Chasing Waves

How can you turn away from this?

Cornwall and Surfing. I’ve never thought of one without the other.

My earliest associations go back to family holiday visits to the rocky inlet at Trebarwith Strand where each year I would look on as wetsuit clad figures would crash into the water for better or worse.

Nothing epitomises this life aquatic more than the three young Trebarwithian brothers, bronze skinned and blond curly haired, who would play out each carefree summer in red neoprene between rock and sea. I wonder where they are now.

Spectacular Trebarwith
Spectacular Trebarwith

It remains a mystery as to why I never made it onto a surf board myself. Frisbee and frenetic games of badminton on the golden sands were my distraction at low tide and once the beach was reclaimed by the sea we would scramble high up onto the rocks to watch the waves smash in below in the hope that some thrill seeker would get a soaking on the edges. And then to the long departed and sorely missed House On The Strand for cake and familial ribbing. At least we still have that.

Roll on innumerable years. St Ives lies south of my teenage memories. This picture postcard harbour town is best known for its artisan credentials as underpinned by the prestigious Tate Gallery. The westerly beach at Porthmeor may only provide a subplot to the town’s story but it attracts a small but dedicated chapter of surfers who plough the waves from dawn to dusk.

Early sun over Porthmeor
Early sun over Porthmeor

A daily vigil from the expansive ocean facing window of my hilltop holiday loft apartment is educational. With binoculars on full magnification I am able to sit in on a beginners surf school at the sheltered far end of the beach. An instructor demonstrates the transition from prone through to standing in a single fluid movement, now a well rehearsed reflex. He is almost encircled by a crab-shell arrangement of students who lay restlessly on their land-stricken boards with half an impatient eye on the rolling froth that begs their entry.

First surfers of the day
First surfers of the day

This afternoon I don sandals and make a steep descent to the beach with some camera gear. There are perhaps 20 independent thrill seekers in the water at the closest extent of the cove. To my untrained eye the conditions look a little hairy.

Hanging on
Hanging on

More experienced surfers bide their time. If a wave is too premature they ride over it. Too fully formed and they dive under it. There seems to be a lot of discussion between groups friends. Some barely attempt to ride any waves – their immersion in the rolling brine of Porthmeor purely social.

Doing it right
Doing it right

On this October weekday I have to wonder how surfing fits into people’s personal schedules – work, study or family. I guess if you really want to do something you find a way.

Making it look easy
Making it look easy

For every sculpted ride there are several wipe-outs, some spectacular! I’m traversing the beach with a temperamental zoom lens and the closer I get to the action the more I can smell the adrenaline. There’s a palpable sense of energy in the waves and I completely identify with the urge to connect with it.

It’s not easy!
It’s not easy!

Drawn further towards the breaking surf on a rising tide it’s not long before my sandals become soaked. At least now I can stop trying to dodge the water, but it is colder than I realised. The autumnal sun is frizzling away and my body temperature has plummeted but I still can’t drag myself from this scene. I’m forever holding out for one last action shot.

How can you turn away from this?
How can you turn away from this?

The waters are almost empty now and I catch a few words with one of the departees as he drags his board up the beach. Despite suffering with a cold has he been unable to resist the lure of the surf. With a broad smile he tells me that conditions today are brutal. Those entering the water have done so in spite and not because of conditions. “It’s all good!”.

Until tomorrow...
Until tomorrow…

I’m told to keep an eye on one young guy who is “the one to watch”. He’s confident for sure – out some distance beyond the rest. I reposition myself behind a rock out of a gusty wind that is throwing up white caps of foam in the bay, and zoom in on the maestro at work. Twenty minutes later it is becoming decidedly dark and I am chilled to the bone yet star child has done nothing but tread water.

Lassie go home
Lassie go home

The final stragglers are packing it in for the day and I follow suit, retreating through the gloom towards the faint warming glow of the Porthmeor beach café lights. A waft of stale frying oil floats my way and I’m not holding out much hope for a high quality cappuccino. Warm and wind-free will suffice.

