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.

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

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Happy Anniversary

Four years ago today we flew out to Kefalonia after I had packed up my briefcase and left the office for the last time, the night before. I'm so comfortable now in retirement that it is getting harder to recall my previous existence.

Trying to reflect on the intervening period, I can see that the initial honeymoon period was very much a time for recuperation. There was a great deal of rushing about and adapting, bringing with it recovery and the necessary rehabilitation ready for a completely different way of living to that to which we had become accustomed whilst working.

Gradually the need to simplify has become a part and parcel of our daily living and even though we are not always very good at it, we do keep trying. Similarly exercising has wound itself into our everyday lifestyle and we are currently finding ourselves with both strength and vitality that we would never previously have expected.

A year ago I felt that I had more energy, drive and passion as retirement moved up a gear and if anything it is only increasing. We are lucky in that we presently have no overriding anxieties and are very  much able to live day to day, concentrating on the present (we are not very good at forward planning) and are enjoying every moment. We are thriving in challenging ourselves rather than rushing to complete a bucket list, and our whole attitude to life is altering as we regress to a form of living not dissimilar to our care free teenage years but with a little more wisdom and definitely no schoolwork.

We are by no means experts in  this retirement process but as well as the exuberance we are presently experiencing, I can sense a form of calm creeping in; a sense of control and well-being. If we can harness it all together over the next few months, perhaps aided by a little more organisation, who knows what might be achieved. Whatever it is, I'll make sure to blog about it.

In the meantime it's a very happy 4th retirement anniversary for me.


Saturday, 16 June 2018

Be Careful What You Wish For

Let me set the scene: I was in the kitchen finishing a cup of tea at the end of a late lunch, following on from a busy morning when I had assisted my fellow almshouse trustees at an Open Day. 

Suddenly an enormous clap above my head jerked me up and out of my seat, the drink splashing across my knees. The noise was accompanied by a flash of lightning and then the skies opened and the rain came down in torrents. The electricity went off momentarily interrupting Mister E's televised viewing of the World Cup, but he instantly became more interested in seeing just how much rain was falling and to what extent it might replenish those empty water butts.

As soon as he mentioned those, I felt a sense of guilt. Zeus the ancient Greek god of the sky, had responded to my request in style and made no secret of announcing his presence, hurling thunderbolts in the process. I understand now just how easy it must have been to get duped into worshipping a pagan deity. I almost wanted to build a stone circle and start chanting.

Whilst I'm looking for a simplified form of living in retirement, neo-paganism hasn't been part of the strategy. Should it be?

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Mins Game Revisited

It is now 3 years since I played the Mins Game, ridding myself of 496 items of extraneous stuff.  Across at The Minimalists they are urging everyone to play again this month (only 30 days and 465 items this time). 

What is it about stuff ? I'm convinced mine indulges in asexual reproduction. It doesn't matter how much I trash or donate to charity there always seems to be more oozing from the corner of every room I enter. You would think after all this time, I'd feel on top of the task in hand but somedays I actually wonder if, in order to succeed, relocating and downsizing is going to be the only the way. 

Now the truth is I don't like stuff and am not particularly driven by material possessions. Consequently, I don't tend to make a habit of  unneccessary or impulsive shopping. Thinking about it though, I wonder if that isn't the root cause of the problem. Instead of embracing the throwaway society, Mister E and I are inclined to hoard items that might come in useful one day or to which we have a sentimental attachment because we have held onto them for so long; a fatal flaw when you have been around for as many years as us; all that useful junk increases in line with the wrinkles.

Perhaps I'm being hard on myself. We have made progress  with our plans to declutter and redecorate our home; we just have to accept it's a longterm plan not an instant make-over. Anyway I took advantage of today's rainfall to give a cupboard an annual overhaul and in so doing and, only after a discussion with Mister E as to whether or not we could make use of anything in any other way, jettisoned: a 9 year old pair of paint splattered jogging bottoms (they went into our rag box); a roll of wrapping paper that sheds a glitter-like substance over everything when you try to use it; a Happy Retirement banner with my face adorned upon it, albeit after detailed consideration as to whether it could be used as a cover for one of the newly constructed vegetable beds or as a dodger on the boat. Yes, I know, we really can make hardwork of this tidying up phenomenon.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

You Know Life's Finite When...

Four of us gathered at a friend's house yesterday to gawp together at the pageantry of the Royal Wedding live on television. We celebrated the occasion in style, accompanied by a champagne lunch. I even baked and iced some British cupcakes for the gathering.

