Friday, 7 October 2016

Christmas unbooked...

Don't bother reading yesterday's post if you haven't yet done so - I've cancelled. I went over to The Acorn Inn this morning and did the deed.

I was very sorry about it. I would have loved to have spent two nights there, and revel in the Christmas Atmosphere. In fact for most of yesterday I was very, very excited about this entire adventure. But when I worked out the effect on my cashflow in December, and the very negative impact on my savings, my heart sank. It oppressed me: how much worse off I would be, and the knock-on effect of having a lot less in my savings account during 2017. It went round and round in my mind, and I found it hard to get to sleep. I knew that if I was affected like this, if a couple of days away would leave me feeling financially vulnerable, it was no good.

I do regard myself as being 'comfortably off', but that is absolutely not the same thing as 'being able to afford whatever I want, when I want'. I can only choose between alternatives; I can't do or have it all. This incident has been a reality check. I've been impetuous, and I very nearly committed myself to something that was really beyond my means. I have drawn back in time, as soon as I understood what I was doing. And I have done this gracefully. Goodwill and credibility remain intact. I made an apology, and provided a reason for cancelling that was true; though not really the heart of the matter.

I hadn't expected to get my £100 deposit back lightning-quick, but it was pressed on me without my asking. Well, that was very businesslike, and very pleasant too! It showed what kind of people I was dealing with. I stayed for another yummy lunch, as a kind of consolation prize. Gosh, the food was good! Tears momentarily came to my eyes as I pondered my surroundings, and the relationship I'd already established with the husband-and-wife owners, and indeed with the other staff, and how the place would look when decorated, and the log fires alight and blazing, and how I'd be able to chat with genial fellow-guests and cheerful locals - whom I am sure I would have got on with - and what a high-level social and culinary treat I would miss.

But it was no good. I was still paying off that £5,000 gearbox loan. It would continue to squeeze my spendable income by £2,000 per annum until the middle of 2018. And until it had gone, I had no business booking expensive rooms in country inns. Nor indeed committing myself to any outlay beyond whatever was essential or promised. Thus I must certainly buy new tyres for Fiona, come what may. And I must definitely protect my Scottish holiday budget, because I had promised to come, and I wanted to. It was very sad that I couldn't stretch to a two-day Christmas break, but there you are. I wiped the tears away. It was silly to cry over what could not be.

Of course this wasn't all about money. But when you have so little in your savings account, and that little is all that stands between yourself and credit card borrowings - or falling into the hands of Wonga - you get very twichy about dipping into that account. Each withdrawal seems like another slippery step down into the black pit of endless and irretrievable debt. And you fear the future, having no fat wad to cushion you. No Bank of Mum and Dad. Just what you yourself can put together. I had thought that when my State Pension began, my savings (and my sense of security) would take off. And in the long term they will. But they haven't yet. They have been sucked away, sidetracked into repaying that loan.

What were the other considerations that made me cancel?

I would like to say that a revulsion against self-indulgence was one of them. But it would be a fib. I have no moral objection to sampling fine food and drink, and enjoying a civilised environment, whatever the reason for its contrivance. It did cross my mind that several people I knew were not able to afford an expensive Christmas break on their smaller income, and probably never would be able to. That in itself wouldn't stop me enjoying what they could not have, provided I truly could afford it. The immorality surely lay in enjoying something when you knew you could not pay for it with money that you actually had. The ability to get credit merely disguised the theft. As regards the self-indulgence itself, I was unashamed. Food, drink, company, a nice room? Were they really bad things? In any case, I wouldn't need anything to excess - just sufficient to feel pampered.

It carried much more weight with me that I would have been forsaking friends at a time of year when friends should be together. Christmas was quintessentially such a time. There was nothing wrong with being convivial with strangers in some distant place, but to desert local friends and neighbours and swan off to Dorset seemed on reflection arguably shallow and uncaring, even a little heartless. Perhaps I'm overstating this. My absence in Dorset probably wouldn't upset anyone at all. But it would be noticed. And I would hate to think that I'd copped out of somebody's personal crisis by not being available. Whether I could actually help them isn't the issue: just being there would be, being on the spot to cluster around, to listen, to make them a cup of tea, and lend comfort and support. Christmas can be one of the loneliest and most depressing times of the year.

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