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 Concerns. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Concerns. Show all posts

Monday, 22 May 2017

A Week is a Long Time in Politics




It is often said that a week is a long time in politics. Two weeks or, to be totally exact, since I last posted about the election on 6th May, is even longer.

The intervening period seems like an eternity and we are now a little clearer on the varous parties' policies, some of which actually sound progressive and others, like the potential for the reintroduction of fox hunting and the return of grammar schools, positively Victorian.

On Brexit which is supposed to  be the main issue for the election, we appear to have established that the Conservatives with their Brexit means Brexit approach would sacrifice free trade in return for an unlikely ability to reduce immigration to tens of thousands. Labour on the other hand would negotiate to keep us in the free market with EU immigration essentially controlling itself through market forces. The LibDems however whilst not rejecting outright the outcome of the referendum result last year, believe that Brexit does not necessarily mean Brexit and would give the country a second vote on whatever terms are negotiated. All would have us believe that they remain committed to the NHS but commitment requires funding and with Brexit looming that is not going to be easy.

In the  last few days the Conservative Party which  has continued to insult and wear down the British public with its strong and stable propaganda has arrogantly published a manifesto, light on costings and detail although, presumably in return for the unwavering support of the gutter press, it is promising to give up on Leveson 2. So confident is it of the outcome that its leader has still declined to meet real people preferring staged events on the One Show or with supporters to debate and discussion. We do know that it would intend to use stealth taxes but is already having to talk about a U-turn on its social care reforms, quickly branded a dementia tax by its opponents, although it intends to press on with the removal of winter fuel allowances for pensioners and free dinners for primary school children, giving breakfast (at significantly less cost) instead to those who turn up unfed and early.

In the meantime  the Labour Party, whose policies appear to reflect the Scandinavian model rather than Marxist/Leninist ideology as some of the right wing media would have us believe, remains under fire for its leader who is frequently described as looking like a somewhat scruffy geography teacher. Clearly some hack, somewhere, was taught by a bearded, tieless pedagogue who bored him to tears and the label has stuck, perhaps unfairly. However with proposals to bring rail franchises back into public ownership, abolish student tuition fees and restore funding for the arts there are some exciting ideas to ponder over, although higher taxes for the richest 5% are presumably not going to be popular with many in that 5. 

The LibDems after their odious betrayal of the student vote in the 2010 election, are perhaps surprisingly trying to court the young person's vote all over again with the reinstatement of housing benefit for under-21s, a right to buy housing scheme and discounted bus passes. They are however going to add a penny onto the rate of income tax to pay for everything.

Most people I talk to are increasingly bored and frustrated by the proceeedings and still don't know which way to vote or if they'll even bother. We are being sucked into an election which is becoming increasingly presidential in nature and when people desire none of the party leaders they get turned off, whilst others are ready to vote based on what a leader looks or sounds like rather than considering their party's policies and the credentials of their local candidates. Of course I'll vote, but living in a constituency which would elect the proverbial donkey so long as it has a blue rosette around its neck,  my X on the ballot paper will hardly matter whichever box I put it in.

So, whilst I am now more comfortable with where that cross is going to go, it may be that the only election pledge that will resonate with the population is the LibDem's surprising commitment to legalising wacky baccy. After all if we are going down the pan, it might feel better to be high when we get washed away.



Monday, 10 April 2017

Perfume and Age



One of the benefits of attending exercise classes regularly is not the highly toned body that could result but rather the ready made group of like-minded people with whom you can share the pleasures of drinking and dining. This doesn't so much undermine the good work put in at the exercise studio but rather ensures that you return for more and work even harder to save spent calories for another meal out.

I can honestly say that I did not know any of my new found gym buddies prior to retiring and yet now they are one of the mainstays of my social life (well we all like food). They are also a source of encyclopedic knowledge, saving me hours of online research. 

For instance last Friday, the sun beating down as Spring very definitely arrived, we rounded off a hard week of Pilates, Fitball, Body Blitz, Yoga, Kinesis Hiit and Barre Concept with a short swim and a long laze in the outdoor hot tub. There then followed a quick stroll to a nearby hostelry where we discussed the topics of the day and put the world to rights.

