It’s some time in the early Nineties and I’m up in Newcastle at a family gathering of my dad’s side — a wedding? Or a funeral, maybe, judging by the black, button-up dress with a white crocheted collar that I’ve insisted on wearing? The grown-ups have ushered us off to the corner of the pub and I’m feeling intimidated by these older cousins who are taking turns on a fruit machine. Eventually it’s my turn, so one offers me a coin and when I hesitate, they all look down at this strange little Cockney Wednesday Addams: “I can’t,” I squeak. “My mum says gambling is wrong!” Oh, how they laughed! They laughed and laughed and laughed.
Back to the present day, and I’ve never needed treatment for gambling addiction, so who’s laughing now, cousins? I have, however, slightly relaxed my rigid moral stance, in common with the rest of the nation. While today’s youth are less likely to succumb to the lure of the fruities, and more likely to develop an all-encompassing Fortnite obsession, the number of problem gamblers continues to grow and, as ever, we start ’em young. This week in London, the NHS opened its first specialist clinic to treat gambling addicts aged 13 to 25.
According to a psychologist on the radio this week, it’s in childhood that the positive emotional associations of gambling are established, which is why she comes down “very, very hard” on such apparently innocuous gestures as a kindly grandparent enclosing a scratchcard in a birthday card. Clearly we’ve come a long way in our understanding and treatment of addiction, which is now viewed as a public health issue, not a personal failing. But let’s not pretend that clinical addiction explains each and every decision to throw good money after bad odds.
You need only read about this week’s record UK Lottery win to find 170 million other reasons besides. In a country that’s composed only of the “struggling-to-get-by” and “the super-rich” it feels like no amount of diligent saving will bridge the chasm that divides them. A jackpot win, though? That would provide the necessary jet-propulsion.
Maybe that’s a depressing thought, but gambling offers an escape from those too. Anyone who finds Call of Duty too much of a time investment can buy a ticket on a Wednesday morning for the Friday night Euromillions draw and get nearly three whole days of fantasising about yachts for their £2.50. Doesn’t that seem a fair price? Gambling isn’t always an addiction or a moral wrong, but it is a tax that smart people don’t pay. So for recreational gamblers who don’t quite warrant an NHS referral, I’d recommend getting on the next plane to Las Vegas without delay.
That will sound like terrible advice, if you’ve never been. People who’ve been to Vegas — with its smoke-fugged casinos, 24-hour strip-lighting and walking cadaver patrons — know that the world’s biggest gambling resort is also the world’s most effective advert for abstemious living. That’s no coincidence.
Alexa? Tell me how to parent without you…
Frowning upon other people’s parenting styles is frowned upon, so I’d been keeping my facial expressions neutral until I heard some of you are delegating the bedtime story to Amazon’s Alexa?
All rise! Judge-y Mum’s court is now in session!
This also isn’t the only way in which tired parents are shortchanging future generations. Parents too busy to teach their children how to verbalise emotions are apparently also to blame for an increase in toddlers biting. Or something.
What’s needed is a reorganisation of working norms to account for the reality of modern family life. But that might take a while. In the meantime, instead of shaming the providers, lets tell them the truth: you’re so tired you can barely move, so just imagine how exhausted you’ll be in a few years! If you resist the understandable urge to collapse on the sofa with a laptop, you’ll be doing your future self a massive favour.
The quicker a child learns to read, the sooner they stop bugging their parents and start immersing themselves in all 12 volumes of an age-inappropriate sci-fi series. The more loving attention a child receives from their parents, the fewer nightmare partners they’ll one day bring home for dinner. Or introduce into the family, where they’ll be part-responsible for raising the grandchildren. And so it begins, all over again…
Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy
* What’s the most delicious slice of WAGyu beef in the footballers’ wives row that kicked off yesterday? Is it the savvily-worded pay-off in the original post by Coleen Rooney exposing her Insta-leak? Is it the super-sleuthing which led inexorably to her conclusion?
Is it the questionable relevance of Rebekah Vardy’s two-part denial? (M’lud, my client is) “disgusted that she’s even having to deny this”, and also “heavily pregnant”. Or is it how steadfastly this whole #WAGathaChristie plot resists any Brexit metaphor? For once, it’s not an international crisis with grave consequences; It’s…Rebekah Vardy’s account.