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.




Sunday, 19 March 2017

Magna Carta Part 3




This week I read "I Am Malala," gaining an insight into the growth of the influence of the Taliban in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, culminating in the shooting of Malala Yousafzai. We are hearing so much about the growth of populism in the West that sometimes one needs to be reminded that the political situation is far more dire in other parts of the world. The populace that could least afford it readily parted with cash and jewellery initially in the mistaken belief that the Taliban would bring about much needed change and so alleviate the difficulties under which they were living. Illiterate and uneducated people, suffering as a result of a lack of action by politicians and disinterest as to their plight, actually thought the Taliban might improve their lot. Malala is, of course, described as the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban.


After my visit to Runnymede the previous week, it was probably a fitting book to read. King John, forced to sign the Magna Carta by his Barons after squeezing as much gold from them as he could (in part to fight in Crusades against the Muslims of the Middle East), came the closest the UK has ever got  to having a written constitution. For the first time in the modern world the concepts of freedom and equality under the law were acknowledged in writing. Runnymede is even referred to as the birthplace of Human Rights' legislation.


Does anything really change though? 


The Kennedy Memorial on land gifted to the USA is also at Runnymede. The Memorial Stone sits at the top of 50 steps (one for each of the states) and is inscribed with an extract from the Declaration of Freedom in the inaugural address given by President JF Kennedy. 

"This acre of English ground was given to the United States of America by the people of Britain in memory of John F Kennedy President of the United States 1961-63 died by an assassin's hand 22 November 1963 Let every nation know whether it wishes us well or ill that we shall pay any price bear any burden meet any hardship support any friend or oppose any foe in order to assure the survival and success of liberty."


I think that there are certain leaders in the world today who could do with visiting this special place before we all turn in on ourselves and unpick the enormous progress made in the twentieth century towards lasting peace and understanding between nations and nationalities.

You may not agree with what New Labour stood for, but the mantra of "Education, Education, Education," surely has a resonance in these dark days. Certainly Malala and her father were and still are determined to fight for the right of all children, including girls, to be educated. In the words of Save the Children's Every Last Child campaign: "every child deserves a chance to grow up healthy, learning and safe."



As a prequel to reading Malala's book it was probably also fitting that our next stop was Oxford, a city steeped in learning since at least the 12th century. A reminder too though of the connection between the Church and education; historically the power of the Church over those who could neither read nor write; self enlightenment and development through literacy, study and understanding.







Oh my goodness, how I just love retirement. There's so much time to explore, absorb and then, almost best of all, try to collect my thoughts to write a blog entry about it afterwards.







Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Losing My Marbles and Other Things


I have experienced a difficult few days when my joy at becoming a scatty being has been offset by the realisation that this is not the state of nirvana I have been seeking in retirement. To throw away years spent honing my organisational skills and memory capacity is not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow after all.

I may be searching for a simpler life but this does not mean I also want a simpler mind. Terrifyingly, in my quest for simplification, I may just have overdone it.


It all started, like the birth of modern democaracy, at Runnymede. In the process of taking one of a number of photographs, I failed to realise that I had dropped my camera case. Half a mile later the omission registered, steps were retraced and the bag was retrieved from the damp grass on which it was lying.

Never satisfied, however, I excelled myself the following morning. I must confess that I do have a previous history where hotel room key cards are concerned. Consequently I have vowed to be scrupulously careful in my handling of them, ever aided by all kinds of dire warnings from Mister E should I dare to even think of losing another. So it was that I set off for a pre-breakfast dip in the hotel pool, dutifully hanging onto the keycard at all costs. I waved it at the  man at the desk in order to enter the swimming area and promptly forgot all about it. I remembered, of course, when Mister E enquired as to its whereabouts, after I had knocked on our room door for him to open it.