Inside my lack of expectation is met. It’s quiet here now, just a lonesome well-wrapped holiday-maker sipping a hot chocolate and a couple of sandy surfers, their mandatory long hair wet and tangled from the day’s encounters.

Just one more wave...
Just one more wave…

From my window I watch the hillside lights of Porthmeor dot on one by one. The seaward view has assumed a bluish hue of monochrome, broken by the distant lamps of small fishing vessels and crabbers.

One human spec bobs on the surface 40 yards from shore. He’s still out there! Waiting for that perfect wave. The dream that won’t die.

Tourist Attraction

Given the weighty number of famous attractions in London and the sheer volume of information telling us where to go and what to see you might be forgiven for thinking no major spectacle could fly under the collective what’s-on radar of the city. Not so.

There’s a constantly evolving show to be witnessed 52 weeks a year all over the city. I am of course referring to the 18+ million tourists who flock in from around the globe and bring the place alive.

As my 6 months working in London comes to an end I have given the tourist question some thought. Why do they come? What do they enjoy? Why aren’t Londoners having this much fun? Duh, forget that last question…

Different point of view
Different point of view

There is no better place to start off than Westminster where a seething mass of people swarm around the landmarks like MPs around an expense claim form. It’s so busy that I’m immediately suspicious of a solitary photographer – what has he seen that nobody else has?

When will I be famous?
When will I be famous?

Standing with my back turned on Westminster Abbey to face a wall of snappers I wonder if this is what it feels like to be famous. Perhaps I will be soon as holidaymakers share their vacation pictures and wonder why I had to intrude on their field of view. They may even mistake me for somebody famous – Martin Freeman, Hugh Laurie, Beaker off the muppets…


Needless to say almost everybody is carrying at least one camera whether it’s a DSLR, bridge camera, compact, phone or tablet and it is their set pieces that unfailingly amuse me…

Mandela - a giant of a man
Mandela – a giant of a man

A statue of Mandela is one of several notable historic figures lining Parliament Square. Nelson stands hands out embracing peace, or perhaps he’s just trying to strangle Big Ben. It’s only natural that a group line up below to do the same.

It's the law
It’s the law

I love witnessing scenes that, despite their clichéd predictability, are genuine and heart warming for those concerned.

Phone Box - looks better than it smells...
Phone Box – looks better than it smells…

To counter the predictable there is always something unexpected to see. A swanky photo shoot looks destined to make the pages of some Japanese wedding magazine. Will a Tokyo bride set her heart on a London ceremony?

Guessing he's a Pole
Guessing he’s a Pole

No sooner have they moved on then a selfie opportunity arises for somebody else. A camera pole makes perfect sense for the solo traveller. We don’t always realise how strong the UK brand is and few icons set the visiting heart aflutter more than a good old red phone box. Alternatively it’s not hard to spot people pretending to post a letter or board a double decker bus as a friend or relative lines them up in the viewfinder.

Stay calm and don't buy anything
Stay calm and don’t buy anything

Needless to say this is fertile ground for merchants of tourist tat. Who seriously buys the “I [heart] London” T-shirts for themselves? Who actually wears the plastic bobby’s helmets? Mind you at £2 I’m tempted myself.

Pizza delivery for number 10
Pizza delivery for number 10

It appears that the tourists are having too much fun elsewhere to get sucked into buying novelty nonsense. Downing Street is portrayed in a sober light on the TV news but right now it’s all smiles as PCs take it in turns to pose for photos.

Dad gets to play horse
Dad gets to play horse

Smiles are strictly forbidden at Horse Guard’s a short stroll further along Whitehall but that doesn’t stop families queuing up to take photos alongside an impassive cavalryman. I have always felt a pang of sympathy for the young men who have to stand for hours in full regalia in all weather while they are photographed. Are they laughing inside at some of the antics or are they a pin drop away from creating a diplomatic incident with their bayonet…

The Griswold family vacation
The Griswold family vacation

Trafalgar Square is a tourist mecca so if you are into street photography this is a turkey shoot. An American family takes a break. The boys are hyper, mom has stopped to take bearings (again) and dad has this resigned look that says “I’m keeping out of this”.

