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 Volunteering. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Volunteering. Show all posts

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Happy Feet Again



The first couple of weeks of January have been as busy as ever. There have been: a new laptop for the Parish Council to set up (why do these things take so long?); exercise classes to endure or enjoy depending on my daily fitness aptitude and the level of the group; more DIY at the rental property; a new Future Learn course; lunches out and time spent chatting (rather a lot) with family and friends.

Yesterday I was back in volunteering mode, covering not one but two shifts at Save the Children's local high street shop. Well it was short of staff, I had a diary that could be easily altered, so why not? After all seven hours is nothing compared to the daily grind, week after week, month after month, decade after decade that goes with full-time work; at least that is what I thought. 

So, I dressed appropriately in several layers and my comfortable ankle boots to ward off the chills from the open shop door and set off with enthusiasm, ready to meet and greet; sort and stack; clean and steam. Except what I hadn't realised is that, like everything I have been learning to do in retirement, working a whole day takes practice. It may have been less than three years since I last did it, but, not only am I out of practice, those comfortable boots are quite simply excruciatingly painful after just four hours. The heel on them is only an inch high, they have supportive insoles and although I regularly wore them day after day in the office,  I confess that they have hardly donned my feet since. Anyway I kid you not, I felt ninety when we locked the shop at 4.30pm and I left to hobble down the street to my car.

Obviously I ought to have realised that whilst ladies wear all heights of footwear in the office, the reason I now go to Pilates classes three times a week is to try to reclaim the proper alignment of my musculoskeletal system after more than thirty-five years of ill-treatment in the work place. In retirement I take a full hour over lunch, I enjoy a mixture of sitting and standing throughout the day and I generally wear flat, supportive shoes, slipping into heels (even low ones) only for special occasions and where standing is restricted to just short periods at a time. 

Last night, my poor old feet were tended over with a warm bath and copious amounts of foot balm. It was a stark reminder that whilst I may have been able to neglect both them and the rest of my body during my working years, they deserve much better in retirement. I suppose that I have finally learnt that whilst my feet may not be the prettiest, they are the only pair I am ever going to have and ought not, therefore, to be abused. I have now promised them that going forward, and however difficult they are, they will get the love and care that they demand.




Monday, 26 December 2016

Relax, It's Christmas




I have been very concerned by the number of stressed out people I spoke to in the days immediately leading up to Christmas. The desire for the perfect menu, properly wrapped gifts, and clean home after what sounded like weeks of shopping and writing cards, was reducing normally sane people to a frazzle.

In my last blog entry on the issue I had concluded that 8 days is long enough to prepare when you are no longer working. In fact after I posted that, Mister E and I disappeared off for another bout of DIY activity in Nottingham, staying four nights and returning only on the evening of  Tuesday 20th December. That, of course, left only 4 days or half the time I had planned on.

Maybe it's a change of attitude in retirement; the lack of awareness of work colleagues getting ready or a Yoga and Pilates induced plane of freedom from anxiety. Alternatively and perhaps after all the years of pre-Christmas stress, finally the realisation has dawned that it is after all just one day.

Whatever, Caree has come a long way since 2013 when she was still only contemplating retirement and succumbing to the pressures of Yuletide planning whilst juggling her professional commitments. Then you will recall that she had the rather romantic notion that it  might be nice to "do Christmas properly" for once; log fires, tinsel, entertaining and home baking with perhaps a Christmas carol or two playing in the background.

The following year and the first Christmas in retirement, preparation was much more relaxed but still following a familiar pattern, save that there actually was more time for planning and execution. I suspect however that by 23rd December I may have been having second thoughts as a flick back through this blog shows that I was extolling the virtues of Cuban life and, somewhat subtly I admit, raving against the pitfalls of the consumerist society with its luxury goods, overpriced necessities and brazen marketing.

2015, I recall, was a little more chilled until reality caught up after an incapacitating virus struck and upon recovery there was that inevitable last minute panic. 

Manipulated by merchandisers rather than Church to believe that "Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year," for so many it ends up being the most stressful. Certainly that was the dismal vibe I encountered last week from the conversations I referred to above.

So how did my 4 days of preparations this year go?

