Money, musicals and chess (4.21)

It must be great to be super-rich, mustn’t it? I mean apart from the private jets, the champagne-and-caviar lifestyle, never having to clean the bathtub ever again, it’s the security of knowing that even in a global pandemic, when a large part of the world is tumbling into poverty and uncertainty, your own personal bubble of wealth is actually increasing. Yes, this week we heard that even amidst a global pandemic, the rich are getting richer. The ten richest billionaires have actually gained $540 billion more in wealth over the past year. So while a big chunk of the world have lost their jobs, used up their savings to pay bills and feed their families, and are struggling to try and keep a roof over their heads, the super rich are sitting back and smiling and watching the $$$ roll in. Only three of the 50 richest billionaires saw their wealth shrink, and that was probably industry related. I will admit that some of that wealth creation is down to having a top team of people managing their wealth, because the richer you are, the better your accounting and finance team, and the more use you can make of legal and semi-legal loopholes to offshore your money into tax-neutral havens so your wealth can go on accumulating rather than dissipating into taxes.

I want to make it clear, if there’s anyone out there looking to hand over a chunk of money to a stranger, that I would be an excellent billionaire. Meaning, I would not be a billionaire for long. I’d spend some time working out how much I need to have a comfortable life (Husband and I worked out that a lump sum of $5 million would probably be enough to last us) and then I’d start handing money out to family, to friends, and to strangers, through my grant making foundation that I haven’t set up but like to think about from time to time. One of my grant-making ideas was to provide educational grants for women in post-conflict countries; a grant to help bright, clever women who might have been forced out of school for one reason or other while their country was at war, but who deserve the chance to finish high school or go to university without their families losing out on their income contribution. The other was to set up some kind of anti-pollution targeted grant mechanism, for electric powered solar charged tuk-tuks in some of India’s more polluted cities.

See? I would be an excellent billionaire because I already have plans on how to put that money back out there in a targeted way to make the world a better place. If any readers have ideas for grant making schemes of their own I would love to hear them. I’ll be back in touch once I get that billion in the bank.

And thinking about billionaires, I was reminded this week about this ad for Imperial Leather from the 1970s. I would not spend my billions like this.

This week’s TV observation: We are nearly at the end of series 4 of The Crown and I wonder if anyone else has the same thought – that the portrayal of Princess Diana makes her seem like some kind of semi-psycho bunny boiler? Our other watch this week is Queen’s Gambit, which we’re enjoying. It’s bringing back memories of being a chess player in my youth, albeit not anywhere near as good as Beth in the series. Chess, considering it’s a game perceived to played by nerdy intellectual types, had – and probably still has – a surprisingly boy’s club attitude, that it’s “not for girls”. Zsuzsa Polgar, a former Women’s World Champion, observed that she “never beat a healthy man” – any man she ever beat always claimed a headache. (Side note – I’m pretty sure I participated in a ‘simul’ with Zsuzsa Polgar or one of her sisters (Judit?) back in my long-ago youth. Simul being a simultaneous match where one champion plays 20 games at once.)

70-board simul with then-World Champion Magnus Carlsen

This week’s shoe-storm: I wrote a few weeks ago about shoes I had been looking at online. I didn’t buy anything then, but earlier this week I saw those cute pink boots had been reduced even further, so click-click, I ordered them. And a second pair – black heels with cherries on them. Because why not, if I’m paying the same delivery charge for one pair or two pairs? Right now I have nowhere to wear them except around the house, which I have done this week. (CLUNK-CLUNK-CLUNK on the wooden floors). They are so pretty! I can’t wait until I can wear them out “for real”.

My employer has announced a Winter Wellness Olympics to encourage us all to be a bit more mindful of our health during these long winter lockdown days. (Side note and update: current Covid-19 restrictions in England look set to remain in place through to 8 March… unless they are extended further.) We are being encouraged to join in one of the four initiatives – set an outdoor distance target (walking, running or cycling) to achieve; make a pledge to discover X new walking routes in your local area; pledge to cook vegan at least once a week and share pictures of your meals; pledge to read X number of books. I’ve joined the team for my department – we’re setting goals in the outdoor distance and books only. My aim is 50km and 3 books. This is on top of my pledge to do 30 minutes of yoga a day for 30 days through to the end of February. Sometimes I wonder if I’m setting myself too many challenges. Is this an avoidance tactic? Or is setting short term challenges just a way of managing this samey time period we’re going through.

On the topic of being outside, we went out for a walk with my friend who lives down the road one night this week. It was a pleasantly warm night (for January) and we walked for an hour and a half. It was when we walked around the high street that I felt a bit sad, as we passed all the closed places – the closed cinema, the closed restaurants, the closed yoga studio, the closed pub. I could almost feel the ghostly laughter of good times once had sitting in some kind of negative space around these buildings.

This week’s song on repeat: “I’m Still Here.” A song for these times. “I got through all of last year, and I’m here.” It’s a song for legends. “Good times and bum times, I’ve seen it all but my dear, I’m still here.” But which version is the best? Shirley Maclaine in Postcards from the Edge? (Where I first heard it) Legend Elaine Stritch at Sondheim’s 80th birthday concert? Legend Patti Lupone in Pose? Legend Eartha Kitt at the Olivier Awards. Legend Ann Miller? Anyway, I’ve been listening to Patti Lupone’s version all this week (interspersed with Shirley Maclaine) and this song is now very firmly added to my Kicking My Own Ass 2021 playlist.

And speaking of songs from musicals, this weekend, BBC Radio 2 has been celebrating musicals, playing lots of songs from musicals since Friday, culminating in a countdown of the nation’s top 20 favourite songs from musicals. Husband has been impressed at my knowledge of songs from musicals and how I was able to sing along with the songs from the musicals being played on the radio. Did I say impressed? Sorry, wrong word. Aghast. Aghast is the word I should have used. (Husband is not a fan of musicals.)

One song that did not make the top 20 (oops! *spoilers*) is one I would have voted for, from the musical Chess. No, not that duet “I Know Him So Well”, and no, not “One Night in Bangkok” either. It’s “Nobody’s Side” – where Florence realises her relationship has broken down. Everybody’s playing the game, but nobody’s rules are the same. Nobody’s on Nobody’s side. I saw this a few years ago with some friends who are also fans of this musical and I was hoping for a new cast recording featuring the wonderful Cassidy Janson as Florence (she was everything we could have hoped for from Florence) but none was forthcoming so I can only share with you this pirated video of Cassidy singing “Nobody’s Side” in concert.

Are you pro or anti musical? And what songs would you pick for your top five songs from musicals?

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