Somebody sent me a cutting from The Spectator. It’s a picture of a woman looking at her calendar, which is clearly labelled August, and saying – ‘Oh, Daaaling, only a hundred and twenty shopping days left before Christmas’.
Bloody season on us already.
I thought I’d get this piece over with a bit earlier this year and concentrate on the one good thing that Santa brings. Namely - fantasy. It’ll just cost you twenty euros to buy a slice of magic and, the sooner you buy one, the longer you’ll enjoy it. You see – it burns out on Lottery Day, which in this case is December 22nd.
It’s the ‘decimo de navidad’, the Christmas lottery.
I win giant sums on the lottery every week, according to the various e-mails that come my way via Nigeria. Sadly, they are all scams. There is no such thing as a huge prize on offer when you never bought a ticket. But here, the ‘decimo’, in fact a tenth of a lottery sheet, which cost you those few bob, will keep you in fantasy, in lalaland, from now until the draw. For the shrapnel in your pocket, you could have three hundred thou in your hot and sweaty for Christmas. In fact, the moment you buy that ticket, you already do have the money, at least until you hear different, you just can’t spend it yet. But you can dream.
A friend says that you have more chance of being hit on the head by a fellow who forgot to pull his rip-cord than winning the Big One. Quite an image, but he’s quite wrong. I’ve already won!
Anticipation is half of the pleasure, although it’s true that I would prefer the gut-wrenching excitement of seeing my lottery ticket on the front page of the daily newspaper. With me attached to it in a proprietary sort of way. Still, I’m having lots of fun these days mentally ordering my new car, my new apartment in Marbella (they are surprisingly cheap at the moment), my crate of old and fine wines and a well deserved holiday for two in Australia.
If there’s anything left after that, perhaps a butler, a Cesna and a yacht might help soak up the remainder.
For some reason, the Lotería de Navidad is known by the English as ‘El Gordo’ when this is just the slang name for the main prize, available from any of the national lotteries that come out, more or less, twice weekly, plus indeed any other huge chance pay-out. There are so many different ways of winning a fortune – or betting one – with the football pools (las quinielas), the daily ONCE blind association’s draw, the ‘primitiva’, the lottos and so on.
Then there is the fascination for the one-armed bandit, whose merrily twinkling lights are always working to intrigue you into slipping the damn thing a euro or two while you are trying to sink a quick nip after a long day at the office. There is even an association to help ludopaths (as they are apparently called – those crazed gamblers who haven’t figured out that the House always wins). It claims that there are a million sufferers in Spain and attempts to wean them off the dice, the cards and games of chance. I bet you know one.
So, it’s risky business buying a lottery ticket and entering into the world of chance, although I feel oddly confident. As the fantasy-writer Terry Pratchett explained once, ‘a million to one in my book is practically a certainty’.
While Homer Simpson would (indubitably) say: ‘A million to one – I like them odds’.