INTRODUCTION


There seems to be a scarcity of UK retirement blogs out there (other than those proffering financial advice) and in the absence of my being able to read about other people's experiences, I instead offer you my own "Great Big Retirement Adventure."

My husband (Mister E) and I have moved from the initial concept through the planning stages to implementation and this site is intended to record the whole process. What I am seeking from retirement is now very different to what I thought I was planning and has gradually developed into a quest for fitness and a desire for simplification, with a transition away from both a highly organised lifestyle and the personality traits reflecting a pedantic professional career. Indeed I recently described myself as "a goofy idiot" who enjoys smiling at sunflowers; a far cry from the pre-retirement professional and an indication of just how far I have travelled.

Please visit from time to time and do add your comments. The blog is in reverse chronological order but popular posts and those highlighting our journey are specifically pinpointed below on the right hand side together with a list of topics covered. Alternatively you may prefer to look at the summary or wisdom we have acquired or even our have done list with its retirement atlas and dip in and out of the blog using the links given.




Saturday, 16 September 2017

Summer Holidays 3




Let's call it impetuosity, because I don't think there was an awful lot of planning involved on our part, but, after three nights at home following our Norway visit, we hit the road again. Our trip this time was initiated by the youngest requiring the transportation of her worldly goods to London ready for the final year of her university degree. 

Travelling from the North, we always abhor the levels of traffic that inevitably confront us from the Midlands onwards and this journey did not disappoint, especially with an average speed in single figures through London. The traffic jams there were enlivened  by a cyclist in a daydream colliding with the rear of our car whilst we were stationary, not to mention the hooting of car horns whenever we hesitated momentarily in deciding which lane to join at unfamiliar traffic lights. How the city drivers would cope with North Yorkshire's rural tractors and spatially unaware and painfully slow octagenarians at the wheel, I cannot imagine. Maybe it would be worth organising a cavalcade down the M1 just to find out.

Still if our journey into London was bad, leaving at 3pm to head into East Anglia initially via the M11 was even worse; so slow it coincided with the end of the school day and presumably an early finish for some commuters. Does it always take 3 full hours to drive just over 90 miles in the South?


At 6pm, however, we were drawing into the drive of our friends' house and the journey was forgotten for a couple of days whilst we delighted in their hospitality and explored the neighbouring town of Woodbridge with its link to the sea, working tide-mill and historic links with boat-building and both sail and rope-making.

However, we returned yesterday, a Friday, when it seems everybody is on the move. We joined traffic jamming just before Cambridge and seemed to keep it with us for the rest of the time we were on the A14 and until we finally turned off the A1. It took the best part of 6 hours to travel 250 miles. It's true that in retirement not only have we left commuting behind us but generally have picked and chosen quiet times for longer journeys. Perhaps it makes you cocky or maybe we just hadn't considered that if we were setting off mid-morning the rest of the country would be doing the same. Stuck in the middle lane going nowhere, I had a premonition of English roads in the future, rooted in permanent gridlock. It was certainly a salutary and tiring lesson in the weariness of road travel and a reminder of the advantages of life in remote and rural Northern enclaves (until you need to head South, that is).

Well it was another enjoyable stay, but after those journeys I suddenly feel the need for a rest, not a holiday. In retirement the distinction between the two is no longer blurred.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Summer Holidays 2



We moved on from our stay in the Lake District with somewhat indecent alacrity. One night at home and then we were off again; this time to Norway with a burning desire to view the fjords. It sounds mad but so long as the underwear count holds up, it forces you to unpack immediately, makes repacking easier and denies you the opportunity to mess up the house before you leave.


 Research had suggested that a trip to the Norwegian fjords might best be undertaken from the sea and so a cruise it was.


Now we have tried big ship cruising before: just once as a kind of celebration back in 2011 when I moved from the firm I had been a partner in to take up a part-time consultancy in readiness for retirement. I had expected that cruise to be like the Titanic without the iceberg, but the vessel was so enormous that it seemed on occasions a little more akin to Benidorm afloat. This time, therefore, we were particular in choosing our cruiseline and ship with great care, settling on Olsen Lines and its MV Black Watch. We wanted a vessel that looked like it could weather the oceans rather than a floating tower block.


Knowing that the average age of passengers would be relatively high, we insured against being the most youthful by bringing the youngest with us too. There was no insurance for her but she fulfilled the need for patience and understanding admirably, as well as making more use of the ship's gym than anyone else on board.







I don't think we have transformed into cruise devotees but we did have a splendid time. The food, although wonderful, was not on tap 24 hours a day as with some companies and with stricter meal times there was less gluttony to offend. There were only 680 passengers (maximum capacity is 804) and nowhere was ever too busy. The Captain was a gentleman and overly generous with the drinks at not one but two cocktail parties. Also, and whilst I have no objection to dressing up, evenings generally erred towards the casual rather than smart, and formal nights to the smart rather than black tie, unless you were Scottish, like most of the guests (as we sailed from Rosyth near Edinburgh), when your clan kilt was in order. For  days at sea, of which we had two, there were plenty of activities including lectures about the ports of call and my beloved Pilates classes. To see a film we didn't even have to huddle in a darkened room in the bowels of the ship and, whilst there was a cinema, there was also a variety of films available to view in the cabin on the TV system.


I can see the attraction for many elderly guests of holidaying in this manner, although I am not sure that were I to be reliant on a zimmer frame or someone pushing me in a wheelchair that I would be quite at ease on a ship. If that iceberg materialised the prospect of transferring to a lifeboat safely has to be in doubt and, on a more mundane level, boarding a tender to be ferried to ports of call would be difficult if not impossible.


