INTRODUCTION


There seems to be a scarcity of UK retirement blogs out there (other than those proffering financial advice). In the absence of being able to read about other people's experiences, I instead offer you my own "Great Big Retirement Adventure."

Planet Retirement can sometimes be a bewildering place. My husband (Mister E) and I have moved from the initial concept through the planning stages to implementation and this site records the whole process.

Please visit from time to time and do add your comments. Popular posts and those highlighting our journey are specifically pinpointed on the right hand side together with a list of topics covered. Alternatively you may prefer to look at the Summary or the Tips from Wisdom Acquired or even our Have Visited List with its retirement atlas and dip in and out of the blog using the links given.




Showing posts with label Attitude. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Attitude. Show all posts

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Disappointed by a Lack of Traction



This post comes with a health warning: the title reads, "Disappointed by a Lack of Traction." That is "traction," not "attraction." 

Okay warning over, what is Caree blogging on about today? Too old for acne, she can't have discovered another wrinkle, surely? No, let me say again this post is about traction or rather a lack of it.  

There I was after a week of relatively mild weather thinking Spring might be just around the corner when boom another snowfall hit, all 3 inches of it and life was thrown into chaos. It must sound ridiculous for those who live in countries used to regular winter snowdrifts but believe me, it now only takes a couple of millimetres and it seems that the whole of the British Isles grinds to a halt.

As I have written on various previous occasions, one of the great things about retirement is the ability to fit one's life around the weather. So much so that treacherous road conditions throw up two obvious choices: a cosy duvet day or an 'I'm smugly looking out of the window knowing I don't have to go out' kind of day. 

Except this morning I didn't want either of those options. 

It's Thursday and that means I'd booked into 3 fitness classes; kicking off at 9.30 a.m. with a core class in the kinesis studio, followed by 45 minutes of zumba before finishing with a well deserved and usually much needed stretch out in Pilates. Getting to the gym requires a 7 mile drive, much of it along country lanes, providing a period of quiet contentment before and after exercise and the closest now that I ever get to a morning commute.


Ever eager, I decided to set off early in light of the likely road conditions. Miss Scarlet whom you may recall I acquired in March 2015 is still an unknown quantity on snow and having stupidly dismissed Mister E's offer to fit winter tyres a few weeks ago (after all why would I need them in retirement, now there's no obligation to go out in extreme weather?), I set off regardless. 

Did I mention that we live at the bottom of a hill? I must have got all of 6 yards up it before I began to slip and slide relentlessly whilst a little light appeared on my dashboard warning me of a lack of traction presumably on the off chance that I had not noticed that my car was refusing to point in the direction I wanted. I reversed and took a run at it but Miss Scarlet indignantly refused to go any higher up the incline. Head down and shamed, I slowly edged backwards to our drive; typical front wheel drive car, there was plenty of traction in reverse gear but only absolute desperation would force me to use that all the way to the main road.


So there we have it: I didn't get to the gym; I realised why for most of my latter years of working I always had a four wheel drive car; I understand better the virtues of winter tyres and the limitations of my totally inappropriate choice of motor car for the handful of bad weather days we get a year. I also reminded myself that in retirement, I really don't need to drive anywhere. Instead we went on a beautiful walk to a local lake cum conservation area, past the medieval church and castle, and all the time with distant views of the Yorkshire Dales and Moors. Attractions on our doorstep that we don't appreciate as often as we should.




Better still, having cleared the drive of snow, Mister E has just suggested we should have mulled wine like we do up high on blue sky days in Alpine ski resorts. Moreover, he's not going to make me sit on the patio in salopettes to drink it!

Planet Retirement, where life is bliss and you can enjoy your snowflakes.



Thursday, 11 January 2018

Back in Circulation



 So today turned out to be my big day and after two weeks in the grip of an influenza like illness (as I've seen Australian flu defined) I finally returned to the gym. When working it was accepted practice to attempt to struggle on regardless and when you did succumb to a virus, to return prematurely often causing what seemed to be a resurgence or lingering of symptoms. That said, the company of others, a change of scene and an assignment to task the brain can work wonders at uplifting the spirit.

In retirement, however, it is  easy to cosset yourself at home, break all contact with humanity and allow yourself to be nurtured slowly back to health. The trouble is staying in and warm, can become somewhat tedious after a time. Further, woe betide, if you allow yourself to fall into the trap of thinking that the older you get the longer these things take to shake off. With that mindset, I could stay in bed for months.

