Well, it's fair to say I didn't know whether or what to write to mark this occasion. So allow me a little self-indulgence if you will, for today, dear reader, I celebrate reaching the life milestone of being forty years old.
Yes, the big four-oh (or four-nil as I've been referring to it) has not so much crept up on me as leapt out from behind the sofa at me. Now at this point, I think back to when I was ten, fifteen, twenty years old. At that time, forty was just 'old'. It wasn't something to consider in any other terms aside from its numerical magnitude.
But age gives us one thing that young people cannot have. Yes, it proffers forth that badge of honour, experience. And it is my belief that life should be measured not in years, but in experiences.
My life, like just about every other soul that ever laughed, cried, sniffed or farted, has been a vast catalogue of experiences, and these - I'm delighted to report - have, generally speaking, improved with age.
I've learned a lot about life, very little of which will be of utility to a readership who are generally more experienced than me (I MUCH prefer that turn of phrase, as opposed to 'who are generally older than me'). And, again like everybody else, I continue to learn... every... single... day.
So, please bear with me here, as I recount some experiences from my life:
- 1971: Born, at this time I had a bit of age, but wasn't even self-aware enough to know what an experience was. I'm confident the experiences of my parents in these early months were of noise (the loud, wailing-type) and smell (the brown, regular type) and occasionally of visual joy, as I perhaps once a week did something other than demand feeding or emptying.
- 1982: Passed 11+, and went to Bournemouth School, a grammar. Much lauding from the family tree, but an angry youth was about to smash his way out of the unsuspecting chrysalis of pre-pubescence.
- 1983 until a few years later: difficult and formative time when I tended to rail robustly against authority (read, I was a little sh!t). I had my own ideas. They were fiercely held, if a tad flimsy in terms of actually being thought through. In my first year in grammar school, I set a new record for the number of detentions served.
I was threatened with expulsion if my behaviour didn't improve. Despite this, some of my masters actually saw potential and tried to shield me (mainly from myself of course).
In my second year at grammar school, I was suspended. It was the first of three such 'holidays' from school I incurred, during my time there. Deep embarrassment precludes my sharing the finer points of the circumstances that led to those punishments, but I'm pleased to report that I learned from the lessons of my youth. For the most part, at least...
1987: Aged sixteen, I moved away from the family nest. More specifically, my family moved away from the nest and I wished to remain in Bournemouth, to finish my studies (haha) and be near my friends. My nuclear family had suffered the not uncommon nuclear fissure a couple of years earlier, which doubtless did little to improve my behaviour at that time, and with mother (and younger siblings) already out of the frame - and the county - my father moved to Portland where he'd bought a hotel. He is a self-made man, with a robust sense of what's right and a tireless work ethic, and that is a story I've told elsewhere with much fondness.
1988: Got my A-level grades: D in English Literature, U(ngraded) in Government and Political Studies, and D in Religious Studies. The piece of paper was telling me that I was a DUD! I decided it might be time to try something other than academia, which bored me to sleep.
Applied for a job as an intern at Bournemouth Evening Echo, the local newspaper. Didn't get it. I was crestfallen, and thought that my greatest ambition - to be a journalist - was dead. I indulged myself in a paddling pool of self-pity for many weeks afterwards, and wasn't very nice to those who were very nice to me at that time.
Some months later, I got a job, working in the Employment Service (Jobcentre to you and me), having spent six months the other side of the counter beforehand. I spent two and a half years taking signatures, sob stories, genuine hard luck stories, and occasional abuse from the general public, and I learned a lot.
Most of all I learned that life is hard. Not my life particularly, but those of a majority of the people I was meeting each day.
I gave it up one October day. My appraisal was on the Friday lunchtime, and my boss told me I'd rot in the civil service awaiting 'dead man's shoes'. I applied through clearing to university and started on the Monday, less than three days later.
That decision, which - whilst ostensibly brave - was made out of a lack of alternatives: a classic Hobson's Choice which changed every single thing in my life. So there I was in...
1992: I am in Stratford, East London. I know nobody. Yesterday, I was in Bournemouth, East Dorset. I knew everybody. Today, I am alone in a strange and very scary place. I stayed in a grubby B&B those first few nights, and then moved into a house share with some grubby undergrads, three years my junior, and considerably 'less experienced' than me.
I was very lonely.
But then things started to happen. I met fellow students, drank beer, met a girl (or two), played football, played Football Manager, drank a couple more beers, periodically attended a lecture... and worked, first as a cashier and latterly as a seasonal manager, for William Hill.
