As I move into my fifth year of retirement I’m maintaining a pretty stable routine but also trying a couple of new things.
One new thing is signing up to an informal Mens’ Mental Fitness ‘Club’. This is under the umbrella of a charity called Talk Club. The roughly weekly sessions are arranged by the local pub landlord and a couple of his fellow facilitators. They are held in his pub on a day when it is closed and no alcohol is available. I’ve attended three sessions so far and it’s been an interesting, new experience.
Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) would say I’m a pessimist and she is often frustrated by my negativity. But fundamentally, I’m happy and recognise my luck in life. I wouldn’t consider that I have many mental issues yet (I just have political and environmental worries). However, the sessions force each participant to consider their feelings in ways that many men, and certainly me, rarely do.
How do I feel out of 10? Why is that? What am I thankful for? What am I going to do this week to improve the way I feel? Just about the only time I have historically thought about these things is when I am writing posts for this blog. Now I have another reason and outlet.
The mental fitness sessions require answering all these questions and listening to other participants as they relate their feelings about them. It’s such a simple, but different process from anything else I have done that it is surprising and freeing. It certainly feels invigorating – both the relating of one’s own thoughts and the feeling that you are helping others by listening as they relay theirs.
I’m going to keep up my participation whenever I can and am grateful that I live in a village with so cool a pub that it is trying the Talk Club sessions out. I may be more listening than talking at the moment but who knows when challenging issues might arise and that might change.
The other main innovation in the last few weeks has been that I have investigated helping out in the local District’s Foodbank (Stroud District Foodbank). I went along to an open event at the local warehouse to see the operation and meet the organisers. It is impressive, expanding and much (and increasingly) needed.
The whole tour of the facility was very interesting. Clients are starting to avoid deliveries of vegetables like potatoes because they can’t afford to cook them so the Foodbank are providing slo-cookers (remember those from the 80s!) because they are energy efficient. The paper bags the food deliveries arrive in are reusable but have detachable name tags so that clients that do reuse them don’t suffer any stigma from using the Foodbank. The Foodbank management have experience and know what they are doing.
My introduction to the Stroud Foodbank satellite ‘drop off centre’ is next week. I don’t know how much I can help but I will try to and then see how things go.
Involvement at the Foodbank may mean dialling back a bit on my local Climate Change Network efforts; I hope not since this week’s record temperatures underline the need to keep awareness of the Climate and Biodiversity Emergencies at centre stage. However, as I described in my last, Retirement: Five Years On post, my days seem strangely full already. Also, the football season is about to start and there are visits to our sons in Belfast, Edinburgh and (hopefully, soon) Bristol to fit in. Not to mention the squeezing in of Mens’ Mental Fitness evenings!
Meanwhile, Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) and I made another trip to Edinburgh last weekend to see First Grandchild (FG) and his tired but loving parents. We had a lovely time as usual. Eldest Son’s (ES’s) fiancée is a great cook, we always feel very welcome, and we had another chance to meet ES’s future parents-in-law which is always fun. Plus, of course, we saw FG again and were able to assess and enjoy his excitingly rapid development.
It is, of course, a slog to drive to and from Edinburgh – about 9 hours including the charge-up of our electric car. But what a treat the weekend was! We visited North Berwick to the east of Edinburgh where we tried out the well-tested seaside entertainments of fish and chips on the quayside and a walk along the beach. FG had his first fish and chip lunch – the first of many I’m sure – and the fish I had from the Lobster Shack was exceptionally good.
I revisited the excellent Barbara Hepworth exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, this time with LSW. I again found it was an impressive chronological account of some of her best work. I’m not yet sure what exhibition will replace this or the Joan Eardley exhibition in the sister Modern Art Gallery over the road, but I’m expecting great things for our next or next but one Edinburgh visit.
Perhaps the highlight of the trip was when LSW and I were entrusted to take FG out for a trip to the Botanical Gardens. We have done this before but, in the past, FG has napped throughout. This time he was wide awake and expecting some entertainment and there was some concern that he would miss his Mum (something called ‘separation anxiety’ apparently). We delivered FG’s entertainment by showing him waterfalls and rapids in the Rockery Garden and then by sitting near a crowd of Japanese children who were playing around a large picnic. FG evidently loves the idea of running water and the proximity of noisy kids; he was a delight.
We are already planning our next trip to Edinburgh and will also try to squeeze in a summer trip to Belfast. We also have another short trip to London in a couple of weeks, reprising an even shorter one a couple of weeks ago to attend a highly convivial family birthday party. It is those trips that help to sustain my mental fitness. I look forward to being able to weave that into my reasoning for my ‘feelings score’ at my next Talk Club Mens’ Mental Fitness group session.
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