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.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Balmy Days

Who would have thought that on the last day of September Mister E and I would be sitting outside at 6pm enjoying glasses of ginger beer. Mind I also picked some strawberries from the garden today too!

We have certainly been fortunate in picking this summer to retire and not least when it seems to be going on and on. Although, I am beginning to become conscious of a pile of paperwork accumulating for me indoors I continue to stick to the old adage of "making hay whilst the sun shines."

With temperatures just over 20 degrees, it has been great weather to start the autumn clear up in the garden. In addition I also took what might be best described as a "nature walk" the purpose of which was to carry out a wild flower count for the National Plant Monitoring Scheme.

It's amazing how many species of plant you see when you look out for them. For instance this amazing Wild Teasel, which I walked right past initially without noticing.

There's also still plenty of colour at the edges of fields and in the hedgerows once you begin to look

How much I used to miss out on when weekends were crammed with chores and weekdays with work. 

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Office Wear

Thursday morning was a bit of a shock to the system. After 3 months of pretty much pleasing myself as to whether to get up bright and early or revel in some beauty sleep (my goodness looking in the mirror, I need it), I had no choice; I was working to someone else's timetable. 

It was just how I remembered going to work to be. The alarm clock rang; I ignored it; it rang again and 15 minutes later I got out of bed, showered, dressed in  a suit and ate breakfast before applying make-up. Gracious, I had forgotten how good that stuff is for covering minor imperfections (perhaps I don't need beauty sleep after all).

Then I was out of the door, driving away, all before 8.15 am.

The hardest part other than an alarm clock ringing? Wearing shoes with a heel! It seems I have more or less escaped that habit for three months. 

In case anyone wonders, I didn't go to an office but instead had a series of meetings to attend at two of the schools in the federation of which I am a governor. Clearly I must have managed to look the part of a professional again as several of the students addressed me as "Miss." Were they to have seen me in the gardening clothes I have been wearing today, I have a feeling that they may have resorted to another title.

It was, from my current perspective, a long day and I did not get home until 4pm. No guesses for what I did first; shoes off and then I changed the suit for some comfy jogging pants and a t-shirt. 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Bad Manners in the Empire

Despite waking up exhausted from the exertions of our trip to the South coast and back, it was business as normal today and time for some culture or at least a popular West End musical. Only on this occasion the venue was the Sunderland Empire and it was a matinee performance. The production was wonderful; the music; the colours; the scenery and special effects. Whoever came up with the ideas for all those animals? They were delightful.

I wish I could say the same for the audience. Young people and Southerners often get a bad press for rudeness but never in all my theatre visits have I been so appalled by the antics of what for the most part were people older than myself and, of course, all from the North. So many thought it acceptable to talk through the show, to push and shove their way to the seats, walking sticks brandished to good effect and elbows outstretched. Then, as the cast was taking its bow, it was like watching a tidal wave as people got up from their seats, squeezed across the rows, trampled on the feet of those watching the stage, turned their backs to the cast and hurled themselves towards the exits. The auditorium was still in darkness and they didn't care if they blocked the view of the stage for those giving applause for a great afternoon.

It will be a long time before I visit the theatre in the afternoon again if that is how fellow retirees and others with free time during the day think it is acceptable to behave! Neither age nor a surfeit of leisure time are an excuse for ill manners and lack of consideration for others.

An Empty Nest

We returned yesterday from a journey that has taken us to the heart of London, Stockbridge, Southampton, rural Leicestershire and Nottingham. 

It started with a need to convey the youngest and most of her worldly goods to University College London, where she begins her new life. Amazingly, with a little help from the unflappable SatNav our journey went very much as planned; at least there was no screeching at us to make a U-turn. Remarkably we were even able to find a car parking place, although at £9.30 an hour we didn't stay long. Back at home people have expressed disapproval at a parking charge of £0.60 per hour with the first half hour free, so goodness knows what they would make of London charges.

Our parting was a mixture of excitement and sadness. To think the youngest is now so grown up that she is going to be living away from us in one of the biggest cities in the world, is, of course, difficult to believe. It is nevertheless a great opportunity for her and for which she has worked hard. 

To distract ourselves from the parting, Mister E and I had decided to tag onto the trip a visit to Southampton Boat Show, so there we were in the middle of rush hour on Friday afternoon heading west along Oxford Street in what proved to be a very slow exit from the capital. Getting stuck behind a solitary tractor on a country lane bears no resemblance to that journey and to think there are people who do it regularly is beyond comprehension. 

In any event we stopped at Stockbridge where I had booked a small hotel for two overnight stays and from which it was an easy commute to and from the Boat Show the next day.

