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….