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.




Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The Great Big Fall Out




I was hoping not to blog about the aftermath of the referendum again but after a long journey to and from Scotland today I felt I had to. The Scottish journey (a swift reconnoitre to explore options in the event of a second independence referendum?) is probably irrelevant, save that it meant a lot of time was spent listening to the radio when I could hardly believe what I was hearing about recent hate crime, the recriminations and party games being played out at Westminster and now, of course, the young people of London have marched to the Houses of Parliament to show the strength of their upset.

I can't say that the EU is something I feel any more passionate about than Jeremy Corbyn allegedly does. It's been around now so long, it's just a comfortable pair of carpet slippers and imagine having a referendum over those. Like most people I know, however, I could see that to try to unpick a system that we have lived by, built on and fully integrated into our business life and economy for over 40 years, could only bring volatility and upset. I didn't fall for Project Fear and am sure that given time and good Government which sadly we are currently lacking, things will calm down although it seems inevitable that the economy will shrink and there will be further austerity measures, but for how long, of course, nobody can say. 

My main concern in voting Remain was to try to counter the hatred and racism that I could see an Out vote unleashing and to prevent a take over of the elected Government by its extreme right. Unfortunately 51.9% of the electorate were against me and because nobody thought to require a two thirds majority or whatever level would have been appropriate to alter the status quo we are where we are. Just imagine if every  local club, partnership, company board and organisation voted for major decisions on such a basis, there would be complete chaos and fall outs every time an important issue had to be decided upon.

Being on the wrong side of an election outcome is nothing new and I am resigned to it. I have lived in one of the strongest Conservative held seats in the country for over thirty years, so as somebody who never votes Tory feel pretty much disenfranchised anyway. 

What does concern me though is not only the apparent absence of leadership (we should have a new Prime Minister by a date in September, three months away with the country already in melt down), but also the escalating hate crime. For instance who would believe, if it hadn't been videoed, that grown men in Manchester would feel that they could legitimately abuse an American who has lived here for 18 years on a public tram, because he is a foreigner. 

In the meantime and because statistics released show that the younger the voter (yes I bucked the trend) the more likely they are to have voted Remain, I now find Social Media full of older adults, who really should know better, calling those young people scum, wasters and other terms that I would prefer not to repeat. The posts are usually against photographs of the Great War suggesting that in some way the youth of today don't understand the hard realities of life and sacrifices that have been made for them. When the  Treaty of Rome was signed back in 1957 it was, of course, intended as a way to rebuild Europe and ensure that nations with long histories of strife between them would trade rather than fight and in which respect it has been an overwhelming success. What is wrong therefore with anyone, especially the young, wanting to remain in such an organisation which, when I think of it, is now beginning to sound much better than those old worn slippers?

With an outcome so close and of such consequence, those who feel sore at losing have full right to give voice to their frustrations especially when they believe that the result was affected by deliberate lies and propaganda. Yes the nation now needs to unite but in a way where, so far as possible, everyone can be acknowledged. Boris Johnson tried to start the process with his letter in the Telegraph yesterday but, as usual is living in dreamland. It was however a recognition of what is needed, in trying to reach out to everyone (albeit conveniently forgetting promises he had made along the way). 48.1% of the electorate cannot and will not be ignored, especially if they are young and passionate. The UK did not vote to eject foreigners from our soil. 51.9%, however, voted to leave the EU. We are all affected, feeling helpless and hurting in some way. A strong leader is needed to sort out the aftermath and in the meantime we all need to behave like adults and do everything we can to prevent hostility and division.




Sunday, 26 June 2016

Summer Art and Gardens



Whilst in London, the youngest and I took in the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy. It's a mixture of genres of contemporary art and as such challenges you to decide what it is that you like, rather than browsing a display exploring a common theme. That said the Large Weston Room had taken architecture as its theme and was certainly my favourite with drawings and models that clearly spoke and inspired, with an orderliness of thought and design that I inevitably find pleasing to the eye.


Burlington House itself with the light cascading from its ceiling glass is the perfect home for the Royal Academy and its changing displays. It gives lie to the idea that 19th Century buildings are no longer suitable venues for modern day art.



London, of course, is not only the home of world famous galleries but also parks and gardens. So why not indulge two interests in the same trip? Queen Mary's Gardens in Regent's Park proved to be another worthy destination not least because the roses for which the gardens are famous were in full bloom.





Saturday, 25 June 2016

#More in Common




Apart from the result, of course, there are two other worrying outcomes of the referendum. The first is the apparent total absence of any plan to implement an Out vote and since yesterday's announcement that he would be resigning, any visible leadership from the Prime Minister or indeed anyone in Government.

The second is the indisputable fact that the outcome has legitimised divisions between the 51.9% who voted Out and the 48.1% who voted to remain, as well as between the various sectors of society.

