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.




Tuesday, 31 March 2015

It Didn't Start Well


Today was  one of those days that did not start well, attributable to a memory lapse on the part of yours truly who could not remember where she had placed a voucher for afternoon tea. We had intended to use it on one of our regular trips to York, but in the end dashed off for our train conceding defeat after looking in all the obvious places and a few where I really could not have stored it.

Of course, I finally had my Eureka moment half way there, but by then it was too late.

On arrival we headed for the Art Gallery where the Aesthetica Contemporary Art Competition entries are being exhibited. Oh no, somebody had not done her homework thoroughly, and the gallery is closed on Tuesdays!

Sometimes I really fear not so much that I am losing my cognitive skills but rather that retirement is making me so relaxed, I may as well be. 


In any event we still had a wonderful wander around the city centre, enjoying lunch out and a visit to the National Railway Museum where the special exhibit is currently entitled "Churchill's Final Journey," and comprises the train that took the statesman's coffin on its final journey back to Oxfordshire after the state funeral in London.  Fittingly the engine that pulled the train was the Winston Churchill.





Best of all, now I have found the missing voucher and memorised the gallery opening hours, I get to go again shortly.


Sunday, 29 March 2015

Losing Track of Time



So the clocks went forward last night or did they? It would be easy to lose track when you are retired. Yesterday I failed to notice any warning in the newspaper and did not listen to the news either, essentially missing any advice about our change to British Summer Time.

It has all been very different to life pre-retirement when there would have been an in-office discussion about this alteration to our daily cycle and perhaps a moan or two at losing a whole hour out of the weekend, with a six month wait before it is made up again in October. There would inevitably also be the Monday morning blues tomorrow when everyone feels tired as the effect on the body clock continues.

In light of the lack of warnings,  when I awoke this morning I had a "what if" moment. What if we were mistaken and the clocks hadn't really changed, would I be late for anything important if I didn't alter my watch or incredibly early if I did?

Now whereas in work, I might have looked pretty stupid turning up at the office an hour late on Monday morning, I reassured myself with the thought that my first real commitment is not until a Trustees' meeting on Wednesday afternoon which gave me ample time to resolve the whole dilemma.

As it is, in this digital age, I didn't have to do much more than glance at my mobile phone over breakfast and, as envisaged, it had miraculously re-set itself overnight. Welcome to an English summer I thought, as I stared at the rain streaming down the windows.


Friday, 27 March 2015

On Your Feet


On Your Feet Britain is an event taking place on 24th April as a result of a partnership between the British Heart Foundation and the Get Britain Standing Campaign. Inactivity is one of the greatest challenges to health in Britain today and it seems the sedentary lifestyle of the country's office workers leads the way.

Statistics suggest that 37% of men and 45% of women spend less than 30 minutes a day on their feet at work, with 50% eating their lunch at their desk. Yes it all sounds familiar.

However it is reckoned that over 5 pounds in weight can be lost by standing up for an extra 30 minutes a day for a year. Goodness me, here in retirement I reckon that I have been standing up for at least an extra 2 hours a day, frequently more; will that equate to 20 pounds? If so, unfortunately not an awful lot has happened yet!

Studies have linked heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia and cancer to sedentary lifestyles. Forget the office, it's even more important that retirement isn't spent sitting down or over-eating!


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Maths Underfoot


There were not many signs of Spring today when Mister E and I did an 8 mile circular walk in the Yorkshire Dales, although at least the gorse was in bloom.  We had sunny spells interrupted by hailstorms, meaning that much of the time I was well huddled inside my coat.

I recall some 11 months ago making a blog entry about walking my way to fitness and am pleased to record that things are definitely moving in the right direction. That said I am sure that, like yesterday, conditions today were probably more conducive to staying in with a good book than tramping along muddy tracks. 


One of the books that I have been dipping in and out of lately is "17 Equations that Changed the World," by Ian Stewart. It is in essence a chronological account of mathematics and its role in the evolving world, where everything seems capable of being traced back to an appropriate mathematical equation.

I wondered, therefore, whether it would be possible to write an equation identifying the formula for optimum fitness by walking. In other words, how much distance must I cover before I reach my full potential? Mister E wouldn't be drawn on it and in the absence of a cold bath and Archimedes, an apple orchard and Isaac Newton, I guess I shall just have to keep on walking. Presumably I shall know when I reach my destination


Monday, 23 March 2015

Elizabeth is Missing



One of the things I love about being retired is that when there is a nip in the air, you can simply curl up on the couch and bury yourself in a good paperback. Today I did just that, reading Emma Healey's debut novel "Elizabeth is Missing," in an afternoon. I thoroughly enjoyed it but do wonder whether in the future I ought not to be a little more circumspect about the content of the books I read. 

