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 Creativity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Creativity. Show all posts

Sunday, 24 September 2017

So Where Did the Summer Go?




Did I blink and miss it or was it all the recent travelling? Either way, I can hardly believe it is now Autumn and the second half of September. Moreover, and whilst walking in the Lake District today, we spotted holly with red berries all ready for decking out the halls. No Indian summer this year I guess and at least we'll hopefully get to do a proper garden clear up with plants dying off before the weather turns too cold, perhaps.

In the meantime and in advance of turning our attention to leaves and branches, the passionate culling of extraneous stuff within as opposed to outside our home has continued, alongside the rejection of both plastic and added sugar. 


For instance after months of tripping over a box full of camera equipment strategically placed on the floor, I was determined to create shelf space for it in a cupboard stoved off with a combination of knitting wool, craft materials, DIY tools and, just to add to the mixture, board games, many of which have lain there unused for 15 years or more.  In dramatic fashion, not only, therefore, did I empty the cupboard but I also repainted it. Making it look like a completely new area (how easily a new colour scheme can fool) somehow made it easier to rearrange the contents and throw the excess away. In fact we have done such a good job that not only has my reputation for tidying cupboards reached new heights, but the top shelf remains unfilled, although that may just be a matter of timing.


As the intensity of decluttering, physically and mentally, increases, I have begun to realise that its meaning goes beyond tidying up and letting go. What seemed at first to be a sensible clear-out of old, unused  stuff is actually so much more. In retirement we are finally making the time to rid ourselves of extraneous trivia built up over decades in an instinctive anticipation that, once liberated, we shall be able to enjoy the important things in our lives instead. The clear aim is now to live not only more simply but also more purposefully. I just sometimes need direction!



Sunday, 28 May 2017

Heatwave in an Art Gallery



On Friday we made the decision to head to the city rather than fry ourselves on deck. So we headed from Troon Marina to the centre of Glasgow as the sun burnt down upon us and temperatures reached Mediterranean levels. Although we braved the heat to take in the Cathedral, Necropolis, and the Provand's Lordship it was only inside the art galleries (of which Glasgow has a multitude) that we found relief from the baking temperatures.



It has to be said that Glasgow likes its art gritty and the ends of so many buildings are now daubed with street art murals that we found fascinating like this one at the University of Strathclyde:



In the aftermath of the appalling bombing at Manchester arena only a few days before, we thought the Polygraph Exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art particularly pertinent. It is centred around a two channel video by the German film maker and visual artist, Hito Steyerl, in which she explores the death of her friend in Turkey. Dissecting evidence to separate truth from fiction in a complex world seemed to be the theme for all the exhibits. In the video itself Steyerl traces the casings from the bullets that killed her friend back to the premises of Lockheed Martin in Berlin. Her evidence claimed that it had supplied the weapons to Turkey through the German Government; state complicity unravelled; politics meeting the personal. The theme continued with for instance black and white photographs of the elderly and vulnerable housed in a hostel for the homeless in the city; politics again affecting individual lives.

At Manchester is it too glib to blame the reprehensible actions of one suicide bomber on the delusions of extremism? Are foreign policy, cutting police numbers, a lack of proper employment opportunities for the young from disadvantaged sectors and/or a failure to address radicalisation of some within our multi-cultural society, also to blame for the deaths at the arena of 22 innocent people, many just children?

For the first time ever, I found myself wanting to concur with Trump when he starkly referred to those responsible for the atrocity as losers. Yet as the exhibition in Glasgow pointed out, life isn't that simple. After all this was a US President who just days before had met with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and, like Theresa May only a few months earlier, sought to agree yet another arms deal. But what are those arms being used for? Isn't it Saudi Arabia that has been indiscriminately shelling in Yemen, killing thousands of innocent civilians including children and by virtue of its blockades caused widespread hunger and a shortage of medicines and other supplies? 

Individuals all over the world suffer because political decisions have far reaching and often unintended consequences. The world has become a very complicated place but it behoves no politician well to ignore the fact that people not profit are inevitably at the end of the chain of events started by their decisions.


