Having the time of your life

Is it me or have you felt uneasy about all the celebrations for the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday before the 4 August? Perhaps it is because I was taught not to take profit before it is made, perhaps it’s just the normal cautiousness of an accountant, or perhaps I’m superstitious.

So it’s with some trepidation I write this knowing it may be published before the significant date.

I envy anyone born at the beginning of a century. It’s so easy to remember your age. If today is before your birthday, you are aged one year less than the last two digits of the year; if after your birthday you’re the same age. Excellent. I’m always reckoning my age wrongly, usually too young, and I am shocked when my actual birthday comes round to find that I have to move on two years.

I was wondering what the Queen Mother’s attitude to, and experience of, money and accountancy had been during her 100 years. An early story suggests that she may have been imprudent. Apparently as a young woman, she telegraphed her parents as follows: ‘SOS. LSD. RSVP. Elizabeth.’ I assume that LSD referred to old money and not a little something to put more swing into the Highland fling.

During World War II, she is reported as being very prudent in her use of resources. Eleanor Roosevelt noted that at Buckingham Palace there were lines painted low in the baths to indicate the amount of water to be used, that the palace was unheated and that the King and Queen ate frugally on wartime rations.

Until the King died in 1952, I assume the Queen Mother was shielded from financial details. In widowhood she decided to buy a ruin, the Castle of Mey and restore it, thankfully without the help of of Linda Barker, Handy Andy and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. Did she have the money? Did she trot along to the local bank manager? Did she see her accountant? ‘Well Ma’am, a castle is a problematic asset, and at your time of life …’ She was 52.

A horoscope posted on the internet suggests the Queen Mother is good at turning worthless things into value, yet liable to spend money rapidly.

Whether it was property repairs, horses or her penchant for extravagant hats, her spending took off at some point and has a resulted apparently in an overdraft that would make the Duchess of York blush.

However, since the Queen supposedly underwrites it, the Queen Mother may have the luxury of not having to open her statements.

Perhaps all our citizens who live to be 100 should be freed from worrying about money.

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