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.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Dippy the Dinosaur to Retire

Well this week's news that the Natural History Museum intends to move the diplodocus model from the entrance hall to the museum and replace it with the skeleton of a blue whale was a shock to the nation. So much so that I understand a petition is now circulating to try to get the powers that be to change their minds.

Part of the museum's reasoning appears to be that it feels that after exhibiting Dippy since 1905, it is now time for its retirement (or at least a less prominent position) and secondly it is just a plaster cast. 

I guess, from Dippy's perspective, that's what ageism in the workplace feels like, although, if he asked me, I could certainly recommend retirement!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

A Dark Start

On Sunday night I set my alarm clock and yesterday morning I was awake, anticipating the buzzer and ready to switch it off. The strange thing is that I believe that may well be the first time since I retired that I have actually set the alarm. Moreover it was definitely the first time this winter that I can remember getting up in the dark. Oh the perks of retirement, there is no longer any need to get up before nature intended, to struggle out on an icy road towards a place called work.

Of course it was not work I was heading to yesterday, but rather the local station and a day out in London. The youngest met Mister E and me at Kings Cross and, after dropping all the necessities we had brought for her at her hall of residence beneath the BT Tower, we managed to fit in both lunch and dinner, some shopping on Oxford Street and an exploration of the British Museum before catching an evening train home again. The museum was a good choice as not only did it keep our interest whilst we were there, it provoked much discussion on the journey back as to the rights and wrongs of Imperialistic plundering.

Needless to say we are exhausted today although I blame the power walk along Euston Road last night when we had to hurry to ensure we caught our scheduled train.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Back to the Lake District

Last week we returned to stay in Langdale in the Lake District, enjoying a week of runny-nose and red-cheek weather. In winter, with the trees denuded of their greenery, there is so much more that you can see and when the sky is blue and the air crisp, the colours are simply stunning.

We stay in a glass fronted wooden lodge overlooking the beck and the views from there, as indeed throughout the rest of the valley, are simply  mesmerising.

We also spend an inordinate amount of time watching the birds on the feeders.

At this time of the year it is very peaceful; the number of people and their cars  substantially less than in the height of summer. Indeed we didn't have to venture high or even off the beaten track to find solitude, our own little adventure and inevitably a welcoming pub or walkers' cafe at the end of the path.

The eldest accompanied us for the beginning of our stay and made a perfect companion for stretching Mister E's long legs on the high fells, complete with crampons and ice-axes . On my part I was more than content to potter in the valley with my camera.

In the evening however the eldest and I were able to renew our competitive edges with the Scrabble board. Our friendly squabble as to whether or not this would be the year that he would finally beat me was ended by an incredulous draw. Maybe I do need to work hard to keep my brain sharp in retirement (or alternatively to avoid playing word games after a visit to the pub), if I am to return to victorious ways in future.

Midweek, an old friend from university days and her husband joined us. They are accomplished walkers who regularly walk distances that I have rarely undertaken in the last 3 decades. Over a two day period they led us up, down and across three valleys. When it was time to wave them off, I could hardly shuffle to the door. They are a few years ahead of us in the retirement stakes but certainly demonstrated to us the health benefits of walking regularly. 

At least my knees which have been a source of pain and consternation for a number of years have strengthened with all my efforts at the gym, hopefully boding well for the future.

Nevertheless our consequent plans to fit a long walk into our own weekly schedule were sadly scuppered for the current week when Mister E pulled his back whilst putting our bags into the car ready to return home!

Friday, 16 January 2015

Another Day Out

I had another day out yesterday. Whilst Mister E drove off to his 3 day week job, I hopped on a train to Leeds to browse a few shopping streets in Yorkshire's big city but more importantly, from the perspective of someone who hates shopping, to meet my sister for lunch and then view an exhibition of work by Shezad Dawood at the City Art Gallery.

Wandering around our city centres is always a great experience even when you do detest shopping, because when you look up there are invariably wonderful buildings and Leeds' Victorian Quarter fulfils all expectations in this respect with its old covered arcades the forerunners to modern malls but so much more interesting.

The exhibition too was intriguing especially the main feature which was a video film about humanity entitled Towards the Possible Film. Beautiful and cruel; mystifying and straightforward; I am still puzzling it out.

A little like the tasty and artistically presented salad we ate at lunchtime, where we had to guess the ingredients!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Tax Return Deadline

It seems that the older we are, the less likely we are to miss the deadline for filing our self-assessment tax return, according to a press release by HMRC.

As I struggled to complete my own today I did ponder on the reason for this. Perhaps age brings simplification of tax affairs or simply less money.

Alternatively is it accredited to experience? Caught short and fined in the past could ensure future compliance as a result.

Come to think of it as we grow older do we just get more realistic and conscious of how long the darned forms take to complete. Leaving them to the last minute will inevitably make meeting the filing and payment date of 31st January that much harder. 

