Biggles and the living expenses

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Biggles and the living expenses

Postby SopwithCamel » 12 Jun 2018, 14:06

Got to wondering today how our boys divided up their living expenses.

Assuming that Biggles actually owned the flat (which I think I read somewhere or maybe someone said it in a fic at some point), they would still need to split expenses for Mrs Symes, food, household essentials etc. Did everyone give Biggles a fixed amount every month in lieu of rent? Or did they simply hand over their Air Police checks to be deposited into Biggles' account? Was there some sort of household expenses kitty that everyone put money into? Did Biggles have to ask people to hand in their share every month?

I can't imagine the four of them sitting in a restaurant somewhere going, "Well, I only had the starter and half the wine, and you had the steak, so..." I'd think usually if the four of them ate out together it would be Biggles (or in his absence, Algy) who picked up the bill and paid it. I don't suppose Biggles to be the kind of person who would ask people to hand in money to him afterwards, but considering that they liked to frequent places like Simpson's, and presumably had normal adult male appetites, if he paid for everything out of his own pocket it would soon run to quite a lot. (I expect he was used to paying for Ginger's meals, though, being his guardian and everything. Presumably too during the interwar years he and Algy took turns picking up the bill.)

Thoughts?
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby Frecks » 12 Jun 2018, 14:18

It is very hard to imagine how they divided the living expenses. I should think in the Air Police era they would all contribute equally to the utility bills etc. for the flat. Perhaps they had a "kitty" for dining out in restaurants. Bertie had his own car in the Air Police era so I should think he paid for that himself. I am not sure if Biggles still owned his own car as well but certainly they could use unmarked police cars for official journeys.

As to the inter war period that would be quite different. There must have been some arrangement with Algy when he moved into Biggles' flat which seems to be sometime between Hits The Trail and & Co. WEJ always refers to Mrs. Symes as Biggles' housekeeper in the interwar books. As far as Ginger is concerned he would not have had any money at all at first and Biggles had the £500 to pay for his education at the end of Black Peril. I do not know how far that would go but it should have easily covered his flying training and keep for a while.

There were some interwar adventures where they made quite a profit in one way or another and some of that money could have gone into a separate bank account to pay living expenses etc. I can easily imagine Biggles taking charge of the account and paying for everything even it if was from a joint account.

During WW2 they would all four have had their own Service pay although I do not think that would amount to very much.

Altogether a very interesting topic.
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby Tracer » 12 Jun 2018, 15:34

Intriguing.

I would suppose that they each paid a set amount into a kitty to cover Mrs. Symes' pay and the utilities. Meals out - unless specifically stated "dinner's on me" I had always supposed they each paid their own bill either at the time or when they received a monthly account from the club or restaurant, if it was a place they dined often.

Ginger's expenses I think during his apprenticeship would have come out of Biggles' income until he was a fully functioning member of the team and received a wage, and then it would have been proportionate.

Spoils of fortune I think would have been allocated individually and equal shares.

Overall I don't think the boys would ever fall out about money. They all seem keen to stump up when needed, and when funds are low they don't appear to fret about it. They just call in the odd favour or cut their cloth accordingly.
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby Kismet » 12 Jun 2018, 15:39

I think the restaurant would put every meal onto each person's tab and each person would pay their own restaurant bill once a month, or some similar arrangement, once they were known as regulars.

I expect an arrangement was made for the rent and bills. Biggles would divide up the quarterly bills and each person would pay their share. Ginger, in the interwar period, may have got some of his bills paid in exchange for labour: he refers to Biggles as his boss more than once. Bed and board may have been included as part of his wage. Algy was Biggles's partner, also referred to in more than one book, so presumably received half the profits from the Biggles and Co enterprises as well as income from whatever stocks and shares he invested in, and so would pay his own way.

I don't think Biggles was ever Ginger's guardian: he was too old when he met Biggles to need one and there is no suggestion that his father gave up his parental rights in favour of Biggles. At sixteen, Ginger was not a child in the eyes of the law but a young person. Biggles was given charge of a sum of money for Ginger's training, not custody. At some point after his training was completed, Ginger went to work for him.

Some things are referred to as Biggles's - the Bentley, the Ford Pilot. The Jaguar is referred to as Bertie's. Things weren't in common ownership.
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby SopwithCamel » 12 Jun 2018, 15:51

I've divided it by era:

In the Biggles and Algy years, when they lived in separate flats, I expect they each paid their own way for meals, perhaps with the occasional "dinner's on me" once in a while, but they would take care to do it by turns ("You paid last time, so I'll do this one.") For the plane I imagine they would pay for expenses (petrol, repairs etc) as they came up, with whoever discovered the need paying for it. Don't know if they paid Smyth a wage but if they did I imagine they would split it.

