old salut!

Colin Randall wrote here on France, things Anglo-French and more......but has moved

March 21, 2007

And the dividend forecast is.........

This site has now moved to Salut!

"Don't tell anyone," said my mother in little more than a whisper as she sent us off to Sunday school. "But we may be rich."

By the time (later that day, Monday at the latest) we knew we were not rich at all, we'd told everyone, starting within minutes of that parental plea for discretion.

Dad had won the football pools, or rather he and three people from work had won shares of a full dividend. In a town like ours (Shildon, Co Durham) a pools win was guaranteed to change lives quite dramatically, split four ways or not.

The only trouble was that everyone else, and everyone else's syndicate, seemed to win that Saturday. So many draws had been played out on the football grounds of the nation that his ultimate fortune was four into 32, not four into a million.

This tragic childhood memory came back for some reason while I was watching a French quiz show called Le Mur.

Inevitably, it is an imported idea, probably from America, and it involves one contestant battling against a wall of 100 rivals, arranged in groups according to employment or interests (les Bikers, for example, les Beatles -impersonators, that is - or les Gymnastes).

There is a succession of general knowledge questions, with the correct answer given in each case among three choices. The individual player can climb towards 200,000 euros, eliminating members of the wall as he or she goes along whenever they, responding to the same question, press the wrong button.

I can imagine it would seem ghastly on American or even British TV, but it somehow works, at least for me, in French.

This is partly because its success requires a lot of people to behave inanely with football-style chanting, cheers and boos and one of the things I like about the French is that they never mind making fools of themselves provided they have fun doing so.

Even the fact that Mme Randall rather fancies the presenter, Benjamin Castaldi, grandson of a one-time French golden couple of film Simone Signoret and (adoptively) Yves Montand, fails to put me off. And when a stout ambulancewoman called Catherine won the top prize after a brilliant performance, I was as chuffed as if I'd won it myself.

I realise that even 200,000 euros - especially since, if I understand the rules correctly, half goes to a participating viewer - is not the stuff of serious wealth. Most of us would see it as a pretty tidy sum, however.

But it must have been that sharing element of the game that put me in mind of the day I thought I belonged to a pools-rich family. Dad was sharing his winnings with others, and the total jackpot was in turn being divided among thousands.

Despite this early gambling setback, I became a regular pools punter. It took me not merely years but decades to win my own first dividend on the pools.

In Le Mur fashion, you may guess where I was when I discovered the extent of my windfall:

a) Doorstepping Jeremy Thorpe in north Devon

b) Watching Sunderland Reserves, away

c) In Colditz Castle

Et la bonne réponse - after plenty of drum rolls, gasps, impertinent chanting from the wall - est la réponse C. I had been reporting on an old comrades' reunion and had just finished dictating my carefully constructed story from a phone deep inside the castle.

"Never mind your story," barked Richard Savill, a friend sitting in the office back in London and in need of urgent clarification from the organiser of the newsroom pools syndicate. "Was it Vernons or Littlewoods?"

Happily it was Littlewoods, and instead of something like my dad's long-ago £32 being split 19 ways among colleagues (Vernons was cheaper to play, and accordingly meaner with its prizes), we had £5,700 between us - or £300 each.

Spend, Spend, Spend
? Not quite. Enough to pay a car repair bill here, a holiday deposit there, and better than a kick in the teeth. But take it from me, it hardly changed our lives.

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This site has now moved to Salut!


At March 21, 2007 3:42 PM, Anonymous Jules said...

But £300 in those days would be worth about £1,000 today. I was in the same office as you and don't remember you buying me a drink, you mardy-arse!

At March 21, 2007 4:03 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

Oh, c'mon, Jules, Colin was always ready to buy someone a drink. Once they'd lent him the money...
As for his gambling instincts, I can only hark back once more to the pocket-money bookie operation he ran in the schoolyard at King James I Grammar.
Is that the same Barbara Dickson we had at the folk club once, way back when, Colin? Or have a few more of my brain synapses disconnected?

At March 21, 2007 4:37 PM, Blogger Colin Randall said...

Yes. One and same. Shildon and Bishop Auckland were her stepping stones to fame. She used to appear solo and as part of a trio Bitter Withy in her folkie days, and never completely lost touch with traditional music. She even got me to write something - Liberation style, as it were - for inclusion in the programme sold on arecent your. You can see what she's been up to generally by following my link to Spend Spend Spend towards the end of the posting.

At March 21, 2007 8:32 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

That's quite a website. She even has a cottage for rent. I don't recognize her from any of the photos, though.

At March 22, 2007 1:22 AM, Blogger Tim said...

>This tragic childhood memory.....<
Now you should well know that any good sub would immediately put a line through the word tragic. Unless there was a death you haven't revealed. It's a tragedy the way English is going these days....!!!

At March 22, 2007 9:58 AM, Blogger Colin Randall said...

I suppose all those good subs were down the pub on screen breaks when stories about someone's tragically ruined career, tragically lost football game or tragic fall from grace sailed into all papers (broadsheets, tabloids, broadloids). That's without even thinking about more ironic usage.
The Concise Oxford offers "of, in the style of, tragedy". Tragedy is firstly given the dramatic or literary definition, with no stipulation that the "unhappy ending" must be a death; the second definition is "sad event, calamity, serious accident or crime", at least three of which sum up not winning the pools when you think you have.

At March 22, 2007 11:36 AM, Blogger Roger said...

Oh dear, is this what under-employment is doing to you - wasting time watching trash TV? Do you spend all day in your dressing gown and forget to shave for days too?

At March 22, 2007 1:30 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

Damn, they're onto you, Colin! First Tim and now Roger. This is tragic....

At March 22, 2007 2:11 PM, Blogger Smiley said...

"sad event, calamity, serious accident or crime", at least three of which sum up not winning the pools when you think you have."

But your father did win the pools.

At March 22, 2007 6:22 PM, Blogger richard of orleans said...

Colin, reminiscing about the football pools and Sunderland FC. What's happened to you, are you to be an unintegrated Anglo Saxon? I expected better from you. Get down to the bar and start scratching some numbers. Get over to Marseille and support a real team. Urgent therapy needed if you are not to turn out as an Antibes.

At March 22, 2007 7:35 PM, Blogger Colin Randall said...

Yes Bill, the editor of Salut! reserves the right not only to make the odd typo but also to erase it.

But it was such a good one that I'll mention it again tomorrow when I write, as I meant to say, about the perils of pedantry.

Come back if you wish, but for now I'll erase yours too as it looks meaningless otherwise

And now Roger, Le Mur has finished so I'd best be off for a shave...

At March 22, 2007 8:45 PM, Blogger Roger said...

And don't forget to take the step in from outside the trailer before you go to bed too. They'll take anything not nailed down, down there in the South.

At March 22, 2007 8:56 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

Trailer? He has a trailer?? And a step??? Looxury! When he were a lad in Shildon (or were it Hove)...
I'm crushed, Colin. My best joke in a long time and you remove it. This, I'll have you know, is a violation of my freedom-of-speech rights!


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