My Ma has very offbeat philosophies for life. She grew up in a close-knit fishing community where people weren’t rich but they weren’t lacking because they never wanted for much in the first place, and they shared what little they had. So for my Ma, money is somewhat theoretical.
At 82, she still has all her teeth because she ate a lot of fish when she was growing up. But fish, as you know, is a luxury for those who are not fishermen’s kin. She could never understand the fuss surrounding expensive fish restaurants in London. Once, when I arrived to pick her up to go to Mosimann’s, I was annoyed to find her dressed very casually.
“We’re just going to a fish restaurant, aren’t we, dear?”
She had frowned at the menu. “Hmmm, if the fish is fresh, you don’t need to put all those fancy sauces and fancy names on them,” she declared knowledgeably, loudly.
She wasn’t impressed by much. Except by this one old gentleman back in her village. “Oooooh! He’s a real millionaire!” She would exclaim.
“Ooooh! He’s a real millionaire!” She went on.
“Ooooh! He’s a real millionaire!” Again.
OK, who’s this millionaire? She has met many in her glamorous life with my father, dined with them, stayed in their houses, but what’s the deal about this one?
This guy that my Ma is in thrall with sold off his trawler business when he got too old and moved in with his widowed sister in her modest cottage. That’s his story.
“Oooh! He’s a real millionaire!”
One day, I snapped at my Ma. “So’s your husband! What’s the big deal?”
She stared at my father. “No he’s not.” And without giving either my father and I time to rebuke, she retorted, “A real millionaire is someone who has given away a million, not what that’s in the bank or in the bricks-and-mortar. Be a real millionaire, Jac.”