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.




Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Enjoying the Elements



We returned from another week in the Lake District on Saturday, staying, as we always do, in a lodge in the Great Langdale valley. It has the wonderful advantage of being able to park the car and then not use it again and instead walk everywhere. We also enjoy a superb view of the Langdale Beck and the visiting wildlife from our accommodation.


The problem with the Lake District National Park, however, is invariably the weather. All the wonderful scenery, the lakes and greenery, come, as one must expect, at the price of heavy rainfall. So, on this visit, torrential rain prior to and at the time of our arrival caused the River Brathay at the bottom of the valley to burst its banks and somewhat inconveniently run across the road. Following other vehicles like a sheep, I plunged into the moving torrent, made it to the other side but at the cost of what remain internally wet driving lights, although at least they are still working.


Walking for the next two days was interrupted by flood water and even games of Pooh sticks were off the agenda. However, we moved quickly from downpour to radiant sunshine and enjoyed at least two days of blue skies, sunshine and a heat that was not entirely supportive of tackling steep inclines (I panted a lot). 


Then we had the dank, miserable overcast day, fit only for enjoying a lakeside stroll but without the views, before the cloud lifted and we could return into the hills.


How does one define a trip of this kind in retirement? If we enjoy it so much, why don't we  adopt the lifestyle as a permanent one rather than seeing it as a break from normality? When working it could be defined as a well-earned holiday and much needed change; how does that sit with retirement which many would define as one long holiday? Do we need the banality and farming landscape of home in our every day lives in order to appreciate the rugged beauty of the fells?


I don't  know the answers. As time goes on, I think I am becoming more wrapped up in enjoying the freedom of retirement than in understanding a logical narrative that explains where one goes next. Unlike the world of work, retirement is a spiritual and emotional experience that extends beyond the confines of diligence and grafting. It is being played out on a higher level than the chronological record of the working years and in so doing invariably defies a target-led, rational progression. In the early years at least it remains a time for exploration and exploitation of the senses and, when you make it to the top of some of those Lakeland fells, you are literally spinning,  unless that's just the altitude effect.


Wednesday, 17 August 2016

American Relations



So just as the youngest left England for Texas, one of our US cousins and his family flew in from Wisconsin. We played host for two nights of their trip and it was an absolute delight to meet the children who I'm sure thought we were another pair of boring old relations living in a strange country that can't spell simple words like flavour, puts dessert spoons above the table mat rather than to its side, drives on the wrong side of the road and calls jelly "jam".

However, having as yet failed to complete the decluttering of our home (a job that remains on the retirement to do list) we were able to win them over by sorting out the youngest's old dolls' house, rekindling my own plans to renovate it and proving once again that parting with possessions is never easy.

Still visitors staying over has proved a useful spur in finishing the makeover of the bathroom and cleaning corners of the house that probably haven't seen a duster for longer than I would care to confess. We got rid of  a broken ornament or two and had a general tidy up. Now to keep it that way, make haste with the redecorating and maybe throw away a few more items, we just need to invite the whole of the American continent to join us. 



Friday, 12 August 2016

Flying to America




No I have not flown to the USA today but I may well have done. It is the youngest who has gone but I am fast discovering in retirement that I seem to do far more than ever for my children despite the fact that they are technically both now adults. No doubt if therefore they had asked me to wing my way across the Atlantic, I would have had a go. The youngest, however, is spending a year studying at the University of Texas in Austin and there have been some frantic preparations going on of late, aggravated by culturally-different (better described as indifferent) bureaucracy. 

For instance amongst the list of "must-haves" was a certificate to evidence that either you have been innoculated against or are not carrying tuberculosis. Has anyone ever tried to acquire such a certificate in the UK where the disease has been eradicated to the point where the dreaded BCG vaccination was abandoned several years ago on the basis that it was unnnecessary? Certainly the doctor's surgery could neither issue such a certificate nor recommend a body that could and when an online search produced reference only to one specialist unit in London that treats people suffering from the disease (usually in foreign visitors or immigrants apparently) but does not issue certificates, she had to give up the quest.

Interestingly we have received an e-mail reassuring students and their parents about the introduction of the Carry On Campus law. It's not another in the series of English Carry On comedy films but rather legislation upholding the right to bear arms within the university perimeters subject to certain restrictions. Talk about reassurance. I've almost gone mental at the thought.

Then there appears to have been an aversion from the private hall of residence she is to live in to communicate by  e-mail as instead it prefers the medium of letter and text message (but only to those with a zip code and US mobile, sorry cell-phone). When it has remembered, an occasional Facebook message has been sent instead. Consequently the youngest was not informed that invoices are obtained by logging into an account for which she was never sent a PIN and please don't get me started on paying that bill.

