The things you think about when you’re retired. I was driving down the M1 on the way to visit mother, as I do twice a week at the moment, as she’s back in hospital. Mrs Summerhouse stayed at home with the pups and, as a consequence of being on my own in the vehicle, I was listening to Radio 4 which, as you more dedicated readers will remember, is on my new year’s resolutions list. As fate would have it Germaine Greer was on reading from her latest book White Beech. The book has had good reviews but it costs £20 so whether I will actually buy it I am not sure. Maybe the meeting with ‘our’ accountant might make things clearer.
Anyway the point is that Germaine has not exactly been my ‘go to’ author when it comes to sorting out life’s little challenges. To be fair very few authors have with the possible exception of Stephen Covey of whom I wrote in a previous blog on goal setting. For a person who reads a lot this is slightly surprising to me. I did read The Female Eunuch way back when I was trying to work out what all this feminism business was about but I’ve not read anything of hers since. Now here she was, talking about the 60 hectares of rain forest she has bought in Queensland and her plans for it and how it has revitalised her.
Why did this broadcast grab my attention? Maybe because we had done something slightly similar in the past – actually we bought 3 acres of Rocky Mountain hillside in Colorado so much more modest but it’s arguably the same principle. I keep intending to write about this and my final, great project but I haven’t got round to it – yet.
I have written in these blogs about searching for the hidden meaning in retirement life. You know that feeling that you are missing something and that you would be so happy if you could find it and plug it in. Germaine seemed, in the bit I heard, to be talking in terms of a 75 year old woman finally finding the meaning of life. Finding the X Factor of retirement, hence the title of this blog. So could this – our land – be the missing link I’ve been searching for? It’s big (for us), it’s foreign and it’s about nature. That ticks a lot of my boxes. But could it be that my solution is already on the books so to speak?
So back to Colorado and a town called Durango, a cowboy town then with a real life diner, an old hotel called The Strater with its own actual saloon bar. We stumbled across it and loved it and, a few years later, bought the land I’ve already mentioned – 7000 feet up in the Rockies, so lots of snow. We bought it without having seen it. All we had was an indistinct, small photo (this was in the pre-digital era) which, as you can see (right) could have been anywhere and probably was. This was arguably the first of our bonkers decisions we’ve made in our lives so far – not the last though but that may be a topic for another blog. So we bought the land cheaply we thought, simply by extending our mortgage, you could do things like that 20 years ago. Bloody baby boomers, don’t know they’re born.
So we bought the land all those years ago and, thus far, we have done nothing with it. It does seem to have appreciated in value but that was never the point. My dream has always been to self -build a small log cabin on the land but, over the last few years, all our efforts have gone into the vineyard and the barn before that (effort and my first retirement lump sum went into this) so the land has been left until our, now proper, retirement. Now here we are and it feels a bit now or never. Actually more like never since the doggies arrived. Well until I found out that you could take your dogs with you on the plane, just a small sign and portent that we should pick up the idea of that little log cabin in the forest. And then along comes Germaine doing something weird and wonderful at her advanced age and again I got the call of the wild, the chimes of the missing link.
Will I get off my retired arse and live the dream? Maybe, maybe even probably, if I can break down, what is quite a large, project into small parts. It should be possible to break the project down, to spend relatively small amounts of money but which we ‘get back’ if we had to sell the land without the cabin – have a well dug, have a septic tank installed, dig the foundations etc.
I had, rather cleverly I thought, as a first small step, arranged to rent a house in the same area last autumn to see how we might feel about living there for a period but then our son got cancer, mother went into hospital again, our financial position in retirement is less flexible, we took on the pups and suddenly the dream seemed a long way away. Shit happens as they say. But right now some, I emphasise the word ‘some’, of those clouds are clearing and then there is Germaine’s book and the doggie flights, number one son keen and, hopefully soon to be, number one son in law also keen and then there’s me. Looking for that retirement project to provide the X Factor. So who knows what listening to Germaine on the radio might re-ignite. Retirement a land of opportunity?