I have bought a ticket for every lottery draw that has taken place since it started and feel sure that my turn must come soon. But I am terribly worried about sharing out the money. Supposing it is several million, I would want to give some of it to my family and friends. I am having dreadful problems trying to work out exactly how much I like everyone, and I worry that some people might feel I wasn't being fair. In fact, crazy as it may seem, I'm actually hoping that I don't ever win because I dread the divvying-up.
Uncle Ony: This is a clear instance of latent Paradise Syndrome; a fear of things going too well - but, in your case, you have started to worry even before circumstances have turned in your favour. I am afraid, Angela, that the lottery does not work on a "turns" system. Every single week that you buy a ticket the odds against you winning are 14 million to one. You do not get some kind of specially favourable odds because you waste a few pounds every week rather than just occasionally. I would transfer your investment to betting on the horses. The odds are significantly shorter, for one thing. Also, the winnings are significantly less, which solves your problem with feeling you should divide them up.
Auntie Ag: Tell Camelot no publicity, darling. That way, any donations you may one day be in the happy position of making can be kept completely anonymous, avoiding all jealousy and unpleasantness. Should you ever need my bank details to slip a little something into my account, ring me any time at the Independent on Sunday, angel.
Hmph. I read your rather flippant answer to Mark from Leicester last month, who was embarrassed to find his office co-worker serving at his table in a restaurant. You claim it doesn't happen often. Well, well, well. I lecture at a hotel management college in a medium-sized town. Almost all my students work part-time in pubs and restaurants in the area. The disadvantages are huge: I cannot get sloshed or have a fling or remove items of clothing or do anything fun or interesting at all - not while I'm overlooked by sober, attentive students who greedily inhale any whiff of a scandal. And tipping? Should I give an enormous tip to show what a wonderful person I am? Or a "normal" tip, which is unfair anyway since I always end up miserable and bored to tears? Or no tip at all, since they are, after all, my students? The no-tip option strikes me as the reasonable one, not least because the students never tip me after a lecture, however good I am.
Bjorg, Stavanger, Norway
Uncle Ony: You have fallen into one of the most pernicious traps of the 20th century: that of equating things that are "fun and interesting" with such activities as getting "sloshed", having a "fling", and removing items of clothing. What is un-fun and uninteresting about enjoying a moderate amount of alcohol and remaining both faithful and fully clothed? You have chosen to work in the field of education, yet you shun the society of the young people for whom you are responsible. I'm afraid, Bjorg, there is more to teaching than drawing a wage and leaving your job at the classroom door.
Auntie Ag: Darling, here is a wonderful opportunity for you to further the education of these young sprigs. Demand to change tables every five minutes, send the food back, order strange cocktails they have never heard of! They will start passing you on to their colleagues with alacrity; they will fight not to come near you. As for tipping, you can give them some real tips: "always pass the port to the left" and "never scrape plates at the table", for example.
I am a journalist. Whenever people at parties ask me what I do, it always seems to lead to a tedious debate about the state of the press, culminating in me being accused of personal responsibility for all social ills up to and including the death of Princess Diana. I am, in fact, a gardening correspondent, and I am getting pretty bloody sick of it.
Name and address supplied
Uncle Ony: Firmly and assertively point out that all professions have less-than-positive sides and you are no more responsible for your entire profession than anybody else in the room is. Any reasonable person will take your point and drop the subject.
Auntie Ag: Tell people you are an accountant, darling. That will instantly kill the conversation and you can smoothly move on to witty topics of general interest.
KEEP IT ZIPPED
I am a man surrounded by female colleagues in the office, and they are very open with each other and "share" a lot of intimate details about their lives. In an effort to join in, I told an anecdote about suffering from an (isolated) instance of impotence, but far from "bonding" with me, they all laughed at me and now they call me Droopy.
Uncle Ony: The desire to bond with workmates can lead to a false sense of intimacy and a false sense of security, leading to incidents like your inappropriate confidence. All the same, they are behaving immaturely and cruelly. They are probably unaware of the distress they are causing you, and a dignified explanation on your part will no doubt suffice to clear the whole thing up. It is unwise to discuss matters of a sexual nature with any ladies but your partner (and your doctor, if she happens to be of the fairer sex!)
Auntie Ag: Oh, darling, what a bunch of screaming harpies. Rather horribly, this is the kind of thing people never, ever forget. Start looking for a new job.