As a typical English bod my home is my castle, or my little palace. I’m proud of it and keep it cleanish, tidyish and functioning. It’s warm in winter and cool in summer due to my spending quite a lot on my boiler, good radiators, pipes and plumbing. Outside I also take pride in my garden, front and back, spending terrible amounts of money in overpriced garden centres and nurseries.
When I was looking for a property last year in the cheaper parts of west London, particularly Greenford and Wembley, I was appalled at what I saw. Most of the properties for sale, largely owned by Asian families, seemed to have had no upkeep since they moved in during the early 1960s. I saw old exposed pipes in kitchens, dirty cracked ancient floor coverings, rusting bathrooms and dowdy bedrooms with peeling walls.
Outside it was worse. If not a sea of concrete poured down to destroy any possibility of a garden, the back yards of many properties were filled with old rubbish. Looking out of the bedroom windows I could see whole streets of these home grown tips. I did not want to be the only English gardener on my street and unable to afford a property on a smart middle class street I bit on the bullet and moved out of London.
I was shocked and dismayed again today, 24/6/15 to hear that the Queen is demanding from the state an unfeasibly large sum to refurbish and decorate her London home, Buckingham Palace.
She moved there, as if not owner but the main resident, in 1953, after travelling by golden coach to her coronation. It seems that she has fixed nothing in her home since. She has a retinue of people to do her garden but inside she has not attended to anything. It was last decorated in 1952 and she now needs £150 million from the taxpayer, including the Scots, to put this right and fix the plumbing.
Of course she could easily pay the repairs herself. Any one of her paintings from Van Dyke to Alfred Sisley or Sickert would bring in enough to at least paper the hall, but I am pro -monarchy and think she should be supported. But to leave her home unrepaired for so long so that we are faced with such a huge bill suggests a woman who is very tight with the golden purse strings.
When she came to the throne, the year that rationing was finally abandoned, she was praised for turning around her bed sheets so that they got extra wear. We were all frugal in those days. But now she seems to be the type who only puts on one bar of the electric-fire, we caught a glimpse of that during a documentary about her life at Balmoral. We’ve also seen her cereal kept in unappetising, everlasting Tupperwear containers, and her dismal bathroom. I once interviewed that man who makes her clothes. He told me he had to buy all the buttons and trimmings cheap on a local market.
It’s possible to put all that down to her generation which grew up during the war. Many old people from that generation are afraid of waste and extravagance of any kind. Or perhaps she is just extremely eccentric. The Queen claims, according to today’s Daily Mail on line, to be ‘down to her last million,’ but which million is that?
The Crown Estate was in profit by £253 million last year. This month the government has given HRH an inflation-busting 22% increase in funds for the next two years. According to the National Audit Office she is set to receive £37.9 million next year, up from £31 million this year. The queen owns extensive property in New York and London, apart from miles of agricultural land and housing. She even owns certain groups of swans and porpoises.
Add to that fabulous jewellery, racing studs, thoroughbred horses, highland ponies, racing pigeons, priceless paintings and rare stamps.
Allowing the public in to tramp around her properties brings in the salary of a decently successful Russian oligarch. Her personal wealth is estimated at about £340 million. Whatever her delusions about being down to her last million, she is one of the richest women in the world. Yet this very conscientious, hard working woman behaves towards her own home very like a poor, ignorant arrival from the Sub-continent, so obsessively in love with wealth, gripped by such deep chrematomania that she is unable to spend even a normal amount of money to keep herself in basic modern comforts.