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.




Showing posts with label Attitude. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Attitude. Show all posts

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Losing My Marbles and Other Things


I have experienced a difficult few days when my joy at becoming a scatty being has been offset by the realisation that this is not the state of nirvana I have been seeking in retirement. To throw away years spent honing my organisational skills and memory capacity is not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow after all.

I may be searching for a simpler life but this does not mean I also want a simpler mind. Terrifyingly, in my quest for simplification, I may just have overdone it.


It all started, like the birth of modern democaracy, at Runnymede. In the process of taking one of a number of photographs, I failed to realise that I had dropped my camera case. Half a mile later the omission registered, steps were retraced and the bag was retrieved from the damp grass on which it was lying.

Never satisfied, however, I excelled myself the following morning. I must confess that I do have a previous history where hotel room key cards are concerned. Consequently I have vowed to be scrupulously careful in my handling of them, ever aided by all kinds of dire warnings from Mister E should I dare to even think of losing another. So it was that I set off for a pre-breakfast dip in the hotel pool, dutifully hanging onto the keycard at all costs. I waved it at the  man at the desk in order to enter the swimming area and promptly forgot all about it. I remembered, of course, when Mister E enquired as to its whereabouts, after I had knocked on our room door for him to open it.

Once again we retraced our steps but this time to no avail. So, original keycards cancelled, new ones provided and a full English breakfast consumed, we set out to walk along the Thames and into Oxford, a gentle stroll from where we were staying. After a while, I was obliged to stop so that I could adjust what was beginning to be a most uncomfortable sock. I untied my lace, removed my foot from shoe intending to smooth out the wrinkles which I could feel accruing but could find none. I peered into my shoe and there smiling up at me was the missing keycard. I had put it in a safe place after all.

Well you might think that would be the end of my appalling lapses for one weekend but worse was to follow. On returning home on Sunday, I opened the cloak cupboard to hang up my jacket and hanging from my peg was an item I did not recognise. Closer examination suggested that it was a similar colour and style to my winter coat but a size smaller and much more battered than I could recall. Somebody, somewhere must be wearing a woollen navy coat that's rather more generous across the chest and significantly smarter than theirs used to be.

Finally, just when you think your memory won't play any more tricks on you, at least not if you concentrate really hard, I lost my watch. It was AWOL for 40 hours during which time I had any number of imaginary conversations with the insurance company and police explaining how we must have been burgled in the dead of night without realising because I had definitely left it on the bathroom window ledge and, despite checking under the soap, toothpaste and even in the plug hole of the sink, it had disappeared without a trace. I found it late this afternoon, twinkling on the floor of the eldest's now vacated bedroom (yes he has flown to New Zealand), cupped in the sleeve of a discarded and dirty sweatshirt. How it got there shall remain one of life's mysteries.

So, enough of this carefree living; there are occasions when it is almost as stressful as working full-time. Indeed another valuable lesson has been learnt: just like everything else in life, the succesful navigation of  retirement needs ongoing organisational and observational skills . Disengagement of the brain can only lead to disaster.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Bombogenesis





The youngest flew to San Diego last weekend in order to play in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament (frisbee being a prime reason for her wanting to study in the USA this year). Unfortunately she was subject to travel disruption arising from the tropical storm which has been battering California. The BBC described it as a bombogenesis; what a descriptive word.

In any event and as a result she landed two hours late at approximately midnight. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, to get up on Saturday morning and find that, despite the eight hour time difference, she was available to chat via What's App. 

"You're up early," she said.

"It's actually 8 am," I replied, thinking she was still on Texan time which is only six hours behind, and had inadvertently assumed I was clutching my phone at the unearthly hour of 6 am.

"I meant for a Saturday," came the response.

Curiously I no longer take advantage of the slow start that was always offered by a weekend morning in my working years. Is it because in retirement there's too much to cram in, even on a weekend off, to waste it lying in bed, or perhaps because I generally awake at the point where I am fully rested rather than at a pre-set time on the alarm clock? Certainly I don't think I have yet reached that fabled stage of life where I might rise early because I no longer need so much sleep.

