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, 23 December 2014

My 2014 Video

Thanks to Auto Awesome by Google, here is a video of moments from this blog in 2014.

Viva La Revolucion

Recent news that there is to be a relaxation of the stand-off that has persisted for over 50 years between the USA and Cuba, was of great interest following Mister E's and my recent visit. We both agreed , however, that it would be sad to see Cuba transform into another westernised nation where market forces and money dictate society's values.

Indeed I rather fancy our own country's adoption of many of Cuba's values, when and come the revolution, I would propose that:

1. Goods be priced according to their social need and white rum in particular be freed of all duty so that everyone can afford to drink it on a daily basis
2. Fields should henceforth be ploughed by oxen and the mass application of toxic pesticides prohibited
3. Every home should have a dog and, if in the country, chickens wandering outside
4. Cars (unless 1950's models) should be replaced by horses and carts
5. The hard shoulder of motorways should be reserved for those horses and carts, as well as hitch hikers. All other vehicles should drive at an appropriate speed to accommodate them
6. No giant advertising boards be displayed other than for the purpose of exalting the aims of the revolution and its leaders and certainly  not for the purpose of marketing goods
7. Only 6 customers to be allowed inside a bank at any one time
8. Shop shelves to be stripped of all  luxury goods and choice
9. All music to be provided by live bands playing tunes everyone can wriggle their hips to
10. Everyone to promenade in the evening in their local park or square, and smile and talk to each other.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Christmas Festivity

Last week I met a former work colleague for lunch. How the memories came flooding back.

Yes she had a day's holiday but only because there had been no convenient time earlier in the year to take it. How often, when organisations prohibit employees from carrying over holiday from one year to the next, are you left with a glut of days that could have been enjoyed in the summer sunshine to spend on dull, cold, grey November or December days instead?

Yes she too had written and sent Christmas cards before the last posting date and had begun to wrap presents to place under the tree. However whilst I had been able to do this during daylight hours mid-week, she had been obliged to use her evenings and weekends.

Working in an office, the pressure begins to be applied as soon as someone fires the starting gun and you attend the first party of the season. They start in early December and continue until Christmas Eve when hot sausage rolls and mince pies are rolled out, although hardly to waive off starvation until your return to work.

On Thursday night I went to my only party of this year's Christmas season. Just a week before the big day, it seemed to be well-timed; the company was jovial and it gave me an opportunity to wear a dress and heels for the first time in several months. However, I can honestly say that I haven't missed the December rounds of  drinks and canapes when the primary aim is, of course, to  promote your business wares.

Far nicer this year to meet up with a colleague and end up giggling relentlessly when, after we had eaten, we proceeded to try on wigs in a neighbouring store.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Six Months and Still Counting - Reflections on a Sixth Month of Retirement

Yes it has now been six whole months since the big retirement date and I can honestly say I am still counting my blessings, as a result.

Of course most of month six was spent travelling which of itself is always a liberating and stimulating experience. We were away 18 days in total, something I had never managed during all my years at work. Best of all, not only did I return on a wave of excitement and inspiration but it is still with me. In those old office days, three days back behind my desk and it would have been a faded memory.

However, I confess that even I have  bored myself rigid with all 598 of my photographs, not to mention the Instagram retouched versions!

So instead I have now thrown myself into getting organised for Christmas. When you are working, leaving everything to the last fortnight becomes an overstressed panic. This year, it feels like oodles of time, especially now the youngest is home to help and to feed through even more ideas. 

I'm unclear whether Mister E feels the same. Upon our return there was a request for his professional services which he has agreed to fulfil on a part-time and flexible basis. He, therefore, did a day's work yesterday. All is not lost with him, as one day was sufficient to remind him of the pitfalls of commitment. He only does two more days before Christmas and is already maintaining that he will deserve a break!

Friday, 12 December 2014

Cuba Timeline

Bleary eyed since touching down at Gatwick on Tuesday morning I am conscious that I have not described our wonderful Cuban adventure. It is a fascinating country which we journeyed through in a small group of 12. Our companions were similar to ourselves, for the most part early retirees determined to spend their retirement years travelling and learning. Cuba gave us all the opportunity for endless conversations about its architecture, politics, people, history, music, food, vehicles, rum and cigars.

