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 Planning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Planning. Show all posts

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.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Savvy Spring Shopping or Not

Today I met a family member for a chat over a pot of tea during her office lunch break. I paid for the tea with vouchers I had received through the post, opening the envelope and placing the vouchers in my purse for use on such an occasion. That's not really difficult planning is it? How often during our working lives, however, do we even bin apparent junk envelopes without exploring their contents or, if we do open them, let any such vouchers lie around for weeks until they are lost or else out of date. Family member was impressed enough to comment on this fact.

After she left I browsed around the clothing department of a local store in search of a couple of T-shirts, now that the sun is finally shining. There were several sale rails but nothing of any appeal upon them, so instead I picked up two from the newly arrived stock but got them for the equivalent of the sale price with, you've guessed, another voucher.

Then I headed for the supermarket, shopping list in hand.  The mad days of the trolley dash around the aisles, where throwing in and counting the cost only at the check-out have receded and grocery shopping, like most things in retirement, is conducted at a more measured pace. I haven't quite reached the stage where I have so much surplus time that I go from store to store comparing food item prices before I buy. I do, however, now actually examine the in-store displays and pricing, carefully calculating where a bulk buy is a saving and where it is not.

So today I spotted that washing powder capsules  were £4 for 19 washloads or £9 for 38 washloads. One of those occasions where, contrary to instinct, the smaller pack is actually better value. Smugly I placed a pack from the shelf in my trolley. It was only later after I had left the shop that I realised that someone (I'd hate to think it was the store itself) must have misplaced larger packs in the smaller pack area of the shelf and I had, of course, picked up the wrong one.

Retirement may be bliss but it doesn't stop you winning some and losing others!


Sunday, 4 March 2018

The 3 x 60 Challenge

So much is written about the post-work bucket list that as you approach retirement, you inevitably feel that you should have one. A tick list of 100 things to see and do before you die. You don't even have to think up your own any more, the Internet is full of them. Glance through them if you will and you quickly get the impression that retirement must be full of adrenalin rushed grandparents throwing themselves out of aeroplanes or climbing Kilimanjaro.

Indeed the eldest recently sent a book to Mister E and me entitled "101 Coolest Things to Do in Great Britain." Now it is a good read and has some, shall we say, "interesting ideas" but for those that hold the most appeal I can honestly say that I've already been there, done them, got the photographs. There are others that wild horses wouldn't drag me to. It may be cool, but somehow Mister E and I attending Bestival is beyond even the most vivid of imaginations.

The problem with trying to buy into somebody else's dream is obviously that it is their dream and not yours. Moreover if any retired person has really adopted or even adapted a 100 item bucket list prepared by somebody else what have they been doing up till now apart from working?  Not to have determined what I really enjoy doing in the first part of my life and knowing from that what I wanted to build on or expand in the next part, would have seemed to me a gross disservice to both my imagination and experience.

Of course most people must land on Planet Retirement with all kinds of plans and good intentions, borrowed or otherwise, but, as this blog has probably charted, life doesn't necessarily follow the pattern proposed. Freedom and flexibility can foster indolence, but how many people ever include in their Must Do List "never rising before 10am"?

Before we retired, we had plans which I carefully documented on this blog (lest I perhaps forget). Ah yes, with reference to my preceding paragraph, a quick refresh would suggest I did plan on occasions to revel in doing nothing! 

Plans can be very different to bucket lists. In our case they were probably better regarded as a statement of intent, rather than a checklist to work through. In so far as we have any inventory of items to tick off, it is unwritten, shifting according to circumstance; a vague, unstructured catalogue or wish list, driven by impetuosity and whims. I prefer it like that. Imagine instead waking every morning knowing that the next item on the list awaits preparation and then conquest. How disappointing never to make it to the end of the list; failure to succeed in retirement. Or perhaps it would even be worse to complete the bucket list, and then be confronted by an abyss. What would follow? Contentment or an empty life?

I'm not proposing that in retirement we should all drift aimlessly, although if that is your preferred option then why not? If a competitive workplace has been your driving force for decades, however, then there may well be an inevitable tendency to look for specific goals and targets in retirement. Perhaps that even explains why the initial starting point is to think in terms of a bucket list.

