The Money Thing

Con’d… Money is a great temptation. Especially if you need it.
Which I did.
Back then, we were living in dire circumstances. My family lived in a 17th Century German farmhouse which was very charming from the outside but a disaster in the inside. Old, draughty windows and no central heating were only part of the problem. In the winter, I froze – and for me, born and bred in the tropics, there’s nothing worse than cold. We heated the house with wood and coal, which had to be schlepped from a cold, dark cellar. The house had to be heated up with several wood-burning stoves early in the morning, and those fires had to be kept lit all day long. I wrote in a corner of our bedrom, which remained unheated.

I wrote wearing a coat, woolen cap, and fingerless gloves, boots on my feet to keep my toes warm. I wrote to escape the cold. And somehow, it worked. Writing Of Marriageable Age transported me into another, more hospitable world, and made the winters somehow bearable. But how I longed for a house with central heating!

Meanwhile, my son was having problems at school. His wild, unbounded energy creative, spontaneous temperament just was not compatible with the rigid orderly and boring bland German school system. He was acting up. Finally he was diagnosed with ADD, and I knew the only way out of his situation was for him to change to a private school.

And then there was my mother. We flew from Trinidad to Guyana and the first thing I noticed about my mother’s house was that it was falling apart.

But now I was going to be a successful author, wasn’t I? Of course I was. I was going to be rich. I would renovate my mother’s house from top to bottom. I asked my uncle to come around and have a look at it – he’s an architect.

Now, this is a house I love. It’s on the Atlantic coast, a few miles outside Guyana’s capital city of Georgetown. It’s made of wood, and like most Guyanese houses, it’s built on stilts because Guyana’s coastlands are below sea level; protected fromthe ocean by a long thick wall. Our house is just one row back from the sea, with a magnificent view because it’s behind an empty plot. It’s worth saving.

“Don’t bother renovating,” my uncle said. “In twenty years the whole of Guyana’s coast will be under water – Global Warming. Buy another house further back.”

Meanwhile, I hadn’t heard back from my agent – but I was confident, just as she was. The children and I moved on to the third part of our holiday, a week on the beach in Tobago. I was happy. I couldn’t wait to get back to England to hear the good news: a huge contract, movie deal, the works. Everything was going to change.


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