I cannot do it justice in a blog entry and can only recommend that, if at all possible you visit before it gradually emerges into the 21st century and begins to replicate life in the western world as we know it. For the time being, however, its buildings and agriculture are locked in a time warp along with its 1950's motor cars. The people are good humoured and benefit from free education until 18 and beyond, together with free health care with a ratio of doctors to patients that should be the envy of the UK.

There is no doubt however that the country is governed by a socialist regime with a one party communist system. There are evident shortages of many items that we take for granted and although mobile phones and the internet have recently been introduced, smart phones and wifi have not and computers are essentially accessed at libraries and other hubs.

The people work long hours and in the fields the techniques used are invariably those from a bygone age with ploughs pulled by oxen, tilling undertaken by hand, and horse and carts used for transportation.

There are no shortages of posters and, where we might be accustomed to marketing slogans, in Cuba they instead exhort the workers to remember that the revolution continues. Indeed Fidel Castro is accredited as pointing out after his 1959 victory that the real revolution had only just begun. 

We stayed and ate in government run hotels and restaurants. The menu was limited and invariably offered two or three of pork, chicken, pulled beef or fish all served with boiled rice and black beans. It was nevertheless most edible but when we arrived at a joint venture hotel by the beach to relax before returning home were spoiled by a large array at every mealtime of cosmopolitan food reflecting most parts of the globe.

Cuban music is a melodic fusion of African and Spanish sounds, giving rise of course to so many Latin American dances and it was not unusual to hear a band play and then intuitively people start to salsa. Indeed a celebration of the landing of the revolutionary leaders in The Granma Yacht on 2nd December 1956 coincided with our visit to Santa Clara when the square was taken over by couples dancing.

The whole country is a mass of colour from the painted houses to the lush green countryside which stretches between white sand beaches to lush tropical rainforest. There are humming birds and the tocororo, the country's national bird, has feathers that reflect the blue, white and red of the Cuban flag.

The best known exports are cigars which we saw being made by hand and rum which we tried on a daily basis (just to ensure that standards were being maintained you understand) in the most popular cocktails all invented in Cuba: the Mojito, Daiquiri and Cuba Libre.

UNESCO supports many projects there with the cities we visited boasting world heritage sites whilst areas of the countryside have been declared biospheres.

All in all it was a stimulating, thought provoking and inspiring journey made all the better by a helpful and knowledgeable local guide who accompanied us throughout and answered even our most difficult questions.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

From Jet-lagged to Anaesthetised

Strange thing about jet lag is that you go all day feeling absolutely exhausted and then suddenly can't sleep because you are still on Cuban time. 

I am unsure if it was a wise move but in my quest to sort out my body for further retirement adventures, I had agreed to have a minor op this morning. To be honest I felt so tired that lying on the trolley I did wonder if I could fall into a sound sleep without a general anaesthetic. I was not of course given that option and when I came round in the recovery room reckon I was suffering from a double dose of dopiness, at 5 am Cuban time.

The good news however is that I am prohibited from driving, operating machinery (apparently even the kettle counts) and cleaning for 24 hours. Good old Mister E, he's been cooking and making endless hot drinks for me. When I enquired about the cleaning, he was equally as helpful.

 "That will wait for tomorrow, then you can do it," he said.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Jet Lagged

We returned late last night from two weeks travelling around Cuba. Needless to say after a 21 hour journey door to door, no sleep on the overnight flight from Havana to Gatwick and a five hour time difference, I feel totally spaced out today.

I was concerned that  age might accentuate jet lag but am pleased to note that, if anything, it was far worse when I was younger. Clear evidence that there are other advantages to maturing that go beyond simply retiring.

Mind, the change in climate has come as a bit of a shock. You can  become accustomed to blue skies and heat very quickly!

Also it seems that Christmas is coming. Preparations in Cuba were very low key although tourist hotels invariably had a Christmas tree. Driving back from the airport yesterday we were conscious of the Christmas songs on the radio and, when we stopped at a supermarket to buy provisions, were hit by the tinsel and bauble marketing; all very much a stark contrast to the bare and basic shelves we saw whilst away. 

Once the fog of tiredness lifts, I guess I may have to think about some preparations of our own.