called again on Tuesday, Thursday was put in diary. She was going to choose a nice place in her house to do the interview and laughed that she’d find a spot in front of a window so we couldn’t see her wrinkles. I told her I was looking forward to it, she said we could go to lunch again, I agreed but said we’d need to do the interview first this time. She said that would be a good idea.

My Thursday morning train journey up to London was a pleasant one, I arrived at Paddington with time to walk the mile or so to her house. The sun was shining and the sky blue as I rang on the bell by her gate. I was a little taken back when a policeman appeared at my side and asked what my business was there. I explained that I was expected and was going to interview the lady of the house.

His look told me before he spoke that I wasn’t. That beautiful vibrant lady bursting with life had passed away and with her those sometimes joyous and occasionally sad stories she’s shared with me. I’d only met her once, but she’d made such an impact on me I’d been thinking about her all week.

I walked back to Paddington in a daze. I was so glad that I had met her, she told me so much about a life well lived, which could have been a film script. I’m now going to write everything down, before I forget any details and when the time is right and if her family agree, I will share it with you all.

But at the moment, I am stunned with sadness.

Carpe Diem


Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.

Simon Nott is author of: Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring
available on Kindle