I also brought more solemnity to the event than the Archbishop of Canterbury when I queried if this would be the last chance in our lifetime to experience a televised royal marriage. That caused a little consternation for the true Royalist amongst us who thought I was referring to a Republican takeover.

Then optimism broke out as we turned to our tried and trusted fingers to calculate just how old we might be when the next generation of heirs to the throne are ready to wed. Zimmer frames aside, if they marry young enough we concluded that we could still be around to witness it, in body if not mind.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The Effect of the Sun

Just like last year, Spring sunshine makes a sudden and unexpected appearance and I get an urge to declutter. I sometimes think that it's a shame I don't live nearer the Equator because with more sunshine, I really could get this job tackled. Or perhaps I wouldn't because when it comes to reducing stuff, I truly suffer from complete indecisiveness.

Take today when I discovered that I own three pairs of brown shoes, none of which I have actually worn since I retired. Nevertheless I convinced myself that I should retain at least one pair, but which was it to be? I tried on them all. There was a comfortable but slightly worn couple, a very elegant but tighter twosome, and a polished and, if I recall correctly, expensive pair.

Decisions, decisions, decisions. 

Talk about procrastination. In the end I persuaded myself I would be best served by retaining all three, or would I?

Then Mister E appeared and I explained my dilemma. "That's easy," he said, "Give away all of them!"

I was astounded. This from the man whose old clothes have to be holed, stained and discoloured before he accepts their best use is as a rag.

Maybe I sounded a little whining as I explained that I did need to keep one pair just to match the brown handbag that I haven't used since retiring either and who knows when brown accessories may be just what I need. 

"In that case," he advised dispassionately pointing with his index finger, "You should keep those; they look the best."

Talk about taste, maybe I should deploy Mister E as my personal guru a little more often, as he had correctly identified the expensive pair. It was after all a decision I can live with and the collection designated for the charity shop was duly added to.

In the meantime the sun has been affecting Mister E too. No he hasn't taken to sorting his wardrobe. Instead the golden rays seem to bring out the engineer in him. So today was the day he drained our central heating system and then couldn't refill it because of an almighty airlock and/or accumulation of sludge. Maybe in retrospect I ought to have encouraged him to have gone to that Activated Sludge Conference before we retired.

Instead I can only hope that the sun stays around a bit longer, otherwise we'll have no heating and no primeval urge to fix it!

Thursday, 12 April 2018

With Apologies to Jigsaw Aficionados

Now I know there are multitudes of people who love them but I am really not a jigsaw type of person. The idea of spending hours piecing together something that is only intended to be pulled apart again has always seemed to me a monumental waste of effort; not the kind of creativity I am looking for in retirement at all.

However, faced with a day of rain falling in torrents during the youngest's recent visit, we decided to tackle a rather nasty 1,000 piece puzzle challenging ourselves to complete it in one go. Foolhardy as well as stubborn, it took us 6.5 hours. On that basis it's just as well that time is plentiful in retirement, although I understand champion puzzlers (apparently such people do exist) would complete it in less than half that time.

So did we get anything out of our effort?

There was certainly no sense of achievement, just relief, finishing it only through sheer determination. Unlike walking to the top of a hill and admiring the view, a completed puzzle looks like the picture on the box that you see from the very beginning, thus for us detracting from any sense of reward. 

Sitting on the floor for such a long time (yes, I'm sure experts do them at tables) my knees ached as did fingers unaccustomed to such an excessive bout of directed use. Secretly, however, I was a little pleased to discover that those aches were shared with the youngest and truly had nothing whatsoever to do with age. Similarly, my eyesight wasn't alone in being strained by its concentrated  application. Moreover, we were both equally exhausted when the task was done. 

Clearly it's an activity at which generations can compete equally, requiring no handicap or headstart and you don't have to get out of breath. Yet still the idea of entering a Jigfest is anathema to me.

Whilst early retirement is an opportunity to recapture the freedom and self-indulgent use of time, invariably abused and unappreciated in adolescence, so far it doesn't extend to going right back to my childhood years. I am still at a point where I can think of rival demands upon my time. Will the future deliver me to a point where I can truly live in the present, freed from all pressing requirements? If it does then, come a truly bad weather day, who knows, I might just be persuaded to attempt another jigsaw but it would have to be no more than a quarter of the size.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

A Chilly Easter Sunday

When I was a child, Easter Sunday would invariably mean being decked out in new sandals and a summer dress. The youngest returned home for Easter this year but, apart from the fact that she'd never let me choose shoes or clothing for her, the temperature was such that there was no way I would even have dared suggest we wear such items. 

