Charles Nevin: You make your own luck, so have a flutter

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The Independent Online

Some recent events have been making me think about luck, a subject which has fascinated many great penseurs, and that great putter, Gary Player: "It's funny, the harder I practice, the luckier I get."

But consider this trio. The winner of £26.5m in the last EuroMillions draw in August, according to reports, already owned a £4m house and a Rolls Royce. Then there's the £10 school raffle prize which has been won by the Queen. And now we have a German pensioner from Hamelin who has won £2m in a lottery and says he doesn't want it.

I know Sir Ming could make himself even more popular by accompanying his higher taxes on the rich with a ban on their entering lotteries, raffles, tombolas and pound shops, but that won't fully address the problem. The German pensioner, for example, isn't rich; he just doesn't want the money because, he says, he wouldn't know what to do with it, and was only taking part out of force of habit because his late wife was very keen.

Luck, of course, is what Richard Dawkins has on his side. Free will is all very well, but surely any God, having taken the most tremendous punt on us, would have a bit more sympathy for those similarly inclined, or, at least, more of a sense of fair play. As Cervantes put it, with a superior elegance: "I do not believe the Good Lord plays dice."

Further food for thought is provided by two transport-related incidents. Mr Bryan Rocco, of New Jersey, was choking to death on an onion ring when he blacked out and crashed his car into a tree, releasing an airbag which dislodged the onion ring. In Croatia, meanwhile, Mr Ante Djindjic, a motorcyclist from Zagreb, was struck by lightning on the penis when he stopped by the side of the road to answer a call of nature.

Both men are well, but that's not the point. Are we really being controlled by a frustrated Carry On scriptwriter? You might also remember the view in the scientific community that we are, in fact, part of a future teenager's computer game. In either event, we'll know for sure if lightning strikes Mr Djindjic twice, which really would be unlucky, as well as unproverbial.

What to do, meanwhile? It was, of course, R E Shay who remarked: "Depend on the rabbit's foot if you will, but remember it didn't work for the rabbit." You should make what you will of my failure to discover anything more about R E Shay. But I was much taken with Stanislaw Lec, who survived a German concentration camp, being a baron, part-Jewish and defecting to Israel for two years, to receive a state funeral in Warsaw in 1966. This was just one of the many pertinent questions he posed: "If a man who cannot count finds a four-leaf clover, is he lucky?"

That seems to me to match the case of the German pensioner perfectly, and also has some resonance for both Northern Rock and Roman Abramovich. I myself am concentrating on the latest Reader's Digest draw. You will remember that I sailed through the early rounds; it is now getting very tense. However, I am relying on that old aphorism: "You make your own luck in this business by taking out a year's subscription at a specially reduced rate."

I'll keep you posted (monthly, if you like, sae, very reasonable, dentists welcome).

Sometimes less really is more

Farewell to two metaphors, Marcel Marceau and Tim Henman's career, effortless summoners, in their differing ways, of art, cheap jokes, a flattery to deceive and a wistfulness for something vital lacking. Is there anything promising emergent in their stead? Well, David Cameron, of course. And, at the weekend, there was the world's largest underwater dinner party, thrown for charity in an Acton swimming bath with the aid of scuba equipment. Those recalling that, for both Marcel and Tim, less was always more, will also especially welcome back the chafer beetle, an insect thought extinct which is so modest and retiring that its survival has to be assumed from the discovery of its droppings. If only.

Reports suggest that Mr Brown is less keen than advertised on this idea for a British motto to be displayed on public buildings. Apparently he is concentrating on "a statement of values" setting out what it means to be British instead. A pity. We prefer pithy and snappy.

And so, in an attempt to persuade a rethink, here's a few suggestions for a British motto: Sorry. No. After You. Forward, Carefully. Watch Your Step. Mind How You Go. Cautiously Welcoming. Nil Desperandum. Nothing Ventured. Sub Judice. Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite et DNA (testing). E pluribus, pluribus. Per Ardua Ad Asda. Et Tesco. Yes, But.

Smiling For The Cameras. Queue Here. Don't Panic. Very Well, Then, A Loan. Who Dares Must Sign Here. And Here. It's Being So Cheerful As Keeps Us Going. We'd Like To Help. We'll Get Back To You. May Contain Nuts. Are We Bothered? Morally Hazarding Together. Meeting the Challenge By Having Meetings And Recording For Training Purposes. Working Together For A Better Motto.