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

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.

Monday, 11 June 2018

A Trip Back in Time Along the High Street

Yesterday Mister E and I had a brief mosey along Northallerton High Street, closed to traffic as it celebrated the 1940's. With live music, albeit an empty dance floor on the pavement in front, bomb disposal experts, an array of vintage and classic vehicles in use in the 1940's, GI brides, nurses with babies in prams and shops with themed windows it was a unique transformation. Coupled with a blue sky, it certainly seemed to have brought the crowds out.

Too often and too close to home we hear about shops closing and the difficulties faced by retailers with competition from online sales, increased business rates and the limited spending power of consumers as their wages stagnate and austerity, coupled with the impending effect of Brexit, continues.

I'm sure demographics must be playing a part too, as more and more of us leave the workplace and move into retirement leaving impulse purchasing behind.

Setting aside the whole issue of fostering nostalgia for bygone years (especially those associated with a role in World War Two) it is good to know that the councils and others are working hard to keep the appeal of  our local town centre and by innovation seeking to prevent its decline. It is after all only two weeks since the same street was closed to host a 10k run, following its previous closure for the annual May Fair and the Tour de Yorkshire, only three weeks before that.

For many spending power in retirement may be less,  but let's please try to apply our expenditure in shopping locally when we can.

Friday, 11 May 2018

B&B in Scotland - A Recommendation

It's sometimes said that Scotland is a decade behind England when it comes to eating out and comfort. I do still have memories of being served tinned pears and evaporated milk for dessert in a guest house that the whole family shivered the night away in but to be fair that must have been 15 years ago. In our experience though, whatever hospitality North of the border may have lacked in providing for English softies, it always more than made up for with its expansive scenery and overt friendliness.

We are just back from another trip to undertake boat related "stuff"  but our visit included a wonderful overnight at Whitestone Cottage on the Culzean Castle estate in South Ayrshire. A 20 minute walk through woods and farmland down to an empty beach; the property where Robbie Burns' mother  was born; 2 duvets on the bed  in case the central heating wasn't sufficient; a supply of CDs, DVDs and reading material including local guidebooks; through the trees a seaview and a sunset over the water; a breakfast to defeat the most hearty of appetites (I think I counted at least 7 courses); a great welcome and good conversation with the owner.

There was nothing at all pretentious about the accommodation which is divided into a double room and a well equipped apartment for 3, or the whole cottage if you wish. A far cry from the bling of Trump Turnberry a few miles down the road, but for a taste of authentic Scotland (without a pear in sight) I know where my preferences lie.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

All Aboard for Pampering

Mister E and I may be retired but we still enjoy being pampered now and again; who says you have to be working hard to deserve a treat?

Yesterday offered one of those occasions when we were spoiled with a train trip on board the Northern Belle, previously operated and restored by the Venice Simplon Orient Express.

It was a day for lounging back in a plush seat, eating and drinking everything put in front of us (and there was quite a quantity) whilst watching the scenery glide serenely past. The luxury of our surroundings and the attentive service from uniformed staff all added to the sense of occasion and enjoyment.

We were entertained by wandering musicians and a magician on our figure of eight route around County Durham and North Yorkshire, ending up eventually back where we started at Darlington Station. Just like my retirement so far really; there is no obvious destination but the journey getting there is immensely pleasurable.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

With Apologies to Jigsaw Aficionados

Now I know there are multitudes of people who love them but I am really not a jigsaw type of person. The idea of spending hours piecing together something that is only intended to be pulled apart again has always seemed to me a monumental waste of effort; not the kind of creativity I am looking for in retirement at all.

However, faced with a day of rain falling in torrents during the youngest's recent visit, we decided to tackle a rather nasty 1,000 piece puzzle challenging ourselves to complete it in one go. Foolhardy as well as stubborn, it took us 6.5 hours. On that basis it's just as well that time is plentiful in retirement, although I understand champion puzzlers (apparently such people do exist) would complete it in less than half that time.

