Ron Bendell: Is it really worth trying to win the lottery?
An irritating large blue box recently made its debut on the counter at the village shop. It is a National Lottery terminal or, as modern Conservative Party parlance would have it, a Prole Tax Collection Point.
So now, along with having to queue patiently behind old women who insist on paying the £4.98 they owe in coppers and those who pop in just for a chat about Mrs Wonnacott's operation, you have to wait for folk in tracksuit bottoms to hand over what must surely be a significant proportion of their net worth.
But as I stand there musing whether the money should perhaps have been better invested in fresh fruit and vegetables there's also time to think just what they would do if they won the jackpot, perhaps one of those rollovers worth tens of millions.
With wealth beyond their wildest dreams would they go out and acquire a villa near Antibes, perhaps, a schloss towering high in the Salzkammergut or just a pleasant gentleman's estate in the rolling hills of Devon? No. It seems that most would simply buy a caravan.
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In fact, why buy even that? When a couple from Suffolk won £148 million back in August they celebrated the windfall with a few days relaxation in a rented trailer at a park in Scotland. The high life or what?
Apart from a few noisy exceptions it seems that modesty is the word to use when it comes to those who get the big wins. The National Lottery has been looking back at the 3,000 millionaires it has created since it all began in 1994 and has found that most have eschewed all the Champagne, caviare, speed boats and Ferraris in favour of things much more down to earth.
Yes, they'll take a holiday but often with cut-price airlines to familiar destinations and humble accommodation. A new car will be purchased but seldom flashier than an Audi and if they move house it's likely to be into something costing well under a million.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that some carry on as if nothing had happened. They snatch £20 million on Saturday night, for example, and then turn up for work in the gut room at the local abattoir on Monday morning.
This does, of course, beg the question that if they have so little imagination and ambition why do they buy the tickets in the first place? Why, if "none of this will change our lives" did they stand in line at that irritating blue box?
The lack of hedonism does bring benefits for others. The big winners have generously created a further 3,000 millionaires among family and friends and they have started or helped support 900 businesses employing thousands. Many with new-found time on their hands have worked for charity or handed over generous cheques to good causes.
But all this ignores the fact that gambling – purchase of a lottery ticket is certainly that – is essentially selfish. Every pound gained represents a loss to someone else somewhere down the line. It's cruel, it's grasping and it's egotistic. And that's why I love it.
From a game of three card brag in the back bar of the Dog and Duck to the glittery interior of a Las Vegas casino, from buying a raffle ticket for repairs to the church roof to handing over a wodge of notes to a man in a trilby on the rails at Newton Abbot Races, gambling is guaranteed to bring a thrill.
There are, I know, horror stories of addiction and the like and games of chance – along with the fags and booze – offer no way into Methodist Heaven but it provides pleasure and diversion for millions. As long as you always bear in mind that taking the big bonanza is nothing more than a dream you'll be OK. But if fantasy did one day turn into reality would you really be satisfied with a caravan?
Perhaps, though, we should all bear in mind the story of Yorkshire housewife Viv Nicholson who won £150,000 on the football pools back in 1961. She was the one who told the world she was going to "Spend, spend, spend". Sure enough, within just a year or two she was divorced, bankrupt and alcoholic.
Well I can tell you now that all three of those things can be accomplished quite easily without the aid of football pools.