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.




Sunday, 24 September 2017

So Where Did the Summer Go?




Did I blink and miss it or was it all the recent travelling? Either way, I can hardly believe it is now Autumn and the second half of September. Moreover, and whilst walking in the Lake District today, we spotted holly with red berries all ready for decking out the halls. No Indian summer this year I guess and at least we'll hopefully get to do a proper garden clear up before the weather turns too cold, perhaps.

In the meantime and before turning our attention to leaves and branches, the passionate culling of extraneous stuff within as opposed to outside our home has continued, alongside the rejection of both plastic and added sugar. 


For instance after months of tripping over a box full of camera equipment strategically placed on the floor, I was determined to create shelf space for it in a cupboard stoved off with a combination of knitting wool, craft materials, DIY tools and, just to add to the mixture, board games, many of which have lain there unused for 15 years or more.  In dramatic fashion, not only, therefore, did I empty the cupboard but I also repainted it. Making it look like a completely new area (how easily a new colour scheme can fool) somehow made it easier to rearrange the contents and throw the excess away. In fact we have done such a good job that not only has my reputation for tidying cupboards reached new heights, but the top shelf remains unfilled, although that may just be a matter of timing.


As the intensity of decluttering, physically and mentally, increases, I have begun to realise that its meaning goes beyond tidying up and letting go. What seemed at first to be a sensible clear-out of old, unused  stuff is actually so much more. In retirement we are finally making the time to rid ourselves of extraneous trivia built up over decades in an instinctive anticipation that, once liberated, we shall be able to enjoy the important things in our lives instead. The clear aim is now to live not only more simply but also more purposefully. I just sometimes need direction!



Saturday, 16 September 2017

Summer Holidays 3




Let's call it impetuosity, because I don't think there was an awful lot of planning involved on our part, but, after three nights at home following our Norway visit, we hit the road again. Our trip this time was initiated by the youngest requiring the transportation of her worldly goods to London ready for the final year of her university degree. 

Travelling from the North, we always abhor the levels of traffic that inevitably confront us from the Midlands onwards and this journey did not disappoint, especially with an average speed in single figures through London. The traffic jams there were enlivened  by a cyclist in a daydream colliding with the rear of our car whilst we were stationary, not to mention the hooting of car horns whenever we hesitated momentarily in deciding which lane to join at unfamiliar traffic lights. How the city drivers would cope with North Yorkshire's rural tractors and spatially unaware and painfully slow octagenarians at the wheel, I cannot imagine. Maybe it would be worth organising a cavalcade down the M1 just to find out.

Still if our journey into London was bad, leaving at 3pm to head into East Anglia initially via the M11 was even worse; so slow it coincided with the end of the school day and presumably an early finish for some commuters. Does it always take 3 full hours to drive just over 90 miles in the South?


At 6pm, however, we were drawing into the drive of our friends' house and the journey was forgotten for a couple of days whilst we delighted in their hospitality and explored the neighbouring town of Woodbridge with its link to the sea, working tide-mill and historic links with boat-building and both sail and rope-making.

However, we returned yesterday, a Friday, when it seems everybody is on the move. We joined traffic jamming just before Cambridge and seemed to keep it with us for the rest of the time we were on the A14 and until we finally turned off the A1. It took the best part of 6 hours to travel 250 miles. It's true that in retirement not only have we left commuting behind us but generally have picked and chosen quiet times for longer journeys. Perhaps it makes you cocky or maybe we just hadn't considered that if we were setting off mid-morning the rest of the country would be doing the same. Stuck in the middle lane going nowhere, I had a premonition of English roads in the future, rooted in permanent gridlock. It was certainly a salutary and tiring lesson in the weariness of road travel and a reminder of the advantages of life in remote and rural Northern enclaves (until you need to head South, that is).

Well it was another enjoyable stay, but after those journeys I suddenly feel the need for a rest, not a holiday. In retirement the distinction between the two is no longer blurred.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Summer Holidays 2



We moved on from our stay in the Lake District with somewhat indecent alacrity. One night at home and then we were off again; this time to Norway with a burning desire to view the fjords. It sounds mad but so long as the underwear count holds up, it forces you to unpack immediately, makes repacking easier and denies you the opportunity to mess up the house before you leave.


 Research had suggested that a trip to the Norwegian fjords might best be undertaken from the sea and so a cruise it was.


Now we have tried big ship cruising before: just once as a kind of celebration back in 2011 when I moved from the firm I had been a partner in to take up a part-time consultancy in readiness for retirement. I had expected that cruise to be like the Titanic without the iceberg, but the vessel was so enormous that it seemed on occasions a little more akin to Benidorm afloat. This time, therefore, we were particular in choosing our cruiseline and ship with great care, settling on Olsen Lines and its MV Black Watch. We wanted a vessel that looked like it could weather the oceans rather than a floating tower block.


Knowing that the average age of passengers would be relatively high, we insured against being the most youthful by bringing the youngest with us too. There was no insurance for her but she fulfilled the need for patience and understanding admirably, as well as making more use of the ship's gym than anyone else on board.







I don't think we have transformed into cruise devotees but we did have a splendid time. The food, although wonderful, was not on tap 24 hours a day as with some companies and with stricter meal times there was less gluttony to offend. There were only 680 passengers (maximum capacity is 804) and nowhere was ever too busy. The Captain was a gentleman and overly generous with the drinks at not one but two cocktail parties. Also, and whilst I have no objection to dressing up, evenings generally erred towards the casual rather than smart, and formal nights to the smart rather than black tie, unless you were Scottish, like most of the guests (as we sailed from Rosyth near Edinburgh), when your clan kilt was in order. For  days at sea, of which we had two, there were plenty of activities including lectures about the ports of call and my beloved Pilates classes. To see a film we didn't even have to huddle in a darkened room in the bowels of the ship and, whilst there was a cinema, there was also a variety of films available to view in the cabin on the TV system.


I can see the attraction for many elderly guests of holidaying in this manner, although I am not sure that were I to be reliant on a zimmer frame or someone pushing me in a wheelchair that I would be quite at ease on a ship. If that iceberg materialised the prospect of transferring to a lifeboat safely has to be in doubt and, on a more mundane level, boarding a tender to be ferried to ports of call would be difficult if not impossible.


We pretty much had an onboard hot (39 degrees C) tub to ourselves; the rain even kept onlookers away and it was a perfect vantage point to luxuriate through the fjords in which we cruised amidst typical Norwegian low cloud. Indeed for a time I thought that we may have found a country with worse weather than Scotland based on recent experiences, but the Captain ever optimistically would announce the weather forecast at midday and then say that he was hoping it would be better at the head of the fjords when we made our ports of call. Fortunately his optimism was based on solid foundation and ashore we avoided the dankness that generally accompanied our passage through those mighty fjords, enabling us to undertake some splendid walks and truly appreciate the magnificent scenery.


We stopped at Flam, Olden and Bergen and had no need to undertake any organised tours although plans to travel on the famous Flam railway were thwarted by a mega cruise ship tying up on the dockside, leaving our understated but elegant vessel anchoring offshore and giving the 3000 passengers on board the floating skyscraper a monopoly on train tickets. Fortunately neither it nor the other ships docked in Bergen spoilt our pleasure or the view on other days, probably because they were too large to manouvre through some of the smaller fjords on which our cruise concentrated.




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."