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.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Is Travelling Really Brutal?

We returned earlier this week from 10 days away, travelling primarily around the coastline of Norfolk and Suffolk. We forget, sometimes, just how interesting our own country is and often how little we have seen of it, in the mad dash to experience distant cultures and kinder climates. 

Why travel? What do we want from it? What is our strategy?

Yes Mister E and I were considering these questions whilst travelling around Albania and I have continued to ponder.

Whilst away this time, however, I came across the following quote by the renowned post-war Italian poet, Cesare Pavese:
"Travelling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things- air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky- all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it."

A path to the eternal or the imagination of a spiritual plain; I had never considered travel in such terms before but I like the idea. The discomfort, the adventure: they are not without purpose!

We soaked up the sea and sky throughout our trip and, exhausted from all the walking involved as well as the coastal air, slept well and yes dreamed. In our case, however, we ended up closing our trip by staying three nights with good friends, so cannot claim to have deprived ourselves of all that is familiar.

In any event I would certainly proffer the view that travelling in your own country is just as interesting and perhaps less brutal than going overseas.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Volunteering Anew

With the European migrant crisis dominating the headlines all summer, I have been moved to take action. Whilst I do not wish to over commit myself with voluntary work, Save the Children, founded as a result of famine following the First World War continues to be active throughout the World where children are suffering and has been appealing for Community Campaigners. The role involves liaising with the media, lobbying Members of Parliament and networking both in person and online in order to raise awareness.   

I applied and, despite a very early train journey, attended an Induction Day in Edinburgh. It was lovely to meet so many committed people of all ages and backgrounds and I only hope that I can play my part to help alleviate some of the horrors that have filled our television screens of late.

In addition I have also taken on the role of Parish Clerk for the Civil Parish in which I reside, after an appeal for a volunteer appeared to be going unheeded. Fortunately it should not be too onerous a role as the Council meets only once a month and we are a very small parish. My main duties will be to prepare the agenda for and minutes of meetings as well as dealing with correspondence and assisting the councillors with the legal implications of their decisions.

I guess it was too much to hope that the great strides I have been taking for a more Bohemian lifestyle would completely sever me from my years of legal practice or the experience gained in seeking to market my own business!

Monday, 19 October 2015

Travelling Books

During a career of perusing and absorbing paperwork I inevitably developed the gift of speed reading. It is useful when travelling as I can comfortably settle down in my aircraft or train seat, open a novel and forget myself until shortly before arrival, when, all being well, I will have finished the book and enjoyed a journey of emotion, humour and adventure en route to my destination. It can be embarrassing if the text moves me to tears or to laugh out loud but an old fashioned handkerchief or paper tissue is normally relied upon to come to the rescue.

This month I picked a somewhat mixed selection for my travels and on my outward journey to Greece and Albania read "The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden." Easy reading, funny and with a taste of the international; what better way to start a trip?

On the return journey I was seduced by Jim Crace's "Harvest," transported back in time across the centuries to a simpler but harsher time, it was intriguing to open up the characters and understand their stoicism in the face of cruelty.

Finally on a train trip to and from Edinburgh last weekend I opted for "Sweet Tooth," by Ian McEwan who, as I have already said in this blog, is probably my favourite contemporary author. This book was published back in 2012 but it has languished on my bookshelves since purchase when, pre-retirement, I just never found the opportunity to open it. As in all of his novels the author adapts a writing style unique to the book and which I confess I was not convinced worked in this instance, until I came to the twist at the end, realised what had happened and now feel as though I need to read it all again to doubly appreciate the content.

Thank goodness for all those extra journeys and reading time available in retirement!

Friday, 16 October 2015

Autumn Colour

Every season has something special to offer, but the colours of autumn are always there to be enjoyed. It is something that perhaps in my previous life I frequently ignored in the haste to fulfil other commitments. The falling leaves also hastened the knowledge that the daily commute would soon be undertaken in the dark, both there and back. No wonder that in my working days Spring was always a more favourable option.

This week however I have revelled in the glorious reds and golds of the season. Not least when I met an old friend at a mid-way point in Yorkshire between our homes.

Autumn is glorious and now I don't have to go out in the dark mornings and nights every weekday, I think that there is something almost snug about the shortening days!

Sunday, 11 October 2015


Prior to staying on Lefkas, Mister E and I toured Albania. Ever since I spotted its mountains on a visit to Northern Greece, I have been intrigued to discover the country that lay within them with its isolated and closeted past. We were not disappointed although I would struggle to describe Albania as a conventional holiday destination. Just over twenty years since it rid itself of the dictatorship by which it was governed, it has made strident progress in turning itself into a modern nation with an application for EEC membership pending. It is not however easy to turn yourself from an impoverished and friendless nation into a modern 21st century democracy, but Albania continues to work on its challenge.

The people are not only hospitable but also exceedingly funny; they dress smartly, use the Latin alphabet (with a few additional letters) and the English language is widely spoken. I had expected to run into difficulties when I read that Albanians shake their heads to indicate "yes," but the imagined dilemmas never emerged.