Once again we retraced our steps but this time to no avail. So, original keycards cancelled, new ones provided and a full English breakfast consumed, we set out to walk along the Thames and into Oxford, a gentle stroll from where we were staying. After a while, I was obliged to stop so that I could adjust what was beginning to be a most uncomfortable sock. I untied my lace, removed my foot from shoe intending to smooth out the wrinkles which I could feel accruing but could find none. I peered into my shoe and there smiling up at me was the missing keycard. I had put it in a safe place after all.

Well you might think that would be the end of my appalling lapses for one weekend but worse was to follow. On returning home on Sunday, I opened the cloak cupboard to hang up my jacket and hanging from my peg was an item I did not recognise. Closer examination suggested that it was a similar colour and style to my winter coat but a size smaller and much more battered than I could recall. Somebody, somewhere must be wearing a woollen navy coat that's rather more generous across the chest and significantly smarter than theirs used to be.

Finally, just when you think your memory won't play any more tricks on you, at least not if you concentrate really hard, I lost my watch. It was AWOL for 40 hours during which time I had any number of imaginary conversations with the insurance company and police explaining how we must have been burgled in the dead of night without realising because I had definitely left it on the bathroom window ledge and, despite checking under the soap, toothpaste and even in the plug hole of the sink, it had disappeared without a trace. I found it late this afternoon, twinkling on the floor of the eldest's now vacated bedroom (yes he has flown to New Zealand), cupped in the sleeve of a discarded and dirty sweatshirt. How it got there shall remain one of life's mysteries.

So, enough of this carefree living; there are occasions when it is almost as stressful as working full-time. Indeed another valuable lesson has been learnt: just like everything else in life, the succesful navigation of  retirement needs ongoing organisational and observational skills . Disengagement of the brain can only lead to disaster.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Leaping Forward



In the twilight of my working years, I began to accumulate a list of jobs that I thought I would leave until retirement. Obviously there were the mega tasks like decorating but there were also any number of simple chores and whilst, in an initial wave of enthusiasm, I may have cleaned the iron and screwed a wobbly handle or two back on, I confess that, almost three years on, for the most part the list remains to be tackled. 

"Life's too short to stuff a mushroom," (per Shirley Conran) remains my mantra even on Planet Retirement.

However, today I notched up a significant success. I kid you not but for the first time in a decade, I finally cleaned, sorted and tidied the airing cupboard. Moreover OCD got the better of me and I bagged and labelled duvets, pillows, and bed linen not used on a daily  basis. In the course of an afternoon, the cupboard went from chaotic muddle to methodical order.

One small step indeed but it really does represent a giant leap forward. In my quest for simplification, it helps to know what towels and bedsheets you have and where exactly they are. Playing hunt the pillow case could make an entertaining party game but eliminating the need to dig for buried duvet covers is, I assure you, joy itself.

 

Saturday, 25 February 2017

The Nest is Rather Full




One of the pitfalls of letting the property that the eldest was living in is, of course, that he is now homeless. Fortunately I understand that completing academic papers and visiting friends whilst killing time awaiting one's Viva can be done from essentially anywhere. In this instance, however, "anywhere" just happens to be back at home with his parents.

It is really not so long ago that I was recording our status as empty nesters and wondering what Mister E and I might do if  one of our children joined the ranks of the Boomerang Generation and returned.

Experience now tells me that the major downfalls seem to be an endless shortage of food in the fridge and a laundry basket that is piled higher than ever. Still it can't be so bad for I haven't yet started to fantasise about returning to work to escape the cuckoo. Besides I have it on good authority that his flight to New Zealand is already booked. Mind he missed a trick; another few weeks at home and we might even have bought his air ticket for him!

 

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Bombogenesis





The youngest flew to San Diego last weekend in order to play in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament (frisbee being a prime reason for her wanting to study in the USA this year). Unfortunately she was subject to travel disruption arising from the tropical storm which has been battering California. The BBC described it as a bombogenesis; what a descriptive word.

In any event and as a result she landed two hours late at approximately midnight. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, to get up on Saturday morning and find that, despite the eight hour time difference, she was available to chat via What's App. 

"You're up early," she said.