School's out
School’s out

You see lots of groups here. What memories will members of this school party take home with them? Whether it is the treasures of the National Gallery (as envisioned by parents and teachers) or an induction to the “unique” fish and chips experience I like to think their adventure will live long in the mind.

Don't make it angry
Don’t make it angry

With so much of the world now on the tourist map I suspect that Britain still offers something a little different to the seasoned traveller. Where else can you queue up to clamber onto a national monument without even a sideways look from the authorities?

Silver Ghost
Silver Ghost

Let’s not kid ourselves you could witness some of the street performances in any continent but it feels like there’s less wariness here. People seem uninhibited and are eager to be drawn into the action.

Much ado about bathing
Much ado about bathing

Leicester Square plants the biggest smile on my face. As I bask in the strong afternoon sun a South American couple settle on the adjacent bench and their young children go to play in the fountain that encircles William Shakespeare. The little girl is having the time of her life playing in the water, mum is laughing along and dad is capturing it all on camera for future enjoyment.

Copping an ice cream
Copping an ice cream

A street party on Regent Street means that it is closed for traffic on this hot summers day. I grasp the sense of adventure visitors must feel as they walk across what amounts to a virtual monopoly board. So many familiar names and places and now the real thing.

Keeping them in suspense
Keeping them in suspense

Covent Garden seems to be crammed full of visitors at any time of day. They are lapping up the entertainment and who can blame them? This wasn’t in the tourist guide.

Serenaded to the collection hat
Serenaded to the collection hat

Downstairs tourists are serenaded by an ensemble of professional musicians who perform with infectious spirit. An enthusiastic applause echoes around the chamber and it’s clear that people want to be involved with what they are seeing. It also appears that Americans are the best tippers.

Painted lady
Painted lady

Outside it goes on and on. The day is starting to catch up with me but there’s an endless wave of energy bouncing off people having a great time. Do they ever tire? Well I do and it’s time to catch the 87 bus and take in many of today’s sights from the top deck on my way home.

Gawd bless you!
No caption required

Of course, it’s never over. I have loved the melting pot of nationalities, languages and cultures on my walk – a cosmopolitan sea of humanity. I have loved watching people take such joy from performances, places and objects that would fail to stir a glance from so many residents. And I have loved individuals like this gentleman for providing me with such visual entertainment. Gawd bless you guvnor!

Does anybody have more fun in London than the tourists?

Working from home?

They say that job hunting is a job in itself. After a few months away from it all I can vouch for this as I get serious about resuming my career. I treat weekdays as workdays and consider myself to be working from home.

In my previous jobs I worked from home from time to time and really appreciated it. The opportunity to have an extra hour in bed and yet start working at the same time. The chance to really focus on complicated problems without distraction. The knowledge that I can spend an extra half hour getting over the finish line without worrying about straying into the evening rush hour. My employers benefitted too from my extra productivity and, in many cases, extra hours.

The WFH commute
The WFH commute

Now, well, it’s different. When every working day is a WFH day I miss the invigorating 15 minute walk to the office in the fresh morning air. OK it was a noisy, polluted march in all weather along a litter strewn artery of Nottingham taking care to avoid smug-as-you-like cyclists hogging the pavement despite an on-road cycle lane two yards away. But now my journey involves 10 paces and I’m hardly alert or stimulated for the day ahead.

The sort of thing I used to encounter on my walk into work
The sort of thing I used to encounter on my walk into work

The lack of exercise has turned me into a pent-up coil of potential energy and any opportunity to get up from my chair is welcome. If I’m expecting a delivery the twang of the letterbox hurls me downstairs in a state of unwarranted enthusiasm, only to discover yet more straight-to-bin junkmail – a previous focus for my attention.

