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, 29 May 2016

A Self Portrait

Sitting on the boat on the West coast of Scotland this weekend, my mind drifted back to Sunderland Museum and in particular the municipal art collection with various pieces by LS Lowry. It seems that he was a regular visitor to the North East coast and there are a number of his pictures looking out across the North Sea on display. 

There are also two of his self-portraits, or at least that is what he called them. They are in fact paintings of pillars surrounded by sea. A notice on the wall explained that Lowry saw himself as "a tall, straight pillar standing up in the middle of the sea, waiting for the sea of life to finish it off."

Perhaps I've spent too much time bobbing around on waves in small boats but it is not a metaphor that I have any great empathy with. Standing up to and then being battered by the sea is probably not the best way to enjoy life. Much better to go with the tide, set sail and take advantage of the wind to steer a course.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Sunderland Day Trippers

We made use of the wonderful weather on Friday for a tourist trip up the road to Sunderland and Roker. Sunglasses on our noses and camera in the hand, we took full advantage of the sunshine to stroll along the beach and also dodge the inevitable shower with visits to the National Glass Centre and the City Museum and Winter Garden.

It ended up being a day of learning, taking in Sunderland's history of glass-making and ship building. I had expected a little more from the temporary exhibition of glass loaned by the Museum of Glass in Tacoma whilst The Good the Bad and The Ugly - New Works by Andrew Miller was, can I say, a little stark. However the setting of the Glass Centre right on the banks of the River Wear is certainly dramatic and it is hard to decide whether the highlight of a visit there is the glass blowing demonstrations or the homemade scones served in the cafe. Of course stopping for coffee and a cake is a significant feature of any day out in retirement and I never fail to marvel at the number of other over fifties partaking in similar manner.

Next the walk along the seashore was a brisk one. It had to be to walk off the effects of the scone before we proceeded into the city centre to visit the Museum with its range of galleries.

In contrast to the National Glass Centre, the Museum is crammed full of exhibits; the minimalism of the first venue replaced by a vast array of curios presented in an educational way. International Garden Photographer of the Year entries were also on display (visiting until 26th June) and the Museum was worth a visit for those alone; hardly surprising, therefore, that I came out musing over the prospect of purchasing a more sophisticated camera. 

In the Winter Gardens attached to the Museum, the lift up to the tree top walk was out of order, so we strolled amongst the hot-house plants at ground level instead. The noises emanating from a healthy fibre-glass specimen from the Jurassic period echoed around the conservatory dome although, when I think about it, does anyone really know what a dinosaur sounded like?


Sunday, 22 May 2016


I have frequently posted on here about the beauty of the natural world, the time in retirement to appreciate it and the benefits for our well-being in doing so.

With that in mind, I really don't want Spring to slip away without mentioning what a wonderful year it has so far been for bulb displays, culminating in the discovery of bluebell woods far and wide. I even have a very modest display that appears to have naturalised in my own garden. The photograph above was, of course, taken on my visit to Yorkshire Sculpture Park last week. (I would hate to mislead anyone into thinking that my own garden is so extensive.)

Saturday, 21 May 2016

A Parallel World

On Monday I met a friend at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It takes over an hour for me to drive there but it was a beautiful day, the roads were relatively empty and I enjoyed the journey. Perhaps it was a snippet that I heard on the radio or maybe a latent thought in the depths of my mind, but I began to ponder on similies for the retirement experience. 

"It's been a little bit like space travel," I told myself, "A venture into the unknown."

That didn't feel quite right. After all I can't honestly say that I have spent the time since June 2014 exploring distant planets or even the moon.

Later as we wandered around the Park admiring the large outdoor sculptures we entered the garden area where an exhibition of Not Vital's work is being set up.  Chased-steel pieces, reflecting the light and surroundings were mesmerising and as I stared at a moonlike orb, it came to me. 

Retirement isn't akin to space travel at all; instead it is life in a parallel universe where people, places and events may seem familiar but life itself is not. There's a link and a relationship between the former working life and present, but the former life is distant and removed.

I have crossed the Rubicon and now inhabit a simultaneously familiar and yet strange world where people have time to wander around sculpture parks during the working week, eat long lunches outside in the sunshine, have meaningful conversations, smile, listen and make time for each other. 

That old world is trapped in its own time and place; it still goes on but I cannot enter. When I try to steal a peep, my parallel existence is reflected back across the lawn; its blue sky and green, geen grass hide the surface of that other world and stretch out before me, beckoning and enticing. There is no going back, and, let's be honest, would I want to?