I'm unsure of the analysis but my reply was on point: "There's no such thing as Saturday in retirement."

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Beautiful People and a Council Tip



The DIY activity at the house the eldest has been living in at Nottingham reached mammoth levels over the last 10 days. With the eldest safely out of the way in a ski resort with Mister E, I once again drove that familiar 120 mile route down the motorway, paintbrush in hand. I spent five days cleaning, decorating and meeting with the letting agent we have appointed to manage the property, now that the eldest has submitted his thesis and is pursuing his destiny elsewhere.

It was not all work in that on three evenings I gave myself a break to sneak out and meet old friends from my own university days in the same city. One dear lady I had not in fact seen for 27 years and another only once before in all that time. It was of no consequence; time rolled back and nothing had changed. Not only do we still have much in common but we are all now beautiful people. The days of acne angst, emotional crises and a lack of confidence are all long gone and we have emerged as wiser, interesting and more graceful beings. Those still working have found a new balance between work and leisure, opting for part-time and flexible positions as they manoeuvre towards retirement and those who have taken the plunge are filling up their days with exercise, hobbies, travel and voluntary work. Pilates and a desire to work hard at retaining fitness and good health was a common theme. It has taken until our sixth decade but at last we seem to have life sorted; we are in control and, we agreed, feel comfortable with ourselves.

At least I thought I did, nodding vehemently when the suggestion was put. However, returning home to North Yorkshire utterly exhausted and then adding to it with a series of fitness classes and other activities I felt particularly drained two days later. So it was that at 9.05 on Friday morning I was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, contemplating getting out of bed whilst revelling in the thought that I would have a weekend "off"(yes even in retirement you need the odd one or two of those). 

Then, suddenly, it happened; the telephone rang and my  plans, or lack of them, were thrown into disarray. It was the letting agent confirming that within the space of two days he had found the ideal tenant (great news) but....... he wanted to move in immediately. A hasty family conference with Mister E and the eldest, fortunately with all limbs intact despite their escapades, agreed yes. After I had confirmed our concurrence, panic set in: three rooms still to decorate; all the eldest's worldly goods to remove; more cleaning; IKEA furniture to build; blinds to cut to size then fit; utilities to transfer; keys and instructions to sort. What kind of mad plan was this? Could it actually be achieved in a weekend?

It could and it was but the days were long and hard and when it reached the point that we were held up by traffic trying to reach the Council tip before it closed at 4pm, I could have cracked emotionally. Arriving with what I thought were ten minutes to spare, we were greeted by a five minutes to closing announcement and I found myself running from skip to skip, throwing unwanted chipboard, empty paint cans, cardboard, textiles and broken household goods as I went. There was no grace and beauty left; this was ugly but it was effective.

We finally left late on Monday evening, in a car weighed down with everything from bedding to a bicycle. We had stretched ourselves so hard that we had skipped lunch and hardly noticed, the hunger pangs long gone, as a muted and drained contemplation of our achievement dominated the two hour journey home. There was no strength left to unpack at the other end just a warm bath, pyjamas and bed.

Two days later, I have lower back muscles still screaming in agony (although Fitball and Zumba sessions in the interim may not have helped); I remain totally confused as to the day and date; our hall is piled high with bags and dirty washing but the tenant has moved in. 

I have crossed this weekend off (a pile of books at the ready) and on Monday I shall once again emerge as a serene being.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

La La Land

So earlier this week I went to see the much talked about La La Land. One of those feel good films that still brings a tear to the eye. A musical where: the performers are definitely actors rather than singers; the dancing falls short of many of the performances on Strictly; the backdrops  look almost painted; the full ensemble routines are like something out of a 1920's cabaret show; the settings are all so familiar and cliched.

But I loved it. The soundtrack had some brilliant jazz pieces,  the whole film oozed the nostalgia of an earlier Hollywood era; Ryan Gosling was absolutely stunning in role and ably matched by Emma Stone whose expressive features simply captivate. 

Underneath it all there were some subtle messages about ambition and dreams. Put simply La La Land is not real, it is but the stuff of dreams and cannot exist or, if it does, there is no permanence.