Straight to bin – a mad world
Straight to bin – a mad world

It’s not just the letterbox. There are more home interruptions during the day than I had realised. Today alone I’ve had the Jehovas witnesses, a marketing cold call and a wrong number from somebody less well versed with the English language, which is a shame because I can go all day without talking to anybody and then when somebody does ring we are incommunicado.

Sometimes I’m in the zone and all is well but on other occasions distractions seem to be everywhere,for good and for bad. On the good side the birds have been holding some sort of happy convention in my garden this week and I’ve left the window ajar to listen into their joyous cacophony. The two squirrels in my garden may be infuriatingly naughty, what with their pillaging of my bulbs, upending of pots and suspected drug dealing, but they beat TV for entertainment. My highlight this week was a stand-off on my fence between one of them and a regular feline visitor.

Hey Gringo, this fence is too small for the both of us
Hey Gringo, this fence is too small for the both of us

The bad: The siren call of social media. The contents of my fridge. An irrational (as-yet resisted) desire to watch The Professionals mid afternoon, despite the fact I’m not that interested and could record it if I so wished. Note: If you click one on link today make it The Professionals

I’m also surprised by the amount of comings and going that take place in my street, occurrences I would be oblivious to under normal circumstances:

  • Severn Trent curiously sending 2 workmen to dig a hole in the pavement and throw fag ends into it before filling it in and shooting off. Is this what their waste management policy has come to?
  • Drama in next doors back garden as a crack team of labourers removed all the patio slabs, laid down some sand and then departed to leave me wondering about the end product. The mystery was hardly solved upon their return as they proceeded to replace the slabs, some very obviously the wrong way up, aside from those they managed to smash. To top off this service they left the lawn looking like some recreation of the Somme, deep in mud and without a blade of grass. Unless they were disposing of a body I’m at a loss to explain any of this.

My exposure to all of these unworkly temptations has left me feeling a tad guilty. I’m left with a nagging feeling that full-time working from home lark somehow isn’t right – based purely on my outdated 9-5 office lifestyle of the last 20 years rather than any logic.

No personal clutter allowed on a hot desk!
No personal clutter allowed on a hot desk! This was extreme…

Modern working life is becoming increasingly complicated. Aside from WFH many employees work all sorts of hours, perhaps to satisfy global corporations operating across different time zones. There seems to be an upturn in hot-desking too whereby office workers don’t have their own allocated desk.

In Derby for instance there’s a progressive initiative to increase hot-desking availability to cater for an increasing number of small start-up companies needing a formal environment on an ad-hoc basis, plus I suspect larger organisations reducing their office sizes faster than their work forces.

No doubt I’ll find myself pining for a commute free day once I’m back in the flow of commuter meltdown but for now the grass seems greener on the other side – if not the other side of my fence.

Twas the day before Christmas

Into the woods

I don’t like queueing in traffic. I don’t like shopping when it’s busy. In the build up to Christmas these are the modest first world problems we must face. My trip to the supermarket was played out in slow motion as the chaos unravelled all around me.

Shoppers teetered on the edges of their patience apart from a delightful calm frail old lady, wide eyed and static amidst the frothing sea of madness as if waiting for somebody to lead her across a busy road. Here’s to her! I wonder what she thought of it all…

Twas the day before Christmas
Last chance to shop
I had bought all the presents
This was no time to stop

The food now needs buying
A list had been made
Now out to the supermarket
In the rain I’m afraid

The traffic was portentous
Never such queues
I suppose it was obvious
This day all would choose

To stock up their larders
With seasonal fare
So I held my breath
And for battle prepared

The cars they went nowhere
So I parked up and walked
Past drivers tight lipped
And passengers fraught

A walk through the car park
Though huge, with no space
And into the foyer
Last basket, worried face

Such scenes I have never
Encountered before
Trolleys were bashing
Like uncut Robot Wars

