(Another piece from Horsley's 'Over the Wall' magazine - this one from the Winter 2009 issue)
It has been clear to me for some time that the game of Monopoly should come with a health warning along the lines:
“May give rise to sudden and uncontrollable acts of violence”.
Certainly as a child, the closest I came to murdering anyone, was when playing Monopoly on the hearthrug with my little brother.
The following was a typical scenario. My brother would build up a massive sub-prime property portfolio based on the cheap streets on the first two edges of the board while I pursued an alternative strategy focusing on top-quality investments. Having secured both Park Lane and Mayfair and painstakingly built up to a hotel on each, I would patiently wait for my brother's token to land on one of the fateful squares. When it did, I would rub my hands together and start chuckling, in the confident knowledge his pathetic financial empire was doomed.
But then he would calmly reach beneath the edge of the hearthrug and pull out a thick bank-roll of red, £500 pound notes – which he'd been quietly squirrelling away since the beginning of the game – and coolly pay off the debt as if it was of no consequence to him whatsoever.
He had a trick or two up his sleeve when it came to real money too. For example, he would polish his pocket money. He'd work away at his pennies with Brasso until they shone like newly-minted gold sovereigns. At first, I considered this a faintly amusing, babyish aberration; but that was before he played his masterstroke. When the tinkling notes of Popeye the Sailor Man heralded the arrival of the ice-cream van, and we all rushed out with our pennies, my brother sat dejectedly on the doorstep in such a way as to catch the eye of our mother, who immediately asked him why he wasn't first in the queue for an ice-cream, whether he was feeling poorly etc.
“No.” he said – lifting sorrowful eyes in which I could swear he had managed to cause real tears to glisten. “It's just that I don't want to spend all my shiny money.” At which point – and I found this scarcely credible in our mother, who was normally so canny – she gave him some extra money for an ice cream!
I can still remember the little smile he saved just for me, as he joined the queue.