Instead layered up in a multitude of fleeces we visited Bylands Abbey (one of the many monasteries scattered around the Yorkshire countryside that have been in ruins since Henry VIII embarked on his policy of dissolution and plunder). 

From there and despite the low temperature we made our way to the White Horse, a renowned landmark carved out on the hillside to the east of Thirsk in the 19th century by, according to some accounts, a local schoolmaster and his pupils. Sadly it was looking rather grey and supports erected to prevent slippage of the stones were doubling as a collection point for wind borne litter. It's due a re-paint and spruce up this year but apparently in the interests of health and safety the Forestry Commission, rather than the group of volunteers who have been caring for it, are to carry out the work in future, suitably dressed, harnessed and tethered. I do wonder if some of those school children who helped in its construction (no ropes or harnesses involved presumably) wore sandals and dresses, of the Victorian type of course. Nevertheless, at the bottom of the hill, we spotted their hardy descendants queuing for ice-cream despite the 4 degree chill!

Does age (as well as more than 150 years of Health and Safety) bring commonsense or wimpishness? Not only did I seek to be cocooned in layers on the outside but the idea of removing gloves to devour frozen fare held no appeal. My nose alone was icy enough for my taste.

The benefit for us of walking in the cold was reaped instead when we re-entered the warmth  of indoors and conjured up a pot of tea.


Sunday, 4 March 2018

The 3 x 60 Challenge

So much is written about the post-work bucket list that as you approach retirement, you inevitably feel that you should have one. A tick list of 100 things to see and do before you die. You don't even have to think up your own any more, the Internet is full of them. Glance through them if you will and you quickly get the impression that retirement must be full of adrenalin rushed grandparents throwing themselves out of aeroplanes or climbing Kilimanjaro.

Indeed the eldest recently sent a book to Mister E and me entitled "101 Coolest Things to Do in Great Britain." Now it is a good read and has some, shall we say, "interesting ideas" but for those that hold the most appeal I can honestly say that I've already been there, done them, got the photographs. There are others that wild horses wouldn't drag me to. It may be cool, but somehow Mister E and I attending Bestival is beyond even the most vivid of imaginations.

The problem with trying to buy into somebody else's dream is obviously that it is their dream and not yours. Moreover if any retired person has really adopted or even adapted a 100 item bucket list prepared by somebody else what have they been doing up till now apart from working?  Not to have determined what I really enjoy doing in the first part of my life and knowing from that what I wanted to build on or expand in the next part, would have seemed to me a gross disservice to both my imagination and experience.

Of course most people must land on Planet Retirement with all kinds of plans and good intentions, borrowed or otherwise, but, as this blog has probably charted, life doesn't necessarily follow the pattern proposed. Freedom and flexibility can foster indolence, but how many people ever include in their Must Do List "never rising before 10am"?

Before we retired, we had plans which I carefully documented on this blog (lest I perhaps forget). Ah yes, with reference to my preceding paragraph, a quick refresh would suggest I did plan on occasions to revel in doing nothing! 

Plans can be very different to bucket lists. In our case they were probably better regarded as a statement of intent, rather than a checklist to work through. In so far as we have any inventory of items to tick off, it is unwritten, shifting according to circumstance; a vague, unstructured catalogue or wish list, driven by impetuosity and whims. I prefer it like that. Imagine instead waking every morning knowing that the next item on the list awaits preparation and then conquest. How disappointing never to make it to the end of the list; failure to succeed in retirement. Or perhaps it would even be worse to complete the bucket list, and then be confronted by an abyss. What would follow? Contentment or an empty life?

I'm not proposing that in retirement we should all drift aimlessly, although if that is your preferred option then why not? If a competitive workplace has been your driving force for decades, however, then there may well be an inevitable tendency to look for specific goals and targets in retirement. Perhaps that even explains why the initial starting point is to think in terms of a bucket list.

