23/04/2013 14:22 BST | Updated 23/06/2013 06:12 BST

What the Rich List Taught Me About Family Values


Last weekend was, as the penultimate one of April always is, the best one of the entire year. It's the day the Rich List, an annual compendium of the two hundred most obscenely wealthy people in the United Kingdom comes out.

It's hard to answer why flicking through a giant book that is essentially 'what amount of paper people who are shinier than you have' is so wildly addictive. You can lose a good few hours furiously looking up how much Victoria added to the Beckham pile through her fashion business this year (£30m), or exclaiming with surprise that the latest woman to marry Paul McCartney is independently wealthy (£150m to be exact, who knew?).

But, once you sift past all the requisite billionaires and the impossible smiley pictures of Euromillions winners, you get to the part that I always find the most interesting, the richest entertainers under 30. For a long time it was simply a battle between various members of Girl's Aloud, with the rest eventually being slain by a wild-eyed Cheryl wielding an X-Factor judge salary and white-on-white matching photo-shoots.

But this year saw Adele 'what a constant delight' Adkins smash her way to the top of the list with thirty million pounds, followed closely by the other beacon of 'oh aren't they down to earth', Lily Allen, with a slightly more modest £6m.

Apart from keeping a financial lid on some out-of-control boy-band upstarts (£5m each One Direction?), the two sassy singers have something else in common. They've both effectively retired at around 25 and retreated to vast country piles to have babies with some very non-famous blokes, all after pumping out two wildly successful albums.

Now, there's something a bit weird going on here. (And it's not just the fact that they're able to afford to have children under the age of 30, ammirite?). It's that two incredibly talented and successful people have just, well, bowed out.

It'd be like someone finally, after years of strenuous hard work, getting to be prime minister and then on the first day of their term going 'hmmmm, I'm alright actually, Scrubs is on and I'm feeling a bit sleepy'.

It also leaves them open to all sorts of criticism. They're leaving out at the top of their game, when they're in the perfect position to produce whatever sort of music they want and earn a hell of a lot more cash. There are people out there bleeding out of their eyeballs to get where they are, and they've sort of taken their foot off the pedal.

It also puts big old targets on their heads for 'feminists' to decry them for giving up their sparkling careers to hang around the house clearing up Cheerios off the floor with a Peppa Pig dishcloth and desperately trying to find at least one top that doesn't smell of sick.

That's not the criticism they'll get here though, because those other arguments are bit mean and stupid (like someone worth 30 million quid would eat Cheerios. They probably just eat diamonds in unicorn milk) and I happen to actually like the ladies in question.

Leaving at the top of their game is one of the best ideas anyone has ever had. It means they're bound to avoid the inevitable slide into a celebrity twilight of half-arsed Christmas albums and judging stints on 'Britain's next top landscape gardener'.

They're also living embodiments of what's great about being English. Instead of relentlessly sucking every penny out of exhausting world tours and re-inventing themselves every few years as some form of bionic sex-gremlins, they've gone for the decidedly classier option of producing a couple of great bits of work, then sitting back and really enjoying a sit and possibly a biscuit or two.

And on top of that, they've put their careers on hold to start a family. In a world that's putting more and more focus on work and being permanently 'on call', they've given us a timely reminder that love and togetherness can still come first. We spend a lot of time asking famous people to be 'role models', to tone down the drugs and the nudity, and yet here we've got two young women shunning a chance at something few hardly ever get to do the things that pretty much anyone can do.

They're acts that defy the numbers next to their names, and rightly take the sheen off all the accumulated riches of the wealthiest 200 in Britain. As McCartney, (£680m altogether), once sang, it can't buy you love.