We lived in Bristol in our twenties, in Easton, the other side of the elevated motorway, a short walk from the stadium. I had been to the dogs before. The first time we lived in London we used to go to Catford. Also, now gone. But Eastville is where I properly fell in love with gambling.
It’s where I unearthed my first successful betting system. Unusually, Eastville’s hare ran on rails on the inside of the track, rather than the outside. This meant there was often a lot of crowding at the first bend, as the dogs naturally came inwards chasing the hare. If the red dog (trap 1) was a quick starter and sure to reach the bend first, it was a bet almost regardless of odds, often profiting from trouble in behind. I rode this system for a few years. Then, one day, they switched to an outside hare and my edge disappeared, with me rather too slow to notice. Thus, it was also my first losing system and another valuable lesson learned.
When we moved to Tooting, I was delighted to find I was in walking distance of Wimbledon Greyhound Track, down near the old Wimbledon football stadium at Plough Lane. An upgrade, as seemed to be the case with our lives generally. I started going as often as I could, particularly around Greyhound derby time.
The final was one of the great sporting nights. And the unforgettable Westmead Hawk one of the greatest sporting stars I’ve ever seen in the flesh. I’ve had some really great nights there over the years. No more. Wimbledon joins Eastville and Catford as mere memories. London now has no dog track at all, and if ever you wanted a metaphor for a city sacrificing its white working class on the altar of land values…
Next time I wander down from Tooting Broadway towards Longley Road where I spent the happiest years of my life, and reach the Sree Krishna, I shall feel like I do on the M32, but squared.