Now for some time recently I have been aware that I am becoming somewhat indulgent with the bottled fragrances in my bathroom. I couldn't pinpoint the reason but Eau de Toilette, Eau de Parfum and even the highly powerful real stuff in the little bottles, once applied, just doesn't seem to hold its scent anymore. Of course that's not something I'd necessarily share, even with a gym bunny, but, to my surprise, it came up in conversation. What is more, I am certain that they hadn't sniffed out this issue on my part.

"Age and changing hormones," one lady declared.

"Fix it by applying Vaseline first," another responded.

Well it is certainly reassuring to know that I am not the only person to encounter this phenomenon. I confess that I even googled it afterwards and the underlying factor seems to be dry skin; a symptom of hormones and ageing, of course. I told you: those ladies have encyclopedic knowledge! 

 


Sunday, 19 March 2017

Magna Carta Part 3




This week I read "I Am Malala," gaining an insight into the growth of the influence of the Taliban in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, culminating in the shooting of Malala Yousafzai. We are hearing so much about the growth of populism in the West that sometimes one needs to be reminded that the political situation is far more dire in other parts of the world. The populace that could least afford it readily parted with cash and jewellery initially in the mistaken belief that the Taliban would bring about much needed change and so alleviate the difficulties under which they were living. Illiterate and uneducated people, suffering as a result of a lack of action by politicians and disinterest as to their plight, actually thought the Taliban might improve their lot. Malala is, of course, described as the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban.


After my visit to Runnymede the previous week, it was probably a fitting book to read. King John, forced to sign the Magna Carta by his Barons after squeezing as much gold from them as he could (in part to fight in Crusades against the Muslims of the Middle East), came the closest the UK has ever got  to having a written constitution. For the first time in the modern world the concepts of freedom and equality under the law were acknowledged in writing. Runnymede is even referred to as the birthplace of Human Rights' legislation.


Does anything really change though? 


The Kennedy Memorial on land gifted to the USA is also at Runnymede. The Memorial Stone sits at the top of 50 steps (one for each of the states) and is inscribed with an extract from the Declaration of Freedom in the inaugural address given by President JF Kennedy. 

"This acre of English ground was given to the United States of America by the people of Britain in memory of John F Kennedy President of the United States 1961-63 died by an assassin's hand 22 November 1963 Let every nation know whether it wishes us well or ill that we shall pay any price bear any burden meet any hardship support any friend or oppose any foe in order to assure the survival and success of liberty."


I think that there are certain leaders in the world today who could do with visiting this special place before we all turn in on ourselves and unpick the enormous progress made in the twentieth century towards lasting peace and understanding between nations and nationalities.

You may not agree with what New Labour stood for, but the mantra of "Education, Education, Education," surely has a resonance in these dark days. Certainly Malala and her father were and still are determined to fight for the right of all children, including girls, to be educated. In the words of Save the Children's Every Last Child campaign: "every child deserves a chance to grow up healthy, learning and safe."



As a prequel to reading Malala's book it was probably also fitting that our next stop was Oxford, a city steeped in learning since at least the 12th century. A reminder too though of the connection between the Church and education; historically the power of the Church over those who could neither read nor write; self enlightenment and development through literacy, study and understanding.







Oh my goodness, how I just love retirement. There's so much time to explore, absorb and then, almost best of all, try to collect my thoughts to write a blog entry about it afterwards.







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.

Friday, 9 December 2016

The Long Commute




I have been doing a lot of commuting lately. Not that daily drudge but a weekly motorway trip to and from the Midlands as I immerse myself in DIY getting our rental property in Nottingham ready for re-letting. It's been an opportunity to call in on a friend en route, stay in one of our favourite hotels (offering cut price bargain rates in what was clearly a down season before the Christmas revels began in earnest) and brush up on my decorating skills. The intention to blog has always been there but, as on the month long trip to America that preceded this bout of industrial activity, there never seems to have been the time. Just like those old days of daily working and commuting perhaps.

Indeed sitting in the car one Tuesday evening as I sought to escape the city lights along with thousands of other road users, I was captivated by how many people repeat that inescapable journey not once a day but twice. Streams of cars held up by traffic light after traffic light and all jostling for position as two lanes meged into one and then back again. A toxic mix of brake lights and diesel fumes. I lie not, it took 54 minutes to travel 6 miles out of Nottingham and to the motorway!

