The world famous violinist had retired. After years of intense concert after concert, László Jovanović had found a nice cottage near the beach (for walks) and close enough to shops (for convenience). He could play his beloved violin all day (or not) without the pressure of concert preparation.
It’s not that he couldn’t afford a great big mansion by the sea, but he didn’t need it. The little cottage was cosy and much to his liking. And, did I say? it had a rose garden.
Every morning he would get out his second most precious violin and play. (His Stradivarius was safely locked in a bank vault somewhere). It was easy to believe that in the past people would pay heaps of money to hear him play. It was as if the ever-surging sea and his music melded into one. All was good with the universe. Well, it was as if all melded into one until the neighbours complained.
“What’s with the screeching cat next door scratching away? If he must learn an instrument why can’t he play a proper one like a guitar or a banjo? Or even a ukulele?”
László Jovanović never played the violin again. His rose garden was a picture.
Roberta couldn’t but help feel pleased. She had been promoted. In fact, in the average-sized town art gallery she could not have been promoted higher. To put it bluntly: Roberta was at the top; at the pinnacle. She was in charge.
She was only thirty-two. If headway was to be made in her professional career, she would have to move to a larger town with a larger art gallery. She did just that, selling the house and upping and moving. Of course, she had to take a cut in pay because she had to start down at the bottom again. But rung by rung she could move so much higher. There were so many promotions ahead!
These days Roberta is one year off retirement and is still near the bottom. Whenever a job vacancy came up, an ambitious teeny-bopper city-slicker with a university degree would apply. After retirement, Roberta has no idea how she’ll pay off the rest of her mortgage.
Cade had had a successful career as an historian. After he graduated he landed a wonderful job as a lecturer at a prestigious university. Over the years he had worked his way up to become a professor and head of the History Department.
And now he had retired. Oh! the accolades! There’s so much in life I have always wanted to do, said Professor Cade in his departing speech. So much that’s undone. How busy and fruitful retirement is destined to be.
Cade made a list of things he was going to do in his first year of retirement. There were so many masterpieces, for example, that he hadn’t read. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island was a case in point! There were dozens of literary classics that he’d never had time for. And now he would. He would read, read, read.
And then there was the music of Johann Sebastian Bach’s four composing sons. I want to become a Bach expert, he declared, with the music of Wilhelm Friedemann, Carl Phillip Emmanuel, Johann Christoph Friedrich, and Johann Christian.
And Art. He would study famous paintings and one day, hopefully, travel to see the originals.
These days, of course, all this could be done on the computer. He wanted to start almost immediately. But first he’d just finish downloading a couple of computer games.
Harold and Gertrude could barely live off the pension. And they had no other source of income.
Harold was dying. He was the one on the pension. Gertrude was unemployed. She was due to start the pension in two weeks. There was nothing could be done. Harold had to live for two weeks more until Gertrude got the pension. It would stop the week of his death.
They both knew and understood the situation. Gertrude encouraged Harold to breath.
“Keep breathing, darling,” she told him.
“I’m doing my best, honeybun,” he wheezed.
One week passed. Thank goodness for that! Just one week to go.
And, damn it! Harold passed away the day before the pension came in. That messed up their plans. The cost of running the house was almost the same. Gertrude had to pay for the funeral and for the living expenses for one whole week before she herself got the pension.
She scrimped. She wasted not. She saved. It took her three years, on the pension, to catch up to the standard of living they had before Harold died. And all for a day.
Johanna and Mark were heading for retirement. They had skimped and saved all their lives. How wonderful (absolutely wonderful) that they could afford to retire in the loveliest little house in the loveliest little collection of houses on the loveliest of peninsulas. There was a small canal a few feet from the back door, where you could park your fishing boat. Gardeners came through once a week and did all those horrible lawns and things. It was an idyllic retirement.
The place had one drawback: it was a thirty minute drive to the shops, even if you wanted just a packet of rice. There was no corner shop. Still, that didn’t matter. Mark did all the driving, and Johanna did all the shopping! Perfect!
Then Mark died. Johanna couldn’t drive. She was stuck in the loveliest little house in the loveliest little collection of houses on the loveliest of peninsulas. No local medical centre either, and she needed to use that more and more often as she aged. Taxi fares were becoming costlier and costlier. All the other houses were occupied by equally trapped widows who had retired with their then-living husbands to this beautiful promising place.
Johanna made a decision: she would sell her house. She couldn’t. No one would buy it; not now that the news was out that when your husband died (usually first) each widow was left stranded in her loveliest little house in the loveliest little collection of houses on the loveliest of peninsulas, with a small canal a few feet from the back door where the fishing boat was permanently anchored and unused.