First person: 'I won £15m on the National Lottery'

Thea Bristow, 54
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The Independent Online

On a warm Saturday in July 2004, I took my mother on a day-trip to London. We caught an early train from Torquay and spent the day walking around town. At one point, we popped into a newsagent and bought my weekly Lottery ticket. I stayed at my mother's that night, as my husband, Paul, was not due to pick me up until the Sunday evening. I woke up early and as I was making a cup of tea, the news came on. It was announced that the single winner of a £15m prize had failed to collect. I thought: "lucky git" and decided to check whether I'd won a tenner.

A couple of the numbers that appeared on the Teletext headline seemed familiar; so I ran to grab my ticket but when I held it against the winning numbers, I could not believe my eyes. I checked maybe 30 times. There it was – I was rich! The problem was I couldn't tell my mother before telling Paul, who wasn't picking me up until 8pm, so I spent the whole day knowing I'd just won £15m and was unable to share it with anyone. It is funny, but I found myself forgetting throughout the day. We went to church, had a roast, did the normal Sunday stuff, and it was only in the rare moment that I was alone, that I remembered, and then a shiver would run down my spine.

For the previous 12 years, I'd been working in a small souvenir factory, producing badges and keyrings. Paul had suffered a back injury and had been without a job for 10 years. We weren't on the breadline, but things had always been tight for us. Just when we were at the stage where our children had stopped costing the earth, and we could afford chocolate digestives rather than Rich Tea, I was told that I'd be made redundant by the end of the year. I wondered about doing a flower course to help me get shifts in a local florist.

I'd played the Lottery for years, but I never thought this would happen. As Paul and I drove home that evening, I told him to pull over. When I broke the news, he was very calm. The reality of it all didn't sink in until the next day. Although we played the Lottery regularly, we didn't have a set goal; we didn't want for much. We were happy with our lot.

The first thing we spent our money on was a trip for the local cubs to the west coast of Canada. It sounds altruistic, but it made us very happy that we could do that for them. Another big purchase was of a woodland near our house, which is being managed so that one day we can build lovely walkways for members of the public to use. We had been in living in the same small terraced house for 32 years, so our one luxury was to buy a farm, which had always been Paul's dream. Now we run it together, as a B&B.

Our debts and mortgage repayments have been settled, and our children have their cars and homes paid for. I do a morning's work at the local church's charity shop each week and I help out where I can. If I had this cash and couldn't do something for other people, I think I'd go doolally.