I am not entirely sure that the tale of an aged lady, suffering from confusion and memory loss, as a result (we assume) of her advancing years, is an appropriate topic in retirement. That said the novel's protagonist who narrates the book in a confused manner, seems on the whole to be more than content in her befuddled state. However, it is a work of fiction. There are also moments when her frustration at the inability of others to understand her, spills over into aggression.

At the moment I much prefer to live in the present rather than contemplate the potential for the enfeebling of my mind in the future.


Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Dentist Calls


I received a telephone call the other night at 9pm from the dentist. Of course, I thought he only worked 9am until 5pm. In theory he does but, and I can guarantee that this sounds familiar to so many people, especially those who run their own businesses or have professional obligations: he was catching up with administration before he leaves on holiday.

Oh dear, I remember those demonic days far too clearly.


Friday, 20 March 2015

Staying Healthy - a Retirement Dilemma



Miss Scarlet  developed a squeak this week. It meant that every time I changed gear, she drove me demented. A little bit like those occasions when a member of your family develops an irritating cough. Of course, I had to get her tended to and visited the garage today for that purpose. Lubricant rather than cough medicine was applied and she now seems fit and well.

Her delicate state, however, prompted me to realise that in retirement  I am yet to suffer from a round of sniffs and sneezes, not to mention a cough, cold or other virus. Whilst I have been fortunate in enjoying robust health, in the air conditioned atmosphere of the office it would have been surprising not to have succumbed to minor summer or winter bugs. Never sufficient to debilitate you, just enough to make going about your daily business a misery for a couple of days.

Now in the isolated world of retirement, away from the daily bouts of handshaking and interview rooms with bacteria circulating all around, I appear (touch wood) to have been spared such seasonal agonies. I wonder if that's a good thing? 

Does repeated exposure build up your immunity and without it am I more likely to succumb to a super bug at the supermarket till or whilst queuing in the library? To maintain a high level of immunity would I be advised to take a seat at the entrance to my doctor's surgery and shake hands with all his ill patients as they enter? Alternatively, do I lock myself away in a hermetically sealed bubble and avoid all living company?

Retirement may be bliss but there's always a dilemma, and maybe a germ or two, lurking somewhere.




Thursday, 19 March 2015

A Blitz



Oh dear. I watched a television programme the other night which came up with an amazing statistic in relation to housework. Apparently back in the 1950's the average housewife spent 75 hours a week cooking, cleaning, shopping and washing. If that was not bad enough, the programme quoted today's average per home at 18 hours or just over 2 hours and 34 minutes a day.

Now I know we should never believe everything we learn from the media but if there is any truth in that statistic, then Mister E and I are failing badly. We did hit a problem in early retirement when, instead of doing a large weekly shop, we seemed to keep popping into a supermarket to buy smaller quantities whenever we passed. We are, however, now back to one main shop a week and have condensed housework and cooking into an art-form that amounts to no more than an hour a day each on average. Whilst I no longer resent the time spent on chores as was the case when working, who really wants to spend their retirement cleaning?

That said, and totally shamed by the elbow grease that went into household tasks sixty years ago, I grabbed an old electric toothbrush this week to clean a towel rail that had been neglected in the tender love and care stakes and was bowled over by the difference  it made! 

Perhaps cleaning could yet become a new style therapy with its inbuilt boost every time you turn dull and dusty crevices and corners into something clean and shiny. On reflection, maybe not.


Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Reflecting on Nine Months of Retirement


My last day at work was 18th June, nine months ago. Nine months is also, of course, the gestational period for a human baby. Sufficient time to develop from a fertilised egg cell into a living infant. Very similar in fact to my own transmogrification.

Prior to actually taking the plunge there was excitement tinged with a degree of nervousness and, dare I say it, even fear.  However and since completing the dive there has been no looking back and I can honestly say that to date I have had no reason to regret my decision.

Last summer, in the early days, it felt as though I was a complete novice at everything I touched. A feeling emphasised by leaving a career in which I was professionally skilled and  competent for a completely different lifestyle for which it felt as if I was totally under-qualified. I have still many years to go in the art of retirement before I might justifiably call myself a Master, but am now very much accustomed to my new life as well as the challenges that go with it and which bring so much enjoyment. I am learning as I go and this blog hopefully records the wisdom picked up along the way and lessons learnt.

To begin with, it did feel like a never-ending holiday but nine months on it is now a pattern of life without commitment, timetable or routine unless they are of my choosing. There is still ongoing hard-work behind the scenes to develop fitness and maintain good health to enjoy retirement, hopefully for a long time into the future. On reflection, I should not, of course, have worked so hard that I lost sight of  a good work-life balance but retirement is all about looking forward and not backwards. Nine months on, I now realise how stressed work made me feel but can only trust that I escaped before there was any long-term damage and revel in the benefits of what has been a natural healing process.

