Planet Retirement can sometimes be a bewildering place and with a scarcity of UK retirement blogs out there (other than those proffering financial advice) I thought I'd keep my own.

Please visit from time to time and do add your comments. Popular posts and those highlighting my journey are specifically pinpointed on the right hand side together with a list of topics covered. Alternatively you may prefer to look at the Summary or the Tips from Wisdom Acquired or even our Have Visited List with its retirement atlas and dip in and out of the blog using the links given.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

All Aboard for Pampering

Mister E and I may be retired but we still enjoy being pampered now and again; who says you have to be working hard to deserve a treat?

Yesterday offered one of those occasions when we were spoiled with a train trip on board the Northern Belle, previously operated and restored by the Venice Simplon Orient Express.

It was a day for lounging back in a plush seat, eating and drinking everything put in front of us (and there was quite a quantity) whilst watching the scenery glide serenely past. The luxury of our surroundings and the attentive service from uniformed staff all added to the sense of occasion and enjoyment.

We were entertained by wandering musicians and a magician on our figure of eight route around County Durham and North Yorkshire, ending up eventually back where we started at Darlington Station. Just like my retirement so far really; there is no obvious destination but the journey getting there is immensely pleasurable.

Friday, 20 April 2018

The Sounds of Spring

The temperature, which until this week seemed to have been in denial about the arrival of Spring, may have delayed my early flower display but it doesn't seem to have stopped the annual bird mating season. Male songbirds have been launching into full throttle from daybreak. I love the idea of living in harmony with nature and there's nothing more delightful than the melodic  dawn chorus of a choir of blackbirds and songthrushes.

Unfortunately for us, this year, one out of tune thrush has been welcoming the dawn every morning from a strategic position on the roof above our bedroom. "Cherie, Cherie, Cherie," he has been chanting, "Pull it up, pull it up, pull it up."

I could almost feel sorry for Cherie, except she isn't the only one fatigued by his instruction which somedays has continued unabated, or so it has seemed, until dusk.

So could anything be worse than losing sleep daily as a result of a discordant feathered creature and an early bird who never actually catches or rather pulls up the worm?

Well the backing group hasn't helped: two lovestruck starlings on a tree branch outside our window, the male of which proudly demonstrates his powers of mimicry as he raucously shrills in echo to the thrush, "Shree, shree; here we go, here we go." 

Johnny Thrush and the Romantics; it's easy to appreciate why not every retired town-dweller is looking to downsize to the country.

Fortunately and perhaps it is just coincidence but two phenomenally warm days seem to have brought a halt to the proceedings. Miraculously where there were only bare twigs at the beginning of the week, buds have now started to appear and open on the trees and bushes and all colours of flowerheads are now nodding in the garden. I am fervently hoping that the mad menage of two legged crooners has matured too and perhaps will now concentrate its efforts on nestbuilding and raising young.

Of course, it's not only birds that can create a cacophony of sound. Have you ever heard a village worth of lawnmowers, all making the first cut of the season together? Well, it may have seemed a strange choice but despite a sudden and twenty degree hike in the temperature over the previous week, rather than relaxing in the garden and living according to and in attunement with the weather as I have constantly been advocating in retirement, we fled 40 miles to Newcastle's city centre. 

To be honest we did need to view some light fittings but also enjoyed a good walk along the Quayside (laughing at the surprising display of palm trees in tubs at 55 degrees North, but entirely appropriate for the continental feel to the day) as well as through some of the many squares and back streets. We ate out and also crossed the river to take in an art exhibition at the Baltic, "Turning Forty Winks into a Decade" by Sofia Stevi, suggesting she hadn't been getting much sleep either. Perhaps that out of tune song thrush gets about.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The Effect of the Sun

Just like last year, Spring sunshine makes a sudden and unexpected appearance and I get an urge to declutter. I sometimes think that it's a shame I don't live nearer the Equator because with more sunshine, I really could get this job tackled. Or perhaps I wouldn't because when it comes to reducing stuff, I truly suffer from complete indecisiveness.

Take today when I discovered that I own three pairs of brown shoes, none of which I have actually worn since I retired. Nevertheless I convinced myself that I should retain at least one pair, but which was it to be? I tried on them all. There was a comfortable but slightly worn couple, a very elegant but tighter twosome, and a polished and, if I recall correctly, expensive pair.

Decisions, decisions, decisions. 

Talk about procrastination. In the end I persuaded myself I would be best served by retaining all three, or would I?

Then Mister E appeared and I explained my dilemma. "That's easy," he said, "Give away all of them!"

I was astounded. This from the man whose old clothes have to be holed, stained and discoloured before he accepts their best use is as a rag.

Maybe I sounded a little whining as I explained that I did need to keep one pair just to match the brown handbag that I haven't used since retiring either and who knows when brown accessories may be just what I need. 

"In that case," he advised dispassionately pointing with his index finger, "You should keep those; they look the best."

Talk about taste, maybe I should deploy Mister E as my personal guru a little more often, as he had correctly identified the expensive pair. It was after all a decision I can live with and the collection designated for the charity shop was duly added to.

In the meantime the sun has been affecting Mister E too. No he hasn't taken to sorting his wardrobe. Instead the golden rays seem to bring out the engineer in him. So today was the day he drained our central heating system and then couldn't refill it because of an almighty airlock and/or accumulation of sludge. Maybe in retrospect I ought to have encouraged him to have gone to that Activated Sludge Conference before we retired.

Instead I can only hope that the sun stays around a bit longer, otherwise we'll have no heating and no primeval urge to fix it!

Thursday, 12 April 2018

With Apologies to Jigsaw Aficionados

Now I know there are multitudes of people who love them but I am really not a jigsaw type of person. The idea of spending hours piecing together something that is only intended to be pulled apart again has always seemed to me a monumental waste of effort; not the kind of creativity I am looking for in retirement at all.

However, faced with a day of rain falling in torrents during the youngest's recent visit, we decided to tackle a rather nasty 1,000 piece puzzle challenging ourselves to complete it in one go. Foolhardy as well as stubborn, it took us 6.5 hours. On that basis it's just as well that time is plentiful in retirement, although I understand champion puzzlers (apparently such people do exist) would complete it in less than half that time.

So did we get anything out of our effort?

There was certainly no sense of achievement, just relief, finishing it only through sheer determination. Unlike walking to the top of a hill and admiring the view, a completed puzzle looks like the picture on the box that you see from the very beginning, thus for us detracting from any sense of reward. 

Sitting on the floor for such a long time (yes, I'm sure experts do them at tables) my knees ached as did fingers unaccustomed to such an excessive bout of directed use. Secretly, however, I was a little pleased to discover that those aches were shared with the youngest and clearly had nothing whatsoever to do with age. Similarly, my eyesight wasn't alone in being strained by its concentrated  application. Moreover, we were both equally exhausted when the task was done. 

Clearly it's an activity at which generations can compete equally, requiring no handicap or headstart and you don't have to get out of breath. Yet still the idea of entering a Jigfest is anathema to me.

Whilst early retirement is an opportunity to recapture the freedom and self-indulgent use of time, invariably abused and unappreciated in adolescence, so far it doesn't extend to going right back to my childhood years. I am still at a point where I can think of rival demands upon my time. Will the future deliver me to a point where I can truly live in the present, freed from all pressing requirements? If it does then, come a truly bad weather day, who knows, I might just be persuaded to attempt another jigsaw but it would have to be no more than a quarter of the size.