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.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Dodging the Rain

Despite the weather forecast with its warning of ground frost and chilly nights, Mister E and I know that it is really July. Unfortunately in what has been the windiest summer we can remember, we have all but given up any chance of a spell of settled weather for some longer distance sailing. This week, therefore, found us determined still to enjoy the outdoor life despite the bouts of heavy rain. We may have waterproof gear but there really is no fun (or we don't think so) of trudging up and down hills hidden behind peaked hoods and seeking shelter beyond a dry stone wall to eat our lunchtime sandwiches, the view all but obliterated by low cloud and raindrops.

So yesterday and today, our walks shared a common theme of conservation as we walked first to a local wetlands area, small but of scientific interest as it dates back to prehistoric times when a lake formed after the last Ice Age. It is close enough to home that when the rain clouds began to congregate again, there was almost sufficient time to reach our front door before the heavens opened.

Today we waited until the rain appeared to have dispersed and headed by car to another site also designated of scientific interest,  namely the conservation area at Foxglove Covert on Ministry of Defence land at Catterick Garrison. We thought the bird hides would provide the perfect shelter, should we need it.

To enter the area you have to pass through a security gate, vouch for your credentials at a guard house, handing over your passports to the duty officer, after which you are then given a military escort to the entrance to the reserve, the gates to which are locked behind you. 

All great stuff and worth the angst, because the conservation area itself was an impressive wet, grass and heath environment providing the perfect habitat for all manner of British wildlife and plants. Moreover it was relatively quiet and to the extent that we had the board walks and pathways very much to ourselves. 

Also, it was hard to believe that we were actually in the middle of one of Britain's largest army bases.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

My New Best Friend

Following on from my post about food, exercise and the paucity of weight loss in retirement, after I had somewhat overindulged in Whitby last weekend, I thought it was time to make amends. With all the exercise I now get in retirement and the healthy diet I follow, I decided that if I was not losing weight in any significant amounts then life needed to  be shaken up a bit.

So I have found a new friend: My Fitness Pal.

Yes it's a virtual friend, a wonderful app from Under Armour that records the calories you take on board and the calories you burn, producing graphs to show how balanced your day's food consumption has been, the nutrients you need and what you are likely to weigh in 5 weeks if you continue eating in that way.

I have never calorie counted in my life before, failing to understand how some people, it seems almost intuitively, know just how many of them are in a slice of bread or chocolate biscuit. After almost a week I am still none the wiser in that respect, which is where My Fitness Pal does all the hard work. It is programmed with so much information that it never fails to surprise me; like yesterday when I succumbed to a Marks & Spencer pistachio and almond cookie, it had all the detail, right down to the last grain of sugar.

Doing all of that manually would of course be totally boring, but when, like me, you are compliant by nature, very pedantic, logical and love living by rules, then My Fitness Pal could become a friend for life.

Even better, every time I visit the gym, my new companion effectively gives me a pat on the back and allows me to eat more. Now who doesn't want a friend like that, especially in that fish restaurant in Whitby?

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Know Your Berries

Mister E and I took advantage of that window between birds nesting and the start of the shooting season this afternoon to exercise our right to roam. We walked around Black Hambleton on the North Yorkshire Moors starting on the Cleveland Way and then rough footing it across the heather. I have to confess that I was concerned lest I stumbled and fell only to be attacked by a poisonous adder hiding in the undergrowth, but that was truly a disaster of the imagination. Our real life misfortune luckily brought with it a moment of hilarity.

The weather was not brilliant but we still had a reasonable view across towards the Dales over a patchwork of farm fields. Not too hot, not too cold; perfect walking weather and a splendid opportunity to continue walking our way to fitness.

Storm clouds threatened but ultimately passed overhead and we returned to the car, somewhat stiff and tired in sunshine and short sleeves.

As for our misfortune: after walking for miles surrounded by bilberry bushes, I pointed out to Mister E that there did not seem to have been much of a crop of fruit this year. Eager to see for himself, he bent over to examine a bush and proudly exclaimed that there were some ripe berries there just under the top layer of foliage. He grabbed a handful and then with a look of distaste suddenly let the plump black fruit fall to the ground. He had picked up a pile of rabbit droppings!

Monday, 20 July 2015

Cod and Chips

I am conscious that food has not played an enormous part in my commentary on this blog. I am unsure why, as I certainly eat a great deal of it! Perhaps it is because my nutritional need in retirement has not varied enormously from when I was working. If anything, I probably eat slightly healthier (although we have never been a family for fast food, ready meals or take-aways) and maybe less than when I was working.

