The impossibility of losing a raffle


Posted by in August's Magazine

I remember as a child buying a raffle ticket with my pocket money, and winning a pack of 200 cigarettes. I was disappointed because I had had my eyes on the manicure set, and cigarettes were of no use to me. I gave them to my grandfather, but even he was disappointed, because he actually preferred to smoke a pipe.

Years later, John Major, the then Prime Minister, gave us the National Lottery. I bought a single ticket – once – but I got cold feet. What if I won? How would I cope with being a millionaire? And in Leith, of all places. I panicked and gave the ticket to my son, who forgot to check his numbers.

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So you see, I’ve never been much of a gambler, and even when I lived at the Foot of the Walk, I failed to be tempted by the plethora of betting shops in the vicinity of my flat on Kirk Street. Now that I’ve moved to a small village in the far north of Scotland, things have changed and I’m making up for lost time.

Life in the city is simple. If you want to see a play or a film, you buy a ticket and see the show. End of story. In village communities, the entertainment is more homespun, and the prices reflect this. There is, however, a hidden cost to the consumer of village entertainment. It’s the organisers’ not-so-secret weapon – The Raffle.

It works like this. You buy your ticket for some event, a coffee morning or an illustrated talk, for example, and next to the table where the tickets are being sold is the Person in Charge of The Raffle.

“Would you like any raffle tickets?” The Person in Charge of the Raffle asks you. You glance at the prizes on offer, and decide that the last thing you need is an Edwardian Lady address book, or a hand-knitted dishcloth. You want to say no, but you can’t, because it’s all in aid of a Good Cause (village communities are rife with Good Causes), and you don’t want to look mean. So you go with the flow and enter The Raffle.

Time was when you bought a single raffle ticket, but it’s all strips of tickets now, and the going price for a strip is a pound. These books of strips come in various pastel shades. There is nothing subtle about this. You are expected to buy a strip in each colour. If there are three colours, you buy three strips. If there are four colours, you buy four strips. And so on. If you are feeling particularly generous, you buy two strips of each colour. You won’t get much change from a tenner, but don’t worry; it’s all in aid of the Good Cause.

No use whatsoever
When the entertainment or event comes to a close, it’s time to draw the Raffle. There is a palpable tension in the air. Who will win the bottle of Liebfraumilch, or the box of Black Magic? Once these prized items have been claimed, the real fun gets under way. If your number is called you have to go to the table of prizes and select the prize of your choice. All the prizes will have been donated, and you will be hard pushed to find anything in the array of goods that is of any use whatsoever, but you’ve got to make a decision.

Would you rather have the scented candle, or the heart-shaped photo frame, or the pot pourri? It’s bad form to linger; because it shows that you care what prize you take home. (Remember, you must not look as though you are trying to benefit in any material way from all this: you are supporting the Good Cause.) Often it’s not a case of taking what you want, but taking what you don’t want the least, if you get my drift.

If you win two prizes, you must forego the second, and announce cheerily to the assembled crowd that the ticket must be called again. The aim – and the reason for this will become clear – is for as many people as possible to go home with something.
Gradually the prizes disappear from the table. The bath cubes, the box of handkerchiefs, the shower gel and the set of place mats all find a new home.

When it’s all over you must very carefully take your prize home with you and keep it in a safe place. You do this because this will be the prize that you donate to the next village Raffle.

Looking around at our sophisticated young people with their smart phones and other electronic gadgets, where, I wonder, are the purchasers of raffle tickets of the future? Will the nation’s youth, over time, undergo some transformation, and become seduced – or coerced – into thinking that they really want to pay well over the odds for the chance of winning a set of attractive coasters, or a packet of tea lights? Will they, in other words, change into us?

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