However, I can well and truly say that, fast approaching my 4th anniversary of retirement, if I ever had a bucket it has now well and truly sprung a leak. Instead and with my big 60th birthday at the end of the current week, I have set myself 3 simple challenges. They are intended to fit in with my lifestyle and initial plans. So as I have previously mentioned  I am going to read 60 books this year (11 already down, 49 to go); I am going to swim 60 times (only 8 sessions to date, 52 to complete) and I intend to visit 60 unfamiliar places (impeded by wintry conditions, I haven't even started). I cannot countenance failure, and if necessary shall spend December swimming from place to place, paperback in hand.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Festive Fever

Eventful or calm and peaceful, I never quite know how to describe that week beginning with Christmas and ending with New Year. Interspersed with periods of: family and togetherness, memories and resolutions, indulgence and even gluttony, activity and then indolence, nostalgia and reflection; it is definitely a unique time of the year.

For us this year was different in that for the first time in modern history the eldest was at the opposite side of the world and not therefore with us to enjoy what have become our own family traditions. Even the beloved Boxing Day Quiz had to be deferred when he failed to rustle up an internet connection on the national park trek that he was undertaking.

A quarter down, we still manoeuvred our way through the week, even managing an overnight trip to Hull before its reign as the UK City of Culture 2017 finished. Less than 80 miles away, it took an end of year cut off date to get us there. Who thought working to deadlines has no application to retirement?

Of course we ended up travelling on the snowiest day of the winter so far, but with the early evening darkness were able to appreciate not only the city's Christmas lights but also a series of robotic installations in the atmospheric old town area by Jason Bruges on the theme of "Where do we go from here?"

There is something almost sureal about standing on a cold December night watching a robot attempt to communicate with a statue of William Wilberforce, not to mention a circle of them working together to send a series of laser beams upwards or the more inquisitive set outside the Minster which seemed to deliberately inquire and to interrogate the visitor beneath.

I really appreciate how art speaks to the individual and we each take something complex to describe but personally moving or inspiring away from it 

We wandered from gallery to gallery.

Amongst them we took in the Turner prize short-list at the Ferens Art Gallery and after seeing the winning collection by Lubaina Himid, I am of course inspired with the idea of buying china plates from charity shops and adding my own artistic flair and cultural message (if only) to them.

An exhibition that stood out for all of us was a Portrait of a City especially the photographs by Martin Parr of food in Hull. It did little to convince us of haute cuisine on Humberside nor were we persuaded of the need to try a deep fried pattie but I was left with the memory of the vibrancy of  the culinary delights on offer and, albeit solely in the imagination, the smell of cooking. 

We also enjoyed the display entitled "Turner and the Whale." JMW Turner's paintings of whaling ships were showcased alongside pictures from the Hull school of art and artefacts from the historic whaling industry in the city. Forget painting china plates, I want to create a masterpiece in oils of sea, and light and waves.

A feverish boost of creativity lasting 24 hours had to be a sure fire way to return home uplifted, motivated and ready to make my resolutions for 2018. Except it wasn't... yes, I had festive fever alright but of the sneezing, high temperature, runny nosed variety. Confined to bed for two days, I missed the New Year's arrival and have been too weak and befuddled to consider my objectives for what is already the present year.

Thankfully the brain fog is now lifting but to make life easier for my somewhat delicate state (I exaggerate), I simply avow to continue with those resolutions from last year which somehow seem even more appropriate with increasing global turmoil. So once again in 2018 and without comment on how I fared last year, I resolve to follow what I seek to be the pattern of my retirement and:

1. Be happy and enjoy the fun in everything
2. Stand up for what I believe in and endeavour to engage others to fight the cause
3. Use less (avoiding single use plastic in particular), live simply and shop locally wherever possible
4. Think globally and be aware of the impact of my footprints on the planet and the suffering of all those in war zones or denied the liberties that I enjoy, doing what I can to raise awareness and improve outcomes
5. In an annual tradition, or perhaps because I'm still suffering from a virus induced delirium, lose weight and get fit.

Finally, albeit a little delayed: best wishes for 2018, everyone.

Friday, 17 November 2017

My Circadian Rhythms Need a Reset

Exhausted and bog-eyed, stuck in an alien timezone, my circadian rhythms are apparently adjusting only very slowly.  I'm suffering from jet-lag after returning from a trip to the other side of the world. I did mean to blog whilst I was there, but was distracted by a hectic itinerary.