However, I can well and truly say that, fast approaching my 4th anniversary of retirement, if I ever had a bucket it has now well and truly sprung a leak. Instead and with my big 60th birthday at the end of the current week, I have set myself 3 simple challenges. They are intended to fit in with my lifestyle and initial plans. So as I have previously mentioned  I am going to read 60 books this year (11 already down, 49 to go); I am going to swim 60 times (only 8 sessions to date, 52 to complete) and I intend to visit 60 unfamiliar places (impeded by wintry conditions, I haven't even started). I cannot countenance failure, and if necessary shall spend December swimming from place to place, paperback in hand.

Friday, 2 March 2018

The Battle of the Giants

The Battle of the Giants or Armageddon; Storm Emma meets the Beast from the East; you'd be forgiven for thinking the media has been reporting on a wrestling match rather than the weather. Here in the rural hinterlands of North Yorkshire we've been bunkering down, enthralled by stories of woe and fortitude from life in the Northern hills where I grew up or else from daily commuters.

Clearly too many people now live further from their place of work than ever before and with the thousands of lorries that blight our roads, working journeys and snow blizzards were never going to be a joyful mix for drivers.

On Planet Retirement, however, our only test this week has been seeing if Mister E can actually keep the bird feeders topped up and a path clear to the gate on the off chance that the postman would make his regular visit. Besieged by feathered friends, we've been nurturing not only our regular callers but also their extended families and a few historic visitors who all decided it was once again time to pay us a call. So for us the snow has actually brought with it the delight of a flock of fieldfares, thrushes, pied wagtails and a tree creeper as well as the ever faithful tits, robins, sparrows, blackbirds, chaffinches, doves and woodpeckers. Best of all I've found the perfectly concealed spot to photograph them, albeit from behind a window that now needs a clean on the outside.

Even in the most comfortable of hides a birdwatcher can get bored though, not least when deprived of her regular trips to the gym. Shovelling snow may burn but it just doesn't hit the pulse rate in the same way as a workout and certainly does very little for stiff joints crying out for a good old Pilates stretch. So yes, it may now be March but Mister E has reunited my car with its winter tyres and I can once again drive up the hill and more importantly stop when I touch the brake; next winter they will go on in October.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Cut Short

After the potential grumpy old woman's mutterings in my last blog entry intimating a clear dislike of change or interference, I thought it was important to redeem myself today.

At risk therefore of being labelled as a typical Guardian reader (I'm certainly not an active fashion consumer with a taste for designer labels but concede, without apology and as my retirement is evidence of, to inter alia liking to think I’m part of a progressive audience with a love of travel, art and culture), I just wanted to say how much I love the paper's new format, especially the Saturday Review and Travel sections. Who would have thought that I could ever read a newspaper in tabloid form? 

It just goes to demonstrate that there are changes which I can still truly embrace and any apparent lack of positivity in retirement is not yet to do with ageing (I hope).

Sunday, 28 January 2018

A Sculptural Conundrum

Readers of this blog will know by now that I enjoy modern art and sculpture and have spent many a day visiting galleries and exhibitions, admiring sculpture outdoors as well as inside.

Whilst staying in the Lake District last week, imagine, therefore, my excitement to learn that a piece for a new exhibition called Lakes Ignite 2018 was to be installed only a half mile or so up the beck from where we were staying. Called Ordnance Pavilion, it has been created by Studio MUTT and is intended to acknowledge the impact Ordnance Survey mappings have had on our interaction with the landscape.

Last year the Lake District was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site with the intention that this would help preserve and protect this beautiful English National Park with its rich cultural landscape. Lakes Ignite 2018 aims to celebrate this designation.

Now I like art to surprise and leave a lingering memory or conundrum to puzzle over. This piece certainly did that but maybe I'm simply getting old or else am a Philistine after all as, with the backdrop of  Wordsworth's "solemn Pikes of Langdale," it wasn't at all what I was expecting. What do you think?

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Disappointed by a Lack of Traction

This post comes with a health warning: the title reads, "Disappointed by a Lack of Traction." That is "traction," not "attraction." 

Okay warning over, what is Caree blogging on about today? Too old for acne, she can't have discovered another wrinkle, surely? No, let me say again this post is about traction or rather a lack of it.  

There I was after a week of relatively mild weather thinking Spring might be just around the corner when boom another snowfall hit, all 3 inches of it and life was thrown into chaos. It must sound ridiculous for those who live in countries used to regular winter snowdrifts but believe me, it now only takes a couple of millimetres and it seems that the whole of the British Isles grinds to a halt.

As I have written on various previous occasions, one of the great things about retirement is the ability to fit one's life around the weather. So much so that treacherous road conditions throw up two obvious choices: a cosy duvet day or an 'I'm smugly looking out of the window knowing I don't have to go out' kind of day. 

