We’ve been back from Ireland for approximately a week and a half. Time enough to put aside those reflective thoughts about the meaning of life, to set aside those grand thoughts about how we might / should change our retirement lives and get back to the routines of our retirement as it actually exists. Regular readers of this blog will know what those on-going themes are – writing this blog, running the gardening business, working in our vineyard, DIY / house renovation, musical ambitions, medical issues and walking the pups twice a day. Those kind of activities, quantity if not quality, but maybe that’s being harsh on ourselves. In addition, there’s a vague monetary theme running through this blog.
I’ll start with the DIY / renovation aspect of our retirement for no better reason than I happen to be writing this blog at the Derbyshire cottage. In fact, since we returned from Ireland a week ago last Sunday, we haven’t spent much time in our ‘main’ house. We spent two nights in the barn / vineyard and one in the Pateley cottage and now three nights in the Derbyshire cottage. There are reasons we’ve been away from the main home. The simplest being that, having been away from both properties for a month or more, there are jobs that need doing. I wrote about the vineyard tasks in the last blog. As far as this property is concerned I needed to catch up with my neighbour (who has just celebrated his 70th birthday by hiring a steam train for 50 people, just coincidence I’m sure that he waited until we were away to do this because he knows my love of steam trains) about gardening matters aka, keeping the jungle under control.
The other reason for spending time in our additional houses relates to the presence of number one son. He who has recently returned from OZ. He has moved back into his own room seamlessly, it feels like he has never been away. He tries to be considerate of the space he takes up outside of his room but his overspill is an ever-present in the house and it’s not a particularly small house. Also he is trying to persuade us to contribute to his college fund – a way of getting back to OZ for another couple of years. He has applied for and been accepted on a landscape design course in Perth. At least this is what he tells us. Now he needs money for the course fees.
How we laughed – again – (we do little else where he is concerned) when he surprised us with this request. I have previously made it clear to him (at least it seemed clear to us) no more free cash and so, if he wants money from us, he must earn it. Hence I have promised him £1,000 towards the fees if he paints the house. The house needs painting and judging by the last amount I paid to have this done a few years ago, the price seems about right. The only thing is and it’s quite a big thing, when you pay a professional to do the job, he comes, he paints, he tidies up and he leaves. Our son’s version of this is, he eventually gets out of bed, he paints for maybe an hour, he leaves to do something else, he does not tidy up and overall he does not leave. It’s driving me nuts so we escape to another property and yes, I know, jolly lucky we are to be able to do this.
The complexity arises through what he does when he ‘disappears’. As well as earning money by working for us, he is also, so he tells us, earning money by working part-time for his / our, who knows, gardening company. This money, largely fictional at this point, either goes to him or into the gardening account. Either way, if it is actually happening, this is helping out his college fees funding. So when he tells me he is just going out to price up a job or is sending out invoices for work already done, it is difficult for us to say but you should be painting the bloody house!!! As if this weren’t taxing enough, his working in this way raises issues about whether the gardening / landscaping work he is doing is taking work away from the company and our two gardeners. Admittedly, it’s work he has generated (something he is very good at) but the question of overlap is always there. No wonder we head for the hills whenever possible.
So here we are at the Derbyshire cottage (the hills are metaphorical). We would normally be engaged in some form of DIY, there are plenty of jobs still to do, although the kitchen is looking quite nice now. We were going to move onto the bathroom so that, when we did sell it, both kitchen and bathroom (the two most important rooms estate agents tell us when it comes to successful selling, except when they’re telling us the exact opposite – don’t bother with the kitchen and bathroom because whoever buys the house will simply rip out both and create these rooms as they want them not as you think they might want them) would be presentable.
But there’s a complication. Surely not you say, what could possibly be complicated about your retirement? The complication is, and forgive me if I’ve already told you this, it seems our next-door neighbour wants to buy the house for his future mother-in- law to live it. By a bizarre coincidence her mother I think, lived in this house when she was a child. Anyway, he wants to buy it so he says if we can agree a price. We’ve had one estate agent so far give us a valuation and I was pleasantly surprised at his estimate, bearing in mind he is an estate agent, and they will generally say anything, tell any kind of lie, to snare you. I haven’t so far shared this valuation with my neighbour and when I do he may say no that’s far too much and the deal would be off I guess. But even so we are now reluctant to do any more work on the house if he, or his future mother-in-law / future wife, is happy with the current state of the house and the proposed sale price. So, in brief, we sit and relax or take the odd trip out, rather than working on the house. This I can live with but sooner rather than later we need to know whether this deal is going to go ahead.
Well that’s over 1100 words and I haven’t even got round to telling you about my visit on Tuesday to see my doctor. It was surprising in a number of ways but that will have to wait until next time. In the meantime our retirement adventures roll along.