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 Relaxation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Relaxation. Show all posts

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Losing My Marbles and Other Things


I have experienced a difficult few days when my joy at becoming a scatty being has been offset by the realisation that this is not the state of nirvana I have been seeking in retirement. To throw away years spent honing my organisational skills and memory capacity is not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow after all.

I may be searching for a simpler life but this does not mean I also want a simpler mind. Terrifyingly, in my quest for simplification, I may just have overdone it.


It all started, like the birth of modern democaracy, at Runnymede. In the process of taking one of a number of photographs, I failed to realise that I had dropped my camera case. Half a mile later the omission registered, steps were retraced and the bag was retrieved from the damp grass on which it was lying.

Never satisfied, however, I excelled myself the following morning. I must confess that I do have a previous history where hotel room key cards are concerned. Consequently I have vowed to be scrupulously careful in my handling of them, ever aided by all kinds of dire warnings from Mister E should I dare to even think of losing another. So it was that I set off for a pre-breakfast dip in the hotel pool, dutifully hanging onto the keycard at all costs. I waved it at the  man at the desk in order to enter the swimming area and promptly forgot all about it. I remembered, of course, when Mister E enquired as to its whereabouts, after I had knocked on our room door for him to open it.

Once again we retraced our steps but this time to no avail. So, original keycards cancelled, new ones provided and a full English breakfast consumed, we set out to walk along the Thames and into Oxford, a gentle stroll from where we were staying. After a while, I was obliged to stop so that I could adjust what was beginning to be a most uncomfortable sock. I untied my lace, removed my foot from shoe intending to smooth out the wrinkles which I could feel accruing but could find none. I peered into my shoe and there smiling up at me was the missing keycard. I had put it in a safe place after all.

Well you might think that would be the end of my appalling lapses for one weekend but worse was to follow. On returning home on Sunday, I opened the cloak cupboard to hang up my jacket and hanging from my peg was an item I did not recognise. Closer examination suggested that it was a similar colour and style to my winter coat but a size smaller and much more battered than I could recall. Somebody, somewhere must be wearing a woollen navy coat that's rather more generous across the chest and significantly smarter than theirs used to be.

Finally, just when you think your memory won't play any more tricks on you, at least not if you concentrate really hard, I lost my watch. It was AWOL for 40 hours during which time I had any number of imaginary conversations with the insurance company and police explaining how we must have been burgled in the dead of night without realising because I had definitely left it on the bathroom window ledge and, despite checking under the soap, toothpaste and even in the plug hole of the sink, it had disappeared without a trace. I found it late this afternoon, twinkling on the floor of the eldest's now vacated bedroom (yes he has flown to New Zealand), cupped in the sleeve of a discarded and dirty sweatshirt. How it got there shall remain one of life's mysteries.

So, enough of this carefree living; there are occasions when it is almost as stressful as working full-time. Indeed another valuable lesson has been learnt: just like everything else in life, the succesful navigation of  retirement needs ongoing organisational and observational skills . Disengagement of the brain can only lead to disaster.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Bombogenesis





The youngest flew to San Diego last weekend in order to play in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament (frisbee being a prime reason for her wanting to study in the USA this year). Unfortunately she was subject to travel disruption arising from the tropical storm which has been battering California. The BBC described it as a bombogenesis; what a descriptive word.

In any event and as a result she landed two hours late at approximately midnight. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, to get up on Saturday morning and find that, despite the eight hour time difference, she was available to chat via What's App. 

"You're up early," she said.

"It's actually 8 am," I replied, thinking she was still on Texan time which is only six hours behind, and had inadvertently assumed I was clutching my phone at the unearthly hour of 6 am.

"I meant for a Saturday," came the response.

Curiously I no longer take advantage of the slow start that was always offered by a weekend morning in my working years. Is it because in retirement there's too much to cram in, even on a weekend off, to waste it lying in bed, or perhaps because I generally awake at the point where I am fully rested rather than at a pre-set time on the alarm clock? Certainly I don't think I have yet reached that fabled stage of life where I might rise early because I no longer need so much sleep.

