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 Garden. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Garden. Show all posts

Sunday, 1 October 2017

A Brief Respite



Before the wind and rain set in this weekend, we had a brief respite from Autumn and at least two afternoons when the sun shone, temperatures climbed and my poor plants didn't know whether to drop their leaves or flower. Life can be confusing at times.

It's a little like retirement with all the choices it throws up. Should I get into the garden today, finish that book or put in some extra time at the gym? Do I eat a large lunch and a small dinner; skip breakfast and make brunch; rice or potatoes; caulifower or broccoli? Do I reply to my e-mails now or later; book a hair appointment this week or next; wear short or long sleeves; blue or pink? Yes even the simplest of daily tasks can throw up dilemmas when you have the time to actually think about them.

My working life used to rob me of time and whilst theoretically there was choice, it was invariably simpler to reach for the easiest solution, saving the heartache and time-loss of conscious decision-making. The office day was filled and the hours at either end a constant rush to fit life's daily essentials in.

It has me pondering though, was life actually simpler when it was so rushed and the scope for choice eradicated? Now that there is the potential to contemplate in detail one's every move, is there too much choice? Is this why I feel the need to reduce and simplify all around me, including attacking those autumnal garden shrubs with secateurs? Is it also why I have to have a digital To Do List to keep me focused and on track?

Liberty, perhaps the greatest of enshrined human rights, is for me fulfilling but, as yet, unfathomable.


Saturday, 17 September 2016

Letting Go and Making a Difference




Three months into my third year of retirement and it is good to realise just how far I have come. Reflecting on the period of time that has passed, I can now look  back and recognise three different phases. They are not separate or distinct; the boundary between them ebbs and flows but there is nevertheless an obvious progression.

The early days, weeks and months were a time for healing and recovery. An opportunity to relax and to take the first steps towards a new healthier, fitter self. There may still be some way to go but the pattern has been set.

Gradually and alongside those baby steps from enervation to vigour grew a sense of letting go. Like healing and recovery, it manifests itself on two levels: the physical and the mental. The clutter from both house and mind is being dissipated. Life is simpler; the habits of a working existence have been dropped. Activities and commitments have altered. Although there remains much to clear out especially of a physical kind ( household stuff and clothes with no longer any clear purpose in retirement),  there is now obvious and steady progress. 

A milestone was reached this week when I even made the decision to change the name on my driving licence from the birth name that I used professionally throughout my career to the married name I have always used at home. There are other changes that I know I shall be making in measured and deliberate fashion over the coming months. To let go in the early days felt brave, in Year 3 it is empowering.

Now too I have begun to recognise the dawning of a third phase; the period where I make a difference and which gives the motivation for getting out of bed every day. Whether I am decorating at home or in our rental property; clearing the garden; helping out in the Save the Children shop or campaigning on its behalf; acting as Parish Clerk or as an almshouse trustee; even just cleaning the windows: I am making a difference. To know that I am achieving, that my pursuits are worthwhile and that I can perceive the change as a result, is exciting and a spur for further self-enterprise. 

Life is invigorating and stimulating despite not knowing what the ultimate outcome or next phase will be. After 27 months, retirement is still novel enough that it remains an adventure into the unknown.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Smiling at Sunflowers, Again



There's something about sunflowers and I have of course blogged about them before, here and here. Maybe it's the challenge of growing them or just the huge flower heads that appeal. Either way I am turning into a goofy idiot who enjoys staring and giggling at them.

This year I have grown giant beasts and although they have been late to flower I can now report that they are finally in bloom atop what resemble mighty bean stalks almost twice my height. Little wonder I am transfixed and smiling. In the hope that you might participate in the enjoyment, I thought the one pictured was worth sharing.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

The Harvest Effect




The view around us at the moment is illustrative of the season; late summer mellowing into autumn and all around us the harvest coming home. Indeed in the last week I have dug up and stored  the remainder of the potato crop whilst continuing to pick beans, tomatoes, lettuce and spring onions not to mention copious buckets of apples.

We've also been enjoying some glorious weather although perhaps it was a little premature to hear it being described as an Indian summer. Certainly the local farmers don't have any faith in such a prediction  because they were working through the night to get their cereal crops in. Indeed when we awoke and drew back the curtains this morning there was a haze that seemed to stretch for miles; a rural smog of harvest dust.

