“Six to Four The Field.”
By Kitty Wintrob
TORONTO. June 21/22 – Kitty Wintrob, author and storyteller, lives in Toronto, Canada. She was born and raised in Britain’s east end of London. She was one of 1.5 million children evacuated to the British countryside at the start of the Second World War in 1939.
Today, we are delighted to publish “Six to four the field. Six to four the field,” the first of a collection of her short stories.
Thinking of those words reminds me of my little Uncle Yudi who lived with us from the time I was born. When I say ‘little’ I mean it. Uncle Yudi was just under five feet tall. And a bachelor till he died.
He always had a cheeky grin, under a cap stuck jauntily to the side of his head, and a Woodbine cigarette attached to the corner of his mouth.
Uncle Yudi loved horses, more than girls, I suppose. But not the kind of horses you see in the country, or the drays that dragged the heavy carts around the streets. It was the racehorses that he loved. But even more, he loved to play the horses. He even dreamed of being a jockey. He was a perfect size. But I never thought to ask him what happened to that ambition.
My cousin Theresa, who also lived with us, told me Uncle Yudi dreamed of also being a lightweight boxer. But that didn’t happen either, though when Oswald Mosley tired of marching through the east end of London with his fascist Blackshirts, Uncle Yudi and his gang met them with chains and broke up their meeting and they never showed their faces there again, or so Theresa said.
But playing the horses was the love of his life.
Before I was born he worked for my grandparents, who owned a dairy with cows in a shed out behind the store in the heart of east London. He worked milking the cows and delivering the milk from a cart he pushed through the streets.
However, every so often he would escape and find himself a good bookie. And my grandmother would cover up for him.
“Yudi,” my grandmother would say, “Why don’t you stop this craziness and find yourself a good wife? Enough of these horses already!”
But no way!
When my grandparents died, my uncle bought a milk shop and we came to live with him in the house located behind the shop. My mother also tried to make him stop betting on the horses.
We mostly lived in the kitchen behind the shop. It had a fireplace with a large gilt-framed mirror stretching the length of the mantel.
One afternoon, so Theresa told me, Uncle Yudi asked my mother to look after the shop for him.
“If you’re going to the bookmaker,” my mother said, “I haven’t got the time.”
“All right then,” he said, “I’ll shut the shop and bugger the customers!” He put up the shutters and off he went.
He came back full of himself. “Passie, Passie, look what I won today. It’s all for you and the kid.” He showed my mum a wad of five-pound notes and then plastered them all around the frame of the kitchen mirror.
“See, we’re rich,” he glowed.
“Are you mad, Yudi? Put them in the bank,” said my mum.
“No! You know what Passie? I’m going to Epsom tomorrow. I’ve got a winner. He’s six to four in the field and I’m going to see my horse win this time. You’ll see. We’ll be on easy street for the rest of our lives.”
The next morning he was up early. Not unlike Uncle Yudi. He put on a clean shirt and was gone for the day.
He came home empty-handed. My mother was beside herself.
“So, I lost the bloody lot,” he said. “But I had a good day. I even saw the King. He even asked after you Passie. My horse only had three legs. How could I know?” And a grin came over his face. “Don’t worry girl. Better luck tomorrow. We were nearly rich, but who wants to be rich anyway?”
He wasn’t a big drinker but loved the company in the pubs. “You know, Kit,” he would say to me. “I just had a drink with the Prince of Wales.” I oohed and aahed!
“Would you like to meet him?” And then I heard my mum’s voice, “You dare take her into a pub…”
“But the Prince of Wales,” Uncle Yudi would say. “Nice fella. We often have a pint together.” And so it would go.
Uncle Yudi died a poor man, without even enough to pay for a headstone. But for me, he was always a happy-go-lucky, good-hearted person, with ever a great big grin. And now, when I think of him, I also smile.
Kitty Wintrob is the author of “I’m Not Going Back: Wartime Memoir of a Child Evacuee.”
The above article is also available on our Community Jewish News Podcast Service. Click HERE to listen to it.
Woodbine: Woodbine is a British brand of cigarettes.
Epsom: Epsom Downs is a racecourse in Surrey, England, which is used for thoroughbred horse racing.
Oswald Mosley: The founder and leader of the British Union of Fascists.
Blackshirts: Supporters of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.
Credit: Photo- Omar Mosleh/Town Crier.
Do you have comments or questions about this article? Contact Kitty Wintrob at firstname.lastname@example.org