I ought to be in Milan right now. I should have caught a train to Gatwick early this morning, flown to Malpensa airport, then met someone from the hotel that I was staying at to cover their launch this evening. There was meant be a glass of complimentary champagne in my hand as soon as I entered the lobby and the prospect of a free bar and as much food as I could manage long into the night. I’d worked hard for that Milan trip. I deserved it. Instead of Milan, however, I am in a coffee shop in the Merrion Centre – the one that advertises itself as “the best espresso outside Milan” ironically – coppering up for a large Americano (the only beverage substantial enough that it doesn’t make it too obvious I’m only here for a couple of hours free wifi.)
I suppose it would be reasonable to be despondent about the situation. Dejected, despairing, even depressed – though I hesitate to use that word in case some well meaning mental health type sticks a paintbrush in my hand and urges me to daub away the diagnosis (or worse, enrolls me on a creative writing course; the very idea induces suicidal ideation, frankly.)
The official reason for pulling out of the trip is bronchitis. And it is true that my lungs feel like a Dyson that has spent the summer in a Brillo Pad factory, my throat is producing industrial quantities of gunk that only Ghostbusters could handle, and I am prone to explosive fits of comedy wheezing. But I am hardly dying (though I wouldn’t risk being in my vicinity if you are pregnant, immune-deficient, or an infant.) But the deeper, sharper, truer truth is simply that I’m skint. Couldn’t afford the fare to Gatwick that would get me out of Leeds for a delightful couple of days of subsidized extravagance and self-indulgence.
And this is completely my own fault.
Money and me went our separate ways years ago and I can’t imagine when we’ll be on nodding terms again. Let’s be clear, I’m no minimalist, and I am avaricious to the core – I love money, adore the idea of wealth, like reading books about the rich and watching films about how poor people break into the millionaire bracket. I like everything about money except the prospect of buckling down and making it. As my dad always said, I love work: I could sit and watch it all day …
Of course, not making enough money to even afford the bus fare home says a lot about a man in a society where financial success is equated with testosterone. So I suppose it’s inevitable that I have to stand back and watch guys with greater acumen, resourcefulness, financial savvy (and dare I say, balls!) snap up the opportunities, that’s just the way things go.
Still, all is not doom and gloom. In an hour or so I’m off to a wine tasting with a friend. In Leeds. On Duncan Street. This may not be the Via Monte Napoleone but it’ll do for me, and I’ll not be too jealous of the guy who is filling in for Culture Vultures in Milan … and let’s face it, the hotel bar bill will be much more moderate.