Art Pact 64

It is a falsehood not universally acknowledged that an average person, having come into some form of inheritance or other windfall (perhaps, say, a lottery), will be changed beyond all recognition by their new-found status amongst the nouveau riche, resulting in a great many morality plays on the subject which deal with the abandonment and then rebefriending (if I can be excused such a tortured neologism) of the beneficiary's true friends; that is to say, those poor saps who were lumbered with the protagonist's friendship when he or she was nothing but another penniless moaner. The false friends who cluster round to suckle at the teat of the newly wealthy are shown to be nothing but shallow chancers, and the central tenet of the play, that money will change a person and that authenticity comes from not allowing oneself to be changed by the acquisition of coin, generally goes unremarked upon, being so "obvious" to both the hack authors of these tuppenny dreadfuls and to their dull-witted audiences that it is seen as merely a factual backdrop only admitting of alteration by the most radical of experimental playwrights (I speak not of those art student drop-outs, those blood-spatterers and poo-throwers, those children in adult bodies who delight in shocking their audiences unaware of the fact that to shock a modern audience with such trite grossery is no more revolutionary than playing peek-a-boo with an infant. Instead I intend here a class of scribe to which very few members belong, those who, having once deconstructed a trope, are able handily to reassemble it, rather than simply to leave the pieces lying on the floor, pointing at it and hooting like gibbons).

Naturally, the truth of the matter is much more sobering. A suddenly wealthy person, unbeknownst to himself or his friends, is generally quite trustworthy when it comes to promises such as "I won't let it change me." Alas! If only it were to change him, there might be some use in the disbursement of funds to such a project, but I am afraid to say that it is simply not the case. That promise, once made, is as good as kept - for it is a far more difficult thing to allow oneself to be changed by any change in circumstances than the common man apparently believes. Just as alcohol does not change a man's temperament but merely gives it free rein to express itself, so a sudden flash-flood of liquidity only carves deeper the existing river-beds and streams that channel a person's natural bent. There is no amount of money that can make a man obsessed with the acquisition of status symbols - it is a drive within towards showing one's place on the ladder that fuels such behaviour. All money can do is allow you to buy those goods that would normally be reserved for rungs above one's head. Should a newly rich man leave his wife and somehow spear himself a trophy who is both younger and more attractive, all that shows is that the gentleman's attachment to his spouse was already less binding than their marriage ceremony should perhaps have tied it. Without the money these urges still existed, but in a frustrated state - boxed within the cramped confines of the small minds that generated them.

It was with these thoughts in mind that Janice Woodhaven approached the house of her ex-husband, a gaudy thing on the outskirts of Windsor which he had named, with no apparent awareness of how ludicrous it might seem to anyone who knew him well: "Stonebrake". If the inhabitants of the tiny village in which he had grown up could see how their homestead's name had been applied to the red-brick and faux-marble monstrosity that sat at the end of the drive, they would have been in dire straits, for those that had had the sense to spit out their mouthful of pie in shock would have been immediately and urgently employed in assisting those who had choked on them. Janice, rolling her eyes not just at the name but at the garish design of the sign that announced it (gothic letterplate carved into a stone block and then painted gold for emphasis), entered the property by means of a hole in the fence that her ex-husband had complained about to their son only a week past, and stood inside the boundary looking up at the edifice. She had been there before, of course, but it had changed somewhat since her last visit. There was gazebo in the grounds now, a Welsh flag flying from a flag-pole attached to the side of the house, and in front of the huge double doors in the centre of the front aspect there stood a new Porsche.

Also, the last time she had visited the house it had not been on fire.

"You bloody idiot," she said aloud. "Thomas, you bloody idiot."

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