So a little like returning to work, I decided to throw myself back in at the deep end and to do three fitness classes this morning. As a result I talked to any number of people, smiled, laughed and got out of the sickness rut. It wasn't easy and on several occasions I thought the dreaded fever was returning, whereas  in reality whilst I was circulating with colleagues, my heart too was pumping overtime to get oxygenated blood circulating around my body and to recently unused muscles.

Consequently I returned home a trifle flushed, very tired but resolute in my determination to return tomorrow.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Paperwork and Deadlines




I don't recall commenting on completing the dreaded tax return for a few years. I note, however, that when I did so in 2015, I was buoyed by the possibility that age might bring a simplification of tax affairs. Well after spending all day filling in the online form, I am convinced that whilst my financial situation may have become simpler, the tax system and information required has surely become more complicated? Either that or the administrative burden of collating the detail required to answer the questions posed is so awful that I just blot it out for 12 months, let selective amnesia intervene and then allow myself to be overcome by shock and frustration when I sit down to insert the details every January.

In a desperate attempt at escapism, I did do an internet search on excuses to put forward to avoid filing. Sadly it looks as though HMRC is stony-hearted on this score and such creative explanations as others have offered, ranging from "the dog ate it"(which may work with homework but hardly an online submission) to an unexpected pregnancy (lasting 9 months presumably), being unable to get an internet connection (you can post it but must submit by 31 October) or "travelling the world" and "falling in with the wrong crowd," clearly fall on deaf ears.

I suppose the advantage of procrastination and leaving one's tax submission until shortly before the 31st January deadline is that you can guarantee there will always be one or two days of dreadful weather that probably serve no better purpose (so long as you avoid dogs, pregnancies, poor connections and travel) than for getting one's tax affairs in order. I also comforted myself with the discovery that I'm in good company because Albert Einstein himself is on record as saying, "The hardest thing in the world to understand is income tax." Of course, I'm not sure if he was referring to the principle of payment or the calculation, but am pretty sure he'd have expressed the same opinion if he'd experienced my tussle today.

I'm hoping future years' returns will be easier and that any easing in complexity of forms or finances is not offset by a decline in mental alacrity. Otherwise I can't imagine how I'll cope sitting in front of a computer in my nineties, wondering where I misfiled all the necessary paperwork that I need in order to answer the questions posed. Perhaps by then some kind Tax Officer will have taken pity on me and issued an exemption from a need to file; I can but hope.

In the meantime of course, I can draw solace from that celebrated of all quotes about tax from Benjamin Franklin: "In this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes."

The lesser of two evils: so long as I'm filling in a tax return personally, I'm definitely alive and kicking. 



Thursday, 14 December 2017

You Just Can't Avoid It



There's no getting away from the fact that Christmas is coming. In the last two weeks I've had a Christmas dinner, decorated two Christmas trees, listened to a multitude of Christmas playlists, bought Christmas presents, been to a Christmas carol service and last night even did Christmas zumba with a set of reindeer antlers on my head. Our local town is decked out in Christmas lights and the first question everyone asks is, "Are you ready for Christmas?"

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not necessarily a "bah humbug" person (how can I be with those reindeer antlers) but I have found myself contemplating on how easy it is to get sucked into the whole commercialisation of what is meant to be a Christian celebration. Of course there's nothing wrong with a good party and, after all, the Christians did rather hijack the Roman festival of Saturnalia. However with the word "Christmas" appearing in front of every activity and product, I'm afraid it's begun to get somewhat tedious. 

Yesterday I made my annual Christmas visits to some of the elderly residents of the local almshouse at which I am a trustee. Many were reminisicing about Christmases past and the small stocking (not a specially embroidered Christmas sock) that Santa Claus would fill when they were children with an orange, some small change and nuts; there were no expensive gifts but they were nonetheless appreciative of what they received. 

When we were working, the pressures of preparing for a family Christmas sometimes seemed so great that we regularly escaped by disappearing abroad, preferably to a ski resort where infinite snow and  exercise distracted the mind from the occasion or better still India and Malayasia where life went on as normal.

In retirement we feel better able to confront the exploitation that is now associated with Christmas although I confess that, in the interests of simplification, there are moments when the prospect of treating my nearest and dearest to old socks stuffed with tangerines and a few coppers has a certain appeal. 

All of that said and in time honoured tradition, I'm off tomorrow to buy Christmas stamps for Christmas cards whilst wearing a Christmas jumper for Save the Children's Christmas Jumper Day. "Making the world better with a sweater," and at least the first part of that slogan encapsulates the spirit of Christmas.

