Places to Go, Things to Do

Our three sons came from Edinburgh, Bristol and Belfast to stay with us to attend Jane’s Mum’s funeral and then my birthday brunch.  The funeral was very well attended and passed flawlessly, peacefully and movingly.  My birthday was low key but very enjoyable.  It was great to have all three sons in one place for the first time for a while, to hear them banter with each other, and to chat to.

Beautiful Funeral Flowers

Two of them asked, independently, what on earth I fills my time in retirement.  I’m not sure I was entirely candid about my occasional post-lunch snoozes or the rather excessive amount of time I spend looking at my mobile phone – though they are also fairly guilty of the latter so they would understand.  But what struck me once again as I tried to answer is how busy my life still seems to be. 

The routine of walking to the nearest town for the daily shopping and the newspaper, reading that newspaper and the weekly Economist magazine, preparing lunch and (50% of the time) dinner, all takes up hours of relatively relaxed time.  I spend up to a day a week in local climate action and other village activities and another half a day at the Stroud Foodbank.  I have recently inserted an hour or two of gardening into the routine (not enough, but it’s a start) partially at the cost of my frequent walks around the local countryside that usually constitute my main exercise.

Peak Bluebells And Wild Garlic

The early evenings comprise of the ‘Quick Crossword’ over a cup of tea and/or visits to the local pub.  Later, we watch streamed TV series (we tend to gravitate to dark European crime thrillers) and then its time for the BBC News, 15 minutes reading in bed and sleep. 

So, even in weeks without trips to Edinburgh or funerals to attend (and there have been two in the last month unfortunately), I feel pretty occupied.  How did I fit 10 hours a mid-week day on work?  It was interesting to hear Middle Son start to feel the same way now he has given up his job for a bit of downtime before a ‘gap-month’ travelling in Columbia.  He too seems to have found that available time just gets filled with activity.  In retirement, those activities are mainly non-urgent and discretionary; suits me!

Our trip to Edinburgh last month to see First Grandchild (FG) and his parents was as rewarding as usual.  FG is discovering the desire to exert control and is developing a temper, a willingness to do things but only at his pace and when he is ready, and a sense of humour.  Its lovely to see his development in the videos we are sent but even more so face to face.  Maybe I just lack the recall power but I think work got in the way of appreciating all of this in my own children at FG’s age.

The Splendid Roof Of The Scottish National Museum’s Main Hall

As usual, taking FG out to the National Museum of Scotland, to the Royal Botanic Garden and to the local playgrounds were highpoints during our Edinburgh trip.  It’s wonderful to see that everything through his eyes is so new and something to learn about. 

Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh: Rhododendrons Out In April!

However, there were many other treats amid the hospitality offered by Eldest Son and his wife and the fun of being with FG.  Jane and I walked to Leith where I bought her birthday present in advance and with her close guidance.  On the way back we stopped off at Spry, our favourite wine bar in the city. 

We also visited the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art to see an exhibition of Alberta Whittle’s work.  We had seen an exhibition by her in Bath a few months earlier which we had enjoyed.  However, although the exhibition in Edinburgh was much broader in ambition, neither of us enjoyed the individual works so much this time.

‘Taking A Leap Toward The Ancestors’ By Alberta Whittle (2022)

Our cultural immersion while in Edinburgh continued with a brief stop at the private The Scottish Gallery (mainly to see some pretty floral paintings by Angie Lewin) before exceeding all our daily steps targets by crossing the city again to visit the Dovecot Studios.  This was a real highlight.

Part of the Kaffe Fassett ‘Power Of Pattern’ Exhibition

Not only was there an excellent exhibition of textiles by and inspired by Kaffe Fassett called ‘The Power of Pattern’, but the tapestry studios themselves were fascinating.  I was only vaguely familiar with Kaffe Fassett but I loved a lot of the work on show here – mainly because of the vibrancy of the colour – and I learned a lot about his philosophy, way of working and his collaborations with others. 

Close-ups Of Quilted and Tapestry Works By Kaffe Fassett And Followers

The tapestry studios at Dovecote are restored and re-purposed swimming baths that were part of the now defunct infirmary.  The space is airy and dramatic.  The floor – what presumably was the bottom of the swimming pool – is an art space that is currently occupied by a series of looms of varying sizes and types.  Each contained part-finished tapestries that suggested the huge effort that has to go into each.  Upstairs, completed tapestries illustrating various techniques and styles are on display.  We really enjoyed the experience.

Dovecot Studios

To round out the cultural aspect of our Edinburgh trip, I also managed an hour or so in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.  The entrance hall is stunning and I wanted to see that again.  Inside there was no special exhibition this time but the permanent displays – especially the modern section – were interesting enough.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery Atrium

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery: Two Unusual, Medical Portraits (By Ken Currie)

Back home we have been enjoying an admittedly rather wet spring.  The wild garlic, bluebells and cow parsley adorn the lanes and the woods.  In the garden, the daffodils, the amelanchier and most of the tulips have been and gone but there are allium flower heads about to burst and green shoots everywhere.  In our lush and green field cum orchard, the cowslips and wild geraniums have proliferated and our eyes are peeled for orchids.

Exotic Garden Tulips And Perfect Apple Blossom

A recent visit to The Ethicurean with Middle Son and his partner for Sunday lunch included a wander around the gardens that provide many of the vegetable ingredients for the cooking.  The lunch itself was multi-course but much more than a tasting menu; it was really imaginative, tasty and filling, and delivered at a perfectly slow pace in the gorgeous surroundings of a converted Victorian greenhouse.  We’ll go again.

The Rather Wonderful The Ethicurean Restaurant

Since then, rather inspired by The Ethicurean’s gardens, I have made progress in clearing most of the vegetable patches, planting beetroot, chard, onions and potatoes and getting bean, courgette and squash seeds on the go. 

This year I have applied a method Jane used for some of her flower seeds to the germination of the beans seeds I recovered from my last two harvests.  Instead of popping them in composted seed trays, I put them between two sheets of wet kitchen roll and put the result in zip lock plastic bags.  I left the bags on the floor of our kitchen which has underfloor heating and, lo and behold, I had a 100% success rate for germination! 

My (Janes!) New Ziplock Plastic Bag Method Of Seed Germination

I have transferred the germinated beans to the small pots and now hope they will grow on with, unlike previous years, zero seed wastage.  Success in a busy retirement schedule is sweet!

2 thoughts on “Places to Go, Things to Do

  1. I was fortunate to have a job that was fulfilling & continued in a consulting role in education until I was 70. Like you I now love retirement and the opportunity to pack even more into life…but in a relaxed way. Time does become more precious the older one gets and it must be used wisely.

    Thanks for your blog Paul, as always an enjoyable read.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s