After 5 weeks of living out of a suitcase (or to be absolutely correct 2 wheeled holdalls), I am now seeking to make sense of a fascinating experience and wondering how best to describe it to you. This blog was never of course intended as a travel log but there is so much that I want to share from our trip that it's simply a question of how to  begin. Unfortunately that beginning has been hampered since our return 4 days ago, by constantly waking at 4am and falling asleep by 9pm, with muddled thinking in between times. If that wasn't bad enough, I can hardly walk after returning to the gym to do 3 fitness classes yesterday. Zombie-like, both physically and mentally, you have to have a certain level of fitness for long haul travel.

I have discovered that retirement offers time to travel surpassing that of any other period of life. The problem is that it is not necessarily as easy to mobilise as in our backpacking youth when there was a total lack of both responsibilites and neuroses. Much as I might love to fling a few possessions into a rucsack, sling it over my sholder and head off into the blue yonder of cultural experiences, age has brought awareness, wisdom and with it consequential limitations.

I now have a greater understanding of the spectrum between enjoyment and endurance, input and return, satisfaction and reward. Travel is planned accordingly and whilst there is no easy answer to the disorientation that follows a 30 hour journey from take off to landing with a 13 hour time difference between each, at least neither Mister E nor I had work to contend with and return to the following day. No wonder extended vacations in far flung destinations are very much the preserve of only the young and the retired. 

I know that there are many who are propelled to relinquish both home and lifestyle for a life on the road or water in order to fulfil longheld ambitions that have often fuelled an early retirement. There are also others who are content to settle down with their cottage gardens, log fires and the constancy of family, friends and familiarity on the doorstep. I doubt that I am unusual in imagining myself ardently pursuing either option but in reality keep dipping only my toes in the sea of discovery whilst simultaneously failing to create a proper haven of tranquility in which to rest and replenish. To my way of thinking, waves of adrenaline and excitement feel higher when they rise from the plains of contentment. Get too comfortable though and extraction can seem daunting.

Our latest trip was planned on the back of the eldest relocating to New Zealand earlier this year, offering an opportunity to see him again after a lapse of 7 months since his departure. With a distance of over 11,000 miles to get there we realised that the end had to justify the journey, so as you can imagine there was significant deliberation in looking to ensure a "perfect" trip.

So we considered:

1) Means of transport, of which the only obvious one (unless we wanted to make a 6 month trip out of our little adventure and go by ship) was air, which led us to consider a variety of carriers eventually plumping for Emirates which provided taxi transfers to and from the airports at the beginning and end of our journeys there and back, as part of the airline service.

2) The route to get there, especially as we initially discussed undertaking a number of stopovers until we realised that we still couldn't eliminate all overnight flights and would be continuously to-ing and fro-ing from airports. In the end we concluded flying directly with a 2 hour change-over at Dubai (and Brisbane too on our return) was the better option, although we opted for the luxury of business class; theoretically if you are going to be in the air for 26 hours you might as well be horizontal on a flat bed seat with an unlimited supply of champagne.

3) The length of our stay taking into account that the eldest's accomodation is unsuitable for staying guests. How long does anyone want to live out of a suitcase for? We settled on 5 weeks.

4) Our itinerary; unsure whether or not this will be the only trip we ever make to New Zealand, we wanted to see as much as possible and, therefore, consulted with everybody we knew who had travelled there. We picked up some tremendous tips and ideas which I was then able to work into a journey around both islands which afforded oppportunities to rendezvous with our son.

5) Our accommodation where there seemed to be a choice of hotels, motels, homestays, bachs, B&Bs, and motorhomes. In the end we opted for a mix of everything except the motorhome experience, which we though might be a little snail-like crawling around  with our home on our backs, unable to separate from it. 

6) What to book in advance, but ultimately it was very little except for the first two nights' accommodation and the car hire. We really wanted the flexibility to change our plans to  fit in with the weather.

7) Which clothes to take as New Zealand is notoriously changeable weatherwise and was just emerging into Spring as we arrived, and finally packing something for all weathers and seasons.

8) Funding our stay as 5 weeks is too long to carry sufficient wads of notes for but, conscious that some of the places we would stay might require us to pay in cash and, as it is never wise to rely entirely on one credit card, we obtained a second that permits cash withdrawals free of interest and transaction fees.

9) The administrative burden of home in which respect we made sure that bills scheduled for payment were set up in advance, carried iPad and laptop to access records and e-mails as needed, relied on our neighbours to keep an eye on our property.

Was it a successful trip? Yes.