 

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Snow On and Snow Forth




Is there anyone who doesn't feel a tiny tinge of excitement with the first snowfall of winter? I confess I never checked the forecast before I went out this morning and whilst I was conscious that it was a very chilly 0.5 degrees (necessitating a last minute hunt for my gloves), I didn't give it much more thought other than to drive slowly down the frozen lane out of the village.

Emerging from my fitness classes, rumours had already spread that it was snowing outside and whilst, at that stage, it was hardly sufficient to call it a Winter Wonderland the white stuff was certainly falling from the sky.

Of course snow on top of ice did make for a trickier drive home, especially when both a horse and rider plus a 4x4 converged on me at the same point. However, I got home safely and entered the house to the wonderful smell of a stew being cooked by Mister E. It immediately crossed my mind as to whether we had sufficent provisions in the event of a heavy and prolonged storm, something that rarely happens at only 60 feet above sea level, but you never know.
I think the birds in the garden must have had the same thought because they were certainly provisioning up. 

 







 Moreover, when I thought about snuggling up under a woollen blanket, my attention was drawn to our resident hare who suddenly decided to make an appearance. Poor thing, he just lay down and curled up in it. He didn't even bother to move when there was a brief respite and the feeding frenzy by the birds became ever competitive. I guess he knew it was going to snow again and on days like this it's best to stay put if you can. 


Yes snow is great fun to watch, it's having to go out in it that is the problem. I just hope that I never grow so grumpy that the initial snowflake of the season fails to provoke a thrill.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Just Chilling

We have been home for just over two weeks now and there is definitely something vaguely comforting about the short days and long dark nights that have enveloped us since our return. Too cold to do much outside I have been backwards and forwards to the gym and various appointments but for the most part have enjoyed just snuggling down in the warmth of home, getting on top of all the neglected paperwork that seems to have accumulated in readiness for the winter months.

Since defeating the jetlag, it has been a luxury to sleep through the dull grey dawns emerging from upstairs only after those in the parallel universe in which I once lived have departed for work. When we travel, Mister E sets an alarm clock; back at home we have no need for that torment. 

Perhaps it's the after effect of the long and busy trip rather than the weather but the last couple of weeks has seen a lull in activity levels and, dare I say it, a lack of ambition as we revel in the here and now of crosswords, sudoku, reading and writing.

Previously, I feared that such a period might herald a state of mindless ageing when we achieved nothing but an indolent retirement. I now recognise it for what it is; an opportunity to recharge and start planning; a twilight for relaxing and aimlessness before teetering on the verge of another manic episode of creativity or adventure.

Bring it on; I shall be ready....shortly!

 

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

A Shout Out


I just wanted to give a shout out for Lakeland (formerly known as Lakeland Plastics). Yes that's right the company that has specialised in all kinds of useful plastic scoops and pegs. The kind of shop where, when you get to an age where kitchen gadgets excite you more than clothes shopping, you go to browse.

I know that I now have to be wary of buying plastic, but it never stops me browsing. Imagine therefore my delight to find that they have reinvented the good old paper bag. Forget those packs of cellophane, you can now have brown paper!

Funny how the old idea are always the best and even better that they still have the capacity to excite.  I did tell you, of course, that in retirement I seem to derive a great deal of pleasure from the simple things in life, but paper bags? Who'd have thought it!


Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Use It or Lose It



There seems to be a general acceptance that as we age, we grow weaker and frailer. Indeed research suggests that it is not uncommon for us to lose up to 8% of our muscle mass each decade from the age of 30. Try telling that to the trainer at the gym who has just re-set my new workout programme and now has little me lifting 10 kgs. 

"It will get easier," he has promised. Although to be honest I am more persuaded by his intimation that it will change my body shape. Who says you can't develop abs after 50?

National guidelines on physical activity recommend that, in order to stay healthy, adults should undertake at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week as well as strength exercises on at least two days a week. However, a report published by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists last week, concludes from a survey it commissioned that almost a quarter of over 65's do no strengthening activities at all, leaving them prone to the risk of falls and ill-health. Moreover 34% of those approaching retirement (aged 55-64) miss the target too.

Bearing in mind that the Society suggests that gardening and carrying shopping bags help to keep us in shape, it is hard to understand why so many are failing to meet the criteria set out in the guidelines. If there was ever a time to switch from buying cuppa soup and tea bags to potatoes and two litre bottles of milk, it is clearly in retirement.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

A Brief Respite



Before the wind and rain set in this weekend, we had a brief respite from Autumn and at least two afternoons when the sun shone, temperatures climbed and my poor plants didn't know whether to drop their leaves or flower. Life can be confusing at times.

