Helen Martin: A millionaire’s lot is not a happy one

Jane Park won �1 million at the age of 17. Picture: Jane Barlow
Jane Park won �1 million at the age of 17. Picture: Jane Barlow
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IN the late 1980s I interviewed Viv Nicholson, a woman made famous by her husband’s £152,319 football pools win in 1961.

It was then the equivalent of becoming a millionaire. She was 25, already had four children, and she and her husband Keith vowed to “spend, spend, spend”, believing that such a vast amount of money would never run out.

We can't all be Albert Einsteins. Picture: AP

We can't all be Albert Einsteins. Picture: AP

Of course, it did. But not before it had taken her from a life of poverty to a short period of riches, and left her with severe alcoholism and psychological problems.

By the time I met her she was back in a tiny two-up two-down in her home town of Castleford, back to a penniless existence, and back to sobriety thanks to the faith she discovered by becoming a Jehovah’s Witness. She died, still in poverty, aged 79.

Since the pools faded and big money lotteries began, Viv’s story has been repeated over and over again with many winners, especially those from relatively poor backgrounds, discovering their joy at becoming suddenly rich turned to misery because they simply didn’t know how to cope with wealth.

Edinburgh’s Jane Park who won a million four years ago when she was aged only 17, is now seriously ill in hospital as a result of her lottery win- funded addiction to cosmetic surgery (which most would regard as pointless since she was an extremely pretty teenager to begin with).

Jane now recognises that life would have been “ten times better” if she hadn’t suddenly become a millionaire at such a young age and believes the age limit to buy a ticket should be raised.

She’s probably too young to have heard of Viv Nicholson, or to realise that age is not the problem.

To some extent, financial knowledge and wisdom – or the lack of it especially if life so far has been based on a tight budget – is a major factor. But so too is the size and frequency of today’s top lottery wins. Advice and guidance on handling such amounts is available – but not compulsory.

As Jane has previously admitted, big money can be emotionally distressing, especially when it comes to potential partners who are on the make.

Isolation from friends, greedy and manipulative hangers-on, embarrassing unfamiliarity with expensive venues, being sneered at by traditionally wealthy people and, of course, spending money on the wrong things, all lead to confusion, low self-esteem and loss of original confidence and identity.

With today’s wealth gap, austerity, food banks, homelessness, capped wages and other issues, winning millions is nothing but a poisoned chalice. For most people, any prize pot from £10k ranges from a welcome bonanza to a positive life-changing amount.

Wouldn’t it be fairer, less risky, create more pleasure and more of a share-out if Camelot abandoned the idea of creating multi-millionaires who could be headed for disaster, and instead paid out to many more winners, but in much smaller amounts?

Big winners now, unlike the early days, no longer create massive publicity for lottery organisers, unless like Viv and Jane, their ‘luck’ turned sour producing a schadenfreude story.

A national lottery yielding £25k to thousands of people a week? Well that would be good news. And appropriate for the financial times we live in.

To sum up, who needs mathematics?

HIMSELF remarked the other day that having left school 47 years ago, he had never used geometry, algebra or trigonometry. He’s absolutely right. I’m not going off at a tangent but I can’t ever recall a need for a sine or cosine.

Teens today are well versed in technology, social media and even politics. But many have basic education ‘gaps’ whether that’s down to parents or schools - where food comes from, how to cook it without a ‘ping’, how to maintain and clean their first home so the landlord doesn’t sling them out, how to manage their own health and deal with minor ailments without taking up a GP appointment, let alone dwindling standards in spelling, grammar, and other essential life skills.

We all need arithmetic but apart from aspiring engineers, mathematicians or scientists, even Latin is probably more relevant today than the rest of maths.

Why is it still such a high priority on the general curriculum?

Ins and outs of airport security

TAKING Mum’s ashes to be buried in the family plot in Ireland, I knew airport security would be challenging.

Belt off, liquids in a bag, but needless to say, the cabin bag was taken aside for a search. I produced the death and cremation certificates, the urn was examined and all was well. Until they snatched my deodorant.

Coming back from Dublin with no urn or aerosol, I was smugly confident – if smelly. Then the security lady looked in my liquid bag, and confiscated my almost empty tub of Nivea – because the label read 100mls even though it contained half a teaspoon’s worth and had been deemed acceptable on the way out.

I know it’s about keeping us safe but why does it have to be Russian roulette for passengers and an unpredictable lucky dip for the checkers?

Funny how MPs avoid pay cap

THE public sector pay cap remains in place, but doesn’t apply to MPs, who’ve had nearly £10k in increases over the last few years, now on a basic of around £76,000 excluding expenses and other add-ons. So much for Mrs May fighting “burning injustice”!