There are of course exceptions and I would be being disingenuous if I did not confess to partaking in a small sized (Yorkshire measurement) fish and chips when we were in Whitby on Saturday. We ate late to ensure we could get a seat in one of the renowned eateries without queuing; deliberately ate small breakfasts and then, in my case, nothing more for the rest of the day. We also prepared for the feast by a running pace up the 199 steps to St Mary's Church and I did an extra long work-out in the gym the next day too.

The trouble is that one of the problems of being of a retirement-appropriate age, is that no matter how hard you exercise or deny yourself, you shed weight in solitary ounces. Wink at a fish in batter however and the bulges appear instantly around your middle! I am exaggerating but the truth is that, although I now seem to live in a state of permanent exertion, losing those pounds gained during my sedentary office lifestyle is no easy matter. 

Of course it would be easy to blame a sluggish metabolism but, as the NHS website points out, numerous studies have failed to find evidence to support the view that overweight people have slow metabolic rates. Instead it recommends the only effective way to decrease your waist size is by aerobic activity, strength training and being active, whilst eating sensibly, of course.

It looks as though I'm just going to have to keep those gym visits going along with the decorating, gardening and walking. Oh and maybe I should avoid Whitby and its quintessential English seaside cuisine for a while.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Whitby Day Trippers

Sometimes we are so busy with our day to day activities that there is little opportunity or even inclination to enjoy what is on our doorstep. Indeed, until the three years I worked part-time before retiring completely, any time off work was spent getting as far away from home as possible within the time constraints imposed in an effort to avoid household chores or worse still a temptation to call into the office.

Nowadays the situation is very different and I frequently find myself visiting local destinations and beauty spots with the eye of a tourist and a camera in my hand. So it was that we found ourselves in Whitby on Saturday. An eclectic mix of Dracula, Gothic, steep cliffs, piers, screeching gulls, wide skies, an ancient abbey, 12th century Church, boats, old fishermen's cottages and a pervading scent of fish and chips. It has a history that stretches back to before the Synod of Whitby in the 7th century when the authority of Rome was recognised.

We also formulated an idea for another of those bucket lists we love to start but never finish: visiting the piers of Britain, starting with Yorkshire. There is certainly interest today in the historical pleasure piers erected by the Victorians at so many of our coastal resorts and of which I understand only 58 remain. However, natural harbours like Whitby also have stone built piers, erected to enhance protection for the fleet and are of equal if not greater historical interest.

Friday, 17 July 2015

School's Out

Back in 1972, when I was still a teenager, Alice Cooper had a hit with School's Out. Today our local schools broke up for their long summer holidays too and for once I found the lyrics of that song invading my thought processes as I was attempting to use up yet more of our gooseberry glut, baking muffins and crumbles.

Yes I have stepped down as a School Governor after almost twenty years. I confess it was something of an impetuous decision as I have after all found the role over the last year perhaps more satisfying than during my working days when I sometimes struggled to give it the time that it deserved. 

Visiting school and attending meetings have also provided an opportunity in retirement to wear those suits that continue to hang in my wardrobe. A desire to don heels and dress up, however, is hardly a legitimate reason for public service. 

Yes theoretically I have more time, but, in practice and without the routine of a working week, I am less able to commit. I have, of course, enormous respect for those who replace salaried employment with a timetable of volunteering but it doesn't fit with my life, just yet. There are so many other distractions in retirement and when for instance Mister E and I are away travelling my psyche (like that of most women) is to feel guilty if I can't make a meeting. Yes the emotional side to commitment of any kind is always high. Caree's retirement, however, does not allow space for negative thinking and I have therefore determined to banish guilt and worry at all costs. 

In addition, whilst both the eldest and the youngest may still be in full time education, their school days are now firmly behind them and my own personal and inherent connection through them with pedagogy has lapsed. Volunteering in any capacity requires a desire to make a difference and I felt that without that link both the desire and ability were significantly reduced.

There are many skills that I acquired during my professional life that have proven of use as a School Governor, for instance: reading, understanding and analysing information from the vast array of paperwork that governors are required to peruse; asking the necessary critical questions; chairing tribunal sub-committees. I am aware too that some of my fellow governors have almost made careers out of their office and that their experience and expertise are invaluable in the cohesive continuation of a Governing Body. Nevertheless, it was never my intention to become indispensable and, whilst I shall remember the role with fondness, a little like leaving work, it is time to move on.

Our local council publishes a list of volunteering opportunities and out of interest I have looked at it. There are some roles that are totally flexible, so maybe just maybe I might consider volunteering for one of those in a few months. For the moment though "School's Out for Summer."

Monday, 13 July 2015

Overnight Old People Style

We have just had an overnight stay in Troon. We couldn't help but giggle at how we appear to be behaving like "old" people on a caravan holiday. 

