Last week, I really felt that I had arrived. The world recognized me as a man of substance. Doors were opening – the high life was mine for the taking.
I had received junk mail of an altogether higher class than usual. No gaudy, get-rich-quick or save-money offers, just a discreet address in the bottom left-hand corner of the envelope and, inside, the opportunity of a lifetime. The letter was headed with a gold-embossed eagle. I was not invited to buy a timeshare, but seasonal ownership at Gleneagles.
The same postbag offered appropriate transport to my new holiday home. All I had to do to land my Jaguar car was fill in a questionnaire (oh, and just happen to win a prize draw).
My usual response is to snort and add such offers to the recycling box. However, I could not just throw away photographs of Gleneagles – the moors, the lochs, the imposing turrets of the hotel itself, flag flying on the eighth hole, lumps of meat, bathroom taps (why taps?), women having massages.
All were mine for the taking. There was an offer to go for an inspection visit: one night’s dinner, bed and breakfast, and all for no more than I would usually spend on renting a cottage for a week.
Living the good life
I owe my suspicious nature to my Scottish heritage. I had to check that the rate was per room, not per person. Mercifully, I heard an answering machine and declined to leave my number. They called back, anyway, just a few minutes later. I put the receiver down half an hour later, poured myself a dram, and ruminated on the good life that I was clearly living.
I was reminded of the night before. I turned on the television just as Never Mind the Buzzcocks was ending. The presenter apologized that he was unable to give back the preceding 30 minutes of viewers’ lives. Chastening thought, but this half-hour had opened my eyes to a chink of luxurious living, so much so that the high prices, representing weeks of hard graft, scarcely mattered.
We explored my Scottish heritage: my being a vegetarian would not upset the chef; the stuffy image of the place (his words not mine) was a thing of the past; Armani jeans were recognised to cost pounds 150 and were acceptable with a black tie in the restaurant (not sure I would have liked that if I had have gone to the trouble of knotting a bow tie).
Membership of the golf club was included (for one) and, if I played enough, the money saved would almost cover the property management charge of about pounds 1,000 a week. They said that they would even teach me to play using a rubber club – I didn’t like to ask if they were being serious or joking.
The man on the telephone conjured up an image of family and friends sitting around a roaring fire at Hogmanay. I saw us sheltered from the elements, raising glasses and singing Auld Lang Syne for all we were worth, snuggling under warm duvets and rising to kippers and porridge, and bracing hikes over the heather.
The cost depends on the size of the property, and when you have it – somewhere between pounds 10,000 and pounds 46,000 (per week), plus the management charge. The property is yours for 55 years and you can let it or sell it, too. It might be worthwhile for a keen golfer with a long life expectancy.
But for that kind of money you could buy a cottage that would be yours all year round, or just rent somewhere different any time you wanted.
It is not really the sort of thing I’d do, but it is quite reassuring in a way. Doctors are apt to moan about their pay and conditions, but the marketing industry still sees us as potential business fodder. I learned that my name had come off a ‘colder mailing list’ – that is I was not a prior customer of Gleneagles. But they had managed to find my name based on income, age, and profile.
The age factor is a little worrying. What do they mean? Plenty of life in the old dog? One foot in the grave? I’ve started thinking about my pension, which is a worrying sign. Will there be one when I retire? Will I, indeed, be allowed to retire, or will I be wheeled into the surgery in my dotage, strings attached to my signing hand to hold it up over prescriptions, peering through my cataracts and straining to hear through my ear trumpet?
The money page of a national newspaper recently warned gap-year backpackers that they risked losing out on their state pensions, now that 44 years of national insurance contributions are required before retirement at 65.
It’s a sad world when you have to plan for retirement before starting your first job.