Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Dream 

One - I have a job that’s no more than a job, just a way of earning money to pay the bills. But you already knew that; I’ve whined about it enough times.

Two - my wife has serious back problems and finds the physical demands of her work as a primary school teacher increasingly difficult to meet. She’s had 2 previous operations on her spine and exists now on ‘pain management’; I’ve not said so much about that here but it’s a dominant feature of our lives, probably the dominant feature of hers.

Three - our three kids are all well on the way to leaving the nest, but face being financially crippled before they're barely out by the cost of housing these days.

Four - In spite of their growing maturity, even though they’re all willing and able to be independent, we all get on together better than any family I know.

Aside: maybe I ought to write more about that last point, but it feels a bit like boasting. Nevertheless, somewhere along the way, we clearly did something right with our parenting. I think it’s about boundaries; set clear, reasonable, understandable boundaries; allow freedom within those boundaries, freedom to become themselves – no petty controls, no imposing of parental will ‘because I said so’ – but make it clear that stepping over those boundaries is not acceptable, and explain why. That, in a nutshell, has been our ‘golden rule’ of parenting, and it seems to have worked.

We could live together as an extended family. We could buy a big old house, somewhere we could live communally (with their respective partners) but at the same time convert to a number of self-contained flats so that when they do eventually want/need to move away we could sell or rent the vacated space – a very welcome boost to my pension which will otherwise be relatively meagre.

Idea 2:
Middle son is quite taken with this idea, but takes it a step further. We could buy a plot of land and get our own house built. He even found a stunning location (in South Wales) that’s on the market now. It’s significantly cheaper to build than to buy (I checked it out) and that way we’d get a high-efficiency, low maintenance, purpose-designed home. An old Victorian stone-built mini-mansion has it’s appeal from a character point of view (high ceilings, big rooms, ornate plasterwork, lots of nooks and crannies, maybe even a cellar), but I have to admit a twenty-first century building probably wins on grounds of practicality and running costs. Head in clouds is all very well, but feet have to stay firmly on the ground. I did some quick sums and found to my amazement that it even works financially, so long as we were to exchange our location in the ludicrously expensive south east of England, for somewhere much more rural. An exchange I’d willingly make, although I’m not sure my wife sees it the same way. As to employment, with five incomes to pay the bills, there’d be scope for some flexibility.

Lots of hurdles to overcome of course (not least, gaining consensus). But the idea ticks so many boxes, it’s worth looking into further. We could even be in the vanguard of a new way of living – or rather a return to a very old way of living.

[Afterthought: I’m sure I once posted a picture of a sketch I did of my idea of a dream house – of the old rural cottage variety – but I can’t find it. If I do, I’ll add a link].

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