I'm unsure of the analysis but my reply was on point: "There's no such thing as Saturday in retirement."

Saturday, 4 February 2017

La La Land

So earlier this week I went to see the much talked about La La Land. One of those feel good films that still brings a tear to the eye. A musical where: the performers are definitely actors rather than singers; the dancing falls short of many of the performances on Strictly; the backdrops  look almost painted; the full ensemble routines are like something out of a 1920's cabaret show; the settings are all so familiar and cliched.

But I loved it. The soundtrack had some brilliant jazz pieces,  the whole film oozed the nostalgia of an earlier Hollywood era; Ryan Gosling was absolutely stunning in role and ably matched by Emma Stone whose expressive features simply captivate. 

Underneath it all there were some subtle messages about ambition and dreams. Put simply La La Land is not real, it is but the stuff of dreams and cannot exist or, if it does, there is no permanence.

I guess the nearest I have ever got to La La Land is retirement. When career aspirations are no more, the dreams  can become a reality.



Monday, 26 December 2016

Relax, It's Christmas




I have been very concerned by the number of stressed out people I spoke to in the days immediately leading up to Christmas. The desire for the perfect menu, properly wrapped gifts, and clean home after what sounded like weeks of shopping and writing cards, was reducing normally sane people to a frazzle.

In my last blog entry on the issue I had concluded that 8 days is long enough to prepare when you are no longer working. In fact after I posted that, Mister E and I disappeared off for another bout of DIY activity in Nottingham, staying four nights and returning only on the evening of  Tuesday 20th December. That, of course, left only 4 days or half the time I had planned on.

Maybe it's a change of attitude in retirement; the lack of awareness of work colleagues getting ready or a Yoga and Pilates induced plane of freedom from anxiety. Alternatively and perhaps after all the years of pre-Christmas stress, finally the realisation has dawned that it is after all just one day.

Whatever, Caree has come a long way since 2013 when she was still only contemplating retirement and succumbing to the pressures of Yuletide planning whilst juggling her professional commitments. Then you will recall that she had the rather romantic notion that it  might be nice to "do Christmas properly" for once; log fires, tinsel, entertaining and home baking with perhaps a Christmas carol or two playing in the background.

The following year and the first Christmas in retirement, preparation was much more relaxed but still following a familiar pattern, save that there actually was more time for planning and execution. I suspect however that by 23rd December I may have been having second thoughts as a flick back through this blog shows that I was extolling the virtues of Cuban life and, somewhat subtly I admit, raving against the pitfalls of the consumerist society with its luxury goods, overpriced necessities and brazen marketing.

2015, I recall, was a little more chilled until reality caught up after an incapacitating virus struck and upon recovery there was that inevitable last minute panic. 

Manipulated by merchandisers rather than Church to believe that "Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year," for so many it ends up being the most stressful. Certainly that was the dismal vibe I encountered last week from the conversations I referred to above.

So how did my 4 days of preparations this year go?

Well there was a wobbly start when I discovered that the youngest was actually coming home for the holiday period from Texas a day earlier than I had written in my diary but a tranquilising Yoga session on Wednesday morning restored the Karma and that afternoon I cleaned her room  before decorating it with tinsel and snowmen. There was even plenty of time for a cup of tea with a neighbour and another with Mister E before we went to meet her at the station. Upon our return a dose of jetlag meant she soon crashed out, leaving me free to take advantage of a subscription to Amazon Prime with next day delivery; Christmas present shopping done!

Thursday morning saw me in the Kinesis room at the gym, priming those muscles ready for any weight Christmas might throw at me. I spent the afternoon taking the youngest to the dentist and to make her own  gift purchases. I succeeded in falling over ignominiously in the middle of the town centre when I tripped on the kerb but that's another story. Upon our return we indulged in a wrapping paper fest (my online order had arrived) and packed up the car with gifts that we then delivered to my mother's home.

