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.




Thursday, 26 November 2015

Communal Concerns



In these harrowing times of explosions, shootings, war and terrorism, it is easy to carry the miseries of the world on your shoulders. Add climate change and sustainability to the mix and the problems of the planet weigh heavily.

It has therefore been a relief to become Parish Clerk and realise that what keeps the local community and fellow citizens awake at night is not always the prospect of invading ISIL warriors nor even of strange beings from Mars, but rather:

The turning off of street lighting after midnight;
Dogs fouling on public footpaths;
Drivers speeding or illegally parking their motor cars.

It is good to get a local perspective on the issues of our time.


Sunday, 22 November 2015

Great Dream



I have just discovered the Action for Happiness' website. Reading its pages has to bring a smile to anyone's face. However the page that caught my attention is labelled 10 Keys and on it are set out ten keys to happiness.

I can't believe that since retiring I have been on a journey of self discovery in which I have succeeded in identifying almost all those aspects of life; instead all I needed to have done was to read this website! Still now that I have found it, I am delighted to note that I have been on the right track all along, no wonder retirement is proceeding so happily!

The Action for Happiness whose patron is the Dalai Lama has an impressive Board of Directors committed to helping people take practical steps for a happier and more caring world. In so doing, and using Great Dream as an acronym, we learn from them that:

 Giving or doing things for others makes us feel better too. I sense more commitment to my voluntary causes, family and friends coming on already.

 Relating or connecting with people. Oh yes, I'll take any excuse to socialise!

 Exercising or taking care of your body which sounds like another excuse to fit in an extra trip to the gym or fitness class with more opportunity to socialise when doing so too.

 Appreciating by noticing the world around you; a favourite theme of mine now when I am out and about.

 Trying out or learning new things. You don't really want a list of all the Future Learn courses I have now completed do you?

 Direction or having goals to look forward to. I wonder if my bucket lists count? Ticking off lists certainly  makes me happy!

 Resilience or finding ways to bounce back. Inbuilt stoicism, it's all part of the British psyche I'm sure; maybe it's attributable to all that rain.

 Emotion or taking a positive approach. Why it was only last week I was blogging about positivity!

 Acceptance essentially of yourself and being comfortable with who you are. Sometimes a difficult one and frequently the borderline between happiness and depression. As you edge into retirement, however, age, wisdom and most of all confidence should see you okay on this score.

 Meaning or being part of something bigger. That old chestnut, the meaning of life or how to be happy and for which we come full-circle. However and if anyone needs any ideas I can commend volunteering with Save the Children.

As the Dalai Lama is quoted as saying, "Happiness is not something that is ready made. It comes from your own actions."


Thursday, 19 November 2015

Yemen

The Situation is Getting Worse - Save the Children  Yemen, You Tube

With Syria and the refugee crisis grabbing newspaper space for what seems like months now, when I became a voluntary Community champion for Save the Children it came as something of a shock to me (as I'm sure it will to most people) to realise that the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world today is probably in Yemen. Pulverised by a bloody civil war and now the infiltration of Al Quaeda and ISIS, it is subject to a commercial blockade that is preventing effective aid reaching those who need it most at a time when it is estimated that 80% of the population are reliant on organisations like Save The Children and the UN for food and health care.

Prior to the conflict Yemen was already the poorest nation in the Middle East but the statistics are now horrific. It is estimated that: 
21.1 million people are in need of aid and 9.9 million children are affected
12.8 million people do not even have access to the basics for survival and hundreds of thousands of children are at risk of dying of malnutrition
15.4 million people have no access to healthcare
20.9 million people are in need of water and sanitation

The crisis is huge and yet it is constantly ignored by the media and politicians. The EU Council has, however, met earlier this week to discuss the position and drawn helpful conclusions.

Save the Children is seeking to raise awareness. We need our Governments to exert their influence on Saudi Arabia which is imposing the blockade, in order to allow humanitarian aid and protection for those in Yemen who will otherwise surely die. 

No child is born to die.


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

National Trust in East Anglia

Back in September I was explaining how our limited use of National Trust membership was causing Mister E and me to query whether or not to continue with it. I am delighted to say, however, that whilst journeying around East Anglia we must have visited the equivalent of a year's worth of properties.


Indeed on route to Norfolk, we took a break just off the A1 near Grantham in order to visit the childhood home of Isaac Newton at Woolsthorpe Manor. The apple season is of course, in full season in October so what better time to call as it was in the orchard here that Newton is reputed to have had his Eureka moment with gravity as well as conducting his experiments to split light. The tour around the house does not take long, but it was one of the most informative that I have visited with an introductory film in one of the farm outbuildings and, in another, hands on activities  seeking to demonstrate Newton's Laws of Motion and other discoveries.

Moving on to Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, we were admiring the impressive Georgian frontages on the North Brink overlooking the river when, partially driven by a desire for afternoon tea, we entered Peckover House and garden, originally owned by a banking family. Tea was delightful but so too was the garden with its pet cemetery, croquet lawn, vegetable plot and herbaceous borders. A real oasis of calm and beauty in the middle of a busy town. 


