We all have our little taboos. Mine, at the moment, is money.
I keep finding myself regressing to my nine-year-old wish that I had come from a wealthy family. It’s not just to do with the RP accent that I hanker after, because my mum speaks very eloquently despite coming from a low-income household, and anyway I could well have picked that up from her if I was so desperate to belong to the same associations. It’s not to do with wanting more and better Barbies, even though my re-sealable plastic bag full of grubby hand-me-downs was decidedly lacking as far as role models and playmates go. But money opens doors. More and more in my own ventures as a developing independent artist, I hear that another success story in my industry actually had a fair helping hand. And that is not to say that they don’t work hard for their rewards; often the most bloody-minded workers and the most stringent savers are those same people who started out with an advantage. But it is continuously disheartening to realise that the vast majority of the big names in the arts, young and old, local and national treasures, had such a headstart – or backup, depending how you want to think about it. ‘Anyone who’s anyone…’ is becoming more and more relevant to me; it seems all the notable actors or directors went to Central, or another prestigious drama school. “As long as it costs at least £14,000 a year, mama…”
I don’t just want to speak more clearly and articulately, with better diction and vocabulary; I want to experience that feeling of assured assertiveness, that confidence that you can stand your ground because you have support behind you in a form that transcends the braun of the opposition. Money gets you a lot of things, and I my appetite for those things is splaying in a larger wave perhaps than ever before. It gets you experiences, connections, as well as all the survival basics, it allows you time to achieve and settle into the bigger things – a more interesting or convenient job, a more initially expensive but long-term-efficient house. You are self-sufficient. You don’t need to worry about the government, I imagine, except that you have a more authoritative say on what they do with all that tax money. The country is at your disposal, and not vice versa. There is still a very present class divide and I am yearning to be on the other side of it. Kings and queens are living in our midst and it is killing me to be around them, harbouring this greater and greater sense of unworthiness. What dignity, what comfort comes in being able to walk the world with that sense of security, the knowledge of going home to a well-bred dog and well-mannered siblings, the awareness of one’s rights and what you should and should not put up with. What one can query, and change. The feeling of contribution, of rightful place, or importance and welcome. Of belonging, especially on Radio 4.
Rumour has it that Oxford University, for all its justifying qualities, places rather higher demands than are commonly known on its applicants. Forgetting the geniuses-only capacity and the inherent dress code, successful first-stagers are not told when their interview will be, but simply expected to be in Oxford and make themselves available at a phonecall’s notice.
I may be speaking controversially in favour of an element of capitalism that our nation has so long steered away from, if only in terms, but I am in unrequited love with money. Call me pretentious, but a large part of me would still happily forsake other dreams in order to marry some fop named something like Prince William, and expect our visitors from the lower echelons of society to enter the room and be struck by the resemblance to the second series of Green Wing.
And to clear my name should I be speaking ignorantly on my chosen topic, I refer you to Puck’s closing speech of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Think it but a certain kind of brainwash that calls for your fixing.
“If you pardon, we will mend.”