One of my favourite passages from one of my favourite books:
Daydream: a golden classical house, three stories high, with attic windows and a view over water. Outside a magnolia growing up the wall, a terrace for winter, a great tree for summer and a lawn for games; behind it a wooded hill and in front a river, then a sheltered garden, indulgent to fig and nectarine.
It's Cyril Connolly in The Unquiet Grave, beleaguered in the London blitz, dreaming of France and a house, a home, a bolt hole. It's a modest enough example of what Larkin called 'thin continuous dreaming', although Connolly later, and ambitiously, stipulates a helicopter to whisk him to editorial meetings in Bloomsbury.
My own thin continuous dreams? Given enormous unearned wealth (i.e. the interest on my colossal capital), and with all philanthropic urges and family commitments temporarily suspended, how would I selfishly fritter my dosh?
1) A plain, even spartan modernist apartment - perhaps in the Barbican. Low maintenance, airy and sunlit accommodation, lots of bookshelves and space for lunch.
2) A bright and amiable young graduate employed one or two days per week to organise the acquisition and cataloguing of a library devoted to all the poetry published in Britain between September 1939 and the end of the Second World War. Books, periodicals, manuscripts, correspondence, variant editions etc. What we were fighting for. Said library would be open to researchers and located in a decommissioned air-raid shelter.
3) A wardrobe of crisp white sea island cotton shirts, bottle green corduroy three-piece suits, superb shoes and a lavish supply of socks and underwear. No hats, but a range of sunglasses.
4) A loyal factotum, mute and reliable. He or she would live nearby, and be very well paid.
5) I cannot drive and will never learn but I'd like to have access to a motor car - something like the Jaguar in Withnail and I, or a 1970s Range Rover, in mustard livery. And a Citroen DS for trips to . . .
6) Glyndebourne. We'd motor down with friends, have a picnic, you know.
7) A walk-in humidor.
8) A salon, on the first and third Fridays of each month, lavishly catered, by invitation only. I'd never put in an appearance, but would enjoy the thought of it happening. A vicarious pleasure.
9) Art. I'd like a good Roger Hilton for starters. And something by Yves Klein. Mid century modernism - the kind of thing you see in Kettle's Yard. Ceramics also.
10) Music (see 6)
11) A really wonderful 'O' gauge model train set for the boys and me to play with.
12) The acquisition (by the aforementioned bright and amiable young graduate) of Connolly's 100 (see the link above), the budget for which would be around $1m.
13) A morning each week spent allocating funds generously, anonymously, to writers and painters and makers and doers. No strings - just cash. And I realise I've just gone back on my plan to avoid anything philanthropic.
14) A boozy lunch once a week with a few friends at St John in Clerkenwell. Wednesdays are good, Starting at midday and winding up at around 3pm.
15) A professional assassin at my disposal 24/7 - not that I have any particular agenda.
16) Er . . . That's about it. No travel, and little ostentation apart from the walk-in humidor.