Alan's Blog

 

Living

 

Why the UK?

It would seem that most people living in the UK are happy to be here. Indeed, many more thousands of people every year do their very best to be able to come and live here. Millions, in fact, have arrived during the last few years and they continue to flock in. The country has become a massive refugee camp and haven for asylum seekers. Of course, many of them come to take advantage of the wonderful welfare system that we provide to foreigners at the expense of our own people, many of whom live in poverty or even on the streets. Ask any pensioner trying to live on the state pension that they've been paying into for anything up to 50 years and see what they think of the way they are being looked after by the state in their old age. You won't find many, if any, that are in any way happy with their state pension for the good reason that it is so low as to be impossible to live on. Foreigners are much better looked after and provided for even though they haven't paid a single penny into our 'system'.

The other reason people from abroad flock to come here is because their own country is in such a mess, often of their own making, that even the UK is preferable to live in – and they often have a working knowledge of our language too – but certainly not all of them. Some of them seem to want to get our country into the same mess as theirs is in!

However, why the genetically British person wants to live here is something of a mystery to me. Most seem to be happy to live their miserable lives, in their miserable little houses, doing their miserable mundane jobs for little reward, with a miserable health service that completely fails the people it was designed to heal, living in a miserable climate in a vastly overcrowded miserable little country. Why?

I suppose much of the reason is that most genetically British people have never lived in another country. Despite moaning about the way they live, and are treated, they are still content to live here. Many have no experience of other countries beyond a short holiday to one of the Spanish Costas or other such tourist enclave where they still eat their eggs and bacon and fish and chips and are toured around by a guide, never seeing the 'off the tourist trail' parts of the country. Another modern way of being a tourist is being imprisoned in a block of flats with thousands of other people onboard what is called a cruise ship, rather than a prison ship. How awful is that? I can hardly bear the thought of, let alone paying for, that torture.

Our miserable little country is becoming more and more crowded every day and the land we have available for growing food or for recreational purposes is becoming less and less each day. Even formerly protected land, once called 'Green Belt' land, is now being built on as we are told there is a housing shortage. The authorities don't seem to recognise that there is a 'land shortage' too! It is interesting to realise that England’s population density is 407 (some sources state an even higher figure) people per square kilometer, the second most densely populated country in the European Union after Malta, which is also a tiny island, although some would argue that The Netherlands has a slightly higher density (although it didn't seem to be over-crowded when we lived there). However, be that as it may, the point is that our country is vastly over-crowded and still more people are arriving by the day.

As for me, I'm only here in the UK on sufferance. I hate being here. I am thoroughly miserable with having to live here. Having experienced living in other countries I know how good life can be away from this miserable little overcrowded island that will soon sink under the weight of the people flooding onto it. Of course, there are many factors stopping me join the queue of thousands of sensible people who are leaving this country every year, although the queue will no doubt be much shorter than usual following the ridiculous pandemic and all the travel restrictions, many of which are still in place, as well as the even more lunatic inspired Brexit poor-deal which limits our freedom of movement far beyond anyone's worst nightmare scenario, not only in the EU but throughout the Schengen area, even though, geographically, we are still part of Europe. Not only that, but doing all that is required to actually live in another European country is a lot more difficult now than it used to be. Such items as driving licences, visas, work permits, residency documents, health and medical insurance, education for children and taxes are all contributory factors that make life difficult when going to live in another European country – and some other countries too.

So, what keeps me here? Having children was not in my mind at all when I married Grace – far from it (much better to have dogs which are far more sensible and better behaved). I'd been through that torture before with my, thankfully, ex-wife. Having children is an entire waste of the best years of one's life as well as an immense drain on one's financial resources. However, life doesn't always go to plan and I now have a 17-year-old son living at home who is not interested in being educated, let alone working. He said only a few days ago "I really don't know why you expect me to work". He seems to think that money is going to fall out of a tree and into his wallet. I have never known anyone as lazy and good-for-nothing as he is. A complete waste of space on this planet. Grace doesn't see it in quite the same way as I do, but that's a normal reaction from a mother. I can't wait for him to leave home and I'll gladly kick him out as soon as he's 18 – pleased, in fact delighted, to see him go. Time for him to stand on his own two feet.

