The Eyes have it. Or not. Why does getting old mean I can’t read the menu?

May 29, 2012

Not that long ago, I could see all. Perfect vision. Unlike George Costanza, I was spotting letter boxes, not raccoons.

At my age, this was a rare thing. My friends were all needing help. In restaurants, and at work. Someone was dimming their lights.

It’s one of the things I now notice at funerals. Blokes you haven’t seen in years, wearing glasses to read the program. Looking older, just like that.

Everyone around me was getting reading specs. Of course, I teased them no end. As mates do. Until my day arrived.

Actually, it was my night. I’ve read the form guide on a Friday night for the best part of 30 years. Sad, but true. But this particular evening, I hit a snag.

Things were blurry. Eyes itchy. Was it Race 4 or 5? Had this nag won first up, or second up? I was either having a stroke, or my peepers were giving out.

Thankfully, it was the latter. Not long after, I was sporting my first pair of glasses.

The girls gave me great support. As soon as they stopped laughing. Colleagues told me earnestly how nice my frames were. I was chuffed by this. Until I realised that this is code in the optical world for ‘You look like my nerdy uncle.’

Any self-doubt disappeared, when I found how much they helped. Words jumped out at me again. No more headaches. I may have looked like Mr Magoo, but I could see.

There’s history here, too. Mum, bless her, battled serious sight problems up until her death. That awful condition, Macular Degeneration. Towards the end, she was unable to do her beloved crosswords and puzzles. So cruel.

The condition wasn’t without a laugh though. On one of her visits, we decided to have a seafood lunch. At the counter of the local fish shop, I asked her what she fancied. After some serious study, she announced that the large prawns looked delicious. They were indeed. Except they were lobsters.

Another time, we were at a Christmas concert. One of the big churches had organised an elaborate festive show. Complete with dressed up kids and camels.

Mum thought it was wonderful. She hugged the girls, who were much younger then, and pointed to centre stage, where the desert beasts had just wandered through with a crowd of helpers.

“Look girls, there go the Three Wise Men,” she exclaimed with excitement. They were, in fact, the blokes picking up the camel poo. That’s not to say they weren’t wise. Just not terribly blessed.

I’ve been tested for the dreaded disease, and so far it’s all good. Not even a hint that it could be around the corner. But there are other dramas.

Until recently, I had only used my glasses at work, and when reading newspapers or books. Everything else was fine. Not any more.

I’m struggling when it comes to preparing meals. The print on the packages coming out of my freezer is unreadable. Obviously the work of sadistic people in a Chinese lasagne factory.

Seriously, can anyone actually read that stuff? I can’t. After getting my microwave times wrong the first six times, I’m now wearing glasses in the kitchen.

The lighting in restaurants I go to is obviously on the blink. It’s kept so low you need ropes and handrails to find your table. This must be the reason I can no longer read the menu.

Can’t see a thing. So I go with ‘I’ll have what he’s having’. Which is fine, except if the fellow to my right is a fan of pickled herring.

The glasses now accompany me to any lunch or dinner engagement. I’m told it even looks sophisticated, whipping them out of my top pocket, to have a crack at the plonk list.

I’ve come to terms with my condition. There are plenty of others just like me. Don’t laugh at us. Your time is coming.

If, however, you are putting off the inevitable, remember these golden rules. Take care if the prawns look too big. And never applaud men who walk behind camels.

Finally the campaign is over. Your expert form guide to the Great Queensland Election race.

March 24, 2012

They’ve been trained to the minute for this day. Coats are shining. These candidates are ready to run.

They’ve been put through their paces morning and night for six weeks. The backroom boys will tell you they’ve done their bit. Nothing has been left to chance.

If you’re north of the border, you couldn’t have missed the lead up to the big event. Every training gallop has been scrutinised time and again.

As you head to the ballot box, ready to have a punt on the finish, feel free to ignore those infuriating party people standing on the fence, thrusting meaningless bits of paper into your hand. All the help you need is right here.

The Hold All Tickets team has been hovering in the shadows, getting the lowdown on the favoured chances. So here it is. Your official guide to the main hopes in the Great Queensland Election race 2012.

1/ Last Chance Anna. Trained by the ALP.

Responsible for a memorable victory at this track before. Hit peak form more than twelve months ago on an extremely heavy Brisbane track. Has suffered numerous setbacks of late. Smart money abandoned the stable weeks ago, which is always a bad sign in this class of race. Bookies happy to offer huge odds, and already packing for Pacific cruises. Late betting moves unlikely.

