Despite my sudden appearance Nigel and Sarah not only let me camp in their garden but gave me a wonderful dinner and breakfast too. Feeling self conscious and a little guilty to be waited upon, I was grateful when Luke who worked for them stayed to chat.
At breakfast I looked around covertly at the other guests, tucking in to the delicious breakfast with whispered awkward conversations. Sarah is an artist and her beautiful paintings decorated the room around us. I wished someone would giggle. Sarah’s normal volume voice was a welcome relief as she took orders and brought meals.
After they had finished serving breakfast we sat in the parlour to use the video camera. Dark wood pews and a large fireplace were made colourful with cushions and more paintings. Nigel modestly asked to defer to Sarah, looking with a little concern at the camera “She’s better with that sort of thing.”.
“People are obsessed about getting a bargain,” said Sarah as we talked about the changing pressures on businesses. “but they’re not really seeing the true value of things anymore. The whole thing about advertising concerns me. How extreme it is, how influenced we are by it, to want more things all the time. Even in this village we see a big difference from people who grew up here and people who moved in and are constantly adding bits on to their houses. I’m reading a book at the moment called Affluenza.”
Recognition animated my face. “Have you read that book?” asked Sarah.
“No, I’ve heard of the term, but I haven’t read it.” I said.
“It really struck a chord with me.” Sarah stirred her tea in it’s teacup with a delicate teaspoon and leaned back in the chair. As she spoke her smile was always there, framing the words. “I read a long article in the newspaper about it when it first came out. It’s by a psychologist, Oliver James. He’s writing about the fact that it seems to be the more affluent who are becoming more unhappy and more stressed. And about different attitudes to affluence and happiness in different countries. He seems to think that the English speaking countries are far more affected by affluence, but it doesn’t make for happiness, which I completely think is true.” She laughed slightly and looked out the window with a smile.
“I was just thinking about a friend of mine.” she continued. “I had read about this book and instead of my shopping list, I wrote on the blackboard: ‘It is more important to be, than to have.’ I was thinking it is more important to enrich yourself. And my friend came over and she laughed at that, and she said ‘Ah well that’s typical of someone with no money!’”
The three of us laughed as Sarah and Nigel exchanged a look.
“But it was quite true really,” she said. “If you know you haven’t got much money, you either change your circumstances or you change the way you think about it. That’s how I’m trying to change the way we think, as a family – that we have enough. There are plenty of people with money in the village.”
“I think they find it intriguing,” said Nigel. “cause we’ve run this business for twenty years. People pigeon hole you, they pigeonhole me as a millionaire, because you can see the property that we have here. But people don’t know the borrowings and overheads you have. It’s always funny when I go around in a clapped out car. People have these preconceptions so I always find that funny really. It would be nice to get rid of the pressure of the borrowings, to do more charitable work.” Near Nigel’s head I can see a collection pot hanging and in the toilets I’d seen a poster for a charity event. A customer arrived and Nigel left to see to them.
“I think as well,” continued Sarah “something that’s affected us, a few years ago we had some very very life changing things happen to us. It didn’t change the way we think about life but it certainly reinforced things that we already thought. Three and a half years ago we were held up in the middle of the night, in our beds by masked gunmen…”