Almost fourteen years ago, I bought a small plot of land just outside Underberg, in the Southern Drakensberg, South Africa. My dream was to one day build a small cottage there. No rush. In time the cottage would serve as a getaway place for weekends, or I could rent it out to holidaymakers, and much later it could become my retirement home.
In the meantime I drew vague sketches of what my groundplan would look like; how many rooms; the most economical way to have all the plumbing in one place; how to ensure that the fireplace in the centre would warm the rooms around it as well as the lounge, and so on.
Two years on, when my mother became ill, I questioned the wisdom of this whole “dream cottage” thing. Was it a good idea to retire to a mountainous place far away from the best hospitals and medical care as I got older? My mother had moved out of her big city to retire to a place on the coast, and when she got ill, this was exacerbated by the long distances that she and my stepfather had to travel to their designated hospital for treatment. I remained undecided about my little dream cottage. For the moment, I held onto the land, still uncertain.
My mother died not long after. I still hadn’t made any real plans to start building my cottage, but now my sister and I became caught up in the process of letting out what had been our mother’s flat in the city. It wasn’t an easy job keeping track of the rates, levies, rental, tenants and lease agreements, and I had no time to think about the problems of another property, especially not one that I had once fantasized about hiring out as a holiday cottage.
Another two years passed, and I still had my half-drawn images of what my cottage would look like, and what it should have in it, when my sister and her husband announced that they were moving to Australia. Followers of this blog will know that I followed them a few years later. I tried to sell my piece of land, but no-one was buying at the time. I still have it. Somewhere I also still have the drawings, but I don’t think about them very often anymore.
The other day I sat on the veranda of my rented cottage in Australia and remembered my dreams of a cottage in the mountains. I realised that, despite all that has happened, I am actually living my dream. I live in a cottage on a big piece of land in a rural area, at the top of a small rise below a bigger mountain range. I can hear roosters crowing in the morning, and I drive past a sheep farm and a riding stable on my way to work every day. Sometimes on the way home from work I see foxes and other wildlife crouching beneath the trees, and if I stop at the local store to buy something for supper, there is usually at least one farm vehicle in the car park with a bale or two of hay on the back of it, or a horse-box behind.
I don’t own my cottage, and I’m not going to be able to retire for a long while yet, but I am actually living out my fantasy of living in a rural cottage in the mountains.
I’m living the dream. And – more important – it’s MY dream, not anyone else’s. Sometimes I’m not even sure why or how I got to this actual spot, but it doesn’t really matter anymore.
Here I am, and I’m happy.