M oney. What is it?
Here are some things I know about money:
• It can’t buy you friends (anon)
• It can’t buy you happiness (anon)
• It can’t buy you love (The Beatles)
• It’s the root of all evil (Timothy, as quoted by Paul in the Bible)
• It’s too tight to mention (M. Hucknall)
• Money? It’s a hit. Don’t give me that do goody good bullshit. I’m in the high-fidelity first class travelling set… (Pink Floyd)
• I once knew a man so poor, all he had was money (anon, version sometimes attributed to Bob Marley)
As you can see, I am not the best person to talk to about money. My beloved late little brother was my accountant and he would tear his hair out about my complete indifference to money.
But here is a thing.
Last year, for a number of reasons, I left London and moved to Valencia. I love my life here, despite having arrived just before arguably the world’s strictest national lockdown. I went a bit crazy. But throughout this period, one thing that kept me sane-ish was that I had a part-time, two-day-a-week job with Octopus Energy. They are bringing about a sea-change in attitudes towards husbandry of our dwindling resources on the planet so that we won’t have spunked everything by the time my daughter, now a teenager, will be old enough to vote. Boris Johnson – your days are numbered, as are those of your plutocratic paymasters.
The great thing, though, is that the cost of living here is much more affordable than in London. I don’t mean to be sanctimonious or sententious. I know people who like to spend their money on luxury holidays, classic cars, top-brand clothes or expensive properties in fashionable postcodes. Good luck to them, I say. It’s their money, after all.
For me, I choose to rent an affordable flat in a neighbourhood I love.
Chacun à son goût, an’ all that. I am happy.
But the incredible thing is that it means I can afford to give away half of my income.
From my modest income, I am able to support a bunch of people.
I won’t embarrass anyone by naming them.
But I have a friend who is a single mum whom I am able to help by buying furniture, school essentials and dental treatment for her little boy.
I help other people here in Valencia.
I support various families in Cuba by sending dollars to buy basic items that are not available in State-run stores. Four families, in fact.
I give money to UNHCR, Unicef, Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.
I write pro-bono for certain causes.
I am not a saint, far from it.
But – and here is the point.
I lead a good and rewarding life, and have as much as I need.
And yet a bunch of families are learning the difference between barely surviving and doing OK. I am ashamed I cannot do more, but there we have it.
What seems so little to us is life-changing to others.
We are all brothers and sisters, parents and children, cousins and friends, regardless of such irrelevances as where we are born and circumstances of birth. For this reason, I cannot take organised religion seriously; I am proud to be a humanist, and for this I will always try to help in my own way.
So. Yeah. Money.
How do you wish to be remembered?
By how much your estate was worth when you shuffle off your mortal coil?
Or by what difference you made while you were around?
I have made my choice.
I don’t judge others by theirs.
We are here only one time.
And I don’t need a car…