Sunday, 15 May 2016

The Month of May

May is a month richly endowed with historic traditions. The time of year when maidens washed their faces in dew, whole villages danced around the Maypole, Morris Dancers entertained and superstitions about shedding a layer of clothing or bathing abounded. Our ancestors may have had clean faces from the dew but they firmly believed that if they bathed in May they would soon lie  in clay. 

One assumes therefore that despite the socialising linked to May Fairs the rural populace, yet to bathe after the long harsh winter, must have had a most unappealing scent. 

Times have moved on and whilst May for me has so far been a time for lunching (that great pastime for ladies and retired couples), I'm pleased to say the only scents a wafting, apart from Spring flowers, has been the occasional hint of Chanel No 5 drifting across from an adjacent table.

Luckily I haven't been caught up in ribbon around a Maypole, although I did end up with pads on my eyes imagining them to be slices of raw cucumber on Friday night. Eight similarly aged females all sitting around a friend's dining table, their eyes covered and giggling. It was a little bit like a children's birthday party or even one of those teenage events where somebody has the bright idea of turning an innocent evening into a seance with all little fingers to the upturned glass. On this occasion, however, it was a group facial. Well I did say I wanted to try new experiences in retirement and whilst heaps of face cream was hardly what I had imagined, it certainly brought out the child in us all.

Of course if the packaging can be believed the woman with maturing skin can fight back wrinkles by deep cleansing, toning, using serums, eye contour creams and moisturisers. The downside of course is it took all evening to apply the stuff (mind the bottles of wine in the middle of the table may have played a part in slowing the proceedings whilst the non-stop laughter could only have lengthened the crows' feet around our eyes). Nonetheless I was left wondering how I would ever fit that kind of routine into retirement, not once but twice a day according to the instruction leaflet.

I guess with an increasingly older population, the marketing of so called miracle cosmetics will only increase, preying on the fear of wrinkles with dubious claims as to the efficacy of the latest embrocation. Wouldn't it be wonderful to form a united front against such ploys and instead insist on the health benefits of dew and Maypole dancing? I'm not sure about postponing the bath until June though.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Happy Feet

I travelled to Leeds today with a bulky briefcase. Inside were 5 sheets of paper and a pair of shoes with heels. I changed as I entered the building where I was participating in a business meeting for a charity that I am a trustee of. It's a well rehearsed procedure on my part, implemented years ago when I discovered that walking from car parks and stations across towns and cities to courts and appointment venues, really couldn't be managed in anything that wasn't comfortable and as my feet aged, the definition of what was comfortable changed with them. In fact if I'd worked much longer, I would quite possibly have been spotted eventually sprinting along the footpath in carpet slippers; you know the kind: corduroy, a dull pattern and fur across the top in a total mismatch of colour. Fortunately I did the decent thing and retired before my lack of fashion sense became a total embarrassment.

Today it was reported that a London receptionist had been sent home from work for failing to wear high-heels. The poor woman had been expected to don heels of between 2 and 4 inches whilst spending her day conveying clients to meeting rooms. Now the Internet is ablaze with righteous indignation at the treatment of women in the workplace; why should the female office worker be obliged to put the long-term health of her feet at risk for an outdated dress policy?

I recall working in firms where women were not allowed to wear trousers although at some point in the 1980's rules were relaxed and an element of equality in the dress code was introduced although sadly it doesn't seem to have extended to below the knees. Well I know one thing for sure, if men were to be forced to totter around an office in stilettos for even half an hour there would be a very quick change of policy.

Here on Planet Retirement, of course, and save for rare trips to Leeds I have no such problems. Almost the reverse, as having always worn slippers in the house I continued that habit in retirement only to find that they can be equally as bad if worn for hours on end; clearly feet require more support than a pair of sheepskin mules can offer. I have now reached a happy compromise that will have bunion-endowed receptionists in central London drooling with envy: during the day I wear flat shoes with moulded insoles to prevent my instep from collapsing.

You see, feet love retirement too and there's no overbearing employer threatening to sack you if you don't comply with an outmoded and sexist shoe policy.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Home Sweet Home

Sometimes in the quest to find the perfect location you overlook how wonderful home is. Having spent the last month longing for the warmth of a Mediterranean shoreline, when the temperature finally soared today I suddenly remembered how beautiful the view from our garden is; how  I love the sound of the resident birds and how nothing beats the pleasure of mucking around in the greenhouse with seedlings and young plants.

Part of me wishes the weather would always be so benevolent but deep down I know that if it was I wouldn't appreciate the glory of a beautiful warm Spring day.

Moreover without work tomorrow we even enjoyed a glass of wine when we had finished our chores, sitting out, sipping and marvelling on our view of the countryside.