There was a character in the recent BBC2 comedy The Fast Show whose catch-phrase was "I'll get me coat". At a dinner party where opera was being discussed he would chip in with his opinion that you couldn't beat Chris De Burgh's Lady In Red. "I'll get me coat," he'd sigh, realising he had killed the conversation.
I had a similar experience about 12 years ago when I pulled out an Inspector Morse book during a conversation about Orwell. At least I now have the satisfaction of knowing that I was ahead of my time. It is strange how the "get me coat" syndrome also applies to things that are not so widely separated culturally as Madame Butterfly and a bland ballad that rhymes chance, romance and dance.
Take betting on the horses and the National Lottery. Can you imagine Robbie Coltrane's Fitz character in Cracker having any credibility if he blew his money on the lottery?
I could give up the lottery any time I like. I know this because I have discovered that it is not true that the one week that you don't buy a ticket will be the one when your six numbers come up. I used to place my bets eight weeks at a time. One Saturday I accidentally remained unstaked and not one of my numbers (based on the engine capacity of my Favorit) came up. In around 70 weeks of playing I have won nothing. Not a sausage. Bugger all.
Perhaps, for telekinetic reasons, you have to sit through the show to win. This I cannot do. Many fine things come from America but the compulsion to whoop and yell when part of a television studio audience is not one of them. And my views on Mystic Meg are already documented.
My wife and I only switch on for the draw. Claire, aged six, has begun to take an interest in this. She's doing two-digit numbers at school and takes pleasure in recognising those displayed on the balls.
Naturally, she wanted to know what it was all about. So I told her you had to buy a ticket to try to guess the numbers. If you got three numbers right you got a wee prize. If you guessed all six you'd get a million pounds.
For two or three weeks she got lessons in statistics and disappointment as we continued to lose. Then, one night as I bathed her prior to her watching the draw in her pyjamas, I decided to do a quick social education lesson. "We'll still be happy even if we don't win a prize," I said.
She agreed. "And the best things are things you can't get with money."
I searched for a suitable example and found one in her 18-month-old brother who was squirting her with a bath toy at the time. I knew she was mad keen on having a pink fashion wallet so I asked: "What would you do if someone said they'd swap Andrew for a pink wallet?" "I'd say 'no' because I'd miss him, " she said. I gave some similar examples, all of which elicited the desired response, though I think she might have wavered a little when faced with exchanging her Daddy for a karaoke machine.
"So you see," I concluded, "you can't buy really good things like a nice wee brother or an auntie or a granny." I apologise if I've got anyone reaching for the boak poke. I'm well aware of the sugary-sweet nature of all of this. It's like a cross between the Waltons and a Fairy Liquid advert, complete with bubbles. Mind you, when I was younger I used to rather like the Waltons. I'll get me coat.
Gregor Steele won't give up working unless he wins more than a tenner.