‘The streets were paved with gold’ and cats

People have always travelled seeking wealth and better lives. The centres to which they travel differ but the human desire for success stays the same.The expression, known worldwide, that “the streets were paved with gold”  is thought to originate from the tale of Dick Whittington. In the story he is a poor boy who came to london seeking riches and found them unexpectedly through his cat ( if you don’t know the story get a copy, top read!) It seems that the real Richard Whittington, actually thrice Lord Mayor of London between 1397-1423, kept a house in the parish of St Luke’s, now known as silicon roundabout. It was his weekend house outside the city, most likely where his cat lived. I hope a statue to the awesomeness of cats is included in the design of the tech city building.

I have been thinking about what separates London, and specifically silicon roundabout from other tech centres in the world and, as usual with London, history plays a big part. Where silicon valley in America was still a fruit-growing area until about 60 years ago, silicon roundabout in London has well over 600 yrs of history of wealth seeking and creation, including this connection to a story of a cat being the actual bringer of success and wealth. There are lots of  modern web stories of cats bringing wealth, even big stars such as grumpy cat , but Dick Whittington’s cat got there first. For all its modernity the web is just playing out stories that have been circulating for centuries.

This is probably one of the most famous stories of London as a destination for seeking wealth, but as with some modern success stories it’s not exactly as it seems. In the story Whittington is a poor orphan who comes to London looking for gold paved streets, in reality he was the son of a wealthy man and not an orphan. There has been a lot of press lately about the 17-year-old who has made a fortune selling an app to yahoo, but not much mention of the fact he is the son of the vice president of Morgan Stanley who had a macbook bought for him at age 9. Of course both of these people only got their success through their own hard work but it is disingenuous to suggest that the starting point does not make a huge difference. If you are born walking on the gold paved road is it’s a lot easier to reach down and pick up your share before those who are still searching for proof of its existence. It is verging on immoral to suggest to all our youth that hard work alone will get them everywhere, the app business arose from nowhere 5 years ago , it could disappear just as quickly and we have no real idea whats next. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/22/young-appmakers-cant-job-life.

I just hope that those who are becoming rich now are as diligent in their charitable works as the real Richard Whittington who still benefits London today via the charities he established. One lesson we should definitely learn from silicon valley is that everyone needs looking after so this doesn’t happen http://billmoyers.com/content/homeless-in-high-techs-shadow/

As for the rest of us – there are always cats.marlon2my cat Marlon


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