"It's actually 8 am," I replied, thinking she was still on Texan time which is only six hours behind, and had inadvertently assumed I was clutching my phone at the unearthly hour of 6 am.

"I meant for a Saturday," came the response.

Curiously I no longer take advantage of the slow start that was always offered by a weekend morning in my working years. Is it because in retirement there's too much to cram in, even on a weekend off, to waste it lying in bed, or perhaps because I generally awake at the point where I am fully rested rather than at a pre-set time on the alarm clock? Certainly I don't think I have yet reached that fabled stage of life where I might rise early because I no longer need so much sleep.

I'm unsure of the analysis but my reply was on point: "There's no such thing as Saturday in retirement."

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Beautiful People and a Council Tip



The DIY activity at the house the eldest has been living in at Nottingham reached mammoth levels over the last 10 days. With the eldest safely out of the way in a ski resort with Mister E, I once again drove that familiar 120 mile route down the motorway, paintbrush in hand. I spent five days cleaning, decorating and meeting with the letting agent we have appointed to manage the property, now that the eldest has submitted his thesis and is pursuing his destiny elsewhere.

It was not all work in that on three evenings I gave myself a break to sneak out and meet old friends from my own university days in the same city. One dear lady I had not in fact seen for 27 years and another only once before in all that time. It was of no consequence; time rolled back and nothing had changed. Not only do we still have much in common but we are all now beautiful people. The days of acne angst, emotional crises and a lack of confidence are all long gone and we have emerged as wiser, interesting and more graceful beings. Those still working have found a new balance between work and leisure, opting for part-time and flexible positions as they manoeuvre towards retirement and those who have taken the plunge are filling up their days with exercise, hobbies, travel and voluntary work. Pilates and a desire to work hard at retaining fitness and good health was a common theme. It has taken until our sixth decade but at last we seem to have life sorted; we are in control and, we agreed, feel comfortable with ourselves.

At least I thought I did, nodding vehemently when the suggestion was put. However, returning home to North Yorkshire utterly exhausted and then adding to it with a series of fitness classes and other activities I felt particularly drained two days later. So it was that at 9.05 on Friday morning I was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, contemplating getting out of bed whilst revelling in the thought that I would have a weekend "off"(yes even in retirement you need the odd one or two of those). 

Then, suddenly, it happened; the telephone rang and my  plans, or lack of them, were thrown into disarray. It was the letting agent confirming that within the space of two days he had found the ideal tenant (great news) but....... he wanted to move in immediately. A hasty family conference with Mister E and the eldest, fortunately with all limbs intact despite their escapades, agreed yes. After I had confirmed our concurrence, panic set in: three rooms still to decorate; all the eldest's worldly goods to remove; more cleaning; IKEA furniture to build; blinds to cut to size then fit; utilities to transfer; keys and instructions to sort. What kind of mad plan was this? Could it actually be achieved in a weekend?

It could and it was but the days were long and hard and when it reached the point that we were held up by traffic trying to reach the Council tip before it closed at 4pm, I could have cracked emotionally. Arriving with what I thought were ten minutes to spare, we were greeted by a five minutes to closing announcement and I found myself running from skip to skip, throwing unwanted chipboard, empty paint cans, cardboard, textiles and broken household goods as I went. There was no grace and beauty left; this was ugly but it was effective.

We finally left late on Monday evening, in a car weighed down with everything from bedding to a bicycle. We had stretched ourselves so hard that we had skipped lunch and hardly noticed, the hunger pangs long gone, as a muted and drained contemplation of our achievement dominated the two hour journey home. There was no strength left to unpack at the other end just a warm bath, pyjamas and bed.

Two days later, I have lower back muscles still screaming in agony (although Fitball and Zumba sessions in the interim may not have helped); I remain totally confused as to the day and date; our hall is piled high with bags and dirty washing but the tenant has moved in. 

I have crossed this weekend off (a pile of books at the ready) and on Monday I shall once again emerge as a serene being.