Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.
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Wednesday 15 August 2012

Hope springs.

IT'S amazing how optimistic people can be.

And not just because of our temporary Olympic frisson - there are so many things about which humans are ridiculously hopeful when the odds are stacked against us a mile or more high.

We love, and argue, and earn, and breed, and don't stop for a moment to think it's all utterly futile because we're going to die. There's no way around it and the only way we can influence the inevitable outcome is to hurry it up or slow it down.

We can choose drugs, hookers, and choking on our own vomit at 27, or we can aim for a garden chair in the sunshine at 104. It doesn't matter a damn either way if you managed to get promotion at work, whether you got a B or a C in your A-levels, or were too thick to wear any kind of shoe but loafers.

You still end up dead, and in the great span of infinity how long you're alive will never be more than the blink of an eye.

But we prefer not to think about things being hopeless, so instead we plan and scheme, moan about whoever's running the country and that guy you sit next to at work who eats grated carrot all day, and if we haven't found them yet we dream about finding the perfect person to settle down with.

There are six billion people on the planet - if you think there's just one that suits, you're unlikely to find them. The people running the country have little to distinguish them from the people who used to run the country or who will run it in the future, and the guy you sit next to at work is the person you talk to most in the whole world and is technically your best mate, so be nice.

We like to dream, though, and hope for things to be different. So when a child goes missing and there are television appeals for her safe return we tell each other she's probably run off with a boyfriend rather than say such appeals rarely end happily.

We didn't like our trains and they cost £1billion a year for us to run, so we sold them off to the private sector and believed it would lead to more investment, despite the fact privatisation of anything never saved the taxpayer in the long run and we now subsidise the system to the tune of £4bn a year.

And we dream of winning the lottery. We're 23 times more likely to be struck by lightning, we're actually just giving someone else good fortune rather than improving our own, but we all like to think how we'd spend the millions if we got them. I don't even play the lottery and I still dream about which newspaper I'd buy.

Which is why, despite the fact it's not a very practical idea and they'll be swamped with kidnap threats, it's nice when lottery winners go public. It helps put some flesh on that dream of ours and despite the fact we know it's an entirely random bit of luck it gives us pleasure when the winners seem deserving.

Yesterday Adrian and Gillian Bayford announced they'd landed £148million on the Euromillions - something they had a 1 in 116.5million chance of winning. They seem like a nice couple, but the best bit of the story by far is the fact they met and fell in love after Adrian dialled a wrong number and they got chatting.

Which, however you look at it, is a very optimistic way of treating a wrong number. Talk about making the best of your mistakes! With an attitude and good luck like that these people should be running the country.

They're going to share their money with family, buy a couple of nice cars, a new house, that sort of thing. It won't make much of a dent in the cash, so for what it's worth here's a list of other stuff they might - and I'm being optimistic here - spend the money on and spread the feel-good factor to the millions of us who didn't win:

* £40million to buy the Olympic stadium and £167,000 for Usain Bolt to run around in it, with another £80,000 to offset his tax bill for doing it. It would cost £7.4m for Bolt to do this every day for a month, by which point I imagine we'd all be bored.

* £14m to prepare a bid to run the West Coast Mainline, the nation's most profitable rail route which has 31m passengers who are charged 10 times as much as on the Continent for worse journeys. In fact, the Bayfords have the money to bid to run the entire rail network if they fancy and seeing as the government and customers will pay them billions, it's a guaranteed return.

* £250,000 for dinner in the Downing Street flat to lobby David Cameron directly over penne and Pinot Grigio. Be nice if they could mention the shoes at some point.

* £12m to pay for John Cleese to get divorced again. Perhaps next time he wouldn't engage on an intercontinental tour to pay his alimony, which wasn't very funny and didn't include parrots.

* £1m would save The Dandy - none of us really want to read it, but it's sort of nice to know it's still there.

That little lot would cost around half the Bayfords' new fortune, and still leave them with more than £70m to spend on houses, cars, rail season tickets or whatever other insanely large purchases they fancy.

And maybe none of those things, were they to happen, would do much to improve the world. But we can still hope that they would, can't we? That our brief, inconsequential existence might be made slightly more enjoyable for more Usain Bolt, better rail journeys, and the Prime Minister having to pay attention to the proles more often than once every four years.

And if you needed any proof that everyone dreams - even those who've already seen them come true - you need look no further than notorious Lotto Lout Mikey Carroll, the Norfolk binman who scooped a £9.7m fortune and blew it all on racing old bangers in his back yard, drugs, gold jewellery and trashing the mansion he bought.

He's the opposite of the Bayfords, a man seen to be undeserving of good fortune and who admits the cash led to death threats, crack overdoses and zero personal happiness. Not a man, you would think, you could do or say anything to make you feel particularly warm or forgiving about human failings.

He's fat and homeless and has run out of money, but is still buying lottery tickets. "You never know," he said.

Which is so charmingly optimistic it makes me hope that he does.

Humans: bless 'em.