It's a little like retirement with all the choices it throws up. Should I get into the garden today, finish that book or put in some extra time at the gym? Do I eat a large lunch and a small dinner; skip breakfast and make brunch; rice or potatoes; caulifower or broccoli? Do I reply to my e-mails now or later; book a hair appointment this week or next; wear short or long sleeves; blue or pink? Yes even the simplest of daily tasks can throw up dilemmas when you have the time to actually think about them.

My working life used to rob me of time and whilst theoretically there was choice, it was invariably simpler to reach for the easiest solution, saving the heartache and time-loss of conscious decision-making. The office day was filled and the hours at either end a constant rush to fit life's daily essentials in.

It has me pondering though, was life actually simpler when it was so rushed and the scope for choice eradicated? Now that there is the potential to contemplate in detail one's every move, is there too much choice? Is this why I feel the need to reduce and simplify all around me, including attacking those autumnal garden shrubs with secateurs? Is it also why I have to have a digital To Do List to keep me focused and on track?

Liberty, perhaps the greatest of enshrined human rights, is for me fulfilling but, as yet, unfathomable.


Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Book Lovers' Day




Somewhat unfittingly for a day described as Book Lovers' Day, I have made a pile of paperbacks ready to donate to the Save the Children charity shop. It's all part of that mad phase I've described as giving up with aggression, although "reduction with passion" may actually be a more accurate description.

To be honest, I have always had a difficulty when it comes to parting with books but when it reaches the stage that they are piled on the floor, tumble out of wardrobes and are even stored in suitcases, you know it's time to take action and building yet more shelves isn't what we have in mind.

I'm not sure why it is that so many of us accumulate books, especially when they are not rare first editions. Perhaps we are all latent librarians at heart. 

I once read that bookcase displays were indicative only of a desire to demonstrate one's learning so all could applaud, but, as some of my paperbacks fall very definitely into the category of chick-lit, I am not convinced. On my part, I believe retention has been governed more by a prospect of either reading the book again or passing it on to someone with a brief endorsement. That said, some books have sat on our shelves so long that they have yellowed with age and although they have that wonderful attractive, musty smell they really would no longer be a joy to peruse and in some instances might even fall apart when you turn the pages. 

Sadly and save as a curio of doubtful scent, many of my old books serve no purpose although the sentimental attraction remains strong. Take the copy of Alice in Wonderland given to me when I was in hospital at the age of eight as an example, the typeface is unattractive, the odd drawings which it contains are crudely sketched, the cover is torn and, were I to seek to reread it for the nth time I'm sure there must be a free e-book version to download instead. It's hard, but the proper place for books like this is clearly re-cycling and if I donate them to a charity shop it may even be able to  make some money from having them collected.

Newer books are harder to part with but I have resolved to limit my paperback collection of read books to a few shelves of my favourite novels, ready to pass on and recommend. The others will be sold by Save the Children to raise funds for a good cause. There are occasions when I know I have lovingly fingered through a read book, recalling the story with enthusiasm and the memory of the enjoyment it brought at the time but I know I am not going to re-read every one of the books I have been hanging onto; they were enjoyable but there are so many others out there to  be brought into my home and read instead.

I hope that I am not making this sound easy. I'm keen and eager to see the task through but reducing let alone giving up treasured books is painfully difficult. Fortunately I have been helped by the discovery of Goodreads a wonderful app that allows me to keep a virtual bookshelf of  the books I have read, aided by a brief synopsis of the story and all sorted alphabetically by author or even title if I prefer.

Of course paperbacks are only half the story; there are of course still the hardbacks and non-fiction to sort, as well as "coffee-table" books, not to mention the suitcases I've already referred to and, after my initial sort-out, now a greater percentage of books to read before disposal even becomes an issue. However, the space created by giving up is exciting and liberating and where once I could never have envisaged a shelf without an array of books on it, now I see scope for simplicity and unencumbered living.

It's Book Lovers' Day and I love reading; is this normal?

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Giving Up




After my last blog entry I have been contemplating my retirement and am beginning to feel that the next driver is "giving up." I don't mean by surrendering but rather in a very physical way in order to reach that nirvana of a simplified life.

So for me July has been a month to embrace Plastic Free July and abandon added sugar. 