It is  only last week that an MP was brutally murdered outside her constituency surgery by a thug who from the name he gave to the Court subsequent to his arrest (Death to Traitors, Freedom for Britain) appears to think he was acting in Britain's interest. I have already blogged about the absurd unleashing of hatred as a result of the referendum campaign and remain concerned about living in a country where our fair and liberal values appear to be at risk or undermined.


On Wednesday I attended the More in Common event in Trafalgar Square, a memorial for Jo Cox, MP on what would have been her 42nd birthday. She had worked hard throughout her short life for those in need at home and abroad and was a genuine humanitarian. The occasion was sombre and very moving. So much so that by the time the cast from Les Miserables appeared on stage to perform "Do You Hear the People Sing" there could hardly have been a dry eye in London.

I don't want to have a retirement where the movement of myself and others is restricted; where there is unnecessary hatred and prejudice; where the politics of the country are isolationist, inward looking, arrogant, mean or small-minded. As Jo Cox in her maiden speech said, "We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us."


Those present in Trafalgar Square pledged to Love Like Jo. It is a vow that all of us now need to take if we are to get through the chaos and difficult days, months or even years that lie ahead.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Wrong Vibes



I spent most of this week in London, rushing back by train on Thursday to the ballot box. The vibes in London, which has to be the greatest cosmopolitan city on Earth, were such that I was convinced that the result of the EU Referendum campaign would be a decisive vote for Remain. 

Totally exhausted from the long days walking pavements (London may be cosmopolitan but its concrete slabs are hard on the soles), I did not have the energy to stay up late to watch the early results come in and instead got up at 6am to dash downstairs and seek confirmation of the result.

Needless to say I was rendered speechless as shock gripped me and I realised that all the weeks of unsavoury rhetoric had not repulsed the electorate after all. An attempt to silence the extreme right in the Tory party had backfired and we are now committed to leaving the European Union after forty years.

Apart from the lunatic fringe, nobody seemed to be celebrating, not even the victors. Reality suggested that there was no obvious plan to move things forward and as the pound plummeted and the Prime Minister (when did I ever think I might be sad to see David Cameron go so quickly) announced his intention to resign, we appeared to be both leaderless and without direction. I guess it's at times like these that tin pot nations are taken over by military coups but apart from some soothing words from the Governor of the Bank of England (a foreigner taking a Briton's job apparently) shell-shock reigned supreme.

Of course there are all kinds of theories as to why the vote went the way that it did. Why did hard core Labour supporters vote against their party and with extreme neo-facists? Was it a vote against austerity without realising that we could now end up with a government that cares far more for the politics of capitalism than the current regime? Was it swung by mavericks who thought their vote wouldn't count and the establishment (along with virtually every so-called expert) would get its way regardless? Or was it, as in the case of one woman I saw interviewed, because the local council has closed the public toilets in her home town? I know sh*t happens, but seriously?

It doesn't matter; the fact is that we are leaving and suddenly life seems potentially scarier and more uncertain than it was. Retirement plans certainly need to be re-evaluated. A forever home in a warmer climate for instance would be burdened with issues; petrol costs are likely to increase making road trips more expensive; guaranteed increases in the State Pension (if I live long enough to reach an age when I can claim it) may be consigned to history; further austerity cuts (not immigration) could increase waiting lists for the NHS just as bodily parts begin to deteriorate. Without the EU will my children benefit from the workers' rights that have been implemented over recent decades or will they be chipped away at bit by bit? Will they have the advantages of living in a "green and pleasant land" or will the environmentally friendly policies of the EU be abandoned to allow farmers for instance greater freedom in lieu of their subsidies that may now reduce?

Curiously we have been told that the older the voter, the more likely they were to vote leave. The generation that  has never had it so good in part because of the EU has pulled up the draw-bridge and for what? Nobody seems to know the answer apart from some silver tongued privileged blokes who like being photgraphed with pints in their hands as though they speak for the common man whilst talking in riddles.

I certainly hope the electorate hasn't been completely hoodwinked; that Europe doesn't implode as a result of our decision to walk away from the table at a time when global pressures require more unity not separation; that a deep and prolonged recession can be avoided and, most importantly, that we can counter the hatred building up on our streets.

There's a lot of reshaping to do and not just for retirement. 

Saturday, 18 June 2016

A Second Anniversary




Today marks two years since my final day at work. Hard to believe, it seems so long ago and no, I still wouldn't go back. Retirement is brilliant; it's like recovering all that time you had in your teenage years but never appreciated with the added benefit now of knowledge, wisdom and no summer exams to spoil it.

Our plans are pretty much intact, save that weather and hospital appointments have to date impeded the intention to complete a circumnavigation of the British Isles and we may have to rethink exactly how sailing fits into retirement. We've both suffered from separate shoulder issues which, although now on the mend, have limited our  respective abilities to pull ropes and wind winches. So that is an area that certainly requires more consideration in the next few months.

