Thursday, 16 April 2015

Wealth and Glamour - the "Chelsea" Effect

I had a rare (and brief) "reality shift" into the high life last weekend whilst visiting my son in London. We went out for a fantastic Sunday lunch at a semi-exclusive establishment which cost much more than I've spent on eating out for a very, very, long time. We had champagne cocktails to start with, a bottle of good wine and all the extras. I really enjoyed myself. Strangely, and a little uncomfortably, the large bill almost added to the enjoyment. After the "high" of the experience died down I began to wonder what it was that I had actually paid for?

Like anyone who makes a habit of being aware of how they are spending their money I automatically question the value of what I buy and weigh up if it's "worth" what I'm paying. I admit that this calculation, for me, is not always as simple or as "pure" as it is for some FI'ers. I'm quite happy to add factors into the equation that could be regarded as self indulgent or self-defeating from a FI point of view - time being a frequent consideration. For example, I might buy something at one supermarket that I know I could get cheaper elsewhere, just because I am already in the shop and it would take a chunk out of my free time to save the difference. Not worth it, in my view. Similar calculations about value might include stress-reduction, health, quality and social responsibility. It's not as simple as pennies and pounds.

But when I think back about the meal at the weekend I realise that one of the things that I must have been including in my calculation of the "value" of the meal was the glamour of the whole experience. "Glamour" is an interesting word. The archaic meaning is "a magic spell, enchantment or charm" but modern definitions refer simply to "exciting" or "attractive" and current usage of the word definitely tends to overlay associations of the excitement and allure of wealth. Was I happy to pay more purely because I was seduced by being part of all that affluence, was I paying to be "glamoured" (anyone a "True Blood" fan?) - I suspect so. That's not a comfortable realisation.

Co-incidentally "Made in Chelsea" is back on Channel 4 this week. It is a (very) guilty pleasure of mine, watched alone and in secret, seldom talked about or admitted to :-).  For those who haven't come across the series it is a structured-reality show featuring a group of very attractive twenty-something year olds living in London with more money than they can handle, no responsibilities and no grip whatsoever on what life is like for the majority of their contemporaries. Strangely enough, despite all the champagne-swilling, holidaying in Barbados and shopping in exclusive boutiques they seem no happier than "ordinary" people and they spend as much time obsessively discussing and dissecting relationships, crying, falling out and making up again, as young adults in all walks of life.

However the overiding theme of the show is "glamour" and the cult of the mystique of wealth; not what money can do, or buy, but what having money makes us into. Somewhere along the line we seem to have bought into the delusion that this equates to attractive, charming and happy. And that, apparently, includes me .... (or at least a small part of me :-))

Made in Chelsea cast (Facebook).
Mark-Francis (second from the right) expresses his disdain for the sort of people who would order beer-battered fish and chips: "You'd leave before they'd even finished the sentence!" he gasped, his face contorted into utter disgust.(


  1. "that, apparently, includes me .... (or at least a small part of me :-))" Maybe women have a genetic predisposition to that character weakness? :)

    "his disdain for the sort of people who would order beer-battered fish and chips": pah! The only prob with the old f&c is finding somewhere that does it well. There's a fine spot in Southwold that'll sell you a lunch of BBQd lobster and chips. The champagne costs extra.

    1. So women are more "genetically" inclined to be swayed by glamour? - isn't there a whole set of industries built around the fact that men are pretty keen on it too? (I include in this yachts, cars and models :-)).

      Nowhere does fish and chips like Whitby (except maybe select outlets in the Leeds/Bradford area). Beef dripping is key. :-)

    2. I used to live near Whitby. I agree: F&C excellent.

      Perhaps men on average like a different sort of glamour, such as going wheeeee in a fast car. Personally I quite like swanking about in morning dress at a wedding, but is that really glamour? Anyway, it's different from my motor-cycling days. Wheeeeee.

  2. "Co-incidentally "Made in Chelsea" is back on Channel 4 this week. It is a (very) guilty pleasure of mine, watched alone and in secret, seldom talked about or admitted to :-)" Haha, to be kept secret or admitted to the internet!

    I was getting off my motorbike today after riding home and a guy walked passed and then literally stopped and stared at a BMW for about two minutes. He was definitely taken by the glamour effect. Was a bit spooky!

    Mr Z

    1. Hi Mr Z - admitting things on the internet doesn't count though does it? :-)

      The glamour effect is not to be dismissed - especially in ourselves. We just have to be aware of when it is happening and make sure that it's a conscious choice, and that it's worth it .

  3. Hi Cerridwen
    When you told me where you went for your meal and I saw that they had a restaurant in Manchester, I said I'd check it out with my friends. I didn't look at the menu/prices, just saw that they did steaks but when I sent the link to a friend, she replied "It's too posh and too expensive, but the steaks look nice!"

    I would say that I'm much more likely to get 'glamoured' by people rather than the allure of wealth. I encounter it every time I go to Hong Kong - the places my family frequent (they live very different lives to me, as wealthy ex-pats out there) are such places - I feel very much like an uncomfortable tourist, not fitting in and have to stop myself from showing a horrified expression on my face when I look at menu prices!

    However, I do admit that on one occasion, I had a rather expensive champagne and oyster lunch in Glasgow with a friend (we were celebrating her divorce...) - it was like we were transported into another world, where people spent this sort of money all the time. Nice as it was, I'd not do it again in a hurry, can't afford it! :-)

    1. Hi weenie. Despite the price do try the restaurant if you ever have something special to celebrate. The food was amazing and you could do things much more sensibly than we did by cutting out expensive drinks, sweets, extras and so on.

      I've never eaten oysters but it is on my list of things to try and I'd be more than happy to have a glass (or two) of champagne to go with them. Maybe I'll plan to try them sitting on a beach in Normandy with a glass of prosecco instead?

    2. Prosecco is just as good, although personally, I find that it gets me drunk very quickly, much like champagne!

  4. Wow... bombshell alert! I would have not put you down as a MIC viewer.
    They just come across as a bunch of over priveleged pompous t055ers. Or maybe I'm just jealous :)

    I've gone in for a few ridiculously expensive things in the past and to be honest it's just not worth the money for me. While admitedly being enjoyable, exciting and feeling like you are part of a different world briefly I tend to also find myself somewhat uncomfortbable, constantly thinking people can tell I'm an "outsider". Also the expense is always in the back of my mind thinking, well this better be worth the money. The high expectation often means that it doesn't live up to the hype.

    The one time that comes to mind is after backpacking it round S.America in '08 we finished the tour in Rio and stayed at the Copacabana Palace for one night, which cost £500. Yes that's right, we spent probably 2 weeks worth of travelling funds on one flipping night. Madness! As mentioned above it was plush, luxurious, and enjoyable but it was no where near as fun as our £20/night hostel we'd stayed in all week where we made lots of friends and generally had a blast! Since that experience I've always sought out the cheap and cheerful options where possible.

    Saying all that, nowt wrong with going out for a slap up meal every now and again... so fill your boots on that I say as long as it's not every week!

  5. No you have them in a nutshell :-)

    Maybe you were actually brushing up against Mark-Francis whilst at the Copacabana and didn't know it.

    I know what you mean about feeling uncomfortable though. We celebrated my husband's (partial) retirement 18 months ago with a night at a very expensive hotel in the Cotswolds. They brought a hessian sack to the table at breakfast time. We had no idea what it was, or what to do with it. Turns out it was to keep the toast warm!

  6. Haha! I've had similar experiences where you don't know what to do with something and feel like a right berk.
    Can't be doing with all that myself! Keep it simple, no fanciness needed for such a simple task as keeping toast warm eh! :)