Was I enraged? Far from it. In fact I convinced myself that in retirement we should all try an awful commute now and again, not to prove that we can still do it but rather to remind ourselves of one of the many joys of retirement: namely the ability to time our journeys to avoid queues.

Needless to say when we stayed there this week we deliberately left much later in the evening and had a quicker if less reflective journey. 

One of my pet hates at the moment though is air pollution. I had not expected to notice such a difference in air quality in the large cities of the USA but walking through Boston, Austin, San Diego and San Antonio those nasty vehicle emissions were hardly noticeable. There was a time when here in the UK people would laugh at a neighbour who chugged out in what was considered a cheap French import,  puffing clouds of exhaust fumes behind them. Then somebody must mistakenly have persuaded the Government that diesel was less harmful to the planet enabling it to be sold as cheap as, if not more cheaply than, petrol. Now almost everyone seems to drive an engine  powered by it, oblivious to the toxic health bomb they are helping to create.

Consider the description of diesel exhaust as taken here from Wikipedia: "Emissions from diesel vehicles have been reported to be significantly more harmful than those from petrol vehicles. Diesel combustion exhaust is a source of atmospheric soot and fine particles, which is a component of the air pollution implicated in human cancer, heart and lung damage, and mental functioning."

I know that in retirement many look to conserve their pounds, drive a smaller car and for less miles. So let's sit down and do the arithmetic. Work out what the premium for the diesel engine over the petrol one is; how many miles we are likely to drive; then the total cost compared to a petrol engine. Next when we know the saving (assuming there is one) add in the risk to our own health and that of everyone else breathing in the nitrogen oxides including the animals that we eat; the cost to and burden on the NHS (just when we approach a time in our lives when we may want to depend on it more often). It is estimated that in London 10,000 deaths a year (23,500 across the UK as a whole) are attributable to air pollution resulting in the Mayor only this week announcing a doubling of funding to try to tackle the crisis.  His announcement followed a report a week ago that Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City plan to ban diesel vehicles by 2025. The world is waking up to the problem, and retirees must too.

If you are still not convinced, take a trip to the USA (paying to offset your carbon footprint of course) and note the difference as you travel its sidewalks. 

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


Tuesday, 4 October 2016

A Bad Hair Day



Oh dear I have just had one of those awful 24 hour periods, an interruption to the otherwise halcyon days of retirement. 

It started yesterday when I climbed the step ladder intending to start painting the kitchen ceiling in the house that we let out. I noticed a slight bulge in the wallpaper on the adjoining wall, decided to investigate and next moment became involved in what felt like a serious demolition process as I stripped the wall back to the brickwork. I just hope the kitchen fitter who starts work next week is a competent plasterer too.

Returning home, however, my series of mishaps continued when I discovered a nail in the tyre of my car. Fortunately it is not yet deflating so I took it to the local tyre fitter who agreed he could repair rather than replace it. He went to retrieve the locking wheel nut remover from the spare wheel toolkit in the boot. Horror of horrors, it was missing. A thorough search of the car failed to locate it and slowly the truth dawned, I have never had cause to use it since buying the vehicle last March and in the early honeymoon days of bonding with the car never even thought about checking its presence. How does one argue the case with the garage that supplied the car?

Well I started by ringing; several times; nobody ever returned my call despite endless promises that they would do so. Tomorrow (assuming the tyre is not flat and the car driveable) I shall park myself on the forecourt in protest and have rung the gym to cancel my fitness classes in readiness. After all if good fortune decides to do the dirty on me, I am not giving up without a fight.

My next run in with Lady Luck followed fairly quickly when I went to the hairdressers for a cut and colour. I agreed to try something different so long as it wasn't purple. When, after two hours, I emerged from under the towel looking a little like Cruella de Vil, even the stylist's face fell. It took another two hours to remedy the situation even if I am now sporting a sophisticated ash blonde look when I all I had been expecting were fair highlights.

