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Showing posts from 2024

Speed of Delivery

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    Remember telegrams that arrived within the hour? What about first class post guaranteed to drop through the letterbox by 8am the next day in an era when there were actually two postal deliveries every morning? Are these memories that make me sound as though I've stepped out of antiquity or am instead posing as a stereotypical senior grumbler? I guess if I was half a century older, I might even recall the day when you could post a letter in the morning and it was delivered that afternoon. Too often in retirement, no longer caught up in the world of instant business communication and all the pressures that brings, I've had time to witness what seem to be retrospective steps when it comes to longstanding means for connectivity. After all, how reliable even is the telephone system now, with its digital service and voice over internet protocol? Today, however, I was impressed. There are some things that can match those memories of speedy dispatch and arrival. I speak of Amazon P

A Quintessential English Train Journey

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  I am still making the most of having a train station within walking distance and on Thursday I used it to travel to meet a friend. She'd arranged to meet me at my destination station of Huddersfield with her car so that we could travel onwards to Wentworth Castle Gardens and Deer Park.  When we organise one of our monthly get togethers it is invariably to somewhere we can walk, talk and have lunch. Wentworth did not disappoint on any of those scores and included the added attraction of wildlife, songbirds and meadow flowers, not to mention an occasional bench to sit and admire the view on our stroll. The problem with train travel and a rendezvous is, of course, punctuality. Imagine my excitement therefore when I was able to text to verify that I had left on time and then, just over seventy minutes  later, confirm the same thing as we pulled out of Leeds, triggering my friend's departure from her home to meet me. In recent years Transpennine Express has become a notorious misn

Election Malaise

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  Already this feels like the longest run up to an election ever. In reality it will actually be only 3 weeks tomorrow since a rain-soaked Rishi Sunak stood in Downing Street amidst a downpour to announce that we would be going to the polls on July 4th. With another 3 weeks to go until election day, it feels like an eternity. I  guess my attitude isn't helped by the knowledge that it doesn't particularly matter how I vote, because since retiring that X has invariably never gone into the winning box. No wonder I don't play the National Lottery! It would be nice to think that this time the outcome might be different but, as a member of the electorate in the Prime Minister's own constituency where he has one of the safest majorities in the country, I suspect that nothing much will change so far as my bad run in picking winners and feeling of disenfranchisement are concerned. I was just checking the list of candidates seeking election today and it must be said that now he i

Go With the Flow

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  When I made the transition into retirement I was captivated by the knowledge that I could plan excursions to avoid peak traffic, bad weather or whatever else might intervene to impede my journey. Presumably it is now a sign of maturity that, almost ten years on, I am simply ready to accept and go with the flow. It's not that I actively seek to join a queue of traffic but I'm probably not quite so diligent in my avoidance planning. Take mid-week for example when Mister E and I squeezed in a cheeky two nights away in a country house hotel on Lake Ullswater. Of course I knew Appleby Horse Fair was in the offing but no, I didn't think to check the exact dates. The net effect of that was, of course, that we crossed the Pennines on the A66 amidst a wave of horses and ponies tugging carts and caravans. One horse, in particular was struggling to trot in a straight line, regularly crossing the white lines down the middle of the road, causing mayhem and delay on both sides of the

Sorting and Shedding

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 I have been working my way through children's games that I removed from one particular cupboard at our recently vacated home. This is an area that I've attacked a couple of times already in retirement, donating unused toys and other paraphernalia to charity shops. There remained, however, a mixture of well used board games, some stemming from my own childhood but also enjoyed by the Eldest and Youngest, as well too as their collection of game-consoles and the games that they loved to play on them. There will no longer be a place for most of them in our home when we return. Was it even rational to feel attachment to these games, no matter how long we've had them as a family? Those made in the 1960's were hardly vintage boxed originals from the 1930's, but could I let them go after so long? Pragmatism crept in when I lifted the Monopoly box and it almost disintegrated in my hands. The contents looked sad and crumbling. In Cluedo the Detectives' Notes had been fil

A Slow Vacation

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  To be frank, moving as we have done is a little like finding ourselves on an extended self catering holiday. Freed from the shackles of being surrounded by onerous maintenance, projects and objects, there's so much more time to devote to the business of retirement itself.  Ten miles east from our permanent home, we are ten miles closer to the sea. Consequently we have already passed two very enjoyable days at the coast in recent weeks.  The first coincided with a visit from the fanily including Grandotty, as well as what was probably the warmest day we've experienced so far this year. The eldest grabbed his surfboard and the rest of us picnicked on the beach as Grandotty was introduced to the pleasures of sand and waves. Inevitably, the sand found its way into her mouth, whilst she thought the waves a little daunting. Experiencing the familiar sound, smell and scenery of the shore through the reactions of a youngster, however, is on par with discovering them yourself for the

Oh Boy!

