The little story I posted on Facebook about the expensive steak pies and the Aston Martin DB9 has had quite a response and has left me pondering that age old question of what makes us rich. I know it’s been done to death in books, films, songs and even, I’m fairly sure, by me in previous blogs, but I was never one for turning away the opportunity to flog a dead horse.
The story, for the benefit of anybody who is sensible enough not to go anywhere near Facebook, was about us declining to buy steak pies from a local butchers because they were ridiculously expensive but then seeing a man emerge from the same shop and drive away in an Aston Martin DB9 thus confirming our station in life. Of course it was a joke and we could have bought the pies, but maybe not the car, but being rich isn’t about money is it? Or is it?
I know there is a point at which lack of money will make you miserable in a world where money is king and nothing for free comes easy so I am assuming that what I am considering here is wealth beyond the basic needs of food, shelter etc. So the question is; if we have enough money not to have to worry about the basics what does more money add to our lives? Gill and I are not poor by any means but I wouldn’t like to have less surplus income than we have now and I’m pretty sure that applies to most people irrespective of how much they have. Isn’t that the conundrum? What is it about money and possessions that fools almost everybody into thinking that they need more than they already have? Or than somebody else has for that matter.
I think money is like an empty garage or loft. Indeed just about any empty space in a house that just gathers more and more stuff until it’s full, we just expand to fill the void. In a similar way we adapt to make use of whatever spare cash we have and convince ourselves that we couldn’t really do with any less and a little bit more would be lovely. I am always amazed to read stories of people who have won fortunes by some means or other and managed to change their lifestyles so dramatically that they have been able to spend the lot and become poor again. Dedication to the cause indeed.
Travelling on the canals is like viewing a microcosm of society. There are people on boats worth far more than ours but for them it’s just a play thing for weekends or maybe a two week trip twice a year if the sun comes out. They are always friendly and cheerful and happy to chat with us when we come across them. Then there are what look like derelict craft covered in debris and green algae, roofs piled high with old wood and all manner of worn out possessions. The windows in their crumbling rusty frames are well beyond being see-through, grubby tatters of curtains hang listlessly and it’s obvious that the boat hasn’t moved in months or even years. It’s hard to imagine that anybody could be living in such conditions but the wisp of smoke curling from the chimney says there are. Occasionally a scruffy, grubby individual will emerge from one of these wrecks as we pass by and invariably they are smiling and friendly and, as far as we can tell, happy. I’m pretty sure that the people with the fancy boat wouldn’t want to swap places with them. But what about the unshaven, dishevelled old man on the tatty boat, would he want to swap places with them? I’m not so confident of the answer to that question. What makes him happy, if he is? Certainly not money.
It sure is a tricky business finding that happy compromise of enough but no more. We are all chasing happy, but happy can rarely be purchased and I think we all know this deep down but it’s so hard to believe it. Money pulls and pushes us, it lures and beguiles us and constantly whispers in our ears, “just a little bit more”. I don’t crave an Aston Martin but flipping heck, those steak pies did look good.