Well there was a wobbly start when I discovered that the youngest was actually coming home for the holiday period from Texas a day earlier than I had written in my diary but a tranquilising Yoga session on Wednesday morning restored the Karma and that afternoon I cleaned her room  before decorating it with tinsel and snowmen. There was even plenty of time for a cup of tea with a neighbour and another with Mister E before we went to meet her at the station. Upon our return a dose of jetlag meant she soon crashed out, leaving me free to take advantage of a subscription to Amazon Prime with next day delivery; Christmas present shopping done!

Thursday morning saw me in the Kinesis room at the gym, priming those muscles ready for any weight Christmas might throw at me. I spent the afternoon taking the youngest to the dentist and to make her own  gift purchases. I succeeded in falling over ignominiously in the middle of the town centre when I tripped on the kerb but that's another story. Upon our return we indulged in a wrapping paper fest (my online order had arrived) and packed up the car with gifts that we then delivered to my mother's home.

On Friday I whizzed around our house with the vacuum cleaner. Mister E and the youngest went to do the major grocery shop and I wrapped more presents. Then at 3.30pm, I disappeared to meet like-minded friends in the spa attached to the gym where we work-out; a swim and laze in the jacuzzi preceded an early evening meal out together. 

By the time I returned home the eldest was there too and our family Christmas would have begun in earnest except that the following morning (Christmas Eve) I had promised to work a shift in the charity shop for Save the Children. It's not quite like manning a soup kitchen on Christmas Day, but it did give me the opportunity to buy those Christmas cards that I am yet to post; obviously I chose winter scenes with blank insides for my own message; there is after all no point wishing anyone a Merry Christmas several days after the event. At 1pm, voluntary work over, I braved the last minute shoppers thronging the High Street as I went on a quest for items overlooked from the shopping list the day before. Whoever could have imagined that there would be a run on Christmas crackers in North Yorkshire? Four shops later, however, I tracked down a supply and, inventory complete, returned home.

Late afternoon the youngest and I embarked on our annual tradition of  bedecking the Christmas tree at the eleventh hour. I tidied up our spare room ready for our Christmas Day overnight guest and the festive period began with a mince pie (bought not home baked) and a glass of wine.

I am proud to say that we enjoyed a fraught-free Christmas Day following  the most relaxing run up that I can remember.

If anyone is thinking of following suit then my top tips would be:
  1. Cut back on the gift list (or try Secret Santa instead) and stick to consumables rather than trying to find the perfect present
  2. Only do essential cleaning; nobody is going to measure the dust in your house and subdued lighting will hide it
  3. Don't send cards if you don't have time; consider telephoning friends instead
  4. Restrict your decorations to a tree and one or two special pieces (vases of flowers or seasonal pot-pourri)
  5. Factor in plenty of time for yourself in the run up to your celebrations
  6. If you really have reached the nirvana of being totally chilled out about the whole thing, take yourself away for a long weekend just before
  7. Whilst Christmas may have appropriated the date of a pagan festival, it was never intended to be a mass consumer orgy and never forget, to quote from Robert Browning, "Less is more"
  8. Remember too that Christmas is a time for celebrating the birth of a child, yet the world is full of children suffering because they are in the wrong place, disabled, a refugee, from a minority group or even because they are a girl. Reach out to help every last child.



Saturday, 17 September 2016

Letting Go and Making a Difference




Three months into my third year of retirement and it is good to realise just how far I have come. Reflecting on the period of time that has passed, I can now look  back and recognise three different phases. They are not separate or distinct; the boundary between them ebbs and flows but there is nevertheless an obvious progression.

The early days, weeks and months were a time for healing and recovery. An opportunity to relax and to take the first steps towards a new healthier, fitter self. There may still be some way to go but the pattern has been set.

Gradually and alongside those baby steps from enervation to vigour grew a sense of letting go. Like healing and recovery, it manifests itself on two levels: the physical and the mental. The clutter from both house and mind is being dissipated. Life is simpler; the habits of a working existence have been dropped. Activities and commitments have altered. Although there remains much to clear out especially of a physical kind ( household stuff and clothes with no longer any clear purpose in retirement),  there is now obvious and steady progress. 

