Thursday, 24 April 2014

Why I’m Pretty ‘Tight’ With Money... is this Good or Bad?

Practically everyone who knows me knows I’m tight with money. I’m always looking to get the best value things, and advising people about what I think they should do with THEIR money. Sometimes it’s useful for them, other times I think they’re pretty annoyed that I keep saying... “You shouldn’t smoke... you shouldn’t get drunk.” (I say it slightly more persuasively than that... but that’s the message.)

I’d like to share with you where this ‘tightness’ stems from. Some people assume that I made quite a bit of money writing a novel... I didn’t. I spent eighteen months writing. I got about 5p per hour. 5p per hour... I had to be in 24 hour computer labs at 3am to earn that shit. 5p per hour... in Huddersfield University I had to go to the underground floor of the library, right in the corner at 8am to pound that out.

Also, from the age of four until twenty five I was a chess player. In some ways you could say I was good, one of the best in Yorkshire for my age and I beat players who’d played for England for their age. In another way I wasn’t good- never good enough to make hardly any money from it. Most proper chess players wouldn’t say I was a good chess player overall.

I think there has been a bit of resentment in me about how tough it was to earn money doing these things.

So when I earn money from investing and doing sales jobs, I always value it. I’ve saved and invested practically all the money. I’m in the surreal position now where on a good share day I will be worth £1000 more at the end of the day than at the start. From doing ‘nothing’ really. Of course there are days when I ‘lose’ money too (by this I mean the value of my shares have gone down, I am a long term buy and hold investor and haven’t sold any shares for over seven years). But I win much more than I lose. The last three years have been very good, and I’m confident I have the ability to make more and more money with shares.

So anyway... I’ve done a few things over the past month I never thought I would do that have cost quite a bit of money. I could have got more value in getting these things, but it was still a very interesting experience. I mentioned it to a close friend and he told me to focus on the experience and not the money and he approved.

When I die, I don’t want to leave any money to the government really, not the UK government. More CCTV? More speed cameras? The UK already has millions of them, no need for more. George Orwell was pretty prophetic.

So I think with my money now... it’s a case of getting a balance between investing it wisely in myself, meeting interesting people and having great experiences, and still getting good value for what I spend and not being a consumerist sheep. I never want to have the feeling of ‘I must buy this because it has this brand’. I don’t want to spend money getting drunk. I still need to work on spending money in the right way to invest in myself though... I’ll let you know how this goes.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Death of Kings by Bernard Cornwell

I’ve read more Bernard Cornwell books than any other author. There’s something compelling about reading him... first time reading this novel I just did it for over a day and didn’t think of anything else.

The focus of this novel seems to be the death of King Alfred, and what happens after. On reflection, there seems to be less battles and fighting than other Cornwell books I’ve read... but that makes it interesting. The language seems quite simple sometimes, less complex than John Updike for instance. But when you read it again and think about it it’s potent.

Let’s look at an example:

“Alfred looked at the great leather panel that showed the crucifixion. ‘Do you notice anything strange about that painting?’ he asked me. I stared at it. Jesus hung from the cross, blood streaked, the sinews in his arms stretching against the dark sky behind. ‘No, lord,’ I said.

‘He’s dying,’ Alfred said. That seemed obvious and I said nothing. ‘In every other depiction I have seen of our Lord’s death,’ the king went on, ‘he is smiling on the cross, but not in this one. In this picture his head is hanging, he is in pain.’ ‘Yes, lord.’

‘Archbishop Plegmund reproved the painter,’ Alfred said, ‘because he believes our Lord conquered pain and so would have smiled to the end, but I like the painting. It reminds me that my pain is nothing compared to his.’

‘I would you had no pain lord’ I said awkwardly. He ignored that. He still gazed at the agonized Christ, then grimaced. ‘He wore a crown of thorns,’ he said in a tone of wonderment. ‘Men want to be king,’ he went on, ‘but every crown has thorns.’

I actually think this is the most moving piece of the novel. There's one element that I hadn't noticed before until now- mentioning Alfred looking at 'the great leather panel' is acknowledging in a way that he was great. The passage is almost comparing Jesus' death with Alfred's death. Alfred lived with pain for most of his life, yet he still achieved much, and set about making what would become England. Christianity was the driving force behind his ambition, and the Christain religion dominated English life for centuries to come.