So did we get anything out of our effort?

There was certainly no sense of achievement, just relief, finishing it only through sheer determination. Unlike walking to the top of a hill and admiring the view, a completed puzzle looks like the picture on the box that you see from the very beginning, thus for us detracting from any sense of reward. 

Sitting on the floor for such a long time (yes, I'm sure experts do them at tables) my knees ached as did fingers unaccustomed to such an excessive bout of directed use. Secretly, however, I was a little pleased to discover that those aches were shared with the youngest and truly had nothing whatsoever to do with age. Similarly, my eyesight wasn't alone in being strained by its concentrated  application. Moreover, we were both equally exhausted when the task was done. 

Clearly it's an activity at which generations can compete equally, requiring no handicap or headstart and you don't have to get out of breath. Yet still the idea of entering a Jigfest is anathema to me.

Whilst early retirement is an opportunity to recapture the freedom and self-indulgent use of time, invariably abused and unappreciated in adolescence, so far it doesn't extend to going right back to my childhood years. I am still at a point where I can think of rival demands upon my time. Will the future deliver me to a point where I can truly live in the present, freed from all pressing requirements? If it does then, come a truly bad weather day, who knows, I might just be persuaded to attempt another jigsaw but it would have to be no more than a quarter of the size.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Lasting Impressions

I suspect that I have a visually inclined memory, a theory upheld by my vivid recollection of some of the art we have enjoyed at all those exhibitions since retiring. A hypothesis perhaps also confirmed by a frequent inability to recall the names of even the main protagonists in the books that I have read. Should I switch to reading comics and picture books or on the basis that I can also fail to put a name to a face in real life, is it erroneous conjecture? Could it actually be that I'm just bad at names? Is it another age thing?

As you know I am undertaking 3 x 60 challenges for my big birthday year. A quarter of the year into it, I am pleased to record that progress is good; I'm a little behind target with the number of swims and also unfamiliar places visited, but anticipate making up the loss in the summer months. The reading challenge however has been managed to perfection, meaning that by 31st March I had indeed read 15 books. 

Could I tell you the names of them? Yes because I have listed them and, of course, if they are not actually on my bookshelf there is a copy on my virtual shelf at Goodreads.

Could I tell you the names of the main characters? Probably not in all cases, although and for obvious reasons Rebecca in the book of that name would be an exception. 

Could I describe the plots? Definitely.

Could I identify the books I really liked? Yes and in so doing I have made a patent discovery: a little like art, they are the ones that made the deepest impression, that spoke to me in a personal and unique way  and, therefore, about which I recall the most.

To assuage your curiosity, those that made the most profound impact were:
An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
The Earthquake Bird by Susanna Jones.

Exactly as art and sculpture do, they disturbed normality for me, surprised and jolted me out of passivity and stimulated an emotive response.

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, 12 February 2018

A New Challenge and Rocking It

Oh dear, apologies one and all, I have been inadvertently absent from this site for longer than I had intended. The truth is I have set myself a new challenge.

I had thought that retirement would bring endless time and opportunity to work through my stockpile of books after decades during which reading was pretty much confined to leisurely holidays in the sun supplemented by occasional interludes before bedtime. The reality has been very different and with trips abroad now devoted to travel rather than relaxation, the opportunity for a sunbed and a ready supply of novels next to it has eluded me.

As a result I shocked myself in my second year of retirement by reading only half the number of books I had generally been accustomed to completing and have been trying to reverse the decline ever since. Now I love immersing myself in fiction; lock me away on a Saturday afternoon with a copy of Tess of the D'Urbevilles and I'll emerge with tear stained cheeks, totally drained by the emotion yet fulfilled by the experience. Unfortunately finding the time to spend an afternoon in absentia because of the printed word has not been easy when so many other pleasurable activities vie for attention. It's not even as though I'm a slow reader, in fact quite the opposite; years of perusing long and often complex court documents has certainly honed the ability to race through the pages whilst hopefully still absorbing the facts accurately. 

