INTRODUCTION


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.




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

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Going Grey




We've had no rain at all following the sudden and unexpected thunderstorm on 16th June which I subsequently discovered killed 3 sheep and destroyed numerous electrical items in various homes in our village as a result of the lightning and power surge that occured. Since then conditions have continued benign, warm and sunny. The problem of course is that plant and vegetable species in my garden are all of varieties grown to cope with the vagaries of a typical English summer and need moisture on a regular basis.



Since the water butts dried out I have had to resort to the hosepipe and mains supply. It doesn't seem right, however, to spray high quality drinking water on a garden. In the absence of water in the butts, neither the carefully installed micro irrigation system in the greenhouse or leaky hose around the vegetable beds, can function without connecting to a mains water tap. Accordingly, in the interests of sustainability, not to mention living within nature's limits in the perma culture I have been trying to establish, I have taken to collecting and reusing grey water. Remember that mantra: reduce, reuse, recycle; well it's taken over my life again.





A handpump and hose are now emptying the bath tub on the flowerbed below; the washing machine outlet is running into a deep Belfast sink, enabling the collection of the final rinse water for pouring on wilting greenery; we have a bucket on the kitchen floor into which we transfer waste water from rinsing vegetables or crockery, ready to carry out to the garden. At first it felt like an enormous effort on top of the weeding, digging and planting that's been taking place, but it has now become routine.

Moreover there's still been plenty of time to enjoy all the wonderful sunshine. Indeed as I sat outside reading (a perfect place and activity for periods of calm between fraught World Cup football matches) I realised that retirement in the garden is about enjoying both rest and chores.


Pre-retirement, one was invariably sacrificed for the other. Sitting out amidst weeds and drought shrivelled plants is unpleasant and does nothing to assuage the guilt of neglected tasks. Digging in the vegetable patch or weeding may be pleasing for a while but if there isn't sufficient time to get on top of the job and then sit down to admire and enjoy your labours, resentment brews.


Fortunately in retirement there's time to wallow in both back-breaking toil and composed relaxation. With the sun shining too, life has never felt so good.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Postcard from Chez Nous




Dear All,
We are having a wonderful time here at Chez Nous. The scenery is fantastic and the weather sublime. Wish you were here.
Love from Caree and Mister E x

Yes, since returning from Scotland we have been indulging ourselves with a staycation. It is the first time since retiring that we are actually experiencing prolonged summer weather. Having been told that with global warming our summers locally are set to continue in damp and windy fashion, I had actually given up any expectation of high temperatures and sunshine without travelling abroad to find them. In the past, when they did arise, I was always at work and whilst an office environment may have the benefit of air conditioning, I am struggling to think of any other advantage.

Here at Chez Nous, there has been no cost for our vacation; we haven't had to limit our belongings to a suitcase each; there has been no long, arduous journey to get here; we have enjoyed total privacy and familiar surroundings with all the home comforts we are accustomed to. 

Mind it hasn't been a stretch out on the beach type of trip. Oh no this has been more akin to a working holiday in the countryside, albeit with the opportunity to choose one's own activities, meaning I've opted for weeding, sowing and watering as well as constructing a new irrigation system for the greenhouse.


Whilst the heat may be playing havoc with commercial produce (I understand lettuce is going to be in short supply next week as it won't grow when the thermometer hits 30 degrees), at Chez Nous seeds are germinating within 24 hours and my rocket and salad leaves are coming on just nicely. Can anything be better than eating outside on your own patio, with produce from a mere 20 yards away hitting your plate? Of course, I exaggerate for it is only June and it is North Yorkshire, meaning of course that as yet home-grown has been limited to radishes, herbs, rhubarb and gooseberries. They have, however, whetted the appetite for the harvest yet to come.


When we are not eating the herbs, I have been filling vases with them as well as hanging bunches of lavender to dry.

As for the housework, there has been none. It's far too hot for that kind of nonesense. The house may be a mess inside but so what; we are on holiday until further notice and nobody vacuums on vacation.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

A State of Drought


 

Unbelievable it may be but despite all the rain last summer, autumn, winter and early spring, my water butts are now dry. I have 5 large ones all fed from various parts of the roof and the last time this happened was 2006. I remember it well because I had to fill them by hose so that a good neighbour could water the garden whilst we were on holiday; then, contrary to all forecasts, two days after we left the heatwave ended and it poured down for the remaining period of our absence.

Of course, I am the villain of this latest situation having poured litres of water on the garden over the last few weeks in an effort to nurture new seedlings and plants as well as those in established pots and ever thirsty rhubarb.

Now I could go outside and do a rain dance; I could use diviners and try to find a new water source but what I'm doing instead is calling it an official drought and resigning myself to the situation. I seem to recall that whenever anyone in authority has proclaimed a drought in this country, the heavens have always responded by opening. Let's see if it happens this time when, as a registered proprietor of our little patch of earth, I declare a state of despair.

