Relative realitiesJan 10th, 2008 | By Ian Poulton | Category: International
There’s some money around here.
There’s a man across the road two doors down who has a Mercedes Maybach – E Class and S Class Mercedes are two a penny. Driving a seven year old Nissan Almera, I point out in my best attempt at a posh English voice that old money doesn’t drive flashy cars (which is quite true, they drive old Volvos and mud spattered 4X4s with towbars for their horseboxes, I didn’t say I was old money).
Anyway, because there is money around and because we went through a spell where house prices along the road were in single digits – things like 3 and 4 (millions, that is), the parish was able to do an excellent deal for a new Rectory – we got it free. The 1970s bungalow on 0.4 of an acre was demolished and two 320 square metre houses were built in its place – one for the parish, one for the builder in payment.
The new place is very nice – marble floors, granite worktops, underfloor heating, solar panels, three en suites, all mod cons – but on our road it was not exceptional. We have got used to the place, until being pulled up very sharply last week.
A friend, an African Anglican priest, came to visit. He stood in our marble floored hallway and looked – and was quiet.
He was working at one point in recent years as a church official for thirty US dollars – a month. The gulf between his world and our world was so wide that it is almost impossible for each of us to comprehend the other. I remember a Kenyan visitor staying in our old place who told us that they were privileged in their village, they had a cold tap with running water in their house.
Since his visit, there has been the tendency to look at things and wonder what he makes of them – the Irish Times at €1.70 would have cost two days of his pay.
Life at the sharp end makes life here very trivial and spoilt and empty. Who cares who appears in silly glossy magazines? What difference does it make who is on the television? There is an air of unreality about life here when seen through eyes more accustomed to watching people daily battle for survival.
Reality isn’t anything that happens on our road; reality is living on thirty dollars a month, and even then being counted as middle class.