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

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!


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Impact of Glass



I love the way an art exhibition can leave you energised and often it is unexpected objects or paintings that have the most impact. So today I am feeling inspired and motivated, recalling not only the creations of Henry Moore at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park but also a display of glass art there by the Venetian siblings, Laura and Alessandro Diaz de Santallina.






The exhibition was inside a chapel which, after deconsecration, has been turned into a unique white painted gallery where the light floods in. Outside, on long term loan, is Iron Tree, a sculpture by Al Weiwei who has also exhibited there.





Peering through the door, I spotted a row of glass vases and immediately thought that this was going to be a bit dull. 


How easy it is to be wrong. The pieces demonstrate and experiment with both transparency and reflection, distorting the light and reverberating colour. The effect was simple yet mesmerising.



The trouble is, short of writing this blog entry, it is difficult to channel the inspiration. 

Whilst retirement has given me the opportunity to experience and appreciate so many facets of the creative world as yet my own participation feels like that of a voyeur, camera in hand. Instinctively, however, I know that  my sub-conscious is desirous of creating items of beauty in order to express itself  and I also know that painting the walls of my home is not going to be sufficient to fulfil that part of my psyche, regardless of how expressive I make the brush strokes. 

Surrounded by colour and the countryside with Yorkshire's renowned landscapes and vast skies, perhaps it is time once again to dust down the sketch book abandoned last year in favour of my new pocket camera.


Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Landscape and Sculpture




I have always been attracted to the sculptures of Henry Moore and today the youngest and I paid a visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park where 500 acres of his native Yorkshire countryside plays host to many of his larger pieces. There was also an indoor exhibition of his work, aptly entitled "Back to a Land," where his deep relationship with the land was explored.

In light of my current "well-being and nature kick," I'm wondering now if the appeal of his work to me lies in its relationship with the natural world.






Moore himself is quoted as saying:
"I realised what an advantage a separated two piece composition could have in relating figures to landscape. Knees and breasts are mountains. Once these two parts become separated you don't expect it to be a naturalistic figure; therefore you can justifiably make it like a landscape or a rock. If it is a single figure you can guess what it is going to be like. If it is in two pieces, there's a bigger surprise, you have unexpected views."


The park was one of Moore's favourite backdrops for his sculptures. In the background to the current exhibition we were told that he loved the changing skies, weather and seasons and thought the sheep roaming the land were the right size to balance his work.


We thought it quite beautiful: art and landscape brought together with the opportunity for a decent walk to appreciate all the pieces.

Monday, 4 May 2015

A Workman and her Tools



Today I tried my hand at some DIY. You know the kind of thing: you wear old clothes and do something messy whilst holding a tool or two.



In my case I decided it was time to put together the poppy I have been storing from the Tower of London's magnificent display in its moat last year. Following the instructions in the box, I amassed gardening gloves, a hammer and no I baulked at eye protection (nanny state gone crazy unless someone thought I was actually likely to stab myself in the eye with the stalk). The trouble was that when I analysed the contents it was only to discover that I had been supplied with two washers the same size and no spacer to actually fit inside the poppy head. Mister E came to the rescue with a collection of assorted plastic washers that he had been hanging onto, just in case (I know it defeats the letting go principles of the #minsgame), and out we went into the garden. Sadly there was no need for the hammer, as the stalk was more than adequate at piercing its own hole in the ground, but I did wear my gloves.

Inspired by the bout of activity outside, I engaged on Day 2 of a decorating project with a tin of primer, a paint brush, a tub of polyfilla and a filling trowel. Plenty of scope there for a mess!

The primer was applied to the bare plaster areas easily but there's something about trowels; they just don't spread polyfilla the way it should go (yes  I make no excuses, a bad workman does indeed blame her tools). Fortunately a wet rag and my fingers came to the rescue and even if I say so myself I was rather pleased with the results although I did have to scrub my hands and then have a bath afterwards. Maybe gloves might have been of more use for decorating but there was no reference on the box. I'm sure there'll come a point in retirement when I'll get the hang of the technique, there's still an awful lot of house awaiting its makeover.


Saturday, 2 May 2015

York and a Minimalist Lifestyle


Yesterday Mister E and I returned to York to deal with our unfinished business. The Aesthetica Exhibition in St Mary's Church (de-consecrated in 1958) was, shall we say, interesting! Neither as colourful nor as animating as I like, with a preponderance of monochrome and some depressing topics as well as a piece of sound art which actually made us appreciate the quiet of Coppergate when we left.


The cherry blossom trees around the city walls were however in full bloom and more than made up for the grey within the art gallery.

Whilst in York, we also collected an online order which had been delivered to a local shop  and comprised "retirement" clothing for the outdoors. I took it home knowing that I would need to throw some more of that office clothing away to make room for it. Sometimes the clutter at home and all those items I keep hanging onto thinking they may have a use one day can really get me down. 

I was pleased, therefore, this morning when one of the supplements to The Guardian newspaper offered some innovative guidance on decluttering. Minimalism is purportedly "the latest buzzword in well-being" and the article recommended a game where you rid yourself of one item on Day 1, two on Day 2 and so on until Day 30. Apparently thousands of people play the game and compare notes on Twitter using the hashtag #minsgame. 


Desperate for some space in the wardrobe, I thought I had best join in and to make it even easier for myself (I do need simple rules for games, if I am to play well), I thought I would treat today, 2nd May, as Day 2 and accordingly throw away one item for Day 1 and two for today. It did not of course make any space in the wardrobe at all as I chose a mug dressed up to look like a cupcake, a book that Mister E has given up on and a plastic flower display that has been hidden in a dark corner for too long. 