Gripping my basket
I dodged down the aisle
Weaving staccato
Through chicanes with guile

Couples with trolleys
Piled to the hilt
Are they feeding an army
Or feeding their guilt

Screaming young children
I know how they feel
Dragged here unwilling
You got a raw deal

Bewildered old granny
Waiting in line
With patience unworldly
For sherry and wine

To add to the carnage
A bottle is dropped
And aisle 9 is coned off
Until it is mopped

The air hums with tension
And shoppers are stressed
Perish the thought
If it’s not Sainsburys Best

Staff work like trojans
On endless till lanes
Cliff Richard on loop
How do they stay sane

My wait for self-checkout
Is mercifully short
Unrecognised item in bagging area
That didn’t scan like I thought

I fall through the exit
And rain hits my face
I made it in one piece
Survived the rat race!

Twas the day before Christmas
A tale of our time
When we see friends and family
It’s all going to be fine

My thanks to Clement Clarke Moore whose considerably superior parable Twas the night before Christmas was a source of inspiration.

Merry Christmas!

What’s the Alternative?

If you have been anywhere near a TV, radio, newspaper or web browser in the last three months you will have heard about people fighting for democracy in countries across Northern Africa and the Middle East. In general terms they are fighting for the right to elect their chosen government, to kick out the dictators, to determine their own future. In Tunisia and Egypt the transitions were relatively bloodless. In Libya the majority of the population struggles to defend themselves from a better armed minority, the outcome uncertain.

Tunisia - reclaimed
Tunisia – reclaimed

Egypt - reclaimed
Egypt – reclaimed

Libya - wobbling
Libya – wobbling

Rulers in several other countries are cracking down mercilessly on their own people in fear of similar revolutions, but the secret is out and people are beginning to realise that they are not alone, that change IS possible. Another example of social media changing the world, but I digress…

The struggle for democracy

People spanning the entire political and social spectrum are united in their unstoppable desire to live without persecution in a free and democratic homeland. They are prepared to stand side by side and risk everything they hold dear in order to achieve this aim. The basic rights we take for granted, the political systems we feel so alienated by are their shining prize.

The struggle with democracy
We have democracy – yet we are still unhappy about lots of things as was evident be the huge March 26th demonstration in London in protest to government cuts.

Despite our democratic system people feel disenfranchised and ignored by their elected representatives.


Last year’s general election was very negative. Labour had completely lost it’s way, the majority of people couldn’t stomach the idea of the Tories but the Liberals weren’t deemed credible enough to take full advantage, hence a hung parliament. A great many people either didn’t vote or they voted tactically – ie: not for who they wanted but against who they didn’t want. There’s a wide held belief that politicians put themselves first, then their parties and finally the voters. Argue the ethics of this as much as you will but…

…until the interests of politicians and voters are aligned then nothing will change.


The shape of democracy
I believe that when it comes to the vote “democracy” should fulfill a few basic criteria:

Elect the candidate with the broadest range of support. Presently if there is a 50% turnout of voters and 3 serious candidates (say Con, Lab & Lib) the winner theoretically needs only 17% of the possible votes to win the seat. What sort of moral mandate can this MP claim to have when potentially 83% of the electorate don’t want them in power?
Each vote should hold an exactly equal value. Due to the slicing and dicing of electoral boundaries an MP in one parliamentary constituency needs less votes to claim office than a candidate in another constituency. An extreme example of this is The Western Isles where 22,000 are able to vote vs the Isle Of Wight with 111,000 potential voters. In takes potentially 5 times as many voters to elect an MP in the IOW.
The system should encourage people to vote positively – for the candidate they WANT. In elections now many votes are cast for a party people don’t want in order to oppose a party the want even less

A vote on a vote
On May 5th we the voters will have an extremely rare chance to shift the political landscape and consequently alter the mindset of voters and politicians when it comes to engagement on the issues we care about. On May 5th there will be a referendum where we can vote to introduce a new electoral voting system for electing MPs called the Alternative Vote (AV) or to retain the existing First Past The Post (FPTP) system. As referendum day draws nearer there is a lot of information and disinformation flying around concerning the mechanics of these competing systems and the potential implications of them. Here is my take on all of this.