Except this morning I didn't want either of those options. 

It's Thursday and that means I'd booked into 3 fitness classes; kicking off at 9.30 a.m. with a core class in the kinesis studio, followed by 45 minutes of zumba before finishing with a well deserved and usually much needed stretch out in Pilates. Getting to the gym requires a 7 mile drive, much of it along country lanes, providing a period of quiet contentment before and after exercise and the closest now that I ever get to a morning commute.

Ever eager, I decided to set off early in light of the likely road conditions. Miss Scarlet whom you may recall I acquired in March 2015 is still an unknown quantity on snow and having stupidly dismissed Mister E's offer to fit winter tyres a few weeks ago (after all why would I need them in retirement, now there's no obligation to go out in extreme weather?), I set off regardless. 

Did I mention that we live at the bottom of a hill? I must have got all of 6 yards up it before I began to slip and slide relentlessly whilst a little light appeared on my dashboard warning me of a lack of traction presumably on the off chance that I had not noticed that my car was refusing to point in the direction I wanted. I reversed and took a run at it but Miss Scarlet indignantly refused to go any higher up the incline. Head down and shamed, I slowly edged backwards to our drive; typical front wheel drive car, there was plenty of traction in reverse gear but only absolute desperation would force me to use that all the way to the main road.

So there we have it: I didn't get to the gym; I realised why for most of my latter years of working I always had a four wheel drive car; I understand better the virtues of winter tyres and the limitations of my totally inappropriate choice of motor car for the handful of bad weather days we get a year. I also reminded myself that in retirement, I really don't need to drive anywhere. Instead we went on a beautiful walk to a local lake cum conservation area, past the medieval church and castle, and all the time with distant views of the Yorkshire Dales and Moors. Attractions on our doorstep that we don't appreciate as often as we should.

Better still, having cleared the drive of snow, Mister E has just suggested we should have mulled wine like we do up high on blue sky days in Alpine ski resorts. Moreover, he's not going to make me sit on the patio in salopettes to drink it!

Planet Retirement, where life is bliss and you can enjoy your snowflakes.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Back in Circulation

 So today turned out to be my big day and after two weeks in the grip of an influenza like illness (as I've seen Australian flu defined) I finally returned to the gym. When working it was accepted practice to attempt to struggle on regardless and when you did succumb to a virus, to return prematurely often causing what seemed to be a resurgence or lingering of symptoms. That said, the company of others, a change of scene and an assignment to task the brain can work wonders at uplifting the spirit.

In retirement, however, it is  easy to cosset yourself at home, break all contact with humanity and allow yourself to be nurtured slowly back to health. The trouble is staying in and warm, can become somewhat tedious after a time. Further, woe betide, if you allow yourself to fall into the trap of thinking that the older you get the longer these things take to shake off. With that mindset, I could stay in bed for months.

So a little like returning to work, I decided to throw myself back in at the deep end and to do three fitness classes this morning. As a result I talked to any number of people, smiled, laughed and got out of the sickness rut. It wasn't easy and on several occasions I thought the dreaded fever was returning, whereas  in reality whilst I was circulating with colleagues, my heart too was pumping overtime to get oxygenated blood circulating around my body and to recently unused muscles.

Consequently I returned home a trifle flushed, very tired but resolute in my determination to return tomorrow.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Paperwork and Deadlines

I don't recall commenting on completing the dreaded tax return for a few years. I note, however, that when I did so in 2015, I was buoyed by the possibility that age might bring a simplification of tax affairs. Well after spending all day filling in the online form, I am convinced that whilst my financial situation may have become simpler, the tax system and information required has surely become more complicated? Either that or the administrative burden of collating the detail required to answer the questions posed is so awful that I just blot it out for 12 months, let selective amnesia intervene and then allow myself to be overcome by shock and frustration when I sit down to insert the details every January.

In a desperate attempt at escapism, I did do an internet search on excuses to put forward to avoid filing. Sadly it looks as though HMRC is stony-hearted on this score and such creative explanations as others have offered, ranging from "the dog ate it"(which may work with homework but hardly an online submission) to an unexpected pregnancy (lasting 9 months presumably), being unable to get an internet connection (you can post it but must submit by 31 October) or "travelling the world" and "falling in with the wrong crowd," clearly fall on deaf ears.

