We were abroad when our numbers came up, a once in a lifetime trip to the States for Gary and Jen's Wedding, taking in New York, Chicago and the sights. Twenty-seven days altogether.
We weren't even checking our numbers, Jo just happened to see an English newspaper in a restaurant. She only looked at the paper because of the front page story about Elton John's 75th birthday party. A double roll-over, a total of £7,386,924 prize money.
We had our first row about ten minutes later. She wanted to cancel our trip and get the next flight home, she was worried we'd somehow lose out if we waited.
"What's another ten days," I said, ever the practical one. Nothing's going to happen to our ticket while we're out here."
"What if the house burns down, what if we get burgled?" Jo can always find a million and one things to worry about.
"Well where did you put the ticket?" I asked her.
"In my knicker drawer, three pairs from the back."
"Well it's safe then, isn't it. No self-respecting burglar's going to ferret around in your pants. And what if you've got the numbers wrong, you thought we'd won the jackpot before and it was only sixty-six quid."
"I know they're our numbers, I do the same ones each week. I don't make the same mistake twice."
"This is a once in a lifetime trip, we can hardly cut it short. We'd miss out on our three days in Chicago, our five nights in New York.
"But we'll be able to afford to come back, have as many once in a lifetime trips as we want. Every year, two every year. We can do the pyramids, Las
Vegas, Denmark, you always wanted to see Australia and then there's Cuba, Brazil, Portugal. 187 countries in the United Nations, we could do all of them."
"Very nice, but what if you've got the numbers wrong, what if you can't find the ticket, or what if there are a hundred winners. We'd miss out on the holiday, wouldn't get our deposit back on the hotels, plus the cost of booking new flights at short notice."
"Well maybe one of us could go back, make the claim, then fly back to New York. It would only take two or three days, it would be a weight off my mind."
She made me do the research. The cheapest available flight to England was £729, then another £650 to fly back to the States again. Flying to England late that night, sorting out the cash with the lottery people and flying back on Tuesday, we'd have five days together in New York before going home. Fine, unless you think about the double jet lag, and the arguments we'd have deciding who stayed and who flew back.
It was up to me to come up with the practical solution. "Why don't we ask Mike, he's got our spare key, doing the plants and what not. He can pick up the ticket and make the claim for us."
You wouldn't believe the look of horror on Jo's face. You'd have thought I'd suggested asking the local gypsies to pick up our winnings.
"Mike's a lovely guy, but it's a heck of a lot of money. He'd be a fool not to get tempted, 'specially with his job under threat. Plus he likes a drink or two, what if he takes it down the pub with him and loses it. Besides, I don't want Mike to have an excuse to root around in my knickers."
We compromised, got her mother to pick up the key from Mike on a pretext and check the ticket was there. She phoned lottery HQ and everything for us, they had a cheque waiting for us when we returned and a car to pick us up from the airport. We even had our 15 minutes of fame, with a photo in the Echo.
In the end it hardly seems worth all the stress. There were seven winners altogether, Jo and I got just £1.0552748 million, you could win more than that on the pools. The Euromillions winner the week before us woke up on Saturday morning with a cool £27 million. 73 he was, that's an average of £5 million for every year he's likely to live. I remember saying to Jo, "I'd like some of that, £5 million a year for the rest of your life, you wouldn't have to worry about efficiency cuts and emergency budgets then."
As it was, we had barely 20% of £5 million, and that's got to last us the rest of our lives, hopefully at least another twenty years together. So much for our dreams of quitting work, retiring seven or eight years early. We had just about enough to upgrade to a four bedroom house, buy a second car, pay off the remaining £17,338 of our mortgage and for me to cut down to a four day week, which I'd been planning to do anyway.
I did the math (as the Americans say, ignorant ungrammatical fools that they are). If we'd won £220,000 more I could have retired completely, given ten minutes notice and walked away, but I guess I shouldn't complain. Just another 2,329 days and I'll be able to retire for good, after which the world is our oyster.