First Past The Post

Voting process
You get to cast a single vote for a single candidate

And the winner is…
The candidate with the most votes wins, regardless of the number of votes cast

Arguments for…

It’s simple – the candidate with the most votes wins.
The vote count is relatively quick

Arguments against…

MPs can get elected based on low public support
Unless you vote for a party with a serious chance of winning your vote is wasted, leading to…
Tendancy towards high levels of tactical voting

Alternative Vote

Voting process
You can assign order of preference to one or more candidates from the available list.
In more detail: You write a “1” against your preferred candidate and if you have a second choice candidate you can choose to write a “2” against them, and continue if desired with ever increasing numbers against as many different candidates as you wish.

And the winner is…
If one candidate gets more than 50% of the votes they win
If no candidate gets more than 50% of the votes then the last placed candidate (Mr X) is removed from the equation and votes are redistributed to the remaining candidates based on the second choices of those for whom Mr X was number 1 choice.
The above process continues until one candidate gets more than 50% of the votes.
It’s much simpler to visualise this with the Electoral Commission AV voting diagram

Arguments for…

Electoral winners would reflect the majority view of voters.
Tactical voting is eliminated
Candidates will try to appeal to potential second choice voters reducing negative campaigning

Arguments against…

Opponents to AV argue that the system will cost more to administer than FPTP
The additional rounds of voting will mean that the vote count takes longer

Is there an alternative to the alternative?
The long answer is that there are many types of voting system. The Electoral Reform Society website lists ten types for starters, explaining how the rival systems works and their pros and cons. I can’t vouch for the neutrality of this website but it’s worth a read.

Perhaps the most vocally expressed alternative to FPTP and AV is Proportional Representation (PR). Supporters of PR claim that this should be our adopted voting system and not FPTP or AV, which leads us onto…

The short answer is that on May 5th we only have 2 choices, so alternatives to these are irrelevant at this time.

Further Reading

First Past The Post Pro-FPTP I’m trying to keep a straight face and stay neutral on this but the stated arguments for FPTP and against AV smack of desperation. I can’t find many other websites in support of FPTP.
Alternative Vote Pro-AV
Proportional Representation Pro-PR

What to do?
I can only speak for myself. I don’t think AV provides a panacea but I do believe it is a significant improvement on FPTP. Imagine voting for your preferred candidate whatever their perceived chance of winning. Even if you know they won’t win you can express your preference but use lower ranking votes to ensure your general wishes are reflected in the overall scheme of things. The potential benefits as I see them?

Parties with wide support that have previously been frozen out by tactical voting will receive all their votes
Candidates have to appeal to all voters so that they can pick up 2nd votes, reducing negative campaigning
A by-product of the above point is that the views of secondary parties are more likely to be adopted by the leading parties meaning that widespread public opinion can no longer be ignored

I don’t believe in abstaining from the vote on the basis that it is not a perfect solution as opportunities for any vote on reform seldom come around. In addition, should FPTP be retained it’s exponents will take this as a mandate to keep things in check for much longer – a bit like the party that takes power with the backing of 25% of the population saying that their “success” is valid.

Most likely you are already familiar with much of the above due to the ever increasing coverage of the forthcoming referendum, so why am I telling you what you already know? Because we need to be proactive in standing up to those who would try to deceive us into uncertainty in the hope we will abstain or vote against change.

When politicians realise that their arguments are full of holes they try to move the debate away from the facts because they know they will lose that battle. Instead they attempt to scaremonger and create uncertainty. This for instance taken from the No to AV website:

The change to AV will cost up to an additional £250 million. Local councils would have to waste money on costly electronic vote counting machines and expensive voter education campaigns.