A milestone was reached this week when I even made the decision to change the name on my driving licence from the birth name that I used professionally throughout my career to the married name I have always used at home. There are other changes that I know I shall be making in measured and deliberate fashion over the coming months. To let go in the early days felt brave, in Year 3 it is empowering.

Now too I have begun to recognise the dawning of a third phase; the period where I make a difference and which gives the motivation for getting out of bed every day. Whether I am decorating at home or in our rental property; clearing the garden; helping out in the Save the Children shop or campaigning on its behalf; acting as Parish Clerk or as an almshouse trustee; even just cleaning the windows: I am making a difference. To know that I am achieving, that my pursuits are worthwhile and that I can perceive the change as a result, is exciting and a spur for further self-enterprise. 

Life is invigorating and stimulating despite not knowing what the ultimate outcome or next phase will be. After 27 months, retirement is still novel enough that it remains an adventure into the unknown.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Manual Labour




There is something intrinsically gratifying about toiling with your hands. I find the application of emulsion paint to walls (of which there has been much lately) almost therapeutic, whilst the delight of the outcome remains a source of pleasure for many weeks. It is probably just as well as the last fortnight has seen us remodel the bathroom, continue with the painting of the hall and begin work on external masonry at the eldest's home in Nottingham where I surprised myself by repointing an outside wall of the house ready for a coat of masonry paint on my next visit.

In the meantime and with temperatures that are now happily average for the time of year, the vegetable patch has continued to grow successfully and the sweetcorn I was fretting over has pollinated and sprouted horse-tails which is surely a good sign. My angst now is focused on the ripening of my tomato crop; the greenhouse has gone into overdrive in producing  the most delicious tasting cucumbers but the masses of cherry tomatoes remain steadfastly green.

Of course any spurts of growth amongst the vegetables is usually accompanied by an increase in weeds. Sadly that's where the manual toil offers less satisfaction. Pulling a hoe across hardened clay soil has never been my idea of fun. Enter, therefore, the youngest just back from volunteering on an organic farm in Sweden. She can now weed like a demon on a mission, leaving me to lean back in my garden chair and think about the next decorating project.


Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Retail Therapy




As part of the voluntary work that I am undertaking for Save the Children,  I have agreed to provide occasional cover for holiday absences in their local charity shop. Of course my cv falls well short of fitting the job description when the closest I have ever previously come to operating a till was a plastic cash register I used to play with as a child. It is a novel experience and it has certainly taught me never to underestimate the skills of the check-out staff in a supermarket again. 

A shop till these days is a sophisticated computer in its own right, with touch screen technology, flashing lights and a really scary card reader. Of course it can only  be operated whilst simultaneously wrapping the goods purchased, checking for forged notes, handing over the correct change and all the while making casual conversation with the customer whilst being on the look out for shop lifters and fraudsters. 

Variety is achieved by re-arranging or stacking shelves (the books are my favourites) or sorting through sacks of donated goods, pricing them and, in the case of clothes, steaming out the creases. As a treat I am occasionally permitted to cash up, carry the takings to the bank or even visit the newsagent to buy milk.

The target led workplace I have been used to has caused me to compete with myself as to the number of items I can sort and price and take a keen interest in the amount raised whilst on duty. Also, in case I really wanted some office nostalgia, I am again imbibing in an instant coffee at 11am rather than the daily americano with freshly ground beans that is a highlight of retirement.

After three and a half hours on  my feet, I inevitably return home fitter than when I left and with a greater understanding of the gossip on the high street. Moreover and despite the time spent in the shop, I do not go back laden down with shopping bags. Now that's retail therapy that even Mister E approves of.



Friday, 15 April 2016

A Week in Which....



I have survived a non-stop week in which:



I met my MP to lobby for support with Save the Children's campaign for proper investment in nursery education;

I had an induction to be able to provide emergency cover for regular volunteers in Save the Children's local shop;

I attended three Pilates classes, one Yoga class; two Body Blitz sessions and did a gym workout;



I came face to face with Leonardo da Vinci or rather some of his original drawings at an exhibition from the Royal Collection at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle;

I prepared, clerked and then typed the minutes for a Parish Council meeting;



I went on a wonderful walk in the Yorkshire Dales, still a little soggy from all the winter's rain but, with a blue sky and a breeze, it was invigorating and  the views were magnificent;



I caught a return ferry to Amsterdam to see the bulbs in bloom in the flower fields and be dazzled by the wonderful displays in the Keukenhof Gardens.