On Friday I whizzed around our house with the vacuum cleaner. Mister E and the youngest went to do the major grocery shop and I wrapped more presents. Then at 3.30pm, I disappeared to meet like-minded friends in the spa attached to the gym where we work-out; a swim and laze in the jacuzzi preceded an early evening meal out together. 

By the time I returned home the eldest was there too and our family Christmas would have begun in earnest except that the following morning (Christmas Eve) I had promised to work a shift in the charity shop for Save the Children. It's not quite like manning a soup kitchen on Christmas Day, but it did give me the opportunity to buy those Christmas cards that I am yet to post; obviously I chose winter scenes with blank insides for my own message; there is after all no point wishing anyone a Merry Christmas several days after the event. At 1pm, voluntary work over, I braved the last minute shoppers thronging the High Street as I went on a quest for items overlooked from the shopping list the day before. Whoever could have imagined that there would be a run on Christmas crackers in North Yorkshire? Four shops later, however, I tracked down a supply and, inventory complete, returned home.

Late afternoon the youngest and I embarked on our annual tradition of  bedecking the Christmas tree at the eleventh hour. I tidied up our spare room ready for our Christmas Day overnight guest and the festive period began with a mince pie (bought not home baked) and a glass of wine.

I am proud to say that we enjoyed a fraught-free Christmas Day following  the most relaxing run up that I can remember.

If anyone is thinking of following suit then my top tips would be:
  1. Cut back on the gift list (or try Secret Santa instead) and stick to consumables rather than trying to find the perfect present
  2. Only do essential cleaning; nobody is going to measure the dust in your house and subdued lighting will hide it
  3. Don't send cards if you don't have time; consider telephoning friends instead
  4. Restrict your decorations to a tree and one or two special pieces (vases of flowers or seasonal pot-pourri)
  5. Factor in plenty of time for yourself in the run up to your celebrations
  6. If you really have reached the nirvana of being totally chilled out about the whole thing, take yourself away for a long weekend just before
  7. Whilst Christmas may have appropriated the date of a pagan festival, it was never intended to be a mass consumer orgy and never forget, to quote from Robert Browning, "Less is more"
  8. Remember too that Christmas is a time for celebrating the birth of a child, yet the world is full of children suffering because they are in the wrong place, disabled, a refugee, from a minority group or even because they are a girl. Reach out to help every last child.



Friday, 2 September 2016

Jason Bourne


The natural world was thrown aside in favour of car chases and violence this week when we went to see "Jason Bourne," the newly released sequel to the four previous films based on Robert Ludlum's books. Matt Damon gave his all again returning to a role that this time smacked of Bond without the dress suits and one liners but which easily matched Shwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian for testosterone and bare chests. I checked my watch only twice during the showing; a reputable indicator of either the film's entertainment value or Damon's pectoral muscles.

When I returned home I switched on my PC to be greeted by the usual swathe of newsfeed advertising. One was a curious promotion that proclaimed: "Live longer by avoiding men." 

I do fear this so-called intelligent advertising. Usually it is so stupid that it invariably pushes items that I have already ordered online. Sometimes however it seems to spookily read my thoughts or more likely a recent search term. On this occasion, surely it didn't link the purchase of the cinema tickets online with the dangers of watching male egos fight it out on the movie screen? Big Brother protects me from myself.

Alternatively, perhaps it has detected my postings to a retirement blog and in which case am I shortly to be inundated on posts about sheltered accommodation, zimmer frames and funeral plans? Darn.. I wish I hadn't typed those terms; I may be retired but I'm not yet ready for horlicks and early nights.


Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Enjoying the Elements



We returned from another week in the Lake District on Saturday, staying, as we always do, in a lodge in the Great Langdale valley. It has the wonderful advantage of being able to park the car and then not use it again and instead walk everywhere. We also enjoy a superb view of the Langdale Beck and the visiting wildlife from our accommodation.


