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 Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Heatwave in an Art Gallery



On Friday we made the decision to head to the city rather than fry ourselves on deck. So we headed from Troon Marina to the centre of Glasgow as the sun burnt down upon us and temperatures reached Mediterranean levels. Although we braved the heat to take in the Cathedral, Necropolis, and the Provand's Lordship it was only inside the art galleries (of which Glasgow has a multitude) that we found relief from the baking temperatures.



It has to be said that Glasgow likes its art gritty and the ends of so many buildings are now daubed with street art murals that we found fascinating like this one at the University of Strathclyde:



In the aftermath of the appalling bombing at Manchester arena only a few days before, we thought the Polygraph Exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art particularly pertinent. It is centred around a two channel video by the German film maker and visual artist, Hito Steyerl, in which she explores the death of her friend in Turkey. Dissecting evidence to separate truth from fiction in a complex world seemed to be the theme for all the exhibits. In the video itself Steyerl traces the casings from the bullets that killed her friend back to the premises of Lockheed Martin in Berlin. Her evidence claimed that it had supplied the weapons to Turkey through the German Government; state complicity unravelled; politics meeting the personal. The theme continued with for instance black and white photographs of the elderly and vulnerable housed in a hostel for the homeless in the city; politics again affecting individual lives.

At Manchester is it too glib to blame the reprehensible actions of one suicide bomber on the delusions of extremism? Are foreign policy, cutting police numbers, a lack of proper employment opportunities for the young from disadvantaged sectors and/or a failure to address radicalisation of some within our multi-cultural society, also to blame for the deaths at the arena of 22 innocent people, many just children?

For the first time ever, I found myself wanting to concur with Trump when he starkly referred to those responsible for the atrocity as losers. Yet as the exhibition in Glasgow pointed out, life isn't that simple. After all this was a US President who just days before had met with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and, like Theresa May only a few months earlier, sought to agree yet another arms deal. But what are those arms being used for? Isn't it Saudi Arabia that has been indiscriminately shelling in Yemen, killing thousands of innocent civilians including children and by virtue of its blockades caused widespread hunger and a shortage of medicines and other supplies? 

Individuals all over the world suffer because political decisions have far reaching and often unintended consequences. The world has become a very complicated place but it behoves no politician well to ignore the fact that people not profit are inevitably at the end of the chain of events started by their decisions.


Monday, 1 May 2017

Outdoor Sculpture at Pompeii and Elsewhere


I'm not sure what it is about sculpture that ignites my fire but I really get excited by many of the beautiful pieces that adorn our museums and open places, especially when they fit into and amplify their surroundings. If there is one thing I have learnt since retiring, it is that there is no time to waste analysing why I might like something and, when I do, the response is simply to explore it and enjoy the moment (on the basis of course that my taste is impeccable and therefore always lawful). Indeed in retirement I have been able to see so many wonderful examples of sculpture that it would be difficult to recount them all.







In particular large outdoor installations that add to the atmosphere of the environment have left an abiding impression including the special exhibition of Henry Moore's work and then that of Kaws at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, not to mention the Blood Swept Lands and Seas part of which was there also, after first seeing it at the Tower of London. 


As we have travelled, both at home and especially abroad, we have come across wonderful examples of artwork of this nature. Cuba in particular embraced the idea of state sponsored street art and in San Diego there is of course the huge and distinctive Embracing Peace Statue.


More recently in Italy we were fortunate to see a display of Igor Mitoraj's work at Pompeii as the last day of that exhibition was actually today. It would have been hard to envisage a better site for his vast classical sculptures and for me they enhanced our visit.





Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Celebrations




When you are young there are 18th and 21st celebrations, moving into young adulthood with weddings and christenings and then every ten years one of those BIG birthdays. Of course they continue in retirement, but it is also in retirement that the really significant anniversaries start to happen.


Like so many people Mister E and I married at Eastertime and this year we celebrated thirty years together. We decided to mark the occasion with a trip to Sorrento in Italy where we were joined by what appeared to be an aeroplane full of older couples enjoying significant anniversaries too. Families and those in the decades frequently referred to as "middle-age" were noticeably absent, although there were some young honeymooners.


Maybe it was our destination. The Bay of Naples, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coastline are all beautiful. Romantic Italy. I even heard someone say that the adage, "See Naples and die," was especially poignant. I don't think that was meant to be a reflection on our ages, at least I hope not.




Sunday, 2 April 2017

Madeira




We have just returned from a short trip to Madeira. A week to get outdoors in the sunshine and walk. I've always enjoyed previous trips to Portugal but Madeira was an island that we had always dismissed as being for older folk with what we imagined were elegant hotels on graceful boulevards with an all pervading colonial ambience from yesteryear.

Initially we thought we were right about the older traveller. Although on our first day I managed to refrain from succumbing to a single senior moment, life was not so good for others. For instance, there was the lady at the airport who, upon arrival, removed my holdall from the conveyor belt in baggage reclaim and then took some persuading that the label with my name on it and the brightly coloured string around its handle meant that it was not hers. 

