2017 Resolution Review

I hope that you had a great Christmas.

I enjoyed the festive period a lot, and probably even more than usual. There was variety – terrific Christmas lunch with family, visits from very old friends, and sunny walks with local, relatively new friends. There was proper Winter weather with quantities of snow we haven’t seen for a few years. Critically, for the first time in a while, we had all three sons with us plus the added dimension of Middle Son’s girlfriend and a great friend of Youngest Son over from Australia. Things were going on a lot of the time but it was relaxed.

Nailsworth In Winter

Nailsworth (My Local Town) In Winter

The snow made the landscape beautiful. Long Suffering Wife (LSW) and I had a lovely walk through it just after Boxing Day with a friend from university (and Best Man at our wedding). His Christmas period visits over the years have often coincided with cold, crisp weather and he wasn’t disappointed this time around. The only down side was the ice which caused us both to fall over like little old men – in my case leaving me with a ricked neck that I am still nursing. Since then, LSW has frequently pointed out the efficacy of actually wearing the ‘Yak Traks’ that aid shoe grip rather than just having them in one’s pocket!

Snowy Cotswolds
Snowy Cotswolds


Inevitably perhaps, I ate and drank a lot over the Christmas period. That messed with two of my 2017 New Year resolutions concerning weight loss and the count of no-alcohol days. Before resetting the resolutions for 2018 I have briefly taken stock of how I did in 2017.

Resolution 1: Retire. That was achieved and made 2017 a momentous year for me. It impacted – mainly favourably – my ability to achieve the other resolutions I made a year ago.

Resolution 2: Increase My No-Alcohol Days from 2016 (124 days). I failed on this by 8 days. It is noticeable that the number declined after retirement in July. I used to drink almost exclusively at weekends and, now every day feels like a weekend….. well, it’s harder to maintain discipline.

Resolution 3: Get Below 11 Stone. In practice this meant losing about 10 pounds; I failed. I got close in mid-December but failing on Resolution 2 and overeating during the festive period put paid to success. I feel retirement has allowed more control over what I eat and I am helped by LSW also managing her weight proactively. I can achieve this target in 2018.

Resolution 4: Average 13,500 Steps/Day. This fairly aggressive increase on previous years – as measured on my iPhone – was achieved easily due to my new pattern of daily living post-retirement. My daily average for 2017 was 14,200.

Resolution 5: Read the Daily Newspaper Thoroughly. This was in response to my feeling that my attention span was becoming shorter. I think this had been the result of increasing reliance on the Internet as a way of receiving and digesting news. I felt I was missing out on depth of analysis. Retirement has given me the time to achieve this resolution – although it’s hard to measure the success and impact on my understanding of current affairs.

Resolution 6: Keep Going to Gigs and Cinema. This has been partially achieved in that I have been to lots of gigs before and after retirement. Several recent local ones have been excellent. However, local availability of the sort of cinema I like is very limited now I have retired to the country. I am retreating to boxed sets on catch-up TV and that’s fine for now.

Resolution 7: Read 16 books. Retirement has really helped here and I achieved this with 3 weeks to spare. My most enjoyed book this year was Under Major Domo Minor by Patrick De Witt.

Resolution 8: Buy LSW Flowers Occasionally. This was achieved, although ‘occasionally’ is the operative word here. I promise to do better Dear!

Making A New Friend

Christmas – A Time To Make New Friends

Time to get busy setting resolutions for 2018….. Have a Very Happy New Year!

The Quickening Pace Toward Christmas

In my working life there were, of course, deadlines every week, every day and, often, very hour. I have grown used to not facing them since retiring. Now, the days tend to drift by guided by to do lists with ambiguous or undetermined timelines and I can do what I want, when I want. That’s great. However, the last couple of weeks have seen a quickening of life’s pace, a variety of social events and a few deadlines that have shaken my reverie.

The main imperative has been to complete painting of the window alcoves in the upgraded TV room before arrival of the plumber to install new radiators. My inexperience in decoration led me to be surprised by the need for four coats of paint, day long drying times in between each and sanding down after each intermediate coat; that all created a lead time that left me feeling under significant time pressure. However, I managed to meet the deadline.

This early success (another 90% of the room remains to be decorated!) was despite a brief trip to London to enjoy a catch up with old friends from our time in Kew nearly 20 years ago. We enjoyed a delightful evening party with and then a lovely bagel-based breakfast in two different couples’ houses. Where we stayed overnight was almost directly opposite where we lived for several years.

An even longer standing friend, dating back to LSW’s and my first months in London 40 years ago, visited us in Gloucestershire. We had a few bottles of wine with her, Youngest Son (YS) and his girlfriend. That was sufficient to make the idea of going to the local village disco seem like a good idea. That turned out to be excellent with music expertly sampled from the last 40 years and daft dancing fuelled by inexpensive but powerful cocktails. We had such a laugh! My challenge with the decorating was more than matched by the challenge LSW faced in having to get up at 5am next morning to take YS and girlfriend to the railway station – ouch!

