‘Maureen,’ said my neighbour some years ago,’ can you imagine what it’s like to be ridiculously wealthy?’
‘Don’t bother with an answer,’ he interrupted, ‘for I guarantee you can’t….’
He and his wife had just returned from their holiday home abroad which they visited twice a year.
Now… I thought that they were ridiculously wealthy……. judging by their lifestyle, and, tongue in cheek, I told him so. He laughed.
‘You think? We don’t come close!’
‘Well then, in answer to your original question … no, I can’t imagine what being ridiculously wealthy would be like. What made you ask?’‘D’you know we were refused access to parts of this one beach because it was privately owned and fairly heavily guarded. We could see people arriving in motor launches from their yachts anchored offshore but our view was restricted and, anyway, we were being ‘hurried along’ in no uncertain manner …..’
He was still living the experience. I could tell by the far away look and the shaking of the disbelieving head. He went on to describe the elevator which had been hewn out of the cliff in order to facilitate a smooth and speedy transportation from beach to luxury home.
‘I mean, who has that kind of money….??…’ he asked.
Well, it assuredly wasn’t him and it certainly wasn’t me but he looked so pathetic and dispirited, I didn’t have the heart to say it aloud. I almost felt sorry for him as I watched him climb into his brand new Jaguar and speed off!
What would you do if you won The Lottery? We all play this game don’t we? How far do you get with your ‘wildest dream’ before there’s utter chaos?
‘Oh no! I wouldn’t do that!!
‘You’d live where? Really?
‘You would give a share to who????’………..
(time for a lesson….
– Who’s there?
– To who?
– Emmm…. I think you mean – To whom…..)
Well, now, it’s just me talking to myself…… so what would I do if I suddenly became ridiculously wealthy….. let’s see….. oh heck …my mind’s wandering…..
When I was young, my father was a Vernon’s Pools man. The coupon would be filled in fastidiously every Thursday night when crosses would be put neatly and hopefully in the appropriate boxes to predict the outcome of the Saturday football matches. ‘The Coupon Man’ would collect it on Friday bundling it up with other potential winners’ entries and life would hold a promise of good news until Saturday evening when the results were announced on the radio. We had to maintain a strict silence during the checking of the copy coupon. This is when I learned about weirdly named teams and place names like ‘Brighton and Hove Albion’, ‘Layton Orient’, ‘Tottenham Hotspur,’ ‘Bolton Wanderers,’ ‘Charlton Athletic,’ to name but a few and learned to predict a win, lose or draw by the ‘sing-song’ inflections in the announcer’s voice. My dad never spoke about what he would do with a possible windfall but he never forgot to fill in the little box at the bottom of the coupon requesting ‘NO PUBLICITY’ in the event of a win. He needn’t have bothered. He never won.
‘Spot the Ball’ was another pastime of his as well as his frequent flutters on the horses. He may have had some success with the latter but nothing too significant to radically change our lives! We continued to stay in the same house, shop at the Co., and travel by public transport. My geographic knowledge, however, continued to expand as I familiarised myself with Newmarket, Ascot, Cheltenham, Ayr, Musselburgh, Aintree, Galway, Cork, Downpatrick, The Curragh…. oh … and on the subject of the latter…. this is one of my favourite true stories from my Dad….
He and Mater were on their way down from Dublin to the Curragh by train with a couple of friends, Mr.& Mrs J.
Mr J. enjoyed ‘the gee-gees,’ Mrs J. was extremely outspoken in her disgust for any form of gambling and consequently was in somewhat of ‘a huff’ at this enforced day out…. she studiedly gazed out of the carriage window refusing to be drawn into any conversation. Her mood had no effect on the other ‘sinners’ who prattled away happily about this and that. The small talk turned to birthdays. It was at this point that Mrs.J. decided to contribute.
‘You may be interested to know,’ she interrupted, ‘that I was born on Christmas Day,
I was baptised on the Feast of the Circumcision, made my First Holy Communion on Holy Thursday and I hope to die on a Good Friday…’
Without missing a beat Mr.J. quipped,
‘And I hope to hell you don’t rise again on Easter Sunday, Mary!!!’
…enough to make a cuddy laugh!So… where were we? Ah yes!….what would I do if I suddenly became ridiculously wealthy?
I posed this question to a class when ‘The Lottery’ was first introduced:
‘Your best friend is buying a lottery ticket. You’d love to buy one too but you can’t as you don’t have enough money. Your friend offers to lend you the necessary fifty pence. You discover later on that night that you are the exclusive winner of one million pounds….. what’s the first thing you would do?’
Well the responses were many and varied but eventually I got the one I was hoping for:
‘I’d give my best pal his fifty pence back!’
‘So how much money would you have left?… and no calculators!’ There ensued a deal of ‘working out’ to get the answer.
‘Miss could we no’ just give him a pound back… that’d be an easier sum….!’
‘What about giving him a half of your winnings then….after all he gave you half of the ticket money…..and that would be an even easier sum…..’
‘Please Miss,whit? Please Miss, nuh!!’
The debate that followed was lively – as you can imagine: fairness, borrowing, lending, contracts, friendships, happiness,etc.,etc.,…. we covered a good deal of ground, even moving onto banking, interest, investments, percentages…..
