The Richest Man in the World

Yesterday was my daughter’s birthday, a celebration of another year. There is much excitement about presents, cake and all the trimmings but the real treasure is the opportunity to have a family occasion. In a world full of materialism it is hard to quantify and put a value on the bonds of friends and family, as its worth is beyond a price tag, a costing, an estimate, there must be another value system within ethics and morality but I can only make my own subjective opinion.

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I find it very hard to swim against the tide of consumerism, the more we consume the happier we get just doesn’t fit with me, in fact for me the less I can consume the happier I am, however the more productive I am both in the garden and creatively, the happy I am. Is there such a thing as productivism? It appears there is and it’s a economic ideology that I didn’t mean at all, I don’t mean continual increase but using the least amount to produce the most, efficiency not exploitation!

Words are just so complicated. Take wealth for example or rich, the richest man I know is my father-in-law Chris, we know him as granddad and he lives in the village. He doesn’t have a car, TV, a computer or most of the trappings of the modern world. He lives in a modest bungalow he built himself by the harbour and it can be pretty hard to visit him when the moon is full and the tide is high.

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The bottle was empty!

He came across from the UK back in the 60’s by boat. A boat he built himself. He brought up four children as a single parent with some help. He used his boat to fish and then built a smokehouse where he learnt to smoke all sorts of things. His salmon was the best I ever tasted and there were many who thought the same, gingerly making their way across the stony beach being careful not to slip. His herrings and bacon were divine and I have never tasted anything quite it’s like since he retired.

For many years he smoked the Gubbeen Cheese and then when he retired taught Fingal Ferguson his secrets and Gubbeen Cheese and Bacon have gone onto to great things. The Ferguson’s paid a lovely tribute to granddad in a book they published and on their website (http://www.gubbeen.com/gubbeen-smokehouse.html)

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So did all this make Chris a “rich” man? He made a living that enabled him to bring up four children and unlike many of his generation he is now surrounded by all four of his kids as well as ten of his grand children. His children have managed to stay in this small community and not only that they have thrived. It is probably no coincidence that they share a number of common values. His three daughters all work in the food industry, not mass producing stuff for a quick profit but building a reputation for quality. My wife Kate is the oldest and she is a baker, I am proud to say she is a damn good baker, her focaccia is seductive and her lemon drizzle makes me. Emma and her husband run the award winning Crookhaven Inn while Sarah Jane (Salsa) and her husband Colin have the Along the Way Café now the heart of the village. Andrew is a trained boat builder and master craftsman, his woodworking skills are always in demand with an emphasis and pride in real quality.

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When my eldest Mair was around 11yrs old she started visiting granddad on a regular basis. Chris replaced his children with greyhounds and whippets. Chris is a countryman, gardening, animal husbandry, cider making, ferreting and coursing which led him into dogs. Mair loves animals and especially dogs and they appear to love her too. Granddad needed help exercising them and he wanted them to get used to being handled and Mair was just the girl for the job. I think Granddad has taught Mair a lot over the years working and spending time down there. She is a bright, intelligent, wonderful girl and one of the most cantankerous individuals I have ever met. I think the two of them have a similar sense of humour or just shared interests, there is definitely mutual respect and they have a special bond that Mair is understandably very proud of.

I’m not sure if society values wisdom as much as it did, I mean we can just Google what we need these days but can we Google perception, insight and discernment? The internet has certainly made answers a lot easier with all the facts, false or otherwise at your fingertips but knowing the right questions is real wisdom.

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Language is changing and we often talk about connections in regards to Wi-Fi but the connections we make within our families have a far greater impact on our wealth. Balancing the virtual world and the real world is going to be a real challenge for the future generations and the process of bringing the outside world closer may well put a greater distance between us.

As a family we have become richer living near granddad and I have learned so much about what is really of value, appreciation of what we have is a truly precious commodity, do I really need any more?

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One thought on “The Richest Man in the World

  1. Pingback: A piece about our wonderful neighbour | Goleen Harbour

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