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.




Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts

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."

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Heatwave in an Art Gallery



On Friday we made the decision to head to the city rather than fry ourselves on deck. So we headed from Troon Marina to the centre of Glasgow as the sun burnt down upon us and temperatures reached Mediterranean levels. Although we braved the heat to take in the Cathedral, Necropolis, and the Provand's Lordship it was only inside the art galleries (of which Glasgow has a multitude) that we found relief from the baking temperatures.



It has to be said that Glasgow likes its art gritty and the ends of so many buildings are now daubed with street art murals that we found fascinating like this one at the University of Strathclyde:



In the aftermath of the appalling bombing at Manchester arena only a few days before, we thought the Polygraph Exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art particularly pertinent. It is centred around a two channel video by the German film maker and visual artist, Hito Steyerl, in which she explores the death of her friend in Turkey. Dissecting evidence to separate truth from fiction in a complex world seemed to be the theme for all the exhibits. In the video itself Steyerl traces the casings from the bullets that killed her friend back to the premises of Lockheed Martin in Berlin. Her evidence claimed that it had supplied the weapons to Turkey through the German Government; state complicity unravelled; politics meeting the personal. The theme continued with for instance black and white photographs of the elderly and vulnerable housed in a hostel for the homeless in the city; politics again affecting individual lives.

At Manchester is it too glib to blame the reprehensible actions of one suicide bomber on the delusions of extremism? Are foreign policy, cutting police numbers, a lack of proper employment opportunities for the young from disadvantaged sectors and/or a failure to address radicalisation of some within our multi-cultural society, also to blame for the deaths at the arena of 22 innocent people, many just children?

For the first time ever, I found myself wanting to concur with Trump when he starkly referred to those responsible for the atrocity as losers. Yet as the exhibition in Glasgow pointed out, life isn't that simple. After all this was a US President who just days before had met with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and, like Theresa May only a few months earlier, sought to agree yet another arms deal. But what are those arms being used for? Isn't it Saudi Arabia that has been indiscriminately shelling in Yemen, killing thousands of innocent civilians including children and by virtue of its blockades caused widespread hunger and a shortage of medicines and other supplies? 

Individuals all over the world suffer because political decisions have far reaching and often unintended consequences. The world has become a very complicated place but it behoves no politician well to ignore the fact that people not profit are inevitably at the end of the chain of events started by their decisions.


Monday, 1 May 2017

Outdoor Sculpture at Pompeii and Elsewhere


I'm not sure what it is about sculpture that ignites my fire but I really get excited by many of the beautiful pieces that adorn our museums and open places, especially when they fit into and amplify their surroundings. If there is one thing I have learnt since retiring, it is that there is no time to waste analysing why I might like something and, when I do, the response is simply to explore it and enjoy the moment (on the basis of course that my taste is impeccable and therefore always lawful). Indeed in retirement I have been able to see so many wonderful examples of sculpture that it would be difficult to recount them all.







In particular large outdoor installations that add to the atmosphere of the environment have left an abiding impression including the special exhibition of Henry Moore's work and then that of Kaws at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, not to mention the Blood Swept Lands and Seas part of which was there also, after first seeing it at the Tower of London. 


As we have travelled, both at home and especially abroad, we have come across wonderful examples of artwork of this nature. Cuba in particular embraced the idea of state sponsored street art and in San Diego there is of course the huge and distinctive Embracing Peace Statue.


More recently in Italy we were fortunate to see a display of Igor Mitoraj's work at Pompeii as the last day of that exhibition was actually today. It would have been hard to envisage a better site for his vast classical sculptures and for me they enhanced our visit.





Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Celebrations




When you are young there are 18th and 21st celebrations, moving into young adulthood with weddings and christenings and then every ten years one of those BIG birthdays. Of course they continue in retirement, but it is also in retirement that the really significant anniversaries start to happen.


