Grown-ups got up to things each Christmastide.
Long after we were fast asleep, they came -
strange relatives whom we had never met,
and what they did, they did in our front room!
Next morning we would find them on the floor,
out for the count and snoring through the fug.
It took a war to lay their secrets bare:
those who had puzzled us, no longer came,
and I was getting older all the time,
so grown-up thinking was for things to change,
and they invited me to join their gang -
a rite of passage as I see it now.
Ten round the table, ten o'clock. In comes
Granddad with some toy like a roulette wheel.
On the wheel are images of horses,
all varying in size. He who was big
enough to hog the rim, would hog the chances.
We played with pennies or with coloured chips.
(Before I joined, I think they played for more.)
Beside the wheel a board laid out the odds.
On this we placed our bets. It was quite rare
for one of us to win or lose a lot
but that had happened once - before granddad
engaged a "letterer" to change the odds.
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