Or, what about the gentleman who sat down in my seat at dinner whilst I was serving myself at the salad buffet? As I returned, he was in the process of drinking then spitting out in total distaste my glass of fizzy water. He was still not convinced he was in the wrong seat, even when his wife, waving a bottle of still water (fortunately it had its cap screwed on) in his general direction, called to him from another table.

Of course my turn came the following morning when I wandered into the plush restrooms off reception, emerged from a cubicle and admired the artistic handbasins rising like trumpets from the floor. I was just about to plunge my hands into one when I realised I was staring at a urinal and was in the Gents! That merited a hasty exit and a quick reminder to myself to place spectacles on my nose in future before endeavouring to decipher the indicative figure on the lavatory door.

So, clearly feeling totally at home in a seniors' holiday destination, what did we think of Madeira?



Well it is hilly, but compared to the walks we generally do in the Lake District not significantly so and only (or so I was told) on the most difficult levada walks do you need to use arms as well as legs. The sun shone warmer and with greater reliability than at home. There was an interesting variety of wildflowers on the hillsides although another few weeks and the agapanthus will be in full bloom which will certainly transform many of the places we walked. Park beds were full of Bird of Paradise flowers and Arum Lillies appeared to grow almost wild. Unfortunately there are very few species of bird on the island which is not on a migration route, but we did see the indigenous Madeiran Firecrest, similar to our own but more colourful. Typical of a volcanic island there are massive black cliffs dropping steeply to the sea and very few beaches.


Also and inevitably for a place where tourism is now the main industry, concrete has spilled over into the landscape in abundance. That colonial elegance glimpsed on some of the older buildings has given way to massive modern hotels clinging to the hills and cliffs around Funchal and what were once farmed terraces now play host to housing and shopping centres. A modern road system includes some 138 kms of concrete tunnels blasted through the rocks and even the airport runway is held up by a series of concrete pillars extending into the sea. The sea front and promenade area too are a bastion of, yes, concrete.

It is a popular stopping point for cruise ships and with several in port on Monday and Tuesday, we made sure to keep away from Funchal on those days. The rest of the island is a relieving mix of greenery and rock, and, apart from visitors, pretty much deserted with most people opting to live or stay within the perimeters of the capital.

The temperature was pleasant and when the sun overdid its work a breeze from the sea kept the thermometer in check. Eating outside, especially for lunch was very much the order of the day and although we rejected the salted cod which features on most Portuguese menus there was always plenty of alternative fresh fish.

What about all the old folk? Well most of them are super fit and clearly go to Madeira to walk up those hills or along the levadas. Also they are not so much elderly as indifferent to the lure of a beach towel, night club or all day English breakfast. Of course that could be not only the defining features  of retirement but also where Madeira really gets its reputation for elegance and taste from.





Sunday, 19 March 2017

Magna Carta Part 3




This week I read "I Am Malala," gaining an insight into the growth of the influence of the Taliban in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, culminating in the shooting of Malala Yousafzai. We are hearing so much about the growth of populism in the West that sometimes one needs to be reminded that the political situation is far more dire in other parts of the world. The populace that could least afford it readily parted with cash and jewellery initially in the mistaken belief that the Taliban would bring about much needed change and so alleviate the difficulties under which they were living. Illiterate and uneducated people, suffering as a result of a lack of action by politicians and disinterest as to their plight, actually thought the Taliban might improve their lot. Malala is, of course, described as the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban.


After my visit to Runnymede the previous week, it was probably a fitting book to read. King John, forced to sign the Magna Carta by his Barons after squeezing as much gold from them as he could (in part to fight in Crusades against the Muslims of the Middle East), came the closest the UK has ever got  to having a written constitution. For the first time in the modern world the concepts of freedom and equality under the law were acknowledged in writing. Runnymede is even referred to as the birthplace of Human Rights' legislation.


Does anything really change though? 


The Kennedy Memorial on land gifted to the USA is also at Runnymede. The Memorial Stone sits at the top of 50 steps (one for each of the states) and is inscribed with an extract from the Declaration of Freedom in the inaugural address given by President JF Kennedy. 

"This acre of English ground was given to the United States of America by the people of Britain in memory of John F Kennedy President of the United States 1961-63 died by an assassin's hand 22 November 1963 Let every nation know whether it wishes us well or ill that we shall pay any price bear any burden meet any hardship support any friend or oppose any foe in order to assure the survival and success of liberty."


I think that there are certain leaders in the world today who could do with visiting this special place before we all turn in on ourselves and unpick the enormous progress made in the twentieth century towards lasting peace and understanding between nations and nationalities.

