There's an art to flaunting great wealth

With any luck, my generous donation would make me a familiar and revered figure

Share
Related Topics

Spending money extravagantly with and without panache has been much talked about this week. Former newspaper proprietor Conrad Black is currently being sued by aggrieved shareholders for allegedly using £700m of their money to support a personal lifestyle that includes four luxury homes, two private jets, a vintage Rolls-Royce, an army of servants and a wife with an insatiable appetite for designer shoes. Former dustman Michael Carroll, according to his friends, has spent all but half a million pounds of the £9.2m he won in the lottery last year on houses, holidays, parties, cars, quad bikes, cocaine and a large share in Glasgow Rangers football club. His Norfolk MP, Henry Bellingham, commented that Carroll had been grossly irresponsible because winning the lottery wasn't a right. It was a privilege, and privilege entailed responsibility.

Spending money extravagantly with and without panache has been much talked about this week. Former newspaper proprietor Conrad Black is currently being sued by aggrieved shareholders for allegedly using £700m of their money to support a personal lifestyle that includes four luxury homes, two private jets, a vintage Rolls-Royce, an army of servants and a wife with an insatiable appetite for designer shoes. Former dustman Michael Carroll, according to his friends, has spent all but half a million pounds of the £9.2m he won in the lottery last year on houses, holidays, parties, cars, quad bikes, cocaine and a large share in Glasgow Rangers football club. His Norfolk MP, Henry Bellingham, commented that Carroll had been grossly irresponsible because winning the lottery wasn't a right. It was a privilege, and privilege entailed responsibility.

No wonder we're all so disenchanted with politicians: they do talk a lot of rot. What on earth has winning the lottery to do with privilege, and does it automatically follow that because I have never won the lottery I am therefore under-privileged? There's a much simpler reason: I've never bought a ticket.

If you had to fill in a form, before you bought your lottery ticket, that in the event of winning you promised to spend your prize money responsibly, I could just about stomach Mr Bellingham's pious pomposity. But as one who has never won anything in my life apart from £50 from the Premium Bonds I was given as a child by my godfather, I don't give a toss how Mr Carroll chooses to spend his millions. As a matter of fact, he seems to have been not only sensible but also generous, having bought £1m houses not just for himself but also for his aunt and uncle and his mum and dad. You must have heard about the Scottish lottery winner whose wife asked him what they should do about all the begging letters. Keep writing them, he told her.

Sometimes in mellow moments I imagine what I would do with an unexpected windfall. Anything less than a million doesn't count, by the way. In the part of London where we rent our modest and distinctly shabby eyrie on the fourth floor with no lift, a one-bedroomed ground-floor flat with use of garden could easily set you back a million. No, I'm talking big bucks, nearer to Lord Black's housekeeping money than Mr Carroll's, so I'm not sure what I would do with his $27m home in Palm Beach, Florida. The trouble with a place like that is that you would be surrounded by the mega rich, and in my limited experience of the species the mega rich are also invariably mega mean.

Remember the famous payphone Paul Getty installed in his home near Guildford because he was fed up with his children's friends making so many calls. A tennis coach who used to work at Queen's, London's most exclusive tennis club, told me that the only way he could get the money for a racket he had ordered for one of his punters was to go in person to the Rothschild family home and ask for it.

So how would I spend all that dosh? Having off-loaded, say, £5m on hiring a tall ship with crew to take the family and selected friends on a world cruise that, as well as the usual fleshpots, included Antarctica and the aurora borealis, I'd put aside whatever it costs to hire a helicopter whenever I want to get me door to door from London to the Scottish islands where we have a holiday house.

The remaining, say, £20-50m I'd donate to my local hospital to build a new ground-breaking research centre for, oh, anything really, just as long as it had my name on it and entitled me to sit on various hospital boards which had a controlling interest on waiting room furniture, cafeteria menus, pictures, curtains, and lunchtime concerts. Ever since Dr Kildare I've longed to be part of what I've always imagined to be the romantic hospital ethos. With any luck my generous donation will make me as familiar and revered a figure in my local hospital as the lady with the lamp.

I've never understood the thinking behind anonymous donations. But then I was never one to hide my light under a bushel. If you've got it, flaunt it, but make sure the flaunting carries with it a bit of kudos and find me a better place to flaunt your kudos than on the wall of a hospital next to the lifts. Yes, you've guessed. I've just finished Alain de Botton's new book Status Anxiety.

Barbara Amiel, Conrad Black's wife, is quoted as saying that her extravagance knew no bounds. A bit like my imagination.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

£20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Service Desk Analyst - (Active Directory, Support, London)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst - (Active Di...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, VBA)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition