Stendhal, 1835: ‘The sight of a large sum of gold awakens no other thought in me than the bother of keeping it safe from thieves; this feeling has often been taken for an affectation, and I shall say no more about it.’
There was a period when I was working in an office and I kept getting cold-called by people wanting to talk to me about one of the money things – pensions, probably; or investments – and one day when the caller asked why I didn’t want to talk to him I found myself saying, politely, that I could think of nothing more boring; that I’d rather spend the next hour staring out of the window at the brick wall opposite than continuing our conversation.
This is not a responsible attitude. I don’t defend it. I think I have a problem with money – it scares me, I run away – in the way that some people have a problem with sex, or commitment, or crowds, or dirt. That’s it: about money, I’m squeamish. I’m a candidate for therapy.
I need to say up-front that I’m talking from an extraordinarily privileged position. I live in a good house in London and have no mortgage. I’ve never been out of salaried work (made redundant twice, resigned twice, each time I wandered into another job). Since going freelance (in 2005), I’ve also been fairly continuously in work. I’m of a certain generation, a very lucky generation.
This money thinking is occasioned by a lunch this week at which I was waffling about what next for CBe, magazine maybe, but quality printing and payment to the contributors so I wouldn’t be happy about going into this without £1,000 in the bank, and someone at the table rolled her eyes and said she’d send me details of a new European culture funding programme (which she did: small co-operation projects, up to 200,000 euros per project; large, up to 2 million) and added that I shouldn’t even think of applying for less than £40,000. At which point, I remembered the Stendhal quote.
Money can enable things to happen, lives to be changed. It also can fuck things up. CBe was started up with a £2,000 legacy from a deceased uncle (privilege, I know; it’s like the mad sudden thing that happens at the end of a Dickens novel) and has survived on that basis. Most money is debt, or waste: this is how the economy works. I’m completely sure that whatever CBe has done in the past six-and-and-a-bit years has been achieved not despite having no funding, from ACE or anyone else, but because of having no funding. I (you, one, we) do what I do because I love doing it. Which is worth holding on to. And equally, of course, letting go of. I don’t want to make a fetish of this.