I have a vague childhood memory of visiting elderly relatives at their caravan. Their holiday (or certainly whilst we visited) seemed to involve drinking tea on or near the caravan steps, watching everyone else behave in similar fashion at the doors to their caravans. I was left with the deep impression that what old people did on holiday was sit around in a caravan, drinking tea. 

Now it seems that my time has come. A little too chilly to sit out on deck, we hastened below upon arrival and put the kettle on. An inclement forecast kept us marina bound, secure in our floating but gated community, and the kettle went on again. This morning we were greeted by pouring rain and, you guessed it, another cup of tea!

Friday, 10 July 2015

A Couch Potato

Out in the garden my potato crop is growing well. Inside the house and for the duration of Wimbledon, one couch potato is also thriving!

I have generally not watched sport for many years, making time whilst working only to watch the Eldest and Youngest participate in their various activities although I did make an exception in order to visit the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

However spurred on by some wet and breezy days during the last week I have been swept up in watching Wimbledon. I recall in my teens and early adult life following the tennis in July quite closely but somehow there is a significant twenty years or so gap where I jump from the eras of Connors, Borg, McEnroe and Becker to Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray. Here I am retired, and it is as though I am back in my teenage years with the ability to follow the whole tournament, although I confess that I now need to wear spectacles in order to have any chance of seeing the ball.

The great thing about major sporting events is of course that their scheduled start times are generally in the afternoon, leaving the morning for all my other activities. The downside of tennis, however, is that unlike team sports there is no limit on the length of a match and you can, should you so wish, spend all afternoon and evening in front of the television watching the action. I have therefore tried to be selective. In particular and because I find the strange grunting noises made by the women most irritating, I tend to have focused more on the men's competition.

I understand that cricket matches are even longer than in tennis and that International Tests can last up to five days. Fortuitously I was put off cricket as a small child, forced to endure lengthy picnics whilst my father played for a local team and have never understood the rules sufficiently to yet follow the game. I was once invited to enjoy corporate hospitality at the Durham County cricket ground which I thought might be my opportunity to comprehend this most English of summer games but, in typical style, rain stopped play before the match started and we enjoyed an afternoon of strawberries and cream instead. Still anything is possible in retirement and when the tennis finishes who knows?

Amongst the range of summer sports there is also golf, although again it is not a game that I am at all familiar with and the odds on seeing what is a very small ball much reduced, despite the spectacles. I have actually been to driving ranges on a couple of occasions but pulled a chest muscle quite badly the last time and have been unable to raise any interest since.

On reflection and once Wimbledon finishes, I shall inevitably prefer to turn off the television and pursue my own action, walking or sailing perhaps, unless of course it rains which is how I came to be watching Wimbledon in the first place. Indeed, and in anticipation that retirement may in the years to come bring with it either bad weather or infirmity on my part, perhaps I should really start to read up the rules on both cricket and golf and invest in a large screen television set.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

More on the Weather

As I indicated in my last post the British weather never fails to surprise.

This time last week, the thermometer in my garden hit 33 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit); today it was 12 degrees Celsius (54 degrees Fahrenheit). Neither is what I would normally expect at this time of the year and, apart from the period spanning what was a very short-lived heat wave, it has been raining too! Well I suppose that really is normal for a British summer!

When you are working, you can become quite disgruntled about rainstorms at weekends. In retirement, it is less frustrating as theoretically it is easier to rearrange your activities around the weather and what you may have planned for Sunday can now just as easily take place on Wednesday. Well that is the theory anyway but of course it all falls apart when you don't seem to get any periods of settled weather, as has been the case for most of this summer. Indeed when you have been banking on a week or longer period of good weather for a sailing trip it is potentially rather depressing. 

If therefore your only plans are to cycle or garden, you are invariably going to become as frustrated in retirement as if you were working and it rained every weekend. Whilst a good quality breathable raincoat helps, I'm discovering that flexibility must now extend beyond rearranging days to suit the weather and instead the whole scale adoption of inside projects, celebrating the fact that I would never be able to indulge in jam making, watching the tennis at Wimbledon on television or decorating if we were actually getting the summer weather eagerly anticipated and around which we have made so many other plans.

For the first time I am picking and processing the whole of my soft fruit crop and have even discovered that I can make ironing a delight by placing the board with a view of the TV set whilst the tennis takes place (Wimbledon clearly isn't suffering the same problems with its weather as the North East corner of England but in any event now has a roof for Centre Court). The rain is also a real boost for my interior painting and modernising project and diminishes the risk of our home being declared a UNESCO Heritage site like the Forth Rail Bridge.