At the end of Black Peril it's mentioned that there is a check for Biggles and Algy to split, a check for Smyth, and the 500 pounds for Ginger's education, given to Biggles. By which I think we can assume that any of the profits from the Flies Again days would have been split equally, perhaps two ways with a little something for Smyth, or possibly even three ways equally.

After Ginger came along I imagine Biggles paid for most of his day-to-day and education needs, with Algy chipping in for the odd meal and maybe a few birthday treats and the odd fiver to go to the pictures. After Algy moved in I would suppose that they covered Ginger's expenses more or less equally, as the need arose. Proceeds from their adventures I should think would mostly go to Biggles (after expenses were covered), and he would then pay out for meals together, Mrs Symes etc from that. I can't imagine Algy being too bothered about splitting the profits, as he probably had lots of his own money from home.

Things probably got more complicated after Bertie came into the picture. I'm trying to think if there's any instance where it mentions specifically where someone paid for food when they were all out together. Did they mostly order their own three courses, or would they have split a starter or shared a dessert? (Can't imagine Biggles ordering dessert somehow. Possibly only Ginger ate dessert.) Was it common at the time for restaurants to send out a monthly bill if it were somewhere they went to a lot (I suppose that would be the case for aero clubs and the like)? Or perhaps Biggles simply went in at the beginning of each month and handed the owners some money and said, "Let me know when that runs out."
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby SopwithCamel » 12 Jun 2018, 15:58

Ginger, in the interwar period, may have got some of his bills paid in exchange for labour: he refers to Biggles as his boss more than once. Bed and board may have been included as part of his wage.


I don't know that there was that much for him to do though? Mrs Symes took care of the chores, and he would have been away at the FTS and actual school mostly, at least in the beginning. I suppose Biggles could have "paid" him for doing repairs, presumably along the same lines of whatever he paid Smyth when they adventured together.
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby Frecks » 12 Jun 2018, 16:12

I wonder if Biggles gave Ginger a sum almost as "pocket money" when he was training - perhaps to pay for the flicks and clothes etc. Ginger only had the rags he stood up in and the set of clothes Biggles paid for in Black Peril and he got that outfit filthy the first time he wore it :? :lol: I don't think Ginger would have had many possessions in the inter war years apart from clothes and one or two items for his hobbies.
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby Kismet » 12 Jun 2018, 16:26

I think that Biggles and Co, the air transport company, carried on after the events in the book of the same name, with Biggles committing to ventures on a rather ad hoc basis. as and when he felt like it. In Charter Pilot, Ginger says:

'we always had a machine parked somewhere in case anything turned up. Once, during a slack period, Biggles put an advertisement in the newspapers offering to do charter work, anywhere, for anybody.'

Ginger was a ground engineer and a pilot who replaced Smyth. I can imagine Biggles sending Ginger on some boring runs to earn money for the company employing him. 'A slack period' suggests that they normally kept reasonably busy. I think there might be quite a bit of maintenance needed on a plane they earned their living from.

I sure that somewhere else Ginger refers to the Air Transport company Biggles ran between the wars, but I can't think where.
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby SopwithCamel » 12 Jun 2018, 16:30

You know, I'd always assumed (for some reason) that Biggles and Co was dissolved after the book of the same name, but it makes sense that they would have kept it running.

In any case, I don't think Biggles would have felt comfortable taking any money off Ginger, even splitting the living expenses, at least not during the pre-WWII years. It might have been different afterwards.
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby SopwithCamel » 12 Jun 2018, 16:53

Just to add--it amuses me to think that they might have cadged plenty of meals off Raymond as part of their "debriefings" :twisted:

Also, could they charge meals to expenses as Air Police?
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby kylie_koyote » 12 Jun 2018, 16:56

When thinking about Ginger's expenses and what Biggles would have paid for - a number of years ago, some friends of mine took in a young man who had "aged out" of the family court system, but was too immature to be on his own and hadn't yet finished high school. There were quite a few up-front costs associated with this adventure!

He came to them with a half-filled trash bag with a couple of shirts and a spare pair of jeans. That was it. Clothing was a big expense, as they had to sort him out with everything from socks and shoes to school clothing, church clothing, and sports wear. They also needed to buy him personal hygiene products - toothpaste, deodorant, etc. Then school supplies, books, and stationery. They got him a bed frame and mattress for their spare room, and a secondhand chest of drawers and a small desk and end table.

When all was said and done, they estimated they'd spent a couple thousand dollars (US) on just "stuff" to get him set up within the first few days he was living with them. They managed to get quite a lot secondhand, but it was still a tidy chunk of change.