The statistics on plastic are appalling and when I looked in my own waste-bin at the beginning of the month I saw with horror that, despite our conscientous devotion to re-cycling, we were still disposing of more plastic in the form of cellophane-wrapping and cling-film for landfill than any other form of waste. Just realising the extent of the problem that we were creating (and we consider ourselves good at sorting re-cyclable waste from our other rubbish) was a start in the right direction and now it has become a crusade to deliberately shop to try to avoid the worst excesses of single-use plastic whilst looking for items made of other substances for repeat use. It's too late to undo all our errors in the past; the children's toys, coffee capsules, melamine picnic plates, garden chairs, plant pots, all now presumably buried deep in a local authority pit never to decompose in our lifetimes. The plastic containers in the fridge and coathangers in the wardrobe provide a daily reminder of  our wilful disregard for green living. We are, however, now stepping up to become eco-warriors as, going forward, we relinquish the plastic trappings that go with an early 21st century lifestyle. Giving up is good, providing both challenge and ambition whilst benefiting the planet as we hopefully reduce pollution.

Sugar is another horror now scientifically linked to obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes. The Action on Sugar website highlights the issues but it is only when you start to read in detail the written information on food products that you get any appreciation of the scale of the problem. Have you for instance ever tried to find bread without added sugar in your local supermarket? It does exist but elusivity means you have to track it down. On the plus side, the eradication of added sugar from our diet in the last couple of weeks has done wonders for weight loss and energy levels and I can thoroughly recommend it.

In September 2016, I posted a blog entry which I titled Letting Go and Making a Difference.  They were for me the second and third phases of retirement, the movement or divergence from one to the other blurred by an overlap. Giving Up, following  a period of what I can best describe as plateauing, seems to be a natural progression and whilst many might say there is no obvious distinction there is actually a subtle difference stemming from the maturing of retirement. Letting go was as much about the mental state of change from worker to retired person as the relinquishment of physical stuff; there was an understanding of the need to shed and a start to the process. In making a difference I had reached a point where I was energised by my efforts and strove to achieve. To give up is I now believe a natural sequitur but it is more brutal and deliberate, requiring passion, renewed energy and aggressive determination. It goes beyond recognition of and lip service to what must be jettisoned, to deliberate deprivation in order to achieve it. To let go, I must now give up previously perceived comforters rather than extraneous stuff; to make a difference I must give up the comforts of self-indulgence and infinite time. 

Retirement has turned up more challenges.



Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Saving Up for a Rainy Day

Apologies for yet another interruption in service. The last time I made a blog entry I was attributing my lapse to a bout of very welcome but very warm weather. Since then, here in North Yorkshire, we have been paying our penance with days of rain and for a period of one week some rather unseasonably low temperatures. Still variety is the spice of life as they say, and retirement thunders on (oh yes we have had a couple of electric storms too) regardless.

So I have been taking advantage of the wet weather to endeavour to catch up with a pile of administrative tasks left for the proverbial rainy day. Trouble is that, even with fourteen or more wet days, I'm still not up to date and procrastination appears to have successfully defeated my good intentions. On the plus side we have caught up with old friends, finished a course of hospital out-patients' treatment, had a family member to stay, eaten out  on several occasions, read numerous books, worked out in the hope of using up the extra calories, gardened between the showers, been to the cinema, fulfilled various commitments and of course become embroiled in following the annual tennis fest that is Wimbledon.

If I am  honest, however, it all seems a little humdrum and I even fear lest I have actually relaxed into retirement a little too easily. The trouble, of course, is that when we are at home for a prolonged period there is a tendency to fall into a dreaded routine: gym in the morning, coffee at 11am etc.. Routine has crept up effortlessly of late and coupled with a natural tendency towards indolence is proving to be an enemy of the successful pursuit of satisfaction in retirement. I'm guessing that it's a natural cycle now that we have moved into (I can hardly believe it) the fourth year since cessation of employment. 

The initial phase, as I have already documented, was one of recovery followed by "letting go" and then the application of long practised skills in order to "give back,"  whilst surprisingly finding that what I had planned to do in retirement very much went by the by. Now, however, I sense the advent of a new phase; a time for challenge and maybe even adventure or at least the determination to shed the feeling that we may be at risk of drifting aimlessly and to review the intial aspirations formulated for this period of our lives. I guess I am going to need a few more rainy days to properly explore this concept, but, with the British weather the way it is, those days have to be a certainty rather than a long shot.
 
Whilst I am conscious that this has been another self indulgent critique, I hope that many can empathise with the experience that I have described. In the meantime I close this entry buoyed by the discovery that somebody must read and appreciate these blog entries because it seems they have made it into a list of 100 Top Retirement Blogs. Forever flattered and grateful...




Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Staying Calm



With so many awful things happening at home and abroad at the moment, it is very hard not to be in angry mode the whole time. So instead, I've been breathing deeply and doing what I do best, namely enjoying retirement. Of course, a mini heatwave has helped along with the return of the youngest after her time at the University of Texas. 