In exploring a country under development, one might expect to discover a unique and historic culture. Sadly and in its rush to forget Enver Hoxha and the fifty year period of socialist dictatorship, Albania has instead, or so it seems, rushed headlong into a dash to embrace Western culture. Unlike Greece where you never stray far without hearing bouzouki music, in Albania the bars and radio seem to play an endless stream of Western influenced rap and noise.

There are modern hotels (although, I do wonder why they didn't consider increasing the diameter of their toilet pipes) albeit with leaking shower cubicles and, whilst there does not seem to be a culture of eating out, there are numerous bars and pizzerias. A restaurant, once identified and we usually found the best in hotels, generally serves good food. 

Religion was prohibited during the dictatorship but churches and mosques now flourish, and the people  mix freely regardless of their faith. Indeed for a country where statistically there are more Muslims than Christians, the hajib is a far more familiar item of clothing in the UK than on the streets of Tirana.

It is, like so many Balkan states, feverishly nationalistic, although, and save for a few decades in the 15th century, it has until relatively recently always been ruled by others, with significantly Hellenic, Roman and Ottoman periods. Whilst the concrete bunkers built across the land to help resist invasion remain an indelible stain on the landscape the name of the dictator as carved into the mountainside above Berat has been altered from Enver to Never, As a tourist you may be interested in learning what life was like during the dictatorship but the Albanians prefer to look forward and if they do dwell on the past, they are more likely to tell you about their national hero Skanderbeg who earned them independence in the 1400's or Ali Pasha who successfully fought the Ottomans and played host to Lord Byron whilst leaving a legacy of  late 18th century castles across the country.

Albania does have holiday resorts of which Sarande not far from the Greek border is probably the only one attracting visitors including some foreigners,  in any numbers. It does not however share either the lush countryside or for me the pleasing light of its southern neighbour. 

Some aspects of a less complicated life are still evident there with goats, pigs, horses and chickens wandering freely and even sleeping on major roads. Sheep and turkeys were generally shepherded and donkeys still pulled carts and ploughs.

Mister E and I found our journey intriguing but like so many facets of our life now it again raised questions as to what we want  in retirement, in this instance from touring. Do we want to spend our time trailing UNESCO World Heritage sites and other ancient monuments or are we looking for cultural, spiritual or environmental experiences? What we can agree on, however, is that Greece is always a good place to end up when you are tired from travelling and all you want is simple, no-fuss relaxation.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The Rugby World Cup

We arrived back in England on Sunday to find the country in the midst of hosting the Rugby World Cup and itself already eliminated from the competition. You might think that would be sufficient to avoid all further interest on my part in the tournament. However, yesterday I returned to the gym I frequent with a view to making amends for the inevitable overindulgence and lack of vigorous exercise that go hand in hand with a good holiday.

It seemed that not only had I missed England's vital games but also the arrival of New Zealand's All Blacks at the hotel to which the gym is linked. However, and with their next match scheduled to take place in Newcastle on Friday they were still very much in evidence, not least in the pool and spa areas.

Needless to say the Aquafit class in which I regularly participate had a far higher attendance of members than normal. Who says that retired ladies are too old to admire the toned muscles of those who play sport?

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Souvenirs and Memories

Oh dear it has been a while since I made an entry here, attributable, I do not regret, to the pursuit of  travels. Remember that bucket list I referred to earlier? Well last week we were exploring another Greek Island, this time Lefkas, again in the Ionian Sea.

Whilst it did not prove to be my favourite Greek Island, I was still captivated by the amazing effect of light and the extent to which the colour blue is all pervading. 

It is perhaps unsurprising that the Greek word for light is "phos" when everything gleams at you phosphorescently. 

Lefkas Town is made up of an array of brightly coloured properties many adorned with even brighter coloured plants and flowers. 

The town was hit by earthquakes in 1948 and 1953 and was, apart from numerous old Italian Churches which survived, rebuilt using a unique wooden frame technique designed to withstand further tremors. It is a distinct change to the usual whitewashed concrete. With the bright colours on the walls and the Colonial style shutters, it reminded me of our trip to Cuba.

As you can imagine there was therefore plenty of opportunity for me to pursue my passion for colour and the chance to photograph it. Yes, one day I really shall get those pencils and paints out again too.

Unfortunately the western Greek coastline was once renowned for its mosquito ridden lagoons and marshes. 

Indeed it is, I believe, speculated that Lord Byron may even have contracted malaria as he travelled that coast, playing his part in the Greece's battle for independence before succumbing to and dying of fever at Missolonghi. 

Whilst malaria may no longer be prevalent on those shores, the biting flies remain and love nothing better than to nip the flesh of unsuspecting tourists; I currently wear the raised red bumps, which have fortunately ceased to itch, as a badge of honour and, together with the photographs and memories, they are the only other souvenir of our travels.