A few posts ago I mentioned that I had started going to a Mental Fitness For Men group under the auspices of Talk Club. Our local pub landlord has arranged weekly Talk Club sessions and I have made it to most of them since they started a few months ago. The sessions are of fixed format but the people who turn up each week vary so there is always something new to listen to as well as, usually, something new to say.
I’ve found the meetings useful in that they help me frame what I am grateful for and what I’m going to do in the next week to make things feel better for myself. However, I do often feel daunted by the lucidity with which most others in the weekly groups talk about the way they feel. In comparison I tend to fall back into talking about things I have done and things I’m going to do. I have explained to the group (and myself) that I tend to feel happiest when I am ticking off tasks on my to-do list but I suspect that I need to get deeper into how I feel about life rather than describing tasks.
Having said that, I have felt a certain contentment that, by and large, I have done what I said I would do over the last few weeks. The tasks have varied from raking up the scythed and strimmed grass in the meadow (into piles I don’t quite know what to do with), to harvesting the last summer crops and gathering seed for next year, to production of a string of documents I promised for the local Climate Action Network group that I belong to.
Today, post-Foodbank duties, I am even finally managing to get around to making crab apple jelly which is a task that has been on my to-do list for a few weeks. Overall, October and early November has been a good month for tiny achievements amongst my retirement routine!
There have been a few other high points recently. Middle Son (MS) and his partner have moved from London to Bristol – just 45 minutes away. That means that we will see them more often. For example, Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) and I were delighted when they popped over for an impromptu dinner a couple of Fridays ago. It was lovely to have a normalised drop-in-type arrangement with one of our sons rather than have to think about days packing, travelling and staying away from home.
Not that those sorts of visits are not welcome. We are off to Edinburgh again later this week and can’t wait to see First Grandchild (FG) again (and his parents!) for the first time in over two months. It’s going to be a special visit this time to celebrate not only FG’s first birthday, but also Eldest Son (ES) and his partner’s marriage. I’m so glad they have chosen a relatively low key way of getting married and celebrating that with a few close relatives. However, the event is momentous nonetheless and it will be lovely to have all our boys, their partners, my Dad and my sister all together with FG in one place at the same time.
We have also had some old friends come to visit us for a weekend. We have been rather poor at inviting people over for almost anything since the Covid pandemic; we seem to have just got out of that pattern of being. But it was great to see these long standing and close friends again. We had an active but relaxed time with them that culminated in a delightful walk in the Slad Valley and then an excellent lunch at The Woolpack (of Laurie Lee fame).
Much of the rest of the time in the last few weeks has been more routine. However, I helped to advertise a talk that our village Climate Action Network group arranged with the Parish Council on rewilding and the impact of climate change on our local trees. The theme of this talk, and a continuing series we have planned for next year, is ‘hope’. This is to counteract the inevitable descent into gloom if we consider and talk too much about the climate and biodiversity emergencies alongside other current preoccupations such as the war in Ukraine and the cost of living crisis.
The first talk in the ‘Hope Talks’ series was almost wildly successful. We have a hard act to follow as we go into next year. The talks themselves bring the village together and just the fact they happen adds to the resilience of the community and its cohesiveness. I edit a quarterly newsletter (another task done this week!) and submit articles to the monthly village magazine but these ‘Hope Talks’ hold out greater promise for conveying useful information while being a great relationship building mechanism.
Of course, other continuing elements of my recent retirement routine have been steadfast support of local football teams (Forest Green Rovers but also Shortwood United and Horsley United) and more of the Autumnal walks I talked about in my last post.
The Autumn weather has been so mild and, until recently, so dry that the walks have been particularly pleasant. The colours in the trees have been changing quite variably from species to species. That has meant that while the reds and yellows have perhaps not been as spectacular as in some past years, the blending of different colours across the valley slopes has been very attractive.
I plan to keep up the local walks even as the winter weather closes in. However, I do also plan to reduce the number of discretionary, extraneous things I commit to in the next few months. At least that way I may be able to think more about abstract feelings rather than worrying about the state of my to-do list and the rate of knocking items off it. I may even resort to that old trick of adding things to the to-do list that I have already done…..