The perils of wishful thinking

fishing lines
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The Independent Online
THINGS have been a little fraught in our household ever since I gave my wife £1m to spend. I always thought that old saw about money not bringing happiness and being the root of all evil was written by a jealous pauper. Now I'm not so sure.

Personally, I find spending money is one of life's greatest pleasures. Ever since I was a nipper, I have played a simple but hugely satisfying game that goes something like this. A parcel arrives in the post. Inside is an 1890 Hardy Perfect reel and a cheque for £1m. (Actually, when I was small it was more like £2 and a reel that worked, but you'll have got the idea.) This windfall has come from the estate of a millionaire uncle who emigrated many years ago but always remembered my kindness (or some other such nonsense).

I can still idle away a day by the waterside, dreaming up ever more fanciful ways of squandering the moolah. But it's generally the same sort of thing: a house with a fish- laden river in the garden; all those rods and reels I've never been able to afford; a life of flying round the world doing nothing more energetic than packing and unpacking my tackle. Most people have similar dreams, though their desires may be different.

But times change. With a wife and two young daughters, those selfish dreams of my bachelorhood are no longer viable. Goodness knows I've tried, but all three find fishing about as stimulating as collecting Green Shield stamps. That means that while I yearn for places where the fishing is great, even if the setting, accommodation and the weather are awful, they want just the oppo- site. With three against one, it's not hard to guess which side usually wins.

The National Lottery has rekindled my enthusiasm for playing millionaire. It was a quiet evening; there was nothing on the television. So I shared the game and asked her how she would spend £1m. Her reply stunned me.

"Well, I know how much you've always wanted to live on the banks of the Kennet, so I would find a riverside house with a large garden and at least half a mile of the best water," she started.

"You're always talking about wanting to fish in Kenya, so I would send you there for at least a month. I would book the best boat and best skipper so you could have it all for yourself, and leave you to fish away for marlin until you were utterly sick of it."

"No chance of that," I said.

She ignored the interruption. "Then I would buy the fishing boat of your dreams. It would be all white, and it would have that big high cabin and those long poles that stick out the side for big-fish trolling. I would make sure it had everything: Decca, echo sounders, sidescan sonar, a bait- well: all those things you chatter about so enthusiastically. And I would pay for lessons so that you could take your skipper's licence. That would make me feel a little safer if you were out at sea in rough weather."

"Very sensible," I agreed.

"Then I would fly you to America with an open air ticket, so you could drive around the bookshops until you found those two Philip Wylie books that you need to complete your collection. And you could take an open cheque to that fishing bookshop in Salisbury to buy any other books that you wanted."

She paused for breath.

"I would also give you the largest room in the new house, so you could cover the walls with those cased fish you're so fond of. I would buy some antique display cabinets, which you could fill with those old Hardy reels that you tell me will be worth a fortune - one day.

"You could also go into Tim's Tackle and choose absolutely any fishing tackle you wanted, never mind the price. How am I doing?"

I was flabbergasted. "I think you've covered every one of my wildest desires," I said.

"Well, if you're happy and you've got everything you've ever wanted, I would then go out and buy myself a new fridge," she said.

"That's ridiculous," I replied. "We've only had the old one for about eight years and it's still working perfectly. Whatever do you want a new one for?"

The lump where the saucepan hit my head is just starting to go down. But she hasn't spoken to me since.