Just a very quick update on our restoration venture. Still in the boatyard and stripped of her engine, gas fittings and windows, I'm wondering if we've really bought mainly fresh air! Oops, I forgot about the all permeating scent of diesel; hopefully the lack of windows might help release that!
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.
Monday, 11 June 2018
Yesterday Mister E and I had a brief mosey along Northallerton High Street, closed to traffic as it celebrated the 1940's. With live music, albeit an empty dance floor on the pavement in front, bomb disposal experts, an array of vintage and classic vehicles in use in the 1940's, GI brides, nurses with babies in prams and shops with themed windows it was a unique transformation. Coupled with a blue sky, it certainly seemed to have brought the crowds out.
Too often and too close to home we hear about shops closing and the difficulties faced by retailers with competition from online sales, increased business rates and the limited spending power of consumers as their wages stagnate and austerity, coupled with the impending effect of Brexit, continues.
I'm sure demographics must be playing a part too, as more and more of us leave the workplace and move into retirement leaving impulse purchasing behind.
Setting aside the whole issue of fostering nostalgia for bygone years (especially those associated with a role in World War Two) it is good to know that the councils and others are working hard to keep the appeal of our local town centre and by innovation seeking to prevent its decline. It is after all only two weeks since the same street was closed to host a 10k run, following its previous closure for the annual May Fair and the Tour de Yorkshire, only three weeks before that.
For many spending power in retirement may be less, but let's please try to apply our expenditure in shopping locally when we can.
Friday, 20 April 2018
The temperature, which until this week seemed to have been in denial about the arrival of Spring, may have delayed my early flower display but it doesn't seem to have stopped the annual bird mating season. Male songbirds have been launching into full throttle from daybreak. I love the idea of living in harmony with nature and there's nothing more delightful than the melodic dawn chorus of a choir of blackbirds and songthrushes.
Unfortunately for us, this year, one out of tune thrush has been welcoming the dawn every morning from a strategic position on the roof above our bedroom. "Cherie, Cherie, Cherie," he has been chanting, "Pull it up, pull it up, pull it up."
I could almost feel sorry for Cherie, except she isn't the only one fatigued by his instruction which somedays has continued unabated, or so it has seemed, until dusk.
So could anything be worse than losing sleep daily as a result of a discordant feathered creature and an early bird who never actually catches or rather pulls up the worm?
Well the backing group hasn't helped: two lovestruck starlings on a tree branch outside our window, the male of which proudly demonstrates his powers of mimicry as he raucously shrills in echo to the thrush, "Shree, shree; here we go, here we go."
Johnny Thrush and the Romantics; it's easy to appreciate why not every retired town-dweller is looking to downsize to the country.
Fortunately and perhaps it is just coincidence but two phenomenally warm days seem to have brought a halt to the proceedings. Miraculously where there were only bare twigs at the beginning of the week, buds have now started to appear and open on the trees and bushes and all colours of flowerheads are now nodding in the garden. I am fervently hoping that the mad menage of two legged crooners has matured too and perhaps will now concentrate its efforts on nestbuilding and raising young.
Of course, it's not only birds that can create a cacophony of sound. Have you ever heard a village worth of lawnmowers, all making the first cut of the season together? Well, it may have seemed a strange choice but despite a sudden and twenty degree hike in the temperature over the previous week, rather than relaxing in the garden and living according to and in attunement with the weather as I have constantly been advocating in retirement, we fled 40 miles to Newcastle's city centre.
To be honest we did need to view some light fittings but also enjoyed a good walk along the Quayside (laughing at the surprising display of palm trees in tubs at 55 degrees North, but entirely appropriate for the continental feel to the day) as well as through some of the many squares and back streets. We ate out and also crossed the river to take in an art exhibition at the Baltic, "Turning Forty Winks into a Decade" by Sofia Stevi, suggesting she hadn't been getting much sleep either. Perhaps that out of tune song thrush gets about.
Thursday, 12 April 2018
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.
Tuesday, 10 April 2018
I suspect that I have a visually inclined memory, a theory upheld by my vivid recollection of some of the art we have enjoyed at all those exhibitions since retiring. A hypothesis perhaps also confirmed by a frequent inability to recall the names of even the main protagonists in the books that I have read. Should I switch to reading comics and picture books or on the basis that I can also fail to put a name to a face in real life, is it erroneous conjecture? Could it actually be that I'm just bad at names? Is it another age thing?
As you know I am undertaking 3 x 60 challenges for my big birthday year. A quarter of the year into it, I am pleased to record that progress is good; I'm a little behind target with the number of swims and also unfamiliar places visited, but anticipate making up the loss in the summer months. The reading challenge however has been managed to perfection, meaning that by 31st March I had indeed read 15 books.