I guess the nearest I have ever got to La La Land is retirement. When career aspirations are no more, the dreams  can become a reality.



Thursday, 2 February 2017

Manana


We spent last week in the Lake District. Our previous visits in January have always been accompanied by blue skies and crisp frosty, often snowy, weather. So much so that as ever expectations were raised only to be thoroughly dampened by predominantly dank, misty days with a stream of interminable drizzle. 

There was a time when using up precious downtime away from the office to stare miserably through low cloud would have ruined the trip. Millions of workers feel the same which explains the upsurge in package holidays, cheap flights and the European short city break. Who wants to risk wasting holiday entitlement on bad weather?


On Planet Retirement however nobody cares. Bad weather is all part of the experience and in any case we can always go back another day.



Sunday, 1 January 2017

Resolutions for 2017



The first page of a new year and with another 364 days to go we all need to be working together to plan a happy ending. That anyway was my thought as I contemplated the making of this year's New Year's Resolutions. 

I was actually surprised to read that most people's resolutions involve losing weight, taking more exercise and making time in their busy lives for family and friends. To think that there was a time when I actually thought that I was unique in both my ambitions and failings.

Now that I know that fellow humanity shares so many goals and aspirations, I want to reach out with this year's resolutions to strive for objectives we can all embrace together. 2016 was an appalling year on so many levels, so I now undertake in 2017 to:

1. Make someone smile every day
2. Ensure I have a good daily laugh too (I sense my family groaning already at my sense of humour)
3. Stand up for what I believe in and endeavour to engage others to fight the cause (oh dear my poor MP is undoubtedly already groaning  at the thought of those extra e-mails)
4. Use less, live simply and shop locally wherever possible
5. Think globally and be aware of the impact of my footprints on the planet and the suffering of all those in war zones or denied the liberties that I enjoy, doing what I can to raise awareness and improve outcomes.

In retirement we have the time and wisdom to contemplate the need for change and, if we summon the energy, to action it.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Christmas is Coming



It is very easy  to lose track of time in retirement. Without young children in the home, colleagues at work or even an Advent Calendar to remind you of the number of days to go until December 25th, there is of course a risk that Christmas Day can creep up almost unawares.

Today however my Christmas run up officially began when our Pilates wind down took place to the accompaniment of Silent Night. This was followed by a gym workout the sole purpose of which was to burn as many calories as possible in order to join fellow gym bunnies for a festive meal. Unfortunately three courses, including turkey with all the trimmings, really meant that  I ought properly to have returned for an overnight stint if all damage was to be avoided. With cards still to buy and write, it was not too difficult to formulate a legitimate excuse.

Tomorrow is Christmas Jumper Day and then there are 8 days to get those cards posted, presents bought and wrapped, food sourced, house cleaned, decorations put up and family welcomed. Goodness that's a whole week that I never got whilst working; plenty of time!


Sunday, 13 November 2016

A Letter to America




Dear America,

I have just returned from a 4 week stay in the USA in which Mister E and I have travelled from Boston to San Diego spending time in Massachusetts, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas and California. I can't claim to know you but we had a fantastic trip meeting many friendly people all in the grip of election fever. Fortunately we had the foresight to be flying home on election night at the same time as West Coast polling stations were thinking of closing.

We learnt the result at approximately 3am Pacific Coast time, speeding 34000 feet above the Atlantic with the assistance of a 120 mph tail wind. The British Airways Captain was ultra professional in the way he announced it: "Ladies and Gentlemen, I have received the result of the Presidential Election from Canadian Air Traffic Control. For those of you who wish to know it, I propose to give you it without comment: Trump 289 seats..."

I'm not sure that I even heard or took in Clinton's tally (at the time I think it was 218) but I had absorbed enough during my stay to know that 280 seats would clinch it. I looked across the aisle at the woman in the reclining seat opposite Mister E; she was stunned. The man at the other side of the screen to me appeared similarly dumbfounded. There was a collective silence; a mutedness that continued for the remainder of the journey.

