February Ups and Downs

Long Suffering Wife (LSW) and I have decided February is the month to avoid in the UK. There are just too many dismal weather days in February. We will escape to Cape Town’s drought at the end of February but will plan next year’s holiday abroad to be a bit earlier.

Actually, this week, the weather has been very variable rather than poor. We have had clear blue skies and relentlessly grey drizzle on almost alternate days throughout the last week. LSW and I even managed to get a pretty massive bonfire going to clear a load of long standing bramble piles, broken pallets and old fence posts.

Bonfire

Bonfire As An Art Work? No, Just A Task On The List Done

Like the weather, my week has also been rather up and down.

The lowest point was travelling to Newport in Wales for a Forest Green Rovers game. It was postponed about 15 minutes after I arrived due to a waterlogged pitch (or the fact that Newport were tired after their FA Cup tie in midweek against Tottenham Hotspur depending on one’s level of scepticism). What a waste of time and money!

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Newport In The Rain On The Way To A Cancelled Match. Grim!

The week had started well with a visit to my parents in Nottingham. I travel up to see them too infrequently but, now I have retired, I have no excuse.   I will take the rusting old Saab up to them more often in the future. The journey up and back wasn’t without its delays but it’s a relatively easy trip. I drive very little – much to LSW’s annoyance – and I had forgotten how good it is to have the stereo and my favourite CDs in the car; it’s a real music cocoon and, in it, no-one cares about the volume except me.

It was good to see my parents. They are in their mid-eighties but continue to live independently and well. Despite my Mum’s troublesome back and a recently replaced knee, they are still mobile and going to occasional films and concerts.

Mum and Dad

Mum and Dad At Home

They took me to a local gastro-pub that was a cut above the average. One of the things we chatted about was retirement and my Dad’s experience of going through that about 20 years ago. He thought the lessons I felt I had learnt that I described in this blog in December were fair. Like me, he didn’t miss work after retirement. However, he now works very part time in a charity shop and that is something I might consider at some point.

The only wrinkle arising from the evening in a pub was that I was tempted to drink on what I had planned to be a non-alcohol day and to help my Mum out with her (very tasty) venison main course. This early in the year, I think I can spare a bit of slippage against my New Year resolutions regarding drink and weight. Anyway, it’s not every week that I’ll be enjoying my parents company. It was a very good evening.

I slept in my sister’s old bedroom. Like much of the rest of the upstairs, it contains a lot of books. My Dad is gradually reducing the number but I sense that working in a charity bookshop is not helping with the reduction process; he likes books! De-cluttering is not a focus for my parents and it was nice to see lots of things that I remember from my childhood.

Fred Bear

Fred: Not My First Teddy Bear But My Biggest

Back at home, LSW maintains a pretty tight, minimalist ship. I brought back a few old board games with some trepidation of her reaction to having more ‘stuff’. I stashed them out of the way in the top floor cupboards but have promised to do a cull of old toys to compensate.

After my return from Nottingham, LSW and I visited Ledbury in Herefordshire with her Mum. It was one of those grey February days but pleasant enough; we’ll return later in the year. Most interesting was a brief sojourn in an unprepossessing pub while I was waiting for LSW and Mother-in-Laws’ shopping to conclude. The pub just had an unsmiling barman, someone determinedly playing the slot machine, a few near-silent individuals standing at the bar and another, like me, sitting at tables at the sides. The pub was ominously silent for long periods but conversations would occasionally break out that were dominated by references to fights and ‘trouble’; it was a glimpse into a different world…..

Ledbury

Ledbury Church Street

I can sense LSW getting impatient with the lack of TV room decoration progress – I need to make the most of the unappealing February weather by getting on with that in this coming week. I have no excuse there either.

Catching Up With London

The effects of my retirement last year are not only about me. Long Suffering Wife (LSW) had to be in agreement that my retirement was a good idea since it was clear that there would be a significant impact on her too. That has proved to be the case since I stopped work and moved back to the family home from my 5-day-a-week flat in London. She no longer has large tracts of the day to herself and the house that she controls so well now has an additional presence (/interloper?). It was therefore somewhat of a relief for LSW when, for the first time in 7 months of retirement, I headed back to London for a few days last week and gave her a bit of space and time alone.

I know that she enjoyed that. I also had a very good time.

Replica of the London Olympic Flame Mechanism

Replica Of The London Olympic Flame Mechanism At The Museum Of London

I visited the Museum of London, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the Temple of Mithras under the new Bloomberg building. I also took in an occurrence of The Lantern Society (one of the best folk clubs in London and one I had frequented regularly until last July) and spent a couple of hours in the Rough Trade East record shop listening to new music. That was all fitted in around a few catch ups with Middle Son (MS) and some old friends. It was also good to go out for dinner with Eldest Son (ES) who put me up in our Barbican flat. It was an active few days.

Tudor Portraits At The National Portrait Gallery

Tudor Portraits At The National Portrait Gallery (Katherine Parr, Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, Henry VII). Wonderful Vibrant Colours Still

The cultural highlight was the Opera exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It’s a history of opera told through focus on seven operas as they premiered in seven cities including Venice, London, Paris, Dresden and Leningrad. The exhibition shows how each opera was influenced by the events and politics of the time and, in turn, ignited passions in the cities in which they were performed. The magic was in the immersive experience generated by the wearing of headphones that responded to where one stood physically in the exhibition. They played the operas (also shown in videos) but also provided spoken insights into them and other sound effects all of which amplified the historical context in the cities in which the operas debuted. It is a fascinating exhibition.

I also loved the Temple of Mithras which was a swish and free exhibition of a Roman temple that was discovered in the Second World War and is now re-positioned in its original location under the new buildings in Walbrook. A lot of money has been thrown at the display and it’s well worth booking up a visit.

Temple Of Mithras

Temple of Mithras, Walbrook

After all that walking and cultural input, it was important to eat and drink well and I did! The ineptly named Flavour Bastard restaurant provided a very tasty lunch. It was near empty but that meant there was no rush as I caught up with an ex-Accenture colleague made redundant from Accenture with myself in around 2009. The canapes at the Accenture Alumni event I briefly attended were small and tricky to eat but dinner at Flat Iron with ES was more straightforward.

I also had a good evening of beer and curry with two other work ex-colleagues from a project way back in 1977. We have differing views on Brexit but otherwise set the world to rights and discussed the benefits of retirement. One retired 5 years ago, the other has yet to sample the delights.

Mark and Mike

Old Mates Contemplating Retirement, Grandfatherhood, Beer And Where The Next Curry Will Be

We agreed that what primarily keeps, or kept, us at work were the qualities of people we work(ed) with. In my case the impact of that aspect of retirement was diminished by the fact that, in the later years of my career, most of the people I interacted with were overseas. Therefore interactions were rarely face to face and were, correspondingly, of relatively limited depth. That reduced the sense of loss when I retired.

I think we also concluded that a clean break from work is probably the best option – one can always resume some form of work later if work-less retirement doesn’t provide all one needs. Finishing work abruptly on a stress high may not be healthy but, in my case, the intensity of work had already decreased as I moved into the final work years. So, again, the impact of stopping work was not as great for me as it may be for some.

More of an impact for me was the sudden move out of London. However, that also has been ameliorated by the fact that I can still have weeks like last week when I can visit and stay in my old flat on the sofa bed.

I’m looking forward to my next visit already.

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Music At The Lovely Lantern Society Folk Club