Every time I move house, or almost every time, I find my premium bonds. My father carefully installed them in an envelope with the numbers on the outside. The first one (there are three) is dated 20 September 1958, so it was presumably a late sixth birthday present – and a new-fangled one. The random number machine, ERNIE, had only started operating the year before (first purchases were in late 1956, first draws in 1957). So my antique bonds, which look like something from the ration card era, have been rotating in the system for over half-a-century now. Apparently someone once won a million with only seventeen bonds, so in theory I am in with about a fifth of a shout.
£1 in 1958 is now worth either £18 or so, if you use the retail price index, or £44 if you use average earnings. So I was a spoiled little boy. Still, I have to admit that I have never actually met anyone who has won on the PBs, even the low prizes. Perhaps I lead a sheltered life. Please do not torment me with news of your good fortune (oh, go on).
You have to make a minimum purchase of £100 these days (no more than £30,000, mind you – who are they kidding?). It would be interesting to know the odds against me, as compared to the lottery (I made a really fatal error and entered in the first week, with six ‘significant numbers’ – as Noel Edmonds et al would say. So I am afraid not to enter). Childish. Stupid. Wasteful. Better than backing the Grand National, maybe. It’s betting without the guilt of compulsion, he says compulsively.
I once worked as a cleaner in the Locarno bowling alley, Sunderland, for four shillings an hour. One of my co-workers – memorable for being only able to recall the opening line of ‘You Always Hurt The One You Love’ as she pushed her hoover about – was only there so that she had access to the clubroom fruit-machine, which had what was then (1970) a colossal top prize of £50. Every day she came to work and pumped her pay into the machine. It was a sad sight. She never won anything.
Time for me to put them away again. Maybe next month …