Neither the result nor reaction was a surprise. Throughout our stay we have conversed with what the Press is now describing as suppporters of a liberal elite (I think they mean free thinkers); they were all united in their intense dislike of the racism, homophobia, hatred, misogyny, policies, political inexperience and lack of statesmanlike dignity of Trump. They were also all of the view that Clinton was not the best candidate the Democratic party could have fielded and that as a result Trump might just do it and he did.

Back in the UK political commentators have been falling over themselves to describe it as a bigger calamity than the Brexit Referendum result and indicative of far right nationalist forces at work across the globe feeding off the misery of the poor and those estranged from the  political classes. Our left wing politicians have been quick to condemn the approach outlined by Trump during his campaign trail; the right wing as espoused by the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and (good God no) UKIP big mouth, Farage, to express their willingness to work with the President-elect. Sycophancy at its worst.

The left of course sees it as further evidence of its interpretation of Brexit: a cry by the unemployed and working classes against privilege and political elitism. How else can those MPs now justify support for the triggering of Article 50 and our exit from the EU as well, conveniently, of retaining (they hope) the support of a small majority in their constituencies? Not surprisingly it might also help their re-election. 

The right see it as further legitimisation of the outcome of the referendum when 51.9% of the popular vote decided that despite 40 years' membership of a Union that has brought so many benefits to the UK, it should now turn its back on the source that has proven itself  able to deliver on human and workers' rights, clean air and water, food quality (the list goes on) but also and, just for the capitalists reading this, economic prosperity as a nation. The right too are banking on that 51.9% for re-election but won't yet call a General Election to actually test the water.

I remain to be convinced that the outcome of the UK's referendum and the Presidential Election is attributable to a surge in right wing nationalism arising from poverty and estrangement. Such similarities as there are lie more in the tactics deployed to manipulate a popular vote than the outcome. Politicians have long known that the easiest way in the world to grab votes is to peddle their policies for the masses, offering different sectors of the population what it thinks they want without coming clean on the effect on others or society as a whole; how easy to blame failing social and economic policies on foreign migrants; to whip up unity based on hatred and to tell lies. We all know politicians lie (isn't that why we are supposed to dislike them so much) but, when the media repeats those lies day in, day out, some of it sticks.

In the UK we were subjected to an appalling referendum campaign but in the area where the politicans ran a positive campaign, Scotland voted to remain. That's right: Scotland; a country which flies its own flag and is inhabited by raving nationalists and high unemployment, showed the people of the world that not all of the UK lives in fear of Eastern Europeans taking their jobs, Angela Merkel telling us that our supermarkets can only sell straight bananas or Jean Claude Junker taking NHS money to spend on undemocratic Parliaments in Brussels.

America, it was the same for you. Although only half of you bothered to turn out to vote the majority of those who did cast their vote for Clinton. Like the Brexiteers not everyone who voted for Trump is really racist; I'm pretty sure that they don't all support the views he expressed on abortion or gay people either and I'm fairly certain that you are not about to undergo a resurgence of nationalistic populism of the type expressed in the 1930's.

Ultimately and like the UK, you have a free press, the rule of law and the ballot box. What perhaps we both need, going forward, is a review of our election processes making them fit for the 21st century digital age and influence. Fortunately for you, there are already strong voices indicating that their opposition in Congress will be loud and effective and you get to go to the ballot box again in two years for those House of Representative seats that weren't up for grabs this time around. As here there will be instances of deplorables, as Clinton undiplomatically named them, thinking that the outcome has legitimised terror on those whom Trump has castigated in his rallying calls. As here, the rest of you (no matter for whom you voted) will refuse to condone such behaviour and will stand up against illiberal and unfair practice. Moreover you will do it in an upright and honest way with good faith and understanding and, unlike the voices in the wilderness currently agitating against a "hard" Brexit, you will know you are in a majority.

Yours sincerely,
Caree


Saturday, 17 September 2016

Letting Go and Making a Difference




Three months into my third year of retirement and it is good to realise just how far I have come. Reflecting on the period of time that has passed, I can now look  back and recognise three different phases. They are not separate or distinct; the boundary between them ebbs and flows but there is nevertheless an obvious progression.