The problem with the Lake District National Park, however, is invariably the weather. All the wonderful scenery, the lakes and greenery, come, as one must expect, at the price of heavy rainfall. So, on this visit, torrential rain prior to and at the time of our arrival caused the River Brathay at the bottom of the valley to burst its banks and somewhat inconveniently run across the road. Following other vehicles like a sheep, I plunged into the moving torrent, made it to the other side but at the cost of what remain internally wet driving lights, although at least they are still working.


Walking for the next two days was interrupted by flood water and even games of Pooh sticks were off the agenda. However, we moved quickly from downpour to radiant sunshine and enjoyed at least two days of blue skies, sunshine and a heat that was not entirely supportive of tackling steep inclines (I panted a lot). 


Then we had the dank, miserable overcast day, fit only for enjoying a lakeside stroll but without the views, before the cloud lifted and we could return into the hills.


How does one define a trip of this kind in retirement? If we enjoy it so much, why don't we  adopt the lifestyle as a permanent one rather than seeing it as a break from normality? When working it could be defined as a well-earned holiday and much needed change; how does that sit with retirement which many would define as one long holiday? Do we need the banality and farming landscape of home in our every day lives in order to appreciate the rugged beauty of the fells?


I don't  know the answers. As time goes on, I think I am becoming more wrapped up in enjoying the freedom of retirement than in understanding a logical narrative that explains where one goes next. Unlike the world of work, retirement is a spiritual and emotional experience that extends beyond the confines of diligence and grafting. It is being played out on a higher level than the chronological record of the working years and in so doing invariably defies a target-led, rational progression. In the early years at least it remains a time for exploration and exploitation of the senses and, when you make it to the top of some of those Lakeland fells, you are literally spinning,  unless that's just the altitude effect.


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, 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.


Saturday, 2 April 2016

More of Yesterday, Today



Today we endeavoured to repeat yesterday's event and in so doing learnt an important if not obvious lesson, namely that Saturday is not Friday. Now when I write it like that it seems very clear and so much so that one might ask how could any confusion have arisen in the first place? 

Let me explain.

Yesterday, Friday, the footfall through Save the Children's shop was of relaxed people, many retired and others younger with children. They were enjoying a leisurely browse around the High Street and most had time to chat and share experiences on a variety of topics.

Today, Saturday, visitors were predominantly middle aged, rushing through the town during their busy weekend sandwiched between two working weeks. Some claimed to be short of time whilst others avoided eye contact altogether.

Of course there were still many who stopped to talk and sign the petition but at the end of the day and despite a constant bustle of shoppers the number of Saturday signatories was less than on Friday. 

I can only blame the rat race and the stresses and strains placed on those who, pre-retirement, have a finite or even  non-existent leisure time. I remember being one of them, eyes to the ground a mission to accomplish, every precious second counting but still not enough. Now that I have moved to join the relaxed and retired classes it is a revelation watching others behave as I too was once compelled to do.


Thursday, 4 February 2016

Indulging in a Fantasy World



I'm sure I've said this before but I shall indulge myself by repeating it: one of the great things about retirement is that you can do what you want, when you want. So today, faced with a chilly day with that long-standing dampness underfoot, Mister E and I decided to visit the cinema again.

We had half expected it to be overcrowded with representatives from the great retired class but either the weather or film choice had put them off. It was a stark contrast to B&Q yesterday where the poor chap supervising the self check-outs was clearly having a miserable time dealing with the older generation and their lack of prowess at scanning their purchases on the weekly over 60's discount day.

It was a striking difference too to a few weeks ago when I took my mother to see Dame Maggie Smith as The Lady in the Van. That day the cinema was filled with plenty of people who could put the Lady's wrinkles and cough to shame.


On reflection, therefore, it was most likely our movie option that found us sitting in a small studio with only eight other people. In fact one left after thirty minutes leaving only nine of us to follow the trail of The Revenant as he crawled his way through a bleak environment amidst a hostile winter to seek his revenge. 

