Fun in Porto

Last weekend, Long Suffering Wife (LSW) and I had a short break in Porto, Portugal’s second city. We went with an old friend of ours.  We have a lot of shared history including our revelry at the Horsley Village Disco I wrote about last December.  Almost 40 years ago, I introduced her to her (now) husband and, a few years later, she introduced me to my (now) wife.  We had a lot of fun in those days of our relative youth and we had a great time again last weekend.

Porto From Torre Dos Clerigos

Porto From Torre Dos Clerigos

About 18 months ago LSW and I visited Lisbon, Portugal’s capital. Lisbon is a wonderful historical city with lovely walks and views, we were lucky with the weather, we found the people very friendly and we enjoyed ourselves very much.  We therefore were keen to try Portugal again.

We were not disappointed; indeed in many ways Porto was even more enjoyable.  Again, the weather was sunny and the people we met were relaxed and friendly.  The historic streets with their tiled and balconied buildings were attractive and interesting.  The views across the hills of the city and the river were sunlit and dramatic.  Porto is a little slower, more laid back and perhaps even more at ease with itself than Lisbon.  It has an atmosphere that was perfect for our little group.

Porto And The Duoro River

Views of Porto And The Duoro River

Porto's Graffiti, Trams And Tiled Buildings

Porto’s Graffiti (including The 3-D Rabbit!), Trams And Tiled Buildings

Our sketchy plans for what we wanted to see and do seemed to keep falling into place.  Even fully booked restaurants found space for us.  We managed to get prime tables in roof-top bars overlooking the stunning Douro River that splits the city in two.  We stumbled upon free port tasting and barely advertised museums that pleasantly filled the gaps between excellent meals and chats over bottles of local wine.  The relaxed approach culminated in a takeaway of chicken, chips and salad (accompanied by copious amounts of local wine and port, of course) eaten heartily in our very good AirBnB on the last night of our stay.

Porto Churches And Cathedrals

Porto Churches And Cathedrals

Upon our return we found that the weather had been even hotter in our garden than in Porto and that there had only been one short rain shower to sustain the garden.  It is looking increasingly parched and manual watering is no longer enough to sustain everything.  However, my focus on keeping the beans and blackcurrant plants going is paying off.  We are able to have a variety of types of bean at every meal now and I have made a year’ supply of blackcurrant jam with loads more still to pick.

Another Year's Supply Of Blackcurrant Jam

Another Year’s Supply Of Blackcurrant Jam

My allotment is faring less well – it’s a long story as to why I have it since it is a few miles from where we now live and so I can’t keep it watered sufficiently.  The good thing is that the weeds are not thriving there either due to the lack of rain – although the leeks I failed to harvest last year are looking impressive.  More on the allotment another time…..

Dry Allotment

My Dry Allotment With Last Year’s Unpicked Leeks

Meanwhile, I’m planning to visit London again next week and, beyond that, now Paris and Porto have been visited in the last month, LSW and I need to get another holiday into the diary.

It Nearly Came Home

So, the England football team are out of the World Cup and football is not ‘coming home’ after all.  The team exceeded my expectations but failed to beat Croatia in the semi-final and the sense of anti-climax is huge.  England supporters have to console themselves with the knowledge that their youthful and promising team played in a positive way.  I also console myself with the knowledge that the English football season starts soon and the passion can be let loose there all over again.

The progression towards the climax of the World Cup, Wimbledon tennis and, in the last few days, the Tour de France, has meant I have spent increasing amounts of time watching the TV.  Afternoon sport is a real retirement luxury.

On a couple of afternoons I was able to combine following the television coverage of the tennis with painting of the TV room.  However, I was painting the front door of the cupboard hosting the TV itself and it felt a bit weird having the picture on the other side of a closed cupboard.  Now that cupboard is done, marrying following the sport with finishing the painting should be more effective!

Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) has been rather more long-suffering than usual given that the football has disrupted a few evenings.  She has little general interest in football and often gets too nervous during the England games to watch them.  Like many, though, she has been rather taken by the down to earth nature of the England heroes and the manager, Gareth Southgate.  He certainly did a decent job with limited resources (albeit with a lucky set of fixtures), and there is the promise of improvement.

In spite of the compulsion to fit in around the sport, LSW and I have managed to get out for a couple of ‘outings’.  The best was to Asthall Manor Gardens which was hosting a biennial exhibition of sculpture – the On Form Exhibition.  There were almost 400 sculptures from 40 artists laid out in the manor and across the beautiful gardens and meadows surrounding it.  Of course, this was all enhanced by the perfect warm and sunny weather that we have come to expect this summer.  We retreated afterwards to an excellent, good-value lunch at Upton Firehouse at the Upton Smokery; we will try that again.