I suppose the advantage of procrastination and leaving one's tax submission until shortly before the 31st January deadline is that you can guarantee there will always be one or two days of dreadful weather that probably serve no better purpose (so long as you avoid dogs, pregnancies, poor connections and travel) than for getting one's tax affairs in order. I also comforted myself with the discovery that I'm in good company because Albert Einstein himself is on record as saying, "The hardest thing in the world to understand is income tax." Of course, I'm not sure if he was referring to the principle of payment or the calculation, but am convinced he'd have expressed the same opinion if he'd experienced my tussle today.

I'm hoping future years' returns will be easier and that any easing in complexity of forms or finances is not offset by a decline in mental alacrity. Otherwise I can't imagine how I'll cope sitting in front of a computer in my nineties, wondering where I misfiled all the necessary paperwork that I need in order to answer the questions posed. Perhaps by then some kind Tax Officer will have taken pity on me and issued an exemption from a need to file; I can but hope.

In the meantime of course, I can draw solace from that celebrated of all quotes about tax from Benjamin Franklin: "In this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes."

The lesser of two evils: so long as I'm filling in a tax return personally, I'm definitely alive and kicking. 

Thursday, 14 December 2017

You Just Can't Avoid It

There's no getting away from the fact that Christmas is coming. In the last two weeks I've had a Christmas dinner, decorated two Christmas trees, listened to a multitude of Christmas playlists, bought Christmas presents, been to a Christmas carol service and last night even did Christmas zumba with a set of reindeer antlers on my head. Our local town is decked out in Christmas lights and the first question everyone asks is, "Are you ready for Christmas?"

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not necessarily a "bah humbug" person (how can I be with those reindeer antlers) but I have found myself contemplating on how easy it is to get sucked into the whole commercialisation of what is meant to be a Christian celebration. Of course there's nothing wrong with a good party and, after all, the Christians did rather hijack the Roman festival of Saturnalia. However with the word "Christmas" appearing in front of every activity and product, I'm afraid it's begun to get somewhat tedious. 

Yesterday I made my annual Christmas visits to some of the elderly residents of the local almshouse at which I am a trustee. Many were reminisicing about Christmases past and the small stocking (not a specially embroidered Christmas sock) that Santa Claus would fill when they were children with an orange, some small change and nuts; there were no expensive gifts but they were nonetheless appreciative of what they received. 

When we were working, the pressures of preparing for a family Christmas sometimes seemed so great that we regularly escaped by disappearing abroad, preferably to a ski resort where infinite snow and  exercise distracted the mind from the occasion or better still India and Malayasia where life went on as normal.

In retirement we feel better able to confront the exploitation that is now associated with Christmas although I confess that, in the interests of simplification, there are moments when the prospect of treating my nearest and dearest to old socks stuffed with tangerines and a few coppers has a certain appeal. 

All of that said and in time honoured tradition, I'm off tomorrow to buy Christmas stamps for Christmas cards whilst wearing a Christmas jumper for Save the Children's Christmas Jumper Day. "Making the world better with a sweater," and at least the first part of that slogan encapsulates the spirit of Christmas.


Thursday, 30 November 2017

Snow On and Snow Forth

Is there anyone who doesn't feel a tiny tinge of excitement with the first snowfall of winter? I confess I never checked the forecast before I went out this morning and whilst I was conscious that it was a very chilly 0.5 degrees (necessitating a last minute hunt for my gloves), I didn't give it much more thought other than to drive slowly down the frozen lane out of the village.

Emerging from my fitness classes, rumours had already spread that it was snowing outside and whilst, at that stage, it was hardly sufficient to call it a Winter Wonderland the white stuff was certainly falling from the sky.

Of course snow on top of ice did make for a trickier drive home, especially when both a horse and rider plus a 4x4 converged on me at the same point. However, I got home safely and entered the house to the wonderful smell of a stew being cooked by Mister E. It immediately crossed my mind as to whether we had sufficent provisions in the event of a heavy and prolonged storm, something that rarely happens at only 60 feet above sea level, but you never know.
I think the birds in the garden must have had the same thought because they were certainly provisioning up. 


 Moreover, when I thought about snuggling up under a woollen blanket, my attention was drawn to our resident hare who suddenly decided to make an appearance. Poor thing, he just lay down and curled up in it. He didn't even bother to move when there was a brief respite and the feeding frenzy by the birds became ever competitive. I guess he knew it was going to snow again and on days like this it's best to stay put if you can. 