Perhaps we become more inured as we get older, but for me the effect and genre of the film was reminiscent of some of the better black and white Westerns that were constantly on television when I was a child. Whilst I have sympathy for the lady who left the screening, the blood and guts which spilled out onto the screen did not exceed my capacity for revulsion and instead I delighted in both the harsh beauty of the landscape and the brutality of the tale. One cannot help but admire the fortitude of those who expanded western frontiers in by-gone centuries whilst being horrified at the wanton disregard they paid to the rights of the indigenous people. 


We certainly enjoy a pampered life in the UK these days and, although there is nothing better than to enter a fantasy world for a couple of hours on a cold February afternoon, retirement for me is certainly not the time in my life when, despite seeking simplification, I want to retreat to a life in the back of beyond with no home comforts. My days of fighting grizzly bears, sleeping in the open and shoot-outs are well and truly behind me, if indeed they ever existed. How wonderful though to have big open landscapes and night skies almost to yourself, to hunt and catch your own food (unfortunately for the most part it was not cooked), and to sit round a fire with others and not watch someone texting. This afternoon I found it all at the cinema.


Thursday, 10 December 2015

Spectre

Before we left for India we went to see the new James Bond film, "Spectre." I am not always a fan of 007 films but I did enjoy this one, especially as it drew various ends from previous films together and at the same time was full of all the high points that make a good Bond movie, not least the humour. I'm not sure if you are meant to laugh out loud at some of the antics but our cinema audience certainly did.

I am reliably informed that Daniel Craig is the Bond actor with more Martinis per film than kisses, and perhaps that added to Spectre's appeal.

The daily newspapers in India clearly suggested a huge fan base for the films there although it seems that Indian audiences are not treated to the whole film as Bond's passionate embraces have been reduced by 50% in order to ascribe to it the equivalent of our 12A certificate. 

Also some of the language which, compared to many films, I did not find too offensive, has been altered. Thus in India, "asshole" is dubbed "idiot," and "bastard" has become "bighead." Both of those I understood. 

I am a little nonplussed however as to why "balls" is dubbed "cats," but then there is much about India that I cannot claim to understand!




Monday, 19 October 2015

Travelling Books


During a career of perusing and absorbing paperwork I inevitably developed the gift of speed reading. It is useful when travelling as I can comfortably settle down in my aircraft or train seat, open a novel and forget myself until shortly before arrival, when, all being well, I will have finished the book and enjoyed a journey of emotion, humour and adventure en route to my destination. It can be embarrassing if the text moves me to tears or to laugh out loud but an old fashioned handkerchief or paper tissue is normally relied upon to come to the rescue.

This month I picked a somewhat mixed selection for my travels and on my outward journey to Greece and Albania read "The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden." Easy reading, funny and with a taste of the international; what better way to start a trip?

On the return journey I was seduced by Jim Crace's "Harvest," transported back in time across the centuries to a simpler but harsher time, it was intriguing to open up the characters and understand their stoicism in the face of cruelty.

Finally on a train trip to and from Edinburgh last weekend I opted for "Sweet Tooth," by Ian McEwan who, as I have already said in this blog, is probably my favourite contemporary author. This book was published back in 2012 but it has languished on my bookshelves since purchase when, pre-retirement, I just never found the opportunity to open it. As in all of his novels the author adapts a writing style unique to the book and which I confess I was not convinced worked in this instance, until I came to the twist at the end, realised what had happened and now feel as though I need to read it all again to doubly appreciate the content.

Thank goodness for all those extra journeys and reading time available in retirement!



Sunday, 30 August 2015

A Change for the Better


We are unable to resist the beauty of the English Lake District, regularly staying in the same lodge in the Langdale Valley twice a year. We have once again returned from such a trip where our days were spent walking on the fells, enjoying the scenery and just being in the great outdoors. It's that joy of nature effect that I have mentioned before but am only just beginning to realise the full impact of.

