Yes, you read correctly! Chris and I once worked for a very weird couple who had the good fortune to win £5.7 million. Let us call them Mr and Mrs Y, partly because I keep asking myself, "Why oh why of all people did fate dictate these two should win? This was a huge win 15 years ago and the trouble was that this couple were completely incapable of dealing with it. Prior to their new found wealth they had both worked as cleaners for a large factory and they were so hard up they actually borrowed money from a friend to pay their gas bill. Then suddenly, whoosh! . . . . a cool £5.7 million. They actually bought the friend a small flat in gratitude and at least I give them credit for this rather rare act of decency.
Whereas most of us would try to avoid making a complete lifestyle change if we were fortunate to win a large sum of money, these two went out of their way to change every single facet of their lives, almost immediately. The first thing they did was to buy a top of range Mercedes car but since neither could drive they persuaded her brother to chuck in his good full time job so he could be their full time chauffeur. The silly man accepted and today lives to regret this decision. He was bored to tears for most of the day because he was not required to drive them often and there are only so many times you can clean and valet the car. So he just stood around for most of the time, awaiting instructions - poor thing.
After a few false housing starts where they always succeeded in upsetting neighbours with their unreasonable behaviour, they bought a big isolated house - much too big - there were only two of them in a 20 bedroom house which we thought was ridiculous. Imagine it! All the family grown up! Grandchildren grown up! No friends! No parties! They were incapable of entertaining guests! Just them there and all alone in this huge house. Then they proceeded to have the whole thing decorated, a new roof, new wooden windows throughout, extensive garden alterations and installation of a gymnasium, which they never used. They chose to renew the roof during the winter and, surprise, surprise, rain water came flooding inside, ruining existing plaster coving and decorations to this lovely grade two listed building. Then we noticed that a taxi proprietor was actually commissioned to replace the roof. They also employed a gardener to cut down thirty beautiful trees, once providing an elegant lining to both sides of their drive. They had two tennis courts, never used, and their total interest in the garden appeared to be starting a vegetable garden, growing runner beans, peas and potatoes. We had to laugh because these vegetables are so cheap in supermarkets that even I don't bother to grow anything these days. They had a wonderful opportunity to do something interesting to develop their lives, like learning to drive and attending courses which might later provide interesting hobbies and some purpose in their lives, and perhaps to use their wealth to help people. I, for example, would learn to fly small propeller aircraft and perhaps get involved in a gliding club, and get involved in charity work. Instead they seemed totally preoccupied with security even though there was a large electrically operated wrought iron gate as the only way in. How on earth are the unsavoury characters suppose to get in? Grappling hooks! Parachutes! . . . . and how do they imagine they are going to get out with all their tatty belongings, even if they had any commercial value? There were CT cameras all over the place - blooming heck, the place was surrounded by a 20ft high stone wall. Who needs all that security? We were once totally baffled at the response we got from Mr Y when we knocked on the back door. We were greeted with a raised clenched fist about to strike us - perhaps he thought we were burglars and perhaps he requires the services of SpecSavers. He displayed equally totally weird behaviour many times and it was difficult to get any reasonable conversation out of any of them, except the brother.
Mr and Mrs Y were virtual prisoners inside their own home and their 20 acres of land. They had absolutely no sense of humour and he rapidly became addicted to horse racing and started telephone betting to the bookies, heavily. He began losing large amounts of money - one afternoon he lost £250,000, would you believe? £250,000! my word, that could help a few people, couldn't it? This betting we thought was very paradoxical because during our first meeting with them they openly stated they intended never to help any of their grown up children financially - none of them got a single penny. Truly amazing! They fell out with the bank, then another bank. Then they fell out with the roofer/taxi entrepreneur. Then the cleaners, then the gardeners . . . . . . an so on. Not very nice people and they preferred to lose money on horses rather than help their own kids. The mind boggles.
Chris and I were invited to quote for the decorative work plus painting the new wooden windows. This was a large job and we had to re-schedule some of our regular work to accommodate it. Our first project was to decorate the 'Wedgewood Room' - they had some plaster Wedgwood designs on the walls and we were to paint the rest of the room. Honestly it looked dreadful! Not our painting, but the overall effect which looked sheer tat. Next was the 'Italian Room', of equal ill taste and providing a very cheap and nasty effect. And so we worked gradually through the rooms and then started the windows.
They did go abroad for a week and brought back some statues for the garden - all utter tat! Who wants Grecian gods and goddesses in their garden? First, there was the armless Aphrodite showing all she had, except her arms. Funny this Grecian female is always denied arms - anyone know why? Then they had Apollo in all his glory, including arms and showing us his 'credentials'. Here he is, just like the statue they bought.
What became of them? A carpet fitter friend we know said they have separated - he has gambled away ALL his share and lives in a house in which we would not want to live - in total squalor. She has moved three times after selling the mansion, each time upsetting neighbours. Now in my book these people were privilaged individuals to have been awarded so much money - they had a duty and a responsibility to themselves and to others to make the most of it, and they blew it! - in more ways than one. They could have helped a few people and their children and they didn't! I think when they end up 'upstairs' they may face questions about this.
And what about the brother/chauffeur? Poor chap lost his job and he could not return to it - we are not sure what happened to him. We liked him and do hope he managed to repair his life.
What strange people we met during our Painting and Decorating days - and I have some more for you..