Some big bills are going to hit me this year. Two of them are unavoidable:
# An annual service for the caravan, say £280. Although (not yet) obligatory, I regard this as an important safety check: I want to be sure there are no gas, electrical or water system problems. Plus, the dealer will carry out a damp check as well. There are in addition a couple of very minor things to fix - a rear light bulb, and a door catch.
# An annual service for the car, perhaps £400. I have nothing to report to the dealer, and expect Fiona to sail through her first MOT, but you never know. They've been on about the rear brake discs getting worn for some time. When operated - manually, or automatically on a slope - an electric motor makes the rear pads clench the rear discs tightly, enough to hold Fiona plus the caravan on a steep hill. Moving off, the brake unclenches gradually to avoid sudden rollback, and this gradually wears the disc down, much faster in fact than the front discs. Maybe they are now too thin! If so, I'm guessing that'll be £700 not £400. I can't put this service off, because my three-year new-car guarantee runs out at the end of May, and if there are any defective parts that might qualify for replacement free of charge, then obviously I need to put the car in the dealer's hands before the guarantee expires.
So that's £680 minimum, just to stay on the road! Then there's some more:
# I'm due for another checkup at the dentist, and last time I reported a molar that was getting sweet-sensitive. The exact tender spot (small and elusive) was very hard to track down, but might be under an old crown. If so, then that'll be another £300. If not now, then before the end of the year.
# In the next two months or so, I need to have some medical tests done
(free on the NHS) and then see Dr Richard Curtis in London (not free at all) for an annual consultation. I expect to be charged £120 for the consultation, and then £50 must be added for rail and tube travel, plus something to eat. Even more if I go and see an exhibition somewhere. I probably won't: I really don't like London, and once up there, it isn't long before I want to escape back to the country.
# I'm overdue for another eye test. Now that I'm 60, those are free. But I'm sure the test will show that I need new lenses, and probably new frames. My varifocal prescription is never cheap. Another £300. I can put this off for months, but I do think my eyesight has deteriorated since my last new lenses four years ago, and it can't wait forever.
It doesn't end there!
# Last autumn the shower tray in my caravan developed a crack. It rapidly got worse. I taped it over carefully, to prevent water seeping through to the plywood floor (which would lead to delamination - a disaster!), but knew this could only be a temporary fix. So today I had a man round to view the crack and quote me for a comprehensive professional repair. This will involve injecting foam under the tray which, when hardened, will support it much better; bonding the cracks; and then relining the tray with a heavy-duty waterproof compound, colour-matched to the bathroom, that will seal it and then last the life of the caravan. Four to five hours work, all told. The man will come and do it at my home, which is most convenient. However the agreed cost (VAT included) will be £370. That said, the only real alternative would be to strip out the entire toilet assembly to give access to the damaged shower tray and fit a brand-new replacement. That's many hours of work at dealer's rates: over £1,000. So £370 to achieve a more durable result seems a very cost-effective thing to do. And the caravan is, after all, a brilliant holiday asset.
# Finally, having this morning committed myself to spending £370 on the caravan, would you believe it, this evening the oven on my kitchen cooker packed in! Admittedly it's an 'ancient' cooker that was bought before my parents moved into my house in 2000. So an eventual failure like this wasn't really a huge surprise, but I do think it could have had the decency to soldier on into 2014 or 2015. Sod's Law, etc. I was about to pop in a curry. I had to juggle instead with a microwave oven (not my idea of a good way to cook). Oh well, that'll be anything up to £400 to find all of a sudden. So tomorrow morning, there I'll be, at the appliance shop in Burgess Hill to see what they've got, and what sort of deal they can do for me.
Now you know why I'm not rich.
I'm afraid buying the new cooker will use up the money earmarked for my South Wales getaway in late March. Damn. Well, perhaps I can still afford it somehow, but I'm not booking anything yet.
But let us be of good cheer and stout heart, and seek the silver lining! Everything like this that I'm forced to spend this year means that I won't get clobbered with the cost in 2014 or later. Hurrah!