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, 31 May 2015

The Finishing Line

Yes, 30 days later and I have survived the terrors of the #minsgame. No cheating and in all I calculate that I have thrown out 496 objects. So how does it feel? Has my life improved as a result and do I feel unburdened?

Well I certainly have space on shelves, in cupboards, wardrobes and drawers where previously there was none. I have also totally shocked and shamed myself  by uncovering items that I could hardly believe I hadn't actually flung years ago, like the almost obsolete video tapes which I jettisoned today. I confess, however, that I do still have a collection of work suits albeit reduced in number! 

As I look around now,  I know that there is still a long way to go before I achieve that minimalist look and the benefits of simplicity that I am seeking.

Nonetheless, after a calendar month, I have changed my attitude to hanging onto possessions simply because I feel they might come in useful even when I have no obvious current use for them. Going forward, I know that the ties have been loosened and that it should be easier to de-junk as we move on to decorating each room. If not, then I guess I'll have to start playing all over again.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Five Extra Years

When you go to the gym and then wake up the next day with aches in muscles that you didn't know you had, there are inevitably occasions when you wonder if exercising is as good for you as it is made out to be. Indeed my worst ever injury resulting in breaks to my ankle, tibia and fibula, took place whilst playing sport, albeit many years ago.

However, information published recently in the British Journal of Sports Science suggests that, even in men aged 73, thirty minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day will extend life expectancy by five years.

Get in there, my fitness craze is continuing.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

A Kindergarten Class

This morning I proceeded from Fitball (where you do all kinds of awful things to your body, in the interests of strengthening your core, whilst holding an enormous ball) to Aquafit (where you do all kinds of awful things to your body in a swimming pool). This was all undertaken as part of my quest for health and fitness, of course, although I'm certain one of my recent classes must have been responsible for a knotted muscle which has been causing me to suffer an ugly pain. Having decided that the best policy, in addition to massaging it, is to try to stretch it out, I am of course continuing to put myself through the agony of fitness classes. 

In reality they are good fun, although I had to pinch myself at one point this morning in the pool when  I thought that I was going to burst into laughter. Looking at myself holding a giant woggle, it would have been hard to convince anybody that I was not participating in some kind of organised entertainment at a post-war holiday camp! 

Matters then moved on apace when the class was invaded by a predatory shark that was actually a lady in a snorkel and mask who had decided to swim lengths right through the middle of the proceedings. Whilst I found hilarity in the situation, some of my fellow fitness freaks were less prone to the giggles and more towards offence, resulting in some kind of underwater territorial war. 

Just when I was thinking that things couldn't get any funnier, I entered the changing room at the end of the class and in so doing moved from the bizarre to the ridiculous. A heated discussion was taking place and I was subsequently told that the mask and snorkel had gone missing!

Whoever said retirement would mean mixing with mature seniors? This was more like kindergarten, although I exited quickly with a bemused smile on my face (and no - I didn't know the whereabouts of the items that had disappeared)!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Fact or Fiction

I have always loved books and envisaged that in retirement there would be ample opportunity to read the piles of novels that pervade so many rooms in our home. If truth be known, whilst I certainly find the time to read more than I did before I retired, I am still making slow progress in getting through what is probably at least one lifetime's worth of reading material within our four walls.

I am a member of a reading group which meets every six weeks to discuss a chosen book and in between I always try to read another two or three books. I have fairly broad tastes in literature, reading everything from Milton and Chaucer to contemporary writers, of whom my favourites are Ian McEwan and Sebastian Faulks. I usually avoid science fiction, however, and, when in need of simple, no-thought entertainment, immerse myself in an easy to read chick-lit.

Holidays, especially whilst travelling on aeroplanes, are a great time for reading. Last week was no exception although, conscious of the limitation on baggage weight, we took the Kindle as well as a couple of paperbacks apiece. Amongst my selection was Ian McEwan's last book (now in paperback), "The Children Act." 

I know that it is a work of fiction, and perhaps it is still early days to be reading a novel about an area of work that I practised in or maybe it is a credit to the brilliance of the author, for it felt authentic. The main character has in her own words wedded herself to her career and in so doing forsaken so much, including we are told with alarming insight, even the time to care for her feet where her toe nails suffer from a fungal infection! Ugh, definitely too much information. 

