This panned out ok in the end. I didn’t mind going into a betting shop, but once there I felt rather conspicuous. As if everyone might be looking, and thinking I don’t really belong in that environment!
To begin with I had to find one! I was wandering the streets of Cirencester, picking my way between the antique shops and the classy cafes, and charming independent craft stores, and wondering where on earth does one find a bog-standard bookies?
I investigated a couple of side streets, found an altogether less salubrious quarter that I don’t think I’d ever ventured into before, and happily there was Ladbrookes. In I went.
It was all rather baffling, big screens everywhere, horse racing and football on most of them, and I cast about for some clue as to what I might do next. I have only entered such a place to bet on the Grand National before – without that focus I had no idea what the form was! I had mentally set myself the target of staying for an hour, and actually talking to at least one person.
So I sat down, and skimmed through the Racing Post. It may as well have been in another language. For the first 10 minutes it was excruciating just to be there. I assumed everyone was looking at me, and I didn’t have the least idea how one was meant to behave, or what possible reason I would find for being there. I had no idea how to place a bet, especially on horses. There was one old man scanning all the paper cuttings on the walls, and 2 young-ish men working there. That was it. No one looked ripe for a chat. No one looked as if they would find it amusing that I was visiting by way of a personal challenge.
After a while I acclimatised. And some greyhound racing came on one of the TV screens. I have been to the dogs, and I at least know how the betting works for that. And so I filled out a betting slip for the next dog race. And promptly lost £3. Doh.
I took advantage of the free tea and coffee facilities. How marvellous! Then bet on a couple more dogs. Lost each time. A couple of women were loitering about, and we had a bit of banter about losing on the dogs. Not an in depth conversation, but enough. I took a punt on tonight’s football match. Arsenal to win, 4-0. I will be in the money if that happens. I wasn’t feeling awkward at all by this point! I could have stayed! Except the dog racing was sucking me in, and I’d already squandered a tenner.