You may not have noticed but the days are getting longer. Shops’ opening hours seem extend to meet the needs of everyone’s body clock. Superstores are 24/6, bars open to 2am, some banks on Sunday. It seems it is only doctors’ surgeries that escape the creep of capitalist opportunity. One that strikes me, given my previous life, is when walking home late evening to see the bookmakers (betting shops) still open till 10pm; when I worked in a bookmakers in the 1980s, there was no night racing, far fewer race meetings, no slot machines, you were never open on a Sunday, and there were no PDQ machines to pay by card – you could only lose what was in your pocket. Now their shops are open 12 hours a day seven days a week – 24 hours if you count online.
I feel that more than ever, being in a bookies is all about waiting and counting; whether it’s the time of the next race, your next win, the odds, how much you’ve got to bet with, how much you can afford to lose, how much you actually lose that gives you that sickening feeling when you walk home to face your family (it is rarely the more positive alternative). The same applies to the bookmaker/owner but more so for the person working on the till. How do you fill the time and what counts?
Joey Connolly passes the time writing poems when he’s working in the bookies, which is a great way to pass the time, even when you’re being interrupted; and in a series of poems from ‘How the bookmaker feels about the dogs‘ he portrays this mix of creativity and capitalist intrusion very well. ‘It’s a position I struggle to reconcile,/naturally. But it’s more interesting than an office/and it’s anyway impossible/to stand completely outside/of Capital’s relentless comprehension in this day, this age.’ It is a frustrating position and not like any other retail position, because you are dealing with people for a number of hours during a day – they don’t all just walk in, place a bet and walk out again. ‘I trudge to the bookies where I work and will find time/to write this….and will concern money…– but also/other important things; all of which/are suspended to take Joe’s throw-of-the-dice tricast,/Joe, who is/a real misogynist.’ (more…)