Unfortunately it had also entered through the open bedroom windows to irritate eyes and nostrils. Peeping in the mirror after a sneezing fit, one eye was bloodshot and remains so. Whilst therefore I might have sought to prolong the good weather a little longer (after all we did wait rather a long time for summer to start this year), I couldn't help but cheer when it began to rain mid-morning. However it's now been replaced by a stiff breeze that's moved the dust on but also created a deluge of windfall apples that now need processing into pies, jam or the freezer.

Is this what retirement is? Farming by another name?


Wednesday, 3 August 2016

The Worrying is Over for the Moment




It seems that as we age, we are more likely to suffer from anxiety (a generalised anxiety disorder being the most common diagnosis) than dementia. Cynics amongst us might say that is because we all start to worry about suffering from dementia. I'm not convinced, at least not when I wake in the middle of the night and wonder if the tomatoes are ripening. That  said if moonshine doesn't really mature tomatoes and turn their skins red, it could be dementia itself (rather than a heightened level of concern) that causes ludicrous thoughts at unearthly hours.

Anyway in search of calmness and tranquility away from all the worries that go with raising fruit and vegetables, the youngest and I took ourselves off for an extended day at the gym. A workout and then yoga were followed by an afternoon in the spa. Sauna, hot-tub, steam room, tepidarium, tropicarium, igloo and pool; we emerged relaxed, albeit a littled wrinkled on the fingers from all the water.

Now if you don't believe in the reputed beneficial health effects of a spa, please don't mock because our day clearly produced good karma. Not only did we feel well but, on my foraging trip into the greenhouse this evening, guess what I finally picked to go with the lettuce and cucumber? Yes...ripe red cherry tomatoes!



Tuesday, 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.


Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Perseverance Finally Rewards




One of the enjoyable parts of retirement is spending time in the garden, or perhaps to be more precise even weeding. Now I don't claim to have a garden that is completely free of intruders but I have to say it looks heaps better than three years ago. I mulched large areas in the spring which has helped to suppress the growth of unwanted interlopers and have also been fastidious in setting aside time each week for tending to the vegetable patch, hoeing  and pulling out weeds  by hand.


The weather has not been brilliant this summer by any means. Indeed and until two days ago it seemed that we were destined to suffer April temperatures and showers indefinitely. It has however had the advantage of forcing me to spend more time in the greenhouse, raising plants under glass to a greater level of maturity than I might normally have done before planting them out.


Inevitably there have been anxious moments not least as a result of the decision to try growing sweet corn. All the advice was that these days a crop can be successfully raised even in the Northern counties, if the weather is mild. I think I must have heard somewhere that we were destined to enjoy a warm summer this year and decided to give it a try in the sheltered walled area of the plot. Sadly last week a wander through the vegetable patch suggested that it may be stagnating as benign temperatures continued to prove themselves elusive.
 


Of course all that changed this week when the temperature rose gradually and to the extent that yesterday tarmac was softening on the road as the thermometer hit the dizzy height of 31 degrees celsius (88 degrees fahrenheit) in my garden, whereas seven days ago it could only muster 15 (59 fahrenheit).


I had completely forgotten what a hot, lazy day in the garden feels like; pottering with a watering can and trowel, before seeking respite in the shade listening to the birds and the hum of insects. Best of all there was finally an opportunity to enjoy and admire the result of all that hardwork and to breathe a sigh of relief when the sweet corn clearly appreciated the sunshine too.



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.





Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Banal but Busy

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

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


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

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




Sunday, 22 May 2016

Bluebells


I have frequently posted on here about the beauty of the natural world, the time in retirement to appreciate it and the benefits for our well-being in doing so.

With that in mind, I really don't want Spring to slip away without mentioning what a wonderful year it has so far been for bulb displays, culminating in the discovery of bluebell woods far and wide. I even have a very modest display that appears to have naturalised in my own garden. The photograph above was, of course, taken on my visit to Yorkshire Sculpture Park last week. (I would hate to mislead anyone into thinking that my own garden is so extensive.)


Sunday, 8 May 2016

Home Sweet Home



Sometimes in the quest to find the perfect location you overlook how wonderful home is. Having spent the last month longing for the warmth of a Mediterranean shoreline, when the temperature finally soared today I suddenly remembered how beautiful the view from our garden is; how  I love the sound of the resident birds and how nothing beats the pleasure of mucking around in the greenhouse with seedlings and young plants.

Part of me wishes the weather would always be so benevolent but deep down I know that if it was I wouldn't appreciate the glory of a beautiful warm Spring day.