There’s no mention of how they come to this figure – it looks like a number plucked out of the air. And even if the figure was true is cost a reason to forgo democracy? Even then we can play the spin-doctors at their own game and point out that such an outlay would represent a huge boost to employment in these hard economic times.

And this from the No 2 AV – Yes 2 PR website:

The notion of AV as a ‘stepping stone’ to PR is wishful thinking: No country has ever moved from AV to PR.


I don’t honestly appreciate the subtleties of PR but suggesting that we should vote no to PR and so provide FPTP campaigners with ammunition they don’t deserve is laughable – in fact it is a prime example of tactical voting – one of the few things that followers of all parties agree is a bad thing. Furthermore the implication that we should forgo evolution because it is not revolution is self defeating and baseless. Finally I can’t help thinking that the people with most to gain from No 2 AV – Yes 2 PR are the FPTP crowd. Is it beyond the realms of possibility that they have covertly put their weight behind this as a means to confuse indecisive voters into a No vote?

So there are no guns pointed at us, our basic freedoms are not withheld from us by the state and we are lucky to be in this situation as others fight for these rights, but I am not complacent about or satisfied with the status quo. The status-quo that sees bailed out bankers on massive bonuses again while swathes of public sector workers are axed. The status-quo that facilitated the MP’s expenses scandal. The status-quo that compels politically savvy voters to vote for candidates they don’t want while a new young generation of voters feel so estranged from modern politics that they don’t bother to vote at all.

The 5th May referendum provides us with an extremely rare chance to cast a positive vote that might just breathe life back into our tired and broken political system.


In case you didn’t guess, I will be voting in favour of AV on May 5th. I will be doing so for positive reasons.

Ticket to nowhere

Somebody just won £113m on the lottery this morning. It’s not me. I know this because I don’t buy a ticket, but evidently a lot of other people do, and it got me thinking. Lottery – good or bad?

What do you do with that kind of money if your numbers come up? To be sufficiently wealthy that you don’t have to worry about money and can do almost what you want in life is one thing, but £113m? It seems a gratuitous amount for one person – or even a small syndicate – to win. What are the possible effects on the winner?

It's a numbers game
It\’s a numbers game

We hear about lottery winners who fritter their winnings, hit rock bottom and wish they had never won. I’m sure there are also plenty of very happy, well adjusted winners but there will likely be other issues. Lots of “friends” you didn’t know you had are going to come out of the woodwork and plenty of people will be at hand to offer bad advice. What do you do with your life? Just turn up at work on Monday as if nothing has changed? If you are happy with life as it stands the money thing will probably present some obstacles in terms of other peoples behaviour towards you and the dynamic will change. The most interesting thing about you will be your fortune and it will be the opening line to many conversations. But what about the old Tim?! And do you really want to effectively retire at a young age? What do you do with your life and how do you forge new relationships? How do you re-define yourself?

After a honeymoon period of spending and adjusting to money-is-no-object living will come the realisation that you are still the same person you were before the win, just wealthier. Most of the problems you had before will persist. Depression sufferer? No change. Discordant relationship with a relative? No solution. Worried about the health of a friend? You could pay for their medical treatment but until we are able to defrost Walt Disney we are all the fragile subjects of nature’s whim.

It’s not so much the money but the mode of acquisition. People who have worked from nothing to earn millions understand the value of money and even if they got there with a degree of good fortune they undertook a journey to reach that wealth. There will have been times where they were faced with tough choices – remortgage the house to invest in the business, ostracise themselves to work the hours to further their career, etc. Others faced with the same decisions will consciously have chosen security and sociability ahead of potential wealth. Lottery winners skip this journey and cannot be naturally equipped to deal with the wider impact of the win.