When I was working, the Lake District served as a bolt hole; a release from the stresses and strains of every day living; the indulgent delights of a well-needed holiday, albeit in a scenic location. 


Now the narrative is different. Staying in such surroundings is an extension of the life we have chosen to live in retirement; an opportunity to be at peace with nature and enjoy the simple pace of life whilst breathing in the country air, revelling in the views and sleeping deeply after those long, long walks. No longer do we need that break for a period of refreshment and relaxation. Instead it has transposed into an opportunity to appreciate those aspects of our retired life that we truly enjoy without the shackles of the daily household chores. We arrive stress-free and the stay is not marred by time for recovery or healing. Instead, every moment can be spent appreciating our surroundings and being at one with them.



Sunday, 16 August 2015

Outside In


Last night we stayed at the Orchard Hotel on the University of Nottingham campus. It was a convenient spot, coinciding with dropping the eldest off after a sailing trip and prior to another of our history tour days, this time to Derbyshire and the Peak District.

The hotel was built using eco-friendly principles but what I really love about it is how it is so light and airy, appearing to bring the green space from outside to the interior. Indeed it even takes this principle to extremes in the bedrooms which have a woodland mural on the wall.


Perhaps its designers anticipated the research I have referred to recently confirming the health benefits of nature and we certainly, as on previous occasions, enjoyed our stay which proved a fitting prequel for a journey through the Peak District, taking in Ashbourne and Buxton before heading for Castleton and Edale.

Buxton has been undergoing rejuvenation since I last visited (some thirty years ago) with the restoration of the Pavilion Gardens whilst the project to renovate the Crescent which was originally built as a hotel housing the thermal baths, is now well under way. In the 19th century the town was a popular hydrotherapy resort although the spa has been closed since the 1990's. When the restored hotel and baths reopen, they too will be a centre for the promotion of well-being, not least for those who exert themselves in the High Peak area beyond and around the town.


Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Disorientation


It's been a funny old week. There's something about work that keeps you very much rooted in routine and the day to day. In my previous career driven life I do not think I ever awoke thinking "Whoopee it's Saturday," only to find that it was really Monday (or any other weekday come to that) and that I had an office to go to when I was actually relishing a day out with the family.

Here in retirement and, as I have alluded to before in this blog, with no fixed routine,  it is, I confess, easy to become disoriented with time. So I have had a friend to stay but somewhere, deep in the recesses of my mind, friends only stay at weekends; that's right isn't it, because midweek we are always working? More than a year in and the rhythms of retirement still conspire to defeat me on occasions, because it was actually Tuesday and Wednesday that she stayed. That was great because mentally Monday did not then arrive until Thursday and by then it was almost the end of the working week. Confused? Well I certainly was.

Sometimes I still have to pinch myself to check that I am awake and not dreaming, and that I really do no longer work. Of course, because I don't, weekends are a meaningless entity anyway. Yes I have a calendar on the wall and an electronic diary synchronised on all my devices but whether an appointment falls on a weekday or weekend, it is of no difference. 

Who needs days of the week when you are retired? They are useful for knowing when the bins have to be put out for emptying but everything else can be done virtually any day we choose.

In fact I have even been wondering if life could be simplified by throwing away all our clocks and relying simply on the sun. The trouble is that it is usually cloudy and whilst I may be able to tell the difference between night and day, I'm not too sure that I could accurately  make a doctor's appointment or yoga class on time. 

Still there's a certain lure to giving it a go and really freeing myself from the vestiges of the working years with their dependency on clock watching. To get the full benefit of the experience we would presumably have to avoid television, the radio and computers; indeed anything that might constantly update us as to the hour of the day. An ultimate break from modern life and its reliance on alerts, alarms and notifications. Maybe a state of total disorientation so far as time is concerned and one step on from that currently induced by retirement could prove to be the zenith of relaxation. Watch this space: I feel an experiment coming on.


