Dorothy Parker said, “I don’t know much about being a millionaire, but I’ll bet I’d be darling at it.”
I’d be darling at it too.
If I got suddenly rich I’d immediately buy an MTT Turbine Superbike Y2K and a Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse, because you can take the girl outta her racer-boy, village roots, but you can’t take the racer-boy outta the girl. NB: no local boys ever drove vehicles like these.
I’d buy an island in the Outer Hebrides where you can hear the sea from every inch of it. I’d build a cosy writer’s nook filled with enough Wotsits, custard creams, fags, coffee and Vose-Romanèe premier cru to see me through the writing of each book. (For this island fantasy to work I’d need to have funded research into a permanent solution to midges and also have found myself a full-time, stay-at-home wife).
I’d finally buy good underwear. And expensive shoes. I’d get my teeth fixed and maybe bits of my body too, but I’m kinda learning to love them, or at least loathe them less.
More magnanimously, I’d buy the local leisure centre (which is about to be sold off and turned into ANOTHER bar) and fill it with psychotherapists who will be paid handsomely by me to sort out everyone’s mental shizzle for free. Special courses will include, for men over 50: How To Not Be Such A Grumpy Twat; for women living with a male over 50: How To Not Kill A Grumpy Twat; and for the post-natal woman: How To Say Farewell To All That.
George Orwell wrote, “You can be rich or deliberately refuse to be rich. You can possess money, or you can despise money; the one fatal thing is to worship money and fail to get it.”
Do I worship money?
In reality, I have very few valuable possessions.
I love my old car, a 2005 Honda CRV. It’s fire-engine red and I bomb around in it like I’m constantly racing to put out fires. Which is an accurate metaphor for my actual life.
I love my house, but not so much that I couldn’t bear to leave it. I’m wedded to my phone, but only for where it can take me. All of these are replaceable.
So are the only possessions which really matter the ones you can’t replace? The photograph of your son’s first moments in the world, the battered old cupboard you inherited from your step-mum, the card your daughter made you when you were ill, the rings your mother left you in her will.
Yet I could survive the loss of even these objects because in every instance, I can see them without seeing them. My boy’s newborn face with his perfect, delicate lips; the battered cupboard with its pinkish tone and chipped, turquoise paint; the hand-made card saying ‘Get Wel Soon Mumy’ with a picture of me, my face crying atop an enormous pair of boobs and an incredibly realistic interpretation of my pubic hair; the diamond solitaire ring and the diamond and sapphire eternity ring and the diamond and ruby eternity ring and that day I wore them all, stacked on one finger, such heavy jewels, as we put her in the ground.
And so I come to my only truly irreplaceable possessions: Mum’s diaries. They begin in 1962 and span, with gaps, the next 27 years, right up until her death in 1989. They are full of lies and also reveal staggering truths. For me, they quite literally ARE HER.
And on Tuesday, I spilled a pot of burning hot coffee all over her.
I froze, my brain trying to catch up with catastrophic events, my eyes soaking up the scene of the liquid spray and also the lumps of coffee grounds clinging especially to 1989. I fell to the floor, like in a movie when somebody dies and their anguished loved-one collapses next to their body. I think I even repeated no no no as the bird that lives in my chest flapped frantically in fear, nausea bubbling in my stomach.
I cleaned her up. I asked my friends on Facebook for help and then cleaned her up better and realised that she had mostly survived. Which I guess is why it was then, when the crisis had passed, that the tears came. Because I’m still trying to look after her and will never stop trying to look after her. And because, as when she was alive, no matter how much I clean her up, she will still always be her, and will still always die.
I also realised that if lost them, I wouldn’t just be losing a version of her, or some mad physical manifestation of her. I’d also lose at least a quarter of the Greatest Memoir of All Time wot I is writing because her diaries form a kind of conversation between us, one which transcends time and space and takes place on the page.
I can’t lose her.
So I’m scanning her and sending her into the Google clouds, where she can live out her eternity, whizzing about in the ether and where I can visit her whenever I like, without fear of killing her with coffee.
And who knows what riches her writing might finally bring me?
I can almost smell the intoxicating super-bike petrol fumes…