Then when you think nothing else can go wrong, my computer very clearly said "no." Switching it on a message appeared suggesting that crucial hard or software (it knew not which) was missing and I needed to reload the original installation programmes. Fortunately I had made an installation back up as well as storing copies of all my documents and media in "the Cloud", but it still took hours to retrieve everything.

At the end of the evening I sit here slightly reeling. I've never experienced a day like it! Still it just goes to show, retirement isn't always plain sailing or uninterrupted joy.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Jason Bourne


The natural world was thrown aside in favour of car chases and violence this week when we went to see "Jason Bourne," the newly released sequel to the four previous films based on Robert Ludlum's books. Matt Damon gave his all again returning to a role that this time smacked of Bond without the dress suits and one liners but which easily matched Shwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian for testosterone and bare chests. I checked my watch only twice during the showing; a reputable indicator of either the film's entertainment value or Damon's pectoral muscles.

When I returned home I switched on my PC to be greeted by the usual swathe of newsfeed advertising. One was a curious promotion that proclaimed: "Live longer by avoiding men." 

I do fear this so-called intelligent advertising. Usually it is so stupid that it invariably pushes items that I have already ordered online. Sometimes however it seems to spookily read my thoughts or more likely a recent search term. On this occasion, surely it didn't link the purchase of the cinema tickets online with the dangers of watching male egos fight it out on the movie screen? Big Brother protects me from myself.

Alternatively, perhaps it has detected my postings to a retirement blog and in which case am I shortly to be inundated on posts about sheltered accommodation, zimmer frames and funeral plans? Darn.. I wish I hadn't typed those terms; I may be retired but I'm not yet ready for horlicks and early nights.


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, 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.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Wrong Vibes



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 16 June 2016

A Distraction for a Wet Afternoon




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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Banal but Busy

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

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


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

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




Sunday, 24 April 2016

Watch Your Back


A bit of sunshine and last weekend saw me digging and weeding in the eldest's garden in Nottingham. It's in a more sheltered situation than my own and after the long winter months I was pleased to be able to spend two full days in the open air, working hard. Regrettably the journey home was  uncomfortable when the good old latissimus dorsi began to ache and the next morning I could barely stand up straight.

Ever the fool, when the weather finally picked up in the North at the end of the week I spent another two days, this time in my own garden, digging, weeding and albeit a little late, planting summer flowering bulbs. Needless to say I literally could not move on Friday evening. Once again it has taken two days to recover to a stage where I can at least walk comfortably even if I am not yet ready to bend down.

One of the problems with retirement is remembering that just because you can make hay every time the sun shines doesn't mean you must. You have to take into account, regardless of all the stretching in Pilates and Yoga, that it's easy to strain a muscle and, if you do, that the recovery time is longer than it ever used to be.


Sunday, 20 March 2016

In Retirement We Are all Important


In my pre-retirement life, being ill would have meant a need to catch up at work on recovery. So much so that getting out of one's sick bed and returning to the desk went hand in hand without any thought for rehabilitation That is not of course the case any more. Instead and in retirement the recuperative phase where you stay in and keep warm has been a splendid opportunity to catch up with Future Learn courses that had slipped during our recent trip to Switzerland. 

Strategies for Successful Ageing from the University of Dublin is the name of one such course and there must be something about being ill because looking at pictures, in this case infographics, is always therapeutic. I have been dazzled by the statistics on ageing. It seems that the Boomer generation continues to be aptly named even in retirement, when you realise just how many members it has and how old they are all going to be very shortly.


The great thing about being retired is not only does your mind wander and begin to dwell on abstract concepts like the meaning of life but you also start to wonder just how infinite humankind's occupation of Planet Earth is, when you see statistics like this. Fortunately even with my limited capacity for mathematics, I think I can calculate that it will at least continue beyond the realms of the Baby Boomers and my own lifespan.

Already there is much talk about living and working longer and with governments driving back the age for state pensions, early retirement is no longer the favoured option that it once was. Indeed early retirement tomorrow may well mean something very different to the same term when used ten years ago.

Of course so many older people are healthier than previous generations at their age. Work can be less arduous than it was with opportunities for part-time and flexible hours, and there may well be an attraction in continuing to earn for longer, albeit on a part-time basis. Society too depends greatly on these older people for their contributions to the voluntary sector; without the over sixties, the average charity shop in this country would go unstaffed and who would deliver Meals on Wheels or Audio Books for the Blind?

