Rarely has the taste of victory turned quite so bitter, quite so quickly.
It seems only yesterday I was celebrating, Mario Balotelli style, stripping off my shirt, hurling it to the floor and doing that “go on, punch me in the stomach” pose.
I had pulled off an unprecedented double, plucking both Spain and Italy from the hat in the traditional McComb football tournament house sweepstake. Even before a ball was kicked at Euro 2012, I knew I was in with a shout.
Each family member put £2 into the pot – with the winner to take everything. The masterful Spaniards’ precision passing tiki-taka game and the wily Italians ability to scythe opposing forwards filled me with optimism. I sniffed a windfall.
Eight £1 coins were stacked on top of each other above the fireplace, gleaming like a trophy. I coveted those coins, Gollum-like. Precious, my precious.
As soon as Spain and Italy eliminated Portugal and Germany in the semi finals, I knew I couldn’t lose. Two of my teams were in the final in Kiev. Name on the trophy.
“In your face!” I said to my daughters, because that’s what they usually say to me, although I don’t know why.
The £8 jackpot was mine and if I played my cards right, and picked really old and unpopular bands, the winnings would stretch to two discount CDs on Amazon, possibly three. The Collection by Kool & The Gang was going for £2.87 the last time I looked and that’s such a bargain it feels like theft.
However, there was, and there remains, a small problem. Just before kick-off for the final, I looked over to the fireplace for the prize money, my prize money. It had disappeared.
I appreciated that the formal presentation would not take place until after the final whistle, as domestic gambling etiquette dictates.
But I thought it was reasonable to enquire where the cash had gone.
“Where’s my prize?” I asked.
“I’ve spent it on shopping,” said my wife. “It was either that or we starve.”
Hang on a minute. You can’t just pinch the Euro sweep money, I said.
Prize money is sacrosanct. It doesn’t matter how poor we are. I won that cash, fair and square, and I deserve it.
I even offered to trade Spain at the start of the tournament. You all told me to bugger off. And let us not forget, our attitude to bona fide prize money is a measure of our compassion and humanity.
If we lose our ability to ring fence the house sweep, what are we? What have we become? Are we no better than bankers?
I said all of this.
My wife’s response was pithy. “Tough,” she said.
I have been waiting for the £8 to be placed in an envelope, marked “LOL Dad,” and placed by my pillow. But it hasn’t happened. And I don’t think it will.
>Next page: Lunchtime in the workplace