Moreover without work tomorrow we even enjoyed a glass of wine when we had finished our chores, sitting out, sipping and marvelling on our view of the countryside.


Sunday, 24 April 2016

Watch Your Back


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

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

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


Thursday, 14 April 2016

Tulips from Amsterdam



Springtime in the Netherlands is advancing at a faster rate than at home, so the youngest and I needed little excuse to pop over to admire the tulips for which Holland is famed. 



We gawped at the bulb fields; industrialised flower farming on an immense and glorious scale. 


Then went to spend time in the internationally acclaimed Keukenhof Gardens. The colour combinations and the all pervading scent of hyacinths were astounding.


It may have been mid-week but the gardens were busy with visitors from all over the World including many in wheelchairs or with mobility aids. Fortunately I was enjoying the experience too much, to be disturbed when the youngest suggested that I may have visited 15 years too early (how infirm does she expect me to be by 2031?) or to take notice of her one complaint, namely that she felt a little young amongst the retired populus of Planet Earth!



We did however agree that sunshine and flowers make you smile and feel happy.


Friday, 11 September 2015

Busy and Dizzy


Since returning from our trip to the Lake District, the last couple of weeks has passed in a blur, with visits from the eldest as well as the youngest, who is still with us. We even managed to fit in an unexpected sailing trip (probably the last of the season) in the early part of this week when we had near perfect conditions and the Firth of Clyde to ourselves (sea birds and porpoises excluded), or so it seemed. 

Unfortunately, and despite our best made plans, the weather this year off the West Coast of Scotland has really been truly awful for short-handed (well I am small) sailing with low pressure system after low pressure system rolling in, one after the other. It seems that 2015 has been one of the windiest in Scotland for decades and with snow already appearing on the mountain tops, the temperatures too have been, shall we say, challenging.


Naively we kept thinking that conditions would settle and summer sunshine, fair breezes and warmth would arrive at some stage; we only had to wait for them and with the luxury of a retired lifestyle, free of commitment, would seize the opportunity when it arrived. How wrong can you be? With, according to the forecasters, no prospect of an Indian summer, and autumn fast approaching, we now have to accept that this year's sailing ambitions have been dashed.

At least  we are still revelling in the flexibility of retirement and aren't disheartened, having found plenty of other activities to keep us occupied and out in the big outdoors regardless. Indeed the bigger disappointment weather-wise lately is just how slowly vegetables have grown in the garden this summer, when we are only now able to start harvesting crops which any other year might have been ready 6 or more weeks earlier.

When you are working and extra-curricular hard work and planning fail to bear fruit because of the weather (did I mention that my plum and rhubarb crops might as well have been non-existent this year?) there is inevitably a sense of sheer frustration. In retirement it is more of a minor irritation, a test of our patience and a sense that there will always be next year and time to improve on our preparations, including, we have decided, for a Plan B and C.



Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Keep Smiling


A short while ago I blogged about the pleasure derived from the sunflower; a plant which, when in bloom, always makes us smile. Now one has mysteriously appeared amongst the crop in the field adjacent to our garden. Everyone who has visited us during the last few days had been enraptured and generally laughed out loud, especially as there must be some suspicion that it has grown from a stray seed carried by the wind or a bird from my garden. 

I trust the farmer finds it equally as jolly. As someone who still works hard for his living, he may not even notice when he moves in with his combine harvester. It is those of us who are retired and relaxed who now have the time to find the fun in simple objects.



Friday, 10 July 2015

A Couch Potato



Out in the garden my potato crop is growing well. Inside the house and for the duration of Wimbledon, one couch potato is also thriving!

I have generally not watched sport for many years, making time whilst working only to watch the Eldest and Youngest participate in their various activities although I did make an exception in order to visit the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

However spurred on by some wet and breezy days during the last week I have been swept up in watching Wimbledon. I recall in my teens and early adult life following the tennis in July quite closely but somehow there is a significant twenty years or so gap where I jump from the eras of Connors, Borg, McEnroe and Becker to Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray. Here I am retired, and it is as though I am back in my teenage years with the ability to follow the whole tournament, although I confess that I now need to wear spectacles in order to have any chance of seeing the ball.