2/ The Cando Man. Trained by the LNP.

Blue blood pedigree for an event like this. Impressive record performing on a neighbouring track in recent years. Stable cleared after being involved in inquiries by stewards relating to betting irregularities. Has been a star performer in traditional lead up events. The only one they want in the betting ring. Into Black Caviar-type odds. Expect female owner to plant big kiss on him at the finish line.

3/ Home Town Kate. Trained by the ALP.

Hand-picked for this race, although doesn’t usually compete in this class. Impressed in early barrier trials, but has struggled of late. Stable has enlisted plenty of support to fine tune for today. Popular local filly, but might find the visitor too nippy.

4/ Mad Katter. Trained by the Katter family.

Distinctive grey who’s a star performer in the bush. Prolific winner of Country Cups. Stable known for betting plunges, usually hit and run missions. Connections very confident, even though City judges have been dismissive. Could be an each-way chance. Track officials warn that trainer’s speech could go till midnight if they spring an upset.

5/ Going Green. Trained by Mother Nature.

Another outsider capable of causing a surprise. Needs plenty of luck from an outside barrier, and only performs on inner-city tracks. Popular with young racegoers. Connections have advised there’ll be group hugs if they snare a placing.

Good luck with your investment. Remember, every ticket counts. They won’t go to these starting gates for another three years.

If your friends are struggling to find a winner, feel free to send our exclusive form guide to them. Just make sure they sign the legal disclaimer on the back.

Finally, look away if the favourite is declared the winner, and the kissing and hugging begins. And if you see a country trainer in a big hat start heading to the microphone, make sure you find a comfy seat. Trust me, it will take a while.

Finally, the official mug punter’s Melbourne Cup guide. By the biggest mug punter of them all.

October 31, 2011

Are you being laughed at for your lack of Melbourne Cup knowledge? Kids being teased at school because mum and dad missed the barrier draw? Friend, help is at hand.

Face it, we all want to back the Cup winner. Even for a dollar. Bragging rights can last for years.

You need something easy to digest, with no punches pulled. And here it is. The first annual Hold All Tickets Melbourne Cup guide.

I hear scornful giggles. Fair enough, my Cup record isn’t flash. Before the great Makybe Diva, we go back to Kiwi in 1983. There may have been one or two in between, but my memory of Cup afternoons is hazy at best.

Anyway, here we go. A highly researched document, some of which may or may not have been made up.

1/ Americain – Gerald Mosse (jockey). Won last year. Won’t win this year. Too much weight. And I can’t pronounce the trainer’s name.

2/ Jukebox Jury – Neil Callan. Big wraps overseas, but has never raced here. Would be like backing Meat Loaf to sing at a footy grand final. As if that would happen.

3/ Dunaden – Craig Williams (appeal pending), or some French bloke. Not for me. Won the Geelong Cup, now a popular form race. Except Geelong’s population is the same as Ipswich. I won’t be backing the Ipswich Cup winner either.

4/ Drunken Sailor – Dwayne Dunn. Nope. But anything with ‘drunk’ in the title on Cup day is worth a cheer.

5/ Glass Harmonium – Lisa Cropp. Should be leading early. Will be overtaken like there’s a sniper in the Flemington grandstand about 600 metres from home.

6/ Manighar – Damien Oliver. No chance. Only because he was my initial tip. Even the great D. Oliver won’t overcome that hurdle.

7/ Unusual Suspect – Nash Rawiller (appeal pending), or any small bloke with riding boots. A visitor from the U-S. Not even with help from NASA.

8/ Fox Hunt – Silvestre de Sousa. I think the jockey played for Portugal in the soccer World Cup. Can someone check that for me?

9/ Lucas Cranach – Corey Brown. Great run in the Caulfield Cup. And that was on three legs. Fully fit now. Will give this a shake. (Note, that’s a racing term).

10/ Mourayan – Hugh Bowman. The winner. Go and collect now. Order the Chinese for Tuesday night. Bowman’s riding so well he could go out on a rocking horse and still run a place.

11/ Precedence – Darren Beadman. Bart’s best hope. The horse hasn’t won since Bob Hawke was Prime Minister. Will have support from above.

12/ Red Cadeaux – Michael Rodd. The jockey is a Queenslander. At least that’s something.

13/ Hawk Island – Glyn Schofield. Couldn’t win if he started an hour early.

