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Pete Vernon 3

Cinders n Shale to Grass n Sand (3)Pete Vernon

The rapid advancement of technology put me in a strange position. I could either go with the flow or use the situation to my advantage. It seemed inevitable that ultimately, with computer scanning beginning to run riot in the retail business, my position as a Warehouse Manager could be accomplished quite adequately by a child of six…..or, failing that, a ‘fairly intelligent’ grey squirrel . It was a certainty that the position would go to the wall. I therefore made every effort to ensure that I was in the ‘right place at the wrong time’, or as I saw it ‘the wrong place at the right time’. Moves were automatically turned down without a thought, baffling management whose sole intent was to help. I stood firm………and got my wish. I took the money and ran………or, more accurately, took the money and rode!

I had no idea where my future lie…….apart from that it would be as far away from any previous employment as possible. So I loaded my bike, took the ferry to Dun Laoghaire, got off…….turned left…….and kept going, following the coastline……for a month. Until finally I reached the starting point………I had gone full circle….A journey of discovery on two counts. The discovery of a beautiful country, both dramatic and contrasting, rugged due to it’s geological past, and lush due to it’s climate……..and the discovery that I knew what my aim was. ……I was going back to school.

Everyone thought I was mad. I had a mortgage….and bills…..and…..I didn’t care. I enrolled on an Animal Science course. Myself, five other young lads, and………about thirty five young women. After the first week I nearly quit. I felt SO uncomfortable, SO out of place…….but I stuck with it. The strange glances decreased, the conversations increased. There developed a mutual respect. I could help with Anatomy and Physiology , or Nutrition………the girls virtually taught me IT. We became great friends and I regard the two years spent at Brooksby Agricultuaral College as possibly the most enjoyable, and important, in my life. Yes, it was hard. I had two part time jobs. Money was tight…..But I was determined to succeed. Things were going well, but, ‘concerned’ friends asked the same question in every conversation…….’what you gonna do at the end?’……..and, to be honest, I didn’t know………and at times I began to doubt my judgement …….I had a dream of studying parrots in South America. Mm!…..don’t think so.The Amazon seemed a lifetime away.
I had a placement to sort out and as most people couldn’t get their head around what I’d done and were convinced I’d ‘Gone to the dogs’, I decided to make them all happy…….I went to the dogs……literally.

Apart from hanging onto a handful of Tommy Smith’s hounds around a field and letting my ‘quirky’ pet stretch her legs around the independents, my knowledge of greyhound racing ‘from the inside’ was, to be fair, ….sketchy.
After 2 weeks of X-rays, operations and general check-over’s alongside greyhound vet Denis Beary, I started at Castle Kennels, the base of Nicky Chambers……for 9 weeks. Within a week……..despite having been persuaded to apply for a University place……..I knew that I’d discovered where I really belonged. I loved every second…….but the one thing that convinced me that it was right was…….it didn’t feel like work. Paula Simmons, Kev Meakin, Dean Brittain along with Pete, Becky, Rich and Sarah became great friends. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else……… The Chambers offered me a position but, as much as I would ‘ve loved to start immediately, I had to complete my course…….it had cost me a fortune……plus…..there was that University place.
I’d applied for both Zoology, and Environmental Science…….I knew that competition for the former was tough. The tutors thought I’d be OK …..I wasn’t too convinced. An offer was made……for the latter. I attended the open day and, as the hours passed by, the further away from campus life I drifted, but the closer I became to the magnificent athlete that is the racing greyhound.

I achieved the grades I required, but it made no difference. I snapped the Chambers’ hand off. Couldn’t wait to start. When the college year ended, I was the only student with employment lined up. Many continued in education…….many did not. Having moved on, contact with those young, vibrant, enthusiastic students floated away , but the memories and friendships formed will always remain intact and I thank them for their help……..without it, I may have quit.

So, I was back in greyhound racing……..but……….this time…….IT WAS FOR REAL……..

My goal had been achieved. Nothing could be further from anything I had previously done. No clocking in. No uniforms. No miserable bosses first thing in the morning………smiling faces, music all day…..and, above all,…. working with the dogs. The most difficult transition was reversing a long wheelbase Peugeot van into a parking space when the only vehicle previously driven was a Mini Clubman!…..I felt completely at home with the people and, more important……..the dogs. I loved the racing, whether at Hall Green with the graders, or on the Open Scene. The dogs were high class…..the likes of Droopys Rivero, Droopys Ramon, Miss Tetley, Kilkenny Rebel, Borna Millie, Droopys Nicholas and Blues Best Tayla……….a wonderful bitch……how many dogs do 24.01 round Romford now? ……How many can boast that as a sectional for 750 metres?……Yeah! Blues Best Tayla, ……….the bitch that also gave me my first contact with my present place of employment. It was at Romford….the usual 750 last race…….my only runner. ‘Tayla’ won comfortably. I was putting the lead around her slender neck when, suddenly,……..I was watching Sky……or at least THE sky.! ……I had been hit broadside by a big brindle fella………His handler asked ‘You alright mate!’ laughing…….’Yeah’…I replied…laughing…..To this day ‘What happen’s next’ on ‘A Question of Sport’ fills me with fear and trepidation …So far ,I’ve been lucky,……lucky not to see a little fella in an oversized blue coat putting a lead on a dog…….and then the action stop with Sue Barker turning to Ally n co with the famous ‘So…..what happened next..?……….As for the handler, he showed me around Imperial Kennels on my first visit …….’That’s Kegan’s Flyer’ he said……….’Yeah, …..we’ve aIready met !!’… The handler was Mark…………….I’ve been here ever since……………and oh yeah I still follow the Speedway…………………..

 

Pete Vernon

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