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  Yes, I had heard tell that moving home can be up there with all of life's other big stressors but never did I imagine how difficult it can be. Given a deadline of just under 5 weeks to find a rental property and vacate our own home, it was never going to be easy, but a paucity of suitable lettings meant I didn't for a moment appreciate just how tough the challenge we faced would turn out. In the end the loss adjuster appointed a relocation agent to assist and although we had to identify and view potential properties, they at least did the negotiating for us. Finding a house to take all of our possessions as well as ourselves in the  area where we live was always going to be tricky and ultimately a compromise had to be made. We've moved 10 miles to the east, to the edge of suburbia into a modern estate home, some 1,000 square feet smaller then we've been accustomed to. Reducing our entourage of belongings was a battlefield in itself. I'm still sorting through piles

A Whinge and a Moan

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  There are times when we all deserve a little whine. Today I am taking advantage and want to moan about the rain. I know that the British predeliction for speaking about our weather is well known, but of late it is also very much well-founded. The buds bursting into green in the hedgerows and trees; our resident hare running around the adjacent field; the Spring bulbs already fading; the lighter evenings. It should all be adding up to a rapid movement towards summertime. Unfortunately cool temperatures and constant rain are spoiling everything. Indeed the farm next door seems to be growing nothing more than a crop of mud and the number of hours (not even days) that I have been able to get out into the garden can be very much counted on one hand. Today, with a dry forecast, expectations were high despite the deluge overnight. Of course, in true British fashion we ended up with a mild day ruined by strong winds. Suddenly I'm feeling envious of those who make the decision to retire t

Calamity After Calamity

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  Oh my. I really am disaster prone at present. I am now a regular traveller to London in order to spend time with Grandotty who celebrated her first birthday at the end of February.  I have never been a fan of city living but sacrifices have to be made when the immediate family are all in the capital. Transferring at King's Cross onto the underground and then again onto an overland train are now normality for me and all changes are generally conducted without mishap, or so I thought. Last week changed everything when the small leather hold-all I was carrying was stolen from my shoulder as I boarded the overland train. Perhaps I looked like a vulnerable country cousin come to town and was specifically targeted. Hats off to the thief (or more likely gang who crowded around me as I prepared to enter the train), I certainly didn't notice until the moment it disappeared and by which time I was being carried forward by the throng of people also accessing through the doors with me. I

From the Post

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  These days post can be somewhat disappointing with a mixture of unsolicited flyers and marketing mail coupled with the occasional missive from a bank or government department. Imagine, therefore, my excitement when I received not one but two thrilling envelopes in one delivery earlier this week. The first contained my free bus pass. Having celebrated at long last reaching the much postponed state pension age, I decided that I might as well apply for one.  It's not that I'm planning to give up driving but using buses in cities and popular tourist areas like the Lake District can  be useful, especially when parking places are either a rarity or cost the earth. I'm not yet convinced that I'll ever use it on one of the village's 4 buses a day but do have a hankering to venture on a long bus trip challenge. Home to Lands End in 14 days, or however long it takes to make all the connections, is the kind of trip you read of people taking.  Has retirement actually come to

Three Leaks and a Garage Door

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Last month we received written confirmation that the statutory notice relating to our water pipe has been lifted and that the Water Authority once again judges the supply to be safe to drink. One oil leak fixed (digging out yet to complete) but that's still progress. However, these things do have a tendency to multiply otherwise known as hitting you in triplicate. So it was when we discovered a leaking shower waste pipe on the outside wall of the bathroom. Fortunately Mister E was able to gather some hardware supplies, his tool box and a ladder to make a good repair. It felt as though he had only just done so, when a damp patch appeared in the ceiling above my computer and we heard the sound of water dripping. A connection on a cold water pipe in the void beneath the bathroom had decided to take that moment to fail. A bucket, plumber and a hole in the ceiling later, all was resolved although a plasterer is still needed; somehow a tub of polyfilla won't quite work to fill the 2

From Out of the Rabbit Hole

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 In my last blog post, to my shame almost 3 weeks ago now, I indicated that I was ready to get out and attack life again. Not one to do things by halves, I haven't really stopped, certainly not for long enough to write here. In fact it's all felt a bit Alice in Wonderlandish. Caree nods off to sleep, falls down a rabbit hole and wakes up in a mad, mad world.  So February has seen me dashing to London by train; spending days playing with Grandotty and her toys; catching up again with my fitness until my muscles have screamed in agony, grown tongues of their own and begged me to stop; on a whim repainting a kitchen door and then finding myself drawn into decorating the whole caboodle and it's still ongoing. We've even been to a Mad Hatter's tea party or was it my brother's 60th birthday lunch, followed by tea and cake? There have been catch ups with friends over coffee and more lunch, medical appointments and all the usual wider family get togethers, chores and v

Good Riddance

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  Like every new year, January started off with so much promise. After it did its best to impede my ability to breathe let alone exercise by knocking me down with a never-ending head cold and then spent most days tossing rainwater from the sky, I can't say I'm sorry to see its departure. Of course there were the good bits, like my nephew's wedding and our week away in the Lake District, but generally speaking  I confess I'm just glad it's gone. Restored and revitalised, I want to get out and attack life again. However, I've read so much of late written by people decrying the month of January that I can't help wondering if I'm simply living in an echo chamber. After all its hardly fair to blame a period of 31 days banded together under no more than the name of a month for either my woes or the weather. I may have felt that my role as an explorer of retirement was temporarily suspended but I still made headway with some serious decluttering, totally emptyi

