Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What a lotto luck

Admit it, we’ve all thought it. At some stage this week - and perhaps even more than once or twice - a certain phrase, mostly likely involving the word ‘Jammy’, has entered your head.
Perhaps like me, you’ve forgotten it is the holy season of Lent and followed that Jammy with a swear word. Perhaps you’ve been a bit more restrained and used my personal favourite ‘Jammy Dodger’, or as my colleague just quipped ‘jambucket’.
There is no way to get around it. Ryan Magee is the jammiest jambucket in the whole of Derry and almost all of us have been wondering how our lives might have changed if we had bought that winning ticket last Friday instead. Would I still be here now? I very much doubt it. I would have handed in my notice with a smile and a nod and would be emailing this column from a secluded villa in the Seychelles surrounded by family and friends as I worked out how best to enjoy the rest of my days on this planet.
I would have already started scouring the property pages for a house to die for on the Donegal coast. (Although given the whole grannying shebang, I might have to rethink that life plan). And I would have traded in the faithful Corsa for a shiny new Corsa. (Wouldn’t be too fussed with a Ferrari to be totally honest. I think it might just a little out of place in the carpark at Tesco when I’m doing my weekly shop and I’m not sure where the baby seat would go.
Could you imagine how gutted you’d be the first time your toddler mushed a Wotsit into the seat?). I imagine there would be some frivolous spending. There would be probably be a pair of Jimmy Choos purchased - not because I’m any great fan but it just seems very ‘author lady-y’ to have some in my wardrobe.
And I would buy some handbags that don’t come from Next or Tesco and which last more than one season. (Although, I imagine it would be considered terribly gauche in the fashion world to use an out of season megabucks bag). I would be seriously tempted to travel round every bookstore on the island snapping up copies of my novel so that a huge buzz was created in the publishing world all about me.
But apart from that, a pair of diamond earrings would complete my material needs purchases for now so I’d dole out some to my parents and siblings and hand over some cash to some of the very worthwhile community groups in the city so they could breathe easy for a while.
But I can’t really, off the top of my head, think of any other material things which would improve my life greatly. And I fear there would always, always, be a part of me that couldn’t get used to having cash in the bank and the ability to buy anything without checking the price and doing some mental calculations first. (A typical example is me seeing some shiny new shoes in Next and thinking that if I’m really strict on my diet this week and don’t actually eat, it would be okay to buy them.)
Like a lot of Derry people I grew up in a house where money wasn’t exactly flush. We didn’t have car until I was nine or ten and even then, the car we got made my battered Corsa look like a Mercedes. We also didn’t have a phone until my late teens and even then, when we did get one, my parents installed a payphone to make sure we didn’t run up a huge bill. (Oh the joy when we realised if you banged the phone really hard on the right hand side you got free calls - but oh the horrors when the bill came in and my daddy flipped his lid.)
School lunches were home made ham sandwiches. In really tough weeks, we had jam instead. And our crisps were none of your fancy Tayto yokes. We had Yellow Pack or Value Snacks and instead of the cans of Coke my friends had we had diluted orange in plastic bottles. I used to turn pea green with envy at my friends who could get a hot drink from the, frankly bogging, drinks machine at lunch time in Thornhill.
That sort of keen living doesn’t leave you easily. My father still blushes when he reveals he has spent anything on himself. I remember with great hilarity the time he apologised for buying himself a hammer. Now, even when there is money in the bank (which is for precisely the first 24 hours after payday) I find it hard to relax enough to buy something frivolous. I can’t imagine ever owning a brand new car or living in a house that doesn’t develop spontaneous leaks approximately once every 15 minutes.
I have been known to stand in a semi-tortured mental state debating whether or not the budget can really stretch to the 3 for 2 offer on books in Eason that month or should I lift my lowly one novel and be glad of it. The old adage of “If you need to ask the price, you can’t afford it ”will forever ring true in my ears. That’s not to say that given the chance I wouldn’t do my best to shake off the shackles of my improverished state. I just would never go as far as buying a red Ferrari.

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