When you play hard, it's not like working hard. You may still need a rest in retirement but flopping in brain-dead mode or with a head reeling with facts and figures that  just won't go away is no longer on the menu. Instead and buoyed by exhilaration, it's time to plan the next activity.


Saturday, 2 April 2016

More of Yesterday, Today



Today we endeavoured to repeat yesterday's event and in so doing learnt an important if not obvious lesson, namely that Saturday is not Friday. Now when I write it like that it seems very clear and so much so that one might ask how could any confusion have arisen in the first place? 

Let me explain.

Yesterday, Friday, the footfall through Save the Children's shop was of relaxed people, many retired and others younger with children. They were enjoying a leisurely browse around the High Street and most had time to chat and share experiences on a variety of topics.

Today, Saturday, visitors were predominantly middle aged, rushing through the town during their busy weekend sandwiched between two working weeks. Some claimed to be short of time whilst others avoided eye contact altogether.

Of course there were still many who stopped to talk and sign the petition but at the end of the day and despite a constant bustle of shoppers the number of Saturday signatories was less than on Friday. 

I can only blame the rat race and the stresses and strains placed on those who, pre-retirement, have a finite or even  non-existent leisure time. I remember being one of them, eyes to the ground a mission to accomplish, every precious second counting but still not enough. Now that I have moved to join the relaxed and retired classes it is a revelation watching others behave as I too was once compelled to do.


Friday, 1 April 2016

Read On Get On



Anyone who follows my Twitter account (yes I do have some followers) will know that I have been doing my best to promote Save the Children's latest campaign linked to ReadOnGetOn and its petition for investment in early years' education. Children from this country's poorest areas can be 15 months behind their better-off peers at only 5 years old. Young children's brains are like sponges ready to absorb the information around them which is why nurseries can do so well in preparing children for school and for learning to read. To this end Save the Children wants the government to ensure that there is a qualified early years teacher in every nursery by 2020. 


Today my participation culminated in a children's storytelling event with free books and balloons whilst asking parents to consider signing the petition. I'm pleased to say that support was overwhelming and I chatted to so many nice people that I actually forgot that I had been on my feet for 4 hours. 

One of the many great things about retirement though is the ability to wear comfortable shoes whatever the occasion. Forget those office stilettos, my flat heeled ankle boots were just the job. A successful day, at more than one level!



Sunday, 20 March 2016

In Retirement We Are all Important


In my pre-retirement life, being ill would have meant a need to catch up at work on recovery. So much so that getting out of one's sick bed and returning to the desk went hand in hand without any thought for rehabilitation That is not of course the case any more. Instead and in retirement the recuperative phase where you stay in and keep warm has been a splendid opportunity to catch up with Future Learn courses that had slipped during our recent trip to Switzerland. 

Strategies for Successful Ageing from the University of Dublin is the name of one such course and there must be something about being ill because looking at pictures, in this case infographics, is always therapeutic. I have been dazzled by the statistics on ageing. It seems that the Boomer generation continues to be aptly named even in retirement, when you realise just how many members it has and how old they are all going to be very shortly.


The great thing about being retired is not only does your mind wander and begin to dwell on abstract concepts like the meaning of life but you also start to wonder just how infinite humankind's occupation of Planet Earth is, when you see statistics like this. Fortunately even with my limited capacity for mathematics, I think I can calculate that it will at least continue beyond the realms of the Baby Boomers and my own lifespan.

Already there is much talk about living and working longer and with governments driving back the age for state pensions, early retirement is no longer the favoured option that it once was. Indeed early retirement tomorrow may well mean something very different to the same term when used ten years ago.