You always know when the temperature reaches Mediterranean proportions because not only do you reach for the sunscreen but there's a frantic bid to find the insect repellent, long hidden in a bathroom cupboard, even if it was out of date and of no tangible effect either.

Similarly you always know when the youngest is at home because the laundry baskets fill quicker and the fridge becomes home to all kinds of strange vegetarian foods.


I'm certainly not complaining, especially as we've just enjoyed two wonderful afternoons in the sunshine. The first at Kiplin Hall which I had promised to return to when the sun was shining. I'm not sure that I had banked on 30 degrees of heat, but it certainly made for an enjoyable walk around the lake.



The second was a quintessential trip to the seaside, specifically Runswick Bay from where we walked along the cliffs to a vantage point for a superb view back across the bay where we ate a picnic lunch on the grass, amongst the smell of warm vegetation with the background noise of seabirds and humming insects. Bliss!




To top it all, Sunday was the third anniversary of my retirement from work. The heat put pay to a planned session at the computer musing over the perceived benefits and highlights. In fact when the choice has been between an evening on the patio watching the sun go down or making a blog entry, outdoor living has won every time. The exciting thing about living in the British Isles is that you genuinely never know what kind of weather you are going to get from one day to the next and, when you do get  some real summer weather, everything else goes by the by, or certainly it does in retirement.


Saturday, 10 June 2017

Just One Regret



It's a strange old world and a sign of the times when the winning party loses and the losing party is seen as the winner. That, however, seems to be the outcome of  the election. 

Taking the electorate for granted with its arrogance the Conservatives went hammer and tongs for the United Kingdom Independence Party voters and in so doing forgot that middle England with its intelligent, economically literate, remain-voting  populus would be both repulsed and insulted by the rhetoric. Consequently, although winning the most seats (albeit short of an overall majority), the Prime Minister totally failed in her objective of getting the large majority and mandate she was seeking to negotiate a "hard" Brexit, closing the door to the exisiting arrangements for free trade and the movement of people within Europe.

So, having finished my last blog entry with a feeling of resigned disillusionment, like more than half of the electorate I was overwhelmingly buoyed to find the Government had faltered; the people had spoken up against what it was seeking to impose and, whilst there may be the chaos of a hung Parliament, the mandate was clearly not there for the austere policies and Brexit terms they were seeeking to impose.

Except, and what more would you expect from a Prime Minister and party that does not listen, they are now cuddling up with the Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland. The DUP, as it is commonly known, has grown out of a para-military organisation, is involved in smear and speculation concerning financial mismanagement and has policies that make the Conservatives' seem almost acceptable. The DUP is anti-abortion, refuses to accept LGTBQ rights, is sceptical about climate change and numbers creationists amongst its MPs. However, it now has 10 MPs and to keep the Conservatives in power and pursue their rejected policies there is to be an understanding between the two; the May-Dup alliance as it will no doubt be described. An alliance that many commentators believe may even upset the delicate peace in Northern Ireland.

Well we shall have to wait to see what happens but the first protest took place outside of Downing Street last night, wise counsel (particularly on Twitter) is being given and the longer the Government seeks to press on with a business as normal approach, the more millions of us are going to be totally affronted. So, if we thought the election would mean that politics would quieten down and everything would revert to normal, it seems not and this may only  be the beginning.

On the left the Corbynistas are claiming exactly that as they assert a victory, having gained some 30 seats, when only 7 weeks ago it was anticipated that they would be annihilated. Obviously the swing in Labour's favour includes a large protest vote, although many are proclaiming it as the beginning of the rise in support for progressive politics with Keynesian economics. 

As you can imagine, as well as giving the comedy writers hours of wonderful script material, Mister E and I have had plenty to discuss too. What would have been the outcome if Labour's appeal had been more Centrist? Does the impact of globalisation and mass capitalism mean that traditional political theories are ineffective for the 21st Century? Can you redress inequality and provide fairness through policies that the majority of the electorate will truly embrace in the way that the youth vote seems prepared to? Does it require a softly, softly approach from a new centrist approach to do this or can there be a political revolution of thought and support, bringing speedier momentum to the movement for a fairer, greener, more caring and inclusive society?

I had honestly expected to wake up on Friday revulsed by the thought that I lived in a country full of little Englanders whose only thoughts were for profit and themselves. With the final vote in, it seems that the Conservative, DUP and UKIP parties' vote share combined was just 45.1%. My faith in humanity and the British electorate is restored and there is now hope that there really is a way, regardless of the current Governmental chaos and apparent intransigence, to create the kinder society that we seek.