You may not agree with what New Labour stood for, but the mantra of "Education, Education, Education," surely has a resonance in these dark days. Certainly Malala and her father were and still are determined to fight for the right of all children, including girls, to be educated. In the words of Save the Children's Every Last Child campaign: "every child deserves a chance to grow up healthy, learning and safe."



As a prequel to reading Malala's book it was probably also fitting that our next stop was Oxford, a city steeped in learning since at least the 12th century. A reminder too though of the connection between the Church and education; historically the power of the Church over those who could neither read nor write; self enlightenment and development through literacy, study and understanding.







Oh my goodness, how I just love retirement. There's so much time to explore, absorb and then, almost best of all, try to collect my thoughts to write a blog entry about it afterwards.







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.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Manana


We spent last week in the Lake District. Our previous visits in January have always been accompanied by blue skies and crisp frosty, often snowy, weather. So much so that as ever expectations were raised only to be thoroughly dampened by predominantly dank, misty days with a stream of interminable drizzle. 

There was a time when using up precious downtime away from the office to stare miserably through low cloud would have ruined the trip. Millions of workers feel the same which explains the upsurge in package holidays, cheap flights and the European short city break. Who wants to risk wasting holiday entitlement on bad weather?


On Planet Retirement however nobody cares. Bad weather is all part of the experience and in any case we can always go back another day.



Tuesday, 13 December 2016

What Really is Great About America




This entry is written in response to a comment on my last blog entry by the writer of My Retiring Life. It seems that more than half of American voters are not surprisingly down in the dumps about their country after a campaign based on making America great again won, creating incredulity around the world as well as a plentiful supply of ready material for comedians and news reporters.

The USA is of course internationally accepted as the World's number one superpower, so why on Earth would anyone seek Presidential Office on the basis of making it great again? Isn't that creating an emormous wound through self deprecation, especially if one cares to analyse what promises were made to fulfil the slogan? 

However, I do not wish to get embroiled in politics here and certainly am not qualified to comment on US' social and economic issues. Instead I want to tell you about the top ten positives in addition to air quality, that make an Englishman sit up and notice in America:


1. The friendliness and willingness to  converse and, a little like the UK, the further you get away from the capital city, the friendlier people are. Except the distances are so enormous that when you compare the welcomes you receive in Texas, you have to think Tyneside and Scotland multiplied by thousand of miles. Yes Texas is certainly a country in itself (a little insular perhaps, as we found when asked if we get American films in England) but you can get off a bus feeling you have made a life-long friend with the driver and, although not recommended for all kinds of reasons, even want to take your waitress home with you.

2. It's casual.  I never once felt I was being judged on a lack of dress-sense or occasion. Common sense prevails and comfort is the number one priority.




3. It has white sand beaches in abundance, long enough to put Northumberland to shame, equally deserted and a whole lot warmer.


4. In tourist areas as wells as at transport hubs and gas stations there are toilet restroom facilities, impeccably clean and all without charge. No "out of order" or "closed due to council cuts" signs.


5. Okay I  may just be talking California here but it doesn't only have organic produce, it has organic supermarkets and I mean big ones with choice, ready meals and toiletries cosmetic and bathing products.


6. There are clean, convenient public transport systems in the cities and best of all they are  good value (only $3-$5 for a day pass), underused and uncrowded (I am not referring to rush hour in New York).

7. Linking to the metropolitan bus services we found easily accessible park and rides to leave your car for free in both San Diego and San Antonio and how clever is this, they occupy otherwise unused wasteland under flyovers and elveated sections of freeway. Indeed on-street car parking was readily available in the small towns that we visited and there was no lack of chargeable car parks in the bigger cities, although for convenience we preferred to use the bus routes.




8. History abounds. Never believe anyone who tells you America has no history. Yes the whiteman may not have got there until the 15th Century but there were native American tribes all over the place before then and I've never been anywhere that is so good at preserving its old wooden churches, houses and other buildings. They even have National Historical Parks: San Diego Old Town and the LB Johnson Ranch were two of our stops and of course the Freedom Trail in Boston.



9. It's an enormous country and the wilderness is fantastic. National and State Parks are plentiful and offer an opportunity to immerse yourself in the past in another way, getting back to real nature. In our case a long walk at Enchanted Rock in the soaring Texan heat and a visit to Hamilton Pool certainly brought us closer to understanding the hardship of frontier life. Otherwise a drive outside of urban areas will reveal roadkill of a somewhat unusal type for the closeted Brit: armadillo, racoon, snake, deer and possum.


10. Finally and despite its love for paper cups and plates, plastic cutlery, fries and burgers, there were fantastic eating places everywhere we went. In fact the only disappointment was ordering marrow in Austin when, expecting a dish of green vegetable, it was actually a meaty bone!




Post script. I am adding an Eleven: art. Art galleries, live music and sculpture abound. Annoyingly so when you are browsing a high street for a baker's or grocery store and all you can spot are coffee shops and galleries, but what a recognition of the part art and music play  in elevating human life.