Would we recommend it? Definitely but more of that when I bore you with further blog entries.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Off Colour

I was not myself at all yesterday, struck down, I suspect, by a mild dose of food poisoning. No appetite, a painful tummy ache, totally overcome by fatigue with weak joints and an unending wave of nausea, I took to my bed. Safe in its confines, I listened first to the stomach fire brigade spray its hoses of bile on the malcontented and noisy dragon beneath and then waited patiently whilst the sewage cleaning operators in the intestine did their work. In the meantime the extremities resembled the polar ice cap as I shivered my way through the day.

At least in retirement there is no longer any pressure to drag yourself out of bed to fulfil commitments in an office diary. However, yesterday was a Sunday so I didn't even have that thought as solace for my condition.

 It is unpleasant being out of sorts but (touch wood) I am fortunate in generally enjoying good health.

As we age, however, I know that it may not always be so. Already wear and tear on vital knee joints, not to mention bursitis and tendonitis can at the least be irritating. Maybe the underlying conditions were always there, certainly old skiing pulls and strains are chief suspects, but it seems only now through attempts at a more physical lifestyle in retirement that they are coming to the fore. 

Certainly there is much to be said for recognising your limitations even when it is sad to have to acknowledge them and  realise that there are some things that it's just not wise to do anymore. Moving on through retirement, reality begins to catch up. 

With reality comes an understanding that life is no longer infinite and time has run out for me for marathon running, mountain climbing, bungee jumping and a host of other activities that I'm sure I really would never have tried anyway. You will note that I am not yet excusing my partaking of the activities that bring enjoyment. However, that knowledge of the finite can make it seem that the pressure is on to fit in everything  that you want to do, before infirmity creeps up still further.

I guess that's where continuous planning and the much berated bucket list come in. To stop retirement dreams becoming unachievable or giving way to the dreaded drudgery of routine, regular reviews, flexibility and in some instances lateral thinking are needed. 

Forgive me, I'm now off to undertake a rational assessment...

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Saving Up for a Rainy Day

Apologies for yet another interruption in service. The last time I made a blog entry I was attributing my lapse to a bout of very welcome but very warm weather. Since then, here in North Yorkshire, we have been paying our penance with days of rain and for a period of one week some rather unseasonably low temperatures. Still variety is the spice of life as they say, and retirement thunders on (oh yes we have had a couple of electric storms too) regardless.

So I have been taking advantage of the wet weather to endeavour to catch up with a pile of administrative tasks left for the proverbial rainy day. Trouble is that, even with fourteen or more wet days, I'm still not up to date and procrastination appears to have successfully defeated my good intentions. On the plus side we have caught up with old friends, finished a course of hospital out-patients' treatment, had a family member to stay, eaten out  on several occasions, read numerous books, worked out in the hope of using up the extra calories, gardened between the showers, been to the cinema, fulfilled various commitments and of course become embroiled in following the annual tennis fest that is Wimbledon.

If I am  honest, however, it all seems a little humdrum and I even fear lest I have actually relaxed into retirement a little too easily. The trouble, of course, is that when we are at home for a prolonged period there is a tendency to fall into a dreaded routine: gym in the morning, coffee at 11am etc.. Routine has crept up effortlessly of late and coupled with a natural tendency towards indolence is proving to be an enemy of the successful pursuit of satisfaction in retirement. I'm guessing that it's a natural cycle now that we have moved into (I can hardly believe it) the fourth year since cessation of employment. 

The initial phase, as I have already documented, was one of recovery followed by "letting go" and then the application of long practised skills in order to "give back,"  whilst surprisingly finding that what I had planned to do in retirement very much went by the by. Now, however, I sense the advent of a new phase; a time for challenge and maybe even adventure or at least the determination to shed the feeling that we may be at risk of drifting aimlessly and to review the intial aspirations formulated for this period of our lives. I guess I am going to need a few more rainy days to properly explore this concept, but, with the British weather the way it is, those days have to be a certainty rather than a long shot.
Whilst I am conscious that this has been another self indulgent critique, I hope that many can empathise with the experience that I have described. In the meantime I close this entry buoyed by the discovery that somebody must read and appreciate these blog entries because it seems they have made it into a list of 100 Top Retirement Blogs. Forever flattered and grateful...

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Christmas is Coming

It is very easy  to lose track of time in retirement. Without young children in the home, colleagues at work or even an Advent Calendar to remind you of the number of days to go until December 25th, there is of course a risk that Christmas Day can creep up almost unawares.