Mind gardens aren't supposed to be just hardwork. After all the effort Mister E and I have put in recently we definitely want some time when we can just sit outside and enjoy the results of our toil. So, having placed an order for rain (Zeus, lord of the sky and rain, are you listening?), can I just clarify that I only want enough to fill my butts and if it can be arranged to fall only at night even better.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

G-Force

 

It's been another busy week here in retirement, governed, or so it seems, by g-force*.

As ever I've been spending time in the gym where strengthening the lower back muscles and glutes seems to have been the order of the week. I guess I've made the grade,  because I've managed to spend my afternoons in the garden digging the ground, moving soil and transferring plants from the greenhouse to grow in the newly constructed vegetable beds which Mister E has made for me.

I've been exhausted by evening, covered in grime and ready for the hot bath that has generated sufficient recovery to enable me to spend the twilight hours concentrating on the GDPR or to give it its full title the General Data Protection Regulation which took effect on May 25th. Something to do with my previous life but I'm responsible for its implementation at the Almshouse where I am a trustee and, of course, am following an action plan of change as Parish Clerk. So much administration (she says gritting her teeth).

The sun has been gleaming and at the prospect of spending my time in the great outdoors, some mornings I confess I've actually felt giddy with excitement as I've leapt out of bed.

Gradually grilled by the glow from the glare of the glimmering sun, life is so good!

* a force acting on a body as a result of acceleration or gravity



Friday, 1 June 2018

Friday Finish




Back in the day, hot summer Friday afternoons were tedious affairs heralding the start of something much more relaxing after a stress-filled working week and then followed quickly by weekend plans, invariably spoiled by unseasonal rain.

Retirement Land  is so different that at the end of a Friday afternoon and a series of days in the garden all with  pleasant sunshine, it was hard not to feel a little smug when, at 5pm, the heavens opened. Fortunately it must just have been a passing cloud as the shower was fairly brief. With more rain forecast for tomorrow, however, it's good to know that seeds have been sown, borders weeded and all is beginning to look under control outside.

After a couple of  summers of unsettled weather, it is a joy to be able to savour home and garden, stepping from one to the other as the mood suits with doors and windows wide open. We have managed to proceed with plans for our herb and wild flower borders and Mister E has been skilfully constructing timber frames for my vegetable beds. Having built the house almost twenty years ago, one of the plans for retirement was to be able to enjoy both it and the plot on which it stands; this year our aspirations are being realised.


Monday, 14 May 2018

Manic Mondays




I think all my regular retirement activities came together in one enormous manic episode of non-stop activity today. Goodness me it was just like being back at work when court cases would invariably run over or be slotted in for an urgent mention next morning, and once again I didn't finish until 9pm.

 So I started with a morning commute for a gym workout; went to the almshouse I'm a trustee at to complete some forms and at 1pm presented myself for a shift at the local Save the Children shop covering for a volunteer on holiday and even eating a sandwich at my desk (happy memories) for lunch. I got home with just sufficient time to prepare for a Parish Council meeting this evening and which I then clerked from 7.30 pm.

Before settling down to type this blog, I've chatted on the telephone, soaked and rinsed berth cushions (subject material for my next blog entry), watered my greenhouse plants, watched a little television and then finally switched the computer on. Short of hopping off on a long journey, visiting an art exhibition or decorating, I think I've pretty much experienced my whole retirement lifestyle in one day.

Seriously, why do people laugh when you say you don't know how you ever found the time to go to work?

Anyway it felt good, but even better for not having to get up early and repeat it all again tomorrow.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

A Garden Permaculture




Hey ho, we're off; a little late but the gardening season has finally commenced. This year I have started it whilst, at the same time, studying a Future Learn course entitled 'Citizen Science: Living Soils, Growing Food' delivered by the University of Dundee in conjunction with the GROW Observatory which is a European wide project for growers and scientists passionate about the land.

It's all about regenerating rather than sustaining the food production ecosystem, recognising the need for permaculture i.e. living within nature's limits through earth care, people care and fair shares (the latter signifying that we should use only what we need and share the rest).

In the case of this project, the course is examining land based perma-design by combining experience, soil observation, water, climate, vegetation and animal life to identify strategies and resources to develop a site (in my case, my vegetable patch).


Currently food production methods are estimated to create 18-30% of all greenhouse gases and place increasing reliance on artificial fertilisers and pesticides as well as on antibiotics in the case of animal husbandry. Diversification is decreasing and I was startled to learn that by the end of the 20th Century the human race relied on only three crops (rice, wheat and corn) to provide 60% of its calories and 56% of its protein whilst just 15 mammal and bird species accounted for 90% of animal agriculture in circumstances where intensive livestock production is one of the biggest water polluters in the farming industry.  Just this week the EU has announced a ban on pesticides commonly used in agriculture that have been having a devastating effect on bees; love them or hate them, bees are the essential pollinators on which so many life cycles depend.

Diets have also altered, especially in the emerging economies of the world  to reflect those in developed countries and there has been a seismic increase in the intake of animal protein and sugar, rendering obesity and related health problems a global rather than a western issue.

