Looking at the bill

Feb 20th, 2010 | By | Category: International

It was hard to understand the hotel tariff.  The room appeared to cost €120 per night per person and then there was breakfast at €20 and then the cost of the meal the night before and the cost of the wine.  It was a relief not to be paying, but there was an uneasiness walking to the car park.  One couldn’t be ungracious, turn down the generosity of friends. but how much had it cost for just two of us, out of the party of forty?

Maybe €400?  It was an amount that would be a mere trifle for most of the horde of politicians maintained by the Irish taxpayer; and a sum hardly even noticeable amongst the glittering worlds of sport and show business, but how much €400 could have done.

To have pointed out that, it would have taken some people whom I had met two years to earn that much money, would have been an unwelcome comment.  People want to keep their own world very firmly separate from that world they occasionally encounter on their television screens.  They will hide behind the spurious platitude that the problems are so great, there is nothing they could do to make any difference.  Of course, there is much they could do.  If they choose to hide behind words, that does not absolve them of having turned their backs on those who live on €200 a year.

But it’s not even as though €400 on an overnight stay in a hotel makes us very happy.  Looking out across the frosty morning landscape, lit by a bright sun, Precious Ramotswe came to mind, Alexander McCall Smith’s No 1 Ladies Detective:

“She breakfasted quickly and then drove directly to the office. It was getting towards the end of winter, which meant that the temperature of the air was just right, and the sky was bright, pale blue, and cloudless. There was a slight smell of wood-smoke in the air, a smell that tugged at her heart because it reminded her of mornings around the fire in Mochudi. She would go back there, she thought, when she had worked long enough to retire. She would buy a house, or build one perhaps, and ask some of her cousins to live with her. They would grow melons on the lands and might even buy a small shop in the village; and every morning she could sit in front of her house and sniff at the wood-smoke and look for­ward to spending the day talking with her friends. How sorry she felt for white people, who couldn’t do any of this, and who were always dashing around and worrying themselves over things that were going to happen anyway. What use was it having all that money if you could never sit still or just watch your cattle eating grass? None, in her view; none at all, and yet they did not know it. Every so often you met a white person who understood, who realised how things really were; but these people were few and far between and the other white people often treated them with suspicion”.

Is wondering about €400 to be counted amongst those who would be treated with suspicion?  Is a world of more sharing and less excess just a silly idea?

Leave a comment »

  1. Super post – there is great wisdom in Mma Ramotswe!

  2. Any moment now someone will be recalling when crisps cost only 2p a packet, and penny chews really were a penny.
    Precious Ramotswe is enjoyale, but she gets a bit wearing a few books in.

  3. Don’t know about penny chews, but €400 would pay a teacher for eight months at a vocational school in Rwanda.

  4. I met Alexander McCall Smith at the Hay festival – in 2008 (I think), he came across as very genuine and friendly, keen to meet his audience/readers (he had been reading some of his stories for R4) .

  5. He is extraordinarily prolific – at the other end of the scale from thingy who died there a couple of weeks back

Leave Comment