Monday, 1 May 2017

Outdoor Sculpture at Pompeii and Elsewhere


I'm not sure what it is about sculpture that ignites my fire but I really get excited by many of the beautiful pieces that adorn our museums and open places, especially when they fit into and amplify their surroundings. If there is one thing I have learnt since retiring, it is that there is no time to waste analysing why I might like something and, when I do, the response is simply to explore it and enjoy the moment (on the basis of course that my taste is impeccable and therefore always lawful). Indeed in retirement I have been able to see so many wonderful examples of sculpture that it would be difficult to recount them all.







In particular large outdoor installations that add to the atmosphere of the environment have left an abiding impression including the special exhibition of Henry Moore's work and then that of Kaws at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, not to mention the Blood Swept Lands and Seas part of which was there also, after first seeing it at the Tower of London. 


As we have travelled, both at home and especially abroad, we have come across wonderful examples of artwork of this nature. Cuba in particular embraced the idea of state sponsored street art and in San Diego there is of course the huge and distinctive Embracing Peace Statue.


More recently in Italy we were fortunate to see a display of Igor Mitoraj's work at Pompeii as the last day of that exhibition was actually today. It would have been hard to envisage a better site for his vast classical sculptures and for me they enhanced our visit.





Sunday, 30 April 2017

Creative Compositions



Since retiring I seem to be taking more and more photographs. Obviously travelling to new places and oodles of leisure time to wander around with a camera provides the perfect opportunity. Moreover and whilst I had originally thought that I would enjoy learning to sketch and paint again, instead I have found myself drawn more and more to the digital world of the camera. So much so that having invested in a super duper compact pocket camera shortly after retiring, a couple of weeks back (somewhere between Madeira and Italy timewise), I upgraded to a digital SLR.


Prior to the age of mega pixels, I did have an SLR film camera but confess that I rarely ever used to shoot with it in anything other than automatic modes. In retirement, however, I hope to be more creative and to this end signed up for and attended a photography workshop on Thursday. 


It took place inside Kiplin Hall, the Jacobean Mansion built for George Calvert who, as Lord Baltimore was the founder of Maryland in the USA. It's not far from where I live but in time honoured tradition and whilst I might travel the world or the rest of the country looking at historic landmarks, those on my doorstep are frequently neglected and I had never before been past the gate. We did have the opportunity to get out into the grounds to try our hand at newly learned skills but the weather was a little dismal. I have therefore made a mental note for myself to return when the sun is shining and take a good walk round the lake as well as a mosey inside the house which was not open (save for the room we occupied) during our visit.

However, I still emerged at the end of the day brimming with enthusiasm and capable of  using far more settings and dials on my new camera than I had thought possible. To be fair the course leader (Guy Carpenter from Gullwing Photography) did point out that a good compact pocket camera can be just as effective for holiday snaps and easier to carry, but the aim is, of course, to be creative. 

Since Thursday I have read the camera manual from cover to cover, a book on photography and the latest edition of Amateur Photography magazine. Best of all though I have been practising: 






Saturday, 4 February 2017

La La Land

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

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

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

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



Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Blind Making the Blind




I shall begin with the proviso that I am unsure whether or not the statistics I am about to quote are correct, but I do know that Pareto would at least approve.

So: I am one of the 20% of women who own a sewing machine. Until  last week I was also one of the 80% of women who own a sewing machine and do not use it.

However, in a sudden burst of creative activity my reliable little dressmaking aide has been placed on the desk in the eldest's bedroom which, since he did kind of leave home seven years ago, I am slowly taking over as craft room.

The task which I set myself was to make a window blind for the small box room in the Nottingham property. The previous blind had given up the ghost but an inspection suggested to me that it would not be beyond the wit of man nor indeed Caree's limited ability to replicate the design.

I confess I have never made a blind in my life before. To be honest I would also struggle to recall anything I have ever made with the sewing machine except perhaps a cushion cover, generally having used it only for mundane tasks like hemming trousers. 

