Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Love, Luck And Money They Go To My Head Like Wildfire

ABBAMy name is Stephen Herrick-Blake and I am a shopping addict.

I’ve always known it but the naked truth is something I’ve always deflected my eyes away from. I mean, nobody really wants to see the truth with all its bits hanging out do they?

It began in my twenties. A life of ease and privilege. I’m not talking about possessing the east wing of the family estate or running pheasant shoots on the family land here. I’m talking about living at home with no pressure to move out, a monotonous full time job and no social life.

Money just built up. Ridiculously. Effortlessly. I stockpiled it.

It was then that I developed that intense love affair with spending. With purchasing product. That self-esteem-boosting thrill you get when you go into a shop, point at something and say, “I’ll take that please, don’t bother with gift wrap”. A mate and I used to go to Birmingham every Saturday and hit the record shops – back in the days when CDs were new and suspicious. I’d choose whatever artist I was into at the time and buy their entire back catalogue. Albums, EPs, singles – both 7” and 12”. Once I spent so much money at a record shop that the cashier actually declined to ring up the amount on the till to save me any embarrassment. Like I cared about the street urchins holding their hands out to me on the way out, begging me for a morsel of my Burger King chicken burger bap – I’d finally got hold of that rare Kate Bush gatefold sleeve that I’d been after for months.

Summer holidays too were an orgy of retail therapy. Oh the joy of being able to mooch around shop after shop and think to myself, “I could buy something in here if I really wanted to.” And so I frequently did. Just for the hell of it. Just for the pleasure and the thrill.

It feels obscene now to look back on it. But I can’t deny that I also do so a little wistfully too.

I have to be tighter with my money now. Carefree spending is a thing of the past. There are monthly bills, there are debts that grow like weeds even when you don’t water them. But that urge – that addiction – is still there. If we go somewhere as a family, for a day out say, I can’t deny I feel a little depressed if I come back without a small purchase. It’s stupid. It’s like the day is not complete or cannot be enjoyed in itself without my spending power being exercised at some point. I don’t feel a valid member of the human race if I don’t acquire a totally frivolous item.

But I’m fighting it. I’m trying.

We did the summer hols this year on the cheap and I am financially at the same level now as I was at the beginning of them. No better off but no worse off either. For me that is a victory.

I blame my addiction on that period in my twenties when I had no responsibilities. It set a trend, see? Gave me a taste for a lifestyle that just wasn’t real and just cannot be maintained.

For all it was a lovely, carefree period I can’t help wishing my parents had kicked me out, forced me to face up the real world sooner before the pattern became too imbedded.

But that is passing the buck isn’t it? Not facing up to my responsibilities yet again.

I should have done something better and longer lasting with my money. Something wiser. Me. I should have done it.

If I had the money now the only thing I’d buy would be hindsight.


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29 comments:

Fran said...

Bah! Responsibility! Sometimes it's a right pain. But SO much better for the conscience! Good post.

Gorilla Bananas said...

You could write a reverse-Scrooge fable about your life. The ghost of Christmas present would say: "Those Val Doonican records will bring you no comfort now...if only you'd been greedy for gold."

libby said...

Mmmmm....we've all been there...we share your guilt. Do you think you will bring your boys up differently? we all try to get our kids to understand the value of money...but little treats now and again? we all love those....

Steve said...

Fran: thank you. I like to up the ante every now and again.

Gorilla Bananas: Val Donnican? The only embarrassing thing in my record collection is one solitary single by Cliff Richard - Wired For Sound.

Libby: I do think a little treat every now and again does more good than harm... without them life can become a joyless grind and that is one of the biggest sins of all.

the fly in the web said...

I found it hard going when I left university and started working...the grant had enabled me to live reasonably and even go on long holidays.

Working definitely did not for quite a few years.

My wallet shut like a man trap and it's stayed that way until recently!
Apart from buying houses.

Now I'm recovering the pleasure in mooching round the shops, but the 'tight' years have left their mark...I see something useful and find myself asking myself if I need it...

Why should you wish you had been different about money? You were you, enjoying your life and having happy memories of it.