My final year was notable for the fact that I spent more time in the William Hill next to Maryland Station (for those who might know the area) than I did in lectures or writing my dissertation. [I've since written 708,111 words in posts prior to this one, and frequently write more than 5,000 words in a post - no Twitter micro-blogging here! And yet the 10,000 words of that dissertation felt like they'd never end...]
But my real education was underway. That was when I knew that I'd be a career academic.... studying form!
1995: I furthered my studies with spells of employment at Satellite Information Services (SiS, the racing company), where I worked in the text room, relaying betting shows from the course to the betting shops; and, from time to time, I was allowed to write the three paragraph race reports that formed the teletext service. Heady stuff!
I was paid around Â£8,000 a year for full time employment, as a graduate. It seemed that it wasn't possible to do something you loved, and get paid for it. Hmm...
1997: So, having applied for what seemed like a million graduate positions in blue chip corporations (but what was probably about a dozen), I was invited to 'try out' at a selection centre for NatWest Bank.
I had a REALLY good drink the night before the selection day. If any of you are due to be interviewed in the near future, can I respectfully offer a small piece of advice? I would suggest NOT having a really good drink the night before. It is quite possible that the repercussions of said really good drink will impede your ability to perform optimally the next day. It is further possible that you will be slightly annoyed with yourself.
Long and short: I was still drunk when sailing through the 'aptitude' exercises in the morning - in fact, at one point I had to excuse myself to vomit.
The afternoon was comprised of interviews, and here I nearly blew it. Was lucky to get the job, they told me, and only because of my 'best in the intake' performance in the morning session. Interesting...
I spent nearly nine years at NatWest, and latterly RBS, moving from graduate trainee dogsbody to senior project and programme manager in the Group Technology department. I learnt a lot. I bet a lot. I drank a fair amount. And I met a lot of people.
My interpersonal skills, honed in that JobCentre, were a tremendous asset, despite my abject performance during the interviews (I've always been terrible in interviews - I think it goes back to that Echo failure for the journo gig).
Then, in 2006 or thereabouts.... enough! I packed it all in. Frustrated with the politicking of middle management, I turned my back on Corporate Britain to... well, I had no idea what to do next.
As fate would have it, I leapt from the frying pan of RBS into the fire of management consultancy, with a company called pipc. It was hard work. Too hard. Or, more correctly, not my kind of thing.
Not being one to enjoy towing the line, being hired out at an exorbitant rate (almost Â£1500 a day!) felt like the worst kind of whoring. I lasted six months. [Note I wasn't being paid anywhere near that, but pipc were invoicing my employers that]
2006: But, whilst I was at pipc, I'd started to muck about online. No, not that x-certificate kind of mucking about. This was much filthier. I started looking at betting systems, and I bought one (or two...)
I bought one called Trainer Trends - recognise that name from a certain weekly feature on geegeez now?! - and it was based on the premise that some flat trainers line up horses at certain tracks to profitable effect.
Now, these days that's as far from ground-breaking as announcing that a strong coffee will wake you up in the morning... or that six hits with the whip in the final furlong can be very expensive... But at the time, it was a 'eureka' moment for me.
I decided that this average product with a brilliant 'angle' would be something I'd look to replicate, over the jumps. TrainerTrackStats was born.
It was my first foray online, and I flogged about a dozen to fifteen through Google Adwords. Until they banned all gambling advertising.
I'd started my online venture, and within three weeks it was over. But, of the many things I am, I am NOT a quitter - at least not unless I'm beaten.
This is when I figured out that other people who did similar things to me online might be able to help me, meaning I could cut Google out completely.
TrainerTrackStats went on to sell Â£11,016 in around six months. Bits and bytes downloaded over the internet. It was amazing, and changed my life.
2007: In 2007, I started my first blog at NagNagNag, and I wrote all sorts of guff and gubbins there. A bit like I do here at geegeez. That was when I started understanding that I could have a relationship with you fine people, and that it should be a two way conversation.
But then something happened. Actually, it had been happening for a while. I had this really bad problem, where I was spending more money than I was earning. You see, eleven grand is ok from a part-time sideline venture - very good, in fact - but as a primary source of income with a large mortgage on a central London property, it didn't cut the mustard.
So, in September 2007, I went back to work. I did about a year at Lloyd's Register (shipping assurance) as a contract project manager. And, crucially, I persisted with the blog and the trainer-based products.