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.



Monday, 13 July 2015

Overnight Old People Style



We have just had an overnight stay in Troon. We couldn't help but giggle at how we appear to be behaving like "old" people on a caravan holiday. 

I have a vague childhood memory of visiting elderly relatives at their caravan. Their holiday (or certainly whilst we visited) seemed to involve drinking tea on or near the caravan steps, watching everyone else behave in similar fashion at the doors to their caravans. I was left with the deep impression that what old people did on holiday was sit around in a caravan, drinking tea. 

Now it seems that my time has come. A little too chilly to sit out on deck, we hastened below upon arrival and put the kettle on. An inclement forecast kept us marina bound, secure in our floating but gated community, and the kettle went on again. This morning we were greeted by pouring rain and, you guessed it, another cup of tea!


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.




Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Never Satisfied


Well summer has definitely arrived and with it soaring heat and humidity. The daily variations in our temperature never cease to amaze me and to the extent that differences of 10 degrees celsius are not uncommon. So this week we are being treated to temperatures in the twenties, last week there were days when they failed to reach 14 degrees. Mind it is hard to be satisfied and I'm quickly learning not to plan retirement around expectations of the perfect day; the British climate hardly knows such a thing!

So today I regret that after completing a fitness class and a gym workout, I had to declare the day too hot for anything productive and took instead to a reclined position on the garden lawn with a glass of water in one hand and a book in the other. Moreover and for one nasty moment I thought about the luxury of an air conditioned office.  All those years when I have spent summer trapped inside an office building and suddenly I am lured by the fantasy of a cool environment with a chilled water dispenser. It didn't take long to get that fantasy in check, especially when, should the heat really become unbearable, I can presumably always go and sit in the car with its air con unit, taking a jug of water from the fridge with me.


Also, it was only yesterday when I was revelling in the joys of visiting the arboretum at Thorp Perrow in magnificent weather, free of the weekend crowds and remembering how much I had longed for the freedom to enjoy such summer days when trapped behind a desk.



Sunday, 24 May 2015

Fact or Fiction



I have always loved books and envisaged that in retirement there would be ample opportunity to read the piles of novels that pervade so many rooms in our home. If truth be known, whilst I certainly find the time to read more than I did before I retired, I am still making slow progress in getting through what is probably at least one lifetime's worth of reading material within our four walls.

I am a member of a reading group which meets every six weeks to discuss a chosen book and in between I always try to read another two or three books. I have fairly broad tastes in literature, reading everything from Milton and Chaucer to contemporary writers, of whom my favourites are Ian McEwan and Sebastian Faulks. I usually avoid science fiction, however, and, when in need of simple, no-thought entertainment, immerse myself in an easy to read chick-lit.

Holidays, especially whilst travelling on aeroplanes, are a great time for reading. Last week was no exception although, conscious of the limitation on baggage weight, we took the Kindle as well as a couple of paperbacks apiece. Amongst my selection was Ian McEwan's last book (now in paperback), "The Children Act." 

I know that it is a work of fiction, and perhaps it is still early days to be reading a novel about an area of work that I practised in or maybe it is a credit to the brilliance of the author, for it felt authentic. The main character has in her own words wedded herself to her career and in so doing forsaken so much, including we are told with alarming insight, even the time to care for her feet where her toe nails suffer from a fungal infection! Ugh, definitely too much information. 

For me, however, there was no fantasy in the subject matter or characters; they could have been real. It was an accurate portrayal and, therefore, reminder of  past times spent on a very different treadmill to that which I now use in the gym. Normally reading a book is a period of pure escapism; for me this was a return to working life. 

 I have of necessity, therefore,  resolved  that my future holiday reading material will bear no relationship to reality even if it does mean that I am sentencing myself to a diet of HG Wells or even modern zombie fiction, of which to date I have read nothing. I have always said that I want retirement to be a cocktail of new experiences!