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 Family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts

Saturday, 25 February 2017

The Nest is Rather Full




One of the pitfalls of letting the property that the eldest was living in is, of course, that he is now homeless. Fortunately I understand that completing academic papers and visiting friends whilst killing time awaiting one's Viva can be done from essentially anywhere. In this instance, however, "anywhere" just happens to be back at home with his parents.

It is really not so long ago that I was recording our status as empty nesters and wondering what Mister E and I might do if  one of our children joined the ranks of the Boomerang Generation and returned.

Experience now tells me that the major downfalls seem to be an endless shortage of food in the fridge and a laundry basket that is piled higher than ever. Still it can't be so bad for I haven't yet started to fantasise about returning to work to escape the cuckoo. Besides I have it on good authority that his flight to New Zealand is already booked. Mind he missed a trick; another few weeks at home and we might even have bought his air ticket for him!

 

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

American Relations



So just as the youngest left England for Texas, one of our US cousins and his family flew in from Wisconsin. We played host for two nights of their trip and it was an absolute delight to meet the children who I'm sure thought we were another pair of boring old relations living in a strange country that can't spell simple words like flavour, puts dessert spoons above the table mat rather than to its side, drives on the wrong side of the road and calls jelly "jam".

However, having as yet failed to complete the decluttering of our home (a job that remains on the retirement to do list) we were able to win them over by sorting out the youngest's old dolls' house, rekindling my own plans to renovate it and proving once again that parting with possessions is never easy.

Still visitors staying over has proved a useful spur in finishing the makeover of the bathroom and cleaning corners of the house that probably haven't seen a duster for longer than I would care to confess. We got rid of  a broken ornament or two and had a general tidy up. Now to keep it that way, make haste with the redecorating and maybe throw away a few more items, we just need to invite the whole of the American continent to join us. 



Friday, 12 August 2016

Flying to America




No I have not flown to the USA today but I may well have done. It is the youngest who has gone but I am fast discovering in retirement that I seem to do far more than ever for my children despite the fact that they are technically both now adults. No doubt if therefore they had asked me to wing my way across the Atlantic, I would have had a go. The youngest, however, is spending a year studying at the University of Texas in Austin and there have been some frantic preparations going on of late, aggravated by culturally-different (better described as indifferent) bureaucracy. 

For instance amongst the list of "must-haves" was a certificate to evidence that either you have been innoculated against or are not carrying tuberculosis. Has anyone ever tried to acquire such a certificate in the UK where the disease has been eradicated to the point where the dreaded BCG vaccination was abandoned several years ago on the basis that it was unnnecessary? Certainly the doctor's surgery could neither issue such a certificate nor recommend a body that could and when an online search produced reference only to one specialist unit in London that treats people suffering from the disease (usually in foreign visitors or immigrants apparently) but does not issue certificates, she had to give up the quest.

Interestingly we have received an e-mail reassuring students and their parents about the introduction of the Carry On Campus law. It's not another in the series of English Carry On comedy films but rather legislation upholding the right to bear arms within the university perimeters subject to certain restrictions. Talk about reassurance. I've almost gone mental at the thought.

Then there appears to have been an aversion from the private hall of residence she is to live in to communicate by  e-mail as instead it prefers the medium of letter and text message (but only to those with a zip code and US mobile, sorry cell-phone). When it has remembered, an occasional Facebook message has been sent instead. Consequently the youngest was not informed that invoices are obtained by logging into an account for which she was never sent a PIN and please don't get me started on paying that bill.

Oh okay, I'm going to rant anyway. Strangely, and perhaps it's a privacy or money laundering issue, but you are not permitted to know the details of the destination bank account. As a result the ability to make an international transfer is denied. Instead we were invited to send an "e-check." Try asking an English bank to do one of those: "We can make an international payment," is the not unsurprising stock response.

Then there was the option of using something called "Discover" but we never did discover what that is.

Of course there was the ubiquitous facility for payment by debit or credit card which we had hoped to avoid because of the ridiculous transaction fees that our banks can charge when sterling is changed. 

"Are there any other means of payment?" she enquired. 

"No, but you can give us a money order on arrival," we were informed. A what? Obviously another banking term unknown to our Anglo Saxon systems but which would appear to resemble a humble postal order. "You might be able to use your currency card to pay for that or else withdraw cash at an ATM and buy it in the premises across the road."

