Planning ahead is something I have always been particularly rubbish at. Maybe it comes from having grown up thinking total nuclear annihilation was immediately imminent, but it led to me living my life as if there is no tomorrow. Not in a good way – in a sort of bumbling, useless, living-in-the-moment way – like an ADHD toddler.
So here I am in my 40s. It is finally beginning to dawn on me that there probably is some kind of old-age-based future that I should be aware of. It isn’t going to be the kind of old age that the baby boomer generation are now embarking on; my parents and spouse’s parents have paid off their mortgages, travel, go to the theatre, do Pilates and have hobbies. That sort of thing. Our old age is not going to be quite so secure – neither spouse nor I have a pension, we’ve only just started a mortgage and an ‘ISA’ is something I have only heard of because that man on Radio 4 says it a lot on that boring programme where people who have money phone up and ask what they’re supposed to do with it.
(The other programme I hate is the one where people go for walks in the countryside. You can hear them doing up-hill breathing and talking about the scenery. ON THE RADIO).
Anyway, I was reading Julia Neuberger’s book, Is That All There Is? in bed last night. She was discussing a group of people who plan to sell their houses and buy one all together when they reach the official age of decrepitude so that they can support each other instead of going into a home and being fed and wiped by startled 18-year-olds saving up for their gap years. An excellent idea, she thinks; and of course it is. My friend E and I thought of it years ago. It seems an obvious solution to the problem of the gradual shutting down of brains and bodily functions. When E finally loses her marbles altogether I’ll be able to wrestle the electric mixer out of her hand before she damages the postman, and in return she will be able to fling a wardrobe upstairs when required. She has always been strong, but everyone knows that the truly demented can perform miraculous lifting feats when required.
The only problem for us will be that we won’t have any houses to sell in order to live our dream of dementia-addled self-sufficiency, and council flats are not designed for unrestrainedly eccentric communal living. But I am not worried – I have developed a plan for my future, and it’s one that is not unrealistic: it’s within my financial reach and, although people have laughed at it and taken it as a joke, it is entirely sensible.
I’m going to be a high tech bag lady.
I have slept rough in the streets of a city before, and it is unutterably horrible. The grubby, creeping cold of a shop doorway at 4am seems preternaturally penetrating when all that is between you and it is your coat and a few layers of cardboard. It seeps into the marrow of your bones, tenses your muscles to snapping point and you know for a fact that you will never, ever be warm again. That’s why the homeless are often seen asleep in the daytime – at night it is too cold to sleep. But I think I could handle being a homeless bag lady if I had the right equipment. It’s the cold and the discomfort that makes it intolerable, so my plan is to start preparing myself while I still have an income. Here’s a list of what I think I will need:
- A lightweight high performance 1-2 man tent that can withstand all weather conditions and be folded into a backpack
- A thermalite self-inflating lightweight sleeping mat
- An all-weather sleeping bag
- foil insulation sheets
- three sets of thermals
- walking socks & waterproof boots
- waterproof trousers & coat
- a wind up/solar lantern
- a storm kettle
- warm hat & gloves
- an orthopedic rucksack
- an excellent knife and plenty of string
- an all-terrain titanium trolley/zimmerframe combination
- a library membership
- a notebook with a waterproof cover & pens
- my glasses
It seems so obvious now I’ve set it out before me. I can’t understand why I didn’t think of it before. Now the sons have (almost) left home for good, I have spare rooms where I can keep all my retirement preparation equipment. I still have the income to begin the necessary acquisitions, and my plan will even make it more likely that I’ll survive the apocalypse if it happens before I’m 65.