Tuesday, 4 March 2014
It’s disturbing when your life views are up-ended. I’ve never really understood people. By that what I really mean is I don’t empathise – I am fully cognisant of your nasty venal urges and baser instincts and I want none of it. Observing the human race from the outside I’ve come to understand that my detachment has always been my strength. Given the choice of committing teamwork I’d rather commit something much more certain and final. I’ve never wanted much and most of it involved being left alone with a bit of peace and quiet.
I’ve often dreamed of living in a simple shack, far from any settlement, reached by a forbidding track and away from prying eyes. Yesterday I spent all day on a building site in the middle of nowhere. But this was no mean bothy; rather it was a luxury development of eye-opening grandiosity. The principle house – there are three others - will go on the market for £4.5million and its kitchen alone is fully twice the size of my entire house. Readers, I shit you not, I have the plans and I’ve done the calculation.
Of course it has a pool; for that price it would be unthinkable for it not to. And obviously as standard comes a gym, sauna and steam room, entertainment complex (whatever that entails) mini-cinema, eight car garage and views to die for. Hell, it even has a purpose built bat roost – yep, an ersatz barn as a sop to displaced wildlife. They have thought of everything. Actually, they haven’t… yet. For the development has been tortuous and the saga goes back years as the site owner clearly has more money than he knows how to deal with and is apt to change his mind on a whim.
Take the pool: The pit is dug, the retaining walls of reinforced concrete have recently been poured and the footings for the grand, vaulted enclosure are in. But yesterday he was seriously considering moving the whole thing and enlarging it. The underground cabling for landscape lighting, fountains, gate control and driveway lighting were being sketched on the plans because they need to go in some time soon, but even during the discussion the position of the main gate was changed three times.
This was all doubly frustrating because not only is it a waste of time and money and effort and an exasperating demand on the patience and good will of all the contractors involved, but the client was genuinely unconcerned that it was all going to add a small fortune to the costs. Just back from his third skiing holiday of this season alone he sat there with a beatific calm, not a worry in the world; he seemed to ask, what else was he going to do with all that money? And then it dawned on me – this was just a hobby for him – no bankers were creaming off interest, no prospective buyers were screaming for completion. He’ll be ready in his own good time.
As I settled into the long drive home I couldn’t help but dwell on what I’d seen and wonder whether, with that wealth, I would even bother to be involved with the world of work and other people. If I had that sort of dosh I’d be so fully retired and remote that National Geographic would set out on expeditions to try and prove I existed. In fact, sod that sort of dosh; for the cost of the kitchen alone I could retire today. And then I realised I wanted a small piece of what he’s got and I want it before it’s too late.
Gold plated barbecue? Why ever not?
As I drove home through the night the events of the day receded into memory and felt more like a dream than reality. It dawned on me that I was experiencing envy, something I’ve tried hard to resist. But behind that envy a tiny prickle of something; what was it? A sense of injustice? How was it fair that somebody who seemed not to care about money had so much of it? Why, if he didn’t appreciate all that he’d got, did he need it all? Why wasn’t more of it coming my way? And then I had the horrible, crashing revelation that, far from not understanding you humans, I was becoming one of the worst kind. Fuck me, I thought, don't tell me I’m turning into a socialist?