I recall that there was a point where I began to feel guilty that life feels so hedonistic. It is strange, however, how you can get used to almost anything and those twangs of guilt have definitely disappeared four months later. In part I believe this is because my memory of that previous hair shirt style of living is fading fast. That's not, of course, because  it was a long time ago ( we are talking only nine months) but more because of  the change that has been taking place as I have developed into a frame of mind where I accept who I am, what I want and strive to carve myself that life. I obviously have nothing to feel guilty about anyway, but I guess it was an inevitable phase in moving onward in retirement that in shedding the burden of  decades of working you take time to adjust to the pleasure of life being your own to do as you will. When you do, it is proof that you have forgotten how it felt being shackled to the work ethic.

"I think, therefore I am," wrote Descartes. What's different for me now, is how I think. Years of straight-lined analytical thinking have been cast aside as I become open to ideas floating into my mind from all directions. Primarily through Future Learn, I have embraced a diverse variety of subjects, disciplines, and ideas. It takes time but gradually my mind is opening to the discovery of a great big universe out there and of which I was only vaguely aware stuck at an office desk.

My long-term aim is to rediscover my creative inner and I have been shocked at how much that day job has squeezed my creative juices to extinction. Although I have tried sketching, creative writing and various low-key crafty projects, my successful route for rehabilitation has come from the rediscovery of colour, first from visiting various modern art exhibitions and then from experimenting with photography. I am much more aware of detail than ever before; there is time in retirement to appreciate it: I see, therefore I am. 

Moreover now that I see  so much more, the joys of travel and exploration are extended, both in the UK and abroad. 

So after nine months, there are no regrets as I continue to totter with baby steps in that big new world of retirement. Our plans remain in focus and if  there is any lesson to be drawn so far in seeking to achieve them, it is simply that everything takes time, preparation and planning.



Tuesday, 17 March 2015

A Missed Turn



Yesterday I met an old friend from university days at Ripley which is an appropriate mid-way point between our homes to start a walk into Nidderdale. The trouble with meeting up with old friends, especially when you haven't seen each other for nearly six months, is that you do tend to talk rather a lot.

So much so in our case that we missed a footpath we intended to take and ended up back where we started, earlier than we had anticipated.


Of course that was no problem. We just went to the Castle Tea Room and kept on talking!




Saturday, 14 March 2015

Abandoned



Mister E has gone skiing with the eldest; the youngest remains in London; even my mother has gone to stay with my sister. I am alone!

I suppose I ought really to be describing the vast swathes of loneliness and isolation that have swept over me but to be honest the experience is something of a novelty.

I have taken heed of warnings that in retirement one can feel so cut off that there is a temptation to greet the shopkeeper and postman as long lost friends. Today, day one of this experience, I collected the newspaper from the shop in the usual manner and, when the Postman knocked on the door to deliver a parcel, I was courteous but did not delay him with chatter.

It is a weird sensation to be living alone with the prospect of no living company unless I go out to seek it or give someone a call. In fact I can understand how many people may feel unable to retire if they live alone and fear being cut off from society by giving up  the day job.

For me the compensation has been being able to go to the gym at a time to suit only me (and yes I found more people to interact with there); eating when I have wanted to and selecting food for my taste and fancy alone; most importantly seizing control of the TV remote and even learning how to operate the HD recorder which up until now has been the sole preserve of Mister E.

Mind in this age of digital technology I have already seen photos of dinner in the ski resort and been in touch with the absentees by the medium known as What's App. Sometimes there really is nowhere to escape.



Thursday, 12 March 2015

Rewarded



This evening I completed my fourth school governor meeting in three days. Had I still been working it is doubtful if I would have been able to attend not only the meetings but also to the preparatory work  for such a tightly squeezed schedule. Little wonder, therefore, that some schools struggle to find governors. 

Looking around those meeting tables this week I realised that a significant number of us are retired and that we are the ones who do now have the time to be able to get into the schools during the day as well as attend and prepare for early evening meetings. Of course, the shame is that there must be many parents who have a vested interest in being on the governing body of their child's school but quite simply do not feel that they have the time, which I guess is why those of us with adult children and no job to go to can play a useful role.

As I meet more and more retired people I am becoming increasingly aware of just how much voluntary work of one kind or another they undertake and how much society is dependent upon them. There's no money to be earned from volunteering, of course, but the rewards come in other ways.

Also, and after three days with meetings, when the last one finished tonight I even felt as though the weekend had arrived early. Now, if I was still working that would certainly be a reward in itself!



