Nathan Forrest was 29 when he decided the time had come to take early retirement. Why waste the best years of your life, he reasoned, scratching away in some dingy office? Why wait until you’re 65 to take the 20-year holiday known as retirement? With your strength failing, your knees creaking, your hair on the way out and nothing but death to look forward to, it’s hardly as if you’ll be in a position to enjoy yourself.
No: why should all things come to those who wait? Nathan was helped in his decision by the knowledge that he had stacks of money, none of which he had earned himself. And so he boldly resigned from his position in the viral marketing start-up memeWARP, rented out his Shoreditch flat and made arrangements to start drawing what he called his “pension” from the family trust.
“I’m thinking outside the box,” Nathan announced over Christmas lunch that year, feeling rather pleased with himself.
“You’re an idle little wretch is what you are,” his father said.
Nathan – knowing that under the terms of his trust there was nothing his father could do to stop him receiving his “pension” – ignored him. “It’s what everyone would do if they had the nous and the wherewithal. I’m taking a round-the-world trip to start with, and then I’m going to buy a smallholding in the Dordogne and raise pigs, work on my music and stuff. I’ll winter in Courchevel. And on my 55th birthday – or a bit sooner if I fancy it – I’ll get a job.”
His older brother Karl, who had never touched a penny of his own trust and was instead piously raising three kids and teaching computer science at a northern university, speared a chipolata more aggressively than the sausage warranted.
So it was, with spring in the air, that Nathan headed east with his girlfriend, Sil, in tow. Being closer to 40 than 14, and wishing to impress Sil, who was a relatively recent acquisition, he lived large. What was the point of travelling like a backpacker, he reasoned, when you weren’t one? Retirement was when you enjoyed the fruits of your (in this case, future) labours, and Nathan felt fully entitled to a bit of luxury.
They stayed at the Mandarin. They took boat trips and helicopter rides. They ate only the food recommended in Fodor’s and now and again treated themselves to a massage or a couple of days cruising. They made friends. Retirement was splendid. Nathan even got quite good at shuffleboard.
Eight months later they were in a remote part of the Dordogne, as planned. The pig project had been abandoned because Sil – it turned out – didn’t like the noise. So instead they kept chickens, drove into town daily to buy bread and (having had broadband installed at enormous cost) spent their evenings watching movies and playing Xbox.
It was idyllic until Sil – it turned out –decided she didn’t like the Dordogne, either. In fact, she was “really, really bored”. She stung Nathan for the cost of an easyJet flight home, then dumped him. Nathan – still determined to enjoy his retirement – at first regarded this as a liberation and played more Xbox and smoked copious joints. By and by, though, bored himself, he started messaging his old friends on Facebook, inviting them to come and stay. None of them could. They were all busy at work.
Nathan lasted three more months. He saw no irony in having become awesome at Call of Duty. Then he emailed memeWARP. They weren’t hiring. In the month after Sil had left, about 80 per cent of his web browsing had been rather, well, unsavoury. Now, he spent a lot of time browsing recruitment sites – job porn – instead, even though each time, after he’d finished, he felt shrivelled and ashamed, as if his soul had become grubbier.
It was on one such site – something about bleeding-edge new tech – that he was surprised to see a photograph of Karl. The accompanying text – Nathan, slightly stoned, took a while to take it in – seemed to say that his brother had programmed a widget that connected new graduates with appropriate jobs, and that he’d sold it to Google for... no... £220m.
The following day he was on the phone to his brother for the first time in almost a year. It nearly killed him, but he used the word “congratulations”.
“£220m,” he said. “But... but... what are you going to do?”
“I’m retiring,” said Karl.