For me, however, there was no fantasy in the subject matter or characters; they could have been real. It was an accurate portrayal and, therefore, reminder of  past times spent on a very different treadmill to that which I now use in the gym. Normally reading a book is a period of pure escapism; for me this was a return to working life. 

 I have of necessity, therefore,  resolved  that my future holiday reading material will bear no relationship to reality even if it does mean that I am sentencing myself to a diet of HG Wells or even modern zombie fiction, of which to date I have read nothing. I have always said that I want retirement to be a cocktail of new experiences!

Friday, 22 May 2015

No Going Back

Mister E and I returned from a week on Santorini on Wednesday. Unfortunately the return flight was somewhat delayed and it was 4.15 am when we got home after driving back from Manchester airport. With a time difference of two hours between BST and Greece, it felt like 6.15 am and we were well and truly exhausted. Note to ourselves: try to book morning flights in future to avoid such occurrences. Mind talking to the lady on the plane next to me I couldn't help but feel smug at the fact that, unlike her, I did not have to be at work for 9 am.

I had last visited Santorini in 1979 just after I had graduated, when I joined an unwashed mass of under 25's from Britain, Germany and France, sleeping on beaches as we all island hopped around the Aegean. This time, I am pleased to report, that Mister E and I had very comfortable accommodation in a delightful hotel and there was not a sleeping bag to be seen on the neighbouring beach.

Thirty six years ago I had arrived on a fishing boat feeling somewhat seasick and, as a result shunning the crowd of donkey taxis waiting to transport visitors to the cliff-top from the port at Fira, and walking. There is now an airport on the island as well as a cable car for those who arrive by ferry or cruise liner. Indeed photographs on the walls of our hotel showing the island as it was in 1926 seemed to bear a greater resemblance to the island of my memories than the modern day equivalent. How strange that so little should have changed in fifty years and so much in the following thirty.

Funny too how deeply-buried memories come back to you. So it was that whilst wandering around Fira's narrow cliff clinging streets, I recalled that I had once walked such, listening out for the bells on the donkeys as the pathways were so narrow that if such an animal was coming towards you from around the corner, it was necessary to squeeze into a doorway or gate to make room for it to pass. Now it was only the crowds from the three cruise ships in the port that filled the streets whilst the vessels themselves spoiled the view across the caldera. Thankfully, however, you didn't have to walk with your eyes to the ground to avoid the donkey droppings.

The island as a whole has suffered from what seems to be almost unrestricted development and whilst, as is the Greek custom, little is more than two storeys high, there are now houses dotted all over where once there was simply bare land. That said, there is also a plethora of excellent tavernas and the local people remain as friendly as ever with communication, in English, enabling conversations that were impossible in 1979 to take place.

We had a wonderful stay, soaking up the laid back atmosphere and simplicity which has rightly made the Greek Islands famous. Indeed I was dubious at the whole idea of a need for a holiday eleven months into retirement and feeling, so I thought, already totally relaxed. Believe me, retirement is the time for such trips. Arriving totally relaxed, you unwind to a level that I didn't even know existed.

I am not, however, sure whether it is sensible to return to a place that you have such fond memories of from the past. Perhaps more so in retirement one should hold dear to the mantra that there is no going back and to concentrate instead on enjoying the present.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Retirement Values

Whilst staying on Santorini last week, Mister E and I spotted this sign. I reproduce it here because it accurately sums up so many of the values that I have adopted and how we seek to live our retirement.

(With thanks to Tranquilo at Perissa, Santorini)

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Expenditure in Retirement

So many people feel they cannot afford to retire and whilst this may be true for some, there are others who have not done the maths. Before Mister E and I decided to take the plunge, we felt that it was important that we worked out the extent of our expenditure as opposed simply to an income and savings forecast. We accordingly tracked and broke down our spending, then, satisfied that the kind of retirement we sought was indeed an affordable option, jumped in.

We have continued to analyse our expenditure and, as we anticipated, in retirement spend less on some areas (primarily car expenses and clothing) and more on others (travel, leisure and incidental costs in particular). Surprisingly utility bills which we had assumed might increase significantly with our daily presence have not done so, presumably offset by our various absences.

