This week has reminded me of the vital importance of one’s health. Despite some excesses in youth, and a continuing predilection for some of the things labelled in the press and by medical knowledge as ‘bad for us’, I enjoy good health.
One of the reasons for retiring when I did was that I wanted to enjoy retirement while my health allowed me to do the things I have had to ration in the past due to work – activities such as gardening, travelling and walking in rural and mountain idylls. It has therefore been frustrating to have spent the last week nursing a painful and swollen knee.
However, a pause in physical activity has allowed me to contemplate some of the more difficult and less exciting and long postponed items on my list of things to do: proper tidying my study, thinning and cleaning up our now vast paper filing systems, backing up my laptop, and even thinking about the approach I should adopt to learning Italian. Also, I have been able to step up reading.
I am lucky enough to have some lovely places to read in both inside and outside the house – even with my knee up and with an ice pack perched on it! I have just finished The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry and am now well into a lovely, slim volume called A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler – I recommend both. But it’s great to combine the reading with idle observation of birds and bees from my position in the garden (see below), and with planning for resumption of normal activities.
Bees Loving It
Wife and I have just come back from a weekend in Suffolk visiting very old friends (I mean people who have been friends for a long time!) who retired last year. We had a ‘great time in Eye and Southwold and surrounding countryside. There’s a lot of sky, the landscape has a very different feel from our part of Gloucestershire, and that was refreshing. Also, during our visit to the arcade of automata machines designed by Tim Hunkin on Southwold Pier (Southwold Pier Automata), and over dinner, I laughed more than I had for ages.
Our friends shared their experiences of retirement with us. Clearly it takes time to find a new equilibrium and balance of duty sharing. They are still finding theirs and Long Suffering Wife (LSW) and I are just starting our journey on this. I can already see that I am going to have to do more driving – which I hate and have been able to largely avoid in recent years – and more housework.
The other thing that became clear at the weekend is how retirement has created flexibility in travel timing and so, the ability to avoid the worst traffic. We visited our friends at the weekend because they are managing a major building programme at the moment and unfortunately we couldn’t leave earlier than we did on Friday because of LSWs community shop commitment. But we missed the height of the rush hour and could travel back on Monday morning rather than have to rush to get back for the normal working Monday rise and shine. That was a real, valuable, new treat.
I definitely overdid the boozing, cheese and ice cream (now I’m feeling on permanent holiday, ice cream feels a more normal luxury). Also, I evidently overdid the walking – or maybe it was the excessive, unpracticed use of the accelerator pedal in the car after so many months of not driving – since I am now laid up with a swollen knee; a small price to pay for a great first long weekend away in retirement.
Two (relatively) big events have occurred in the last week. I saw my first two Forest Green Rovers Football Club games of the new season (both friendlies against much smaller clubs). The new football season is starting at last and I have my ticket for our first game in League 2. I can’t wait.
Brimscombe & Thrupp vs Forest Green Rovers
Brimscombe & Thrupp vs FGR
Second thing was the celebration of the replacement of the collapsed and then stolen local post box. I’m now in a rural community (Dowend, Horsley) that comes together for things like this and pulls out all the stops – rather different from the polite insularity of the Barbican in London. So, we had our local MP, speeches, balloons, tea and cake including one decorated as a parcel; lovely!
Celebrating Reinstatement of Downend’s Post Box
Cake to celebrate reinstatement of Downend’s post box
I wouldn’t say that I have found a new routine yet but there has certainly been breakage of the old one. Obviously the structure of weekends and weekdays has gone. As someone already retired told me, “Every day is a Sunday”. Also the routine of getting up and changed for work and then the whole structure of work, coffee, work, lunch, work, tea, work, home has gone. So far, that is not missed at all!
I have kept some things the same. For example, I’m still getting out of bed pretty early, I’m drinking coffee in the morning (if only to keep the addict headaches away!) and I’m only having bread at weekends. Some things that I only did at the weekends are now happening every day such as the 50 minute return walk to the local town (Nailsworth) to get the newspaper. I’m a creature of habit at heart.
Some routines I’d like to preserve have been harder to maintain. For the last 12 years I have been counting the number of no-alcohol days I have each year. The intention has been to increase them each year. The graphs I maintain show I have been partially successful over the years but this year’s target of 125 days is in serious jeopardy now I have retired.
It’s just so tempting – especially in this sunny weather – to slip onto the terrace with a beer or stroll up to the pub for a pint (or two). The temptation is even greater after I have undertaken things on LSW’s list of activities long postponed in anticipation of my retirement. A start was made yesterday to clearing out the stables – starting with twenty 30kg sacks of render that was massively over-ordered last year and is now past its use by date. After filling a skip with stuff like that, a beer was definitely required! And so another no-alcohol day slides out of reach….. oh well….
