I know I can do it, but money always stands in the way of breezy, quiet contentment
Winter has descended on me like a heavy cloak. I am trying to be upbeat, but we’re ill, again. It is cold in the house, and the wind whips up through the gappy floorboards, even chilling feet with shoes on. We walk around like migrating penguins in hats and padded coats, but we have nowhere to go. We often sit in a line on the sofa because the living room is the only warm place in the house. This weather is not good for creativity or for breaking free from sedentary habits.
It is funny because winter is not a surprise. I’ve lived through three dozen, and should be well prepared now. But this time of year makes me feel heavy with responsibility, as I fret over undone to-do lists. Mostly, I’m scared that Christmas will arrive and I won’t fulfil my desire to create happy, carefree family days. I’m envisaging brisk walks that warm the body but numb fingers and noses; games of Monopoly played with enthusiasm in the first half hour, then abandoned when we realise that it’s actually quite boring and there’s a good film on TV; long hours spent cooking in preparation for shared meals that make everyone say an appreciative: “Mmmmmmm.”
I can make these things happen. I know I can, but one thing that always seems to stand in the way of me and total, breezy lack of concern and quiet contentment is money. It might be gauche to discuss it, but I would like more. There are many songs about money. I know, because my daughter plays her music obnoxiously loudly. Despite the look of chagrin on her face, I join in with the chorus sometimes: “All I really want is money in my pocket,” or “Money on my mind, money money on my mind”.
Before I continue with my ranty, self-pitying tirade about how I have no money, I realise I have enough to eat and pay the bills, with a bit of pleading to the bank manager to extend my overdraft. I don’t think more money would make me a wildly happier person, or that my troubles would all be solved if somebody landed on my doorstep and posted a great wad of cash through my letterbox. Father Christmas unfortunately doesn’t visit me any more.
But money does make things easier. I wouldn’t regularly get those heart-in-mouth moments when I realise that I haven’t paid a major bill, but my account is dry. If there is enough to buy a week’s food, pay the bills and occasionally take the kids out for pizza, then there is room for breeziness and a slight devil-may-care attitude. The boiler breaking down would not induce a panic attack. A child needing a new pair of shoes would not prompt me to think: “Right. I’ll have to cancel our trip to the cinema.” It’s just the juggling of not quite enough money that is stressful and all-consuming.
Having more money would allow me to be a little more frivolous, light-hearted and spontaneous. Here’s what I’d do if I had lots: Take my daughter to Liberty, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Harrods. She would choose something to buy and so would I.
Take the family out for a big slap-up meal to beat the monotony of cooking for unappreciative children.
Go to John Lewis food hall and buy all the best stuff for Christmas Day.
Get a builder to fill in all the draughty gaps in our house.
Hire a babysitter so I could go to the cinema and then out for dinner.
There is one major thing in my life that money can’t fix, of which I’m sorely aware: R’s alcoholism. He has been through two rounds of rehab (paid for through his work health insurance), but he’s drinking again, still being dishonest, still beating himself up. But at least, with more money, I could buy him the really expensive brogues he has coveted for years, so that even in his darkest hour he could look down at his feet and think: “Not bad.”