Regrets? There is one. Taking advantage of retirement, I stayed up until 3am on Election Night; why oh why didn't I do my ironing as I watched those results come in? 




Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Hot Air



I do feel that my blog entries of late have given themselves over to an indulgent opportunity for a little ranting. The strange thing is that retirement is like a second adolescence in so many ways: I can go to bed late and get up late; I can do what I want to do, rather than be at the bidding of others, and live in a totally selfish bubble if I so choose; my responsibilities are negligible; I can eat at odd hours; there is no reason for commitment to any engagement unless of my choosing; I can make spur of the moment decisions on how to spend my time, be it by curling up to spend a day reading a book or by taking advantage of the sun in the sky to go for a walk; I can spend hours thinking about the meaning of life, talking with friends or even just looking at my phone, should I so want.

Recently however I have also discovered that it is a time for reclaiming the passion of youth; the fight for right and beliefs. I hear many elderly people moaning about election coverage, avoiding the news programmes and generally showing little or no interest in the issues of the day. Perhaps that's what happens in the next stage, but early retirement certainly remains a time for rebirth, political thought and plenty of hot air.

Mind not all hot air is good. Certainly not if it relates to climate change. All of which could lead me to a specific rant against the developments of the day, when it is being reported that the so called leader of the free West has apparently decided to call time on his country's commitment to the Paris Climate Accord. A report that follows on from the revelation that the Prime Minister of the UK is being dubbed Trump's mole after leaked documents show that the UK wanted to change EU targets on "renewables" and energy efficiency, so that they would essentially be voluntary rather than mandatory.

However even in my neo-revolutionary latter years, I need time to sit back with a G&T, enjoy the evening sun and look forward to a luxurious soak in a warm bubble bath. At least with retirement comes  a better understanding, as well as application, of one's priorities.

Cheers!



Sunday, 7 May 2017

Beauty and the Box


Nesting instinct, Spring and cardboard boxes; they all came together today. Is it the level of the sun in the sky or the birds hopping around building nests and feeding their young? I'm not sure, but it is always at this time of the year that I get an uncontrollable urge to clear out cupboards.

I confess that when I was working, it didn't get much further than a fleeting feeling but the early years of retirement are a time to tackle all that messy storage and I'm proud to say that I have actually attacked all of my cupboards at some point since retirement, making a better job in some than others.

It would be nice to think that having tidied them once, they might stay that way especially after being previously neglected for a decade or more. Sadly, no. Once that Spring feeling dissipates, the rest of the year is spent filling them up as random items get squeezed in anywhere.

It had reached the point that just opening the door of the cupboard under the stairs was sufficient to send me into a spiral of gloom, so today I took action to dispel it. Piled high with boxes, I had assumed that family members had been placing objects for future use or of sentimental value there and was genuinely not looking forward to the heaving and shifting that a clear out might entail. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I discovered that the boxes were completely empty! 

Mister E was the culprit and under caution confessed all. He has always been a magpie when it comes to cardboard boxes; items of abundant usefulness, he claims. However, and up till now I had always thought he stored them in the garage and disposed of them on a strict rotational basis, assuming always that they failed to prove their use in the interim. I now realise that whilst that may have been the pattern pre-retirement, the cupboard space I have created since has just been too much of a temptation for a boxoholic.

His support during my various decluttering missions and our shared aim for a minimalist approach to living has proven secondary to his love for cardboard boxes. My own struggle with ridding the house of my accumulated "stuff" has been nothing compared to his addiction for packaging.  When I conquer my inablility to sling, he fills the empty space with cardboard. Can there be any hope at all for us succeeding with our quest for simplification, to restore the mess amongst which we live into a state of order and our home into an oasis of calm? Keep reading, I know not.




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.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Bombogenesis





The youngest flew to San Diego last weekend in order to play in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament (frisbee being a prime reason for her wanting to study in the USA this year). Unfortunately she was subject to travel disruption arising from the tropical storm which has been battering California. The BBC described it as a bombogenesis; what a descriptive word.

In any event and as a result she landed two hours late at approximately midnight. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, to get up on Saturday morning and find that, despite the eight hour time difference, she was available to chat via What's App. 

"You're up early," she said.

"It's actually 8 am," I replied, thinking she was still on Texan time which is only six hours behind, and had inadvertently assumed I was clutching my phone at the unearthly hour of 6 am.

"I meant for a Saturday," came the response.