Could I tell you the names of them? Yes because I have listed them and, of course, if they are not actually on my bookshelf there is a copy on my virtual shelf at Goodreads.
Could I tell you the names of the main characters? Probably not in all cases, although and for obvious reasons Rebecca in the book of that name would be an exception.
Could I describe the plots? Definitely.
Could I identify the books I really liked? Yes and in so doing I have made a patent discovery: a little like art, they are the ones that made the deepest impression, that spoke to me in a personal and unique way and, therefore, about which I recall the most.
To assuage your curiosity, those that made the most profound impact were:
An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
The Earthquake Bird by Susanna Jones.
Exactly as art and sculpture do, they disturbed normality for me, surprised and jolted me out of passivity and stimulated an emotive response.
Saturday, 24 February 2018
The past few days I've been going grey. The height of fashion some might say or just a sign of the times. The green shade was so last century; it's time for a complete revamp. I'm not of course talking hair colour but rather walls.
Grey, it seems is the new magnolia, fast overtaking all those washed out green and beige (greige) shades and harsh whites as the current neutral backdrop for the home. Now that the days are lengthening and the sun sitting higher in the sky, somewhat predictably in the annual cycle of retirement, I am again overtaken by the nesting instinct and a need to decorate and declutter.
Scandi minimalism; I'll get there one day.
Sunday, 28 January 2018
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?
Wednesday, 3 January 2018
Eventful or calm and peaceful, I never quite know how to describe that week beginning with Christmas and ending with New Year. Interspersed with periods of: family and togetherness, memories and resolutions, indulgence and even gluttony, activity and then indolence, nostalgia and reflection; it is definitely a unique time of the year.
For us this year was different in that for the first time in modern history the eldest was at the opposite side of the world and not therefore with us to enjoy what have become our own family traditions. Even the beloved Boxing Day Quiz had to be deferred when he failed to rustle up an internet connection on the national park trek that he was undertaking.
A quarter down, we still manoeuvred our way through the week, even managing an overnight trip to Hull before its reign as the UK City of Culture 2017 finished. Less than 80 miles away, it took an end of year cut off date to get us there. Who thought working to deadlines has no application to retirement?
Of course we ended up travelling on the snowiest day of the winter so far, but with the early evening darkness were able to appreciate not only the city's Christmas lights but also a series of robotic installations in the atmospheric old town area by Jason Bruges on the theme of "Where do we go from here?"
There is something almost sureal about standing on a cold December night watching a robot attempt to communicate with a statue of William Wilberforce, not to mention a circle of them working together to send a series of laser beams upwards or the more inquisitive set outside the Minster which seemed to deliberately inquire and to interrogate the visitor beneath.
I really appreciate how art speaks to the individual and we each take something complex to describe but personally moving or inspiring away from it
We wandered from gallery to gallery.
Amongst them we took in the Turner prize short-list at the Ferens Art Gallery and after seeing the winning collection by Lubaina Himid, I am of course inspired with the idea of buying china plates from charity shops and adding my own artistic flair and cultural message (if only) to them.
An exhibition that stood out for all of us was a Portrait of a City especially the photographs by Martin Parr of food in Hull. It did little to convince us of haute cuisine on Humberside nor were we persuaded of the need to try a deep fried pattie but I was left with the memory of the vibrancy of the culinary delights on offer and, albeit solely in the imagination, the smell of cooking.
We also enjoyed the display entitled "Turner and the Whale." JMW Turner's paintings of whaling ships were showcased alongside pictures from the Hull school of art and artefacts from the historic whaling industry in the city. Forget painting china plates, I want to create a masterpiece in oils of sea, and light and waves.
A feverish boost of creativity lasting 24 hours had to be a sure fire way to return home uplifted, motivated and ready to make my resolutions for 2018. Except it wasn't... yes, I had festive fever alright but of the sneezing, high temperature, runny nosed variety. Confined to bed for two days, I missed the New Year's arrival and have been too weak and befuddled to consider my objectives for what is already the present year.
Thankfully the brain fog is now lifting but to make life easier for my somewhat delicate state (I exaggerate), I simply avow to continue with those resolutions from last year which somehow seem even more appropriate with increasing global turmoil. So once again in 2018 and without comment on how I fared last year, I resolve to follow what I seek to be the pattern of my retirement and:
2. Stand up for what I believe in and endeavour to engage others to fight the cause
3. Use less (avoiding single use plastic in particular), live simply and shop locally wherever possible
4. Think globally and be aware of the impact of my footprints on the planet and the suffering of all those in war zones or denied the liberties that I enjoy, doing what I can to raise awareness and improve outcomes
5. In an annual tradition, or perhaps because I'm still suffering from a virus induced delirium, lose weight and get fit.
Finally, albeit a little delayed: best wishes for 2018, everyone.
Sunday, 24 September 2017
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.