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Re: Hindsight. There's a wise old caveat to that, which goes like this - "If I had to live my life again I'd make all the same mistakes--only sooner."

Buyer beware then eh. Seems like it might be a better idea to invest in a fast mode of personal transportation in future. Get you to the shops all the quicker next life around, and to hell with the hindsight part (?)

Steve said...

The fly in the web: I don't regret anything I did in my twenties... I just wish I'd done a little bit more... I could have taken advantage of opportunities that would have come a lot easier then than they ever can now.

Steve said...

Bish Bosh Bash: you might be onto something there. Buy a bigger shopping trolley... Or even better, hire a big van to take all the loot home in. Right, I'm off to look into van rental! Sorted!

Owen said...

Do you buy a lottery ticket from time to time ? Just for the fantasy of it ? This week there are 80 million euros at stake on the Euromillions game... just think of all the old vinyl disks you could buy with that kind of cash... and even a turntable to play them on ! ah, filthy lucre !

Steve said...

Owen: buy a lottery ticket for the fantasy of it? Are you kidding? I'm buying them at the moment as a desperate career move.

Marginalia said...

Have a word with Tenon Saw, he'll e-mail you his spreadsheet.

Steve said...

Marginalia: I hate spreadsheets. They give me the shakes.

John Gray said...

fuck it
we all did stupid things
I once broke a 700 quid Charlotte Rhead vase by larking around with a cushion!

I wwouldn have minded but it was MY soddin vase

Steve said...

John: such sacrilege in one so discerning!

The Sagittarian said...

Ah yes, those were the days weren't they, when the summer stretched out forever in front of us in a sunny blue haze, everything lasted longer except the weekends...sigh.

Steve said...

Amanda: and now the only thing that hasn't changed is the fact the weekends still aren't long enough...

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Now that is when you could have emmigrated to New Zealand!

Rol said...

I used to feel like you, but these days shops bore me. I remember making Saturday trips to the city just to buy things - nothing in particular, just to see what there was. Now if I want something, I'll try to buy it online first. I've far better things to do with my time than shop.

Being Me said...

You had me at Wired For Sound. I fear I may get my daughter beaten up in her first year of school because that is one of her favourite songs/film clips. I'm picturing her looking as out of place as that kid in About A Boy...... because hells, yeah, I want her to learn how to play Killing Me Softly on the piano.

I'm sorry. I digress.

And now I can't remember what I was even going to say. Except... I remember when cd's were suspicious! I refused to buy them, holding steadfast to my records. That transition was hard, man.

Steve said...

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: that's it. Add to my pain when I'm already kicking myself. ;-)

Rol: if you have better things to do with your time then you have reached a Zen-like state that currently I can only envy. Unless I can buy some from you?

Being Me: the transition was hard but once I'd crossed over to the other side I buried myself in the shiny little suckers. Ah... About A Boy: one of my favourite films. "He's isn't expressing himself; he's expressing you, you stupid bloody hippy!"

Nota Bene said...

Oh no. Spend, spend, spend. Until there is no more. It's the way it should be. Sex, drugs, rock and roll. Erm...

Steve said...

Nota Bene: sex, drugs and rock and roll? But what do you buy when you already have those?

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

A kiwi-shaped cookie cutter?

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

PS You have to be reading More Canterbury Tales to know where that came from... And I know you do!

Steve said...

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: sounds good to me. I guess that's my Christmas present sorted out then!

TimeWarden said...

I've got the picture disc of The Kick Inside... if I could tempt you to part with some of your hard earned?

Or maybe you'd prefer my gatefold sleeved copy of Hong Kong Garden?

But you've probably already got them, by the sound of it!

Steve said...

TimeWarden: the picture disc I could go for, if you're serious. How much are you asking for? Damn this retail addiction!

The Poet Laura-eate said...

What a shame they weren't filming 'Spendoholics' at the time. You could have taken part and got nationwide publicity for your writing simultaneously!

I share the same emotions though have become very discerning at resisting gift shop tat or keeping it down to a few postcards which I will definitely use at some point or another.

Steve said...

Laura: clearly you are much further advanced along the road of enlightenment than I and I salute you.