If this blog makes me feel better, then writing as therapy really does have something going for it. I’ll let you know if it works. On with the story. You know in some ways retirement is much like the rest of life only maybe a bit more so. Every time I bury my head in the sand I get this tap, tap on my arse, saying, hey, you down there, wake up, bad things are happening and you need to do something about them. Please go away, can’t you see I’ve got my head in the sand. This until finally somebody or something (hard to see) gives me a huge boot up the arse. So it was yesterday. The boot was occasioned by number one son asking politely if he might borrow a few grand for his gardening business. We have always tried to help him with his business so I didn’t turn down his polite request out of hand. Instead I suggested that we would have to check our current financial state of affairs. This turned out to be ‘interesting’.
You may remember that some time ago we went to see our accountant. He’s a tax specialist which was nice because, as far as I can see, we are now paying more tax than before he got involved. An honest tax specialist, why me dear Lord? Anyway we also discussed renting out our weekend cottage and taking my state pension which, through sheer inertia and ignorance, I had delayed taking. After the demands of taking my head out of sand to make this visit I did what I always do and stuck my head, you might say kind of rested it, back in the sand, financially that is. That’s me for you.
What of Mrs Summerhouse, where was her head during this period of blissful ignorance? As I’ve said before what with her art and her yoga and her own special version of Irish – ‘she’ll be grand’ and Buddhist ‘live in the moment’ – you might say her eye was not on our financial ball. I know this of course, it was ever thus and when I say would it be alright if I buy another expensive guitar, and she replies , of course dear, that’ll be grand (she doesn’t really say this but that’s the gist) then I can’t really be surprised when, in response to the inquiry about the state of our finances, she replies, I’ve no idea how much money we have in our various accounts. Oh.
Anyway the answer turned out to be disappointingly little. It transpires and it hurts greatly to write this – I’ve said before that comedy is tragedy plus time but, as it’s only the next morning, there hasn’t been much time to see the funny side – but we are in some trouble. So here I am again writing this in bed, at 6.26 my netbook says, and hoping desperately that writing as therapy will come good for me as it has so many times before. Because I have to say this latest financial forecast has left me feeling definitely down in the dumps, not depressed you will notice. Without going into distasteful specifics, over the 10 weeks covered by the period of the bank statement we hurriedly got yesterday – I blame the banks, they persistently avoid sending us monthly statements. But no, you’re right, that’s not really an excuse for our fecklessness – I love that word but not so much when it applies to me – we have only ourselves to blame. In this 10 week period we have apparently spent four times as much money as we have ‘taken in’. That in plain terms is several thousand pounds more than we have. If we carry on in this fashion I shall be asking number one son for a loan. In the olden days we had a friend – still do surprisingly – whose father, a Quaker, once described his daughter as having ‘Rolls Royce tastes on an Austin Seven income’, if that means anything these days. Once again Mr Micawber is turning in his grave. Sorry mate.
All this runs through my head as I stare stupidly in glazed fashion, as glazed as raspberry glazed doughnut bought on the motorway, as Blackadder might have said and of which there will be no more. Mrs SH has just brought me a consoling cup of tea in bed, the woman’s a saint although not when it comes to money, and told me she has made sandwiches for our weekly trip down the M1 to see my mother, God it just gets worse. All this and now it’s Wednesday, M day. But back to the sandwich, A well-intentioned gesture but, if past experience is anything to go by, short-term and frankly, in the scheme of things, this scheme being our current spending, entirely pointless. Yes, yes, I know we have to start somewhere but I can’t help thinking, cheap sandwiches, even if they are made out of that nice and expensive bread we bought from Sainsburys yesterday before this financial crisis hit, isn’t the answer.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking, you’re not poor. People are starving in Africa, as my grandma used to say when I wouldn’t eat my pickled cabbage. And the use of food banks in this country is at an all-time high. It is true of course but I will say that a part of being retired that has taken us by surprise has been a huge reduction in money. Yes, we knew that on paper this was what was going to happen, but now it has and it’s unpleasant. So what to do? Well I probably need to go and see our accountant again and have him explain the recent flurry of missives from Inland Revenue / pension people and work out just whose fault all this dispiriting business is because obviously it can’t be ours. He needs to tell me we’re spending too much money. Apparently financial guru Alvin Hall said there is a time to spend money, is this it Alvin? I bloody hope so.
Good news. Mrs SH is to become more vigilant, no left overs, she tells me, as we have a desultory discussion in the bedroom where I remain typing this as therapy – no take-aways, no meals out, no jam doughnuts, no more blog consultant payments, no weekly croissants, one motorway coffee between two of us, take a flask of tea, cut down on wine, no more spending on the vineyard, no more weekend Guardian courses and all that that entails, certainly no big spends, no more guitars (the violin from sister-in law doesn’t count, that’s a kindly act), we could stop our monthly charity payments but that wouldn’t be nice, no more payments to number one son’s gardening business, cancel Sky. OMG, we really are poor. And I feel any sympathy slipping away but then there probably wasn’t any in the first place, just middle class retirees whingeing. But come on, at least let us keep the croissants. We retired people need a bit of fun in our dull lives. The ‘big’ answers are renting cottage and claim state pension, Will we do this? Watch this space. Retirement, ah, she’ll be grand.