It rained hard yesterday, before going on to snow as evening fell. Tony caught a train at lunchtime, to meet some publishing friends in Oxford, Alice and Hebe spent the morning cutting letters at the stone masonry, and we needed groceries from a supermarket a mile or two up the road later in the day.
And I felt so grateful that we have a car — it meant I could take Alice and Hebe to work, nip across town to collect some things I needed, take Tony to the railway station, collect Alice and Hebe again, and go with them for the grocery run.
I'm grateful not only that we have a car at all, but for our particular car.
My husband Tony, like most men, enjoys large, fast, sophisticated cars. I don't. My idea of a car is as close to an automated Amish buggy as I can possibly achieve. So this is our car:
We did have a different one. Tony chose it to be suitable for me to drive (a compromise between his preferences and mine) but somehow I just couldn't. It felt too modern, too insulated from the world . . . I never could make myself drive it even once. So we sold it (the new owner comes to pick it up today), and got this little blue one instead.
The thing is, while I am so grateful to have a car I feel able to drive, and we can do everything that makes life convenient and easy so we have the energy (and access) for all our tasks and commitments, I'm also grateful we have only one car. I don't think I'd be twice as grateful if we had two cars. Or three times as grateful if we added a third.
It's the same with money. I don't have enough to buy everything I would like, or go on holidays and so forth — but I am so grateful for that. It means that if a bit extra comes in (like if I sell some writing or do some editing), then I can buy a thing I've been wanting for ages and couldn't afford, or go out for a meal, or even go on an overnight trip to York or Cambridge. And that feels so exciting — such a treat. But if I had more money than I knew what to do with, what would my treats be? A yacht? Diamond earrings?
It reminds me of when my children were small and my husband had a pay increase. It meant we could now afford to buy fizzy drinks and ice cream on a regular basis, not just for birthdays. At first I did — which was not good for our nutritional status but I didn't know so much about that back then; we ate white bread every day). Then I thought, "Wait a minute — what will we do for treats when it's someone's birthday?" I realised the treats would have to be bigger and more expensive.
Having five children, I've always been cautious about the treats. Even when we started to have more money, I used to bear in mind that life could broadside us at some point (and guess what; it did) so that we would suddenly no longer be able to afford luxuries, and then birthdays and Christmas could become great big festivals of Disappointment. So even when we were (relatively) well off, living in a large manse paid for by the church with two incomes and all that, I ensured we maintained low expectations when it came to family celebrations — ordinary food, small presents, maybe a quiz and hanging out together. Nothing mega.
It's like it says in the Bible (Proverbs 30.7-9 NIVUK):
And I am so very grateful for what I have, which is so much more than many, many people around the world have, but still is not so much that I become dissatisfied.
I'm sure I've shared some of these thoughts here before — about the ice cream and fizzy drinks as treats, and very recently the quotation from Proverbs — but still, I was thinking about it again. Some things just go on applying and being true. Anyway, I apologise for becoming a repetitive old lady, I'll try not to do it too often.