To be listed in a junk mail data base as a keen gardener, book lover, or underwear enthusiast causes little offence. To be put down as a hard-up, greedy, and gullible prat is a different matter entirely. Yet I shamefacedly admit that is how the direct mail business sees me.
Heaven knows how they got the idea, but it seems that every time someone comes up with a cock-eyed, get-rich-quick, if-you-aren’t-soon-rolling-in-oodles-we’ll-refund-your-money-no- questions-asked scheme, their next thought is, “Bung it in the post to Murray, he likes that sort of thing”.
Which is how I come to hold in my palpitating palm not one, but two, invitations to make a fortune as a lottery winner.
The first comes from Futurcomp, of Pontyclun, Mid Glamorgan. It tells the story of Avram Ross, an eminent American computer expert who lectures in computer science and is a consultant to the United States military. However, being in possession of a brain the size of a bucket is no bar to being taken to the cleaners, as Avram discovered when he foolishly sent off $20 for a lottery winning system that didn’t work.
That scam, says Futurcorp, set his brain cells whirring. Inspired by the example of war time British computer pioneers who cracked the German military codes, Avram took a whole year, day in, day out, to devise a lottery-busting system. There were times, I guess you knew, when he bit off more than he could chew, but through it all he stood tall and just kept on key-punching thousands of lottery results into one of the biggest, most powerful computers in America.
Then came the moment. “One day I called my colleagues into my office and started my computer program…Seconds later, the printer generated a slip of paper. The computer recommended a set of numbers…I didn’t show them to anyone but sealed them in an envelope…Next Saturday afternoon, half the department came in to see the lottery results announced on TV. You guessed it, I opened the safe and I had correctly predicted one of the big prizes.”
After that, it was merely a matter of condensing the whole concept into a simple hand-held device that anyone could use and offering to rush one to I Murray of London for 15. That’s how I come to stand poised on the brink of a huge, unearned fortune. I, too, could be like Ed Ferrara, of Rhode Island, who won $4m, or Lee Bova, of Michigan, who won $1.2m.
Charles Langley, owner of the UK rights to Lottery Buster, says the system is so successful that there could be too many winners. “In the long run it might even persuade the authorities to change the lottery rules. So for once I won’t be heartbroken if you decide to throw this letter away.”
Freed from concern about the Langley heart, I turn to the letter from Paul Christiansen, of the European Lottery Guild, urging me to join a syndicate that buys entries in lotteries in France, Spain and Germany. Places are filling quickly, he tells me, so I should invest the required 13 quickly. My chances of sharing in a payout of 100m are greatly enhanced, he explains, by a computer system devised by Dr Vladimir Bolotnikov.
A graduate in mathematics and computer science from Moscow University, Vladimir’s political views were incompatible with the communist government’s way of thinking, and so he moved to the West in 1976 where he works full time with computers, concentrating exclusively on the various lotteries around the world. What a loss to world socialism he was.
“In May 1988, he finally came up with the ultimate number selection system…we have gone to the effort and expense of getting Dr Bolotnikov to work with us to help you win money,” says Mr Christiansen. So it was with a heavy and ungrateful heart that I binned his letter, where it rests alongside Mr Langley’s.
Neither Dr Bolotnikov nor Avram Ross are medical experts, but their knowledge of probability may shed some light on a theory of mine. A disproportionate number of the new middle classes recently convicted and jailed for their part in cracking Tunisian heads in Marseilles and lobbing beer cans at the local gendarmerie were post office workers. Might there not be a connection between exposure to vast quantities of junk mail and peculiar behaviour?
Just as it has been established by the sage of Somerset, Auberon Waugh, that hamburgers give off lethal gases, could it be that the rubbish that infects so much of our post harbours some kind of noxious substance, exposure to which renders the carrier pot-bellied, piggy-eyed, double-chinned, bald, and bellicose?
Dougie Brimson, author and retired football hooligan, says, “There isn’t a profession I haven’t met or known about among soccer thugs: lawyers, teachers, policemen, doctors, dentists, firemen, servicemen, City traders.” To which he could, just as plausibly, add art historians, concert pianists, and Buddhist monks. But the evidence suggests that postmen are especially inclined to take on the physical appearance of lower primates and to head-butt foreigners as a form of social introduction. Most people are inclined to attribute this to the burden of their recently acquired middle-class status. But it could be something in the material they handle.