"Mum normally wakes me up at 8.30pm. I live at home with her and my two younger brothers. None of my family is interested in betting. My boyfriend is, but he knows not to ask me about horses after work. Not like my dad's friends. They'll phone up and ask about the odds on a horse. I'll think, 'For God's sake, leave me alone'. I get questions all day. People think that I'm up on form and can give them tips, but we don't get to hear anything like that.

I only ever bet on the Grand National. I've never won anything, but it's a brilliant day to work. You have to fill out slips for people who don't normally bet and the shop gets unbelievably busy. I really enjoy working with the public - that's why I wanted this job.

My parents say, 'Is that really a girl's job?' and 'Is it not horrible working there, with all the smoke and everything?' It does get a wee bit smoky but we have air conditioning and it's a really lovely shop. If anything, more women work in betting shops than men. We do everything, mind - take bets, work out winnings and pay the money out. A lot of the managers are men, though. That's my ambition, to be a manager.

The biggest problem is when someone doesn't get a bet in on time. Sometimes we'll put one on if the race has only just got going. You're not supposed to, but if we know the customer, och, well, we'll just take it. But if they are too late, you just have to say sorry and try to calm them down.

The shop opens at 10am. The same faces come in every morning. I know them so well now, I make tea to warm them up. I suppose they must be hooked, but they don't seem like gamblers. They just enjoy betting. It passes the day for them. A lot of them are retired. They just like the excitement of watching a race and not knowing what's going to happen. It's an added bonus if they win. It's nice to see people happy. Someone who won pounds 2,000 from a pounds 1.65 bet bought us girls a box of chocolates each. Another time we were given pounds 10. That's nice.

When customers lose, they never take it out on us. That's the gamble they take. I feel sorry for them when they put a lot of money on. But folks just like to gamble. Most people pay for bets in cash. The biggest bet I've ever taken was for pounds 1,000. More people have been coming in since the National Lottery started.

The maddest bet I've taken was for Michael Jackson to be the next President of America. I had to phone our betting control office to get the odds, something like 3,000:1.

The shop closes half an hour after the last race. In winter, that's 5pm, but in the summer, when night racing is on, the shop is still open at 9.30pm. It gets very busy then. You can work as much overtime as you like, which is good because it means I get to go on holiday.

In the evenings, when I'm not doing aerobics I sit down and watch television. My ears and head get so used to the noise of the shop, it sounds far too quiet when it's not on."

Sally Williams

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