Home Page Can our town be home to one of the region's richest? 17/08/12

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Matthew Hancock
Your Local MP

Hart of the Matter

So, own up – what sort of person are you, by this week’s litmus test? Or, to put it another way, what were your first words on hearing that a Haverhill couple had won the unimagineable jackpot of £148million?


Did you jump for joy at their good fortune and wish them every happiness? Did you violently mouth a word which cast doubt on their parentage? Did you hope that it might be someone you know so some of the cash might find its way in your direction? Did you immediately conjure up the storyline of that musical Spend, Spend, Spend and fear for their future?


These, and countless others, will no doubt have made up the widespread reaction throughout the town - and, indeed, the wider world, as this big a win is news almost anywhere - during the 18 hours or so between the win being announced and the identity of the winners being revealed.


At that stage, as with news of some ghastly tragedy, reactions settle down as we become aware of whether we know the people concerned or not, and therefore whether it is going to affect our lives in any way, or whether we are just spectators, fascinated as in the first act of some great drama about how this will play out.


We saw Adrian and Gillian Bayford on TV, talking about their win, and there will be many who recognised them because being a shopkeeper is rather more high-profile locally than is the case with most winners.


The questions poured out, seeking to discover, on behalf of all us voyeurs, what it feels like – as if the Bayfords know yet – whether it will change their lives – of course it will, whatever they may wish – and what they are going to buy. The answers to this last question were the most impressive they gave and endeared them to those of us who don’t want to see such good fortune squandered.


And now they have flown off on holiday in very unassuming style, continuing the life they were leading before last Friday, leaving us to ponder on what the future holds and, inevitably, speculate on what we would do with that mountain of money if it had been us.


The first thing to realise is that with that amount of money comes considerable responsibility, and that must be a worry, even if it is a nice one. They are now the 11th richest people in East Anglia and just over 500th in Britain.


Taking a look at where and how the other ten or 500 live would be enough to frighten anyone – and perhaps we should be looking at an even smaller number, because many on those lists are nowhere near as cash-rich as the Bayfords, having their wealth tied up in property or other assets.


Just getting one’s head around the amount is enough for anyone. One of the highest paid celebrities/sportspeople in the world, Roger Federer, would have to work nearly five years to earn it.


Can the Bayfords continue to live in Haverhill? It is the question everyone is asking and yet no one really wants to answer, because it implies, if they don’t, that they have somehow let us all down, which is ridiculous.


It is true that they are the nearest thing at the moment to a celebrity or famous person to have come out of Haverhill. As my fellow Haverhill journalist Jo Deeks from the Weekly News said at Tuesday’s press conference, it is a pretty dramatic way to put Haverhill on the map.


The Bayfords’ answer to that suggestion was interesting. It was nice for the town to be known for something good for a change, Mrs Bayford said, rather than something bad.


This must be depressing for the many people, from MPs and local authorities to community organisations, who have been working their socks off in recent years to spread the word about what a splendid place Haverhill is.


It was, of course, exactly what the media wanted because it fitted perfectly with the picture of Haverhill which they have, if any – a town anonymous beyond a certain dodginess connected with its overspill past and a few dusty old news cuttings related to violence.


All the progress made here, all the amazing achievements of Haverhill companies throughout the world and of Haverhill people in all sorts of spheres of life, all put together over 20 years have not been able to place the town into the public eye as successfully as this one lightning bolt of good fortune.


From now on, of course, whatever happens here, and whatever else is achieved, whenever Haverhill is mentioned nationally it will be the home of £148million jackpot winners the Bayfords – or their former home, the place the money enabled them to get away from, if they so choose in the end.


But they have had the courage to go public and the courage to say they intend to stay here. If they do stay – and I believe someone has worked out they could buy up every property in Haverhill many times over – it would not only be a tribute to them, but the best present they could give the town by showing their confidence in its future.


After all, if Haverhill is good enough for them, employers, retail chains and snobby shoppers might think, perhaps it could be good enough for us.

David Hart
David Hart revives his personal take on the week in Haverhill, covering everything from major town developments to what we do with our rubbish.
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