The most important thing, however, is that by now knowing what we use our money for, we are in control and, should the need arise, would be able to alter our spending habits and consumption levels accordingly. 

If anybody is unsure whether or not they too can afford to retire I would recommend analysing your plans for the kind of retirement that you realistically seek  and your likely monetary outgoings as a result. You are after all able to exercise more control over your spending than your income.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Wise Words in a Tweet

I have received wise words in 140 characters from a fellow Tweeter. "Don't over volunteer,"was the impact of the message.

Swapping work for retirement at first leads you to believe that you will suddenly have a spare forty hours a week. Believe me it is not like that. Retirees don't go around saying they "don't know how they ever found the time to go to work,"  for nothing.

However and in that honeymoon phase there can be an incentive to fill the hours freed by not working with other commitments. I was fortunate to have taken on board some advice that I received before retiring which was not to commit to anything new in the first twelve months and am so glad that I listened.

Whilst I have been able to give more time to the voluntary bodies with which I was involved prior to retirement, I have also been able to indulge myself in a variety of ways as no doubt regular readers of this blog will appreciate. I have tried and continue to try new experiences.

Now, after almost 11 months, I think I have a better appreciation of how much time I need for my indulgences whether they be fitness classes, days out with Mister E, travelling, sailing, reading or other hobbies. In addition there are still chores and family to attend to. I now understand the benefits of flexibility and with our plans for the next twelve months rapidly developing, I have a much better understanding of what I can and can't commit to.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

An Episodic Retirement

I recently read an article by Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian in which he queried whether or not we can have a meaningful life without a sense of continuity. 

It transpires that most people are Diachronic. That is to say that their life is a single story, moving from one stage to another, each stage connected by many threads to both its prequel and sequel.

There are, however, others who are Episodic. The various periods of their lives have seemingly no connection with what has gone before. Experiences are remembered but have no bearing on where and who the person is now, and there is no obvious order to the random episodes lived.

I suspect that it is family and friends that very much root us to our past and help provide the running continuum that takes us from birth, school, work and ultimately into retirement. However, Diachronics can be anxious about what they have done with their lives and that continuous thread can prevent the vital change that would really be better for them as they continue to live up to expectations and the pattern set by their past experiences.

Whilst having no desire to separate myself from my connections, if ever there was a period of my life calling out for an Episodic approach, it has to be retirement. For the first time, there is the potential for a complete disconnect with so many facets of the past and, of course, how many is up to the individual.

I have certainly met people who, now retired, have moved on both physically and mentally, retaining no connection with their career or any friends or colleagues associated with the period of their working lives. They have essentially re-invented themselves, discovered new interests, a new place to live and in so doing new friends and acquaintances. Time has also brought distance and a certain level of amnesia about their past.

In retirement there is something very appealing for me about the Episodic approach. It is such a new phase of life that it may well be that it deserves a completely new start in a new place. It is just that I would want to bring my family and friends along to share it too!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

A Sweet for Retirement

Here am I thinking that I have been going to a gym regularly. Today I examined the sign on the door and it actually says Fitness Suite. I am not sure why, but I was quite bowled over by the distinction. For me Fitness Suite has a certain "je ne sais quoi." After all it is the place I go to and put in enormous amounts of effort in an endeavour to acquire an element of fitness.

When I told my mother, she misheard, as is her way, and seemed to think that I was buying a new three piece. When I told Mister E, he asked if it was the equivalent of one of those protein shakes.

Okay, I got the message: I went to the gym today!

Friday, 8 May 2015

The Day After the Night Before

So I managed to stay up until 4.15 am and was back up to follow the televised coverage of the election at 8.30 am. I now feel pretty bad on two counts: the result and fatigue.

I am not sure what I was really expecting the outcome to be, but with my love for colour would have been content to see the possible emergence of a rainbow coalition with a few progressives in there pressing for a reduction in austerity and much needed changes in society. In retirement I now suspect that it is very easy to get cocooned in your own little philosophical bubble and perhaps become unaware of the political inclination of the country. Of course I was not alone in failing to anticipate the sudden leaning to the right resulting in a majority Conservative government; certainly the opinion polls were far off the mark too.