Instead of setting land aside to allow nature to recover its mojo, scientists believe that, in light of an ever increasing global population, the answer instead lies in land sharing, applying production techniques that maintain biodiversity; think organic farming plus.

Make no mistake about it, Earth's natural resources are going to become more scarce. I'm not a vegetarian but this course points out that meat production is a killer in more ways than one when half of all cereals grown are fed to animals destined for the meal plate whilst those same animals consume enormous quantities of water. Did you know that it is estimated that 1800 litres of water is needed to produce a quarter pound beefburger?

Although food production has increased with farming intensity, waste has increased too. It is nothing short of appalling that across Europe it is reckoned that one third of the food produced is wasted. We may be growing more but it isn't getting to the mouths it needs to feed. 

It is anticipated that by 2050 the global population will have increased by 60% and to avoid starvation on a massive scale it is obvious that food production needs to change. Malnourishment is linked to poverty but already it is not confined to the developing world with its inadequate agricultural techniques; in the abundant west people go under nourished through bad but cheap food choices with diets high in fat, sugar and empty carbs.

So this year, in my garden and for the benefit of the GROW Observatory project, I am seeking to develop a new permaculture and hopefully save the planet. A few days ago The Guardian published an interview with Dr Mayer Hillman who claims that anthropogenic damage to the Earth is such that there is no hope and most life forms (including homo-sapiens) are destined for extinction, with civilisation ending in the current century. However, as the blogger on This Puzzling Planet points out, it's optimism not despair that  conjures up effective mitigation efforts. From my perspective, retirement is too good to deprive future generations so, whether through fear or hope, I am now going to be digging with the desire of availing them of its benefits. 


Sunday, 8 April 2018

Preparing for Disaster




I'm conscious that when we retired in the summer of 2014 it seemed that we were never still, dashing from place to place, event to event for many months. Winter, coupled with a touch of retirement-complacency, however, seems to have a dampening effect on activity levels and it can be all too easy to slip into a hibernation malaise or even, in light of recent weather conditions, a rain associated disorder.

The return of the youngest for a week was therefore a welcome wake-up call making up for the lack of Spring, that seasonal harbinger of action.

So as well as our Easter Sunday venture, a trip to the cinema ("The Greatest Showman") and a day splashing in the pool and hot-tubs (inside and out) at the spa attached to the gym I frequent, we decided that learning how to make cheese would be a useful diversion.

In my quest for a simpler life, I am conscious that were the backbones of society ever to crumble then my chances of survival as the last person on Earth would be slim to say the least. Once I had raided the local shop of provisions and eaten my way through my vegetable patch, to what extent would I be able to endure? Surrounded by wild flowers and plants from hybrid seed would I ever produce an edible bean again? Could I dig a well, generate electricity or even construct a wheel? How would I round up a field of cows or shear a sheep and spin its wool to knit or weave?  Winters in retirement obviously give me far too much time to ponder.



In that vein and pandering to my imagination, we ventured into the Yorkshire Dales and to the Wensleydale creamery at Hawes. After a detailed demonstration as well as a peep into the actual factory, I'm not sure that it will be worth my while practising the ancient art of cheesemaking. If disaster strikes, however, I learnt enough to experiment, assuming always that I have it in me to extract some rennet from the stomach of a calf. 


Of more immediate use and greater enjoyment was the opportunity to sample some twenty or so varieties of cheese produced on site, as well as delighting in a wander around Hawes which we hadn't visited since those non-stop days of early retirement and Le Tour de Yorkshire.



Friday, 2 March 2018

The Battle of the Giants


The Battle of the Giants or Armageddon; Storm Emma meets the Beast from the East; you'd be forgiven for thinking the media has been reporting on a wrestling match rather than the weather. Here in the rural hinterlands of North Yorkshire we've been bunkering down, enthralled by stories of woe and fortitude from life in the Northern hills where I grew up or else from daily commuters.

Clearly too many people now live further from their place of work than ever before and with the thousands of lorries that blight our roads, working journeys and snow blizzards were never going to be a joyful mix for drivers.




On Planet Retirement, however, our only test this week has been seeing if Mister E can actually keep the bird feeders topped up and a path clear to the gate on the off chance that the postman would make his regular visit. Besieged by feathered friends, we've been nurturing not only our regular callers but also their extended families and a few historic visitors who all decided it was once again time to pay us a call. So for us the snow has actually brought with it the delight of a flock of fieldfares, thrushes, pied wagtails and a tree creeper as well as the ever faithful tits, robins, sparrows, blackbirds, chaffinches, doves and woodpeckers. Best of all I've found the perfectly concealed spot to photograph them, albeit from behind a window that now needs a clean on the outside.




Even in the most comfortable of hides a birdwatcher can get bored though, not least when deprived of her regular trips to the gym. Shovelling snow may burn but it just doesn't hit the pulse rate in the same way as a workout and certainly does very little for stiff joints crying out for a good old Pilates stretch. So yes, it may now be March but Mister E has reunited my car with its winter tyres and I can once again drive up the hill and more importantly stop when I touch the brake; next winter they will go on in October.


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.