We went to my brother Martin's housewarming recently. He moved into his new flat about 6 months ago, but only just finished getting the bookshelves and the sofa recovered. Of course, he hung all the pictures ages ago.... Anyway, Giulia was a bit concerned about being invited to Martin's for Sunday lunch and was suggesting that we should take some food or something. Martin is not in the least interested in cooking so we weren't sure what to expect. In the end it was just as well we didn't bother. He had the whole thing catered, which, given the minute size of his kitchen and the impeccable decor of the flat was probably the most sensible decision.

Martin and I had just the day before acquired a new nephew (we've delegated all the messy childraising to our sister Alison -- not to be confused with my esteemed co-editor -- since this way we get to be wicked uncles) so he opened the jeroboam of champagne that he had stashed away. We also drank another two cases of champagne which I estimate works out at about a bottle each for the 25-30 people there. This is just so you can get some idea of what sort of person Martin is: the 18th century flat in an expensive area of London, the catered party and the crates of champagne laid on for all comers.... The fact that he went into insurance and makes pots of money in the City, while I went into computers and scrape a living in the provinces may have something to do with it too. I'm just not used to parties where I recognise people from their photo in the paper. Not all of the guests were in this category, however. A number of them were people who Martin had met recently when he was on a "retreat" that he had been sent on by his company.

Martin meditating

When I heard that my brother had been on a retreat, my first thought was that he had got religion. But why would a major marine insurance company be sending people on a retreat? Well, I'll explain the routine for these retreats and all will become clear. They get up early in the morning, eat a breakfast of mind-enhancing things like yoghurt, do an hour of yoga and then meditate... on how to make more money. There are group exercises designed to make you happier about earning more, and hence spending more. Like, they go round the group saying, "How much would you spend on clothes? How much on a holiday? How much if you took a group of friends out to dinner? Now imagine spending twice that, three times that. How do you feel? Doesn't it feel good?"

I was utterly boggled! People go on courses to learn how to spend money? Personally, I've never had this problem; it all goes on this superfluous technology.

But this set me to thinking. On the one hand we have this fannish expertise in running events. And on the other hand we have 60 people prepared to pay £5000 each for the privilege of spending a weekend being told how to get rid of their surplus money. I think we can work something out here. We might even be able to pay for the next run of Plokta.

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