That said, I've always tried to do my duty as a parent (even though I hate that role) and husband and have supported, or helped to support, more people than I ever thought possible just by my willingness to work even far beyond what should have been my retirement age. It's been a big responsibility and one that I can well do without, but, even now, there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. As I said to Grace "Who is going to support me in my old age after I've supported so many during our time together?" The answer, of course, is "Nobody". Life can be very unfair at times. I could live comfortably on what I've paid out supporting other people.

Grace is also a factor in my being here. She actually likes it here! How odd. Mind you, apart from the climate, it's paradise compared to where she comes from, so I have some understanding of her point of view. In fact, she's also told her family that she could never live in her country again. Having spent more than six years in her country, I wouldn't want to go back there to live either. Even more strange is that she doesn't mind the climate here at all. Now, that's really odd.

Money is also a factor. Unlike in many other European countries, one can't live on the state pension here, so there is no chance of being able to live in another European country on it. I do have another pension to add to the miserly amount received from the state (even after paying into the 'system' for 49 full years) and that adds up to not exactly a fortune. That said, the value of MY pensions are enough for ME to live on in reasonable comfort. MY pension is just that - and this is the main point; it's enough for ONE person to live on. If Grace was retired and had her pensions, our total income would be enough for BOTH of us to live on in reasonable comfort. At retirement age, a person is not expected to have children still living at home! This is also taken into consideration by my 'private' pension which states that if I die with a child who is under the age of 18, the pension left to my wife will increase by 50%. Surely it would make more sense to pay me the extra 50% now as I still have to support him even though I'm still alive (just!).

Going to live abroad is also no guarantee that you will receive the increases in state pension that occur whilst you're in the UK. Checking to see if there is a reciprocal agreement between the UK and the country where you wish to go to live is vital if you are in any way dependent on your state pension. Lots of people have found out the hard way that moving to Australia or Canada will curtail their pension increases in a big way over time.

I'm very fortunate in that Grace is a hard worker and has two part-time jobs which she enjoys. They don't pay very much and certainly nowhere near what she should be able to receive given her degree level education. This allows us to live in comfort when added to my two pensions. I also continue to work for some of the time, having only completed my most recent contract a week ago at the age of 73. The downside of this is that she doesn't want to give-up her jobs to go off touring with me! Of course, our income would be reduced without her salary, but we'd be able to get by with a little help from our savings - which is why we have savings. She obviously thinks her jobs are more important than me and my welfare and state of mind. How sad. She says I can go off on my own, but there's no point in being married if one has to do that for any lengthy period. I want to be with Grace and that's it. No one else matters.

The worst factor for being here, apart from those described above, is the climate. Here in the north-west of England the usual weather is cold, wet and windy. This is the case throughout the year. Even in what should be the summer months, I am frequently dressed for winter whenever I take our lovely dog for a walk. I often wear a down-filled coat that I bought in Canada, designed for the Canadian winter and heavy-duty waterproof walking boots. I have a thermally insulated 'wooley' hat which I wear under the down-filled hood of the coat. I also keep ready to wear a pair of skiing gloves and lined trousers. The same kit is worn throughout the year. In addition, our heating system is only ever turned off for its annual boiler service.

As can be imagined if you've ever lived in the sunshine, the climate here is so depressing as to make people like me almost suicidal. I only feel alive in the sunshine and warmth of the climate of some of the countries where I've previously lived.