My maternal grandmother,(the one with the ‘talking dog!) whom I never knew, was a teacher. She would have come under the umbrella, now, of ‘Support for Learning’. Back then she was the ‘N.Q.Teacher’ i.e.,the person in charge of those children who had failed to qualify for high school and were retained at primary until such times as they reached a particular standard or until they were of an age to leave school (14yrs then, I think). According to family legend, she was ahead of her time. She made reading and number relevant to her charges’ lifestyles. These youngsters were more familiar and comfortable with the tossing schools, betting shops, dartboards, billiards (and their related text) than they were with pages of sums and stories about little dogs called Fluff and sweet little girls called Ann who enjoyed cream puffs for tea!
She improved their reading ages by basing lessons around environmental print, boosted their maths by showing them how to ‘work out their winnings’ (in case they ‘got done’!) and fired their imaginations by posing meaningful problems: ‘How would you set about making a pot of soup?’ or ‘Make a bogie(cart) big enough to carry a dozen briquettes (remember those?!)’
Handwriting was very important and daily practice involved ‘their very own, precious signatures’. There were two boys with the same sounding name :
Robert Miller and Robert Millar. My grandmother would address them thus when calling the register:
‘Robert Miller, E-R
‘Present, Miss!’ ‘Robert Millar, A-R‘
Unfortunately she never managed to disabuse either of them of the habit, when writing, of adding the extra identifying letters after their respective names……
What on earth has all this got to do with money and being ridiculously wealthy…….??? Well the way I see it…..she was imbuing those children with inestimable wealth: self esteem, confidence, trust, faith hopefulness respect for others…..these qualities you simply cannot ‘buy’. She in turn would be rewarded, handsomely, with feelings of thankfulness and deep satisfaction – ask any teacher or parent about their emotions when sharing achievement of any kind with their children ……..
….those feelings just can’t be bought…..
‘How and ever’ as my colleague May used to say…. this does not answer the question, ‘What would I do if I became ridiculously wealthy?’
Before I expand on this I must get something off my chest : Why oh why do we have winners being awarded eg., forty seven million pounds in prize money? Two million pounds is enough for anyone, surely! ……. put a one million pound smile (however fleeting that might be!) on the faces of forty five other punters for goodness sake!….. give them all the headache of deciding how best to disburse the wealth among family and friends – and still maintain their loyalty and respect. (No one can guarantee that your largesse will deliver a happy outcome for everyone….just hope you know……)
A ‘no publicity’ request would seem virtually impossible in this day and age and therefore would even deny you, the winner, the opportunity of becoming a ‘miserly git’! (What is the point of a happy event without the sharing of the good news?) Those nine hundred and fifty friends of yours on FB would be rubbing their greedy little hands with glee at the prospect of being ‘mentioned in dispatches’,neighbours who have previously been grudging and churlish would be flashing their gnashers and falling over themselves to engage you in ‘light hearted banter’……you would become the subject of gossip, the target of criticism and abuse….. a victim of your good fortune……..A whole world of new and different pressures would be unfolding and an avalanche of ‘advice’ bombarding you from all directions. You would begin to yearn for solitude and anonymity….. your own space……your privacy……
(Now, do you see what I’ve been up to? Can you tell it’s a ‘glass half empty day’? I have talked myself out of being ridiculously wealthy…..am I of sane mind you may ask…
well, I am.)
I mean, who wouldn’t like to have a surplus of cash? Who wouldn’t love to relieve family and friends of financial worries? Who doesn’t long to solve world poverty? (We have been hurling money at The Third World for as long as I can remember and it’s as though nothing major seems to change…..still no clean water for everyone, not enough mosquito nets, malnutrition on the rise, cholera, famine, starvation……. mind you, looking at the vastness of these countries helps me in a way, to sympathise and acknowledge the enormity of such an infinite task…. if only there was a common will and determination by all ‘the haves’ worldwide to solve or alleviate these desperately tragic situations)…..
Where I lose sympathy, is when I listen to the ‘great and the good’ spouting shocking statistics re child poverty on our very own doorstep – a situation which should never exist (look at the size of it compared to Africa!!!) I am naive, I know, but if one small nation can pay two hundred million pounds…… for a footballer!!….. then, in my humble opinion that’s a lorra, lorra balls!……
D’you know I’ve got myself so worked up about the state of our world that my little brain has become soup….. a mess of potage…. that for which Esau sold his birthright to his brother Jacob…… selling something of great value for immediate gain….. soup…er…I mean food… for thought.
So, here’s the thing. In answer to the question: If I became ‘filthy rich’ what would I do?
Well, I am no saint. I would probably enjoy the euphoria, in the short term, with family and friends – sharing as I see fit then I’d give the rest away – hoping that my life, as it is at present, would remain the same – despite its trials and tribulations. What I have in my life
is my great treasure – and could never be exchanged for money. In contemplating wealth, I have uncovered a real fear within me that I, or others, might somehow change….. by allowing smugness, arrogance, wastefulness, apathy, selfishness, avarice… to invade our souls…. I have to conclude therefore that, although it is extremely ‘handy’, I can see how money is the root of all evil…….
….. I am now dismounting from the ‘high horse’ folks.
‘Thank Goad!’ I hear you moan,’We want neigh mare.’…
….in the meantime…..I’d love a new vacuum cleaner and a bigger kitchen!!…. so I’m off to get a lottery ticket…. x