There, it's done. Five nights at the Caravan Club site at Cheddar for £61. Booked online. The first leg of my West Country holiday this spring. North Devon and West Dorset still have to be added. I'm planning seventeen nights away at an overall site cost of around £200. Plus £150 more for fuel and meals out, making £350 altogether. I'm satisfied that this is affordable, but who knows whether a domestic disaster of one sort or another might occur between now and late March. Last year the unexpected expense of a new cooker made a big hole in my 2013 spending, and holidays had to be cut back.
With all advance bookings you make a leap of faith about your ability to get away. A glitch in your funds, or your personal health, can spoil the carefully-arranged plan. But if you don't take the plunge, you go nowhere. And holidays undeniably do you good. I'm always more active on holiday than when at home. I get around, I walk about, I trek around towns, I explore country houses, I wander on beaches, I climb hills for a view. And the various caravanning chores play their part too. So I believe that any holiday, even a very wet one, will be better for me than just sitting around at home. I invariably lose a bit of weight while on holiday: it's the extra exercise.
But then, I could get extra exercise making my house and garden look beautiful.
I give holidays a very high priority. But I often feel a bit guilty about the state of my house and garden. Money needs to be be spent there as well.
It's not actually that bad. The house is structurally sound, and very clean and tidy. But the decor is a bit tired, and really the whole place needs a makeover to make it look modern and stylish. Essentially it looks much the same as when inherited from Mum and Dad in 2009.
My parents' tastes never advanced further than the 1980s, so my house has a faintly old-fashioned feel, despite the pictures and other little odds and ends I've put into it. For a long while I felt very reluctant to do more. I positively did not want to sweep away my parents' taste in wallpaper, carpets and furniture. It would have felt like a desecration. Their things were the last tangible connection between myself and them. The comfortable and well-equipped home they created, and left to me, was actually (in a very real sense) a life-support capsule in which Lucy Melford, roughly expelled from the Old World, could find peace, safety and security. I have always valued it immeasurably as my exclusive retreat and sanctuary. I don't think it's fanciful to say that their house has sustained me, seen me through a crisis period of my life, and now I want to do my best for it. That doesn't mean preserving it as a shrine, unchanged. It means putting an end to the slow fading of its former days, and giving it a modern look more suited to my own tastes.
The newest part, the conservatory built in 2006, definitely needs work. The floor tiles are coming unstuck. And in very wet weather, a little water drips down from two corner spots in the roof - something to do with overflowing gutters, I think.
As for the rear garden, my parents would be very unhappy to see it. I've kept the lawn immaculately mown, and the tall hedge trimmed. But the flowers and shrubs and other plants need far more attention than I've been giving them, and most of the colourful glories of 2009 have now vanished. The garden borders look untidy and neglected. That definitely must change. There are plenty of good plants still there, that need only reviving. Mum and Dad were fans of dense planting and I think, now that everything has grown larger, that a bit of simplification would help. In fact I intend to make a plan, and here and there remodel the garden. The patio and pathways need proper cleaning too. I would like to have it in a decent state by the autumn, just in case I have to be a Come Dine With Me hostess. At the moment I'd be rather apologetic.
I want to make a start - but where is the money? Going on holidays! Given my present circumstances, it's a stark choice between home and holidays - and the delights of caravanning are winning. Roll on the State Pension. The first credit to by bank account (on 5 December 2014) is only 313 days away. I reckon I'll get (after tax) another £372 each month - that'll buy a few pots of paint!