For many in Chelsea, south west London, blue is the only colour.
However, two miles up the road from Stamford Bridge lies the Royal Hospital Chelsea, home to 300 veterans of the British Army - known as the Chelsea Pensioners. Unlike their local football club, the pensioners are recognisable by their very familiar and striking scarlet uniforms.
In the grounds of the hospital and for five days every year, an area of approximately 2.9 acres (enough room to park 500 London buses) is turned over to The Royal Horticultural Society to host the Chelsea Flower Show, and becomes an absolute sea of colour.
Interestingly, despite the name, flower arrangements did not feature at the show until 1947 when there were fewer exhibitors due to the impact of war.
This year, the show will run from the 21st to the 25th May, but work begins on building all of the gardens from scratch many days beforehand. These are then dismantled over another five-day period once the show ends.
The show has not been without controversy over the years, for example:
In 1927 there was a campaign to ban foreign exhibits, but this was refused by the RHS saying that ‘horticulture knows nothing of nationality’ – maybe a life lesson for all of us.
Gnomes were also banned until as late as 2013 although exhibitors would often try to smuggle them in! When the ban was lifted a parade of 150 gnomes was assembled to greet the Queen on her arrival that year.
Some other interesting facts and figures that I discovered were:
The Queen has only missed 12 shows during her reign.
Talking of rain (can you see what I did there…) in 1932 it rained so hard during the show that it caused the summer house roof to collapse completely.
On another very wet occasion it was dubbed ‘The Chelsea Shower Flow’.
In 2014 visitors managed to work their way through 1,150 glasses of Champagne, 6,400 glasses of Pimms, 10,560 hot drinks and 10,000 portions of fish and chips.
The Great Marquee, that hosted the show until the year 2000, held the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest tent.
When it was replaced, the old tent was transformed into 7,000 bags, aprons and jackets.
The show being at Chelsea has been a tradition that has been running since 1913 when it moved from the RHS garden in Kensington.
It originally began in 1862 as the far humbler ‘Great Spring Show’, which was staged in a single tent and raised a profit of £88 – this would be the equivalent of £10,510 in today’s money according to the Bank of England’s inflation calculator.
Which brings me on to the subject of pensioners and pensions.
For someone to be eligible to be a Chelsea Pensioner some of the criteria that they must meet are:
they must be over 65 or of State Pension age,
be free of any financial obligation to support a spouse or family,
be in receipt of an Army Service Pension or War Disability Pension which they would be required to surrender upon entry to the Royal Hospital or make a financial contribution towards their living costs.
It is fantastic that this establishment exists to support those who have served for their country, but it can only cater for a limited number of people and they receive more applications each year than they can fulfill. So, not all applicants will be successful.
For the remainder of the population, that does not have access to a similar lifeline in old age, we must make sure that we have enough to live on when the time comes to stop work.
So, linking this back to our flower theme, I guess the question to ask is ‘will my pension be a Dandelion, a Rose... or something more exotic, like an Orchid?’
The State pension for 2019-2020 will be £168.60 per week or £8,767 per year (assuming an individual has sufficient qualifying years of National Insurance contributions) so, in this scenario, would be our Dandelion.
Research in 2018 by independent social change organisation The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, suggested that a sum of £18,400 would be needed for a ‘socially acceptable standard of living’, our Rose,
Whereas Which? stated that couples enjoying a ‘comfortable’ retirement spend around £26,000 each year – more of an Orchid.
The earlier you start to save, the less of your monthly income you are likely to need to put away to accumulate a similar retirement pot – the example below shows the cost of delay and highlights that you may need to double what you save for every 10 years that you leave it before starting:
Therefore, the simple message here is:
Get cultivating that pension pot as soon as possible: the increase in minimum pension contributions introduced by the government from April 2019 will help, but don’t be fooled that a total of 8% is going to be enough for that ‘Orchid’ lifestyle!
Topics: Savings And Lifestyle