Sunday, 4th February
Another day, another week of retirement. The day is lovely with blue sky and strong sun although cold at only 6C/43F but you can’t have everything. Indeed, wonderfully freeing as Retirement is, it is not easy being at a loose end.
When we first stopped working 9 years ago, someone asked us how we would cope without achievements. That didn’t really hit me at the time. I remember thinking after completing the 11+, ‘O’ Levels and ‘A’ Levels, a Cert. Ed., a B.A. and an M.A. that it would be wonderful not to have to sit another exam. I remember thinking after deciding my Professional life had peaked that it would be wonderful not to have to prepare for and go through another interview. Retirement seemed an extension of that letting go and yet, it is all so hard to do.
One learns that achievements in life are essential to existence. If someone else doesn’t set the bars, we have to set them for ourselves. That is essentially what I have learnt from Retirement. Right from the word ‘go’, we set ourselves life style goals of early rising, healthy eating, weight loss and daily exercise routines. Gradually, we have intensified and refined those goals but, largely stuck to them as we enter the final year of our first decade of retirement. At the same time, we set ourselves challenges of travel and experience.
Originally, we set our time in our Greek house to be revised when we were 65. Actually, circumstances conspired to bring that forward by 3 years and forced us to reconsider our plans. Last year, we challenged ourselves to do a 2000 mile European drive and visit places that we had previously just sped past. Not only did we do it but we felt we had achieved something in its completion. This year, we will fulfil an ambition that Pauline has long held which is to live in France, shop in local markets and cook with the best, French ingredients. For a month or so we will do that.
Because of our involvement with Greece, we have both felt that we neglected Spain. This year will mark our first attempts to redress that. After returning from six months in Greece, we both felt that UK winters were pretty dour and cold experiences but didn’t feel justified in jetting off again for sun. This year, we will do exactly that with a villa in the Canaries for November. All of these things we said we would do, planned to do and will achieve this year – fate willing.
The trick is to keep all the plates spinning for as long as possible which is why we are off to the Health Club this afternoon and hope all the workers are enjoying playing out and avoiding achievements for another day.
Monday, 5th February
A chilly but sunny day. We reached 5C/41F but only 60 mls/96kms away on Camber Sands near Rye there was snow. It was strange to see that picture as we set off to swim outside in the sunshine.
We’ve done six out of the last seven days at the Health Club and we will have an enforced day off tomorrow because we have a software engineer visiting from British Gas. I will miss the exercise but it will give me chance to complete our plans for a trip to Edinburgh in April. We have intended to visit every year for about 40 years. We have ex-colleague friends who live and lecture at the university there.
For about 40 years, we have been exchanging the same, two Christmas cards with increasing piles of infills – short newsletters of our year’s activities. Now, we are going to do it and drive the 450 mls/725 kms. We will do it in two legs each way. I have more or less chosen hotels and routes but still have to confirm them. Just before that, we have friends from Sifnos visiting and we want to return to Poole in Dorset again to revisit another ex-colleague friend. Well, we pledged to travel this year and we are really going for it.
Tuesday, 6th February
A chilly and frustrating day. The sun was out but the temperature didn’t get much above 5C/41F. We drove to Rustington to do some shopping and then home for hot, home-made, turkey & vegetable soup. No Health Club today because the Gas Man Commeth. Actually, there were three of them all booked to visit three houses 100 metres apart. Brilliant planning not lost on the engineers themselves as they realised the lapse in economy. BG had updated the operating system that governs the transmission and presentation of our gas and electricity consumption on a smart monitor in our Office.
To get some activity under my belt, I decided to clean the car while I waited for the engineer but it was so cold that I was grateful when he turned up and stopped me. This was his second visit and, after an hour of effort – mainly spent on his mobile phone to his office – he announced that, in conjuction with his fellow workers in the vicinity, he would have to return for a third visit in a month bringing a new meter. Brilliant!
Our shopping trip in the morning had put a few steps on my watch but, by 8.00 this evening, I was getting itchy about not achieving my target. My lovely wife agreed to get fifteen coats on and set out in the 2C/36F night with me to walk off the rest of my paces for the day. After all, she knew I would get lost after a few steps from the house without a sat. nav.. It was freezing but made me incredibly happy as my watch buzzed ‘GOAL’.
