27. Returning home
It has become fashionable of late to regard almost any change in life style that involves receiving less, or no pay as a perk of what has been labelled ‘downshifting’. Volumes have now been written on the subject and much of this has been written by authors who, with the backing of money have dipped their toes into the fast flowing and shark ridden waters of a major lifestyle change overseas, realised what they were missing and rushed back to the secure and cosy fold of a well-paid job. And there is nothing at all wrong with that. But I was about to do the opposite. Having returned to the secure and cosy fold of a paid job as a traffic warden, I was now returning to all the uncertainties of the downshifter’s life, where the next meal really depended on me running some sort of business and selling something in a foreign country.
Having been in that situation for several years at that stage, and having then reacquainted myself with the undoubted benefits of secure, paid employment , I did have many doubts about the future in our downshifting life – especially now with our first child. But on the plane to Faro, just over the border in Portugal, I sat next to a woman and her husband who were going on holiday for a couple of weeks in the sun. We got chatting, and with her husband nodding in agreement, she said that she was already not looking forward to the end of her holiday and returning to her office work in England, and she told me that she felt sick at the thought. She then asked me how long my holiday was for. It was at that moment that I reconnected with reality (my reality perhaps rather than actual reality) and I realised that I simply didn’t have that kind of worry. True, there were other worries on the horizon, but not ‘that kind’. Not the kind that rule your life day in, day out, relieved only by a couple of short weeks away from it all on holiday and some time off at Christmas. I answered her question by saying, “My holiday? As long as I want it to be actually.” And all my doubts disappeared over the horizon. I was being a little bit ingenuous because I wasn’t going on holiday, but I had seen in that couple how I was years before, and the thought of returning to my risky, insecure downshifting life, living in what was mainly still a hovel, looked wonderful when compared with the alternative.
My first task, when we got home, even before spending all my hard earned money on drainage pipes, cement and bricks was to go round all the shops and pay back the debts built up during my absence. None of the shopkeepers had the slightest doubt that these would be paid and many were in fact surprised to be paid so promptly. After all it had only been 5 months! Cries of ‘otra dia, otra dia!’ (another day, another day) resounded in my ears as they tried to fend off this uncomfortable business of payment while holding out their hands for the money. But I was firm; I had the money and it was either now or never, and we were soon in the throes of ordering more building supplies (after having paid off yet another bill retrieved from the historic debt drawer at the San Blas Building Supply Company). The new plans and the money meant we could finish the bathroom and toilet by adding things like a toilet pan, a bathtub, and putting a door to the room.
And then there were the bees to look at. The little black horrors welcomed me back with pasting as is their custom, and I saw that they were all still fighting fit – literally. They had done well that year and the local heather in the hills around us provided us with some of the finest tasting honey ever.