Scratch prizes

A Porsche SUV with a personalised number plate was parked outside the convenience store. The driver was at the checkout telling the assistant what she wanted. Her requests were for a variety of different National Lottery scratch cards. Finally, with a handful of cards, she decided that she had all that she wanted.

“£50, please,” said the assistant.

The woman inserted a gold coloured credit card a pressed a number into the key pad. Handed the receipt, she put the scratch cards into her handbag and walked out to her car.

£50 on scratch cards, why would anyone want to spend £50 on scratch cards? Perhaps she was buying them for a group of people. Perhaps there was a syndicate of people who contributed to a weekly fund to buy the cards.

Scratch cards never seemed very exciting investments.  Were I a gambling person a bet on a racehorse or some other competitive sporting contest would seem to offer some excitement, the shouts of encouragement as the runners entered the final furlong, but there seems little that is thrilling about a scratch card.

Perspectives change though, I remember buying a raffle ticket in a Christmas auction and it providing weeks of anticipation, hours of imagining.

It must have been the early-1970s, for the raffle ticket cost 2p. But with the inflation of the middle years of that decade, it cannot have been much later than 1972 or 1973.

The ticket was green and I must have kept it at least until the following March. I felt that the organisers might need time to contact me to tell me that I had won and that, when they eventually did, I would need to produce the ticket to show them I was entitled to the prize.

The top prize in the raffle was £50, a huge sum of money at the time. Large number of tickets at 2p each would have needed to have been sold simply to have covered the cost of the prizes.

£50 was equivalent to at least two weeks of wages for an ordinary person. In those less affluent times, it was the sort of sum of money of which a schoolboy might dream.

For at least three months, that 2p ticket was a source of inspiration. The £50 was spent in many different ways. All the things I wanted could have been bought, and there would still have been money to spare.

Perhaps the scratch cards inspire a similar imagining, although having a Porsche would not leave many things on the list of the things that were wanted.

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