Well we could hardly risk that, especially as there is of course a daily limit on the amount of cash that can be withdrawn from an ATM. So rejecting the potential for the youngest carrying a wadge of cash  it had finally reached the point of  reaching for the good old reliable visa card. Except that without a USA zip code the site really did not want to accept my payment. 

Several attempts later and after liaising with my bank and the recipient, payment was made but only after I had to tick a box consenting to a twenty six dollar "convenience fee." Twenty six dollars to use a credit card and the insult of calling it a convenience fee after the hassle we had gone through; I cannot forgive.

Mind it is not just the USA that looks to charge for fresh air. Manchester airport is onto a clever little earner with car parking fees; £45-99 for an overnight stay at the onsite multi-storey. I'm sure I could get bed and breakfast cheaper for myself than that rate. Instead we arranged to pay less than a third of that for hotel parking last night and then, just as my faith in faceless capitalist profiteering had hit rock bottom, the gentleman at reception waived the charge.

When we visited Cuba, I recall our guide impressing on us that prices there are set according to need, so that essential items are priced lower than non-essentials; white rum for instance is treated as an essential and virtually given away. What a brilliant system. Forget open market economics and pass me the bottle. After all the hassle of getting the youngest airborne, I could do with a drink!




Monday, 11 January 2016

A Return to Normality



The last of our Christmas Holiday invaders, in the form of the youngest, left us to return to university yesterday. Normality now reigns supreme after what has seemed like a hectic festive period.

As previously recorded it started with erecting the Christmas tree at the last minute and playing host to a Yorkshire Terrier, small in stature but big on making her presence known. In various stages we were then joined by the youngest, the eldest, the eldest's girlfriend, family on Mister E's side, family on my side. We have only 10 dining chairs which is meant to limit the number we can cater for at any one time; this year the limit was exceeded at 11 when one guest went chairless, but hey he did get fed!

So during our 12 mad days of Christmas we were visited by two eccentrics dressed as elves and a glove puppet. Our youngest suffered from an infection which led to a fever which in turn led to vomiting. I had to take her to the doctor on three separate occasions including Christmas Eve and Boxing Day and during which period we were constantly accompanied by a bright orange bucket. I also worked out that the out of hours GP telephone number is 111 for a reason: if you dial it often enough you realise it actually spells ill!

Meanwhile, the dog seemed to think it was in charge of the cooking, refusing to leave the kitchen during the long periods of food preparation. We solved a murder mystery when our guests included Sigmund Fraud and Dame Barbara Carthorse. Several people ate too much chocolate and the bright orange bucket made another appearance. 

The dog seemed to think it was the only being that deserved to be eating Christmas dinner and when excluded barked constantly. As it did so, the ghost of Christmas present wandered through, gin bottle in hand and in search, presumably, of an orange bucket.

We had a mini disaster in the form of a fire when, instead of burning out, a candle tried to continue its life by eating its way through a table decoration, resulting in Mister E blistering himself by rising to the occasion and extinguishing it single-handedly and before the wet tea towel or orange bucket arrived.

The dog seemed to think it was the only guest at the party and objected to the pulling of Christmas crackers. The living room (still suffering in part from books and other items that properly belong in the study) started to resemble the council tip as gifts were unwrapped and it stayed that way for several days. 

Life was turned upside down, when for the first time in living history, Mister E and I lost the Boxing Day Family Challenge to the next generation and the ghost of Christmas present (or maybe it was one of those elves or a bright orange bucket) walked through again.

The dog seemed to think that our smallest nephew was hunt potential for the New Year's Day Meet and insisted on chasing him around our downstairs. With only three teeth left, however, it rather detracted from the sense of viciousness. At this point someone handed the gin bottle around again or maybe it was the orange bucket but nobody really cared, in fact there was even a suggestion that we had a lion in the house.

Lions, elves, orange buckets, and ghosts; at least we were able to track down the murderer. The newly furbished study was spared the grief of Professor Plum and the lead piping and instead the culprit on this occasion was one Mike Bison.

One mystery remained unsolved however, namely the disappearance of two forks but a search of the wheelie-bin has only revealed a pastry brush and spoon. I'm blaming the ghost rather than family or the dog.

Utterly exhausted, primarily from tidying up, waving goodbye and putting away that orange bucket, I am now about to start on the laundry. I have heard tell that it is a new tradition at Christmastime to bless the family home with a whole term's worth of washing; certainly it is a tradition that both the eldest and youngest seem to have embraced wholeheartedly.

