Scenario: You got a job. It’s a good job. It has a house that goes with it. You live in it rent free. You get paid well. You’re glad you get paid well. You don’t know quite what it is that you do that deserves such money, but you do know that it takes almost every waking hour of every day. In addition, your family kind of have to do the job as well. Not quite like you do, but they are expected to be around all the time.
Then, someone comes along and points out that the house you live in, which goes with the job, is terribly in need of repair. ‘Oh dear,’ you say, and ‘It’s okay, I don’t mind moving out while you do the repairs’ and they say, ‘No that’s fine, we can work around you, we need you here, really, you’re quite important.’
‘Oh well, okay, that’s fine,’ you say, ‘if you think we can work around me, then fine, I’ll put up with the noise and dust and stuff.’
‘Yes, well, we’ll try to keep it down to a minimum,’ they say. ‘And by the way, it’ll cost you £350 million.’
Now, before you choke, just bear in mind that you do do very well indeed out of your job. You could probably even afford to pay the money if you really had to. Nonetheless, you’re a bit surprised.
‘Em, well, er, okay. That does seem a lot, though.’
‘Yes, well, should have been done years ago really, but it’s been left until now. And it is largely because you have 775 rooms. This is a big place.’
You consider this. It is a fair point. Why does anyone need 775 rooms in the house where they work. It might be because of the banquets you have to have. People need to stay over. Some of them are, apparently, very important. For some reason. For whatever this job is actually about. But it is true that 775 is an awful lots of rooms.
‘Perhaps I should be moved to a house that doesn’t really need 775 rooms. That would help, wouldn’t it? I mean, it could be sold to someone else who really does need 775 rooms – like a hotel outfit, or something, and I could just move to a different house, that has – I don’t know about 10 – would that be enough? – 15 – let’s say 20 bedrooms. Surely that would be room enough for the kind of people that I have staying over.’
‘Oh, no, no, no, that won’t do, I’m afraid. The kind of functions that you throw inevitably have far more guests than that. There’s no way you could even do the job properly without at least 500 rooms. And I can’t think where we’d find a place like that which is so centrally located.’
There’s a pause. ‘Hmmm. Bit out of your league.’
‘So I absolutely have to have a big place in central London then?’
‘Looks like it.’
‘And the one I’m living in seems to be the one to use?’
‘Silly to move just for the sake of it!’
‘Well, I could just avoid having so many banquets, and stuff, couldn’t I?’
‘You could, I suppose, but, you know, these foreign dignitaries, they like a banquet, and they like a bit of gold and some shine on the glass, and they like it when people push their chairs in behind them and all that. I really don’t think there’s any way round the whole banqueting malarkey.’
So you think hard, and you think about this issue of whether you are really prepared to fork out £350 million out of your own bank account, and you think, yes, well, I could, but alternatively, I’m pretty sure there aren’t many other people who are expected to do this in the course of their job, and you come up with an idea.
‘Well, I suppose I could always just resign.’
‘Just pack it in.’
‘No, that doesn’t solve the problem,’ they say. ‘We’d just end up needing someone else to do it.’
‘There must be loads of people.’ You’ve thought about this a great deal over the more than 60 years you’ve been doing the job, and you know damn well that you only have to do three things. Smile, wave, and not tell anyone what you really think. ‘Just ask someone else to do it.’
‘It’s not as simple as that. We need someone to do the job, and it really absolutely has to be you. Or a member of your close family.’
‘Don’t ask me that. It’s the way we’ve already done it.’
‘Right,’ you say. ‘Right. So what you’re telling me is that I have to stay living here because of the banquets and stuff, and I can’t stop doing the job, and that the house needs to be repaired.’
‘Well, fuck you if you think I’m paying for it, then.’
There is a brief moment of dismay. A pause. A gulp. They haven’t heard you talk like this before.
‘But of course, you are very rich,’ they say.
‘Don’t care. I’m buggered if I’m paying for it. What else do you want me to pay for just because I’m rich? Why don’t you ask that ginger orangutan they’ve just put in charge of one of the former colonies? He’s got loads of money. Can’t stop going on about it.’
‘But there are poor people. And people with disabilities. The government isn’t paying to help them. So it certainly can’t pay to rebuild your house. And you’re rich. You’ve got loads of money. And a crown and shit.’
‘Well, if the government can’t pay, it had better let the house fall down then, hadn’t it?’
‘Right well, if that’s your attitude, then you’re sacked.’
You whoop for joy.
‘What, you mean I don’t have to do the smiling and the waving anymore? I can tell the world what I think about things? I don’t have every minute of every day mapped out for me so that I have to schedule my toilet visits? At the age of ninety?’
‘Fucking suits me, mate.’