Nevertheless the result has given me great pleasure. I hung it over the weekend and was certainly relieved to dicover that it both fitted and worked. There's a lot to be said for creativity; success definitely endows a halo of self satisfaction.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Manual Labour




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

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

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


Sunday, 26 June 2016

Summer Art and Gardens



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


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



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





Sunday, 29 May 2016

A Self Portrait


Sitting on the boat on the West coast of Scotland this weekend, my mind drifted back to Sunderland Museum and in particular the municipal art collection with various pieces by LS Lowry. It seems that he was a regular visitor to the North East coast and there are a number of his pictures looking out across the North Sea on display. 

There are also two of his self-portraits, or at least that is what he called them. They are in fact paintings of pillars surrounded by sea. A notice on the wall explained that Lowry saw himself as "a tall, straight pillar standing up in the middle of the sea, waiting for the sea of life to finish it off."

Perhaps I've spent too much time bobbing around on waves in small boats but it is not a metaphor that I have any great empathy with. Standing up to and then being battered by the sea is probably not the best way to enjoy life. Much better to go with the tide, set sail and take advantage of the wind to steer a course.




Monday, 23 May 2016

Sunderland Day Trippers




We made use of the wonderful weather on Friday for a tourist trip up the road to Sunderland and Roker. Sunglasses on our noses and camera in the hand, we took full advantage of the sunshine to stroll along the beach and also dodge the inevitable shower with visits to the National Glass Centre and the City Museum and Winter Garden.


It ended up being a day of learning, taking in Sunderland's history of glass-making and ship building. I had expected a little more from the temporary exhibition of glass loaned by the Museum of Glass in Tacoma whilst The Good the Bad and The Ugly - New Works by Andrew Miller was, can I say, a little stark. However the setting of the Glass Centre right on the banks of the River Wear is certainly dramatic and it is hard to decide whether the highlight of a visit there is the glass blowing demonstrations or the homemade scones served in the cafe. Of course stopping for coffee and a cake is a significant feature of any day out in retirement and I never fail to marvel at the number of other over fifties partaking in similar manner.


Next the walk along the seashore was a brisk one. It had to be to walk off the effects of the scone before we proceeded into the city centre to visit the Museum with its range of galleries.

In contrast to the National Glass Centre, the Museum is crammed full of exhibits; the minimalism of the first venue replaced by a vast array of curios presented in an educational way. International Garden Photographer of the Year entries were also on display (visiting until 26th June) and the Museum was worth a visit for those alone; hardly surprising, therefore, that I came out musing over the prospect of purchasing a more sophisticated camera. 


In the Winter Gardens attached to the Museum, the lift up to the tree top walk was out of order, so we strolled amongst the hot-house plants at ground level instead. The noises emanating from a healthy fibre-glass specimen from the Jurassic period echoed around the conservatory dome although, when I think about it, does anyone really know what a dinosaur sounded like?

 

Saturday, 21 May 2016

A Parallel World




On Monday I met a friend at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It takes over an hour for me to drive there but it was a beautiful day, the roads were relatively empty and I enjoyed the journey. Perhaps it was a snippet that I heard on the radio or maybe a latent thought in the depths of my mind, but I began to ponder on similies for the retirement experience. 

"It's been a little bit like space travel," I told myself, "A venture into the unknown."

That didn't feel quite right. After all I can't honestly say that I have spent the time since June 2014 exploring distant planets or even the moon.

Later as we wandered around the Park admiring the large outdoor sculptures we entered the garden area where an exhibition of Not Vital's work is being set up.  Chased-steel pieces, reflecting the light and surroundings were mesmerising and as I stared at a moonlike orb, it came to me. 

Retirement isn't akin to space travel at all; instead it is life in a parallel universe where people, places and events may seem familiar but life itself is not. There's a link and a relationship between the former working life and present, but the former life is distant and removed.

I have crossed the Rubicon and now inhabit a simultaneously familiar and yet strange world where people have time to wander around sculpture parks during the working week, eat long lunches outside in the sunshine, have meaningful conversations, smile, listen and make time for each other. 

That old world is trapped in its own time and place; it still goes on but I cannot enter. When I try to steal a peep, my parallel existence is reflected back across the lawn; its blue sky and green, geen grass hide the surface of that other world and stretch out before me, beckoning and enticing. There is no going back, and, let's be honest, would I want to?



