No pension? We'll just have to think creatively

Lily is a courier. She goes to Andorra, bringing back large quantities of cash tucked into her knickers

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To those of us who have already laid careful plans, the latest bombshell from the Pensions Office was little more than water off a duck's back. I'm talking about the state pension, of course, the one I thought I'd be collecting on my 60th birthday, along with my senior citizen's bus pass, my subscription to
Saga magazine, my dentures and my hairnet.

To those of us who have already laid careful plans, the latest bombshell from the Pensions Office was little more than water off a duck's back. I'm talking about the state pension, of course, the one I thought I'd be collecting on my 60th birthday, along with my senior citizen's bus pass, my subscription to Saga magazine, my dentures and my hairnet.

I don't remember exactly when they raised the retirement age for women to 65, but it doesn't matter because it now looks as if we'll all have to slog on till we're 70 before we're entitled to collect a single penny. And in my case, single pennies are about the size of it, according to my accountant. What on earth do you mean, I asked last time he rang. Well, he said, in the reluctant tones of the messenger who told Macbeth that Birnam Wood was going places, when I married I elected to pay the lower-rate Married Woman's Tax, which meant that my state pension would be considerably reduced. Reduced to what, I asked. He said cautiously that he didn't know exactly, but it wouldn't be much.

Fortunately, I said to him that I still had the work pension I have been paying into since I was a cub reporter. This would see me through the sere and yellow leaf of my declining years. By the way, which life insurance company was I with? Equitable Life, I said. The rest you know.

My first thought was to take in washing. Charlene, my room-mate at the University of Colorado, worked her way through college by taking in laundry. There were always at least 30 freshly ironed shirts hanging from the cupboard doors, the curtain rails and the bed posts in our room. Most of my dates were with boys who had come to pick up their washing. The trouble is, these days most people love doing laundry. If they're not socialising at the nearest laundrette, they set whole evenings aside to do their washing with the same zeal that DIY enthusiasts once reserved for making balsa-wood models of St Paul's or fret-sawing spice racks. "Let's go to that new exhibition at Tate Modern," I say to my friend, Kate. "I can't, I'm doing my washing," she replies. "I've bought this amazing new fabric conditioner which re-textures brushed cotton, so I'm doing all my moleskin trousers."

All right, if I can't take in laundry, I'll take in lodgers. Friends down the road have just done up their rather damp basement with a bedroom and bathroom and signed on with a company called Doctor In The House. It arranges accommodation exclusively for medics visiting London for conferences. What's so special about doctors, I asked my friends? Well, they said, doctors are decent, reliable, hard-working, considerate people who won't tread chewing gum into the carpet or stub their cigarettes out on the chairs. Think of Dr Barnardo and Dr Kildare and Dr Finlay. All right, I shall. And then I'll think about Dr Jekyll and Dr Crippen and Dr Shipman.

Forget doctors, I'd rather have students – timid Japanese girl students from the Royal College of Music down the road who would scuttle into their rooms and practise the clarinet quietly. This, I appreciate, is in breach of our lease which prohibits bicycles in the common parts, and sub-letting, but by the time I'm 70 the rules may have changed.

I am also assuming, possibly foolishly, that by the time I'm 70 I shall be child free and have a room to spare for lodgers. I keep hearing about parents whose grown-up children refuse to leave home and expect their mums to make them breakfast when they're 40.

No matter, I have other strings to my bow based on my acquaintance with three feisty ladies. All are well into their seventies and living in what would usually be described as straitened circumstances. Except that they aren't straitened – because these ladies are tough.

Here's what they do. Doris is a guinea pig. She gets paid up to £500 every six weeks or so for staying in a clinic and having doctors test the latest Alzheimer's, flu or mad-cow drugs on her. Madge house-sits: £100 a week for an empty house plus £25 for every additional cat, dog or python. Lily is a courier. She goes to Switzerland and Andorra and the Virgin Islands and brings back large quantities of cash tucked into her knickers. She's on a percentage, she told me, £1,000 for the last run.

Networking comes in many forms. Some go to the Groucho or the Met Bar. I prefer tea with old ladies.

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