Hands up who envies me

"BLIMEY," said the thin woman, all in black - jittery, smoking a cigarette as though it were an enemy she was punishing - "Blimey; they're eating outside." Well, yes, but it was a beautiful evening: soft, balmy, you might have been in Rome except that it was just the two of them outside the restaurant, the street was almost deserted, people were thinking about bed ("Time we made a move, then") and there was no chance of me having a glass of wine because it was 11 o'clock at night. But they were eating outside, him and his girlfriend, not a care in the world you might think, and you might well be right. Made his fortune before he was 40 (nobody knows quite how), invested wisely, does slightly inexplicable things to do with keeping his fortune ("Just off to a meeting") but otherwise seems to spend most of his time pottering about. Goes to the gym, flat stomach, clean-cut jawline, grey hair and face like a tree-frog but nobody's perfect. Little flat, peppercorn rent, can't be thrown out on a whim like the rest of us. Goes to Cuba with a chum; the chum goes for the women, he goes for ... Cuba; likes dancing, likes sunshine, likes talking Spanish. ("I'm off again tomorrow, matter of fact. Eight days. If you want me to bring you back some cigars, you can give me the money now.") A good life. An enviable life. I envy it. I'd like it.

There's a doctor, too. I envy his life. Regular, you might say; house bought and paid for because the private practice is doing well, and a decent car on the horizon, been making do with a BMW for a while but had his eye on a Jaguar, the new one, very nice, thinks he can probably justify it; re-mortgaged the house, took a bit of a punt on the market, raked it in, just one of those things. Never touched the pension fund, of course; God knows you don't want to take a drop in your living standards just at the moment your time becomes your own. Nice to have enough to keep the boat in the water, travel, get to know your wife again, so you top up, do you see? Few quid a month, it piles up. Thing is at the moment, spending it. No time. Private patients, NHS work, refresher training, conferences, it's all go. And just when you have one of those bad days one of your patients goes into labour and you've a brand new baby to bring into this tough old world, cheers you up. A good life. I envy it. I'd like it.

And look over there: the woman with the briefcase full of books and doctoral theses. Decided she wanted to be a professor when she was eight and here she is now, a professor, just back from the USA, just off to Germany, lecturing, researching, writing, salary in the bank regular as you please, nice husband, nice house, bright daughter, everything as it should be. A good life. I envy it. I envy the man on the other side of the bar, too: another academic, distinguished career, took up broadcasting, made a success of it, awards, the lot; nice flat in Bloomsbury, wonderful house like a boathouse on a Thames island, a good life; I envy it as much as this man, snug in his studio, bottle at his side, canvas on the easel, paints laid out, woman upstairs in the big bed, waiting, an enviable life, as enviable as that man, suntanned, just come back from Cannes, brown as a nut, new film a succes d'estime, offers coming in, drinks on the terrace, have another - what's the rush? - an enviable life indeed.

And then yet another man, scuttling home, late with a deadline, late with another deadline, hasn't finished his book, can't finish his book, can't face it, so late it's daunting, can't afford to finish it because he never got the knack of schmoozing up his wages. Never got the knack of unpacking his things, either, so he crashes about his flat on the bare floorboards, avoiding looking in boxes, avoiding answering the phone it case it's someone else he's letting down, peers through the letterbox for enemies, no doorbell so that's a relief, but no pension fund either, no property, no boat, no car, just too many clothes, a surfeit of gadgets, a disorganised life and it's getting late, the taxman on his back and not a bean to his name. No. Untrue. A lot of beans to his name but he doesn't want them, can't even look at the cheque; it's a legacy, do you see, from his mother, the money he'd least like to have in the world, can't cash it because it'd be final, that would be that, do you see, so every time he thinks about it he starts crying because he doesn't want the money; he wants his mother. Oh look. It's me. Hands up who thinks it's a good life. Hands up who envies me. And how does this paragraph play in Kosovo?

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?