When the UK national lottery was launched two decades ago, excitement, expectation and optimism were unconfined. Despite the odds against winning so much as a brass washer, millions rushed to their local newsagents to buy a ticket for that Saturday night’s televised draw. Ratings went through the roof. Winners were plastered all over the tabloids. It was an authentic money-fest.
Adele Parks’s story parachutes us onto the lottery trail 15 years later. For a decade and a half, Lexi and Jake have played the same six numbers with their bosom friends, the Heathcotes and the Pearsons. All that initial excitement has gone; now it’s just a social ritual with no real expectation of success. Why continue? Two of the couples decide to pull out of the weekly flutter.
They couldn’t have chosen a worse time.
Lexi, Jake and their friends haven’t been complete losers since they started playing the lottery together. They’ve won the odd tenner, and scrupulously divided up their winnings. But most Saturday nights they’ve kissed goodbye to their weekly joint stake and laughed it off. Playing the lottery has actually been a convenient excuse to meet over dinner parties, fish and chip suppers, barbecues, and clinky drinks. For 15 years the six of them have bonded over intimate chats about marriage, bringing up children, mortgages and careers.
But on this particular Saturday, there’s a nasty quarrel. Things are said that probably shouldn’t have been. The Heathcotes and Pearsons announce that they’re not playing the lottery anymore; they’ve decided it’s stupid.
So, Lexi and Jake buy a ticket, alone. And guess what? Next Saturday, their numbers – the same numbers the syndicate have been using all this time – come up. They’ve won £18m.
If you’d left the syndicate just one week earlier, how would you feel? What would you do? Adele Parks gives us a pretty good idea. And it ain’t pretty.