There's an art to flaunting great wealth

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

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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.

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