Curiously I no longer take advantage of the slow start that was always offered by a weekend morning in my working years. Is it because in retirement there's too much to cram in, even on a weekend off, to waste it lying in bed, or perhaps because I generally awake at the point where I am fully rested rather than at a pre-set time on the alarm clock? Certainly I don't think I have yet reached that fabled stage of life where I might rise early because I no longer need so much sleep.

I'm unsure of the analysis but my reply was on point: "There's no such thing as Saturday in retirement."

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Beautiful People and a Council Tip



The DIY activity at the house the eldest has been living in at Nottingham reached mammoth levels over the last 10 days. With the eldest safely out of the way in a ski resort with Mister E, I once again drove that familiar 120 mile route down the motorway, paintbrush in hand. I spent five days cleaning, decorating and meeting with the letting agent we have appointed to manage the property, now that the eldest has submitted his thesis and is pursuing his destiny elsewhere.

It was not all work in that on three evenings I gave myself a break to sneak out and meet old friends from my own university days in the same city. One dear lady I had not in fact seen for 27 years and another only once before in all that time. It was of no consequence; time rolled back and nothing had changed. Not only do we still have much in common but we are all now beautiful people. The days of acne angst, emotional crises and a lack of confidence are all long gone and we have emerged as wiser, interesting and more graceful beings. Those still working have found a new balance between work and leisure, opting for part-time and flexible positions as they manoeuvre towards retirement and those who have taken the plunge are filling up their days with exercise, hobbies, travel and voluntary work. Pilates and a desire to work hard at retaining fitness and good health was a common theme. It has taken until our sixth decade but at last we seem to have life sorted; we are in control and, we agreed, feel comfortable with ourselves.

At least I thought I did, nodding vehemently when the suggestion was put. However, returning home to North Yorkshire utterly exhausted and then adding to it with a series of fitness classes and other activities I felt particularly drained two days later. So it was that at 9.05 on Friday morning I was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, contemplating getting out of bed whilst revelling in the thought that I would have a weekend "off"(yes even in retirement you need the odd one or two of those). 

Then, suddenly, it happened; the telephone rang and my  plans, or lack of them, were thrown into disarray. It was the letting agent confirming that within the space of two days he had found the ideal tenant (great news) but....... he wanted to move in immediately. A hasty family conference with Mister E and the eldest, fortunately with all limbs intact despite their escapades, agreed yes. After I had confirmed our concurrence, panic set in: three rooms still to decorate; all the eldest's worldly goods to remove; more cleaning; IKEA furniture to build; blinds to cut to size then fit; utilities to transfer; keys and instructions to sort. What kind of mad plan was this? Could it actually be achieved in a weekend?

It could and it was but the days were long and hard and when it reached the point that we were held up by traffic trying to reach the Council tip before it closed at 4pm, I could have cracked emotionally. Arriving with what I thought were ten minutes to spare, we were greeted by a five minutes to closing announcement and I found myself running from skip to skip, throwing unwanted chipboard, empty paint cans, cardboard, textiles and broken household goods as I went. There was no grace and beauty left; this was ugly but it was effective.

We finally left late on Monday evening, in a car weighed down with everything from bedding to a bicycle. We had stretched ourselves so hard that we had skipped lunch and hardly noticed, the hunger pangs long gone, as a muted and drained contemplation of our achievement dominated the two hour journey home. There was no strength left to unpack at the other end just a warm bath, pyjamas and bed.

Two days later, I have lower back muscles still screaming in agony (although Fitball and Zumba sessions in the interim may not have helped); I remain totally confused as to the day and date; our hall is piled high with bags and dirty washing but the tenant has moved in. 

I have crossed this weekend off (a pile of books at the ready) and on Monday I shall once again emerge as a serene being.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

La La Land

So earlier this week I went to see the much talked about La La Land. One of those feel good films that still brings a tear to the eye. A musical where: the performers are definitely actors rather than singers; the dancing falls short of many of the performances on Strictly; the backdrops  look almost painted; the full ensemble routines are like something out of a 1920's cabaret show; the settings are all so familiar and cliched.

But I loved it. The soundtrack had some brilliant jazz pieces,  the whole film oozed the nostalgia of an earlier Hollywood era; Ryan Gosling was absolutely stunning in role and ably matched by Emma Stone whose expressive features simply captivate. 

Underneath it all there were some subtle messages about ambition and dreams. Put simply La La Land is not real, it is but the stuff of dreams and cannot exist or, if it does, there is no permanence.

I guess the nearest I have ever got to La La Land is retirement. When career aspirations are no more, the dreams  can become a reality.