As ever we walked ourselves silly, considering the options and possibilities for future sailing. We did agree, however, that we had no desire to see the world aboard a floating tower block of the ilk that dominated the harbour on Saturday. Our eccentricities showed as Mister E spent what seemed like hours examining shackles and coils of rope whilst I tried to dry my eyes under a uniquely shaped electric hand dryer, only to find that it was actually a paper towel dispenser. Oh the joys of ageing gracefully!

On Sunday morning we headed North again, the only incident to slow down the journey being a trailer shedding a load of Christmas decorations across the A34. There is something slightly odd about seeing baubles and tinsel scattered all over the dual carriageway, especially when it is only September. Later however we also noticed a house with Santa Claus ornaments displayed on its windowsill and began to wonder if we really are missing something.

We made Leicestershire for lunch and an afternoon with old friends, sitting in their garden, it was so mild and sunny. Sadly, however, we had to leave in time to book into our next hotel on University Park in Nottingham, which is very close to where the eldest lives and is also reliable in providing a good breakfast. We need it, I can assure you, as our visits to Nottingham are always associated with physical labour. This time we were replacing floorboards ready for carpets to be fitted. There was a slight hiccup when Mister E drilled through an electric cable but fortunately the electrician was also there carrying out a routine check of the circuits and he was able to effect the necessary repair on the spot. Now not only do the new carpets look stunning, but the floors don't squeak either and our tenants still have electricity

Finally, after four nights away and 714 miles of driving, we came home to the empty nest. It is quiet. Mister E baked his bread alone. I stacked the dishwasher for the first time in months. Having always been a family who sit down to eat an evening meal together at the table and turn off the television before doing so, we were naughty: we ate our meal, plates on knees, in the living room with the television on. Times have indeed changed.

Later I might just place a sign at the front gate: "Cuckoo wanted!"

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Reflections on a Third Month of Retirement

It was three months ago today that I last worked and it really does feel a lifetime away. In the last month we have managed another trip away when I was able to put my increased fitness to the test. Not working, it really is so much easier to be physically active and also eat more healthily.

I still feel as though I'm taking baby steps towards pursuing my goals of creativity and adventure and at times as I seek to forge my new persona, there are moments of doubt as I can no longer identify myself with reference to my former career. As I have already mentioned in this blog, I am a complete and utter novice in my new way of living. Whilst most of the time that gives rise to complete hilarity, it also means that I have lost my safety net; I am a nobody, an infant with the whole world to explore and skills to learn in order to explore it.

Delacroix said that "those who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything." I have been telling myself this and indeed adopting it as my mantra as I move onwards and upwards freed from the shackles of the quest for perfectionism that governed my professional career.

There have been moments of self-doubt. Can I completely give up the intellectual stimulation of a fulfilling occupation? Will I end up mentally incapacitated without it?

Apparently not for there is a school of thought that in order to exercise your brain you should actually do things that you are not good at. Even Einstein reputedly said that you "should not pursue goals that are easily achieved." Music to my ears and forwards into month 4.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

When You are Ready

An old friend with whom I trained over 30 years ago and I have been comparing notes. Although she has just had a sabbatical between jobs, she has no intention of joining me in retirement just yet. She tells me that she gets intellectual stimulation from work that is missing from life at home.

I understand and empathise with her decision but I have either gone gaga or else get sufficient stimulation from the newspaper crossword and my other activities to satisfy my mental needs.

Everyone is different and whilst for years I thrived on the challenges thrown at me by my career, there came a point in time when I quite simply felt bored and exhausted with it. I realised that I did want to spend time with my family and achieve something else from life.

Retirement as opposed to a change in career was the obvious option for me and I now find not just stimulation but also fulfilment in working towards the challenges that I am setting myself on my road to creativity and adventure.

Monday, 15 September 2014

A Scottish Dilemma

We returned from a sailing trip in Scotland yesterday. In the quiet harbours of Kintyre there was muted evidence of the referendum that is about to take place. Indeed in East Loch Tarbert we spotted one man arriving in a motor-home to affix a pile of Yes notices to various lamp posts. Whilst one local yelled out, "No thanks," there was no other discernible reaction either in favour or against.

I think, therefore, on the basis of our most unscientific experience, we could conclude (like the opinion polls) that the outcome may be very close to 50:50.

The cruising grounds off the Scottish West Coast are incomparable and we again saw dolphins in abundance and seals. East Loch Tarbert itself is reminiscent of so many Cornish harbours but without the multitude of tourists or pasty shops. Instead we found a superb little restaurant where we ate out like kings on scallops (known locally as Queenies) and fresh fish from the fishing boats outside.

Of course, and depending on the outcome of the referendum we may end up with our own Scottish dilemma: a separate currency and passports at the border could make it easier to maintain a berth elsewhere.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Domestic Engineering

One of the hardest things for me in the transition from professional life to that of a retiree is that I am really rather unqualified and unaccomplished for my present status. 

