This drive

I confess I have never been worldly-wise. I don’t know why. I never had the drive or ambition to pursue an outstanding career. Was this simply the legacy of that decade at school being told over and over that I was a lazy fool who would never amount to anything? Or does my lack of aspiration drive deeper? For sure, I have never yearned for opulence or those markers of wealth and status all around me pursued with vigour.

I have never owned a brand new car, let alone a sporty marque. To date, I have owned a Fiesta, Yaris, Fusion and Qashqai consecutively: sensible family cars, growing with us. For a time, way back, I drove my brother’s abandoned Saab 900 Turbo; a classic, he said, but it handled more like a tank than a sports car. I never really contemplated anything like that for myself. Perhaps this is rooted in those formative experiences too: destined to be a failure, I would never be able to afford those finer things.

To be certain, that sentiment did manifest itself in a vision that eventually came to fruition. So convinced was I that I would be nothing but the prodigal son, I spent much of my youth dreaming of building a timber-framed house on a plot of land fed by spring waters, embarking on a subsistence lifestyle. By strange happenstance, I ended up with someone who shared that dream, spending her redundancy pay on a plot of agricultural land, upon which we ultimately built a house, fed by spring waters. I guess we all have longings of sorts.

But our house here, until we can pursue that dream, is full of second-hand furniture and hand-me-downs. No Samsung SmartTV hanging on the wall, just your basic bargain flatscreen. No iPhone in our pockets, or iWatch on our wrists. Indeed, when burglars broke in and ransacked our home a few years ago, they left with nothing. We had nothing of any value to them at all, though they still ripped up floorboards and tore tiles off the wall in pursuit of all that Asian gold the illiterates imagined fills every Muslim home. Little did they know that the mahr my beloved had demanded at marriage was a promise I’d take her on hajj.

The reality is that I know little about stocks and shares, investment bonds, financing loans or cryptocurrency. We live quite a frugal lifestyle. The family car: always second-hand, always bought outright. Phone contracts: the bare bones. We have incoming and outgoings, but never spend what we don’t have. We don’t have or use a credit card. When we were looking for a house to buy, our criteria was: “What can we afford?” and “It must be in commuting distance of our jobs.” That’s how we ended up in a little house in a poorer part of one of Buckinghamshire’s poorer towns, which had no central heating or double glazing when we purchased it.

I admit that I do yearn for more space sometimes. I confess that I suffer from house envy from time to time. Reflecting on what is affordable, I sometimes kick myself, lamenting: “If only you had worked hard at school!” But the reality is that we own this little house outright, our debts all cleared, whereas many of my peers apparently in possession of all the good things of life: the nice big house, modern car and all the trappings, seem to actually own nothing at all. If I wanted the bigger house, I’d have to go back to where I came from, where we could buy a nice large semi for the price of pokey end-of-terrace around here.

Do I wish I was more worldly-wise? Not especially. It’s too late in the day for that now anyway. The most I can do is advise our children to try their best if they want to afford the better things of life. To study hard and pursue professional degrees, if that helps them get ahead. I have learnt from my mistakes, certainly. If I had had vision, I could have achieved something else entirely. Perhaps. If I had passion and the inclination, maybe I would have risen to starry heights. But I didn’t, and I don’t. I just have one desire really: to return to my Lord with a sound heart.

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