Happy New Year everyone and let's have a peaceful and less frenetic 2016!





Sunday, 10 May 2015

A Sweet for Retirement



Here am I thinking that I have been going to a gym regularly. Today I examined the sign on the door and it actually says Fitness Suite. I am not sure why, but I was quite bowled over by the distinction. For me Fitness Suite has a certain "je ne sais quoi." After all it is the place I go to and put in enormous amounts of effort in an endeavour to acquire an element of fitness.

When I told my mother, she misheard, as is her way, and seemed to think that I was buying a new three piece. When I told Mister E, he asked if it was the equivalent of one of those protein shakes.

Okay, I got the message: I went to the gym today!



Saturday, 14 March 2015

Abandoned



Mister E has gone skiing with the eldest; the youngest remains in London; even my mother has gone to stay with my sister. I am alone!

I suppose I ought really to be describing the vast swathes of loneliness and isolation that have swept over me but to be honest the experience is something of a novelty.

I have taken heed of warnings that in retirement one can feel so cut off that there is a temptation to greet the shopkeeper and postman as long lost friends. Today, day one of this experience, I collected the newspaper from the shop in the usual manner and, when the Postman knocked on the door to deliver a parcel, I was courteous but did not delay him with chatter.

It is a weird sensation to be living alone with the prospect of no living company unless I go out to seek it or give someone a call. In fact I can understand how many people may feel unable to retire if they live alone and fear being cut off from society by giving up  the day job.

For me the compensation has been being able to go to the gym at a time to suit only me (and yes I found more people to interact with there); eating when I have wanted to and selecting food for my taste and fancy alone; most importantly seizing control of the TV remote and even learning how to operate the HD recorder which up until now has been the sole preserve of Mister E.

Mind in this age of digital technology I have already seen photos of dinner in the ski resort and been in touch with the absentees by the medium known as What's App. Sometimes there really is nowhere to escape.



Sunday, 9 November 2014

Empty Nest Syndrome


The youngest arrived on Saturday morning and left to return to London this afternoon. It was a quick visit but we managed to squeeze in a trip to see my mother, a meal out, a visit to the cinema and a good old fashioned Sunday dinner. It all felt very busy, although the youngest has never been loud, the house was noisier than we have become accustomed to, and there just wasn't as much time to spend together as we would have liked.

Seeing her off at the station was a moving experience but, of course, it's only a few more weeks until she'll be home for a month.

Upon my return and, solely out of interest I assure you, I found myself looking up Empty Nest Syndrome on Wikipedia. Apparently all parents are susceptible but those who are dealing with other stressful events such as, and it cites "retirement" as a specific example, are particularly vulnerable! Oh dear!

However, it does point out that coping mechanisms include pursuing one's own hobbies and interests (full marks there); keeping a journal (presumably this blog counts); taking advantage of the opportunity to spend more time with your spouse (Mister E and I virtually walk hand in hand into the sunset together); even (but I do draw the line at this one) going back to work!

Whilst I sympathise with those who do suffer from depression when their children leave for university, I can probably draw comfort from the fact that my lack of desire to return to work must be illustrative of the fact that life feels rather full at the moment. So much so that I would struggle to consider myself afflicted by such a syndrome and instead am somewhat proud that, together with Mister E we have prepared the youngest for living away, even in a city as vast as London and as different to our home village as one could imagine.

Of course we keep in touch by a variety of means that were never available years ago, including Face-time, direct messaging, e-mails, text and mobile phone. I even send postcards although I haven't yet got down to letter writing and would certainly never expect one back if I did.

The article in Wikipedia concludes however by referring to a recent trend, described as the Boomerang Generation. It seems that the offspring you thought had moved out, sometimes return! I'll really know how much I'm enjoying retirement if, should such a scenario seem likely in the future, I find Mister E and I discussing downsizing!




Wednesday, 24 September 2014

An Empty Nest



We returned yesterday from a journey that has taken us to the heart of London, Stockbridge, Southampton, rural Leicestershire and Nottingham. 

It started with a need to convey the youngest and most of her worldly goods to University College London, where she begins her new life. Amazingly, with a little help from the unflappable SatNav our journey went very much as planned; at least there was no screeching at us to make a U-turn. Remarkably we were even able to find a car parking place, although at £9.30 an hour we didn't stay long. Back at home people have expressed disapproval at a parking charge of £0.60 per hour with the first half hour free, so goodness knows what they would make of London charges.