Other events this week have included celebration of the re-opening of the main road between our village of Horsley and the local town of Nailsworth. The closure has been for over 4 months and has been an economic blow for the local pub, The Hog. We had a few drinks there to mark the road re-opening and the end of the ‘rat run’ congestion in the lane outside our house.

I also saw the new Star Wars film with Eldest Son (ES) and YS. I’ve seen all the Star Wars films but I struggle to follow the plot that has run back and forth through them. ES and YS tried to educate me by getting me to re-watch the previous film earlier in the day and their guidance helped. The latest addition to the series is well-made and the formula worked again. It was rare fun to have an outing with two sons.

Amid all this hustle and bustle, dancing and decorating, I have managed a few long walks. The weather has been variable as we have approached the year’s shortest day but retirement offers the chance to get out and about whenever it perks up. I’m very lucky to find myself retired in such a lovely part of England and be able to enjoy it.

Mossy Banks and Big Skies Near Horsley

Mossy Banks and Big Skies near Horsley

Finally, Happy Christmas to you all. Have a great festive period.

Christmas Tree

Happy Christmas!

Winter Weather

Youngest Son (YS) has just returned from Brisbane, Australia with his girlfriend for three weeks visiting their respective families. It’s lovely to see them again and to have YS stay with us, off and on, for a couple of weeks in between his trips to London, Bristol and Belfast.

The weather has been a bit of a shock for them both though. They swapped temperatures of over 30° in Brisbane for what was, on Tuesday night, -13° and instead of Australian sunshine they got snow, ice then steady rain.

We don’t seem to have had proper snow for a few years and, initially, it is always welcome. It quietens everything and makes even messy areas – like the current building and landscaping works in our garden – look pretty.

YS managed to get his drone up (an essential part of his equipment for his business at Cactus Juice Cinematography) and took some video and pictures. Our hamlet was a picturesque winter scene with a steady fall of snow, whitened trees and happy tobogganers in the field opposite our house.

Drone View of Downend

Drone View of Our Hamlet in Winter

But then, after the initial impact, snow becomes a bit annoying. In part this was because YS had to drive his girlfriend to Bristol so that she could catch an onward flight to Northern Ireland. That was a challenge given the steep roads around us but the village ‘Snow Warden’ had been out gritting and she made it. Others haven’t been so lucky and there have been a few accidents in the area.

Lorry Crash

A Victim of Black Ice

Back at home, the snow, and its subsequent freezing then melting, highlighted a couple of issues with unplanned permeability of our house. The weight of the snow has also played havoc with the guttering on the shed so the raised vegetable beds are now raised above a big puddle.

Nonetheless, on balance, I think snow is a good thing. It feels like an essential characteristic of winter and a small rebellion against the inevitability of climate change and global warming. Some more snow around Christmas with cold clear days would be ideal (provided it doesn’t mess with the football fixtures!)

Winter From Our House

Winter View From Our House

Drone View of Sunrise Near Our House

Drone View of Sunrise Near Our House

One other impact of the snow, ice and then rain is that it has given me no excuse not to progress painting of our recently upgraded TV room. I can’t remember the last time I did any decorating but it was decades ago. I’m re-learning – the hard way – the need to sequence the process correctly. For example, having carefully put down protective masking tape on the edges to be painted, scraping it off accidentally while sanding down created irritating re-work. But progress is being made and I like the deep blue colour LSW has chosen – a significant departure from her white and grey norm.

Me Decorating

A Very Rare Sight of Me Decorating (Applying Undercoat Slowly)

6 Months On (Part II)

The last post listed the first five lessons learnt since my retirement six months ago. They were:

  • Work didn’t and doesn’t define me and I don’t miss it,
  • There is plenty to do in retirement,
  • There is still need for structure,
  • Holidays (trips away from home) are more relaxing now,
  • I miss London, but not as much as I expected.

A few others that come to mind are:

Summer Is A Good Time To Retire. The sun tends to shine, it’s relatively warm and there are few weather related impediments to doing whatever one wants. Given I wasn’t sure how would fill my time as I moved into retirement, that was important for me.

Derry Watkins's Garden

Summer in Derry Watkins’s Special Plants Nursery Garden, Near Bath

Remember That Retirement Affects One’s Partner Too. Many cautioned me about how Long Suffering Wife (LSW) might react to having me ‘under her feet’ for so much more time relative to when I was living through the week in London. In fact, LSW’s work takes her out of the house two days a week and she continues her normal round of visits to friends and relatives so we still spend a lot of the day apart. That’s good since I am conscious of the need to maintain independence and separation as well as togetherness.