Further and whilst I still want to take that Interior Design Course, it has taken a back seat to enjoying all those bits of living that are in short supply when you are working. I have instead been concentrating on rediscovering my creative side with a camera and as a frequent visitor to art exhibitions and am now exploring the scope for extending photography as a hobby. The trouble with retirement is there are just so many things you can do, it can be hard to choose.

The last two years have however certainly given me the opportunity to work on my fitness levels, lose weight and experience various diverse classes (this morning I tried Zumba) making new friends in the process and more luncheon buddies.

The house and garden are beginning to undergo changes too, slowly and steadily although hopefully gathering apace.

Whilst, however, I might have dreamed about living a more  Bohemian lifestyle, the truth is that conventionality and pedantry have been part of my essence for so long that I have realised I must accept them for what they are. Playing to my strengths, I am therefore using those almost innate legal skills to fulfil the role of Parish Clerk as well as a trustee of a local charity. In the meantime a relaxed attitude and better well-being allow the opportunity to chip at the edges, live in the here and now, becoming much more involved in and appreciative of the world around us.

We are conscious of the need to continue to plan retirement in order to derive maximum benefit from it. We have however been shocked to realise that the adage that sixty is the new forty isn't quite true and that there is something called the ageing process which means for instance that even though Mister E still goes on 50 mile cycle rides, he takes longer to recover after them than he might have done 20 years earlier. Conscious of the signs of degeneration, we are anxious to squeeze as much as possible into the early years of retirement.

Save for the Interior Design course and the specific sailing voyage, we are very much enjoying retirement by doing what we feel we set out to do. Our other plans were I admit a little more vague and aesthetic and perhaps, therefore, easier to feel our way with. Now, however, after two years it is the right time, as I concluded a few days ago, for us to start to plan anew and more precisely for what we want to achieve over the next five years. Whatever you make of retirement, it shouldn't be an end in itself and you definitely don't have to be young or working to have ambition.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

A Distraction for a Wet Afternoon




So how do you distract yourself on a wet and cool June day when, upon returning from the gym, you decide it's too unpleasant to step out further? How about donning a fleece to combat the temperature and then watching England and Wales battle it out on a football field in France, all from the comfort of your living room?

Now I'm not  a great fan of international football, at least not when it gives rise to populist nationalism. However, after (to quote the Archbishop of Canterbury) "the inexcusable pandering to worries and prejudices that is giving legitimisation to racism" in the current referendum campaign, the football stadiums of Euro 2016 surely provide an ideal opportunity to demonstrate camaraderie between European nations both on and off the pitch. It's a shame therefore that there are some who are so vocal with their abuse and anti European sentiment. 

The thugs waving England flags and behaving like hooligans on foreign soil demonstrate exactly what bigotry and hatred leads to when unleashed, whilst narrowmindedness is not, as we are now witnessing in the UK, confined to those in replica football strips.

So, having got that off my chest, can I just add that I did feel sorry for all those footie supporters from England and Wales who aren't retired and couldn't take a day's holiday to watch the game which I thoroughly enjoyed; they missed a treat.

 

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Banal but Busy

I would like to be able to tell you that my failure to post here of late has been attributable to an adventure in a far off and exotic location. Unfortunately I am not very good at telling lies and instead must confess that I have been lured into the awful trap that I have been looking to avoid since retiring; the one labelled routine and commitment.

Twice weekly hospital visits to treat a longterm skin complaint have intervened, restricting our ability to "go with the flow" and causing a regular weekly pattern to emerge. Life has fallen into a regular cycle of exercise classes, Parish Council business and covering for absences at Save the Children's charity shop. My spare time has been whiled away in the garden or with a paint brush in hand if it has rained. Evenings have passed in a whirl of angry yelling at the television screen when yet another politician has come on to add to the appalling spin, populist innuendo and disgraceful arithmetic that has graced the ridiculous referendum campaign we now find ourselves in the midst of. 


Here I am avowed to a life of novelty and adventure and I have just had two packed weeks of everyday repetitiveness broken only by a visit to the Himalayan Garden and Sculpture Park at Grewelthorpe near Ripon. It is open for just a few weeks every year when the rhododendrons and azaleas are in full bloom, and is a really beautiful and colourful destination. However, a half day amongst shrubs and statues is insufficient to properly challenge an adrenalin-seeking retiree or to save me from a fortnight of drudgery.

Now I don't want to sound ungrateful. My garden is looking tidier than at any time in the recent past; the hall ceiling is glowing in brilliant white emulsion; paperwork is up to date; I've found plenty of people to chat to and my abdominal muscles may even be the strongest they have ever been, but it is now time to schedule a list of challenges for the bucket list. Retirement is only days away from its two year anniversary and cannot be allowed to drift mundanely into tedium.