The early days, weeks and months were a time for healing and recovery. An opportunity to relax and to take the first steps towards a new healthier, fitter self. There may still be some way to go but the pattern has been set.

Gradually and alongside those baby steps from enervation to vigour grew a sense of letting go. Like healing and recovery, it manifests itself on two levels: the physical and the mental. The clutter from both house and mind is being dissipated. Life is simpler; the habits of a working existence have been dropped. Activities and commitments have altered. Although there remains much to clear out especially of a physical kind ( household stuff and clothes with no longer any clear purpose in retirement),  there is now obvious and steady progress. 

A milestone was reached this week when I even made the decision to change the name on my driving licence from the birth name that I used professionally throughout my career to the married name I have always used at home. There are other changes that I know I shall be making in measured and deliberate fashion over the coming months. To let go in the early days felt brave, in Year 3 it is empowering.

Now too I have begun to recognise the dawning of a third phase; the period where I make a difference and which gives the motivation for getting out of bed every day. Whether I am decorating at home or in our rental property; clearing the garden; helping out in the Save the Children shop or campaigning on its behalf; acting as Parish Clerk or as an almshouse trustee; even just cleaning the windows: I am making a difference. To know that I am achieving, that my pursuits are worthwhile and that I can perceive the change as a result, is exciting and a spur for further self-enterprise. 

Life is invigorating and stimulating despite not knowing what the ultimate outcome or next phase will be. After 27 months, retirement is still novel enough that it remains an adventure into the unknown.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Smiling at Sunflowers, Again



There's something about sunflowers and I have of course blogged about them before, here and here. Maybe it's the challenge of growing them or just the huge flower heads that appeal. Either way I am turning into a goofy idiot who enjoys staring and giggling at them.

This year I have grown giant beasts and although they have been late to flower I can now report that they are finally in bloom atop what resemble mighty bean stalks almost twice my height. Little wonder I am transfixed and smiling. In the hope that you might participate in the enjoyment, I thought the one pictured was worth sharing.

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. 



Thursday, 14 July 2016

R.I.P.


One of the sad facts about getting older is that you become much more conscious of the finite nature of our lives. In retirement this can translate itself into the dreaded bucket list and a whirlwind of activity trying to fit as much as possible in whilst, as I have often heard say, we can. 

There was an era when we were regularly invited to weddings and christenings , in retirement it seems far more likely that I will attend Church for a funeral service. It's an inevitable but regrettable symptom of getting older. A reminder of our fragility and recognition that each day could be our last.

I don't like funerals; I doubt if anybody does. They are particularly difficult, however, when they are for someone whose life was cut short in its prime and long before retirement beckoned.

Rest in Peace.

 

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.




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.

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.

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.




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, 21 March 2016

Voice of New Retirement



Voice of New Retirement is a report from Aviva and one of its key findings is just how happy retired people are. Well I'm living proof so I can certainly agree with that one. In fact retirement is so good that 62% find it better than they expected (or perhaps they just had low expectations!).

The report suggests that happiness and fulfilment peak in later life and that those who are retired find greater contentment with their finances, health, diet, exercise and time spent with their family. Yes, I think that this blog can bear witness to all of that too.

So there has to be a downside before everyone hands in their notice and joins the great retirement bandwagon and I'm sorry but the report addresses this as well. It's preparation or rather a lack of it. Alarmingly 27% of people nearing retirement have done nothing to prepare for it, financially or otherwise. Now that is distressing, those people are going to let themselves down in a really big way if they too can't enjoy their own golden era.

I was just thinking the other day that what I really love about retirement is the freedom it gives me to live each day as I choose (to be frank it was an idea that dawned on me when I elected to lie in bed until after 11am, but hey a happy retiree needs her thinking time). Lo this report confirms that retirement is invariably seen as a liberating experience where the number of retired people who feel in complete control of their lives is more than double the number of those who are still working. Fulfilment is high in retirement and at its lowest in our forties, although those approaching retirement have a boost of optimism as they presumably feel the time to achieve life's ambitions is approaching. However those who get the most enjoyment from retirement seem, according to the report, to be those who have planned for it, not just financially but also with their bucket lists or other plans. The report makes it clear that as well as financial planning, would-be retirees need to consider plans for their lifestyle, their needs and their goals.