I imagine that Biggles would have paid some of these for Ginger out of the money he got for his education, and probably quite a lot of it out of his own pocket. I guess it would also depend on how the flat was furnished - did Biggles already have multiple bedrooms with furniture (and if so, why?) or did he have to go out and purchase a bed for Ginger? Maybe Ginger crashed on the sofa for a couple nights? :lol:
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby Frecks » 12 Jun 2018, 17:06

I must admit I had never thought about the bedroom furniture KK. I think it would have been quite normal to have a fully furnished spare bedroom in a flat which would have been suitable for either Algy or Ginger but two spare bedrooms would be rather a lot when he just lived on his own. I wonder if the bedroom which had a door into the living room had been a dining room or study and was then turned into a bedroom when the others moved in. This room was mentioned in Hunts Big Game I think.
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby Kismet » 12 Jun 2018, 17:27

My theory is that Ginger didn't live immediately with Biggles: Algy had separate digs at first. He was just off Baker St. I think that some of the money would have been used to pay for a room and board for Ginger with a nice, motherly landlady while he trained, and whilst Biggles and Algy might have given him presents such as the flying cap and goggles mentioned in Black Peril, they wouldn't feel beholden to provide him with everything he needed. It wasn't until they got to know him better that they decided to flat share with him. And I'm not sure when Biggles moved into Mount St. He might have lived elsewhere at the time of Black Peril.
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby kylie_koyote » 12 Jun 2018, 18:07

Perhaps the sold the plane, given to them by Malty, at the end of Hits the Trail and put it towards a flat.
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby Kismet » 12 Jun 2018, 18:28

Biggles would be very unlikely to own the Mount St flat anyway. He might have bought the leasehold, with however many years to run, or he might have just rented it. Bet the !and lord loved him, a sitting tenant with protected rent for decades!
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby Spitfire666 » 12 Jun 2018, 18:58

Kismet wrote:Biggles would be very unlikely to own the Mount St flat anyway. He might have bought the leasehold, with however many years to run, or he might have just rented it. Bet the !and lord loved him, a sitting tenant with protected rent for decades!

I think he would have a lease on it because most of Westminster is owned by the Duke of Westminster, there are very few freeholds. However, the costs would be less all the time because of inflation.
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby Frecks » 12 Jun 2018, 19:11

It was very hard to tell from the opening of Hits The Trail whether Ginger actually lived with Biggles or not. Algy definitely had his own rooms at that time. In & Co. they are all "at home" when Stella calls to see Biggles and in Africa Algy and Ginger come into the "breakfast" room having both come direct from the bathroom :? I think they all moved in together between Hits the Trail and & Co. There is not time reference between Hits the Trail and & Co. but in Africa they refer to & Co. as being weeks ago. I do not think the inter war books with Ginger were all published in sequence. Some books have Ginger very young - almost child like and in others he is more experienced. It would be interesting to know when the short stories in Charter Pilot were set as they all seemed to be living together at that time. I also wonder what WEJ actually meant by calling Ginger a protégé. This could have several meanings from a certain amount of financial backing and guidance in his flying career to full on responsibility for a young adult.
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby kylie_koyote » 12 Jun 2018, 19:32

They have the same aircraft in Charter Pilot as they do in Biggles in the Jungle, so presumably those take place relatively close to one another.

They're never really short of cash after Flies Again - Biggles and Algy get a hefty check at the end of Black Peril, Malty gives them the aircraft and promises to fund a round-the-world jaunt at the end of Hits the Trail, and they get large financial rewards at the conclusion of just about every other interwar book. The only ones they don't really make a serious profit out of are Goes to War and In Spain, as far as I can tell.
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby Tommy Smith » 12 Jun 2018, 19:44

Ginger was pretty familiar with motorcycles in 'Spain'. Did he have his own?
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby StoneRoad » 12 Jun 2018, 20:03

I presume Algy would have had an "allowance" from his family - that would have been standard during the interwar period. It might have been one of the reasons he tried to avoid publicity, in case it upset his father !
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby Frecks » 12 Jun 2018, 20:12

Smyth had a motor cycle in Goes To War which Ginger rides when they go to rescue the Count. Perhaps Smyth taught him how to ride it.

I think that is a good point about Algy having an allowance and it would explain why he was worried about upsetting his father.

A lot of characters in the Jeeves books have allowances from parents or other relatives which they are always afraid of losing.
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby SopwithCamel » 13 Jun 2018, 05:19

I think that some of the money would have been used to pay for a room and board for Ginger with a nice, motherly landlady while he trained


Interesting theory. I don't know if Biggles would be comfortable letting Ginger live on his own like that though, a lad just out of the country and 16 at that, motherly landlady notwithstanding. In Black Peril when Ginger goes to find Algy, he's described as a "small boy", which makes me think that he probably looks around fourteen or fifteen rather than sixteen, and probably not all that street-wise (despite his ability to steal eggs).