Today however my Christmas run up officially began when our Pilates wind down took place to the accompaniment of Silent Night. This was followed by a gym workout the sole purpose of which was to burn as many calories as possible in order to join fellow gym bunnies for a festive meal. Unfortunately three courses, including turkey with all the trimmings, really meant that  I ought properly to have returned for an overnight stint if all damage was to be avoided. With cards still to buy and write, it was not too difficult to formulate a legitimate excuse.

Tomorrow is Christmas Jumper Day and then there are 8 days to get those cards posted, presents bought and wrapped, food sourced, house cleaned, decorations put up and family welcomed. Goodness that's a whole week that I never got whilst working; plenty of time!

Saturday, 18 June 2016

A Second Anniversary

Today marks two years since my final day at work. Hard to believe, it seems so long ago and no, I still wouldn't go back. Retirement is brilliant; it's like recovering all that time you had in your teenage years but never appreciated with the added benefit now of knowledge, wisdom and no summer exams to spoil it.

Our plans are pretty much intact, save that weather and hospital appointments have to date impeded the intention to complete a circumnavigation of the British Isles and we may have to rethink exactly how sailing fits into retirement. We've both suffered from separate shoulder issues which, although now on the mend, have limited our  respective abilities to pull ropes and wind winches. So that is an area that certainly requires more consideration in the next few months.

Further and whilst I still want to take that Interior Design Course, it has taken a back seat to enjoying all those bits of living that are in short supply when you are working. I have instead been concentrating on rediscovering my creative side with a camera and as a frequent visitor to art exhibitions and am now exploring the scope for extending photography as a hobby. The trouble with retirement is there are just so many things you can do, it can be hard to choose.

The last two years have however certainly given me the opportunity to work on my fitness levels, lose weight and experience various diverse classes (this morning I tried Zumba) making new friends in the process and more luncheon buddies.

The house and garden are beginning to undergo changes too, slowly and steadily although hopefully gathering apace.

Whilst, however, I might have dreamed about living a more  Bohemian lifestyle, the truth is that conventionality and pedantry have been part of my essence for so long that I have realised I must accept them for what they are. Playing to my strengths, I am therefore using those almost innate legal skills to fulfil the role of Parish Clerk as well as a trustee of a local charity. In the meantime a relaxed attitude and better well-being allow the opportunity to chip at the edges, live in the here and now, becoming much more involved in and appreciative of the world around us.

We are conscious of the need to continue to plan retirement in order to derive maximum benefit from it. We have however been shocked to realise that the adage that sixty is the new forty isn't quite true and that there is something called the ageing process which means for instance that even though Mister E still goes on 50 mile cycle rides, he takes longer to recover after them than he might have done 20 years earlier. Conscious of the signs of degeneration, we are anxious to squeeze as much as possible into the early years of retirement.

Save for the Interior Design course and the specific sailing voyage, we are very much enjoying retirement by doing what we feel we set out to do. Our other plans were I admit a little more vague and aesthetic and perhaps, therefore, easier to feel our way with. Now, however, after two years it is the right time, as I concluded a few days ago, for us to start to plan anew and more precisely for what we want to achieve over the next five years. Whatever you make of retirement, it shouldn't be an end in itself and you definitely don't have to be young or working to have ambition.

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.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Voice of New Retirement

Voice of New Retirement is a report from Aviva and one of its key findings is just how happy retired people are. Well I'm living proof so I can certainly agree with that one. In fact retirement is so good that 62% find it better than they expected (or perhaps they just had low expectations!).

The report suggests that happiness and fulfilment peak in later life and that those who are retired find greater contentment with their finances, health, diet, exercise and time spent with their family. Yes, I think that this blog can bear witness to all of that too.

So there has to be a downside before everyone hands in their notice and joins the great retirement bandwagon and I'm sorry but the report addresses this as well. It's preparation or rather a lack of it. Alarmingly 27% of people nearing retirement have done nothing to prepare for it, financially or otherwise. Now that is distressing, those people are going to let themselves down in a really big way if they too can't enjoy their own golden era.

I was just thinking the other day that what I really love about retirement is the freedom it gives me to live each day as I choose (to be frank it was an idea that dawned on me when I elected to lie in bed until after 11am, but hey a happy retiree needs her thinking time). Lo this report confirms that retirement is invariably seen as a liberating experience where the number of retired people who feel in complete control of their lives is more than double the number of those who are still working. Fulfilment is high in retirement and at its lowest in our forties, although those approaching retirement have a boost of optimism as they presumably feel the time to achieve life's ambitions is approaching. However those who get the most enjoyment from retirement seem, according to the report, to be those who have planned for it, not just financially but also with their bucket lists or other plans. The report makes it clear that as well as financial planning, would-be retirees need to consider plans for their lifestyle, their needs and their goals.

