Old habits die hard. Having managed all the finances of the business Mr Blue-Shirt and I ran for fifteen years, I still find myself doing an annual profit and loss account at the year’s end. Only these days, the debits and credits are no longer measured in pounds and pence, but in terms of quality rather than quantity, of the intangible rather than tangible.
So how does our triumphs and tragedies account for 2019 shape up? Well, the debit column is, understandably, dominated by three devastating and genuinely life-changing events: the burglary in spring, the death of Mr Blue-Shirt’s mother in autumn, and just seven weeks later, the death of his father. All three cast long, deep shadows across the year, plunging us into months of fear, anger, pain and loss; shadows whose sorrowful darkness has yet to recede. And all three rendered every other frustration and niggle, glitch and hiccup mere small change; just a handful of coins lost down the back of the sofa of life. Indeed, I am struggling to itemise other debits that any sensible accountant wouldn’t write off for being within an acceptable margin of error. The bureaucratic annoyances of importing first the car and later the van? Well, that’s just par for the course, so neither debit nor credit. The repeated wild goose chases involved in hiring construction equipment, then? Same thing: zero impact on the final balance. OK, so what about a horribly and uncharacteristically cold and wet May? Pfft! Not even worth a line on the spreadsheet. The frighteningly vicious storms that tore through the region in July and ended a blistering heatwave, then? No damage suffered, so no entry necessary. In fact, the only other debit that has affected the final balance to any degree was the sudden and desperately premature death of Stanley, one of the two lovable young cats we had acquired in January and who immediately captured our hearts.
The credit column at first glance appears much more mundane, with no obvious show-stopping gains to cancel out those huge losses. Our application for planning permission was granted, we successfully got ourselves as Brexit-proof as possible, Mr Blue-Shirt razed the despised pigsty to the ground, constructed new terraces and built a pergola. We enjoyed mini-breaks in Matera, Gibraltar and Tuscany, and welcomed six sets of visitors to Casa Girasole. My job remained stimulating and satisfying, I met my new great-nephew and I maintained my running and writing habits. We spent summer Sundays at the beach, dined outside from June to September, made new friends, had a good olive harvest, and continue to enjoy the affectionate presence of Stanley’s sister, Tilly. And the most valuable assets of all: we have survived everything that life has thrown at us this year in the home that comforts and sustains us; the place that is our refuge, our place of healing; the place that fits our needs more precisely, and where we have felt more truly ‘at home’ than anywhere else we have ever lived. A home that is located in the most magical spot whose ravishing beauty makes our hearts sing and whose reassuring constancy nourishes and grounds us each and every day.
So where does that leave us? What is the final tally when multiple small triumphs and pleasures are weighed against a few enormous losses? Was it, in crude terms, a good year or a bad year? Well, I am gratified – and not a little surprised – to find that the credits do amount to much more than I first anticipated. The sheer scale of those losses, however, has cost us dear and our reserves are undeniably at low ebb. So the result, on balance, is a deficit – albeit a far smaller one than I had first feared, and one that we can surely be hopeful of reversing in 2020.
Maybe I should carry on doing the accounts after all.