Our parting was a mixture of excitement and sadness. To think the youngest is now so grown up that she is going to be living away from us in one of the biggest cities in the world, is, of course, difficult to believe. It is nevertheless a great opportunity for her and for which she has worked hard. 

To distract ourselves from the parting, Mister E and I had decided to tag onto the trip a visit to Southampton Boat Show, so there we were in the middle of rush hour on Friday afternoon heading west along Oxford Street in what proved to be a very slow exit from the capital. Getting stuck behind a solitary tractor on a country lane bears no resemblance to that journey and to think there are people who do it regularly is beyond comprehension. 

In any event we stopped at Stockbridge where I had booked a small hotel for two overnight stays and from which it was an easy commute to and from the Boat Show the next day.


As ever we walked ourselves silly, considering the options and possibilities for future sailing. We did agree, however, that we had no desire to see the world aboard a floating tower block of the ilk that dominated the harbour on Saturday. Our eccentricities showed as Mister E spent what seemed like hours examining shackles and coils of rope whilst I tried to dry my eyes under a uniquely shaped electric hand dryer, only to find that it was actually a paper towel dispenser. Oh the joys of ageing gracefully!

On Sunday morning we headed North again, the only incident to slow down the journey being a trailer shedding a load of Christmas decorations across the A34. There is something slightly odd about seeing baubles and tinsel scattered all over the dual carriageway, especially when it is only September. Later however we also noticed a house with Santa Claus ornaments displayed on its windowsill and began to wonder if we really are missing something.



We made Leicestershire for lunch and an afternoon with old friends, sitting in their garden, it was so mild and sunny. Sadly, however, we had to leave in time to book into our next hotel on University Park in Nottingham, which is very close to where the eldest lives and is also reliable in providing a good breakfast. We need it, I can assure you, as our visits to Nottingham are always associated with physical labour. This time we were replacing floorboards ready for carpets to be fitted. There was a slight hiccup when Mister E drilled through an electric cable but fortunately the electrician was also there carrying out a routine check of the circuits and he was able to effect the necessary repair on the spot. Now not only do the new carpets look stunning, but the floors don't squeak either and our tenants still have electricity

Finally, after four nights away and 714 miles of driving, we came home to the empty nest. It is quiet. Mister E baked his bread alone. I stacked the dishwasher for the first time in months. Having always been a family who sit down to eat an evening meal together at the table and turn off the television before doing so, we were naughty: we ate our meal, plates on knees, in the living room with the television on. Times have indeed changed.

Later I might just place a sign at the front gate: "Cuckoo wanted!"


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Memory Lane



Last week Mister E and I stayed in Nottingham. I was at university there in the 1970's and there is now a comfortable and modern hotel on the campus itself which we have used on a number of occasions. The eldest is a postgraduate student there and we timed our visit to help him move house.

 I know it's well established science that fragrances can evoke memories and that humans can actually distinguish between millions of different smells. Indeed and for many years I always bought a bottle of perfume at the duty free shop on my way to a holiday destination and as a result associate certain scents with specific places decades later.

However, a trip down memory lane on the university campus always catches me unaware. Familiar places have frequently altered to the sight but there is a distinct odour that I can only attribute to weather and vegetation. It immediately stimulates olfaction and the nostalgia and sense of times past come tumbling back.

Of course, why spend retirement revisiting old haunts when there is only a limited time to fit in so many places that I haven't seen?  I guess it's because some places fit  like an old comfortable pair of slippers, and that feels good.


Monday, 10 March 2014

A Birthday and a Family


I celebrated my birthday yesterday and enjoyed a weekend of celebrations. My family completely surprised me by keeping totally quiet about the fact that our eldest was intending to return home for the weekend. Imagine my surprise when I wandered from the study to our living room on Friday evening to find him sitting there with his sister watching TV, having sneaked in through the back door! I confess that I felt quite choked with emotion and hadn't suspected a thing.

It meant that we shared some close family time, eating out on both Saturday night and Sunday lunchtime. We also visited the RHS garden at Harlow Carr on the outskirts of Harrogate together and where Spring bulbs are just beginning to come through to provide colourful displays. 

The number of times we are all together is diminishing as the years go by and will presumably be even less frequent when the youngest goes to university in the autumn. Occasions like my birthday weekend are therefore precious moments which will remain a treasured memory for the future.