Bang goes a huge chunk of our four sons’ inheritance. How their hearts must have sunk this week, when their irresponsible father signed on the dotted line to buy a spanking new car, straight from the factory — the first brand new vehicle my wife and I will ever have owned.
It’s sitting in the Belgian port of Zeebrugge as I write, waiting to be ferried across the North Sea, and by this time next week it ought to be mine.
It’s not just any run-of-the-mill new car, either. It’s an all-singing, all-dancing 2019 automatic A-class Mercedes-Benz Sport, in fetching metallic blue paint, packed with a million times more computing power than it took to put a man on the moon half a century ago this year.
If the brochures are to be believed, it practically drives itself, parking automatically, calculating when it’s safe to change lane and manoeuvring itself accordingly, reading speed limit signs and responding to voice commands.
It’s not just any run-of-the-mill new car, either. It’s an all-singing, all-dancing 2019 automatic A-class Mercedes-Benz Sport (stock photo)
Feeling a bit chilly? Just say: ‘Hey, Mercedes, I’m cold’ — and it will instantly switch on the heating. Apparently, it will even contact the emergency services of its own volition if I have a crash.
Indeed, I’ve turned out to be such a sucker for these electronic bells and whistles that I feel honour-bound to resign my self-appointed life presidency of RANT (Rage Against New Technology), the organisation I founded on this page only six weeks ago.
But don’t worry. Plenty of readers have written to me, volunteering for membership of the RANT board, and I’m sure that a more fitting successor can be found to fill my shoes.
Enough to say that I’ve spent many thousands more than I intended on the self-indulgence of the Merc — which means that Mrs U and I will have many thousands less (if anything at all) to pass on to our progeny when we pop our clogs.
Mind you, I’ve long had mixed feelings about the rights and wrongs of inherited wealth. As a dyed-in-the-wool Tory, I know I should be 100 per cent behind the idea of money cascading down the generations, from grandparents to parents and on to our own children.
But there’s enough of the chippy egalitarian in me to recognise how very unfair it is that, say, the young Duke of Westminster earns more in the course of a good night’s sleep, thanks to his inherited billions, than great swathes of the world’s population take home from years of back-breaking toil.
In fact, the closet Bolshevik in my make-up wonders why our sons should get anything when we die (though to be fair, I ought to point out that they are the least mercenary of boys, who have never shown any sign of itching to get their hands on their dad’s dosh). This is particularly true to the Utley brand, since the sum total of my own inheritance from my late father on his death was one soup-stained tie, emblazoned with the arms of the Cambridge college we both attended.
In my more mean-spirited moments, I reckon that if I didn’t get anything more than that, then why should my sons?
At the same time, I tell myself that if Mrs U and I don’t spend the money we’ve earned, the taxman will only grab even more of it when it’s our turn for the crematorium, having already helped himself to great dollops of our income throughout our working lives.
And it’s an indisputable truth that public authorities will always spend cash far more wastefully than even the most self-indulgent of Merc buyers. Think of the tens of billions squandered on such projects as HS2, aborted garden bridges across the Thames or the eye-wateringly expensive IT schemes for the NHS which came to nothing.
At least my new car should get me from A to B — which HS2 shows no sign of doing for a good while yet, if it ever