JACKPOT WINNERS AT WAR; Dream of Your Syndicate Hitting the Jackpot like This Week's [Pounds Sterling]38m Bus Drivers? the Writer of a New TV Lottery Drama - Who's Interviewed Winners from across Britain - Warns It Can All Too Often End in Acrimony

Article excerpt

Byline: by Kay Mellor

WHEN a group of bus drivers from Corby in Northamptonshire were photographed celebrating their [pounds sterling]38million lottery win earlier this week, one face was missing from the pictures.

It was that of their 36-year-old colleague Hazel Loveday, who withdrew from their syndicate six months ago. A single mother who earns [pounds sterling]17,000 a year and has a three-year-old son, Hazel apparently missed out on the EuroMillions prize because she was broke and had decided the [pounds sterling]2-a-week lottery subscription could be better spent elsewhere. Amid all the popping of champagne corks, talk of buying Aston Martins and dining on caviar, she is said to be 'devastated'. Not one of the 12 winners has contacted her during what she describes as a 'week from hell.'

Hazel insists she would have been straight on the phone to them had she won on her own -- but I wonder whether she might one day look back and think missing out on the win wasn't such a bad thing after all.

I don't say this lightly. I was once a young mother living on a council estate in Leeds with a low income, so I know what it's like to feel sick about the next bill. Over the past few months, however, I've gained a unique perspective on what it really means to win a lottery.

This has come about as part of background research for my new BBC drama series, The Syndicate, the story of a group of supermarket employees whose lives are transformed by their lottery win.

I was inspired to write the drama when I noticed how many people talk about a lottery win as their only way out of financial problems. Last year, National Lottery sales grew to more than [pounds sterling]6 billion even as consumers found their spending under pressure in the current recession I wanted to move beyond wellknown stories like that of the 'Lotto Lout' Michael Carroll, the former binman from Norfolk who won [pounds sterling]9.7 million in 2002 and blew almost all of it on drugs, gambling and the sex industry, so I talked to ordinary people who'd often had relatively modest plans for their money.

Camelot were, understandably, very helpful in supplying case studies of winners who'd had positive experiences. I'm not sure that some of the liposuction procedures and boob jobs I heard about would be seen as 'positive' by everybody, but I did hear some very heart-warming tales about people whose lives have been transformed for the good.

There was a couple who could afford the next round of IVF treatment which resulted in a baby daughter -- so you could say the lottery win bought them a life. Other winners got huge satisfaction from helping friends and relatives out of debt, and had enjoyed wonderful holidays.

AND we musn't forget that the vast amount of money the Lottery itself gives each year to charities and good causes benefits many others.

I tried to reflect all this in my drama, but the reality is -- to quote the Beatles -- 'money can't buy me love', or, it seems, a guarantee of happiness.

The thing that surprised me most was how quickly the euphoria that goes with a win comes to an end -- often after only a week or so. It's soon replaced by the realisation that with money comes responsibility, and expectation on the part of other people.

Many of the winners I contacted were reluctant at first to speak to me, and asked me to change any details that might identify them. This in itself says something about the mixed blessing of a lottery win -- but one of those who did agree to talk was a hairdresser who had won several million pounds as part of a work syndicate.

She said: 'When local people first heard that we'd won, they'd toot their horns and put their thumbs up when they drove past the salon, because they were proud that it had happened to people of their own.

'But then attitudes started to change. I wanted to carry on with my job, partly because I loved it, and partly because it would have left the owner of the salon in the lurch if I'd left suddenly, but the customers couldn't understand it and kept asking why I was still there. …