I certainly haven't found the transition into retirement difficult but as regular readers of this blog will know I did plan for it and please, if you haven't yet started, you must do so now or you could miss out on a great big chunk of later life happiness.

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, 8 July 2015

More on the Weather

As I indicated in my last post the British weather never fails to surprise.

This time last week, the thermometer in my garden hit 33 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit); today it was 12 degrees Celsius (54 degrees Fahrenheit). Neither is what I would normally expect at this time of the year and, apart from the period spanning what was a very short-lived heat wave, it has been raining too! Well I suppose that really is normal for a British summer!

When you are working, you can become quite disgruntled about rainstorms at weekends. In retirement, it is less frustrating as theoretically it is easier to rearrange your activities around the weather and what you may have planned for Sunday can now just as easily take place on Wednesday. Well that is the theory anyway but of course it all falls apart when you don't seem to get any periods of settled weather, as has been the case for most of this summer. Indeed when you have been banking on a week or longer period of good weather for a sailing trip it is potentially rather depressing. 

If therefore your only plans are to cycle or garden, you are invariably going to become as frustrated in retirement as if you were working and it rained every weekend. Whilst a good quality breathable raincoat helps, I'm discovering that flexibility must now extend beyond rearranging days to suit the weather and instead the whole scale adoption of inside projects, celebrating the fact that I would never be able to indulge in jam making, watching the tennis at Wimbledon on television or decorating if we were actually getting the summer weather eagerly anticipated and around which we have made so many other plans.

For the first time I am picking and processing the whole of my soft fruit crop and have even discovered that I can make ironing a delight by placing the board with a view of the TV set whilst the tennis takes place (Wimbledon clearly isn't suffering the same problems with its weather as the North East corner of England but in any event now has a roof for Centre Court). The rain is also a real boost for my interior painting and modernising project and diminishes the risk of our home being declared a UNESCO Heritage site like the Forth Rail Bridge.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Reflecting on an Anniversary

I know, I can hardly believe it myself, but today marks a full year since my last day at work. Do I regret the decision to retire? Of course not.

Yes to begin with there was a learning curve and given my time again I really would have worked harder at retaining an element of fitness pre-retirement, but I can say in all honesty that I just love being in charge of my life again to the extent that I can choose what I want to do by the week, day or even hour.

Obviously not everything has worked out the way that I had envisaged. For one thing, I had not realised how active I would be in retirement compared to being office bound and indeed just how much time I would spend on my feet whether it be for physical exercise, walking, shopping, on holiday or even household chores and gardening. Looking back I certainly did not expect to factor into my weekly routine so many exercise classes or to have taken up Yoga and Pilates.

Conversely I had been concerned that when at home and with a fridge and pantry at my disposal there would be every opportunity to snack and that I might find myself fighting hard to resist temptation in that respect. In reality, I am generally too busy to even think about eating, other than at set meal times. 

I was also concerned lest I might miss the work ethic. Whatever was I thinking? Perhaps that I might end up lying in bed all day, suffer from brain mush or even a lack of daily purpose. Fortunately I have not been overtaken by those conditions and although I have missed the wide range of social interaction that working can offer, retirement presents more than sufficient opportunities for mixing and socialising too.

The last year has been a period of experimentation and adjustment with occasions when I have probably tried to fit in too much in an effort to work out what suits and what doesn't. I have discovered that I can apply myself so as to learn online, exercise and give more time to the voluntary positions that I hold. However, I am now ready to take on the serious challenges of interior design and giving our home a make-over, learning a new language and stepping up the travelling, having to date only flirted with these. Whilst, therefore, initial plans remain intact, the next twelve months may see a shift in priorities and commitments in order to meet those challenges.

In the meantime and especially on this 12 month anniversary, I am just going to keep smiling; I can't help it!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Retirement Values

Whilst staying on Santorini last week, Mister E and I spotted this sign. I reproduce it here because it accurately sums up so many of the values that I have adopted and how we seek to live our retirement.

