Trevor is always in the bookies. Don’t get me wrong, he has a job and everything, but he always seems to be in there whenever I am. You’ll always find him sitting at the biggest table in the place, with his newspapers spread out like reconnaissance maps in a war room. I’m not sure if he knows that he takes up so much space with his Racing Post and assorted red-tops, but it doesn’t seem to bother the two pensioners from Guyana who happily share what room there is left.
To be honest, you can’t miss Trevor, in his well-worn steel toecap boots and royal blue nylon work trousers, which he invariably teams with an audacious Hawaiian-style shirt. He’s one of those people who are good fun in small doses, but if you were stuck in a lift with him, you would be climbing the walls. I for one have never been a fan of people with stupid nick-names and two seasons as centre back with the local pub football team had apparently entitled him to the highly original moniker ‘Big Trev’.
As you can tell, he is a bit of a lump. His face is youthful for someone pushing 40 but he has the frown lines and dark rings around his eyes of someone who has been around the block a few times, worked a few too many night shifts. Despite this, he still manages to be consistently loud, with a meaty voice that carries the length of the room, without his noticing it. His accent is hard to place, like he comes from a nondescript suburb, somewhere between Coventry and Northampton.
You get the impression that he doesn’t get much attention in the warehouse where he works, so when he comes to the betting office, he whacks on his Hawaiian shirt and feels like someone. I know that he is divorced and doesn’t get to see his daughter much, which could explain a few things. Occasionally one of the lads will ask why his marriage broke up, but he usually just quips that his missus stopped finding his jokes funny around the time of the Seoul Olympics.
Saying that, he is always at the centre of the banter in the bookies because he has an opinion on everything; from the changes of the top-weight in the feature race at Kempton, the easiest way to finish with your girlfriend, to the best ever song by Elvis Presley. According to Trevor, it is better to finish with your girlfriend in a public place so she is less likely to give you a wallop. No wonder his wife left him.
The pensioners gravitate towards him because he always seems to pull an outsider out of the bag and give them return on their 50p each-way bets. This usually results in much hollering and hollow promises of drinks all round. I must admit that there are few finer sights than a 72 year-old Guyanese gent with a dodgy hip, swaggering around with the proceeds of Trevor’s tips.
I don’t mind talking to him because he has got some absurd stories. Like the time, as a child, his parents organised a fancy dress birthday party for him. Only for a little boy to appear meekly on the doorstep two days after the party, in a full Red Indian outfit, because his mum had filled in one of the invitations incorrectly. Trevor said that he had to deal with the miniature Sitting Bull, complete with headdress and homemade tomahawk, whilst his mum ran out the back gate. There is also the one about the time he got back from the pub a little worse for wear and spent what little he had left of his wages adopting an owl called Wayne on the internet. What made matters worse was that a few weeks later he was sent a bill through the post because Wayne had apparently gone crackers and broken his cage.
During one particularly uneventful afternoon in the bookies, Trevor told me that he had two golden rules by which he lived his life. Number one being ‘always wear waterproof coat when you go out’ and number two ‘never bet on a seller’. I had hoped for something a little bit more inspiring, it’s not often that you get life coaching from someone dressed like a displaced refugee from Honolulu. I couldn’t agree with his reasoning either. Why choose to make the Hawaiian shirt the cornerstone of your wardrobe if you have to cocoon yourself in a cagoule every time you venture outside?
In any case, I love betting on sellers, claimers and the like. They have the mystique that the big horse races just can’t seem to muster. Like a normal contest but with the added incentive that the horses can actually be sold at the end. I always wondered who actually buys a horse in a seller? Who claims in a claimer? I sometime daydream about turning up to a racecourse and purchasing a lightning fast thoroughbred to ride around my street and burn past the local teenagers on their mopeds. At the back of my mind, I know it’s not as easy as that, but I still often find myself betting on an outside chance in a seller and wondering where they will end up.
A couple of weeks ago, Trevor stopped coming in the bookies. No-one knew where he was. Barbara the cashier even called at his flat to the way home, but got no reply. All we knew, was that he had told the landlord of the local that he was going away to get his ‘head together’. Even though he got on my nerves, it seemed like a small part of the place was missing. Like someone had removed the tellies or stolen all the betting slips and pens. No more each-way tips for the pensioners.
Of course, people soon got back into the swing of things. There is always another race in the bookies to think about, and there was always Trevor’s two ‘golden rules’ to live by. One which, astoundingly, I actually kept to, the other went out of the window. Yesterday, the cagoule I bought saved me from a proper soaking. I was just past the chippie when it started to chuck down and I had to quickly unravel the coat from the bottom of my shopping bag, before jogging the last few steps into the warm.
Once in, I headed straight for the drinks dispenser, sorted myself a hot chocolate before perching myself in front of the forever flashing fruit machine. ‘Any sellers today then Barbara’ I called over my shoulder, knowing that she couldn’t resist chiding me for my favourite races. With that, a bloke wearing an orange shirt emblazoned with canary yellow palm trees bounded in, followed by a teenage girl. ‘What sort of idiot bets on a seller?’ he roared. ‘Probably the same sort of idiot who gets drunk and adopts birds of prey on the internet’ I replied. His daughter laughed her dad’s laugh and they both plonked themselves down at the biggest table in the place.