There is, of course, always tomorrow and by Day 30, I am anticipating ample room, but whether I shall have cleared out all my work suits remains to be seen.


Friday, 24 April 2015

Knitting Again



I am pleased to report that I have just completed the knitting of a cardigan for the youngest. This is something of an accomplishment as the last garment that I knitted for her, or indeed for anyone, was when she was only a few weeks old and it was understandably much smaller than my current piece of work.

Having taken an 18 year break from knitting, it was therefore a novelty to pick up needles again in retirement and see if I could still make something decent enough to be worn.

Sadly, however, I didn't quite finish it in time for the winter weather. The youngest was still delighted with it (or maybe she was being polite) and has even placed an order for this coming winter or, on reflection, 2017!


Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Reflecting on Nine Months of Retirement


My last day at work was 18th June, nine months ago. Nine months is also, of course, the gestational period for a human baby. Sufficient time to develop from a fertilised egg cell into a living infant. Very similar in fact to my own transmogrification.

Prior to actually taking the plunge there was excitement tinged with a degree of nervousness and, dare I say it, even fear.  However and since completing the dive there has been no looking back and I can honestly say that to date I have had no reason to regret my decision.

Last summer, in the early days, it felt as though I was a complete novice at everything I touched. A feeling emphasised by leaving a career in which I was professionally skilled and  competent for a completely different lifestyle for which it felt as if I was totally under-qualified. I have still many years to go in the art of retirement before I might justifiably call myself a Master, but am now very much accustomed to my new life as well as the challenges that go with it and which bring so much enjoyment. I am learning as I go and this blog hopefully records the wisdom picked up along the way and lessons learnt.

To begin with, it did feel like a never-ending holiday but nine months on it is now a pattern of life without commitment, timetable or routine unless they are of my choosing. There is still ongoing hard-work behind the scenes to develop fitness and maintain good health to enjoy retirement, hopefully for a long time into the future. On reflection, I should not, of course, have worked so hard that I lost sight of  a good work-life balance but retirement is all about looking forward and not backwards. Nine months on, I now realise how stressed work made me feel but can only trust that I escaped before there was any long-term damage and revel in the benefits of what has been a natural healing process.

I recall that there was a point where I began to feel guilty that life feels so hedonistic. It is strange, however, how you can get used to almost anything and those twangs of guilt have definitely disappeared four months later. In part I believe this is because my memory of that previous hair shirt style of living is fading fast. That's not, of course, because  it was a long time ago ( we are talking only nine months) but more because of  the change that has been taking place as I have developed into a frame of mind where I accept who I am, what I want and strive to carve myself that life. I obviously have nothing to feel guilty about anyway, but I guess it was an inevitable phase in moving onward in retirement that in shedding the burden of  decades of working you take time to adjust to the pleasure of life being your own to do as you will. When you do, it is proof that you have forgotten how it felt being shackled to the work ethic.

"I think, therefore I am," wrote Descartes. What's different for me now, is how I think. Years of straight-lined analytical thinking have been cast aside as I become open to ideas floating into my mind from all directions. Primarily through Future Learn, I have embraced a diverse variety of subjects, disciplines, and ideas. It takes time but gradually my mind is opening to the discovery of a great big universe out there and of which I was only vaguely aware stuck at an office desk.

My long-term aim is to rediscover my creative inner and I have been shocked at how much that day job has squeezed my creative juices to extinction. Although I have tried sketching, creative writing and various low-key crafty projects, my successful route for rehabilitation has come from the rediscovery of colour, first from visiting various modern art exhibitions and then from experimenting with photography. I am much more aware of detail than ever before; there is time in retirement to appreciate it: I see, therefore I am. 

Moreover now that I see  so much more, the joys of travel and exploration are extended, both in the UK and abroad. 

So after nine months, there are no regrets as I continue to totter with baby steps in that big new world of retirement. Our plans remain in focus and if  there is any lesson to be drawn so far in seeking to achieve them, it is simply that everything takes time, preparation and planning.



Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Old and New


As I indicated last month I have started to rediscover my creative side through colour and a new pocket camera. Unfortunately I have not quite got used to the amount of battery juice the camera uses so it was a little disappointing to arrive at King's Cross in London on Monday and discover that the battery I thought I had only recently charged was completely flat.

Luckily the phone that I struggle to answer calls on, because I invariably become completely muddled as to which way to swipe the screen when it starts to ring, helped me out. So whilst some photographic opportunities had to be overlooked, others were still captured using the phone. 

It's strange but a year ago I would have been much more concerned at making sure my gadgets worked and I knew how to operate them. Now, I am so eager to enjoy my surroundings that I must resort to kicking myself when the tools I am carrying don't function.

On our London trip we enjoyed a visit to the Museum of London which sets out in chronological order the history of London from pre-Neanderthal times to the present; a complete nexus between old and new over two floors of exhibits.



I find shape and colour mesmerising and as a result could not resist snapping the Olympic cauldron in the museum. 










Then, as we wandered around the city, the relationship between old and new with the Bridge of Aspiration between the Royal Ballet School and the Royal Opera House was another object to marvel.















Perhaps it is something to do with the stage of transition I am going through but that connection between old and new seems so appealing as, for instance, spotted here looking down Cheapside towards St Mary le Bow.










Nothing, however, can beat the colour of early Spring flowers especially when we still have only snowdrops at home.