In the summer of 1953 I went house-hunting in southern England to provide my wife and daughter with somewhere to live while I went job-hunting in Canada. Furnished accommodation was expensive everywhere except at the resort towns — those where houses fetched huge rentals all summer, but most were empty out of season, and some could be obtained at truly nominal rents out of season.
My mother, “Molly”, had a close friend, Blanche Bridges, who lived in Bognor Regis, a resort on the south coast. Blanche was a wealthy widow, living in a pleasant, and beautifully appointed house with her son Bobby, who was then about twenty. A phone call to Blanche, whom Molly hadn’t seen for years, was all it took to obtain for me an invitation to stay at Blanche’s for the few days needed for my house search. I was very kindly received, and found a fine house within four days.
In the evenings, I was treated to dinner either at Blanche Bridges’ or at her sister’s, a Mrs Williamson, where Blanche and I dined on the second night — Bobby Bridges being abroad at that time. Mrs Williamson was also a widow, and lived with her only daughter, Sally, who was a professional musician. We were thus four at dinner.
From the conversation, it became evident that many prosperous people of Bognor were very interested in horseracing. Toward the end of the dinner, Mrs Williamson told the following story. It was customary among their circle of friends to place bets on the horses, but usually none of them was betting in the hope of significant profit. It was a flutter, as my mother used to call it, something you do for fun, and that remains fun if you don’t risk too much. The Bridges-Williamson sisters were used to betting on the horses, and they could afford to lose, just as it gave them pleasure to win.
One night Mrs Williamson had a most unusual dream. She dreamt that there were workmen on the racetrack digging up the course, and she couldn’t get it entirely out of her mind after she arose that day. When she picked up the newspaper to decide which horse she would bet on, she noticed a horse named “workman” and at once linked the name with her dream. She placed her usual modest bet on that horse and it came in first.
Not long after there followed another dream that could easily be connected with the name of a horse running that day, and she bet again and won again. This went on for many months, and the horses she bet on always came in first. But she never increased her bet. Mrs Williamson was open with her friends and they soon got to know she was dreaming winners, so they used to ask her, “What horse are you betting on today?” and she always told them. They, however, were now betting much larger amounts and profiting greatly. Mrs Williamson would come home after a day at the races and find her front hall full of flowers sent by the grateful friends.
Some time later, she was walking along one of the local streets and passed two women coming in the opposite direction. As they passed, she heard one of them say to the other, “That’s Mrs Williamson, you know, she’s funny,” meaning funny-peculiar or weird, and it made her feel most uncomfortable.
Again that night she dreamed a winner, and bet on it and it came in first. But when, before the races, some friends asked her what horse she was betting on, she refused to tell them. After that the dreams ceased.
© Derek Paul August 2017