The North Norfolk coastline along which we drove is, of course,  owned and maintained by the National Trust for the free enjoyment of everyone and that Guildhall in Kings Lynn is also owned by the Trust albeit managed by the local council with restricted opening.


When we awoke one morning to the rain coming down in torrents, we took advantage of our membership to visit Blickling Estate, enjoying morning coffee and a browse in the bookshop before the main house opened. It is a magnificent mansion, donated to the Trust by the Marquess of Lothian and built on the ruins of the home of the Boleyn family where the second wife of Henry VIII is believed to have been born.


Then we headed eastwards towards those large sea defences and Horsey Windpump, one of the original windmills used to pump water from the fields, and now in the Trust's ownership enabling visitors to climb to the top floor with views across the Broads.

Dunwich Heath and Beach too are cared for by the National Trust and are in an area designated as of outstanding natural beauty.


Staying with friends, only a stone's throw from Sutton Hoo, obviously necessitated a visit there. It is the site of Anglo Saxon burial mounds which, in the mid 20th century revealed the burial chamber of a king, the treasure from which is now in the British Museum and which of course we saw earlier this year. Apart from some clearly disturbing piles of earth in the middle of a field there would, of course, be nothing really to see but the National Trust has put together an impressive exhibition explaining Suffolk in Anglo Saxon times and the burial customs that were followed. The home of the former owner of the site has also been preserved in its original 1930's style and looking out of the windows towards the river estuary it is easy to imagine the sound and view of RAF Spitfires flying overhead as they returned from their wartime missions.


Finally we had a day out starting at Flatford Mill where John Constable painted his famous Haywain picture and, as well as opening the land, the National Trust provide a small exhibition about Constable's work. We walked across the river into Essex to Dedham and back before finishing the day at Pin Mill, again in the care of the Trust, with wonderful panoramic views over the River Orwell and the scene for Arthur Ransome's novel, "We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea."


Now what would we have done without those membership cards?



Monday, 16 November 2015

Suffolk after Norfolk



Proceeding down the coast, Lowestoft, the most easterly place in the United Kingdom, was our first stop in Suffolk. 

Like so many former fishing ports, it has obviously known better times but, as the birthplace of Benjamin Britten, musical fountains outside the tourist office, choreographed to spray to a background of his music, were a pleasant touch.

It has two piers of which the South Pier, adjacent to the river entrance, had only recently re-opened whilst the Claremont Pier remains closed on its seaward side, as does part of the Blue Flag Beach for repairs to the sea wall to be carried out.



The elegance of the Victorian resort of Southwold, dominated by its lighthouse and with the famous beach huts (we noted one for sale at £90,000!) and bustling pier, restored since our last visit, was in marked contrast to Lowestoft.



However, for sheer solitude, Dunwich, a thriving seaport from Roman times until the 14th Century when it was destroyed and swallowed up by the sea in a series of harsh storms, would be hard to exceed. The beach is shingle and the huts are for fishermen but the ruined priory, surrounding heathland and an old fashioned beach cafe continue to attract visitors even on a bleak October day. It was listed in our history tour of England, so made another tick on that list.


Despite adjoining each other Suffolk is very different to neighbouring Norfolk. The vast skies are muted by a more undulating leafier landscape; the houses are of traditional wood and often thatch design  or painted in pastel shades, invariably pink; it all helps make Suffolk villages quintessentially English. No wonder perhaps that Britten decided to make his permanent home therefore at Aldeburgh, just a little further down the coast where we enjoyed a bracing walk to the Martello Tower.


Continuing our journey led us into riverside territory with visits to Woodbridge, Ramsholt and Bawdsey on the River Deben and Pin Mill with its old barges on the River Orwell.


Some of our Suffolk highlights were inland and I shall post about our visits to the National Trust sites in that vicinity separately. We did however finish our trip with a stop at Bury St Edmunds which is an interesting spot. I loved the legend of St Edmund the Angle King who was killed in battle by so many arrows that he looked like a hedgehog according to one Aelfric of Eynsham; he was then beheaded but his head was protected by a wolf until his supporters found it, and when they placed it with his body it miraculously reattached itself! If the story was not enough the Cathedral too is amazing. Not because of the wonderful light inside or its painted roof but because this is a building of recent construction in a Gothic design, the tower being completed only in 2005.


Although the town has many delightful Georgian buildings and we enjoyed exploring the narrow streets and Abbey Gardens, I was also please to find a modern outdoor shopping area with some unusual but fittingly styled flats above. If I lived closer, I would definitely go to Bury for my retail therapy.



Saturday, 14 November 2015

Norfolk before Suffolk



I do want to devote entries on this blog to our trip to Norfolk and Suffolk and they would, of course, have come earlier had I not succumbed to tonsillitis last week. It never fails to surprise me how much the different areas of Britain differ, a fact that is all the more surprising when one considers how small our country really is. However, it was a point that truly proved itself during our visit to East Anglia.

It is perhaps twenty years since we last visited Norfolk so we expected changes and I confess that, save for Southwold, I do not recall visiting Suffolk before. I planned our route and booked a variety of hotels and gastro-pubs with rooms in advance, finishing our visit by staying with good friends who have recently relocated to a small village close to Woodbridge.

