Pay attention. I am not kidding. Really.

Month: October, 2013

The Brits and Us

photo of Tatton Hall's library

The 8,000 books at Tatton Hall

What do members
of the British aristocracy

and the American middle class
have in common?

A whole lot more
than you might think.

By my very scientific calculations, my husband and I have toured 8,723 great houses, castles, country houses, and palaces – give or take ten or twelve. Well, maybe not 8,723, but you get my point: LOTS. We’ve observed some things along the way. Actually, it’s pretty much the same concept – repeated over and over.


For hundreds of years – even before William the Conqueror crashed the party – the British aristocracy has been intent on adding to their acreage, square footage, art collections, furniture collections, wall-sized portraits of themselves, titles, status, yadda, yadda, yadda. In fact, each generation viewed their job as not just hanging onto what their ancestors had accumulated, but substantially adding to it.

photo of 17 chests lining the walls of Dunham Massey's Stamford Gallery

17 chests in this long gallery!

Do you know anyone in your family who just kept buying and collecting and then left it all for the next generation – who didn’t like it and didn’t want it – to deal with? Ah ha. See what I mean? When we go through life thinking our job is to pile up stuff for the next generation, we very likely are creating an unsustainable liability, instead of an asset, for our heirs.


Many factors combined to deprive the aristocracy of the armies of servants needed to farm the acreage, scour the great house, gussy up ALL the property, and wait on them hand and foot. (More about that in the post, Sustainability.) Their aristocratic lifestyle simply was not and is not sustainable. When you own A LOT of stuff, you must have A LOT of servants, period.

Do you know anyone who has need of so many servants (read: electronic or electric devices, machines, tools, hired help) that when something breaks down, it’s a serious problem? If several break down one right after the other, is there a cash-flow problem? See? If we need a lot of “servants” (gadgets and widgets and tradesmen) to maintain our lifestyle, we have the same problem as those British blue bloods.

Here’s the pay-attention bit.

1. Don’t make getting more and more – of anything – your life’s work. Decide what’s enough for you, and stick with your decision – regardless of what your peers say.
2. Don’t assume your heirs will like what you like or want what you want. Limit your purchases to what you can fully appreciate, then STOP accumulating.
3. Don’t create such a complicated lifestyle that you need hordes of “servants.” Learn to live more simply than most members of the American middle class.

Living a sustainable life is a goal worth striving for. We’ve talked with owners of some of these estates, and they don’t sound very happy or content. In fact, they looked and sounded more than a little burdened to us.

Do you know anyone who seems weighed down by all the stuff he’s accumulated that he now has to care for, maintain, dust, store, insure, etc.?

Are you that person?

© 2013 Teresa Layne Bennett

red box with white text of Luke 12:25: ". . .life does not consist in an abundance of possessions."

Jesus correctly nailed it over 2,000 years ago!


Ask, Part 2

photo of Ireland's old House of Lords, in the Bank of Ireland building

Phillip, a tall-case clock, & me

(If you haven’t read the 9/29/13 blog post,
Ask and You Shall Receive, this one
won’t make much sense until you do.)

I’m telling you, this asking gig works like magic.

Today, we popped over to Dublin. After checking into our hotel, we beat feet to our first planned destination: The Bank of Ireland. Sounds fascinating, huh?

Actually, it is. The Bank of Ireland has some pretty cool digs, namely the building which used to house the Irish Parliament before they disbanded to become part of the Parliament in London. (Not a very good idea, they later discovered, but there you go. Hindsight’s usually spot-on.)

When the Irish Parliament disbanded, they no longer needed such a grand building and sold it to the Bank of Ireland. The bank Mucky-Mucks immediately dismantled half of it, turning that bit into bank offices. But thankfully, they kept the other half – the House of Lords – to use as a meeting room (a very grand, knock-your-socks-off meeting room, as is the main room where ordinary bank patrons stand in line for a teller).

According to my pre-trip research, short informal tours are given every Tuesday at three scheduled times. So, we showed up today – Tuesday – for the 11:30 tour.

You know
where I’m headed with this.

“Not today. No tours today, as the bank personnel are having meetings all day, tomorrow, the next day, too.”

Here comes the aw-shucks, we-came-all-the-way-from-Colorado routine that, by now, we’re getting pretty darn good at. And it worked – again. A very nice security cop named Phillip said, “Oh, tell you what. It’s leven-terty now. I take my lunch at 12. Why don’t you coom back at 1:00, when the meeting’s adjourned for two hours, and I’ll take you ’round?”

Phillip is way more than a security guard, as it turns out. He gave us the history of the 1831 tapestries, still hanging in the House of Lords turned board meeting room. He pointed out plenty of other historical bits – behind roped off areas – and then handed us off to an equally chatty colleague who offered more historical tidbits.

So. Once again, dear ones, on a day when “no tours are being given,” we received a private tour . . . simply because we asked.

See how this works? I do hope you’re paying attention. Ask and you very likely will receive. Don’t ask and you very likely won’t receive. It’s just that simple.

© 2013, Teresa Layne Bennett

red box with white text of old Chinese proverb: "Man who waits for roast duck to fly into mouth must wait very, very long time."

Don’t you love old Chinese proverb humor?

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