Me and my money: writer Declan Hughes

‘How cheap the wine is makes a positive difference to the taste’

Declan Hughes: “I’ve queried the occasional professional fee, when it seemed egregiously over-entitled.”

Declan Hughes: “I’ve queried the occasional professional fee, when it seemed egregiously over-entitled.”

 

Are you a saver or a spender?
I’ve worked my entire professional life as a playwright, novelist and theatre director, with a brief interval as a department store Santa Claus – so I am a borrower. Tom Stoppard gave his fictional James Joyce the line, “The proudest boast of an Irishman is: I paid back my way.” Which would be nice.

Do you shop around for value?
When there’s only one record shop left in town, that’s increasingly tricky. I wait six months or so for things to be reduced. Or I go online with a bottle of wine, and am suddenly, mysteriously flush. This is when the phrase, “It would be cheaper to buy this than not,” comes into its own.

What has been your most extravagant purchase ever and how much did it cost?
I bought a house in 2008. How much did it cost? More than it’s worth now.

What purchase have you made that you consider the best value for money?
I sold a house in 2008 as well.


What ways do you prefer to shop – online or local?
I live midway between Cavistons and Tesco, so local is good. As a desk-bound unit, you need an excuse to get out of the house. Also, buying second-hand books and bringing them for a pint is not possible online.


Do you haggle over prices?
Not in shops. I’ve queried the occasional professional fee, when it seemed egregiously over-entitled.


Has the recession changed your spending habits?
Suddenly, how cheap the wine is makes a positive difference to the taste, rather than the reverse.


Do you invest in shares?
The last time I was in a notional position to invest in anything, property was the thing. Am I going on about this? It’s like a middle-class dinner party now. Is this venison? What are the schools like around here?


What was the last thing you bought and was it good value for money?
I paid full hardcover price for Trampled Under Foot , Barney Hoskyns’s Led Zeppelin biography, and Unapologetic , Francis Spufford’s defence of Christianity. Both brilliant, so much so that I’ve deliberately skipped bits in each so I can keep them ‘live’, so to speak. That’s value to me.


Have you ever successfully saved up for a relatively big purchase?
When I was 11 I was a chemist’s delivery boy, earning the princely sum of £2 a week. I saved £15 to buy a Philips cassette recorder. There aren’t too many outgoings when you’re 11, apart from Maltesers and Lilt.


Are you a gambler and if so have you ever had a big win?
I was convinced Anne Enright would win the Booker, and I was going to bet on her when she was 14-1. And then I didn’t. That’s the kind of gambler I am.

Declan Hughes’s play Digging For Fire is being staged by Rough Magic Theatre Co at the Project Arts Centre, Dublin, until May 4th. projectartscentre.ie


In conversation with Tony Clayton-Lea