We pretty much had an onboard hot (39 degrees C) tub to ourselves; the rain even kept onlookers away and it was a perfect vantage point to luxuriate through the fjords in which we cruised amidst typical Norwegian low cloud. Indeed for a time I thought that we may have found a country with worse weather than Scotland based on recent experiences, but the Captain ever optimistically would announce the weather forecast at midday and then say that he was hoping it would be better at the head of the fjords when we made our ports of call. Fortunately his optimism was based on solid foundation and ashore we avoided the dankness that generally accompanied our passage through those mighty fjords, enabling us to undertake some splendid walks and truly appreciate the magnificent scenery.


We stopped at Flam, Olden and Bergen and had no need to undertake any organised tours although plans to travel on the famous Flam railway were thwarted by a mega cruise ship tying up on the dockside, leaving our understated but elegant vessel anchoring offshore and giving the 3000 passengers on board the floating skyscraper a monopoly on train tickets. Fortunately neither it nor the other ships docked in Bergen spoilt our pleasure or the view on other days, probably because they were too large to manouvre through some of the smaller fjords on which our cruise concentrated.




Monday, 11 September 2017

Summer Holidays 1


It is more than a month since I made an entry here, attributable I confess to taking a break, not from blogging but from our usual activities and familiar patterns and places. Yes I have been on what, when you are working, is called a holiday but, in retirement, is better known as travelling or going away. I'm not sure of the distinction other than the fact that retirement can sometimes be viewed as one long holiday when, free from the constraints of the workplace, we can finally seek to live life to the full.



So a couple of weeks ago we found ourselves back at our favourite haunt in the Lake District, staying in a wooden lodge overlooking the beck on what is known as the Langdale Estate but which a hundred years ago was actually a gunpowder works. The estate now seeks not only to blend with its surroundings but also incorporate some of the features of its industrial past like the water channels, wheels and millstones.


These days a smart hotel and individual lodges lie amongst this wooded area nestling under the shadow of the Langdale Pikes. For us it now feels like a home from home with easy access to the high fells for long distance walking.

 
Except this year I gave anything with a noticeable gradient a miss in the interests of trying to stablise my wobbly knee. Instead and whilst Mister E, the youngest and those staying with us took full advantage, I strolled in a more gentle fashion with my camera, read books  and even visited the recently opened spa. 




Now I am not a great fan of lying back and relaxing. I  much prefer to be on the go with lots to think about if action is not an option, but I have to say that 4 hours dipping between hydrotherapy pool, steam rooms and saunas all surrounded by trees and mountain air certainly conveys a feeling of well-being, as does breathing deeply and inhaling the majestic scenery.  



As the Lakeland and nature poet William Wordsworth described it:
 "Alive to all things and forgetting all."

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Book Lovers' Day




Somewhat unfittingly for a day described as Book Lovers' Day, I have made a pile of paperbacks ready to donate to the Save the Children charity shop. It's all part of that mad phase I've described as giving up with aggression, although "reduction with passion" may actually be a more accurate description.

To be honest, I have always had a difficulty when it comes to parting with books but when it reaches the stage that they are piled on the floor, tumble out of wardrobes and are even stored in suitcases, you know it's time to take action and building yet more shelves isn't what we have in mind.

I'm not sure why it is that so many of us accumulate books, especially when they are not rare first editions. Perhaps we are all latent librarians at heart. 

I once read that bookcase displays were indicative only of a desire to demonstrate one's learning so all could applaud, but, as some of my paperbacks fall very definitely into the category of chick-lit, I am not convinced. On my part, I believe retention has been governed more by a prospect of either reading the book again or passing it on to someone with a brief endorsement. That said, some books have sat on our shelves so long that they have yellowed with age and although they have that wonderful attractive, musty smell they really would no longer be a joy to peruse and in some instances might even fall apart when you turn the pages. 

Sadly and save as a curio of doubtful scent, many of my old books serve no purpose although the sentimental attraction remains strong. Take the copy of Alice in Wonderland given to me when I was in hospital at the age of eight as an example, the typeface is unattractive, the odd drawings which it contains are crudely sketched, the cover is torn and, were I to seek to reread it for the nth time I'm sure there must be a free e-book version to download instead. It's hard, but the proper place for books like this is clearly re-cycling and if I donate them to a charity shop it may even be able to  make some money from having them collected.

Newer books are harder to part with but I have resolved to limit my paperback collection of read books to a few shelves of my favourite novels, ready to pass on and recommend. The others will be sold by Save the Children to raise funds for a good cause. There are occasions when I know I have lovingly fingered through a read book, recalling the story with enthusiasm and the memory of the enjoyment it brought at the time but I know I am not going to re-read every one of the books I have been hanging onto; they were enjoyable but there are so many others out there to  be brought into my home and read instead.

I hope that I am not making this sound easy. I'm keen and eager to see the task through but reducing let alone giving up treasured books is painfully difficult. Fortunately I have been helped by the discovery of Goodreads a wonderful app that allows me to keep a virtual bookshelf of  the books I have read, aided by a brief synopsis of the story and all sorted alphabetically by author or even title if I prefer.

Of course paperbacks are only half the story; there are of course still the hardbacks and non-fiction to sort, as well as "coffee-table" books, not to mention the suitcases I've already referred to and, after my initial sort-out, now a greater percentage of books to read before disposal even becomes an issue. However, the space created by giving up is exciting and liberating and where once I could never have envisaged a shelf without an array of books on it, now I see scope for simplicity and unencumbered living.

It's Book Lovers' Day and I love reading; is this normal?