I have always wanted to win. I check the leaderboard regularly and hope to see my name creep into the figures. There is something about seeing the numbers rise. And there is something about likes, follows and more follows. Facebook, Instagram, whatever, it is the same feeling. Being seen, being valued, being top of the list.

There is something exciting about seeing words bright and vibrant coming to life, sparkling off the page. I am reminded of the sparklers on fireworks night, which I would wave around when I was a little girl, making numerous incandescent shapes as I did so. Words, effervescent and inspiring, giving life, giving hope to others. Powerful, penetrating, poignant.

It isn’t about competition per se. It isn’t about beating other people, it is rather about feeling great, that I have done something great. I suppose it comes from a ‘perfect driver’. Funny though, I always seem to skid off the mark rather than reach it. Watching the gymnasts getting a perfect 10, amazing contortionists bending themselves around and then doing somersaults upon somersaults, Arab springs, gyrations, forward rolls, backward rolls. Simply wonderful. I would have loved my ‘perfect 10’.

Waiting is a weird landscape to inhabit. Like a desert, arid and seemingly endless. Punctuated by various landmarks of thought, black days when there is a solar eclipse, some when the roaring sound of hope rings in my ears. What if? Will I, won’t I? Winner takes it all and all that.

I remember the eagerly awaited Oxford interview; the preparation, going on the coach up to Oxford. ‘Teddy Hall’ as it was affably known. I was amazed when my friend was told not to attend and I was summoned. I had crammed for the entrance exam, reading at the bus stop, philosophy written on green cards (I have kept them to this day for sentimental reasons).

I remember the interview itself, being asked about Gerard Manley Hopkins. I had studied the poems avidly and had so much to say. And I sat there like an elective mute and barely said a word. I cringe when I think of how I was asked about my other interests apart from visiting museums and art galleries. Thirty something years later I feel myself speaking to my younger self “don’t say it, don’t say it” as the words tumble out “babysitting”. Needless to say I didn’t get in. “Too social” was the final verdict. My dreams of ‘Brideshead Revisited’ crumbling into the dust.

I seem to have had many moments of near misses, but perhaps it is my expectations which are simply too idealistic. But unfortunately my hopes come crashing down fairly regularly. I remember the things that I hoped for that didn’t happen; not getting a First, rewriting my dissertation for my Masters and knowing it was mistake (which it was), which ruined my chances of getting a Distinction. I feel I just miss it and sadly when you know people that make it, it doesn’t feel great.

But as you get older, what seemed so glaringly important doesn’t matter in the same way. Looking back, the doors that shut meant other doors have opened wide. Let’s be honest, if I had got into Oxford then I would have been an academic snob. I would never have become a social worker, never have helped anyone, never have met some amazing young people. So, the right doors shut and the right doors opened for me. It is all a case of perspective.

So now the sense of failure for not achieving my perfect goals has evaporated. I am easier on myself and others. And now I wait patiently, with a sense of expectancy, but not setting myself unrealistic targets. I am hopeful and expectant, but I know I won’t fall apart if the answer is no, the result isn’t what I want or I don’t win the £30,000 on the radio competition. Because that is life, c’est la vie. Some you win and some you lose as they say.

It is the first of the month and the doorbell rings. A dark haired man is stood on the step. I wonder if this could be it; have my premium bonds come to fruition? Have I won a million? I will buy a brand new house if I win, with a huge garden. I will keep horses, have dogs and cats and rabbits. I will have a large pool and swim daily, have a cook and a housekeeper. I will do acts of charity and kindness and make the world a better place.

I am snapped out of my reverie when a voice breaks into my thoughts “would you like any fresh fish love?”  “No thank you” “Would you like to have a look?” “No I am okay thank you very much”. My castles in the air vanish in the fishy froth of reality.

I wonder what would have happened if I had won a million pounds. How would I have reacted? I must admit I do like a bit of excitement and drama. Being presented with a huge cardboard cheque with one million emblazoned across it fills me with glee. Well we can all dream, especially in a pandemic.

Have you ever won anything really wonderful? Premium bonds, the lottery? How does it feel to smash it? I wish you could pop into this story and tell me. It would be interesting to know what that moment actually feels like.

When I was a child I entered a raffle and I had the winning ticket. But I couldn’t find it, so I ended up missing out on the first prize. That seemed to set the scene for later life, just missing out.

“Come on, pull yourself together”. I give myself a Pep talk.

Suddenly an email appears with a 1 in the envelope icon, as I sit tapping away at the keys. I make a mental note and then carry on typing away.

I go and make a cup of coffee. Not wanting to get too distracted, I allow myself to take a cursory glance at my inbox. Mmm Arielle@Reedsy Prompts; might as well take a look.

Dear Hope

I am delighted to tell you that you have won this week’s contest.


I sit and read the words over and over again. This is the moment I have waited for all my life, I am a winner!

Thank you Reedsy Prompts I think to myself as I say in a happy tone “Alexa  play Winner Takes It All".

July 05, 2020 10:36

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