And then there’s the concept of the lottery itself. Huge numbers of people spend a pound, fiver, tenner each week for virtually no return. Sure, but it’s harmless enough. Most people probably do it as a bit of fun. They can sit around the telly in the evening and dream of what might be for a few minutes before they tear up the ticket and head for the kettle. I’m not so sure. Think of the countless people who missed out on a win because they lost their ticket, changed their numbers and their previous numbers came up, or perhaps they want to stop buying a ticket but dare not for the same reason. Then there’s the problem of syndicates. You left the syndicate just before they won? Bad luck. You are a member of a syndicate but are a couple of weeks behind on paying your subs? I’ll take you to court for my share of the winnings. Many non-winners can face emotional turmoil in such circumstances, suffering depression, guilt, stress, broken relationships, deep unhappiness – and for what?


Who couldn’t use the £50, £100, £500 a year given to the lottery for something more constructive? Imagine instead channelling that money towards an annual magazine subscription, a day at the races, a spa break in 2 years time or a blow out trip to New York in 5 years time. Or how about if everyone in your neighbourhood channelled their combined annual lottery spend into local projects. Imagine the social transformation you could see on your own doorstep. Perhaps the time is right for the AntiLottery – a non-commercial not-for-profit initiative which sees your money spent within your own postcode on socially inclusive projects chosen by local people.

So is there any reason to buy a lottery ticket? You like a flutter? The chances of wining £113m were 76 million to 1 and I never understand why people flock to buy tickets on rollover week when the odds of a big win lengthen. Better if you must to buy the week after a large claim when it has quietened down and the jackpot is lower. Gamblers don’t do the national or Euro lottery because the odds are dreadful. Do the Irish national lottery or go to a casino where you know the odds and you might have some fun.

Famous two fingered logo
Famous two fingered logo

But Tim you are such a killjoy, it’s not about winning! Think about all of the good causes funded by the lottery. I’m not going to try and defend my bah-humbug mentality (you win) but I would seriously challenge the assertion that doing the lottery is in any way altruistic. Only 28% of your money goes towards “good causes” and you effectively have no say in what these causes are or where they are based. There is a strong argument that the government reduces their funding in some sectors and lets the lottery take some of the strain. Meanwhile the charity sector loses out on public donations that they might otherwise have received. So if it’s charity you are interested in you should give directly and cut out the middle men who take profit, tax and operating costs out of the pot and then decide on their choice of recipient, which may subsequently lose out on government funding as a result.

Would I like to win lots of money? Duh – of course! But it’s not a panacea. Be careful what you wish for. It could be you.

May 6th and all that

Tims shameful contribution

A tough decision awaits us. Three dogs – but only two sacks and two bricks. Which two are you going to bag up and drop overboard in the middle of the lake and which one survives to sleep at the foot of the bed? It’s a tough call, but let’s consider our choices.

The  Red  one we know all about. We have kept it for over a decade and that’s old in dog years. I remember when we first got it as an eager young puppy. It was a lively breath of fresh air after our previous old mutt had to be put down. In recent years though it has become increasingly burdensome and it craps on the carpet with maddening regularity. Let’s face it – things can only get worse.

What about the  Blue  dog that yaps incessantly for our attention? Sure it is oh so eager to please but we all know that carefully coiffured fur coat can barely disguise the mongrel beneath. And my does it eat – what a greedy hound. The rest of us will have to go hungry, and we can’t go on like that.

That just leaves us with the  Yellow  dog. The yellow dog may turn out to be faithful and true, although we don’t really know. It has an unknown pedigree and always seems to lag behind the other dogs in a race. Maybe it’s a little bland but at least it is different and that could be what we need, a real alternative.

Many of us have come to the conclusion that they are all the same, that it doesn’t matter. They would like to drown all three but that’s not going to happen. A small minority of people want a Green dog even though it’s not really a dog at all, or a snarling British bulldog that can’t wait to get off the leash and bite next doors children. Perhaps we should keep cats instead. That’s just crazy right?!

Soon we will all have the chance to decide who’s top dog. One thing’s for sure, until we make our minds up on May 6th the non-stop barking is going to drive us all mad.