Like so many people Mister E and I married at Eastertime and this year we celebrated thirty years together. We decided to mark the occasion with a trip to Sorrento in Italy where we were joined by what appeared to be an aeroplane full of older couples enjoying significant anniversaries too. Families and those in the decades frequently referred to as "middle-age" were noticeably absent, although there were some young honeymooners.


Maybe it was our destination. The Bay of Naples, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coastline are all beautiful. Romantic Italy. I even heard someone say that the adage, "See Naples and die," was especially poignant. I don't think that was meant to be a reflection on our ages, at least I hope not.




Sunday, 2 April 2017

Madeira




We have just returned from a short trip to Madeira. A week to get outdoors in the sunshine and walk. I've always enjoyed previous trips to Portugal but Madeira was an island that we had always dismissed as being for older folk with what we imagined were elegant hotels on graceful boulevards with an all pervading colonial ambience from yesteryear.

Initially we thought we were right about the older traveller. Although on our first day I managed to refrain from succumbing to a single senior moment, life was not so good for others. For instance, there was the lady at the airport who, upon arrival, removed my holdall from the conveyor belt in baggage reclaim and then took some persuading that the label with my name on it and the brightly coloured string around its handle meant that it was not hers. 

Or, what about the gentleman who sat down in my seat at dinner whilst I was serving myself at the salad buffet? As I returned, he was in the process of drinking then spitting out in total distaste my glass of fizzy water. He was still not convinced he was in the wrong seat, even when his wife, waving a bottle of still water (fortunately it had its cap screwed on) in his general direction, called to him from another table.

Of course my turn came the following morning when I wandered into the plush restrooms off reception, emerged from a cubicle and admired the artistic handbasins rising like trumpets from the floor. I was just about to plunge my hands into one when I realised I was staring at a urinal and was in the Gents! That merited a hasty exit and a quick reminder to myself to place spectacles on my nose in future before endeavouring to decipher the indicative figure on the lavatory door.

So, clearly feeling totally at home in a seniors' holiday destination, what did we think of Madeira?



Well it is hilly, but compared to the walks we generally do in the Lake District not significantly so and only (or so I was told) on the most difficult levada walks do you need to use arms as well as legs. The sun shone warmer and with greater reliability than at home. There was an interesting variety of wildflowers on the hillsides although another few weeks and the agapanthus will be in full bloom which will certainly transform many of the places we walked. Park beds were full of Bird of Paradise flowers and Arum Lillies appeared to grow almost wild. Unfortunately there are very few species of bird on the island which is not on a migration route, but we did see the indigenous Madeiran Firecrest, similar to our own but more colourful. Typical of a volcanic island there are massive black cliffs dropping steeply to the sea and very few beaches.


Also and inevitably for a place where tourism is now the main industry, concrete has spilled over into the landscape in abundance. That colonial elegance glimpsed on some of the older buildings has given way to massive modern hotels clinging to the hills and cliffs around Funchal and what were once farmed terraces now play host to housing and shopping centres. A modern road system includes some 138 kms of concrete tunnels blasted through the rocks and even the airport runway is held up by a series of concrete pillars extending into the sea. The sea front and promenade area too are a bastion of, yes, concrete.

It is a popular stopping point for cruise ships and with several in port on Monday and Tuesday, we made sure to keep away from Funchal on those days. The rest of the island is a relieving mix of greenery and rock, and, apart from visitors, pretty much deserted with most people opting to live or stay within the perimeters of the capital.

The temperature was pleasant and when the sun overdid its work a breeze from the sea kept the thermometer in check. Eating outside, especially for lunch was very much the order of the day and although we rejected the salted cod which features on most Portuguese menus there was always plenty of alternative fresh fish.

What about all the old folk? Well most of them are super fit and clearly go to Madeira to walk up those hills or along the levadas. Also they are not so much elderly as indifferent to the lure of a beach towel, night club or all day English breakfast. Of course that could be not only the defining features  of retirement but also where Madeira really gets its reputation for elegance and taste from.