So this year, conscious that I am heading rapidly towards a rather big birthday, I have set myself the challenge of reading a book for every year of my age. There are no other rules, meaning that the length and genre of the books is completely at whim. I am pleased to say that, by overlooking a visit to this blog during the last two weeks, I am very much on target with perhaps a paperback or two notched up in reserve. I may not have had the deckchair in the sun but, on a cold winter's day, a rocking chair in the warmth of indoors is just as good.

So now you know and should I go AWOL again, rest assured there's a high probability that you'll find me in that rocking chair, book in hand.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Just Chilling

We have been home for just over two weeks now and there is definitely something vaguely comforting about the short days and long dark nights that have enveloped us since our return. Too cold to do much outside I have been backwards and forwards to the gym and various appointments but for the most part have enjoyed just snuggling down in the warmth of home, getting on top of all the neglected paperwork that seems to have accumulated in readiness for the winter months.

Since defeating the jetlag, it has been a luxury to sleep through the dull grey dawns emerging from upstairs only after those in the parallel universe in which I once lived have departed for work. When we travel, Mister E sets an alarm clock; back at home we have no need for that torment. 

Perhaps it's the after effect of the long and busy trip rather than the weather but the last couple of weeks has seen a lull in activity levels and, dare I say it, a lack of ambition as we revel in the here and now of crosswords, sudoku, reading and writing.

Previously, I feared that such a period might herald a state of mindless ageing when we achieved nothing but an indolent retirement. I now recognise it for what it is; an opportunity to recharge and start planning; a twilight for relaxing and aimlessness before teetering on the verge of another manic episode of creativity or adventure.

Bring it on; I shall be ready....shortly!


Saturday, 18 November 2017

New Zealand - First Impressions

 Arriving at Auckland airport late morning, we immediately transferred into our waiting taxi to head to Takapuna on North Shore where we had arranged to stay so as to be close to the eldest. Our drive across Auckland revealed a city of little wooden houses nestling amongst volcanic upthrusts of earth until we bypassed the Central Business District where multi-storey buildings vied with the iconic Sky Tower to dominate the Haruki Gulf. The water itself was awash with marinas and sailing yachts giving credence to Auckland's reputation as the City of Sails.

We had time to kill before we could check into our hotel. So, leaving our bags in the lobby, we went to avail ourselves of coffee in a neighbouring bar. Tuning in to the Kiwi version of English required a little adjustment and sadly it was probably the worst coffee that we tasted all trip (we were later advised to stick to flat whites), but of greater surprise was the politically incorrect poster on the wall indicating a fancy dress event where "the tradies would get the ladies." Somebody had told us that travelling to New Zealand was like turning the clock back several decades but we had not expected to encounter such outmoded sexist attitude from a country that heralded in the vote for women as far back as 1890. 

Our motel room although scrupulously clean was very simply furnished with decor and a desk and chairs that would not have looked out of place in an office; something that we would find repeated in many places. The bed was comfortable and so much so that we forgave the establishment the view of the dustbins from the bedroom window. Indeed superb mattresses and electric blankets seemed to be a feature of many of the places in which we stayed.

We forced ourselves to stay awake although the eldest did come straight from work to take us out for dinner. New Zealanders seem to eat significantly earlier than we generally do in the UK, going to bed and rising earlier too. Fortunately when you are still adjusting to the enormous time difference, that suited us well. Our first encounter with New Zealand food was a little surprising too when we discovered the British love affair with fish and chips holds fast at the Kiwi seaside too. There's none  of our traditional cod and haddock though, and whilst the fish is beer battered it was, to us, the unfamiliar hoki or tarahiki. 

