Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

So Rich

Oh, for the good old days when people would stop Christmas shopping when they ran out of money.

-Author Unknown

While browsing the most delicious of places- thrift stores- I recently rediscovered a favourite book of mine from my childhood:
'Well, Really, Mr. Twiddle!' by Enid Blyton.
The book was written in the 1960s and set in England. Much has changed since but I found striking elements within the pages that provided some food for thought.
Mr. Twiddle is an elderly gentleman who lives with his wife, and a cat that he cannot stand. The cat is incessantly causing all manner of trouble for poor Mr. Twiddle, such as getting under his legs on purpose and tripping him up or playfully destroying his favourite pair of slippers; but Mrs. Twiddle does not believe her husband for a second and thinks the man is simply impatient. Certainly, he has his faults. He is forgetful, does not listen to a word his wife says, is dreadfully lazy and prefers to snooze in a chair rather than perform his chores.
One day, Mrs. Twiddle succeeds in shooing her husband out the door to cut the grass after much pleading. He relents because he thinks getting it over with would be more beneficial than listening to his wife nag him constantly.
Out he goes into the garden and he begins his work. However, the cat is playing games and lies down in the grass, making it tremendously difficult for Mr. Twiddle to proceed. He chases the cat away and finally he can start.
After an exhausting few minutes Mr. Twiddle finds a sixpence in the long grass.
He is pleased. He cheerfully puts it in his pocket. He cuts some more grass and in a short while finds a shilling. His luck is changing, he thinks brightly. He pockets the treasure carefully.
The garden is looking slightly improved but then he spies another sixpence! And as he goes on, Mr. Twiddle finds an awful lot of money. He is quite a daft man and does not even wonder much about where it came from. All he knows is that his wife will be very pleased.
When Mrs. Twiddle steps into the garden to check on her husband, expecting to find him sleeping in the long grass, perhaps, she instead finds him beaming. He tells her about his afternoon gathering enormous amounts of money.
And this is the part that struck me:
He says, "we might perhaps buy a chicken for our dinner."
That was a world in which two people would consider it a luxury to eat a chicken dinner that evening. That, for me, was a rather wistful moment in an otherwise lighthearted and frivolous book for children. Mr. and Mrs. Twiddle were not poor by any means. They were pensioners and, I suppose, what could be considered 'comfortable.'
At last, Mrs. Twiddle gets to the root of the situation. Mr. Twiddle, excited to show his wife the findings, reaches into his pocket and finds- nothing. Not a penny. His pocket is perfectly empty.
Mrs. Twiddle realises immediately that Mr. Twiddle must have lost his own money when chasing the naughty cat around.
"You've got an enormous hole in your pocket. I really do think you are the very stupidest man I've ever known! Here you go, walking about with a hole in your pocket, dropping all your money out, and picking it up and putting it in your pocket again and then out it falls, and you pick it up all over again- and think you're so rich we can have chicken for dinner!"

So rich we can have chicken for dinner.

Mr. Twiddle, you see, a careful man in his own way where it mattered, regularly only bought what he could afford. That is why the prospect of a chicken dinner was so very gratifying to the Twiddles and the entire scene so nostalgic. Working hard for something makes luxury just that: an extravagance, a treat. In using credit cards for every infinitesimal aspect of our lives, I think we lose the joy of suddenly getting what we could not think of before. If one can have everything at any time, then what is there to look forward to? So, then, perhaps one decent way to 'treat ourselves' is to not consume so much. That way, a good deal more is available for us to savour on those most special of occasions.


Anonymous said...

"So Rich",

My grandson loves the Mr Twiddle stories (I'm sure he sees a similarity between me and Twiddle).

Your point about Chicken being a luxury, I remember in the sixties that to be the case. It was a special occasion to have a chicken although beef was affordable once a week.

Also I was so pleased to see your use of UK English used in your Blog.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Hello, and thank you for sharing your thoughts about my blog, and about my English! Your positive feedback made my day and helps enormously.
I enjoy the Mr. Twiddle books a lot.

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