Is it because people are already forgetting the horrors of the Tory years from 1979 to 1997 (or were even too young to experience them) ? Did the electorate really vote purely on the basis of self-interest and greed or did it fall hook, line and sinker for the need to cut the deficit and balance the books within the next Parliament? Unfortunately economic theory was hardly debated and, a bit like the comparisons Margaret Thatcher used to make with her father's grocery store, we were constantly told that running the country was like managing a household budget. A dumbed down easy to understand sound-bite that the electorate has bought into and in so doing signed up to £12 billion cuts of a kind we know not what, because we have not yet been told.

So I guess that austerity can only get worse; inequality, food bank numbers and housing shortages will continue to rise whilst public services and welfare benefits will be cut still further. Back-door privatisation of the National Health Service will continue and life for so many people, especially in Northern England, Wales and Scotland, will become harder whilst the rich will benefit from tax cuts. The alleged trickle-down benefit of capitalism has been seriously disparaged globally and yet we have elected a Government on that platform and given it an outright majority of seats.

No wonder we didn't open the champagne last night and it is raining today.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Election Night

The polling stations have just closed and the counting of votes in our National Election will now begin. Retirement has meant that not only have I had more time to follow the campaigns of the various parties but have also been able to examine their manifestos and learn a little about current economic and political theory. With nobody able to predict a likely winner, it has also been one of the most intriguing election battles in my lifetime where and for once, we have heard from politicians who believe in society rather than simply markets, commodities and money.

It is my plan to stay up tonight because and for the first time since 1979 I have no office to go to in the morning. Even in 1979 and with university finals looming, I recall going to bed not long after midnight, the result by that time being obvious and a gloom having descended, as a result, on my student house.

Mister E and I have discussed whether or not to put champagne on ice in case the outcome should defy predictions of a hung Parliament and the need for wrangling between potential coalition partners. We are, you might say, enthusiastically optimistic or perhaps just looking for an excuse for a celebration.

It is going to be a long night, but may the best party win so that I at least get to sip bubbly at some point in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015


It is said that there is a book inside everybody and that when writing you should ensure that you describe life as you have experienced it. No wonder, therefore, that so many books have an autobiographical element.

Were I to set pen to paper then, and based on my experience this morning, I think I would have to call it "Death on a Trampoline." Come to think of it, that might even make a very nifty title for my autobiography as opposed to a fictional murder mystery.

In my quest for health and fitness, I am continuing to seek out new experiences and sometimes, just occasionally they come to me. This morning that is exactly what happened when Tuesday morning Spin sessions at the gym have been replaced by Boogie Bounce. Ever one to indulge in the novelty of a new challenge I thought that I would give it a go. Basically you take up position on a mini trampoline and then for 45 minutes, whilst music blares out, the instructor yells at you to bounce in one direction or another; shimmy this way or that; kick; jog and jog even faster.

Once you get over the initial motion sickness and fear of falling off, it is surprisingly fun.

Indeed the moral has to be that so long as you have a sound heart and don't mind perspiring like a fountain whilst turning tomato-red, then try it. I was even flattered afterwards when somebody I hadn't seen since a more gentle workout class we had done together last summer remarked on how well I look and how much more colour I have than when I had only just retired! If lying flat out on a bench in the changing room with a scarlet face means that I look better than when I  retired, I really shall have to get bouncing regularly.

Monday, 4 May 2015

A Workman and her Tools

Today I tried my hand at some DIY. You know the kind of thing: you wear old clothes and do something messy whilst holding a tool or two.

In my case I decided it was time to put together the poppy I have been storing from the Tower of London's magnificent display in its moat last year. Following the instructions in the box, I amassed gardening gloves, a hammer and no I baulked at eye protection (nanny state gone crazy unless someone thought I was actually likely to stab myself in the eye with the stalk). The trouble was that when I analysed the contents it was only to discover that I had been supplied with two washers the same size and no spacer to actually fit inside the poppy head. Mister E came to the rescue with a collection of assorted plastic washers that he had been hanging onto, just in case (I know it defeats the letting go principles of the #minsgame), and out we went into the garden. Sadly there was no need for the hammer, as the stalk was more than adequate at piercing its own hole in the ground, but I did wear my gloves.