The great thing about major sporting events is of course that their scheduled start times are generally in the afternoon, leaving the morning for all my other activities. The downside of tennis, however, is that unlike team sports there is no limit on the length of a match and you can, should you so wish, spend all afternoon and evening in front of the television watching the action. I have therefore tried to be selective. In particular and because I find the strange grunting noises made by the women most irritating, I tend to have focused more on the men's competition.

I understand that cricket matches are even longer than in tennis and that International Tests can last up to five days. Fortuitously I was put off cricket as a small child, forced to endure lengthy picnics whilst my father played for a local team and have never understood the rules sufficiently to yet follow the game. I was once invited to enjoy corporate hospitality at the Durham County cricket ground which I thought might be my opportunity to comprehend this most English of summer games but, in typical style, rain stopped play before the match started and we enjoyed an afternoon of strawberries and cream instead. Still anything is possible in retirement and when the tennis finishes who knows?

Amongst the range of summer sports there is also golf, although again it is not a game that I am at all familiar with and the odds on seeing what is a very small ball much reduced, despite the spectacles. I have actually been to driving ranges on a couple of occasions but pulled a chest muscle quite badly the last time and have been unable to raise any interest since.

On reflection and once Wimbledon finishes, I shall inevitably prefer to turn off the television and pursue my own action, walking or sailing perhaps, unless of course it rains which is how I came to be watching Wimbledon in the first place. Indeed, and in anticipation that retirement may in the years to come bring with it either bad weather or infirmity on my part, perhaps I should really start to read up the rules on both cricket and golf and invest in a large screen television set.




Saturday, 20 June 2015

Gardening Woes



I have finally planted my vegetable patch after first giving priority to the flower borders. Save for onions and potatoes which are growing rapidly, it is currently a mass of neatly groomed earth hopefully nursing seeds that will shortly break through the surface.

When working I had to put up with most temperatures in order to tend the plot, drawing the line only at digging in the rain. In retirement I was, therefore, looking forward to the scope to spend my weekdays in the garden. Now either the weather has been particularly cold and windy this year or alternatively I am becoming very choosy but this week I have had to pull myself up short, don a fleece and get out there after realising that if I wait for the thermometer to hit the mid teens (celsius) and the sun to shine too, I might never get all my seeds sown.

Now they are in, it would be easy to imagine that I have induced a state of heat and drought to descend upon the North East of England. However, after studying the long range weather forecast this seems very unlikely at the present time, and I anticipate being spared the joys of heaving watering cans from butt to vegetable patch for some time yet.


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.


Monday, 27 April 2015

Mary, Mary...



There is a well known nursery rhyme that begins "Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?"

Well here in retirement mine is growing very well and benefiting not only from the time I have been able to give it, but also a new spade. 

Typical British weather in April means that conditions have varied daily but  have generally lent themselves to at least a couple of hours outside every day recently. There have been times when the temperature has been benign and I have worn shorts, and others, like today, when the wind has borne a chill and I have donned a fleece.

I have decided to concentrate this year on getting my flower borders into order as opposed to spending hours tending a vast variety of vegetables from seed. Being at home has enabled me to seize the opportunities presented by the weather. It is very different  to working where one spends the week looking at the sun through an office window, only to find that it then rains most of the weekend and hence my historic confinement in April to the greenhouse and seeds.

In the last decade, weeds, perennials and shrubs have all grown rampant with little check save for an annual tidy up at the end of the summer. This year, however, I have divided and replanted overgrown clumps of plants as well as using the hoe to eliminate so far as possible the weeds that grow up in between. 

As a result I decided it was time to invest in a quality transplanting spade and what a fine tool it is proving to be. The carved wooden handle is a delight to hold and the stainless steel blade makes quick work of digging out roots. It even came with a lifetime guarantee which has caused pointless speculation as to what that actually means. Whilst  presumably it would have been better value to have been gifted it as a Christening present, there is no denying that bonding with a nicely engineered gardening implement at any age makes hard work a joy. Hopefully we are destined to share many years moving earth together.


Saturday, 18 April 2015

Saturday Night Hay Fever


This week I have discovered a downside to retirement and it is called "hay fever." Now it is not that I haven't suffered in the past but, at home this week surrounded by Spring flowers and a constant breeze, I have well and truly succumbed. Kicking myself for planting all those hyacinth bulbs in the autumn, they do nonetheless look stunning in their pastel shades of blue and pink. However, my eyes, nose and throat are paying the price for their beauty. Fortunately it is not yet sufficient to want to cut myself off in an air conditioned office in the middle of town surrounded by brick walls and tarmac.