(With thanks to Tranquilo at Perissa, Santorini)

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Expenditure in Retirement

So many people feel they cannot afford to retire and whilst this may be true for some, there are others who have not done the maths. Before Mister E and I decided to take the plunge, we felt that it was important that we worked out the extent of our expenditure as opposed simply to an income and savings forecast. We accordingly tracked and broke down our spending, then, satisfied that the kind of retirement we sought was indeed an affordable option, jumped in.

We have continued to analyse our expenditure and, as we anticipated, in retirement spend less on some areas (primarily car expenses and clothing) and more on others (travel, leisure and incidental costs in particular). Surprisingly utility bills which we had assumed might increase significantly with our daily presence have not done so, presumably offset by our various absences.

The most important thing, however, is that by now knowing what we use our money for, we are in control and, should the need arise, would be able to alter our spending habits and consumption levels accordingly. 

If anybody is unsure whether or not they too can afford to retire I would recommend analysing your plans for the kind of retirement that you realistically seek  and your likely monetary outgoings as a result. You are after all able to exercise more control over your spending than your income.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Wise Words in a Tweet

I have received wise words in 140 characters from a fellow Tweeter. "Don't over volunteer,"was the impact of the message.

Swapping work for retirement at first leads you to believe that you will suddenly have a spare forty hours a week. Believe me it is not like that. Retirees don't go around saying they "don't know how they ever found the time to go to work,"  for nothing.

However and in that honeymoon phase there can be an incentive to fill the hours freed by not working with other commitments. I was fortunate to have taken on board some advice that I received before retiring which was not to commit to anything new in the first twelve months and am so glad that I listened.

Whilst I have been able to give more time to the voluntary bodies with which I was involved prior to retirement, I have also been able to indulge myself in a variety of ways as no doubt regular readers of this blog will appreciate. I have tried and continue to try new experiences.

Now, after almost 11 months, I think I have a better appreciation of how much time I need for my indulgences whether they be fitness classes, days out with Mister E, travelling, sailing, reading or other hobbies. In addition there are still chores and family to attend to. I now understand the benefits of flexibility and with our plans for the next twelve months rapidly developing, I have a much better understanding of what I can and can't commit to.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Saving and Life Expectancy

My accountant has drawn my attention to a report published by Aviva. Not only does it stress that we tend to underestimate our life-expectancy but also that savers are likely to live longer than non-savers. 

I suppose it is just as well that it is not the other way round or there would presumably be a real problem for non-savers when their funds run out.

At face value it is, of course, strange that there should be a correlation between saving and life term. I assume however that those who save also live a healthier life generally than those who don't, perhaps predicated by their wealth or alternatively by deliberate life choices in all areas. Pre-disposition or choices; nature or nurture; family values or education; innate intelligence or robust common-sense. 

No doubt scientists will find a gene that governs both traits in due course. In the meantime, just point me in the direction of a piggy bank.

Monday, 13 April 2015

A Novel Experience

We have just returned from a flying visit to Scotland to supervise the lifting of  the boat out of the water for its annual bottom wash and ready for the application of anti-fouling and maybe even a polish to the topsides. To ensure that we were there on time, we decided to stay on board overnight. Some may describe this as a somewhat bold or even foolhardy decision bearing in mind the fact that the weather has appeared to regress over the weekend; we passed snow on the way there and freezing temperatures during the night.

However, it made for a bracing walk this morning with some lovely views across the sea towards Arran. Also, having taken a direction I was unfamiliar with I came across a delightful row of what were once harbour workers' cottages but which are now used, it would seem, primarily as offices.

The difference in climate between home and Troon was amplified by flowerbeds, prepared for annual bedding but as yet empty. Whereas the abundance of Spring flowers around our village has resulted in the onset of hay fever, the symptoms of which well and truly disappeared as we headed North.

I have never actually been party to the annual hoisting of the boat into the boat-yard before, leaving this in the sole hands of Mister E whilst I worked and hung on to my holiday for the actual sailing trips. So it was a novel experience watching the operation from beginning to end. As this blog hopefully bears witness, in retirement there are hosts of opportunities for adventure and new experiences.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Simple Scented Pleasures

One of my plans for retirement was to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, including sniffing garden flowers. Today I did just that, finding the time to sit on a wooden bench in the garden, taking in the sights, scents and sounds. I was surrounded by hyacinths in bloom, exuding their distinctive perfume.

There was no pressure to get up and do anything else (there's always tomorrow) and in any event I had already completed four hours of hard graft with a spade, hoe and pruners.