I guess it’s time for a catch-up on one of our most trying retirement areas. It’s that possibly false idea that when a person retires they have a heaven-sent opportunity to set up their own business. You know, to follow their dream, to turn their hobby / passion into a financially rewarding enterprise (lovely word). At least that’s what I’ve read about how it happens. Except for us, in our retirement, it hasn’t been like that at all. We do have the small business to run but we didn’t set it up out of any interest or passion on our parts, it was, you might say, gifted to us. Except that a gift is traditionally something nice. And this business isn’t nice at all. Well that’s harsh, there’s good bits or as Charles Dickens once wrote it was the worst of times but also there were some not so bad bits. Terrible writer, Dickens.
I’ll tell you the problem, the bad bits, right up front, it is that so much of the running of the business is beyond our control and if there’s one thing I hate in my retirement life it’s when things are beyond my control. Sport is like this, you let your happiness and well-being rest on the performance of 11 (or however many) men or women, usually who you have never met, and can do nothing to influence. Let me say straight away that I’m not suggesting our gardeners fall into this category especially given that I know they enjoy reading this blog in their spare seconds between jobs. You’re doing a great job lads. No, the problem lies elsewhere, it’s a simple one really, they do the work and we pay them to do the work on the premise that we in turn will get paid. However, this simple relationship between events – we work, we pay, they pay, does not always hold true. Our biggest clients – estate agents and landlords, yes, it’s true I can hear you say well, you choose as clients the most undesirable bunch of ner do wells, supposed ‘professionals’ and they don’t pay, Quelle surprise. Why don’t you get better quality clients? For example…
We did a job for a private client this last week and she paid us at the end of the first week of the job without any pause or hesitation. Is it asking too much to expect all our clients to behave in this civilised fashion or must our small business always be blighted by the kind of pond scum we have contracts with? And there’s a double negative for some of these contracts. They were set up quite some time ago by our own dear boy, before he buggered off to Australia. He still hasn’t heard whether he can have a work visa and it’s been 9 months in a process that’s supposed to take 3 months. It must be the longest visa application on record. And this was the original reason we kept the business going (so he would have something to come back to) although I have to say that it has now assumed a momentum beyond this. Why don’t they just tell him to sod off back to the UK then we can put this bloody gardening business to rest one way or another. And here is where my control falters even further. The dear boy, as we call him, is supposed to send the invoices to a couple of the above ‘clients’. Does he do this? I have no idea. Seems not. Do we get paid? I don’t want to repeat myself but no, we bloody well don’t. So the effort / profit equation is skewed and not in a good way.
But let me stay with the best of times for a while longer. Apart from this lady paying right away this job also had another aspect that puts it into the ‘nice’ or best of times, category. I told you recently that I had bought Mrs Summerhouse an iPad for a Christmas present and that the rationale for this purchase was because she was hoping that one good thing to come out of the gardening business is the opportunity for her to put her artistic talents into the world of garden design. So this job was doubly pleasing, we got paid immediately and the client loved Mrs SH’s design and acted on it or rather our gardeners did. If only this retirement business was more often like this.
And just in case you were thinking at this point that our gardening business didn’t sound all that bad let me offer a little balance. For example, if we weren’t running a gardening business we wouldn’t have had a drive way filed with rubble, somebody else’s rubble that is. But not so bad because our chaps took it all away in our Land Rover which meant we were left with our Kia Piccanto while they made half a dozen trips to the local tip. But a small sacrifice especially compared with having the same Kia’s licence plate warped by the heat from the nearby brazier. The chaps, in their desire to avoid taking garden waste to the tip i.e. the local farmer that gives us such a hard time, thought we’ll set fire to it in a brazier also in our drive. It happened thus – I went to bed safe in the knowledge that they had put out the fire in the brazier, except that they hadn’t and the heat from it in the middle of the night (I could hear the fire crackling merrily away when I went to the bathroom – that’s wrong I thought) had melted the Kia’s licence plate, covered the car in ash and, as a bonus, melted one of our wheelie bins. How we laughed.
Never mind, all part of the fun of being two retired people running their own (sort of) small business. I know that people wonder what retirement will be like when the day actually rolls around and they can set up the business enterprise of their dreams. I can only hope that this blog gives some idea of the fun that such a venture can bring to a person – no money, clients that don’t pay, burning number plates, melted wheelie bins, rubble filled drive and that over-whelming feeling that somehow, and probably unnecessarily one’s life is beyond our control. Now if you’d told me this was to be the way retirement would be, I think, I’d have carried on working.