It is easy to look at the prospect of a burgeoning older population as a concern rather than an asset. In truth, it is an opportunity to harness the time, wisdom, experience and energy that they can bring to the table. Where once English towns and villages relied on the stereotypical housewife to organise the annual fete, run the local branch of the WI and collect the children from school, now and into the future such administration will fall on Grandma.

Female Boomers may have burnt their bras in the sixties as they fought for equality in the workplace. Now male and female members of the same generation are going to carve a new niche for their retirement years and the modern world needs them like never before. I may soon be only one of  over 2 billion people but I feel important and can see my role! 


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.


Friday, 12 February 2016

Taking a Tumble



Well this week I went flying, literally, and no aeroplane was involved. Now I am not someone prone to moving horizontally through the air nor landing ignominiously in mud but, sad to say, whilst hurrying for a train to London on Tuesday that is exactly what happened. 


Now I do recall a similar experience when, wearing varifocals for the first time, I managed to roll headlong into the gutter as I stepped off the kerb. This time, those lenses are well and truly worn in, so cannot be held to account and instead I must simply have misplaced a foot on the edge of a narrow path, resulting in my being thrown totally off balance and, as I went down, twisting and spraining my ankle.  Fortunately for me, I was carrying a box of renowned Betty's Fondant Fancies at the time and landing on top of them surely avoided further damage to myself albeit squashing the cakes (intended as a gift) in the process!

I understand that falls have been shown to be the largest cause of death by unintentional injury of over 65's in the USA whilst our own NHS claims that at least one in three over 65's living at home will have at least one fall a year. Oh dear, I still have a few years to go but  it looks as though I may have to get used to this tumbling lark after all.

London is not of course the first destination of choice for those with a leg injury. Like any large city walking and going up and down steps are all part of the day there. However, not only did the train company put out a tannoy appeal for a doctor (no doubt I disappointed those passengers expecting a birth on board) but also brought medical ice packs onto the train at the next station, meaning that at least my ankle had been strapped and the swelling brought under control before arriving in the capital.


I should also say thanks to the wonderful concierge at the hotel who, in anticipation of a guest with a walking issue, had had the forethought to put a stick behind his desk ready for such an eventuality. I made his day by being the first visitor ever to have need of it.

Of course, if falling is so commonplace, I am unsure what the moral of this story is, other than to stay safe and tread carefully.



Saturday, 30 January 2016

The Stuff of Nightmares



One of the issues with travelling can be packing, unpacking and repacking. As readers of this blog will recall I have had the unfortunate experience of forgetting vital medication on one trip and mislaying a camera charging lead on another. I have not repeated these blunders, although I did manage to leave a favourite item of clothing  on our journey through India, but have replaced it with something that's actually more comfortable, so, in Caree's World, it doesn't count.

Generally I have always taken the view that so long as I have passport, credit card and travel tickets, nothing can go wrong whilst away that can't be fixed, at least temporarily. It's still a good philosophy and one I continue to hold steadfastly in retirement.

However in retirement you find that you have time to think about your belongings and the need to pack and unpack them. To make life easy I have even bought some packing bags that lift in and out of my travelling holdall and slip into hotel room drawers with the contents readily accessible. Moreover time allows me to fill them and lay them out in the spare bedroom several days before a planned departure. It all seems very civilised and far removed from the mad whirlwind of stuffing suitcases with anything close at hand and remotely appropriate that seemed to dominate the pre-holiday departures of my working life.

What therefore is there now to stress about packing? Once bitten twice shy: medication and charging lead are underlined in red on my re-usable packing list and everything is under control snug inside the packing bags.

Perhaps it is because one has more time to think and to plan, not least in an effort to ensure the mistakes of the past are indeed consigned to history. Time to think but also time to check, and double-check. Then time to worry and check again. Time to stress and allow those lingering concerns to enter the sub-conscious. Imagination runs riot and worry over things that haven't even happened begins.

At least that's how it seemed when I awoke in the middle of the night last week, just a few hours before we were scheduled to leave for home from our lodge in Langdale. I felt panic gripping me, as I sat bolt upright yelling out to Mister E that I had left my books behind. Then just as suddenly as the grip had tightened, it was loosened and I lay down, murmuring,"Oh, we're still here!"