Yes snow is great fun to watch, it's having to go out in it that is the problem. I just hope that I never grow so grumpy that the initial snowflake of the season fails to provoke a thrill.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Just Chilling

We have been home for just over two weeks now and there is definitely something vaguely comforting about the short days and long dark nights that have enveloped us since our return. Too cold to do much outside I have been backwards and forwards to the gym and various appointments but for the most part have enjoyed just snuggling down in the warmth of home, getting on top of all the neglected paperwork that seems to have accumulated in readiness for the winter months.

Since defeating the jetlag, it has been a luxury to sleep through the dull grey dawns emerging from upstairs only after those in the parallel universe in which I once lived have departed for work. When we travel, Mister E sets an alarm clock; back at home we have no need for that torment. 

Perhaps it's the after effect of the long and busy trip rather than the weather but the last couple of weeks has seen a lull in activity levels and, dare I say it, a lack of ambition as we revel in the here and now of crosswords, sudoku, reading and writing.

Previously, I feared that such a period might herald a state of mindless ageing when we achieved nothing but an indolent retirement. I now recognise it for what it is; an opportunity to recharge and start planning; a twilight for relaxing and aimlessness before teetering on the verge of another manic episode of creativity or adventure.

Bring it on; I shall be ready....shortly!


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

A Shout Out

I just wanted to give a shout out for Lakeland (formerly known as Lakeland Plastics). Yes that's right the company that has specialised in all kinds of useful plastic scoops and pegs. The kind of shop where, when you get to an age where kitchen gadgets excite you more than clothes shopping, you go to browse.

I know that I now have to be wary of buying plastic, but it never stops me browsing. Imagine therefore my delight to find that they have reinvented the good old paper bag. Forget those packs of cellophane, you can now have brown paper!

Funny how the old idea are always the best and even better that they still have the capacity to excite.  I did tell you, of course, that in retirement I seem to derive a great deal of pleasure from the simple things in life, but paper bags? Who'd have thought it!

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Use It or Lose It

There seems to be a general acceptance that as we age, we grow weaker and frailer. Indeed research suggests that it is not uncommon for us to lose up to 8% of our muscle mass each decade from the age of 30. Try telling that to the trainer at the gym who has just re-set my new workout programme and now has little me lifting 10 kgs. 

"It will get easier," he has promised. Although to be honest I am more persuaded by his intimation that it will change my body shape. Who says you can't develop abs after 50?

National guidelines on physical activity recommend that, in order to stay healthy, adults should undertake at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week as well as strength exercises on at least two days a week. However, a report published by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists last week, concludes from a survey it commissioned that almost a quarter of over 65's do no strengthening activities at all, leaving them prone to the risk of falls and ill-health. Moreover 34% of those approaching retirement (aged 55-64) miss the target too.

Bearing in mind that the Society suggests that gardening and carrying shopping bags help to keep us in shape, it is hard to understand why so many are failing to meet the criteria set out in the guidelines. If there was ever a time to switch from buying cuppa soup and tea bags to potatoes and two litre bottles of milk, it is clearly in retirement.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

A Brief Respite

Before the wind and rain set in this weekend, we had a brief respite from Autumn and at least two afternoons when the sun shone, temperatures climbed and my poor plants didn't know whether to drop their leaves or flower. Life can be confusing at times.

It's a little like retirement with all the choices it throws up. Should I get into the garden today, finish that book or put in some extra time at the gym? Do I eat a large lunch and a small dinner; skip breakfast and make brunch; rice or potatoes; caulifower or broccoli? Do I reply to my e-mails now or later; book a hair appointment this week or next; wear short or long sleeves; blue or pink? Yes even the simplest of daily tasks can throw up dilemmas when you have the time to actually think about them.

My working life used to rob me of time and whilst theoretically there was choice, it was invariably simpler to reach for the easiest solution, saving the heartache and time-loss of conscious decision-making. The office day was filled and the hours at either end a constant rush to fit life's daily essentials in.

It has me pondering though, was life actually simpler when it was so rushed and the scope for choice eradicated? Now that there is the potential to contemplate in detail one's every move, is there too much choice? Is this why I feel the need to reduce and simplify all around me, including attacking those autumnal garden shrubs with secateurs? Is it also why I have to have a digital To Do List to keep me focused and on track?

Liberty, perhaps the greatest of enshrined human rights, is for me fulfilling but, as yet, unfathomable.