Of course so many older people are healthier than previous generations at their age. Work can be less arduous than it was with opportunities for part-time and flexible hours, and there may well be an attraction in continuing to earn for longer, albeit on a part-time basis. Society too depends greatly on these older people for their contributions to the voluntary sector; without the over sixties, the average charity shop in this country would go unstaffed and who would deliver Meals on Wheels or Audio Books for the Blind?

It is easy to look at the prospect of a burgeoning older population as a concern rather than an asset. In truth, it is an opportunity to harness the time, wisdom, experience and energy that they can bring to the table. Where once English towns and villages relied on the stereotypical housewife to organise the annual fete, run the local branch of the WI and collect the children from school, now and into the future such administration will fall on Grandma.

Female Boomers may have burnt their bras in the sixties as they fought for equality in the workplace. Now male and female members of the same generation are going to carve a new niche for their retirement years and the modern world needs them like never before. I may soon be only one of  over 2 billion people but I feel important and can see my role! 


Thursday, 22 October 2015

Volunteering Anew



With the European migrant crisis dominating the headlines all summer, I have been moved to take action. Whilst I do not wish to over commit myself with voluntary work, Save the Children, founded as a result of famine following the First World War continues to be active throughout the World where children are suffering and has been appealing for Community Campaigners. The role involves liaising with the media, lobbying Members of Parliament and networking both in person and online in order to raise awareness.   


I applied and, despite a very early train journey, attended an Induction Day in Edinburgh. It was lovely to meet so many committed people of all ages and backgrounds and I only hope that I can play my part to help alleviate some of the horrors that have filled our television screens of late.

In addition I have also taken on the role of Parish Clerk for the Civil Parish in which I reside, after an appeal for a volunteer appeared to be going unheeded. Fortunately it should not be too onerous a role as the Council meets only once a month and we are a very small parish. My main duties will be to prepare the agenda for and minutes of meetings as well as dealing with correspondence and assisting the councillors with the legal implications of their decisions.

I guess it was too much to hope that the great strides I have been taking for a more Bohemian lifestyle would completely sever me from my years of legal practice or the experience gained in seeking to market my own business!



Friday, 17 July 2015

School's Out



Back in 1972, when I was still a teenager, Alice Cooper had a hit with School's Out. Today our local schools broke up for their long summer holidays too and for once I found the lyrics of that song invading my thought processes as I was attempting to use up yet more of our gooseberry glut, baking muffins and crumbles.

Yes I have stepped down as a School Governor after almost twenty years. I confess it was something of an impetuous decision as I have after all found the role over the last year perhaps more satisfying than during my working days when I sometimes struggled to give it the time that it deserved. 

Visiting school and attending meetings have also provided an opportunity in retirement to wear those suits that continue to hang in my wardrobe. A desire to don heels and dress up, however, is hardly a legitimate reason for public service. 

Yes theoretically I have more time, but, in practice and without the routine of a working week, I am less able to commit. I have, of course, enormous respect for those who replace salaried employment with a timetable of volunteering but it doesn't fit with my life, just yet. There are so many other distractions in retirement and when for instance Mister E and I are away travelling my psyche (like that of most women) is to feel guilty if I can't make a meeting. Yes the emotional side to commitment of any kind is always high. Caree's retirement, however, does not allow space for negative thinking and I have therefore determined to banish guilt and worry at all costs. 

In addition, whilst both the eldest and the youngest may still be in full time education, their school days are now firmly behind them and my own personal and inherent connection through them with pedagogy has lapsed. Volunteering in any capacity requires a desire to make a difference and I felt that without that link both the desire and ability were significantly reduced.

There are many skills that I acquired during my professional life that have proven of use as a School Governor, for instance: reading, understanding and analysing information from the vast array of paperwork that governors are required to peruse; asking the necessary critical questions; chairing tribunal sub-committees. I am aware too that some of my fellow governors have almost made careers out of their office and that their experience and expertise are invaluable in the cohesive continuation of a Governing Body. Nevertheless, it was never my intention to become indispensable and, whilst I shall remember the role with fondness, a little like leaving work, it is time to move on.

Our local council publishes a list of volunteering opportunities and out of interest I have looked at it. There are some roles that are totally flexible, so maybe just maybe I might consider volunteering for one of those in a few months. For the moment though "School's Out for Summer."





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!