I'm pretty sure the first thing I ever won in a raffle was a frozen chook. It was at the Rangiwahia Sports Day, where the Lions club would do instant raffles in between the running races, show jumping, chopping contests and ram riding. If you've never been to a country sports day, you should poke, as Mr Steve Braunias might say, your snoot into one some time. If you like summer afternoons, fresh air, friendly people with a dry sense of humour, car boot picnics under trees - and beer - you should get along to one as soon as you can and fill your boots. That's assuming these things are still running. I've been out of the countryside a long while now.
Anyway, about that chook - if indeed it was a chook. Whatever I actually won, I remember being impressed by the ease of the whole procedure. You went up to the man selling the tickets, got yourself one, and waited for the wheel to spin. When it stopped at your number and it dawned on you that you had won an honest-to-goodness prize, you were not only chuffed, you were also persuaded that these contests were worth a go. To this day, if someone offers me a ticket, I buy one. Mostly I do it for altruistic reasons. I know the odds. All the same, a little corner of my mind reminds me that I might also be in with a shot. In this way I have acquired booze, confectionary, a disposable camera, a complete boxed set of Beatles albums and the odd meat raffle.
Formal gambling I put in another category. I like (or at least I did until I got tired of the time it involved) punting on the horses. If friends haul me into a casino I like blackjack, although for the most part I think that Sky City is a joyless spectacle that you really don't want to visit sober. Can't be bothered with Lotto though. I only enjoy serious gambling when I fancy I can beat the odds.
As for the chooks and the meat raffles and the LPs, well, one guy's pleasant surprise is another sardonic writer's prizeless confirmation that it is a rum world.
I was reading Page 94 of the Listener the other day and realised with mounting anxiety that I've actually been winning more than my share of raffles, and that I have probably acquired at least a prize or two that should properly have gone to that column's writer.
If the piece in question were available online, there'd be a link here. I'm guessing that either the Listener has decided that it's too metaphysically paradoxical to have a Page 94 in cyberspace, or that it's a bit dumb to give away your best page for nix. So if you haven't already seen "Your Lucky Day", pad over to your LazyBoy and pick up the Olympics issue with Steven Ferguson on the cover and flick to the back. There you'll find the whole poignant story. We live in an age of easy steaks: I desperately want to win a meat raffle before I die , he writes.
I have spent my life in bars eyeing up the raffled meat pack, imagining all that free lunch, dinner and breakfast, scorch and smoke on the barbecue - then throwing in my $2, studiously choosing the right number in the ticket block and never, ever, winning so much as a sausage.
I am nothing if not a campaigner for the downtrodden and neglected. Steve Braunias is today's cause. I have had the opportunity in my life to buy him one beer, but I think the scales of justice still need a bit more butcher's finger on them.
So I have whipped up something for us all to do our bit, and when I say "us" I'm working on the not unreasonable assumption that there is a good clutch of Public Address readers who get a copy of the Listener in their paws now and then. If you're a fan of Page 94, then you'll know exactly what this symbolises.
(Update Sept 5: The image has been retired - there's an explanation below)
Looks good on the page, doesn't it? It's not a great likeness - Russell's one is a good deal more accurate - and yet somehow it works.
Well the good news is: you can wear that very image on the clothing item of your choice. Or a mousepad. Or a clock. Or a beer stein. Or a frisbee. Or a tote bag.
All you have to do is click here to the newly minted Page 94 shop at cafepress.com and pick out the item of your choice. Don't be shy - buy up large! If enough of us buy something, there'll be a nice little cheque in Steve's mailbox at the end of each month. He will have won the meat raffle, and it will have happened in the best way possible: completely out of the blue. Of course it would be nice if he could remain oblivious of all this until the cheque arrives, so, you know, let's not get it mentioned on the Internet or anything.
Perhaps he'll get wind of it anyway, but on the other hand, if he's busy hoofing around Lower Hutt and up to out-of-the-way places like Feilding for the next few weeks, perhaps we can preserve the element of surprise.
Don't forget - it's Father's Day very soon. What better gift for Dad than a picture of an assured aviator confident in his masculinity? You only have to look at the way this guy wears his goggles to tell that he doesn't need John Tamihere to tell him where to find a place that serves a decent sausage roll and a pot of strong tea. This is the kind of thing that fathers everywhere could be wearing this September. But get in quick. Stocks are strictly limited to however many we can shift.
All kidding aside, this is on the up and up - all profits will arrive unheralded in Steve's letter box. I think it would be a nice surprise to spring on him and, if you're a fan, I suspect you will too.
Update Sep 5
Not all good ideas work out quite as happily as you might hope. The image for this promotion came from the Listener, and they conveyed the message that perhaps one should not be using their intellectual property. Fair enough, and my apologies to APN. To those of you who ordered an item, and contributed to the mailbox surprise, thanks for the thought. The shop is now closed.