I think of myself as a night owl, but that night I was glad to go to bed, though my weariness was more emotional than physical. Everything seemed to be going wrong! I wasn’t exactly broke, but my financial situation wasn’t great either, and after some very promising signs my notion that I might be able to earn a living as a writer had taken several rejection-letter shaped dents (and I had waited long enough to no longer be able to convince myself that in other instances no news was good news). Perhaps my old English teacher, Mrs Moody, had been wrong and over-optimistic when she’d prophesied, decades ago, that I’d be a writer. Or maybe I was just precocious.

     I had that feeling when you’re certainly not ill, nor likely to be, but not truly well either – that heaviness, that hint of a headache, that feeling of all your favourite foods tasting the same.

     I doubt it’s ever possible to pinpoint that moment when wakefulness metamorphoses into sleep and normal consciousness into the self-perpetrating environment and logic of dreams. I know some say otherwise.

     In the first dream I had I was walking down a street – quite a normal street, though for some reason there were cattle wandering down it and a flying car overhead. In the dream that didn’t seem unusual, and nor did it seem unusual that all the houses seemed to be numbered 5, 11, 37, 38, 40, 48. 

     I’ve never been a person for writing down my dreams, but in a half-wakeful interlude, as there was some paper near my bed (blank of any literary inspirations, though I firmly believed in initial ideas being recorded with pen and paper, not on a screen!) I scrawled those numbers down. I didn’t dazzle my eyes turning on the light, and I wasn’t one of those people you hear of who’ve learnt to write in the dark. It was June, and though it was the small hours, summer dawn comes early here on the East Coast. I could see well enough to write at four in the morning. At first those numbers kept me from sleeping as I tried to puzzle out their significance – not my house number, or my age, or my birthday, or that of any relation I could think of. Not my National Insurance Number. Eventually the repetition of the numbers became more calming, almost like a mantra, and I fell asleep again. This time I was attending some kind of athletics event, though it was held in the middle of the night in a museum, and the runners weaved their way round pictures and exhibits, obeying rules I had never witnessed in any waking sport. But they wore vests with numbers on them. And those numbers were 5, 11, 37, 38, 40, 48.

     There was a significance to there being 6 numbers that wasn’t lost on me. That was the number of balls drawn in the National Lottery – and all of them fell within the boundaries of the numbers drawn! 

     Well, I’ve never been much of a gambler – not because I have any especial moral objections to it, but because I’m the kind of person who only needs to mention a horse’s name for him to develop four left hooves in any rate where I backed him.

     But I decided that I had no intention to spend the rest of my life bitterly regretting that I’d ignored this dream. Of course it was nonsense, I told myself, as I bought my ticket in the little kiosk at the supermarket. But didn’t the Lottery’s own slogan say Maybe, Just Maybe

     Just maybe I might win (it was a rollover, too!) and just maybe I might at least win enough to not have to bother about paying the bills and getting literary inspiration and/or letters that didn’t tell me my work showed promise but.

     Stranger things happened. And that dream was certainly strange!

     My original intention was to studiedly ignore the live draw and get the results later on the Internet. But temptation was too strong.

     The presenter (He was one of the less irritating ones, though admittedly that’s not setting the bar very high!) wished us good luck and set the machine in action.

     The first ball came out. 5! So what, I thought, the odds against that are hardly overwhelming. The second ball came out. 11! Well, perhaps I edged forward in my chair a little, and put the book I had been reading in a studied demonstration of nonchalance concerning the whole procedure to one side.

     The third ball came out. 37! I hope to goodness I did put the ticket in a safe place, I thought, torn between going to check and missing the rest of the draw. But things moved quickly. And the subsequent balls were 8, 17, and 42. Well, being born on the 17th of February, I told myself that if I’d included one of my own important dates I’d at least have got the four ball prize, and that might have been into the hundreds as it was a Rollover. Enough to pay my Council Tax!

     What you never have, you never miss, I told myself, determined not to fall into a decline and make a fuss about it. The ticket was perfectly safe, and, I reminded myself, not entirely worthless. Three winning numbers netted you £10. Better than a kick up the You Know What, as my Dad used to say.

     I collected my tenner the next day in the supermarket kiosk. “Don’t spend it all at once,” the assistant joked.

     In fact, I did. But I didn’t let it just seep into the grocery money. I bought myself a couple of really good notebooks, not the 5 for a pound sort, but – well, I don’t want to say the sensible kind, but the kind where the quality of the paper is more important than the pretty picture on the cover, and the ink won’t show through to the next or preceding page, They were quite attractive, though, one with a dark blue cover, and one with a dark green one, and with enough pages to mean business but not to be too daunting. I bought a couple of halfway decent pens, one with black ink and one with red – not fancy Parkers, or anything like that, but the kind that wouldn’t scratch or run out two days after you got them.

     As I walked back home, it suddenly dawned on me that Mrs Moody had once confided in us that she was born on Bonfire Night – November the 5th. I didn’t know the year – though she was very friendly and all that, there were things you didn’t ask your teacher – but as she was already quite near retirement age, 1937 would have made sense.

     Thank you, Mrs Moody, I thought. And I meant it. Of course I’d have liked to be a millionaire and wished I’d at least added in my own birthday. But she had made sure that I didn’t give up on the writing.

     Call it coincidence, but the ideas I wrote in those books led to a story that was published!

February 28, 2020 08:12

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