Inspired by the bout of activity outside, I engaged on Day 2 of a decorating project with a tin of primer, a paint brush, a tub of polyfilla and a filling trowel. Plenty of scope there for a mess!

The primer was applied to the bare plaster areas easily but there's something about trowels; they just don't spread polyfilla the way it should go (yes  I make no excuses, a bad workman does indeed blame her tools). Fortunately a wet rag and my fingers came to the rescue and even if I say so myself I was rather pleased with the results although I did have to scrub my hands and then have a bath afterwards. Maybe gloves might have been of more use for decorating but there was no reference on the box. I'm sure there'll come a point in retirement when I'll get the hang of the technique, there's still an awful lot of house awaiting its makeover.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

The Minsgame Continues

Oh dear, throwing away objects is not my strong point. It is not that I even like material possessions but, as I am discovering, clearly suffer from an innate ability to see a potential usefulness in so many defunct items as well as a blind spot when it comes to identifying which well loved and comfortable pieces of clothing are past their sell by dates. I really want to reform because by the same token I relish the idea of a clear home and there is a minimalist in there somewhere trying to get out.

So Day 3 of the #minsgame and, after trying to kid myself that an empty tube of toothpaste might count but finally realising that was cheating, I rearranged my wardrobe, storing away winter layers and bringing out clothes that I had not seen since last year. In the process I resolved to throw away three items. It was hard dear reader, so hard.

In the end I settled on a pair of sandals that remain uncomfortable despite leaving them in the back of the wardrobe for six years presumably hoping that time might  bring about a softer fit. I had even been kidding myself that I had hardly worn them. Examining the state of the heels, soles and inners that cannot possibly be the case and at least, realising that I had at some point used them, made it easier to mark them first for jettisoning.

A favourite clicked and well washed t-shirt followed, albeit only after a period of debate; I had after all worn it last week; perhaps somebody should have commented on what a sight I looked in it and made today's task easier.

Finally and with great sadness I decided to add a long sleeved cotton top to the pile. It has been one of my favourite garments since retirement and I love both the colour and feel of the fabric. Unfortunately I have holed the sleeve and it is now time for it to join  the vast assortment of scraps in my rag bag ready for use as ad hoc dusters and cloths. Or is it? Today we started a new decorating project and what better top to wear? Yes it earned a deserved reprieve!

In its place I added an old (and by old we are talking decades) cardigan to the pile.

I can see the next 27 days of this game are going to be very difficult.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

York and a Minimalist Lifestyle

Yesterday Mister E and I returned to York to deal with our unfinished business. The Aesthetica Exhibition in St Mary's Church (de-consecrated in 1958) was, shall we say, interesting! Neither as colourful nor as animating as I like, with a preponderance of monochrome and some depressing topics as well as a piece of sound art which actually made us appreciate the quiet of Coppergate when we left.

The cherry blossom trees around the city walls were however in full bloom and more than made up for the grey within the art gallery.

Whilst in York, we also collected an online order which had been delivered to a local shop  and comprised "retirement" clothing for the outdoors. I took it home knowing that I would need to throw some more of that office clothing away to make room for it. Sometimes the clutter at home and all those items I keep hanging onto thinking they may have a use one day can really get me down. 

I was pleased, therefore, this morning when one of the supplements to The Guardian newspaper offered some innovative guidance on decluttering. Minimalism is purportedly "the latest buzzword in well-being" and the article recommended a game where you rid yourself of one item on Day 1, two on Day 2 and so on until Day 30. Apparently thousands of people play the game and compare notes on Twitter using the hashtag #minsgame. 

Desperate for some space in the wardrobe, I thought I had best join in and to make it even easier for myself (I do need simple rules for games, if I am to play well), I thought I would treat today, 2nd May, as Day 2 and accordingly throw away one item for Day 1 and two for today. It did not of course make any space in the wardrobe at all as I chose a mug dressed up to look like a cupcake, a book that Mister E has given up on and a plastic flower display that has been hidden in a dark corner for too long. 

There is, of course, always tomorrow and by Day 30, I am anticipating ample room, but whether I shall have cleared out all my work suits remains to be seen.