Published: Debbie Picture Library #33
Artist: Ian Kennedy (cover); J Badesa (story)
Sandra Painter’s family are not rich; her bicycle, for example, is getting ancient. But she’s got lots of friends and happy with her lot. Then Dad tells her and her brother Billy that they’ve won £100,000 on the pools. Sandra and Billy are all set to shout it to the world when Dad stops them. He’s heard stories on how the lotto curse has ruined lives and is not going to have that happen to him. So they’re going to keep their win a secret. They are not going to get carried away with flash cars, posh houses and such. The new things and renovations they will get will be done discreetly and the story will be that they have had a bit of luck, and they’ll show that having money makes no difference at all.
But as they soon discover, it does make a difference. The neighbours and kids at school can’t help but notice things the renovations being done professionally instead of Mr Painter doing it himself, which they think is strange. And it’s showing the rest of the neighbourhood up too. The kids at school see Sandra’s got flash new clothes and bicycle and we can sense jealousy in the way they comment on it. The worst is Edna Egon, who is constantly making nasty remarks about it and Sandra.
The new dudes are making Sandra a standout in school, but it’s proving awkward and causing embarrassments. For example, the teachers keep picking out Sandra for answering questions or running unwelcome errands because they are now noticing her too much. Sandra has to lock her new bicycle whereas she didn’t need to with the old one because it was not worth stealing. Then she loses the key and has to borrow a hacksaw! She comments that such things would never have happened with her old bicycle. On top of that, it causes her to mess up the errand teach lumbered her with, and when she gets home she messes up her new clothes on the paint being used for the redecorating. Dad comments that she wouldn’t have been so careless in the old days. Sandra finds she is beginning to miss things from the old days and she preferred some of the old things to everything they have bought anew.
Dad is encountering the same problems as Sandra; he says he is not going to darts club because everyone is getting wary of him. Later on in the story Billy says it’s just the same for him: everyone is picking on him. Sandra suggests they try sharing their good fortune, but in ways without hurting people’s pride.
They start with Dad offering his friend George Clark a lift in his new car. Sandra tries treating everyone at the canteen, but they accuse her of trying to buy popularity and will pay for themselves, thank you very much. Then Dad presents two new athletics trophies to the school. But Dad forgot that athletics are Sandra’s forte and it would be conflict of interest if she wins the trophy. Moreover, people remark that the competitors will let Sandra win because her dad donated the trophy. Sandra tries deliberately losing, and let her friend Wendy (George Clark’s daughter) win, but everyone realises what she did. Wendy is furious with Sandra for what she thought was favours, as it was not an honest win for her. Meanwhile, Dad messes things up even more when he generously has the Clarks’ car taken away for repairs at his expense – without consulting them first. The Clarks are furious, not only because they are proud but also because they thought their car had been stolen. After this, Sandra finds none of her friends are speaking to her at the leisure centre.
Dad miscalculates yet again when he sees Sandra standing miserably outside a ballet shop and assumes she wants ballet lessons. So without consulting her, he gets her expensive ballet gear and lessons at the more posh part of town. In fact, Sandra hates ballet, proves completely hopeless at it at her first lesson, and the other ballet students are a snobbish lot who won’t have anything to do with her. On top of that, her new bicycle got stolen while she was having the lesson.
The whole family is finding that everything has been going wrong since they won the money. It’s spilling out into frayed nerves and constant rows, which they never had before they won the money. For example, Dad unfairly accuses Sandra of letting the money go to her head and being careless over the bike theft. He’s a fine one to talk about being careless – he was saying this instead of watching his driving, and his new car hits a gatepost! Sandra has had enough of her classmates making such nasty remarks about her turning into Miss Posh, especially Edna, and lashes out at them. Billy is in a bad temper because everyone is picking on him, and when he’s in a bad mood he does something stupid. In this case it’s flying his new motor plane in the school playing fields out of hours. Sandra knows this could lead to trouble. She realises that giving the motor plane to Billy was another of Dad’s bad moves, which was compounded by Dad being too busy to teach Billy how to use it properly. Sure enough, Billy can’t control the plane properly and it smashes into a neighbour’s greenhouse. The neighbour is furious and the school janitor says they are in big trouble for trespass and damage. Now their parents are even worse, and there will be the headmistress to face next morning.
Next day, Billy runs away because of what happened. Sandra goes in search of him. Her classmates stop making their unkind remarks when they hear Billy’s missing. Even Edna changes her attitude. They promise to help if they can. Sandra decides the places to check are Billy’s favourite haunts. She soon locates him, and when they get home they find his disappearance has helped to patch things up with the people the Painters fell out with.
Dad comes home and says he has lost the money. He made a stupid investment with it – “didn’t take proper advice” – with a dodgy firm, who have now disappeared and being hunted by the police. However, Sandra and Billy cheer and tell Dad that losing the money was the cleverest thing he ever did with it. The Painters are now pretty much back to the way they were and glad for it. Their friends are back and now everyone knows the whole story.
When Dad wins the fortune he comes across as a whole lot more sensible than the Mill parents in Judy’s Minnie the Meanie, who lost the whole fortune they won on the pools because they did everything wrong: they broadcast the news of their good fortune to everyone in town, which made them prey to vultures out to take advantage; they did not save, invest or put any of the money where it would generate further income for them; worst of all, they just wouldn’t stop spending the money, despite danger signals that it was running out because of this.
Dad has clearly learned from stories like these and he tries to do everything right. But we know from the title of the story that things are not going to work out that way. Dad’s decisions on what to do with the money prove to be ill-conceived because he is not thinking things through or checking them out properly, and everything he does with the money blows up in his face one way or other. He turns out to be as incapable of handling a vast sum of money as the Mill parents.
Although the Painters are sensible enough not to flaunt the money and throw it around like confetti as the Mill parents do, they soon find out they are mistaken in believing money makes no difference. The overhaul they make to their entire household makes them stand apart too much from their less-wealthy neighbours. Instead of being just one of the gang as they were before, they look too far above themselves for their friends and neighbours to take. And of course people get jealous and resentful. The Painters try to win them over with generosity and sharing their good fortune with them. But rather than people getting greedy and taking advantage, as they do in Minnie the Meanie, it all just goes wrong all the time. In the end, the best thing for the Painters to do with the money was lose it altogether, and give the old adage “money does not buy happiness” a whole new appreciation.