I guess it would also depend on how the flat was furnished - did Biggles already have multiple bedrooms with furniture


It's mentioned somewhere that Biggles and Algy shared a bedroom, I think, so possibly when Algy moved in Biggles just added a bed to his own room. It's feasible for a flat to have two bedrooms (one that would originally have served as the guest bedroom), and Ginger would have had the other one (possibly it was smaller).

I did wonder if Biggles maybe inherited the flat from his relatives. By all accounts he would have inherited his father (and later Charles' effects), and then later there would have been Dickpa's things, and wasn't there some General BIgglesworth chap who was another uncle?
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby Frecks » 13 Jun 2018, 08:11

Yes I think that was mentioned in one of the books. I do not remember Biggles and Algy sharing a bedroom in the flat. There must have been room for Bertie as well.

I do not think Ginger ever lived anywhere else once Biggles had taken him in. WEJ jumps from Black Peril to Ginger gaining his pilot's licence in Hits the Trail without anything in between and there is no mention of a timescale. I do not think Hits The Trail was actually written in sequence between Black Peril and & Co. Hits the Trail has a very different feel to it - in fact in some ways it is more related to Condor and Flies Again than it is to the other interwar books with Ginger.
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby Tracer » 13 Jun 2018, 08:19

Renting a fully-furnished fully serviced London flat was common practice for a long time. Holmes did, and so did Bertie Wooster. Such would have more than one bedroom and would be considered "luxury" by today's standards in the space they offered. But as has been said, Biggles could have bought the flat and would have easily been able to do so having sold the family house and taken Mrs. Symes from there to be his housekeeper.

It was unremarkable at that time for clubs and restaurants to send an account rather than taking money for each meal at the time.
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby SopwithCamel » 13 Jun 2018, 08:35

It was unremarkable at that time for clubs and restaurants to send an account rather than taking money for each meal at the time.


Really? Wonder what would happen if I mentioned it to some of the places I eat at sometimes :lol:
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby Fairblue » 13 Jun 2018, 08:53

Clubs certainly wouldn't take cash. Everything provided was signed for on a chitty and a bill sent, possibly every month, by the club secretary. I'm not so sure restaurants would have done that, even the exclusive ones.
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby Frecks » 13 Jun 2018, 09:13

I am just imagining the three of them sitting in the Ritz Hotel arguing over the bill and who had what and which drinks were more expensive - it could have been the end of a beautiful friendship :lol:
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby StoneRoad » 13 Jun 2018, 09:53

Fairblue wrote:Clubs certainly wouldn't take cash. Everything provided was signed for on a chitty and a bill sent, possibly every month, by the club secretary. I'm not so sure restaurants would have done that, even the exclusive ones.


One of the reasons the RAF and Aero Clubs feature so often !

I suspect Bertie and probably Algy would probably have been members of another couple of 'Gentlemen's Clubs' as well.
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby StoneRoad » 13 Jun 2018, 09:53

StoneRoad wrote:
Fairblue wrote:Clubs certainly wouldn't take cash. Everything provided was signed for on a chitty and a bill sent, possibly every month, by the club secretary. I'm not so sure restaurants would have done that, even the exclusive ones.


One of the reasons the RAF and Aero Clubs feature so often !

I suspect Bertie and probably Algy would probably have been members of another couple of 'Gentlemen's Clubs' as well.


Missed a bit...
As for restaurants running a tab/chit - far less common than it used to be, but I 'eat' regularly at a couple of coffee shops.
One in the middle of Newcastle was visited most weeks with a friend. Normally we went 'dutch' on the bill, with one paying the other at the table, who then went to the till. But more than once the slow service and limited lunch hour meant rushing off, and on occasions we forgot to visit the till - the first time I did so, I went back about an hour later to pay, and was greeted with "Oh, you're regulars, we would have let you off until next week" ...
My local coffee shop is also relaxed, and has a similar policy. As long as I pay up 'in that week' I can get away with forgetting my cash once in a while. We do give them a lot of business, though.
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Re: Biggles and the living expenses

Postby Fairblue » 13 Jun 2018, 10:47

After the Crash of the stock market there were lots of impecunious ‘gentlemen’ who couldn’t get used to the idea of not living without the finer things in life. Some of them would run up tabs, intending to pay when their ship came in. This included tailors and men’s outfitters as well as clubs. Of course, for the majority, the ship never did come in and bills were not paid. As a consequence credit was hard to come by.
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