The Making Of The Man Page 8

This would take place once a week after evening meal. 19.30 for 20.00 hours. They designed the course, a straight dash of 12 feet. The track was 5 lanes, each 6 inches wide, 2 inches deep with raised sides of plastic down the length. This enabled the crabs to be seen and to see each other and to be kept in separate track for the rule was that no two crabs were to be in the same lane. The Police drew up the rules, so we knew they would be fair. However, as Police, Firemen, Clerks, Cooks and 'Posties' are honest. I personally did not see the need for such formal drafting...

There would be 5 races per race night. In each team there would be 5 crabs. The crabs would be marked with a number 1 to 5 in white paint on a 2 inch square of another colour. Red for the 'Posties', Black for Police. Blue for the Fire Brigade, Yellow for the cooks, and Orange for the clerks. Each unit was allowed to have two registered bookies. Minimum stake 5 shillings, maximum stake £1. Win Only. We wanted to keep it simple and fair. The first weeks race was just a trial, or a "dummy" run.

It was also agreed you could change your string of crabs each week, provided the colour code rule was adhered to. It is worth pausing to picture the scene: a race track surrounded by a group of about 3 0-40 punters, 10 bookies and 1 judge who was also the Starter and Clerk of the Course. Very overworked, but he oozed power. He was, of course, a Policeman, a plod. The atmosphere was electric. I felt sorry for the Official as he could not really see what was going on (thank goodness).

As is well known, the crab is known as a decapod on account of its ten legs. The only difference with coconut crabs is that they have one huge pincer, a much smaller second pincer, and 8 walking legs. Their size varied between a small saucer and a tea plate — up to 6 inches across. Size in this case did not matter— you could have a really nippy winger-type. or a fast centre-forward that was tall and gangly, or a half-back built like a horse. No doubt each trainer had different methods of selection, feeding and encouragement. The Police shouted at theirs, Firemen probably kept them moist, cooks fed them goodies, clerks gave them a whiff of correcting fluid — us posties did not believe in any unfair advantages, of course.

Great secrecy was the order of the day. Hushed betting took place in the respective sections. We had a slight advantage in the Post Office, because they all came to us for 'business' and a little inside information. We listened, but gave nothing away regarding the odds of success on the night.

During the first week, we, the 'posties', won 2 out of 3 races. The second week, one win, and weeks three, four and five, we won all 5 races. Prize money became less in week six because odds-on favourites are not good for making much money, at least not as much as we had done in previous weeks.

Week seven — calamity struck. A steward’s enquiry was held on the 'Posties’ crabs. The medical staff were called in to examine our runners as they were the nearest to Veterinary Experts. They found that our crabs only had 8 legs. The two smallest legs were missing, one each side of the body. We protested that they must be genetically mutated or that they had shed their legs due to the dust in the Sorting Office where they were stored prior to the off. These explanations were almost accepted, until upon closer inspection and sniffing of the leg sockets, lighter fuel was traced. A torch light was called for, and yes it would appear that a certain amount of tampering had taken place. However, it could not determined where and when, or by whom.

It was decided unanimously by the 'Posties' to return all bets for that night. This was well received by all constituent members. The Chaplain suggested that we may like to make a buffet for the group and any one who wished to call in to see him the next week would be most welcome. As this seemed to be good advice coming from a man with heavenly contacts we agreed saying "It is better to give than to receive". After providing the buffet, even taking into account our previous earnings, the rueful outcome was that our industrious efforts had resulted in the posties each being £2 out of pocket.

Entertainment the following weeks was provided by new arrivals, Billy and Mary Burgess W.V.S., an intervention from above perhaps. These two middle-aged ladies were the only white women on the island, and their presence did alter our way of life. No skinny dips in the lagoon; either shorts or costumes were to be worn for swimming. Shirts to be worn after dusk, sleeves rolled down. I think also the language improved in every section. The 'posties' of course did not need to adjust their already high standard of behaviour.

March and April were very busy in all departments, more and more specialists arrived all leading up to the 15th of May whereby the first drop took place. It was a great success and the hard work done by all who were involved paid off History had been made, and my time to demobilisation was coming up. To be continued.........

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