Thu | Jul 19, 2018

Gordon Robinson | Who is SWMBO?

Published:Tuesday | June 7, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Readers who also follow me on Twitter (both of them) are confused most Saturdays by my references to SWMBO.

SWMBO is an abbreviation of the name of The Terrible Tout's wife's. Her full name is She Who Must Be Obeyed. "But, but ... ," I hear you stammering (careful what you ask for; remember the buggery law hasn't yet been repealed), "your wife's name is The Old Ball and Chain." Yes, it is. "Wok the heck!" I hear a Chinese chef in the audience exclaiming, "Aren't YOU The Terrible Tout?"

The confusion all began when, as a teenager, I attended a science fair and was accidentally bitten by a radioactive, three-spotted ladybug. Ever since, I've suffered a split personality disorder thingy. During the week, I'm mild-mannered hermit/columnist Gordon Robinson (aka 'GR'), rarely seen in public because I'm Old BC's prisoner. She locks me up, like a mad uncle, in the attic with only a computer and TV for company. Twice per day, a tray with a bowl of gruel for sustenance is slipped under my door.

But, every Friday evening, as shadows lengthen and race books beckon, a painful metamorphosis occurs. My body bursts from its clothing; I grow huge, aggressive and loud. I change into The Terrible Tout, a fat, red, ugly (usually incoherent) monster who snarls at all who draw near. Only one voice gets through to me. It's the glass-shattering screech of She Who Must Be Obeyed (SWMBO) that attaches itself to my lower spine and sends tremors throughout my body. Most sentences begin, "Didn't I tell you not to ... ?"

Oh, my commanding wife,

she wants to destroy my life ... .

The fat, red monster remains until Saturday's last race is run, at which time a calming aura suddenly affects it. Mild-mannered GR returns usually in need of new briefs (I know, TMI). So, for the past 50 years plus, when Friday night winds wail, Touty roams the world's racetracks extracting information, punting perniciously and terrorising bookies.




Every step of the way, I've been accompanied in life by SWMBO's nagging, which has developed over time to be among the world's best. Listeners to the best horse-racing preview programme ever broadcast on radio, The Angel and the Tout, know that, whenever I'm confused by an unfathomable race (which is often) and wish to borrow SWMBO's magical hatpin to make a selection, the loan comes at a price:

SWMBO: Touty. (Yes, dear.) Is you dat? (Yes, dear.)

SWMBO: How yu mean to be coming in dis hour of di mawnin'. (Well, dear ... .) Yu know is 4:30? (Well, dear ... . ) WHAT is dat pon yu shirt? (Where?) LIPSTICK? (But, but, no.) Dear, Lawd ... ."

On Saturday mornings, The Tout often tries to hide by slipping off to the betting shop to watch and punt on English racing. This rarely works. She's ever-present:

Every day I hope and pray

Miss 'Dina would go away.

Every day I hope and pray

Miss 'Dina would go away

My Commanding Wife, popularised in 1970s Jamaica by Boris Gardiner, was originally written by Panamanian calypsonian, Oscar Reid, and recorded by Leroy Gittens and "Oscar Reid y su combo" in 1965. The song was revived in a big way in 2000 when renowned Panamanian ska-rock-fusion band Los Rabanes included a version as the first single on their third album.

When they were first hitched, Touty's sole instruction to SWMBO was NOT to produce a child on a #8 day (long story). Having rescued her (born on March 26, a #8 day; work it out; 2+6=8), from the life of sorrow, loss and humiliation to which she'd been condemned at birth, he felt entitled to at least this minor consideration. Well, on SWMBO's 25th birthday, Touty was at the betting shop (where else?), having placed a large wager on PETOSKI, ridden by the iconic (Wee) Willie Carson.

The field swung for home facing the short Ascot straight and the locally based commentator (reading from a British telex) exclaimed, "Petoski hits the front ..." when a dark cloud descended over the shop. Touty looked up and there was the mother-in-law effortlessly blocking all light while doing her impression of Snoopy doing his impression of a vulture. Her news: SWMBO was at hospital in labour.

Touty was grabbed by the ear, hustled to the mother-in-law's broom (parked nearby) and rushed to UHWI. Eventually, the Ampersand was born and endured five major surgeries in his first five years. After that, Touty decided NOT to issue any more instructions. Better to obey.

Peace and love.

 - Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to