Wednesday, 7th February
Glorious day but chilly again. Only 2C/36F as we went down to the village to pick up an Amazon parcel from the local Post Office. The village looks lovely this morning. The renowned Gastro-Pub, The Lamb, was bathed in sunlight and the pollarded trees in the square looked stark against the crystal blue sky. We feel so lucky to have settled in this lovely, little community with attractive and healthy surroundings that are pleasing to the eye.
I hate buying clothes and leave most of that to my wife. I have needed a new pair of casual shoes for months but baulked at paying £70.00/€79.00 for them. When Pauline found some I both liked the look of and the price, she ordered two pairs. They’ve turned out to be very pleasant – for £35.00/€39.50.
Thursday, 8th February
I don’t understand weather. Looked out of the window at 7.00 this morning and everything looked wonderful. The sky was blue, the sun was just coming up at the back of the house and it looked as if it was going to be a lovely day. Breakfast is accompanied by two smartphones and two iPads plus Radio 4’s Today programme. I am addicted to some apps on my digital media. For a long time, I was constantly checking the £/€ exchange rate. I still do it but not so often now. I am wedded to my Garmin Connect app which calls up my exercise data from my watch and analyses it. Of course, I regularly check my on-line calendar app for appointments, activities, payments to be made, etc.. I also regularly check the weather app for temperature data. Why? I’m not sure but I’ve got into that habit.
This morning, my weather app, which is very reliable, told me that the outdoor temperature was -6C/21F. There was no sign of that outside – no frost, snow, ice, wind. I stepped outside to check for myself and, sure enough, it was very cold. Later, we drove down the appropriately named Water Lane which had been flooded by a water main burst and it had obviously turned to thick ice. Later in the day, however, we were happily swimming outside in an air temperature of 10C/50F.
Á propos of absolutely nothing, this is our village Postman 130 years ago. He rode about on this bone-shaker over unsurfaced tracks.
Friday, 9th February
There was rain overnight and still some in the morning. Fortunately, it gave way to blue sky and sunshine by the time we left for the Health Club and persisted after we had completed our gym work and gone outside to swim. The breeze was distinctly chilly as we swam today but we are tough and ploughed on through our 30 lengths and ran back to the sauna to warm up.
Back home, we went round to our neighbours’ house to get instruction on how to look after Como, their cat, while they are away. In addition, our post today brought the results of our ‘poo test’ which announced that we were both tested clear of cancer and that our next test would be in two years time. Of course, developing bowel cancer now would not be picked up for two years so it is hard to be completely relaxed but, at least for now, we are clear.
Saturday, 10th February
A day at home. It is wet outside but, inside, the kitchen is pervaded with the smells of beetroot chutney and roasting chicken. Pauline is making a new batch of chutney which will see us through the summer. The Summer? We haven’t even reached Spring yet although Farming Today, which I listen to at 6.30 am on Saturday mornings, was based in Lambing Sheds in Gloucestershire this morning and reminded us that Spring is not so far away. It still feels a long time coming.
I have written about my antipathy to ‘Charities’ before but it has raised its ugly head again and we should really address this issue. I preface my remarks by saying that I am not opposed to the principle of charity as such. Indeed, it would be inhumane to be otherwise. I am perfectly happy to give things to people who I know are in need and I do. What I am opposed to is the state concept of charity which pervades our society and allows government to hide behind it.
Why should churches be considered charities? Religion is a matter of personal choice and should be funded by those who choose it not by the state’s exemption from taxation. Why should establishments of privileged education be charities? If you can afford to buy privileges for your kids, you don’t need charity. ‘Free’ State Education is readily available. What I particularly object to is the charity industry. A couple of years ago, The True and Fair Foundation’s report – “A Hornets’ Nest” – found that 1,020 charities were spending less than 50 per cent of their total income on charitable activities. Some of the charities are some of Britain’s best known voluntary organisations such as Cancer Research UK, the Guide Dogs for the Blind and the British Heart Foundation. Age UK spent just 48 per cent.
It is the panoply of ‘organisation’ that takes inordinate amounts of the gullible donors’ hard earned cash. Charity administrators pay themselves salaries that the ordinary donors could only ever dream of. So much of this work should be done by our government and by levying the appropriate taxation levels not left to the tenuous reliability of charity organisers. Kids Company went under with allegations of chaotic accounting, spurious claims of effectiveness and sexual abuse being investigated by the police. Now the sex scandals of Oxfam hit the headlines. If nothing else, these two examples throw up question marks about the degree of scrutiny of due process from the Charity Commission.