I make enough money to live on. I don't need a fancy car, I hate sailing and flying, I'm not interested in big TV and I don't own one of those games machines. Waste of time. Although, I think, in the attic, there might still be a Sega master system I once bought on eBay for £8. I'm not sure if it still works. There was a game called 'Masters of Darkness' I enjoyed but never completed.
One year I had to pay 40% tax. I was made redundant and they gave me a big bag of money with 'Get Out' written on it. That was a one-off. I refuse to earn enough to pay that much tax again. There's no point busting a gut for half pay.
So it was with some surprise that I read this line -
That sum — £50,000 — is the amount people feel they need to earn in order to send a message to others that they are established and successful.
Really? Does anyone actually feel that way? Do people feel the need to send a message that they are established and successful? To whom? I don't give a cod's arse what the neighbours earn and what they think of me is their problem - although in certain cases I admit I have enhanced their problem deliberately to keep them away. Most of them don't know I have a PhD and most don't know I'm a published author. I have never felt the need to tell them because it is not relevant to discussions about weather, planting, or drinkies. I will certainly not tell them what I earn and I will never ask what they earn.
The article is worth a read for its comic surprises. The impoverished Southern family on fifty grand are a delight.
About 40 per cent of the Sewells’ income goes on their mortgage, which leaves a reduced sum for them to live on every month — and virtually nothing for any of life’s luxuries.
That works out at over £1500 a month for the mortgage. Holy crap. There are four of them so they could live in a house like the one I have. My mortgage is now under £300 a month. But then my house is nowhere near as grand as theirs. Well, it's a matter of taste. They like 'grand' and I don't worry about that. If you like 'grand' then you have to pay for it. Good luck to you if you can. If I could I'd probably get somewhere with a tower. A laboratory in the tower would be wonderful.
As for life's luxuries, today I have been scoffing the first of the raspberries and strawberries from my garden. The gooseberries are nearly ready too. No processing, no packaging, no sprays and no cost. Luxuries can be free, depending on how you define luxury.
This was especially funny -
1. The couple have surrendered their £75-a-month gym membership, old clothes are mended and even hair cuts are rationed.
Seventy-five quid a month for the torture chamber? At that price, buy one of the self-torment multigyms yourself. It's cheaper. A friend of mine has one in his shed, it looks like something out of a 'Saw' film but you wouldn't tell him that because he looks like the Hulk. Old clothes, I wear without bothering to mend until they are in danger of being illegal and haircuts are necessary when it starts to get in my eyes. But then...
2. Melanie has also cut back on using the car. ‘The increase in fuel prices has affected us, so I’m trying to walk more,’ she says.
So... she'd drive everywhere and keep fit by paying £75 a month to the gym. Is there any point trying to explain? Could anyone do so with a straight face?
‘I don’t think people in other parts of the country realise how much more things cost down South.
Yes, we do. That's why we don't live there. On my income I'd be renting their shed, and probably not all of it.
I can’t even afford regular check-ups at the dentist.
Who can? Get yourself some stout pliers and a bottle of whisky. Remember, whisky first. It'll still hurt but you won't mind. Oh, and don't get so drunk you pull the wrong one.
By contrast, the Northern family are portrayed as having an idyllic lifestyle. They even have rocks stuck to the wall. Oh, the decadence!
I'm even further North. If I was on fifty grand a year I would take every other year off. Sure, if you want to have ponies and to drive to the gym and to windsurf and to send a message to other people, and you're willing to work for it, good luck to you. I don't want to stop you and I don't want to see you taxed into oblivion to pay for some lager-swilling lout with fifteen kids by seventeen fathers. You work for it, it's yours. Or should be.
But really, are you only doing it so that other people can see your success? Is that a real reason for working that hard? It that really worth a heart attack or a breakdown?
If you're working like crazy because you want enough money for a Rolls-Royce and a mansion, that's fair enough. All I ever wanted as a kid was an oscilloscope, a laser and a Silva compass and I obtained those years ago. I have lots of lasers now. I've been trying to graft one in to a solar-powered light but it needs 3V and two rechargeable batteries only produce 2.4V. A three-battery solar light is my main ambition now. And a four-battery one, because I have a little 4.5V train I've been trying to make solar-powered too.
I can understand someone working hard because they really want to own something and are earning the money to pay for it. I cannot understand why anyone would pay for petrol to drive to the gym they have to pay for, when they could walk there and back for free and get just as much exercise without going in. But hey, you earned the money, spend it how you want.
What is completely incomprehensible to me is this idea that people bust a gut to earn money just so they can send a message to other people that they are earning this much money. What's the point? I know the guy next door to me is richer because he recently had a bar installed in his house and it was all proper carpentry - I mean the channeled uprights were cut from blank wooden pieces right there, on site - and not out of an Ikea flat-pack. It looks really, really good. He did not do that to impress me. He did it because he's a pisshead, like me, but with more money.
Am I jealous? Well, I'd quite like a bar but I could make one. Not to that standard but once it's coated in ash and starts to go blurry, who's to know? He does not talk about his income. I don't talk about mine. Usually we discuss the Macallan because that's his favourite or we talk shit in slurred voices.
I suspect the guy across the street is richer because he works every hour of the day and does little else. He is not a boozer, nor a smoker. Is he bragging about it? No. He's a joiner and he once helped me fix my shed. The question of money did not arise.
I don't know anyone who feels any need to send a message about their success. Do they exist? If so, it sounds a terrible waste of a life. Work for what you want, not what you think will impress other people.
If it's not worth working yourself to death for your own benefit, it's certainly not worth doing it for someone else's.