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The Gambler
By David Walsh

With this message I would like to pay a personal tribute to SpeedwayPlus.

I like SpeedwayPlus; it is one of my favourite websites. SpeedwayPlus does exactly what it says on the tin. Testament to that is the fact that the site has on several occasions seen fit to indulge me in an extraordinary conceit. That is, the notion that visitors to the site would ever have any interest in reading what I might wish to pass off as poetry. I hope my efforts to relate my poems to the theme of speedway, however tenuous, has been a mitigating factor in this, and I trust there has never been any popular will expressed to rename the site SpeedwayPlusGarbage, or whatever.

Well, I now have another 'poem' which SpeedwayPlus has kindly agreed to publish on its pages. However, in order to establish what speedway credentials exist with this one, a little background is required.

The following piece evolved from my first attempt at writing a poem. Actually, that's not quite correct. I did try once before while at secondary school with a piece that ended with the following lines:

As we walk past the Sowerby school
The smell of chips floats free and loose
To tantalise our gastric juice

There are two points I wish to make before continuing, both of which ought to be self-evident. First, I failed all three of my English O Level examinations. Second, they certainly don't make chips like they used to! I'm not sure which of those two I find the most troubling. All I can think of to say on the subject is this: when the chips are down, best get writing! But that still doesn't really answer my little conundrum.

Anyway, I digress.

The genesis of The Gambler actually lay in my second attempt at writing a poem. That was sometime in 2001 shortly after my speedway career came to an end. Its first draft related solely to speedway and was autobiographical in character (hence its link to speedway), while neither applies to the final version printed below. The editor of SpeedwayPlus is already aware of the organic nature of my writing: a 'poem' of mine often changes from the original, even after publication. I have always been truly grateful for SpeedwayPlus's understanding, patience and willingness to make amendments, though I am confident no future editing will be required (and I'm sure that will be just as reassuring to SpeedwayPlus as, say, our dear Mr Cameron's plans for a 'Big Society!'). Mmm.

Nevertheless, the organic character of The Gambler is real in the sense it has grown, contracted and taken years to mature into what is finally the finished article�possibly. I could be wrong. I have been on many occasions. Of course, others may determine this latest effort is simply a series of oily black smudges on an otherwise perfect page, requiring nothing short of scrubbing out completely followed by a comprehensive re-think. I certainly wouldn't be the person to argue with that. I will say this though�

Poetry is hard.

In its own way, I find poetry as challenging as riding a speedway bike and my attempts so far would suggest I am yet to truly slide. Of course, there are no real similarities between shifting shale and scribbling doggerel, except perhaps that if done badly and in public the risk of ridicule is a shared one. Other associated risks don't compare, of course.

Anyway, this is the last poem I have, at least for now, and I had thought of dedicating it to SpeedwayPlus. However, that would have definitely been a conceit too far, so I won't do that. After all, all those engaged with the art of speedway racing deserve much more than to be menaced by the misplaced egotism of a Lucky Fool (original title). Perhaps one day I'll write something more worthy than what I've produced so far. In fact, that is probably the only real ambition I have left now that the wheels don't turn for me nor the methanol burns. I can almost guarantee it will take years to compose something that's up-to-scratch and probably more wisdom than I will ever attain, but I hope at least to get enough time to have a reasonable go. If I manage, SpeedwayPlus will be the first to know. You lucky people, you!


The Gambler

He embraced
A curse
All ought loathe
And gambled
With a thing
All should love

He placed
A measure
Of gold
On himself
To dominate
The world

But his capital
Was wasted
Which lost him
His wager

He then owed
To another

But such
An old friend
Would insist
The bottle
Was for the gambler
His sorrows


This article was first published on 2nd September 2010

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