14/ Illo – Jim Cassidy. German horse, trained by Bart, and ridden by jockey who has won the Cup twice. No third time lucky.

14/ (a) – Mister Ed – Wilbur. Would give the best post-race interview ever. Might be a bit old now.

15/ Lost in the Moment – William Buick. Has all the pace of me striding home from an afternoon at the tavern. Possibly with better steering.

16/ Modun – Kerrin McEvoy. Jockey is another winning plenty of late. Just as well, because he won’t be saluting here.

17/ At First Sight – Steven King. Two jockeys tossed a coin to ride him. Nice throwback to ANZAC tradition. That gives him a chance.

18/ Moyenne Corniche – Brett Prebble. My outsider. Saw him score an amazing win in the UK before he came over. Jockey knows his way around the big track. Include him in multiples. (Note – another racing term).

19/ Saptapadi – Chris Symons. If you get him in a sweep you’ll get your money back for last. They might have to delay the start of the next race he’ll be so far back.

19/ (a) Phar Lap – Jim Pike. He’d lap this lot. God bless the mighty horse.

20/ Shamrocker – Luke Nolen. Black Caviar’s jockey. He’ll notice the difference.

21/ The Verminator – Craig Newitt. When did the Wyong Cup winner claim the Melbourne Cup? On the First of Never, that’s when.

22/ Tullamore – Chris Munce. Brisbane Cup winner. Queensland jockey. Trained by Gai. Will try his heart out.

23/ Niwot – Dean Yendall. Made the field with a slashing win last Saturday. Stranger things have happened.

24/ Older Than Time – Tim Clark. And will take his time to finish. Hopefully before sundown.

So, there we have it. You are now a Cup expert. Feel free to pass these expert comments on. Go and have fun taking on colleagues who pretend they know what they’re talking about.

Time now to look at the rest of the day’s races. Does anyone know if that Portuguese soccer player is riding in the last?

Tips on how to survive a day trackside with a bunch of thirsty non-punters.

September 17, 2011

There’s nothing like a day at the track with mates who wouldn’t know a favourite from a frog.

Non-punters. I actually know a few. It’s my life mission to corrupt them.

For starters, they never have their own form guide. Which means they want to borrow mine. And as we all know, that’s awful luck.

They aren’t interested in Perth. They want to get a cab after the last, instead of seeking out the final get-out stakes somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere.

They get bored easily. Unless you find them a winner. So the key is to secure decent tips, and keep their fluids up.

I’ll be doing just that today. With three great old mates. Our annual get together. We’re all very excited.

One is a reformed punter. Much more responsible these days. Or so he tells us.

The other two bet on Melbourne Cup Day, and whenever they get stuck with me.

Where I grew up, we all played footy and punted. And enjoyed cool drinks on hot days.

Sadly, not everyone had such a privileged upbringing.

There are folk out there who haven’t embraced our love of the punt. Such a shame.

The things they must be forced to do instead on a Saturday arvo. Golf. Triathlons. Gardening. Computer games. What a waste.

I first met this lot in Cairns many years ago, on the coaching staff of a footy club.

After fun and successful times, we moved on, and elsewhere.

After a few years apart, a pact was made to get together every year, for a few giggles. And so we have.

Our weekend always includes a trip to the track. That was my idea. They agreed, only because I told them how easy it was to make money while drinking cold beer. Yep, they believed me.

Over the years I’ve dragged them to Randwick, the Gold Coast, the Cairns Cup, and a few places in between.

For some reason, we never win. Ever. I keep them interested with group trifectas, and doubles, and tips from the most reliable of sources. For absolutely no return.

Of course, they blame me. And declare how lucky they are to only go through these torture sessions once a year. Unlike their host.

It takes a steady flow of refreshments to ease the pain. Until the next morning.

This year will be different. Mark us down as good things at Doomben today.

We’ll pool some money, because that’s what happens when blokes with no idea want to back things.

Stewards have been advised of a change of tactics. A monster quaddie is on the cards. And yes, I’ll have to explain what that means.

Keep an eye out for us. Four old blokes looking uncomfortable in ties. One putting the bets on. Three others shaking heads.

Feel free to offer us tips. Just be prepared to spend some time explaining what they have to do if I’m not with them.

Like me, you should be doing your bit to educate a non-punter. Get them out to the track. Text them some tips. Make them think you win plenty of cash every weekend.

Just one rule. Don’t let them touch the form guide. It’s hard enough to find a winner, without that sort of cruel luck.