Milly is asleep and I, unusually, am not, so I'm writing this and it's about money.
I'm having a long-term, on-off debate with Annikki about whether money is worthy of desire. She holds the firm opinion that it is not. She has known, she says, several properly wealthy people, and their money hasn't made them happy in the slightest. She would like everyone to live in identical houses, so long as she is allowed to paint hers a different colour. She feels that none of the things that really matter in life can be bought, so why waste time and energy scampering and drooling after cash?
Obviously, I disagree.
I don't mean obviously I disagree because her views are ludicrous, (they aren't) or obviously I disagree because I'm middle class and we're all money-grabbing social climbers, mainlining aspiration like it's heroin, (we're not) and I don't mean obviously I disagree because I'm a Tory and we like to lick money (mmm, tasty money). I disagree, obviously, because I wouldn't be sitting here at half eight in the morning writing this post instead of snoozing with my daughter or re-reading The Jane Austen Book Club if I didn't think there was a strong and woefully underused argument for the other point of view.
And it is woefully underused, because to admit to wanting more money, lots more money, in your life is to draw, at least, raised eyebrows from your crowd, and, at worst, to label yourself as a materialistic cash-junkie with no sense of what's genuinely important in life. "She wants to be rich?" people mutter to themselves, "How SHALLOW!" I protest that I'm not shallow, I just think I'd be better off being, well, better off. "She thinks money will bring her happiness!" they then exclaim, quietly and with a touch of smug. "How DELUDED."
Well, I'm neither shallow nor deluded. I just want to be rich. There, I said it, bold-faced and brazen. Judge me if you dare. I want to have a choice of lovely houses to buy from, with many large rooms and a huge garden for Milly to run about in, rather than gloomily checking Rightmove every day to see if something has miraculously appeared in the £170-180,000 price bracket that has more than 2 square feet of garden and a living room you can actually fit a sofa into. I want to go into a car showroom and choose a nice little three-door for Milly and I to tootle about in, instead of looking on Autotrader for sixth-hand old bangers that actually we can't afford anyway. I want to cook with wonderful ingredients, and go to the opera and the ballet, and do Open University courses, and take foreign holidays staying in luxury hotels with spas I can afford to use. I want to buy Simon tailored suits for his birthday and have the option, the OPTION, of sending Milly to private school when she's older. I think these things would make me happy.
It's too easy, too tempting to diss wealth. Of course there are unhappy rich people. There are even people who appear to be palpably suffering for being rich. On the TV last night I saw a clip of a reality show about super-wealthy American teens in which a sixteen year old girl was presented with her $67,000 Lexus at what was, apparently, the wrong moment. She threw the biggest strop I've ever seen, swore at her mother, shrieked "I can't believe you! You've ruined everything! The party's off!" and stormed out in floods of tears. Clearly unfettered access to the best of everything was taking a heavy toll on this child's soul. But it needn't have been like that. The girl's money gives her access to education, travel, people, places; it's not money's fault her parents are jackasses who don't know how to say no. It's also not money's fault if people have bad marriages, or are weak or mean or distant parents.
It's a con to blame money. It makes you think you'd be crazy to want it, which is useful if you're never likely to get it. It makes you think you're breaking free of the class system by rejecting the very thing that puts some people at the top and others at the bottom. But that's the biggest con of all. Have you ever seen any of those films or TV shows where an 'ordinary' family suddenly come into ooodles of money? They live their lives, and they squabble, and bitch, and bicker, then the cash appears like magic and for a while there's a wet dream of conspicuous consumption and everyone has what they always wanted. But wait, what's this? Cracks start to appear, the bickering starts up again, this time over who crashed the Audi in the martini glass-shaped swimming pool. The family starts to implode as integrity becomes corrupted and values disappear. All looks lost until the money somehow vanishes as easily as it arrived. "We were better off all along!" the family cry, tears of enlightened joy in their eyes. "Money made us miserable!".
Bullshit! Money didn't make them miserable, it was what they did with it. You never see people in these dramas using their sudden wealth to access the arts or education, to broaden their horizons, you just see them going crazy for gold-plated Ferraris, like apes in a banana shop. That's because a drama about a family who suddenly get money and become happier, better people for it doesn't make for much of a story. And because the real message of these things is that you, Mr and Mrs Poor Person, you can't handle money. You don't know what to do with it, so it drives you crazy. So back you go, back to where you belong, lesson learnt. Breaking free of the class system, my arse. Like I said, it's the biggest con of all.
So I say hurrah for wealth. It may make stupid people stupider and mean people meaner, but poverty doesn't have such a great track record in that department either. There's nothing shallow about wanting to have better, nor is it deluded to suppose that having it will increase my already quite substantial enjoyment of life. Aspiration is a beautiful thing, so let us aspire to have more and to be more. Come stargazers, come climbers, come dreamers, come doers, come builders of ladders and stairways and rockets. Come, my friends. Onwards and upwards.