Today is a long weekend in both New Zealand and Western Australia, and since both of these places are where I spend the majority of my time these days it’s a happy confluence of events. As it happens I’ve been spending my long weekend in Hamilton, New Zealand, which most of its regular residents have evacuated for other locations. Which suits me fine, my favourite CAFE Establishment has free seats available, Momento on Hood St has more efficient table service, and the sun is out with plenty of public benches and free green spaces for a good read.
It strikes me, however, that both me and the people who went away are incredibly wealthy. When popular tourism first took off at the end of the nineteenth century people had to meticulously plan their long holidays away. Now we hop on a website a few days before, book a few tickets, hop in our cars/planes, and we’re there. While we’re away we can have breakfast at a restaurant, lunch at another one, read a book in the sun, visited a (literally) baby-faced art gallery, and then dine out in the evening with the possibility of seeing the new X-Men movie for a second time (if you haven’t seen it yet go and see it now!), before returning home to our houses – that we either own, or have the possibility of owning(even though we’re not aristocrats).
We could take one or two of these things away and still be wealthy, but we could add one or two things to this list and not be as wealthy. For example, if we had higher pay and owned a superyacht, we could end up having more headaches in our lives than we already do.I mean you can’t just store a superyacht anywhere can you? And once you had it stored away somewhere, it would presumably feel like a bit of a waste to leave it in the marina draining money out of your bank account in maintenance fees. Like the Japanese feudal lords who actually ended up grateful for the collapse of the feudal system where they were at the top (the collapse of it meant they no longer had to fulfil onerous obligations and live by a strict code), we might actually end up grateful if somebody accidentally torched our superyacht and forced us to downgrade our high-flying job. Such an incident might make us poorer, and rob us of our social status, but we’d also have less of a constantly pulsing headache.
Of course everybody could always have better things in life, but who knows, if we wait we might even end up getting those things through almost no effort at all. I remember owning an iPhone in New Zealand at a time when it was a thing of legend here (it had not been released anywhere outside of the US and the UK). I remember all the envious glares I received, that were surely more lustful than any covetous looks biblical figures ever allegedly paid the wives of their neighbours. Now all those people who enviously looked at my iPhone have one of their own, and I can now afford to turn the data roaming on my phone on (something I never could have dreamed of being able to afford doing back then).
All of this is no great revelation of course, but it’s worth remembering that this long weekend is a great time not just to grump and grizzle about how we have no more long weekends till September/October, but also to revisit an old lesson that sometimes its perfectly healthy – and acceptable – to be grateful for the wealth that we have.
(Incidentally, if any of you are offering me a superyacht I, of course, would never say no – feudal obligations be damned!).