Monday, 9 March 2015

Lincoln Visit



Mister E and I spent our weekend in Lincoln. It is a city that we have only visited briefly, once before, but found it a beautiful destination. Sometimes in the quest to travel and experience new cultures or with the familiarity of what is around you every day, you forget how many wonderful sights there are to see in the UK.


It was also a fitting destination for the 800th anniversary since the Magna Carta was sealed, as the charter itself was drafted by Stephen Langton, the then Archbishop of Canterbury who had earlier studied as a cleric in Lincoln. Copies of the Magna Carta were distributed to a number of places of worship throughout the country and that of Lincoln Cathedral is purportedly the best preserved of the four that survive to the present day.


We stayed in the Old Palace which was the historic home of the Bishop of Lincoln but which now operates as a hotel with bedrooms in a converted church in the grounds, all directly under the imposing structure of the Cathedral. 


We also visited The Collection, another museum (as in Carlisle and London) chronicling the history of a city from 450,000 BC to modern times and after 3 such museums in less than two weeks am proud to say that we can now both identify and differentiate Neanderthal and Anglo Saxon tools (or so it seems) from sight.


Many might argue that the climb (it is even called Steep Hill when you reach the higher part)  up Lincoln's main street  from the river to the Castle and Cathedral at the top are unsuitable for some visitors. We however found it an ample excuse for tucking into the large cooked breakfast at the hotel before setting out to explore on foot and seeing such fascinating sights as:


The house dating from the 12th century and believed to be the oldest surviving dwelling in the UK. Its first inhabitant was Aaron a Jew and moneylender, in the days when the Normans encouraged Jews to settle in England in order to provide loans, something Christians were then expressly prohibited from doing.


High Bridge the oldest bridge in the UK which still has buildings on it.



The half-timbered house that is now the Visitor Information Centre



The Cathedral by night



The Stonebow and Guildhall in use since 1520


Friday, 6 March 2015

The Serious Business of Comedy


Mister E and I went to the ARC in Stockton on Tees last night to be entertained by Andy Parsons. At one point when he began to describe the conundrum that is life, I thought that he may have put his routine together especially for us.

He maintained that there are three facets to enjoying life, namely: money, time and health. He submitted, however, that regrettably there never seems to be a stage of life when we have all three. At that point he honed in to emphasise that, whilst in retirement people may have a bit more money than earlier in their lives and oodles of time, their bodies are spent! 

Wow - such serious stuff that there I was, in the middle of a comedian's show, seriously thinking about the work-out I must do at the gym the following morning.



Thursday, 5 March 2015

Retired and Still Driving




This week I took delivery of the new car which regular readers will recall I had been waiting for retirement to choose and order.

It may well be  that this will be the last time I make such a purchase before I become so enfeebled that I am unable to negotiate our highways safely as, according to reports of a survey by 1st CENTRAL Car Insurance last month, it is retirees who are most likely to embrace driverless cars (to avoid lack of concentration and also to manoeuvre through rush-hour traffic).

If it is therefore the case that my brain is going to descend into mush so very quickly, I am delighted to currently be in possession and control of both vehicle and senses. Some may of course doubt the latter capacity when I confess that I do have a tendency to give my cars names, but will surely forgive when I tell you that, for reasons which I hope are obvious, this one is called Miss Scarlet.




Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Old and New


As I indicated last month I have started to rediscover my creative side through colour and a new pocket camera. Unfortunately I have not quite got used to the amount of battery juice the camera uses so it was a little disappointing to arrive at King's Cross in London on Monday and discover that the battery I thought I had only recently charged was completely flat.

Luckily the phone that I struggle to answer calls on, because I invariably become completely muddled as to which way to swipe the screen when it starts to ring, helped me out. So whilst some photographic opportunities had to be overlooked, others were still captured using the phone. 

It's strange but a year ago I would have been much more concerned at making sure my gadgets worked and I knew how to operate them. Now, I am so eager to enjoy my surroundings that I must resort to kicking myself when the tools I am carrying don't function.

On our London trip we enjoyed a visit to the Museum of London which sets out in chronological order the history of London from pre-Neanderthal times to the present; a complete nexus between old and new over two floors of exhibits.



I find shape and colour mesmerising and as a result could not resist snapping the Olympic cauldron in the museum. 










Then, as we wandered around the city, the relationship between old and new with the Bridge of Aspiration between the Royal Ballet School and the Royal Opera House was another object to marvel.















Perhaps it is something to do with the stage of transition I am going through but that connection between old and new seems so appealing as, for instance, spotted here looking down Cheapside towards St Mary le Bow.










Nothing, however, can beat the colour of early Spring flowers especially when we still have only snowdrops at home.