Bottoms Up!

Followers of the blog will recall that Forest Green Rovers (FGR) is the football team I follow – rather too avidly in Long Suffering Wife’s (LSW’s) view. You will also know that FGR are the most sustainable and green football club in the world (see here) and that it won promotion to the English Football League proper for the first time just 4 months ago. The winning of the playoff final at Wembley was an incredibly emotional high point.

2017 National League Playoff Final

2017 National League Playoff Final: Forest Green Rovers 3 Tranmere Rovers 1

Now we are up against the ‘big boys’ of League 2 and we are struggling. A couple of Saturdays ago I went to fellow strugglers Port Vale (north of Stoke) to see the bottom two clubs thrash out a draw. The scale of the ground underlined what a step up we have made.

I thought from the warm ups that there was going to be a concession to both sides’ lack of quality by having two goals to aim at each (see picture) but that proved wrong. We played out a 1-1 draw and, following another defeat since, we are now at the bottom of the league.

FGR at Port Vale

FGR Warming Up at Port : Having Two Goals Didn’t Help

None of this is particularly pertinent to my recent retirement since I have supported FGR for almost 20 years. However, retirement has affected the pattern of my attendance at games. Now I can travel on the supporters coach to more away games and get to see home games in midweek not just at the weekends. Also, I can get to Supporters Club meetings and the informative, midweek forums with the Manager and Chairman.

FGR Supporters Coach

FGRs Away Supporters Coach – The Height of Supporter Luxury!

On the other hand, when LSW and I are away on our more extended holidays, I will miss large chunks of the football season. While we are on our way to Australia and back, I shall miss 5, and possibly 6, FGR games – more than I have ever missed in succession before. I regret that but I am hoping to see a football match in Brisbane and, by the time I am back, I’m confident FGR won’t be propping up the league table any more. Fingers crossed!

More Retirement Tourism

The trip to London was a great success; we crammed a lot in without ever feeling rushed. It felt a bit weird staying in the Barbican flat (and sleeping on the sofa-bed) having given this up at ‘mates rates’ to Eldest Son (ES) and girlfriend when I retired. But it was lovely to see that the flat is now a proper home rather than just a place to park myself week-nights while I worked in London.

The raison d’etre for the London visit was to have dinner with ES, his wonderful girlfriend and his girlfriend’s lovely Italian/Palestinian parents. I even got to practice about twenty words of Italian! Also during the 36 hours in London, we got to see old friends from when we lived in Kew, caught up with Middle Son (MS), and even got to pop in to see LSW’s sister and nieces.

I also got a bit of culture in. LSW and I went to Tate Britain to see the Rachel Whiteread exhibition – a collection of her ‘sculptures’ of ‘forgotten spaces’ such as the 100 spaces under chairs or the insides of water bottles. It didn’t really grip me but I’m glad we got to see the exhibition and the overall colour scheme was appealing.

Then on Monday, while LSW was shopping, I went to the BP Portrait Award Exhibition at the National Portrait gallery. Until the rooms were swamped by hordes of schoolchildren, this was peaceful, inspiring and, although I am no great judge, high quality. I especially liked the paintings that were so meticulous that they looked like photos – although I got to wonder whether a photo might have been as good. I suspect I missed the point but enjoyed it anyway.


Finalists at BP Portrait Awards 2017 at the National Portrait Gallery

LSW and I also squeezed in a rather leisurely lunch. Why can’t we have, in our part of Gloucestershire, restaurants as simple, effective and of seemingly effortless high quality as Rochelle Canteen. It’s not hard to get the formula right; the restaurant is in an old bike shed adjoining a former school for goodness sake! It was perfect for us yesterday.

I’m weaning myself off London but it was exciting to go back.

Retirement Tourism

In August LSW and I went through our diaries to work out when we might be able to go away for a night or two to explore parts of the UK countryside. I was surprised to find LSW’s work and community commitments, plus my commitments to Forest Green Rovers fixtures, meant that we struggled to find two contiguous days when we could be away.

We ended up identifying two days earlier this week as the only dates we could get away before we head off to Australia for a month at the beginning of October. We decided to use the time to visit my parents in Nottingham and then go on to stay in Derbyshire and see Chatsworth House.

It was very good to see my parents – something we haven’t done enough even since I retired. They are coping well into their 80’s despite the aches and pains probably to be expected at this stage of life. Nottingham feels a long way away and so it was good to combine the visit with our first slice of real tourism since I retired.

We dined and stayed overnight in Stoney Middleton in the heart of the Peak District and which is the location of the legendary Lovers Leap. We walked to Eyam, the so called ‘Plague Village’. We also strode in the breeze along the dramatic Curbar Edge – a recommendation from my Dad. It was exhilarating there. It’s a landscape similar in some ways to our Cotswolds home, but also refreshingly different. It certainly reminded us of various TV and film re-enactments of scenes of contemplation and unrequited love from Victorian novels set ‘Up North’ (the breeze even gave me the teary eyes).

The Joe Wright film of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice also came to mind when we visited Chatsworth House the following day. The house is set in terrific grounds. The views are archetypally English (designed by Capability Brown), the kitchen garden was full of produce and inspiring, and the house itself is breath-taking. The rooms were particularly good due to its lighting and a current fashion exhibition that was beautifully displayed and which brought the house to life.

It was a good couple of days of tourism. We have another couple of tourism days coming up in London next weekend – though that feels more like just going back to old stomping grounds – and then we have the Australia trip. It’s largely booked now and an exciting prospect.

New Experiences

I have been encouraged by the variety of things I have found to do out here in rural England having retired from job and metropolis.

Clearly there is far less variety than in London and we often have to drive rather than walk, as before, to get to it. But what I am finding is that the relative lack of choice is actually creating a refreshing expansion of my experience by forcing me to see and do things that I would probably not have considered pre-retirement.

There have been a few very enjoyable examples in the last couple of weeks.

Last week and this we ventured to a local, independent, single-screen cinema I have never visited before in Wotton. It turns out to offer a limited but attractive programme of films about a month old that are in the tier below the Hollywood blockbusters that dominate, rather tiresomely, the local multiplex.

Wooton Electric Picture House

Wotton Electric Picture House

In both visits I saw films (Maudie and The Big Sick) that I would not normally have chosen to go out for but which turned out to be very good.   More predictably, given that Maudie is a gritty biopic about a painter of naïve pictures in Nova Scotia and The Big Sick is a rom-com with a happy ending, Long Suffering Wife (LSW) also loved them, so they can come recommended. Had I still been working in London, I would have missed both.

Saturday evenings have long been the only ones that I usually spent fully out of London. Post-retirement I can afford to use them less sparingly. Last Saturday we went to a concert of classical Spanish guitar in our local village church. It wasn’t well publicised or particularly well attended. Pre-retirement, I wouldn’t have spotted that it was on and, even if I had, I doubt I’d have used a precious Saturday evening on it. But I was so glad I did – it was a remarkably high quality performance by a relatively local chap called Alan Brinley Shaw.

Alan Brinley Shaw

Alan Brinley Shaw at Horsley Church

I’m looking forward to more of the similar.