gardeningI read an article recently, although I cannot remember where – one of those bonuses of old age – about people setting up their own businesses. I won’t swear to this but I thought the article said that the age group doing most of this setting up, was retired people. I may be wrong but certainly retired people figured large in the article. I had always understood that setting up your own business was one of those activities that many retired people engaged in, couldn’t wait to get involved in in fact. Cafes, B&Bs, wood-carving, craft stalls, that sort of thing. I suppose, prior to my own retirement, I had casually contemplated this possibility. Admittedly, it was mostly in the form of becoming a self-employed consultant in the same field as I had worked all of my career. Yes, there may have been odd moments of imagining the likes of opening my own bookshop or even buying and selling guitars or Wisdens on the internet but, on the whole, these ideas were flights of fancy rather than hard-nosed ideas. It’s not going to happen, the voice inside my head that takes care of my ideas, was saying.

Until now that is. You know what they say –some have greatness thrust upon them. And some have a whole lot of crap thrust upon them. So it is in my retirement. You may recall that I wrote a blog a few weeks ago that number one son was on holiday in Australia. The ‘holiday’ was supposed to last for a month. By the time he returns assuming he comes back when he says he is going to – by no means certain – he will have been away for nearly three months. He assured us that he had arranged everything for a month. His two guys would operate like a well-oiled machine. Maybe for a month, for three months, not a hope in hell of that happening. The end result of this vacuum of planning is that we, his parents, have had to step up to the plate in terms of running this small business. All the experience we could want in one pack.

So, for the last couple of months, we have been engaged in all those small business activities without, that is, the financial reward part. We’ve had the investment side covered – paying for repairs to the firm’s van, paying out the wages when jobs didn’t cover them, purchasing odd bits of materials – fence panels for example. Alongside the money side, there have been the phone calls from prospective clients, talking to the chaps about where they were going and what they were going to do and, most of all, keeping their morale high ( or not) when things got a little heated between them. Mix one good time keeper and one poor one, one committed worker with one less so and you’re bound to have a little friction. All we needed to do was pour a little oil and sympathy on troubled waters and the company bounces along. Although the oscillations of the bounce have been quite steep at times.

You would of course expect number one son to be immensely grateful for all our efforts but not so. A recent phone call to his mother left her feeling a little puzzled. You’re not meant to be involved, I set it all up for them before I went… You know the sort of thing, you don’t? No? Well to be honest, neither did we, we were quite surprised to put it mildly. It sounded like we were being ‘accused’ of interfering but, had we not done so, then, in our view, the business would not have ‘run’ at all. Kids, what are they like? What was it the soldiers in The Falklands called the locals – BUBS – I believe was the term.  I’ll let you work out what the acronym stands for, one clue, it wasn’t complimentary.

So the dear boy has talked about wanting to stay in OZ and leave behind the gardening business he has worked so hard to set up and we have supported / invested in so consistently. We wouldn’t want to try and stop him from this, we couldn’t if we wanted to, he’s thirty something years old and our parents never tried to stop us when we lived abroad. Our line is don’t let the business die, get somebody to run it and we will oversee it. A version of running your own business one step removed. He has suggested that now it is a good thing that we had been involved and that our experience had been a rather unhappy one because this would enable us to understand the stress involved in running your own business. So we might want to think twice about becoming more hands on. And he might very well be right. We do now have some idea of what’s involved in running, for him, what has become  a very successful business – when he’s here that is. All those pensioners who are starting their own businesses must be made of sterner stuff than we are (who knew making and selling cup cakes could be so stressful?) although, admittedly, this has come at a bad time for us what with other things happening in our lives about which I hinted at in a previous blog and about which I shall, no doubt, write in greater detail at a later point.

So where does this leave me in my quest for the perfectly balanced retirement? Well, it probably suggests that running a small business won’t be a part of the plan. I guess I’m not cut out to run my own business, I would just worry about where the next job was coming from and should I be advertising more and had I got all my receipts for when I have to do my tax forms, where the chaps unnecessarily getting their ‘uniforms’ dirty? The list could go on – and on. I wrote a blog some time ago about being a worrier, so no, running own business not for me. I just hope that the dear boy, for all his high maintenance habits, doesn’t decide to move to OZ and leave us to decide whether to try and run the business or let it die. These are not the kind of challenges I would want to take on or decisions I would want to make in my retirement years. I think I need a quieter retirement life.

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