Also, I am still only gradually accommodating the little compromises to living together full time. For example, cutting up the salad much more finely than I prefer, compromising on the music we listen to when we are both around, drying up with a tea towel after washing up (what is the point of not just letting things dry naturally!) and using LSW’s brand of yogurt. We are getting by pretty well I think – but maybe I should ask again…..

Spend Time Getting to Know One’s (New) Neighbourhood. I have enjoyed the daily walks into town and the variations in route I have been able to build in to widen and deepen familiarity with the local views, footpaths and houses. LSW and I have also gone further afield (for example, Bristol, Cheltenham and Tetbury) and gradually my knowledge of South Gloucestershire is becoming more commensurate with having had a family home in here for 20 years. I’m also getting better at remembering local peoples’ names now I meet them more routinely – much to LSW’s relief.

Summer View in Cheltenham

Summer View in Cheltenham

Don’t Rush Into Any New Big Time Commitments. Maybe I’ll get around to it but I just haven’t felt any great compulsion to take on any worthy (or unworthy for that matter) commitments since retiring. I suppose reigniting my participation in the Forest Green Rovers Football Supporters Club or volunteering in the village shop are the obvious possibilities; but not yet.

Health, As Always, Is Critical. One of the factors in retiring when I did was a concern for my health. Old age is, of course, creeping on, but health hasn’t stopped me doing anything yet. I’m going to press on while I can and do things such as eating sensibly, walking and gardening that, hopefully, keep me healthy.

Jerusalem Artichokes

Home Grown Jerusalem Artichokes Made Into Jerusalem Artichoke and Pea Soup – Very Healthy!

I Really Don’t Like Snakes. I recall seeing a grass snake that had got caught in some netting in the garden of our previous house 15 years ago. That frightened me near to death when it moved. But that was nothing compared to the mean look of the snake I near stepped on in Australia. That look it gave me as it slid off with me reeling back and falling on my bum will stay with me forever.

I’m sure that there will be many more lessons to be learned in the next six months of retirement.

6 Months On (Part I)

I retired from work six months ago. In some ways time has gone quickly but in other ways, not. Sometimes I wonder how I have frittered the time since I retired away on so little. In other ways, and on other days (like today), walking through those revolving doors on Canary Wharf for the last time feels like ages away and that life since has been very rich.

View From My Work Desk Earlier This Year

View From My Work Desk Earlier This Year

So what have I learned? Here are the first five things that come to mind.

Work Didn’t and Doesn’t Define Me. I didn’t expect to miss work – its pressures, the meetings, the schedules/routines, the achievements/failures and the PowerPoint – and I don’t. I might do something resembling work in the future but its currently way down the agenda to even think about that.

Leaving the Building

Still From A Video I Took As I Went Through The Office Revolving Doors For The Final Time

There Is Plenty To Do In Retirement. I used to work 50-55 hours a week plus there was the 12 hours a week travelling to and from work. Retirement has freed up a lot of time. Filling the released time hasn’t been difficult. A lot more walking, more reading the newspaper to catch up with world events, more TV box sets, much more reading, more gardening and a bit more cooking has expanded into the space. And that is before the holidays, the time spent on this blog, and my scrappy attempts at learning Italian (not unfortunately something I can include on this things learnt list!).

There Is Still Need For Structure. A few months into retirement, I realised I needed to drive myself a bit more to get things done. I needed to supplement the bucket list of broad things to do with retirement with a list of almost daily items ‘to do’. I like routines and my new one, dotted with one off tasks, works for me.

Holidays Are More Relaxing Now. Long Suffering Wife (LSW) continues to work part time so holidays still need to be scheduled around that. However, holidays can be longer now I have retired. That, in itself, increases the relaxation of going away. On our almost four-week Australia trip, there was no tension of clearing the desk in the build-up and no concern about returning to a backlog of work email and issues. Also, I’m happier about having trips away from our home in Gloucestershire rather than holidaying there now that I‘m no longer spending the majority of my time in London. LSW and I only did the Australia trip aboard in the last six months but we are planning more for 2018.

I Miss London, But Not As Much As I Expected. The loss of immediate access to London night life – music, restaurants and cinema especially – was a worry to me as I retired. This concern has proved to be largely unfounded in practice. LSW has been especially supportive in trying out local music venues with me and the new Marshall Rooms in Stroud is promising. The quality (the ambience especially) of local medium-priced restaurants is poor relative to the best of the constant and hectic turnover of new strivers in London. However, we are learning to love the local pub(s) and saving our food money for our occasional trips to London – like the one earlier this week which was excellent. While there are independent cinemas locally, rural film watching was always going to struggle to compete with living over Barbican Cinemas 2 and 3! I’m filling the gap satisfactorily with European box sets. It’s not so bad…

I realised as I was writing this that the lessons learned above are just a few of them. They may not even be the main ones. So I’ll think again and augment this list shortly….