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.




Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Reflections on a Fifth Month of Retirement

As well as reaching the dizzy anniversary of five months' retirement, I am also conscious that it was last November that I began this blog with a statement that retirement was no longer a vague notion. In the early days I was filled with all kinds of concerns but once I actually took the plunge and embraced retirement, everything has been going more or less swimmingly.

In the first four months, however, we were blessed with dry, warm weather and trips away. The last month has been a little different. Yes we have made short trips to Edinburgh and London but we haven't been away for any significant period.

I am someone who has always been accustomed to dashing around, a little like a plate spinner in a circus, running from one stick to another in an effort to keep the plates on the top revolving. Whilst I never intended retirement to become quite the same hive of activity, I am also determined that it should turn its back on the humdrum of repetitiveness.

Having stripped work out of the schedule, for the last few months I have replaced it with the jobs I never had the opportunity to do, people I had rarely found the time to see,  a fitness schedule and various trips that I have wanted to make. Whilst neither the eldest or youngest has been at home for the last two months, there are other plates that I still keep spinning, so I have set and marked exam papers; continued with my activities as a school governor and charity trustee; pursued various hobbies and interests.  I have felt so busy that I have even deferred the start of an interior design course that I want to be one of my main pursuits, certainly in early retirement,

Whilst I have resisted getting into any kind of proper routine, I am conscious that it has been pilates on Monday, yoga on Wednesday, trustees' meeting on the first Wednesday of the month, governors' meetings on the second Tuesday etc.. Immediately it lends a different perspective to my life as a retiree. Days are so varied that there is no doubt time seems to move slower than at any time since I was at university and life is full, enjoyable and almost hedonistic. 

Sometimes, however, there have been opportunities to sit and ponder.

Perhaps its the meditative element of the yoga I have taken up or maybe the start of a crushing lull after the high of a summer of activity and the euphoria of leaving work, but I've even  been thinking about that old nugget: the meaning of life. 

I am aware that without a job, people can find that in retirement they lose a sense of identity and self-worth. I feel no loss in that respect and do not accept that it is work that gives life a purpose, or at least not in my case, for I am still a mother, wife and daughter. They are all far more important roles than that I ever held as a professional and I can also now give more to my other roles as a school governor and charity trustee.

No the pondering goes much deeper. Is it actually permissible to be spending my time doing what I want to do, and, save for periods devoted to voluntary causes or family needs, essentially simply enjoy myself? Is it right that self-fulfilment can be reached by enjoyment rather than struggling in a hair shirt? Is it acceptable not to be on a permanent mission to alleviate the ills in society? Does it depend on one's religious and spiritual perspective as to whether I am in a good place or heading for eternal damnation?

Is it time to head to the library for a philosophy book or even see a therapist?

I firmly believe that there is nothing at all wrong with enjoying life in whatever way you please so long, of course, as you cause no harm to others in doing so. However, in the transition that I am still making there appears to  be a sense of guilt for being able to spend all day considering a crossword clue should I so wish (no I haven't actually done that) or reading the paper from cover to cover (being totally honest, it doesn't, of course take me that long) when previously there were always other priorities.

It feels alien to live so much in the present that I can do whatever I feel like doing, making my selection based for the most part on what gives me the greatest pleasure. Finally in month five I have met the demon that could destroy my feelings of well-being in retirement: my conscience and, after more than three decades of prioritising other people's problems, it's asking if it's right that I am no longer doing that.

This is a demon that I am, of course, well on the way to conquering because deep down I know that, however strange it may feel, there really isn't anything wrong with enjoying life. I no longer buy chocolate as a treat to eat at my office desk, having such a great time I don't need the cocoa buzz. When the conscience pricks, however, I tell it the same as I did when I devoured that chocolate: I deserve it!


Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A Good Read



During these short dark days of November, I have discovered that very little beats snuggling up on the sofa with a blanket and a good book.

I know there are people who make a point at work of putting their feet on the desk at lunchtime and opening up a paperback. It was something, however, that I could never do, preferring either a blast of fresh air or alternatively (and regrettably far more likely) to continue working with the aim of finishing at a reasonable hour.

Fortunately some ten years ago, I was involved in the formation of a Village Reading Group. It has proved to be my salvation in that I have been compelled to read at least one book every six weeks so as to join in the discussion as to its literary merits and, at the same time, enjoy the convivial company of a group of keen readers and their hospitality, as we meet in each other's homes on a rotational basis.

Yesterday evening was our scheduled meeting and, despite retirement, I still only started the book (All in One Basket by the late Duchess of Devonshire) on Sunday afternoon. It comprises of a variety of what are essentially "cuttings" of various articles that she penned for magazines or newspapers or alternatively speeches that she gave. Whilst eminently readable and full of dry wit and an acerbic humour, it was still somewhat tedious to sit down and try to digest them in one go. 

