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, 15 September 2015

National Trust


Mister E and I have been joint members of the National Trust for as long as we have been married. Membership gives free entry to National Trust properties. The number that we have visited, however, is relatively small. Instead we have paid our annual fee with the aim of helping to preserve our coastline and countryside, missing out on visiting stately homes and other places of historic interest. Indeed, there have been many years where the only benefit we have enjoyed has been free parking at Dungeon Ghyll in the Great Langdale Valley.

Nevertheless, whilst staying in Langdale this summer, we also included visits to two properties in the ownership of the Trust, namely Sizergh Castle, the seat of the Strickland family, and Allan Bank, one of William Wordsworth's homes. I am not sure why we have spent so little time in the past taking advantage of our membership in this way as I love walking around such properties, imagining that I am back in the past, living there: skipping through the castle grounds; reading a book in a casement window; admiring the view of the lake whilst sitting at my desk writing poetry.


Sizergh Castle, set amidst stunning gardens and overlooking a lake of petite proportions has been the residence of the Strickland family since the 12th century and is a veritable treasure trove of history. 


Allan Bank, described by Wordsworth as a "temple of abomination" when it was constructed, as it spoiled his view from his then home at Dove Cottage, has beautiful views across both Lake Grasmere and the surrounding fells with a tunnel through a rocky face in the garden leading from one vista to the other.





We have yet to decide whether or not to maintain our membership of the National Trust in retirement, bearing in mind our past failure to access the properties to which it gives entry and satisfied that over the years we have probably paid our bit for all those stones set loose on footpaths right across the Lake District in an effort to ensure that as many people as possible can walk the most popular routes without eroding the ground underneath. Although not highly publicised, there is a reduced rate of membership for those over sixty and their spouses, who have been members for five years or more. If we decide to take advantage, we shall then have another ready made bucket list of places to visit and hopefully the time in retirement to see more than that car park at Dungeon Ghyll.



Friday, 11 September 2015

Busy and Dizzy


Since returning from our trip to the Lake District, the last couple of weeks has passed in a blur, with visits from the eldest as well as the youngest, who is still with us. We even managed to fit in an unexpected sailing trip (probably the last of the season) in the early part of this week when we had near perfect conditions and the Firth of Clyde to ourselves (sea birds and porpoises excluded), or so it seemed. 

Unfortunately, and despite our best made plans, the weather this year off the West Coast of Scotland has really been truly awful for short-handed (well I am small) sailing with low pressure system after low pressure system rolling in, one after the other. It seems that 2015 has been one of the windiest in Scotland for decades and with snow already appearing on the mountain tops, the temperatures too have been, shall we say, challenging.


Naively we kept thinking that conditions would settle and summer sunshine, fair breezes and warmth would arrive at some stage; we only had to wait for them and with the luxury of a retired lifestyle, free of commitment, would seize the opportunity when it arrived. How wrong can you be? With, according to the forecasters, no prospect of an Indian summer, and autumn fast approaching, we now have to accept that this year's sailing ambitions have been dashed.

At least  we are still revelling in the flexibility of retirement and aren't disheartened, having found plenty of other activities to keep us occupied and out in the big outdoors regardless. Indeed the bigger disappointment weather-wise lately is just how slowly vegetables have grown in the garden this summer, when we are only now able to start harvesting crops which any other year might have been ready 6 or more weeks earlier.

When you are working and extra-curricular hard work and planning fail to bear fruit because of the weather (did I mention that my plum and rhubarb crops might as well have been non-existent this year?) there is inevitably a sense of sheer frustration. In retirement it is more of a minor irritation, a test of our patience and a sense that there will always be next year and time to improve on our preparations, including, we have decided, for a Plan B and C.



Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Impact of Glass



I love the way an art exhibition can leave you energised and often it is unexpected objects or paintings that have the most impact. So today I am feeling inspired and motivated, recalling not only the creations of Henry Moore at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park but also a display of glass art there by the Venetian siblings, Laura and Alessandro Diaz de Santallina.






The exhibition was inside a chapel which, after deconsecration, has been turned into a unique white painted gallery where the light floods in. Outside, on long term loan, is Iron Tree, a sculpture by Al Weiwei who has also exhibited there.





Peering through the door, I spotted a row of glass vases and immediately thought that this was going to be a bit dull. 


How easy it is to be wrong. The pieces demonstrate and experiment with both transparency and reflection, distorting the light and reverberating colour. The effect was simple yet mesmerising.



The trouble is, short of writing this blog entry, it is difficult to channel the inspiration. 

Whilst retirement has given me the opportunity to experience and appreciate so many facets of the creative world as yet my own participation feels like that of a voyeur, camera in hand. Instinctively, however, I know that  my sub-conscious is desirous of creating items of beauty in order to express itself  and I also know that painting the walls of my home is not going to be sufficient to fulfil that part of my psyche, regardless of how expressive I make the brush strokes. 

Surrounded by colour and the countryside with Yorkshire's renowned landscapes and vast skies, perhaps it is time once again to dust down the sketch book abandoned last year in favour of my new pocket camera.


Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Landscape and Sculpture




I have always been attracted to the sculptures of Henry Moore and today the youngest and I paid a visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park where 500 acres of his native Yorkshire countryside plays host to many of his larger pieces. There was also an indoor exhibition of his work, aptly entitled "Back to a Land," where his deep relationship with the land was explored.

In light of my current "well-being and nature kick," I'm wondering now if the appeal of his work to me lies in its relationship with the natural world.






Moore himself is quoted as saying:
"I realised what an advantage a separated two piece composition could have in relating figures to landscape. Knees and breasts are mountains. Once these two parts become separated you don't expect it to be a naturalistic figure; therefore you can justifiably make it like a landscape or a rock. If it is a single figure you can guess what it is going to be like. If it is in two pieces, there's a bigger surprise, you have unexpected views."


The park was one of Moore's favourite backdrops for his sculptures. In the background to the current exhibition we were told that he loved the changing skies, weather and seasons and thought the sheep roaming the land were the right size to balance his work.


We thought it quite beautiful: art and landscape brought together with the opportunity for a decent walk to appreciate all the pieces.