Oh okay, I'm going to rant anyway. Strangely, and perhaps it's a privacy or money laundering issue, but you are not permitted to know the details of the destination bank account. As a result the ability to make an international transfer is denied. Instead we were invited to send an "e-check." Try asking an English bank to do one of those: "We can make an international payment," is the not unsurprising stock response.

Then there was the option of using something called "Discover" but we never did discover what that is.

Of course there was the ubiquitous facility for payment by debit or credit card which we had hoped to avoid because of the ridiculous transaction fees that our banks can charge when sterling is changed. 

"Are there any other means of payment?" she enquired. 

"No, but you can give us a money order on arrival," we were informed. A what? Obviously another banking term unknown to our Anglo Saxon systems but which would appear to resemble a humble postal order. "You might be able to use your currency card to pay for that or else withdraw cash at an ATM and buy it in the premises across the road."

Well we could hardly risk that, especially as there is of course a daily limit on the amount of cash that can be withdrawn from an ATM. So rejecting the potential for the youngest carrying a wadge of cash  it had finally reached the point of  reaching for the good old reliable visa card. Except that without a USA zip code the site really did not want to accept my payment. 

Several attempts later and after liaising with my bank and the recipient, payment was made but only after I had to tick a box consenting to a twenty six dollar "convenience fee." Twenty six dollars to use a credit card and the insult of calling it a convenience fee after the hassle we had gone through; I cannot forgive.

Mind it is not just the USA that looks to charge for fresh air. Manchester airport is onto a clever little earner with car parking fees; £45-99 for an overnight stay at the onsite multi-storey. I'm sure I could get bed and breakfast cheaper for myself than that rate. Instead we arranged to pay less than a third of that for hotel parking last night and then, just as my faith in faceless capitalist profiteering had hit rock bottom, the gentleman at reception waived the charge.

When we visited Cuba, I recall our guide impressing on us that prices there are set according to need, so that essential items are priced lower than non-essentials; white rum for instance is treated as an essential and virtually given away. What a brilliant system. Forget open market economics and pass me the bottle. After all the hassle of getting the youngest airborne, I could do with a drink!




Wednesday, 3 August 2016

The Worrying is Over for the Moment




It seems that as we age, we are more likely to suffer from anxiety (a generalised anxiety disorder being the most common diagnosis) than dementia. Cynics amongst us might say that is because we all start to worry about suffering from dementia. I'm not convinced, at least not when I wake in the middle of the night and wonder if the tomatoes are ripening. That  said if moonshine doesn't really mature tomatoes and turn their skins red, it could be dementia itself (rather than a heightened level of concern) that causes ludicrous thoughts at unearthly hours.

Anyway in search of calmness and tranquility away from all the worries that go with raising fruit and vegetables, the youngest and I took ourselves off for an extended day at the gym. A workout and then yoga were followed by an afternoon in the spa. Sauna, hot-tub, steam room, tepidarium, tropicarium, igloo and pool; we emerged relaxed, albeit a littled wrinkled on the fingers from all the water.

Now if you don't believe in the reputed beneficial health effects of a spa, please don't mock because our day clearly produced good karma. Not only did we feel well but, on my foraging trip into the greenhouse this evening, guess what I finally picked to go with the lettuce and cucumber? Yes...ripe red cherry tomatoes!



Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Manual Labour




There is something intrinsically gratifying about toiling with your hands. I find the application of emulsion paint to walls (of which there has been much lately) almost therapeutic, whilst the delight of the outcome remains a source of pleasure for many weeks. It is probably just as well as the last fortnight has seen us remodel the bathroom, continue with the painting of the hall and begin work on external masonry at the eldest's home in Nottingham where I surprised myself by repointing an outside wall of the house ready for a coat of masonry paint on my next visit.

In the meantime and with temperatures that are now happily average for the time of year, the vegetable patch has continued to grow successfully and the sweetcorn I was fretting over has pollinated and sprouted horse-tails which is surely a good sign. My angst now is focused on the ripening of my tomato crop; the greenhouse has gone into overdrive in producing  the most delicious tasting cucumbers but the masses of cherry tomatoes remain steadfastly green.

Of course any spurts of growth amongst the vegetables is usually accompanied by an increase in weeds. Sadly that's where the manual toil offers less satisfaction. Pulling a hoe across hardened clay soil has never been my idea of fun. Enter, therefore, the youngest just back from volunteering on an organic farm in Sweden. She can now weed like a demon on a mission, leaving me to lean back in my garden chair and think about the next decorating project.