Spectator: Beyond the dreams of avarice

Lucy dreams of wealth.

If I won the lottery… If I were Prime Minister (PM)… If I were on Desert Island Discs (DID)… Standard chapters in the almanac of any occasional insomniac and a perfect way of whiling away the small hours, although it’s perhaps best not to let things get out of proportion. If you find yourself emailing Radio 4 at dawn, suggesting that, next time it needs to raise funds, it should sell the chance to get on DID for £1 a go because they’d sell a lot of tickets—and not solely to insomniacs—don’t expect a reply. Dawn ideas are like that.

Last week, Alfie and I went on a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament, so I might spend a little longer tonight on what I’d do as PM—usually, I nod off quite quickly—because it was rather appealing: beautiful surroundings, lots of people looking purposeful and a marvellous sense of history and drama, with an intoxicating whiff of power.

The vote certainly sounds exciting: being locked in, running to make sure you get there within eight minutes or being locked out, bagging your seat in the morning with a Prayer card if you’re a Tory/Lib Dem, but not if you’re Labour (who don’t approve of this). Leaning back on your bench to hear robust debate through speakers set into the leather (they’re not asleep/bored after all), the very democratic Commons lobby.

But then I think about the play This House, set in the Whip’s Offices on both sides after the early-1974 election that resulted in a hung parliament, with deals and counter deals and each vote being so tight that MPs were wheeled through the lobbies from their hospital beds if necessary. I don’t have the stomach for it. I’ll move on to the lottery.

This is equally hypothetical as the chances of winning are about one in 14 million and, as I never buy a ticket, my chances have been nil. That was, until the other day, when we were given fortune cookies in a Thai restaurant. They came with fortune numbers, so we felt that perhaps the lottery gods were smiling on us and it would be foolish to ignore them. We bought five tickets on the way home.

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We began to argue about how to divide the jackpot before we’d even left the newsagent’s. Zam and I suggested that we divide it five ways. We’d give one-fifth to the non-related member of the syndicate with whom we’d had lunch and we’d divide the four remaining shares into six so that Olive and Will (who were absent) wouldn’t miss out. We wouldn’t let the children have a penny until they were at least 35, although Zam and I could spend at our leisure. And we wouldn’t tell a soul.

These last three points went down badly, so, in order to maintain a shred of family harmony, we agreed that all children could spend £1,000 before they were 35, but when Alf said his would be spent on computer games, we changed our minds.

Clutching our tickets, we then bumped into a friend, a keen gambler, who told me that the best thing would be to invest the money in Premium Bonds—the odds of winning are about one in 26,000, which, compared to the lottery, looks like a dead cert.

I mention this to my mother, who tells me that my siblings and I have a Premium Bond each, given to us by our grandmother. This was news to me and I quickly found out that there is £50 millions in unclaimed prizes lying around at National Savings and Investments (NS&I), presumably with my name on.

‘I think they tell you when you’ve won,’ she said, but she dug them out and read me the numbers, which I attempted to put into the online prize checker. Our bonds are so old that they pre-date the necessary customer numbers so I must write in.

As PM, I’ve only come up with two policies, I always struggle with my DID luxury and I’ll probably never write to NS&I— the lottery tickets brought nothing but trouble. I don’t know. Perhaps I’ll sleep on it.

* More from Country Life’s Spectator