So again, yesterday lunchtime, I snatched another two hours on that sofa until other pursuits distracted me. However, and with a matter of only three hours to go, I was essentially saved by a queue at the Medical Centre. I know that GPs are coming in for a certain degree of criticism lately but we benefit from a wonderful rural practice where all the staff know you and are friendly and, except for three evenings a week, every surgery is operated by the doctors on a "drop in, no appointment required" basis. 

From the queue I encountered 10 minutes before the first consultation, I could only assume that everyone waiting had taken their places up to an hour before. It was a mad situation and the noise was churned out at high volume with acquaintances and friends greeting each other, neighbours chatting, children playing with toys and performing for a ready made audience and then, every now and again, a doctor or the practice nurse calling out for a patient to join them in a consulting room.

Nonetheless a chair in the corner beckoned and although it wasn't quite my sofa, I settled down and finished the book just before my turn to see the doctor. Back in my pre-retirement days, I would never have had the foresight to have taken the book with me or patience to have read it in a crowded waiting room. Best of all two of the staff in the dispensing pharmacy attached to the practice had read it too, so I even managed to explore a few ideas and criticisms ready for the Group meeting.

Hopefully as the days shorten still more, I can increase the number of books I am reading and maybe even finish them without a trip to the doctor.



Friday, 14 November 2014

A Little Space


So here it is: a photo of the new chair taken with the new camera referred to yesterday.

Thanks to a 9am meeting for me at a local school, Mister E was apparently able to proceed in peace. There are some things you just can’t do together and for which we all need our own space.


Thursday, 13 November 2014

Bits and Pieces



What is it about modern life that has to make everything so complex?

This week I have finally got round to replacing both my camera and computer chair. The previous camera lasted nearly 8 years but recently succumbed to a large crack and is now held together by sticky tape. The chair I am presently sitting on suffers eruptions of foam from its stuffing, messing the floor as well as causing discomfort to my posterior from the gaping hole in the seat.

The trouble is that mastering the art of using any electronic device requires a great deal of patience and training. The new camera came with two instruction manuals, a CD rom and a link to two websites. It's little wonder that I never fully utilised all the functions on my last camera. Now I'm retired, however, I thought that, without work to interrupt, learning all the various functions would be a breeze.

Not so, if I want to use it to its optimum, there's at least another two or three afternoons of hard graft to be put in to properly understand its capabilities and then presumably weeks of practice. 

As for the chair. I only got as far as reading the first paragraph of its instructions which pointed out that a drill is required to properly piece it together. A job for the engineer here I thought, calling for Mister E. He seemed quite animated at the thought of a construction job but once he'd spread the bits all over the floor, he realised that he couldn't make it without reading the instructions and suggested leaving it until tomorrow.

Now in Caree's Utopia, chairs would all be delivered ready to sit on and cameras really would work by pointing and shooting.




Monday, 10 November 2014

The Cinema



I can hardly believe it; I have just been to the cinema twice in less than 48 hours. Once to a large multiplex and today to a smaller auditorium in a converted station. What makes the two visits most unusual is that I cannot honestly remember when I was last there: a year perhaps, maybe even two. The entrance to the multiplex was a vast hangar of neon lighting, popcorn and posters. The converted station by comparison is an historic delight, lacking only the steam train puffing through what is now a bistro area.


With darker and colder days, watching a film seems like an enticing activity and, in the run up to the Oscars and other award ceremonies, there are invariably some exciting film releases.

In our pre-retirement life, we would always intend to see the films that were commended to us by friends or rated in independent reviews. Regrettably we never quite got ourselves sorted in time and occasionally resorted to buying the DVD a few months later or invariably not even managing to do that before the film was given its television première when, frequently, we would forget to either watch or record it.

Now, in what I shall refer to as "my double decker moment," (you wait for ages for a bus and then two come along at once), I have seen both "Gone Girl" and "Mr Turner."

The first was a psychological thriller with unexpected twists along the way and an ending that I had not anticipated. The second was a masterpiece of acting by Timothy Spall as he took on the role of an eccentric JMW Turner.

If I had been working, I have no doubt that they would both have been on my To See List. In retirement it has however turned from a wish list to a check-list, with entries ticked off.


Sunday, 9 November 2014

Empty Nest Syndrome


The youngest arrived on Saturday morning and left to return to London this afternoon. It was a quick visit but we managed to squeeze in a trip to see my mother, a meal out, a visit to the cinema and a good old fashioned Sunday dinner. It all felt very busy, although the youngest has never been loud, the house was noisier than we have become accustomed to, and there just wasn't as much time to spend together as we would have liked.

Seeing her off at the station was a moving experience but, of course, it's only a few more weeks until she'll be home for a month.

Upon my return and, solely out of interest I assure you, I found myself looking up Empty Nest Syndrome on Wikipedia. Apparently all parents are susceptible but those who are dealing with other stressful events such as, and it cites "retirement" as a specific example, are particularly vulnerable! Oh dear!

