Hitting the jackpot, with a better class of biscuit

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Joanne was talking fondly about her husband, Dean. He's a fitter in Featherstone, but he's thinking of retiring. Joanne wants him to have a hobby, making gates or something, but he'll need a workshop. "He's always wanted a garden shed," she said, "and he can have one now - a really big one." He can. He can have one the size of the Chelsea Flower Show if he likes, because they've just won the National Lottery. She was chattering away to Allan Beswick, telling him all about Hitting the Jackpot (R4).

Sixty-five per cent of the adult population play the lottery every week, and a tiny proportion of them suddenly become millionaires. Yet at least one winner has no intention of giving up her job. Christine, and 32 others in the Camden Housing Project, shared a pounds 10m triple-roll-over and none of them is giving up work: it matters too much to them. The only difference the win has made in their office is that the quality of tea-break biscuits has risen sharply. Christine, like all four winners in this programme, feels an immense sense of relief that her family can enjoy some financial security, and an anxiety that not too much will change.

Beswick was disappointed by all this common sense. He'd been imagining large black limos outside mansions in which the champagne flowed - he'd clearly been hoping for a drop himself - but, in fact, it was curiously touching that the money seemed to have gone to such nice people and was making them so happy. The tabloids hated it, and their hatred was distilled into disgusting xenophobia. One hack, desperate for a story, homed in on a winning father who had tried, in vain, to protect his children from publicity. Because this man had been born in Iraq, the paper felt justified in identifying him with Saddam Hussein. "Mother of all Lottery Winners!" screamed the headline, and went on to suggest that his booty could buy him a Kuwaiti oil-well to blow up, or 40 feet of super-gun.

You could despair, hearing such vicious rubbish. Don't be tempted to turn to Chris Evans (R1) for light relief: he's been tearing into foreigners himself. This man's career is a modern morality tale. Since his first successful few months he has spiralled down into a vortex of self-esteem, until his ego must soon implode. Listening to him recently, plugging his television show and alternately humiliating and fawning on his guests, we might have thought he could get no worse. But, for 10 full minutes on Thursday, he didn't even play a single record, unless you count regular blasts of the National Anthem as he ranted endlessly against other Europeans. Out of curiosity, I hunted for Russ and Jono (Virgin), to see if the pair he so berates for beating his show to a golden Sony award were any better. The signal was so faint where we live as to be almost inaudible; but even the crackly buzz seemed preferable.

Another of his rivals, Chris Tarrant (Capital) sometimes uses his own morning show for a quiet snooze after fishing. If he's been up and out with his rod before dawn and is too tired to chat, he plays records back-to-back, using the old DJ's let-out of saying that the music will speak for itself. He was one of the punters on Fly-Fishing By RH Daltrey (R4), a gentle excuse to advertise the Sussex trout fishery that Daltrey considers his finest achievement.

Daltrey once, famously, sang of hoping to die before he got old. Now he's changed his mind: he wants to live, to enjoy the deer, the nightingales and the badgers that haunt his lakes. You couldn't help warming to him as he spoke of his generation of rock stars and the slightly pitiful figure they now cut. Mick Jagger, for instance, he really admires, but he finds it a little absurd that he still sings about the things that naturally preoccupy young men. Shouldn't he find some middle-aged subjects? Like what, Rog - gardening, pension plans, um, fishing?

One woman who has progressed with seamless elegance into old age is Lady Longford. She will be 90 this year - incredible, when you hear her talk - and still game to kick off a series called I Was That Teenager (R4), in which various well-known people tell the estimable Russell Davies about that tricky time of life when they were trying to assert themselves against the standards set for them by their parents. The word teenager didn't exist back in the Twenties, though she remembered a song about being sweet 17. She found it ridiculous, as she had felt rather fat and spotty at that age - rather like the equally misguided advertisement for a soap guaranteed to "keep that schoolgirl complexion".

Given that she was constantly chaperoned, it was not surprising that she remembers the glee of being allowed to have her hair bobbed and the unimagined freedom of becoming an undergraduate. She doesn't regret any of it, not even the limitations imposed by her stern father, and she feels sorry for today's teenagers for whom the breadth of opportunity is so wide as to be confusing. And, most encouragingly, she insisted that ageing is not so frightful. Why, when she was growing up, 70 was all you could expect of your allotted span: nowadays it merely signals the approaching end of middle age. Now that could really be something to look forward to. Especially if you win the lottery.

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