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December 16, 2017

But in what kind of society can buying a watch count as an act of daring? The only sense I can think of is the purchase of such a watch on credit by a person who cannot afford it. This would be daring but also foolhardy, at least if new watches are like new cars and lose a quarter of their value as you take them away. Even then, it is not very daring, if by daring we mean something that many others would not do.

The giving and taking of foolhardy credit, after all, has become the economic model of our times, upon which our economies depend for their growth and even survival, and households in some Western countries I could name have on average at least one expensive watch’s worth of credit-card debt. This doesn’t seem to deter their members from shopping and running up even more debt at weekends, however. Oscar Wilde once defined foxhunting as the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable; contemporary shopping might be defined as the insolvent in pursuit of the unnecessary.

Not that I am myself exactly an ascetic in the matter of possessions. Without having intended or set out to do so, I seem to have accumulated a vast number of possessions, 99 percent of which I do not really need and probably never needed, and which now seem like a ball and chain to me. I have far too many plates, socks, mugs, pens, rubbers, saucepans, ties, knives and forks, glasses, shoes, ornaments, lamps, towels, pencil sharpeners, bowls, belts, wastepaper baskets, maps, chairs, cushions, sheets and pillows, pullovers, tablecloths, casserole dishes, scarves, hats, attaché cases, gloves, bottles of ink, rugs, adapter plugs, duvet covers, soap dishes, visiting cards, photograph albums, vases, old medical journals, hangers, spoons, jugs, buckets, and sports jackets, to name but a few of my superfluities. What a nightmare they will all be to my heirs and assigns!

That is one small consolation. At least they will regret that I ever died.

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