It’s been a happy couple of weeks, and momentous ones. I have been weaning myself off London living. Last week was spent clearing the Barbican flat ready for ES and his partners’ occupation. This week I returned to just be a comfortable tourist. Now I am back in Gloucestershire with a bunch of tourist photos and ticket stubs. ES moves into the flat today and it is the end of an era for me.
Recently LSW and I have established a pattern of doing things around the flat that should have been done years ago and which are now too late for me to benefit from; for example, putting up decent curtains, fixing the thermostat on the kitchen sink water supply, and affixing a metal panel that has been loosely dangling from the wall. All should have been done 10 years ago!
I continued that pattern this week by finally going on one of the popular Barbican Architectural Tours on my last day of living there. It underlined how interesting the estate and its history is and pointed out a lot of things I didn’t know. The great weather allowed some decent shots of the site, its mix of Roman, Medieval, and brutalist architecture, the latter softened by uniquely populated window boxes. I’m glad I did the tour, even so late in my time there; my experience of living in Ben Jonson House (pictures below) felt rounded out.
Ben Johnson House
London Barbican – Many Architectural Ages
I will miss London loads though. In the last two weeks I have seen friends and family there, been to informal but excellent restaurants, and sampled the sights and culture of what might currently be the greatest city in the world. The British Museum was impressive, wandering around Greenwich was fun and the Fahrelnissa Zeid exhibition at the Tate Modern was uplifting.
Inside The British Museum
Fahrelnissa Zeid (Untitled)
Greenwich and Canary Wharf
But the highlight was probably a (final?) visit to the Lantern Society – a folk club in Farringdon (http://www.thelanternsociety.co.uk/). I love the intimate atmosphere and that about 50% of the audience are the performers. I recommend it to everyone.
The Lantern Society (2016)
The Lantern Society (Peter Levics)
The Lantern Society (Gitta de Ridder)
The availability of all these sources of culture and pleasure in and so close to the Barbican has been wonderful for me in recent years. I’ll just have to search and plan harder in Gloucestershire to find things to fill the gap that leaving London has created. I’ll keep you informed of the discoveries I make.
LSW and I spent most of the week clearing and cleaning the Barbican flat ready for ES to move in next weekend. Fortunately the Barbican Estate has great facilities for re-cycling and waste collection. With LSW’s eye for de-cluttering and minimalism, we got rid of a huge amount of stuff – from threadbare clothes, to cups that don’t match our Gloucestershire décor, to soil. The flat has been a rather grubby bolt hole for me to sleep in and to go to work from. Now it is fresh, almost sparkling, and ready to live in properly.
Some things we did will definitely round out the experience of living there. The window boxes – an original and intrinsic part of the overall Barbican design – are now ready for planting. They are on the way to being transformed from the barren dirt bowls that have stared back at me for 18 years. Goodness knows why I didn’t put the effort in to fix them up years ago and then use them for herbs.
It’s the same with storage. It was only this week that we got around to adding decent bedside tables and a chest of drawers instead of living out of a suitcase during the week as I have effectively done for almost two decades.
There are some important, common experiences that have come to me late in life. Constructing furniture from IKEA flat packs is one of them. This is something that, prior to retirement I would have avoided or rushed (and botched as a result). Now I had plenty of time and relaxation to apply to the task, and my first attempt was successful. Admittedly, the bedside table was the simplest item I could have done but it was a start! No worries about me taking up DIY though – the memories of the collapsible shelves I made in our first house in 1986 are still too laughable.
IKEA Bedside Table In Progress
Complete IKEA Bedside Table
I remembered to update LinkedIn with my new retired status this week; I’m cleaning and clearing away the past and moving on…… with flat pack construction my first new skill!
Thank you to all the very early followers who have signed up to this rather unpredictable blog. I hope your expectations are low but I can exceed them.
Today was the first day, proper, of my retirement. Ok, it was a bit like just another a Bank Holiday Monday for me, but it was the first weekday since I left work; the first weekday for many years that wasn’t holiday or off moaning about an illness.
I did shave this morning. When I got up, I wasn’t sure I would but some habits die hard. Anyway, my Long Suffering Wife (LSW) doesn’t particularly like scruffy, scraping stubble. She is going to have to put up with a lot more of me, so it’s probably better to oblige her on this and start the way I mean to carry on.
LSW and I have spent the bulk of the day preparing for our Eldest Son (ES) to rent our London flat. The main task has been to bring up a bed from Gloucestershire to London that doesn’t collapse in the middle when it is moved – as the current one does. The novelty of the collapse wears thin after a couple of times and I don’t want to impose it on others. We also had a trip to Ikea so tomorrow is flat pack assembly day!
I shall miss London – probably more than I shall miss work – and I shall miss the flat in the Barbican. It’s central, near the ever-changing delights of the North-East quarter of London, and is comfortable while having the having the vibrancy of urban London just outside the window. I regret not using the balcony more than I did but here are the views from it. I suspect the next couple of weeks while we get the flat sorted for ES and I wean myself off London may see me sitting out and enjoying them.