Or is it because with age comes more time and the ability to organise it better? Certainly, sitting at home on a snowy January day I have felt more readily disposed to getting down to the information gathering and form filling that is required. Unfortunately several more sessions will be required before the document is going to be finished. At least I no longer have to spend evenings and weekends on it and, if  the poor weather continues, it may even be ready by the end of the week.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Bad Reaction

At the risk of sounding neurotic, I surprised myself last week with my reaction to calling into the office where I used to work. I had to drop something off for one of my former colleagues and on driving away was surprised to realise that a wave of stress was drifting over me. It was a feeling that I have not experienced since I retired and in the time it took me to drive no more than 500 yards I had run a gamut of emotions related to feeling under pressure, until I forcibly reminded myself that I had paid a visit only and that wild horses will not drag me screaming back to the workplace.

I am a lady of leisure who lunches and practises yoga and that is the way it is staying!

Thursday, 8 January 2015

The Small Print

I hate small-print, which for somebody who, so many would say, used to make a living out of writing it, is probably a little strong. Nevertheless even a trip to the supermarket reduces me to a state of  irritation in the face of all those 2 for 1 offers and bargain items, half of which are not what they seem when you can find something in the next aisle, around the corner or even displayed next to the heavily marketed product, at a much more attractive price. Of course, when I worked, and because shopping was done in a rushed trip usually en route home from work, I hardly noticed. Now that I have more time and actually read the pricing labels with care, I am amazed at how easy it is to fall foul of the advertising.

It used to be the same with bank and building society accounts. You know those accounts where for a fixed and better rate, you tie your money up for a year or whatever period is on offer. Then, and cynically I assume the institution relies on the lethargy of its customers, I was invariably too busy at work to sort the transfer of funds in a timely fashion leaving them to accrue either no, or very notional, interest. It didn't just apply to fixed rate accounts either; variable interest rates can alter and still I would rarely quite get round to do anything about them in a snatched and limited lunchtime and, if I did make it to the bank or building society, it was inevitably without whatever the latest forms of identification were that they needed to release funds.

You can imagine therefore how proud I felt today to make my way to both bank and building society in advance of deadline dates, ahead of lunchtime queues and sort out the necessary changes. Even more so when I also tackled the supermarket labels and to the best of my knowledge (that's the caveat in the small-print talking) came out a winner.

However, the best was still to come.  

Upon returning home the postman had delivered a cd from a lovely couple with whom we had travelled around Cuba. I placed it in the disk player and moody Latin American salsa and tango filled the air. The Youngest and I had a fantastic session dancing in our living room. It seemed she knew all the steps from an electronic dance mat on which she had wasted her mid-teen years and we had a wonderful happy time. 

Who really cares about contractual terms anyway?

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

New Year, New Reality

Had I still been working, January would have been one of my busiest months. A hard jolt of reality after the festive break.

I have been intrigued to discover that even in retirement there is a similar feeling. The Youngest and I took down our Christmas tree on Monday and in so doing normality was restored. The Eldest returned to his home in the Midlands and I returned to the gym.

Believe me, it hurt; it hurt so much. Of course, there were no excuses. Whilst I was sufficiently dedicated to have gone on both Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, something went badly askew between December 26th and January 5th and I found myself readily adopting the role of a couch potato curled up with a couple of books, piles of mince pies and a drink or two.

Well I'm not complaining; retirement has certainly boosted the number of books I'm reading and last week I rediscovered Graham Greene as well as a superb novel about asylum seekers, "The Other Hand" by Chris Cleave.

I  have also now discovered how quickly my body can stiffen up without regular exercise and it was little wonder therefore that I was queuing at the door for yoga today. The wonder of stretching followed, of course, by 15 minutes relaxation and mindfulness. In future, I shall perhaps strive harder to limit those hours of relaxation so that they are commensurate with exercise that I have taken rather than being a 9 day luxurious and unearned indulgence. But they were good!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

The Christmas Holiday

Someone warned me that when I no longer worked, Christmas would no longer be a holiday. Well that may be true in one sense. In reality it has felt more like a holiday than ever with the foreboding shadow of the office no longer looming over me as the New Year passes and we head towards the first full working week of 2015.

I recall that when I took the whole of the period between Christmas and New Year away from work, I would inevitably return in January somewhat vacuous. I'm not sure, and it could be simply that I am now empty-headed all the time, but, as on returning from Cuba, it feels like I have had a complete interlude of relaxation that I shall wind down from gradually rather than have abruptly severed.

It has of course been a busy couple of weeks since I last made a blog entry and with the eldest and youngest back at home as well as all our visitors, the joys are multiplied along with the washing-up. Further, and although they are of course both now over the age of 18, they together with our guest provided the perfect excuse for a day out on Friday to blow away the last of the festive cobwebs. 

We headed for Durham City under a blue sky but a chilling wind and enjoyed not only a bracing stroll but also a visit to the cinema to see that  latest whole-family, feel-good film: Paddington. We all laughed out loud but best of all it was calypso music that dominated the sound track to the film. It was like being in Cuba all over again when we moved our hips and made salsa steps down the aisle to the exit door as the final credits rolled.

We took our guest to see the iconic views of the castle and cathedral from Framwellgate Bridge and then into the cathedral itself. Every time I visit, I am always amazed by its sheer size. Whilst the under-25's climbed the spiral steps to the top of the tower, I found myself taking a seat in a pew and enjoying a time of quiet contemplation.

My goodness good food and company, a Latin American band and time for thought; work or no work, it has definitely been a holiday.