I now have to admit that my dream of buying a home somewhere sunny, such as in Italy, and retiring there has now had to be reconsidered (more about this at URL: http://www.alsblog.co.uk/thoughts_on_a_home_in_the_sunshine.html)

My choice, if we can assume that even more restrictions are not imposed on us in the near future (a massive assumption, I know, but I try to be optimistic), and in fact the only realistic option given the ridiculous political constraints we now have to live with, is to travel as much as I am able on a more continuous basis – refer to URL: http://drivethrutours.com/Getting_Out.pdf . Sadly, no permanent home in the sun! This means travelling with either our caravan or a camper-van, or both, or, possibly, renting a property for less than 90 days at a time (if in the Schengen area).

This is not how I envisaged my retirement but at least it is some sort of compensation until I'm no longer able to drive and/or tow a caravan. As it is, I am very limited on how many miles I can drive in a day because of the pain I suffer when sitting for more than about 40 minutes behind the steering wheel. Not that this will make me give-up, of course, but it does make life rather more difficult than it used to be when I could drive hundreds of miles in a day without any problem at all. Flying to our destination isn't an option at present as we have our lovely dog, Kanga, to take with us. Leaving her at home, even with JP, is also not an option for more than a couple of days away, let alone months. Where we go, Kanga goes too (she's already toured France and Switzerland and loves our caravan). Spending summers in the warm and sunny parts of Europe, followed by winters in Morocco (outside the Schengen area) is what I envisage. I'm sure it would make a 'new-man' of me, both mentally and health-wise. I can't wait to get started.

Another big factor that is making life difficult with regard to living in a hot sunny climate is my age. At 73, it is very difficult, almost impossible, to get a new job or contract overseas. Many countries retire people at the age of 60. I've even been turned down for jobs abroad for being over the age of fifty. If employed by a company overseas, they will usually pay for your health / medical insurance, education costs of children, work permits, flights and visas and all your main living expenses on a family status contract. Without these expenses being included as part of your contract it is usually impossible to live in that particular country unless you are very wealthy and even then, it may prove to be impossible in some countries.

At my age too, do I really want to be working full-time? Probably not, if I could lead the sort of life that I'd like to lead - which is far from what I'm doing at present. Having recently completed a contract where for most of the time I was working from home, I found I missed the 'life on site' workplace environment. Working from home may have saved me money in travel expenses but just added to the boredom. In fact, I haven't lived the sort of life I'd like to have lived for far too many years. In fact, I live a life of unrelenting boredom most of the time. Having a child (actually two children but, tragically, one has passed away) has prevented that, both from a financial point of view and having to provide education and support.

Having had 21 homes in less than those number of years in five countries has been great, but Grace now wants to stay in one place which bores me to tears. I actually enjoy living in different places; different countries in particular, just like I enjoy changing jobs and taking on new challenges. Having lived in our current home for more than five years and in this area for even longer, and hardly being able to travel, is so depressing, as is the climate, I often tell Grace I don't know how much longer I'll be able to stand this place and my totally boring way of life. It's just making me bad-tempered - grumpily frustrated, and driving me completely mental, which, of course, doesn't do Grace any good either. I might also add that Grace is the only person on this planet who really matters to me to the extent that I want her to be with me wherever we happen to be or where we go – even for days out and holidays (such that we are able to have nowadays).

Thankfully, apart from our son, I don't have any other ties or constraints like many people have such as family and friends. As I've proved in the past, even if I had it wouldn't stop me doing what I want to do; only Grace (and JP) is doing that. After all, I married Grace because I wanted to be with her. No one else really matters and even the constraint of our son will soon be released when he reaches the age of eighteen, less than a year away. Once he is out of the way, I just have to work on Grace. After putting up with the misery of living with JP for eighteen years, I hope she'll realise it's my turn to enjoy life (as much as I can with the pain of osteoarthritis) – that is what little life I may have left to enjoy! It might be that living the life I want to live will enable me to enjoy life for a much longer time than otherwise – or even extend my life for a few more years. Living here is surely going to bring about my demise much more quickly than I would like.

“A man can stand anything except a succession of ordinary days.
Goethe

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