Tuesday, 23 November 2021

...and (nearly) out with the old

So, one new jacket that had to be squeezed into my wardrobe space! Hmm, it was getting tight. What could I discard?

An obvious candidate was my aqua-coloured jacket. This seemed thin and inadequate compared with my new red ski jacket. It was also rather worn, with toggles and other bits missing, and (if you looked closely) undeniably on the shabby side. It was after all, ten years old, and had had a good run, but its smartest years were well in the past. I got it out for careful consideration.

It was still perfectly wearable, but I wouldn't choose it for any kind of social occasion nowadays. It was OK for country walking, provided I wasn't out in too keen a breeze, and provided there was no prospect of rain - or at least, nothing more than the lightest of showers. It had never been especially water-resistant, but a couple of washings over the years had diminished its power to repel raindrops. So it was a fair-weather jacket best worn in spring and autumn, and on mild days at that. As you can see, it had a detachable hood, although it didn't offer much meaningful protection. 

I did like its blue-green colour very much. That was its best remaining feature.

And there was something else that had so far prevented me junking it. It had sentimental value. Back in August 2011 it had been a reward to myself. Something to mark a momentous occasion. I was in the Ocean View Café in Wroes department store in Bude, and had just had a phone call. The Cottage had at last been sold. 

Although buying the Cottage for £509,000 in 2007 had been a joint project with M---, I had been the formal owner and she the private mortgagor. This placed title in my hands, but made me liable to repay a very large amount of money. But we had a written Agreement which anticipated a profit from a later sale. The investment looked viable and likely to be a good one. I sunk £202,000 into our project, she £307,000. We thought the Cottage (a large and attractive property in a pretty riverside village) would sell two years later for at least £600,000, giving us roughly a £100,000 profit, which would be split 40:60 in proportion to the money we'd each put in. In practice, we expected further investment cycles until we both had nice homes.  

It didn't work out. A combination of factors made the property market falter, then go into a steady decline. We quickly put the Cottage back up for sale again, hoping to recoup most of our investment, but it took four long years to get shot of it. A sorry tale, I can tell you. And in the end, it went for only £335,000. By then, there was another Agreement which guaranteed M--- the full return of her investment, plus a fixed amount of interest. £325,000 altogether. Well, I instructed my solicitor to pay her what had been agreed. After fees and costs I walked away with only £2,000 of my £202,000 investment. £202,000 of real money, that before buying the Cottage had been in real savings accounts - where perhaps it should have stayed. All now gone. Irretrievably. Forever. 

It was a life-changing loss. A huge financial blow. Did I feel suicidal? People have topped themselves for less, you know. 

No, of course I didn't do anything so silly. In fact, after that phone call at Wroes I was jubilant, over the moon. I had been trying to run two houses on one pension, and failing. Bankruptcy was inevitable if I didn't get the Cottage off my hands. 

But that was a worry that might be staved off for a year or so. More pressing was the sheer mental distress at being liable for £325,000, which was a frightening sum to owe anybody back in 2011. The equivalent in 2021 values would be at least £405,000. I tossed and turned at night over having such debt. It was wearing me down. I was a prisoner, with a dwindling hope of release. And if the property market sunk any lower, I might have to sell my home - the house left to me by Mum and Dad - as well as the Cottage, to find the money needed for repayment. 

It couldn't go on. Fortunately it didn't. Buyers were at last found, and the massive debt would finally be repaid. My personal loss of £200,000 seemed as nothing compared to that big fact. Even then, I knew I would miss not having this money later in life - no fancy cruises; indeed no fancy holidays of any kind; apparently no way of affording another nice car like Fiona; and (most importantly) no reassuring medical fund. Such was the future impact. But for now there was every reason to feel utter relief. A dreadful burden had been taken away. The stay of execution, the Royal Pardon, had come in time. The chains were cast off. I was free to live my life. I was light-headed with joy, and almost cried at that café table in Wroes. I'm sure my eyes were moist. 

That aqua-coloured jacket was the present I got for myself within the hour, while still in the store. (Which is why I feel sentimental to this day about Wroes, and happy things that have taken place there over the years - not only that call, and buying that jacket) 

The jacket gave me good service in the months and years that followed. Here I am, back in 2011, proudly wearing the 'freedom from debt' jacket:  

I last wore it in April this year, on a local walk, sans hood:

In truth, this was by then a rare outing for it. I hadn't really worn it much since getting the green hooded Seasalt raincoat in October 2019. The Seasalt raincoat - better in every respect - immediately supplanted the aqua jacket. It was longer, rain-resistant, windproof, quilted and warm, and the hood worked. And it looked good. 

A selection of pictures to show what I mean:

The next two pictures show the Seasalt raincoat after a soaking in heavy rain, and how inside it remained bone dry, keeping me nicely snug:

The Seasalt raincoat was as suitable for wet walks in the New Forest....

...as it was for meetups with friends and family. Here, with my step-daughter Adrienne (left) and our friend Emma (right):

Here's another shot that shows the useful length of the Seasalt raincoat. I might get wet knees, but everything above them would stay dry and warm:

The green raincoat coped wonderfully with breezy seashores, too:

The aqua jacket couldn't compete with this. So I stopped wearing it. 

What now? Was it time for us to part company? 

I nearly bagged it up for disposal. Then I hesitated. I couldn't do it. Getting that call back in 2011 was one of the key moments of my life. If you have ever experienced crushing debt, and then had freedom from it, you will know what I mean. My spirits had soared. No, I couldn't discard the main tangible souvenir of that blissful afternoon in Bude!  

I've now put it through the washing machine, and it's all clean and fresh. I don't know when I'll actually wear it again - probably not until next spring. Never mind. It'll have to be added to my collection of possessions that will never be thrown out.

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