When pensioner David Parry opened his morning mail he was so excited he fell to his knees, injuring both of them.
Who knows what wild imaginings flashed through his mind in the seconds between his opening the fateful letter and his crump ling nerveless to the lino? Did he picture himself as the pampered voluptuary, gorging lobster and cham- pagne from platters and goblets of gold brought to him by plump handmaidens in see-through nighties?
Or was the David Parry of his hallucination seen stepping from the chauffeured Rolls into the portals of a vine-clad country mansion, there to be greeted by lines of obeisant butlers, footmen, chambermaids, housekeepers, cooks, tweenies and bootboys?
We shall never know. Or at least we might, should he tell all in court. For Mr Parry, 66, of Tumble, South Wales, has, true to the spirit of the age, issued a writ seeking damages for the injuries to his knees and the hurt to his composure. The defendants are British Family Publishers, of PO Box 888, London EC1 and 3000 University Center Drive, Tampa, Florida. They are cited as the authors of a letter which began D PARRY, WE’VE BEEN SEARCHING FOR YOU… YOU’VE JUST BEEN POSITIVELY IDENTIFIED AS OUR 6,600,000 MYSTERY MILLIONAIRE!
Is it any wonder that Mr Parry went weak at the knees? Suddenly to be informed by post that you have been identified, and positively at that, as the mysterious winner of 6 million and 6 hundred thousand jimmy-o-goblins is enough to unsettle the most equable of temperaments, let alone a mind etched with 66 years of living in Wales.
It all looked so official too. Mr Parry’s letter included a certificate designed like a Victorian debenture stock with an elaborate wavy border (to thwart forgeries?) and printed in gothic type.
The signatory, Stephen Francis, began the letter in the tone of a man rendered breathless by a frenzied hunt. “Dear Mr Parry, Thank goodness we’ve finally found you…We’ve been searching everywhere for our new big winner and we’ve already found 236,836 including 6,000,000.00 winner Daniel Rodgers and 6,000,000.00 winner Marjorie Godzik.”
We cannot tell, but it might have been at this point that Mr Parry, through the blinding mist of pain engendered by two shattered knees, began to sense that here was something not quite right. This Francis fellow says he’s been searching everywhere. Where did the quest take him? To the bacon counter at Jones the Butchers? To the snug at the Gassed Canary? Or further afield, from the sodden fens of East Anglia to the soaring peaks of Snowdonia? Was no slumbering bundle of rags left unpoked, no bus queue undisturbed, no residential rest home for the bewildered un-Klaxoned? No one could say the hunt was fruitless. To scour the land for one multimillionaire and to unearth 236,836 shows either astonishing diligence or amazing good fortune. And why, from those many thousands, were Daniel Rodgers and Marjorie Godzik singled out for special mention? Were the circumstances of their finding particularly noteworthy? Was Mr Rodgers in flagrante with the postmistress when his great wealth was discovered? Was Ms Godzik under the hairdryer?
By now it was plain that this entire item of correspondence raised more questions than it answered. But Mr Francis pressed on like a man obsessed: “And now, what a wonderful way it would be to end this search… and what a fabulous future and what an incredible fortune there would be for D Parry! Could you imagine the looks you’d get from your neighbours? But don’t just sit there, D Parry.”
As he lay, a forlorn wreck, immobile at the foot of his stairs, this last sentence must have seared Mr Parry’s soul like a burning lance. As for the looks from his neighbours, they were to come later when his crutch-borne return from hospital was greeted by twitching curtains.
He may yet enter the pages of legal history as the first recorded physical casualty of junk mail. British Family Publishers sells cut-price magazine subscriptions but not in sufficient numbers it would seem to obviate gimcrack huckstering. All its statements about positively identifying mystery millionaires are prefaced or otherwise hedged around with weasel-worded caveats in smaller type. So the bold-type block capital screamer IT’S FINAL – WE CAN ANNOUNCE THAT D PARRY OF WALES IS THE NEW 6,600,000 WINNER! is diffidently preceded by “If you have and return the top winning entry, we’ll say…”
There’s already far too much litigation enriching the lawyers to encourage more. Even so, wouldn’t it be nice if Mr Parry were to walk away from this incident a wealthy man? No so wealthy as to afford a retinue of luscious nymphets, but sufficiently so as to accommodate a Vauxhall Vectra.
As one who has never favoured bans or prohibitions, I do not advocate legal restrictions on spurious junk mail. However, as a fervent believer in self-help and individualism, I have a solution to suggest. Should you receive a laser-printed letter informing you that you are a multi-millionaire, or soon will be give or take a few conditions, wrap it around a housebrick, enclose the whole in brown paper, and post it back to the sender. Do not affix any stamps.