The Joy of Grandparenting

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  We spent last week in the Lake District, treated to the torrential rain and wind provided by not one but two storms. On the plus side, as the height of the beck outside rose and rose, it was a great excuse to simply stay in on a couple days  to play with our granddaughter who joined us there with her parents, the Eldest and Dilly.  The net result was that I made up for the lack of fell walking by the number of circuits completed around the sofa chasing one small toddler who is now so confident on her feet that she is trying to run whilst squealing with delight. If that wasn't exhausting in itself, the lively debates that happen with an eleven month old certainly are. Armed only with a vocabulary of four words she can certainly argue. The first two words are obviously Mummummum and Dadada but when the second two are very clearly "yes" and "no," the adults are in trouble! If I had any doubts whatsoever on the reproductive score, I now fully comprehend why givin

The Post

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In the news today are reports that Royal Mail, to help defray the losses it is making, wants to abolish postal deliveries on Saturdays. According to the BBC, the company is arguing that a delivery service created for 20 billion letters is not sustainable when it is only being required to deliver 7 billion.  I confess I still enjoy those rare occasions when I receive a handwritten letter and look back with nostalgia on the days of 2 deliveries a day, including one before I set off for work. Now, of course, we have e-mails and messaging services rendering the posting of correspondence almost obsolete. That said, I confess the sight of the post van in the street always arouses a surge of inner excitement.  Unfortunately it is invariably tempered by disappointment when we receive either nothing at all or a pile of junk mail that’s moved straight from floor to recycling bin. In the past week we had two such deliveries and I did actually sift through the first wondering if, a little like onl

Cold Comfort

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  The temperature has plummeted outside but thank goodness. At least it might kill off some of the nasty bugs that are doing the rounds not to mention those that would otherwise be plaguing the garden later in the year. I'm still hunkering down, although fortunately the sniffling is subsiding and if it hadn't been for all the black ice, might have been tempted to attempt a return to the gym this morning.  I've only had one foray out in the last fortnight and that was to fulfil a longstanding hair appointment. I paid the price the following day with something of a relapse whilst the journey home, as dusk was quickly turning to darkness, was sufficient to put me off ever venturing out again. First a Jack Russell barking at the end of a farm's drive decided it wanted to hurl itself at my car, presumably to ensure I  kept moving which, after swerving to avoid it, I duly did. A sigh of relief, at which point two deer with a joint death wish leapt out in front of me; emergenc

Languishing

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  The fourth day of this head cold and I feel that I am languishing in a state of total inertia. In retirement jumping out of bed on a morning has commonly been driven by my passion for morning exercise classes. Presently and until Wednesday, I have cancelled them all. My calendar is blank and time is devoted solely to staying warm and cosseting myself. To be fair, I have detected sufficent improvement in the malaise enveloping me that I am at least now looking at potential plans for activities going forward. From time to time, I do look at the original strategy for retirement that I committed to writing back in 2014. Ashamed yesterday by how much of Britain I have not seen, do I now add to my mortification by potentially calculating how far away I am from fulfilling my own agenda? After all if I'm already feeling melancholy from a heavy cold, would a diagnosis of failure make me suffer any further? Perhaps adopting a dead cat strategy and analysing progress at this juncture might

Ashamed

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  It isn't so long since I told you in a blog post that I've been trying to avoid embracing the stereotypical  bucket list but have now begun to ponder on whether or not some kind of schedule is actually needed as I continue my exploration of Planet Retirement. At Christmas, however, somebody saved me the effort of pulling together my own spreadsheet by gifting me a Bucket List map . Now I previously felt quite strongly that not only did I not want to devise a inventory of places to visit but also that worse than this would be a list of experiences and destinations that somebody else had collated for general distribution. Just search Bucket List online and you'll know what I mean. In this instance, however, I was sufficiently intrigued to open the map and here I hang my head in shame. Billed as "1,000 priceless places to go and things to know" in Britain, I confess that I would be lucky to be familiar with half of them. In fact there are vast swathes of our relat

Your Health and Happiness

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  2024 started in the same way that 2023 ended: with a family gathering. On New Year's Eve we met up for a meal with the more northerly branch of Mister E's side of the family. Then, on New Year's Day, we gathered again with the Eldest and Youngest at a holiday home for 3 nights in order to attend my nephew's wedding. Are there ever happier family occasions than weddings with the opportunity to catch up, in a joyous party atmosphere, with relatives you don't see as often as you would like? Unfortunately Covid intervened to prevent my mother coming, whilst my granddaughter succumbed to chicken pox meaning that neither she nor Dilly could travel. There must be something about weddings and viruses that seem intinsically linked for us in recent years, but at least Mister E and I were unscathed this time around. Mind it could also  have been much worse as the groom had unsuspectingly visited my mother the week before and was feeling so ill on New Year's Day that we w