When I was ten, back in the dim and distant 1970s, my dad drove a scruffy blue Triumph Herald estate.
It was a faithful old thing, but very much in the banger class. Its differential sounded as if it was grinding coffee and the exhaust that sagged in the middle, so that it would sometimes scrape on the road, but rather like The Terminator, that Herald simply refused to die, and I grew to rather admire its indomitable spirit.
However, I looked covetously at some of the swanky and impossibly sophisticated and rather newer cars driven by the parents of my friends, and decided that my dad’s life would be improved by replacing the Herald with a brand new Ford Cortina estate, which I would win in a ‘spot the ball’ competition, being run in the TV Times.
This involved a grainy black and white photograph of two big haired footballers in mid air, but with the ball artfully removed. You had to put your cross on where you imagined the ball ought to have been. ‘Spot the Ball’ was as 1970s as flat warm beer, brown nylon flared trousers and Green Shield stamps. I knew nothing about football, but was convinced I would win, applied my cross, cut out the photograph and posted this to the competition’s PO Box number, then waited to be informed of my inevitable victory. I’m still waiting.
This was a lesson that such things don’t happen in real life. Or do they? I’ve just spoken to a lady called Rian McLoughlin from Berkshire. Six months ago her husband entered an online ‘spot the ball’ competition (I had not idea these things still existed, especially on line) run by a company with the amusing name of BOTB, winning a suitcase containing ten grand, in the boot of a Jaguar F-Type coupe which he’d also won.
So far so unlikely, but six months on his wife went, if you’ll pardon expression, ball spotting on the same website. “I don’t know anything about football,” she said. Apparently ignorance is bliss, because there was a knock on the door and instead of the expected TV repair person she was confronted by a posse of BOTB types and an Aston Martin Vantage convertible. You can guess what was in the boot. Yes, she’d won again.
There’s a cash alternative to the Aston, and when we spoke, Mrs. McLoughlin, who normally drives a Ford Focus, thought that with a Jaguar F-Type already in the garage, she might well take it. “My favourite Aston is a DB9, if it had been one of those I think we’d have kept it,” she said. I don’t think she was joking.
Stranger things have happened, although perhaps not much stranger, but this has made me think. Could there, just possibly, be a long-forgotten PO box containing yellowing, winning ‘spot the ball’ entry for a Cortina estate, still gathering dust in the corner of a warehouse?