That time difference played a part in waking us early the next morning and we were out with the morning commuters to walk to Milford and then back to Takapuna along the coastal walk with magnificent views across to Rangitoto a volcanic island that is now a nature reserve. Indeed lava flow intercepted the beach from time to time including petrified tree stumps from an ancient forest. The local birdlife was extremely friendly and curious and whilst some of the flora was familiar, other species were a complete novelty including the pohutukawa and rata trees some of which were beginning to flower.

We took a local bus (always a novelty) to Devonport where the Naval base is situated, with magnificent views of the city skyline and with its own elegant wharf and main street, before ascending Mount Victoria and North Head. Old charm elegance sandwiched between volcanoes. No litter, no grafitti and everyone friendly and talkative, oh and we also found some good coffee after all.

We were already certain that we were going to enjoy the rest of our trip.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Summer Holidays 1

It is more than a month since I made an entry here, attributable I confess to taking a break, not from blogging but from our usual activities and familiar patterns and places. Yes I have been on what, when you are working, is called a holiday but, in retirement, is better known as travelling or going away. I'm not sure of the distinction other than the fact that retirement can sometimes be viewed as one long holiday when, free from the constraints of the workplace, we can finally seek to live life to the full.

So a couple of weeks ago we found ourselves back at our favourite haunt in the Lake District, staying in a wooden lodge overlooking the beck on what is known as the Langdale Estate but which a hundred years ago was actually a gunpowder works. The estate now seeks not only to blend with its surroundings but also incorporate some of the features of its industrial past like the water channels, wheels and millstones.

These days a smart hotel and individual lodges lie amongst this wooded area nestling under the shadow of the Langdale Pikes. For us it now feels like a home from home with easy access to the high fells for long distance walking.

Except this year I gave anything with a noticeable gradient a miss in the interests of trying to stablise my wobbly knee. Instead and whilst Mister E, the youngest and those staying with us took full advantage, I strolled in a more gentle fashion with my camera, read books  and even visited the recently opened spa. 

Now I am not a great fan of lying back and relaxing. I  much prefer to be on the go with lots to think about if action is not an option, but I have to say that 4 hours dipping between hydrotherapy pool, steam rooms and saunas all surrounded by trees and mountain air certainly conveys a feeling of well-being, as does breathing deeply and inhaling the majestic scenery.  

As the Lakeland and nature poet William Wordsworth described it:
 "Alive to all things and forgetting all."

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...

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Staying Calm

With so many awful things happening at home and abroad at the moment, it is very hard not to be in angry mode the whole time. So instead, I've been breathing deeply and doing what I do best, namely enjoying retirement. Of course, a mini heatwave has helped along with the return of the youngest after her time at the University of Texas. 

You always know when the temperature reaches Mediterranean proportions because not only do you reach for the sunscreen but there's a frantic bid to find the insect repellent, long hidden in a bathroom cupboard, even if it was out of date and of no tangible effect either.

Similarly you always know when the youngest is at home because the laundry baskets fill quicker and the fridge becomes home to all kinds of strange vegetarian foods.

I'm certainly not complaining, especially as we've just enjoyed two wonderful afternoons in the sunshine. The first at Kiplin Hall which I had promised to return to when the sun was shining. I'm not sure that I had banked on 30 degrees of heat, but it certainly made for an enjoyable walk around the lake.

The second was a quintessential trip to the seaside, specifically Runswick Bay from where we walked along the cliffs to a vantage point for a superb view back across the bay where we ate a picnic lunch on the grass, amongst the smell of warm vegetation with the background noise of seabirds and humming insects. Bliss!

To top it all, Sunday was the third anniversary of my retirement from work. The heat put pay to a planned session at the computer musing over the perceived benefits and highlights. In fact when the choice has been between an evening on the patio watching the sun go down or making a blog entry, outdoor living has won every time. The exciting thing about living in the British Isles is that you genuinely never know what kind of weather you are going to get from one day to the next and, when you do get  some real summer weather, everything else goes by the by, or certainly it does in retirement.