Do you remember me writing in this blog about the experience of running a small business when one is retired? If you don’t you can read it here. The point I made then was that one of the activities people who retire ‘choose’ (key word) to engage in when they retire is to run a small business. Now we didn’t choose the business we’ve been running – a small gardening business – rather we were gifted it from our son while he was living in Australia but that said while it probably wouldn’t have been our first choice of business, in fact we wouldn’t have chosen this (running a business) as a retirement activity at all, it’s not a million miles from what we might have chosen if we had, if you’re still following me. It’s an area we have a little bit of interest in having our own garden/s and Mrs Summerhouse doing the odd bit of garden design. It’s not like we’re running a garage or a drain cleaning business or similar so no, not a million miles away.
I have no doubt that there are many retired people who anticipate the pleasure and profit that their small business of choice will bring them. At one stage in my life I was looking forward to opening a second-hand bookshop, that is until the market dropped out of the bookshop business second-hand or otherwise. In fact it wouldn’t have worked because being tied to the same spot for hour after hour while I worried about no customers in the shop and then about shop-lifters when there were customers in the shop and of course with the prices of second hand books at an all-time low, the fact I wasn’t making any money would have been somewhat irksome. It seems to me that there is a very simple equation which governs any choice we make about running a business – if profit outweighs stress then you can at least tolerate it if not actively enjoy it. More stress than profit, give it up.
Simple and yet I have struggled to apply the equation to ‘our’ gardening business. Stress has considerably outweighed profit but we’ve kept going until we know for sure whether the dear boy is returning to these shores or not. We know now he has returned but we still don’t know for how long. He still doesn’t know whether he will get a visa to study landscape design. He’s been accepted on a course in Western Australia (nr, Perth) but hasn’t got the visa to go with it, no visa, no course, which might save me a lot of money but I’d hate for his dreams to be crushed. As he is quick to point out, he has me to thank for being driven by his dreams. Apparently I used to be the same. As I am equally as quick to point out, I did not expect my parents to fund my dreams (of living and working abroad). Anyway, the point is… As I’m writing this the dear boy has just called me and asked me to go round to a decking job he’s working on. Why I ask nervously? I want your opinion, he says. What a smooth talker he is, no wonder he gets so many jobs (and he does). As I was saying, the point is while there is the possibility of him staying in this country, in this city, in this house, we still hold the view that it would be better for him to have the business to run than not. So we keep it going.
At least we did. We have or rather had, two workers. Now we have one on account of one of them sacking the other, his one-time best friend incidentally. With friends like that etc. We got a text at the weekend from the sacked one saying he no longer had a job. As this hadn’t in any way been discussed with us we were to put it mildly, bloody pissed off. I ring the son who is running a parallel gardening business – you know that old theory of parallel universes, beloved of so many Sci Fi books, well it’s happening right here in our lives. I never would have made a science fiction writer although much or my retirement often has an other-worldly / unreal feel about it, so it’s quite hard to describe the current set-up vis a vis the gardening business or businesses.
I think the idea of him setting up a parallel business was to generate work / money to pay me the money he’s borrowed for the college course (the word borrowed does not have the same meaning to our son as it does to normal people) and yet at the same time not tread on the toes of the other two gardeners. So I ring him and say do you know anything about X sacking Y? And did you know he sacked him by text and now Y is texting us. Yeah, he did mention it. And then it becomes rather surreal and difficult to write about. It went something like, how come he’s discussing this with you and not us and how come you didn’t let us know about this? The latter question is easily answered – because I didn’t want to spoil your weekend. Slick. I bite back the response well, it’s bloody ruined now, especially since I rang Y and told him he wasn’t sacked at all and X had no right to do this without discussing it with us.
Our son’s response is quite typical, look, don’t stress, I’ll sort it out. I’ll talk to both of them. Well, as you seem to back in the mix here, you’d bloody well better sort it out. His further response is to tell me that Y is now working for him in the parallel universe*. You can see my difficulty. Back to the phone call. I say, in fact while we’re on the subject, you can have the whole of the gardening business back, your mother and I no longer want to have anything to do with it. How up-lifting those words sound. I feel several weights drop from my shoulders. I soar. I turn to his mother and say, that’s it we’re done with it. She looks a little sceptical and who the hell can blame her? If he gets his visa he will be going back to OZ in about 3 weeks and then what will happen? If he doesn’t get the visa he may stay here, he may continue to run the / his business. Who knows? Retirement, who’d have thought it could be this interesting? More to come?
*Not true as of today, he’s got another job.