From time to time, usually in the depths of a dank
English Winter, and at risk of stretching M’s incredulity to anxiety for my
mental health, I succumb to an odd notion about where we might wish to live out
our remaining years.
M says my idle musings are probably a sign that my faculties
are becoming increasingly delusional. But
delusional about what, exactly? Surely it’s never too late to start afresh?
Well, almost never.
At some point, not too distant, one or both of us may be physically as
well as mentally disabled and unable to consider any options, other than a maisonette
in Thames Ditton or a care home in Surbiton.
There are, I’ll be the first to admit, worse places on
the planet to live than suburban Surrey. But I’m not talking about fixing up a
derelict mansion in Serbia, or
even a white-stuccoed farmhouse in Greece
where the electricity only stays on for a couple of hours a day, least of all a
shrapnel-pocked flat in Damascus.
I’ve long flirted with the idea of a cottage in southern
France, preferably in the Languedoc, or perhaps somewhere farther up the Rhone Valley. I love many aspects of French living. Admittedly most of them are things calculated
to shorten my life by a year or two, but what a nice way to go.
Australia is a permanent temptation. I’d focus on Sydney, a city I’ve visited several times,
where we have friends, and which has provided happy memories. The Aussies are an affable lot – the ones who
aren’t all live in London
– and they like cricket.
Then there’s always New York City, whence my wife hails, and of
which I’m an adopted son. Manhattan apartments are modern and dirt-cheap compared
overpriced hovels, and you get a doorman.
M’s objection to France is her – our – poor skills
in the language. We are woefully
deficient in that respect, but so are most of the many thousands of Brits who
live there, apparently in reasonable harmony with their hosts. Australia is ruled out for reasons
of its geographic isolation, but isolation from what: appalling weather, a
sinking economy, crumbling infrastructure, UKIP, X-Factor?
More likely from the grandchildren we don’t have yet.
My latest irrational musings takes us to Florida. Yes, I know, I know it’s God’s waiting room, populated
by elderly Jewish gentlemen driving around golf courses in buggies (many unable
to alight in order to swing a 7-iron), ladies’ bridge clubs, dining at six
But the real estate values are phenomenal. For the price I’d have to pay for a tiny
two-bedroom flat in one of London’s dowdier boroughs I can buy a four-bedroom
house, on either coast, with a swimming pool, perhaps even a tennis court, and
an acre of land. Cultural activities
would be elusive, it’s true, but then in London we’ll soon have to start selling
family heirlooms to be able to afford theatre and ballet tickets. Anyway, half the shows these days seem to be
musical adaptations of old movies. I’d
rather see Top Hat and Singin’ in the Rain in their original
What’s behind this restless search? It’s not disillusionment with the state of
the nation, nor frustration with the weather, it’s a desire to sate ones
curiosity, sample new experiences, in a different environ. A change is as good as a rest, it’s said.
Meanwhile, inertia wins. It’s a pleasant enough inertia, devoid of
stress, but the disconcertion persists, as the rain beats down and the wind
rattles the window-pane, that there’s still time to indulge in what the Sunday
magazines would call the lure of an alternative lifestyle. M might call it a late-life crisis.
Now, someone’s been telling me about some great house deals