However, it does point out that coping mechanisms include pursuing one's own hobbies and interests (full marks there); keeping a journal (presumably this blog counts); taking advantage of the opportunity to spend more time with your spouse (Mister E and I virtually walk hand in hand into the sunset together); even (but I do draw the line at this one) going back to work!

Whilst I sympathise with those who do suffer from depression when their children leave for university, I can probably draw comfort from the fact that my lack of desire to return to work must be illustrative of the fact that life feels rather full at the moment. So much so that I would struggle to consider myself afflicted by such a syndrome and instead am somewhat proud that, together with Mister E we have prepared the youngest for living away, even in a city as vast as London and as different to our home village as one could imagine.

Of course we keep in touch by a variety of means that were never available years ago, including Face-time, direct messaging, e-mails, text and mobile phone. I even send postcards although I haven't yet got down to letter writing and would certainly never expect one back if I did.

The article in Wikipedia concludes however by referring to a recent trend, described as the Boomerang Generation. It seems that the offspring you thought had moved out, sometimes return! I'll really know how much I'm enjoying retirement if, should such a scenario seem likely in the future, I find Mister E and I discussing downsizing!




Thursday, 6 November 2014

Shopping and Packing


I don't go shopping any more.

Well that's not quite true but when you live 10 miles from the local town and you're not going in every day to work, the High Street and its shops begin to acquire a rarity value. Yes, we still eat, so yes we still visit the supermarket (although to be honest now even find the time to browse delicatessens, butchers and greengrocers which do actually still exist).

What I don't do so often is impulse buy; with 5 lunchtimes a working week, there was an inevitable temptation to do so when the real motive, of course, was simply to pop out for a breath of fresh air.

Now a shopping trip is pre-planned and has a purpose. As a result I go into shops less frequently than before and there is an objective for each visit. This week, however, I was side-tracked. Perhaps it was the large sign saying 50% off or maybe, knowing that my suitcase virtually fell apart on our return flight from Greece last month, I was sub-consciously looking out for a replacement. Either way, I made an unplanned purchase of a wheeled hold-all  but am, of course, overjoyed with it, anticipating that there may be an opportunity or two to use it in the future.

When I was working, holidays were a mad panic where I would first have to undertake manic hours to clear my desk, sometimes leaving so much dictation that it was not even all typed in my absence. There have been occasions when I have gone into the office at 6am to finish jobs, before leaving on holiday later the same morning and others where I have stayed until 10pm the night before.

All trips were characterised by packing in a rush when it was a question of throwing as many suitable items as I could muster into whatever bag I could find within the limited time left. I would ensure that I at least had my passport, travel tickets and credit card, taking the view that anything else if forgotten could be bought en route. It didn't quite work out the time Mister E stayed at home to work and I took the eldest and youngest on a self -drive holiday without my driving licence, but you live and learn.

In retirement, the process has proved to be more leisurely. I have been able to pile the items that I want to take on the bed, consider carefully their suitability and any other options. I have a toilet bag that is now always packed and ready simply to drop into my main bag. I have time to label my luggage after checking beforehand to establish the exact address for our destination. All in all I can arrive on holiday feeling relaxed and prepared and not ready to flop from the stress and turmoil of getting there.

Better still, whilst away there are no mobile phones to answer, e-mails to check nor mountains of post and messages building on a desk awaiting my return. At home the ironing has been done, the house is tidy and all bills settled before we leave.

You know what, travelling is now so easy and exhilarating that I can't wait to get packing and use that new bag!


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Isolation, Pressure and Compromises


It would be wonderful if this was a picture of my greenhouse and garden but it was actually taken in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh last week. Still I have been working on my own autumnal vegetation and, bit by bit, that end of season tidy-up is beginning to show results.

The dip in temperatures this week means that, with the weather staying dry, there has been time each day to devote to:
 Chores and creativity indoors, and
 Pruning, shredding, digging and creativity outdoors, once the air temperature has warmed and before the sun disappears in what almost seems like the mid-afternoon.

I know that there are people who insist that there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. However those same people generally don't go hot air ballooning when it's blowing a hurricane outside or cook a Sunday roast when it hits 30 degrees and everyone else is tucking into salad on the patio.

The great thing I've discovered about this time of the year, however, is that retirement allows you to take advantage of two hour windows of sunshine and I've begun to fit my day around the conditions.

With so much to complete before winter kicks in, I do feel as though I'm on a tight timetable. I am also conscious that since returning from Edinburgh my diary has not been as sociable as recently. As a result walking to the postbox seemed like a big event as I waved and chatted to a number of people and I even tried to strike up a conversation in the middle of a delicate balancing exercise in Pilates. A warning sign perhaps that retirement could become a time of splendid isolation were I to let it and that deadlines and the pressures that go with them are for those who work, not those seeking to enjoy life. 

Suitably admonished, I have checked my diary but the last few days are definitely a blip. Free time over the next week looks as though it may be in short supply. Oh dear, clearing the garden when the weather conditions are right may not be feasible after all. There may be more flexibility in retirement, but there are still compromises to be made.