Thursday, 21 April 2016

Eye in the Sky

Eye in the Sky

In retirement can you still remember that stressed out, tight chest, anxious feeling that usually came with juggling work and home whilst worrying about both? If not and you wish to relive the cortisol/adrenalin cocktail, can I suggest a visit to the cinema to see Eye in the Sky.

I'm honestly not sure if I enjoyed it and there was one point where heart racing and palms sweating, I thought I might even leave the auditorium in a wave of stress induced nausea but I couldn't; I had to find out how it ended.

National and occupational stereotypes but what would we do in the same situation? That question kept Mister E, the youngest and me deep in discussion over the dinner we ate out afterwards.



Tuesday, 16 February 2016

A Conflict of Taste



A dilemma frequently faced by Mister E and me in retirement is our choice of entertainment. We can agree on art exhibitions and even television documentaries but when it comes to live art or the cinema, we have, shall we say, a divergence of taste. So much so that last summer we bought a second television set (I know which household really survives on just one television these days?) in order, with my new found leisure time, to treat myself to my own choice of film or drama series, rather than the crime and terror which I am convinced dominate Mister E's viewing.

In London last week we encountered familiar territory as we wrangled over which West End show to see. 

"They don't do shoot-outs or car-chases," I maintained, as he wrinkled his nose at the thought of 'Phantom of the Opera' or 'Billy Elliott.'

I am pleased to advise however that a compromise was reached and we both willingly went to see the first night of "War of the Worlds," at the Dominion Theatre, the live show of Jeff Wayne's album based, of course, on HG Wells' novel. It is definitely a powerful production, even if David Essex who stars in the show and featured on the original album no longer seemed to have his singing voice of old. From Mister E's point of view, however, not only did he enjoy the music but it was also the closest he has ever got to watching the horror of a gun battle and thrill of a chase on stage. The fact that it was all with lasers and Martians was irrelevant. 

Perhaps we shall now indulge in science fiction together. Where is the next Star Trek convention?


Sunday, 14 February 2016

Old and New


One of the experiences that I love about visiting big cities is the mixture of old and new that is so missing from more parochial areas, like the one that I live in. Whether it be a cocktail of young and old people, ancient and modern buildings, new and traditional ideas, imported and staid cultures, they all add to the vibe and excitement. Sadly with much of rural England becoming a haven for over fifties to grow old in together, there can be a lack of ideas and the animation and boost which they bring. Whilst nobody necessarily embraces change, without it surely we are doomed to stagnate?

So it was that wandering around London this week I found myself uplifted not only by the cocktail of nationalities but also by some of the views that I am sure many would groan at, complaining about the desecration of historic and long standing landmarks.

As in Soho

 or Lincoln's Inn Fields;

Canary Wharf from Greenwich;
the ever changing London skyline;
 

and at King's Cross Station.

Whilst there are some who will always decry progress I hope that I never grow too old in retirement to appreciate the exhilaration it can produce. Yes there may be few buildings as beautiful or indeed as symmetrical as the Royal Naval College at Greenwich but, built on the site of one of the Tudor Palaces, I do hope that Henry VII would have thought the same way had he lived an extra 200 years and seen its construction.








Friday, 29 January 2016

Positivity in a Monochrome Environment


Battered by storm after storm outside, one could almost be forgiven for thinking that retirement offers the perfect opportunity for hibernation. However, after a couple of days hiding from the weather and catching up with all those tasks left for a winter's day, I confess to feeling somewhat isolated. At work there is, of course, always an opportunity for social interaction without seeking it out; retirement is different and one needs to be proactive.



In contrast, last week we once again visited Langdale in the Lake District and were joined by the eldest and two long standing friends; company was on tap. 



The weather was still disappointing in its own way and was dominated by cold, dull and wintry conditions. Nevertheless we got out and about showing our friends our favourite low level walking routes and lunchtime stops. We even ventured into caves that I had never visited before.



In retirement I have rediscovered a love of colour  but last week the landscape was very definitely monochrome. Positivity ruled and my camera tried to find beauty there too.


I think it succeeded!