The UK is suffering a class crisis at the moment. You switch on the news and the complaints are rife – the Government only provides for business, not people. The rich get richer, etc. I’m not on a soapbox, but you don’t need to be to know that there’s strong public opinion on the subject.
Competitions, however, do seem to provide an antidote to this imbalance. Because the selection of a competition winner relies, for the most part, on chance, they are a great social leveller. Your bank balance, social standing, the school that you attended – it makes no difference. Mr Brown the Banker has as much chance as winning as Mrs Choke the Chicken Factory Worker. We’re all equal.
As with all things, there is an exception. There is one type of competition that, by its very existence, reminds me of my place in society. While I am happily entering competitions, it pops up and sneers at my aspirations. It looks down on me and shakes its head at the idea of me entering. I am, of course, talking about horse competitions.
How many compers have a horse? A dog or a cat, yes, but a stable and a horse? You’re as well offering me (and probably most other compers) a prize of a girdle for a triceratops. This type of competition may well be popular in stately homes up and down the country, but for the likes of me, it’s a reminder of social standing.
Anything that I know about keeping a horse, I know about the prizes from horse magazine competitions. Special feed, blankets, supplements, sunglasses, stable extensions, a real live jockey – I’ve seen them all up for grabs.
But I must embrace all things related to competitions. I must not be churlish or spiteful. I am therefore, and with some enthusiasm, taking this train of thought to its logical conclusion. There is only one way to break down this social barrier – give away a horse in a competition. A prize of a real horse, delivered to whichever winner is chosen at random.
I remember a comedian observing that 80s ITV game show Bullseye had resulted in council houses all over the UK having speedboats parked outside. Why not have the same with the horses? Picture a postman attempting to deliver the horse to a 14th floor flat or gangs of stray horses roaming your street at night. Why offer us the prize of a horse blanket if you’re not going to offer us the chance of a horse to put under it?
Bizarrely, this wouldn’t be the strangest prize I’ve seen given away. I regularly see competitions to win eye surgery. Eye surgery. If I was to undertake any sort of elective surgery, I would definitely be doing research on the available options. Wouldn’t you also seek feedback, talk to the surgeon involved, examine the contract and weigh up the risks? In that case, who is entering and winning these competitions to have someone randomly pick you as the recipient of eye surgery? I dread the day that we see people entering a draw for an emergency appendectomy or ingrown toenail removal. Would you like your tummy tucked by a surgeon who pulled your name out of a hat?
As I type, some competition prizes on offer include a glossy leopard skin handbag, several copies of the Diana movie, tickets to see Justin from CBeebies in concert, a porcelain jaguar lamp and 1 Million Vietnamese Dong. The biggest risk in entering these competitions is that you might win. I’m telling you from experience – it’s how I ended up with a set of plastic infant tweezers designed to remove, erm, nasal blockages from babies.
I saw a competition once offering people the chance to win a book that detailed the names of famous people’s cats. That’s all well and good but I think I’d prefer a book detailing the names of royalty’s favourite horses. It’ll come in handy when I win a thoroughbred in a competition.
This piece first appeared in Compers News.