Our accommodation did not disappoint and I can thoroughly recommend the Kings Head at Letheringsett, The Norfolk Mead at Coltishall and The White Horse Inn at Sibton. The food was excellent at all of them, the proprietors were friendly and the accommodation, which varied from a very small double room in the eaves to a suite with a separate living room spread over two floors, was perfect for our needs.

We went armed with our National Trust membership cards taking full advantage to park for free in its car parks, use its tea rooms where you are always guaranteed fare of good quality, shelter from the rain in the stately home at Bickling, as well as enjoy the delights of various other properties and, of course, the North Norfolk coastline. Indeed the variety in the places offered by the National Trust in that part of the country is worthy of a blog entry in itself, so I shall describe them in more detail subsequently.



Our trip very much started in Kings Lynn which established itself as a Hanseatic League port back in the 14th century and has retained a maritime character with old warehouses and the Customs House still there to appreciate along the wharf at the edge of the River Great Ouse flowing into The Wash. It prospered as a port for centuries and its wealthy past is reflected in the historic buildings in the town centre including the magnificent Guildhall. 





From there we proceeded along the coast. Journey times are slow in this part of the country with A roads very much narrower and more winding than one would expect. The houses are traditionally built of brick and flint, in  a style very much unique to this region of the country too.



We made stops at Brancaster, Blakeney and Cley by the Sea, walking out onto the sea marshes. If they have changed since our last visit two decades ago it is perhaps only in terms of the number of people now visiting, especially out of season. We did notice, however, that, presumably attracted by the flat landscape, our fellow visitors were, like ourselves, clearly retired. Indeed, dare I say it, I almost felt young! 





From the coast we moved to the Broads, the inland meres and waterways formed by peat digging centuries ago in an area where the land is rarely more than a few feet higher than sea level and water is pumped into dykes to prevent flooding (hence the windmills that used to dot the landscape but are not now so much in evidence). We were both a little disappointed by this area of the county; Mister E when he realised that after his ocean going experiences, sailing on the Broads would no longer invoke the excitement he recalled from a sailing trip in his teenage years; me at the apparent lack of character in some of the villages (although Horning was a gem) and also at the sameness of the landscape which was flat and vast but without a view.



Next we journeyed down the east coast appreciating the need for the huge defences which block the view of the sea even when only a short way inland but sadly very much necessary to protect the villages and agriculture behind them. At Caister on the Sea we gaped at the wind farm situated on a sandbank just offshore, dominating a beautiful sandy beach which was deserted in October; a sharp contrast to the North Coast which, although out of season, was still clearly popular with holidaymakers, walking on mud and enjoying the scenery rather than building sandcastles. 

We then passed quickly through Great Yarmouth, which may be a famed seaside destination, but with its neon signs and amusement arcades did not entice us to stop. So it was that we crossed into Suffolk and, for us, uncharted territory...


Thursday, 12 November 2015

Trials and Tribulations of Packing to Travel



Having planned to do more travelling in retirement than ever before, I have recently come across the hazards of packing. Determined never to repeat the inglorious incident from ten years ago of departing in a mad rush on a fly-drive holiday  without my driving licence, I have been trying to pack in advance and with reference to a list.

Sadly I still seem to fall short of a 100% success rating. 

On our recent trip to Albania and Greece, I ticked everything off on my list only to find that medication I take for my under active thyroid had mysteriously disappeared from my bag. A similar situation arose a couple of weeks ago on our journey around Suffolk and Norfolk. I was certain that I had packed the charging lead for my camera after it had initially fallen out and I found it lying on the floor near the front door. Indeed I could remember picking it up and placing it in the car. Strangely it was not there when I needed it, upon arrival in our first hotel.

All of this was rather frustrating as you can imagine and certainly involved a great deal of packing and unpacking just to make sure I was not overlooking the items that I was convinced I had included. 

Upon our return home the disappearances were readily solved. I had packed the medication, but not in the bag that I finally decided to take, whilst the camera cable had attached itself to the eldest's belongings when we dropped him off on route at his home and where it had lain undiscovered until I insisted that he conduct a thorough search.

I'm not sure what the moral of this story is or if I should be concerned about my lack of thoroughness. It is after all only a year ago when I was blogging about how packing in retirement is a breeze. I am, however, trying to draw a positive from my oversights: I think they are a great marker of how far I have come in my journey to live a more Bohemian and less organised and pedantic life! Please don't try to persuade me otherwise.




Sunday, 8 November 2015

Illness Strikes



Oh dear, I have been ill with tonsillitis. Something of a surprise, as I hadn't had even the slightest hint of a sniffle since finishing work in June 2014 but I suppose it had to happen one day. 

You know what though? I have discovered that being ill can be a lot worse, as in my previous lfe dragging myself out of the house to fulfil commitments at work. These past few days I have simply taken it easy.

 There’s nothing I now do in retirement that can’t wait for another day. Guess what, taking it easy has aided a speedy recovery  too. I'm not sure why I have reached this stage of my life without previously discovering that.