After thirty years in an occupation that I had trained hard for,  I brought a wealth of experience to my position and had matured into something of an old hand to whom others looked for guidance.

My new role is harder. Obviously I can undertake domestic chores and whilst the outcome is generally satisfactory, I would struggle to declare  my cooking, needlework or DIY skills as perfect.

Similarly I am hardly an expert at any of the hobbies that I am working on and am heavily reliant on the expertise of others. I am conscious that I need practice, but at this stage of life it is hard to accept that I have moved from doing a job well to a situation where I am little better than a novice. Indeed it reminds me of a time a few years ago when, although a competent downhill skier, I tried cross-country skis for the first time and spent the afternoon on my bottom, albeit in fits of giggles. That's how retirement presently feels; it's great fun, but I'm not very good at it.

Mister E on the other hand has probably come to retirement better trained than most in the art of domesticity. He is a chemical engineer and it seems that even basic cookery excels with a knowledge of chemistry, whilst and in addition he understands how the plumbing, electrics, ironing board erection and even a simple cat flap work.

Totally shamed, I'm now wondering if I too need an engineering qualification.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

A Quest

After witnessing a number of unfortunate incidents in an overcrowded office car-park, I have been waiting until retirement to change my car.

A new car purchase is always a cause for dilemma in the Risover household, especially when there are 4 golden rules to which I adhere:
1. It must be a model that I have not owned before;
2. It must not be too big and definitely not too slow;
3. It must have a petrol engine and a manual gearbox;
4. It must have leather seats and aesthetically pleasing features.

This week I have visited a few garages, met a few salesmen and been given the feeling that I have left most of them scratching their heads not least in showrooms stocked with fabric seats and diesel engines.

Today, however, I rendered speechless the young man who was trying to extol the virtues of a sport- style seat with leather headrest and arms but a super-wool covered back and bottom. 

When I suggested that I may have to sit with a chamois leather under my posterior were we to strike a deal, he did concede that he could order full leather upholstery from the manufacturer but I would have to wait for up to 4 months for delivery. Instead, he persisted, I might however prefer to consider one of the many models on the premises and for which he was sure we could agree a very good price,

I sighed and responded that it was possible that I could be persuaded to overcome my aversion to a cloth seat by wearing leather trousers for driving.

Clearly the spectacle of Caree Risover in leather trousers was a source of much amusement to the poor gent who first blushed red and was then unable to contain his laughter at the image in his mind of yours truly behind the wheel. Suffice to say he could not continue his sales pitch.

I did however manage to arrange a test drive of something larger (with leather seats) as well as of its smaller cousin with the textile upholstery. If anyone has any lederhosen they could loan me for the experience I should be grateful if they would get in touch!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

A Test

The other day I was asked the question that I had anticipated but it still managed to take me by surprise.

"Have you really given up work altogether, or would you be able to act for a friend?"

I don't miss work; I don't miss working. Nevertheless, and for a brief moment, I hesitated, struggling with my answer.

The sense of wanting to help, of being unable to say "no" felt overwhelming. That is until common-sense stepped in and I offered my apologies: "I have indeed retired and am no longer covered by insurance to proffer assistance."

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Noticing the Surroundings

On our trip to the Lake District, it was good to have the time to wander through the countryside and onto the fells with nothing to worry about back in the office. Suddenly there was so much more to see without any distractions to my concentration. Rather than planning strategies for clients, I actually noticed and appreciated what was happening around me: the greenery, birds, clouds, reflections in the mountain tarns, the noise of flowing streams, the insects and wild flowers. When you are able to see it, there is an amazing world out there.

On the other hand there are some things that I do continue to take for granted and hardly notice. Hence, concentrating on the drive down the road to our accommodation in Langdale, I was startled by a squeal from one of my passengers in the back seat. Clattering over a cattle grid, to which I had never given a second thought, our guest from London who had never before come across such a device, thought the back wheels on my car had collapsed! 

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

My Fitness Challenge - How is it Going?

I have just returned from  a week in Langdale, one of our favourite haunts in the Lake District. We stay in a wooden lodge overlooking the Langdale Beck and can walk out onto the fells without even thinking about turning on a car engine.

Previous visits have often seen my forays curtailed as my knees have creaked heading onwards and upwards

This time, however, my fitness challenge demonstrated its rewards when I firstly failed to succumb to breathlessness on the steep trek into the next valley and then secondly the next day "summitted" higher than I have managed for years.

However, upon my return, the icing on the cake was being awarded "Gym Member of the Month." I think it probably has something to do with most other members being away the whole of August or else my face being redder than anyone else's. Whatever the reason, it was humbly received; we all need encouragement and to see proof of the benefit of the steps we are taking.