December 2019, A Pre-Covid Memory:  The Prince of Wales Lottery

Rows of twinkling lights shimmer along the high street store fronts on Piccadilly Circus. A shop door opens, and a blast of joyful Christmas carols fills my ears. The warm smell of roasted chestnuts wafts in the December air. My fingertips brush against a candy cane wrapper scrunched up in the pocket of my parka. It is almost time for dinner. My taste buds are anticipating the custard tarts we plan to pick up later from the Portuguese bakery in Soho. But first, we have come to the West End.

My mum, grandmother and I have each put our names in a lottery to win tickets for tonight’s show. We placed our ballots with hundreds of others into an enormous golden spinning drum. Now we are standing outside the opulent Prince of Wales Theatre, waiting for the draw to commence. My fingers are crossed tightly in my mitts. Please, please, please let my name be called! We can see our breath, but I am not paying attention to the cold.

Wearing a top hat, and a fancy coat with tails, the theatre manager calls out the first name. A man in the back cheers and runs up to collect his pair of winning tickets. Then a second name is called, then a third name, a fourth, and a fifth. The theatre will be giving out seven pairs of tickets. Front row tickets. 

I begin to feel disheartened —but then the manager calls out—“Heather Brown!”. Next to me, my mum lets out a hoot. She hops up the steps to collect her two tickets.  A thought crosses my mind. We need tickets for four people . . . .

The manager bellows, “And the final two tickets for tonight’s show go to . . .  Samantha Zinn!”.  My heart sinks.

But wait! Where is the winner? A few minutes pass, yet Samantha is nowhere to be seen. What? Tension in the crowd augments. That means one last name will be drawn! I nervously watch the golden drum turn, and see the slips of paper tumble inside. I close my eyes.

“Finnegan Brown!”  

“That’s YOU Finn!”, my grandma laughs out loud.

We’ve won four tickets! We can all go!  Both my grandparents, my mum and I.  Christmas in London is always magical. To be honest, the events leading up to the show stand out more in my memory than the actual show itself. That frosty December evening on Piccadilly Circus is one of my favourite memories.

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