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
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
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.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick