COLUMN: July 27, 2017

A person from a television programme
I HATE raffles. They combine two of my least favourite things – giving away money and admin – and so I tend to avoid them if at all possible.

For this is what happens in raffles. Somebody sidles up to you with a book of tickets and says, “Twenty pence each, five for a pound”, as if I don’t have a GCSE in maths, and you think that sounds reasonable, and you can’t get away with giving them 20p, but you don’t mind handing over a quid.

And so you hand over that quid and then the person with the lanyard – for that person is always wearing a lanyard, as only the most responsible members of staff are entrusted with raffles – says, “Right, just write your name and address on the back of all of the stubs.”

This is pressure you don’t need, because you have to do five times a boring task which you should not be capable of getting wrong, but during which, because you are being watched, you find yourself thinking “Argh! What number do I live in? How do I spell my surname? What is ‘pen’?”

And then you think, “Why am I writing my name and address on the back of the stubs? I have an individually numbered ticket. Isn’t that enough? Isn’t that, as it happens, the point?”

So, I was at my desk, minding the company’s business, when I became aware of money being extorted from colleagues, and my antennae, finely tuned by years of working in the same office, detected that it was not a leaving envelope. There was something about the jingle.

He appeared at the desk next to mine, blindsiding my colleague Barrie. Some people might question the wisdom of putting a Gary and a Barrie next to each other in an office, but I welcome the confusion.

I overheard the conversation, while frantically calculating if I could leave my desk without being detected until the coast was clear. Each ticket was a pound. That’s inflation for you. (For European readers, a pound is roughly equivalent to half a euro.)

I felt in my pocket. I had a two pound coin, a 50p piece, and a couple of copper coins. No idea where they came from. Copper coins are like blue belly button fluff these days. Could I really buy just one ticket? Yes, I could.

But then I heard Raffle Man say which charity it was supporting. Now, I am all for charity, but there are some charities which tend to leave me unmoved. Funds to build garden bridges, for instance, or those which employ people in tabards to stop you in the street in an attempt to obtain your bank details.

However, this charity was a children’s hospice, and there is no arguing with the need for hospices for children.

Raffle Man came to me. “Go on, give me two,” I said, like Rockefeller. I wrote my name and extension number on the back of the tickets – after checking my extension number on the phone twice (I don’t need to know it; I never have to call myself) – and it was only after I had done this that I had a look at the prizes.

There was a range of treats – a bottle of expensive gin, some high street vouchers, that sort of thing. But one thing stood out above all – a pair of tickets to see Mrs Brown live.

You can’t argue with Mrs Brown’s Boys. It is the most popular and highly-rated TV sitcom in years. It makes millions of people happy. It is so popular, somebody thought giving away two tickets would be a good prize.

It is just… its appeal eludes me. I don’t get it. I’d rather watch QVC. Knowing my luck, I chuckled, I’ll win those tickets. And then I forgot about the raffle.

The weekend went past. It was a glorious day. I was humming ELO’s Mr Blue Sky on my way to work, when I received a message.

“You’ve won tickets to see Mrs Brown,” a colleague, who finds the sitcom’s appeal equally elusive, informed me with some glee.

It was the first raffle I have ever won, and now I have to go and sit with thousands of Mrs Brown fans, while watching Mrs Brown. Don’t tell me I can give the tickets away and I don’t have to go. Of course I do. I am a journalist.

And that’s why I hate raffles.

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