I certainly haven't found the transition into retirement difficult but as regular readers of this blog will know I did plan for it and please, if you haven't yet started, you must do so now or you could miss out on a great big chunk of later life happiness.


Friday, 11 March 2016

Downhill All the Way




Call it stupidity, madness or a desire to self-destruct but, notwithstanding degeneration in the knees, a rotar cuff impediment and, of course, that sprained ankle, I have been skiing. Moreover it was only a year ago that I finally disposed of my long loved but rather worn ski boots, after resolving that my skiing days were over. 

I last skied at Christmas in 2013 and I guess it's like riding a bike, you don't forget, even if the risk of breaking bones when you fall potentially increases. Fortunately in my case I am pleased to report that rather than crack, I still bounce!



Getting back to the top of a chairlift in the crisp mountain air is truly invigorating but moving down the slope at speed (even if I was bringing up the rear of our party) was absolutely exhilarating. Two turns and my nervousness had almost dissipated. Four days and my right knee was wobbling along in a brace, screaming with pain and asking to be rested.



Yes, Mister E and I can no longer ski for as long as we used to; we were far more particular about the weather we went out in and the slopes we skied down. Indeed to observe us on the slopes you could quite correctly say that we were going downhill in more ways than one. The great thing though is that whilst we spoilt ourselves with a few days in Zermatt, which for many years has been one of if not our favourite ski resort, we are now equally satisfied by destinations catering primarily for beginners and intermediates. In fact if I can keep this up until I am ninety, I shall no doubt be happy with a tractor tow in the back garden.




Hiring ski-boots was always an horrific experience as a beginner; the pain is sufficient to put many people off ever venturing onto the slopes again. Things haven't improved and if anything spoilt the trip it was the friction burns and blisters caused by a pair of ill-fitting boots on the first day. Common-sense tells me that if I am to return to the Alps every year then it must be on the basis that I first acquire a new pair of  boots and this is where the dilemma sets in. My heart happily skips a beat as the thought of the adrenalin surge descending the piste. My head tells me that the risk of serious damage to my knees is high and that it is ridiculous to consider repeating the experience let alone buying my own boots to do so.


So which will win? Head or heart? I guess we'll have to wait until the 2016/17 season to decide that one.


Saturday, 20 February 2016

The Perception of Time



The end of another week and I can hardly believe that it's just over a week since we returned from London and less than a month since we spent a week in the Lake District

When I was really busy at work, time seemed to fly.  So much so that I could never quite believe, when, for instance, the dentist sent me a reminder for an annual check-up, that a whole year had passed since the last appointment; it seemed like yesterday. Now every day seems to have so much activity crammed into it that time stretches out behind me and I'm actually surprised that events took place only a matter of weeks ago, instead of months.

The changing perspective on time is, of course, a welcome one. I understand that the variety in my activities and lack of  a recognisable routine may account for this change, compared to the previous decades when the humdrum nature of work dominated. Whether the perception has a scientific basis or not I was unsure. After all I don't think Albert Einstein was thinking about activity in retirement when he published his Theory of Special Relativity, even though he did recognise that time runs at different rates for different observers travelling at different speeds.

I was also aware that current scientific theory increasingly asks if there is really such a thing as time or is it an illusion? However, a little more digging uncovered the fact that research in the field of neuroscience has  discovered cells within the human body responsible for governing the way we each perceive the passing of time. It is suggested therefore that time is indeed a subjective experience measured by each individual's own perception of the duration of  events.

There is a scientific basis for the slow time phenomenon that I am experiencing! 

Sadly, however, experiments conducted have suggested that it is as you grow older that you generally experience time passing more quickly.  I am, therefore, grateful that not only has retirement  not yet slowed me down, but the cellular structures within (at least for the moment) seem to think the passage of time has diminished rather than increased in speed.