2008: This was the year it all came together. Working at LR put some good figures in the bank account, which meant I could try to make a go of it again. But I was offered a role working as a right hand man to one of Britain's most successful direct mail entrepreneurs, Tim Lowe. It was an offer I couldn't refuse, though I very nearly did.
The condition of the role was that I'd have to divest all of my business interests. That was, my blog at NagNagNag, and the TrainerFlatStats and TrainerTrackStats brand of products. I mulled it, I hummed and hawed, and I contacted my mate Gavin.
At that time, I could have probably sold the business for Â£25-Â£30k - it was making around that per year. But I didn't want to put my loyal readers into a world where it was impossible to predict if they'd be looked after by the buyer.
If that sounds unlikely, then you don't know me very well.
Gavin took over Nag3 and TTS, and has since introduced his own brand, Festival Trends. He does a fantastic job, and I know many of you follow his antics (and those of his brother, Gary).
Me? I lasted about two months with Tim - significant personality clash, though we remain good friends - and had to start again.
Gavin offered me the sites back. I point blank refused. Again, that's not how I work.
But I did help him with the product launch for TTS that September 2008, and I also launched my own new home, at geegeez. The TTS launch generated over Â£50,000 total product revenues from a launch that lasted a week or so, and both Gavin and I were stunned.
The other significant thing in 2008 was that I met Mrs Matt. I don't really want to write about that here, because it's more private. But suffice it to say that it was very important to me. 🙂
2009: My first full year in business, and turning a profit, and life is amazing. So much so that I spent the last two months touring California with Carole (Mrs Matt), and we lived in San Diego in a beach house for six weeks. Of course, I was still working - I love it and can't help myself - but there was plenty of time for fun as well.
Also, with 49 other intrepid readers, geegeez bought its first racehorse, a young lady called Obvious. Although she was a full sister to a horse called Blog, the only thing that quickly became Obvious was that she wasn't going to win!
Having retired her, we bought another filly, called Always De One, and she was unlucky not to win for us, when 'murdered' in a three runner race at Wolverhampton, the Geegeez Racing Club's spiritual home. Always De One Pace, as she became known, finished 3rd and 4th a few times, but we eventually decided she had to be moved on.
2010: Her replacement, for the 2010/11 Racing Club, was a colt - who soon became a gelding (poor chap) - called Khajaaly. 'Charlie' showed much more relish for racing, though it must be said not straight away.
But after a break, he came back bouncing and Julia was bullish despite his 25/1 odds. Sure enough, he hacked up, and we all had a VERY nice day!
Since then, Khajaaly has won two more races for us, and will hopefully perform with merit on Thursday, when he again tries to conquer all at Wolverhampton.
2011: My fortieth year. I take on some help with the blog - and other sites which form the Summum Bonum Ltd portfolio. First Paul and now Chris do massive amounts behind the scenes to assist; some high class writers are recruited to add high class content to geegeez; excellent reviewers help the community by trialing betting systems and services; and an odds comparison tool is added to geegeez.
Times are tougher than ever since I started, and yet I've invested more than ever into the business. It's my intention to continue to plough profits back into the portfolio, so that you - readers and friends - get as much value as possible.
It is truly a jungle out there, and I want geegeez (and onlinebettingexposed.com, and horseracingman.com, and onlineracingreview.com, and horse-racing.ie, and mattbisogno.com, and horseracingexperts.co.uk, and eforexsystemreviews.com!) to be places that you can trust to play with a straight bat.
On the personal front, I've just returned from a three week stint in France, and more recently from a trip to Champions Day (brilliant), and I consider myself very, very lucky to have enjoyed such a wealth of experiences, especially in the last five years since I first wrote some stuff and posted it to the inter-ether-cyber-webbie-space.
I've made some great friends through this, both readers and other vendors, and I've even managed to show a few other fine souls - Gavin, Kieren and John most recently, to name a few - how to get started online. That, believe me, is a treat. 😀
And I've finally laid the ghost of that interview at the Evening Echo to rest. I get paid to write about horse racing, and there can't be many things in life better than that!
So, yes, experience is a wonderful thing. Far better than age, in my opinion. And I'm looking forward to the next chapter of experiences, many of them shared on these here virtual pages.
Thank you for allowing me to take this journey, and for reading all the way down to here! I promise to write something horse-y related when next you visit. 😉
If you've any pearls of wisdom, or anecdotes from your experiences, feel free to post them on here as a crutch for me, as I finally move into 'real adulthood'... and hopefully, a hatful more great experiences, many of which, as I said, will be shared here with you.
Matt (older, more experienced, but still a racing nut)