Friday, 15 January 2016

Techno Headache



Modern technology is a strange phenomenon. On the one hand it has the ability to simplify complex records and calculations; provide access to and storage for copious data; enable us to remain connected, tracked and subject to so many reminders and notifications that we never miss a second of news nor a pre-arranged appointment. On the other hand it can be a pernicious intrusion into the quietness of life; a thief of time and the most frustrating experience when it fails, as it so constantly does, to deliver as promised.

Now I know there can be a large amount of human error attributable to these failures; for instance I am still struggling after 18 months of owning a particular model of Smartphone to work out how to answer it before it switches to Voicemail. Of course, if I received more calls this particular issue might be overcome but, having grown up in an era when we were taught to limit telephone use because of the expense, my generation hasn't really cottoned onto the "push a shopping trolley with one hand whilst your other is holding a phone to your ear" brigade.

That said, I do not castigate myself as a complete technological numpty. I use the phone as a calendar and access way to the Internet; I have What'sApp to communicate with the family and various social media accounts; I keep accounts on Excel, can  use a variety of macros in Word and am now becoming prolific with my use of Microsoft's Movie Maker. I have ventured into the world of Google Docs; all of my devices synch; I use wifi to transfer photographs from my camera to phone and bluetooth for a hands-free communication experience in my car.

Why therefore did the gods conspire to thwart me when I wanted to do a simple transfer of my mobile phone number from one network to another? I make so few calls that I have been running my phone on Pay as You Go. Unfortunately my provider decided to shut up shop with effect from today and in order to retain my number all arrangements had to be completed by yesterday.

It was to be no problem. I obtained the necessary Pac Code and a new Sim card from another provider all in good time. On Monday of this week, my only problem was a surfeit of credit on my existing network. I cleverly reduced this by sending a text to donate to a worthy cause and sent messages to several friends (who like me and for similar reasons never use their phones to ring). On Tuesday evening I checked the remaining credit and sent another charity text to clear the balance, except it didn't. That was a bit of a quandary. Did I proceed with the transfer regardless and let the Charity deduct from my new account, leaving me to claim back the balance on the old by cheque from the closing network or wait to see if the text worked its magic and cleared my balance? 

I decided to leave matters overnight.The following morning the charity had still not taken its dues; the text had clearly been sent and I was left holding a credit balance that I didn't want. I decided to change tact; donated it to another good cause (knowing that I might still have to pay out to the other charity but feeling it was worth it not to have to enter the realms of copious on-line forms to reclaim a relatively modest sum or worse still donate it to the erstwhile mobile network company's profits) and then logged on to hand over my Pac code and change number.

It was at that precise moment that the new network provider's website decided to hang, and to hang and to hang. A check revealed that it was not my computer but the website itself. There were five hours to go until the 5pm deadline after which transfer requests would not be processed in time to take effect by yesterday. All Wednesday afternoon was therefore spent in a pattern of logging on and hanging. 

The deadline came and went, and my number went with it.

I had no choice but to spend Thursday logging into all my online accounts changing my personal information and updating my mobile number to the new one provided with the new network's Simcard. Some insist on sending OTPs, One Time Passcodes (you see I even know the terminology) to the old number and there was much changing of Sim cards whilst I still had access to both networks, frantically trying to ensure that I completed the task before I would drop into the murky world of re-registrations and requests to Banks for pin codes in order to jump through their security hoops.

Of course, I still have to notify all those friends who never ring of the number change, giving them their own headache of altering details on their phones.

So it is that a transaction that could almost have been simple has dominated the week causing me to despair for the future. How ever will I manage when I really can't even half follow what is required of me to keep a phone in my pocket that will actually ring so that I may one day just stand a chance of being able to answer it.

"It's all down to market forces and capitalism," said Mister E. "Life was simpler in the days of a monopolised telecommunications company. Imagine it letting you lose your number," he added in a moment of Corbynista type philosophising.

Ah yes, the simple life; the life I am seeking in retirement. It looks like I still have a long way to go and I either learn to use and live with this technology or give it up completely; if only!