St Nicholas Church, Asthall And Asthall Manor Gardens

St Nicholas Church, Asthall And Asthall Manor Gardens

On Form Sculpture Exhibition, Asthall Manor Gardens

On Form Sculpture Exhibition, Asthall Manor Gardens

Our own garden and meadow looks good at the moment despite the lack of rain.  The new walled garden has been planted with things that are reasonably drought-resistant and we have succumbed to a routine of selective manual watering to keep the rest going.  In the evenings, once the temperatures have cooled a bit, it has been lovely sitting out in the garden looking out across the flowers and long meadow grass with a glass of wine.  (Numbers of non-alcohol days remain depressed by the incidence of sunny evenings and the obligatory beers during England games.)

Sunset On Long Grass In Our Meadow

Sunset On Long Grass In Our Meadow Beyond The New Walled Garden

A flock of sheep that have made a recent, welcome return to the field opposite our house; they make our location look extra rural.  Like the sheep, I seek out the cool of shade through most of the day.  Even so, I have managed to keep up my walks and step-count by venturing into the local town before breakfast and before the temperatures become uncomfortable.

However, a number of recent information sources (a doctor I met during our June trip to Newquay, a chat with a local resident who uses a personal trainer, and an article in the Guardian newspaper) have indicated that even brisk walking in our hilly landscape is insufficient for the health of aging people.

What we oldsters also need to do is build up core strength, balance and muscle volume to counteract the natural degradation of muscle after our forties.  I’ve started to incorporate some minimal and brief resistance-based training into my (almost) daily back exercise routines but I know I need to make these more comprehensive and regular.  Lack of will-power and a reluctance to bother to change into clothing more appropriate for serious exercise are real obstacles I need to overcome.

The good news on the health front is that an eye test this week showed my eyesight has improved significantly in the last year.  Surely that can only be because I have retired and no longer spend 8-10 hours a day squinting at a computer screen.

So, not only has retirement allowed me the flexibility to watch the best of summer sport live, I can now see it with better eyes!  Long may that last…..

Pleasantly Full Days

Life seems to have been particularly busy in the last ten days or so since my last trip to London.  There I got a dental check-up (my teeth are fine), visited the Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece Exhibition (fascinating and beautifully laid out) and took Middle and Eldest Son to dinner and The Lantern Society, my favourite Folk Club (what a treat to catch up with them both!)

At The Lantern Society

At The Lantern Society

Rodin's The Thinker And The Kiss

Rodin’s The Thinker And The Kiss – Two Items In An Intriguing British Museum Exhibition

The weather has been highly conducive to gardening.  We have had long periods of sun, but reasonable temperatures, and just enough rain.  As a result, many days have been dominated by clearing weeds, planting out seedlings, localised manual watering and working out how to keep the destructive birds, mammals, molluscs and insects at bay.  Almost everything that needs protection now has some form fencing, netting or other damage prevention measure in place.  I will now sit back, wait and watch the ways the animals will thwart me anyway.

In my last post, I compared the post-modernist house of Erno Goldfinger to a previous house of ours.  My last visit to London and overnight stay in the Barbican reminded me, too, that the post-modernist gardens there are now being echoed by Long-Suffering Wife’s (LSW’s) planting of our new walled garden.  Our final load of gravel and the water feature have now arrived and so our new garden just lacks maturity, but there are already some similarities with the Barbican gardens (although the scale there is massive compared to that of our ex-car parking area).  It has certainly been pleasant sitting in the new garden in the sun with a glass of wine after sweating over weeds, seedlings, bean poles and netting.

Our New Garden and The Barbican Gardens

Our New Garden And The Barbican Gardens; Ours Has Some Maturing To Do!

LSW and I have also been enjoying the annual Nailsworth Festival and, especially, two walks arranged under the auspices of the festival.  The first was a history walk in the vicinity of our house.  It added to our knowledge of the footpaths, industry and religious history of the area – particularly the historic presence of the Quakers and Baptists in what was once one of the largest non-conformist settlements in the country.

History Walk

An Attentive Audience On The Nailsworth History Walk

The second was a 12 mile walk billed as being a walk from Nailsworth to ‘the sea’. In fact, ‘the sea’ was the tidal estuary of the River Severn at a point where a number of sea going ships were beached to bolster the coastline alongside the canal along which we had walked. The so-called Purton Hulks, were an interesting climax to a full day of walking up and down the Cotswold escarpment and across the Severn valley in perfect walking weather. LSW and I certainly pushed up our daily step count averages that day!

Views During Our Walk Nailsworth To The Sea

Views During Our Walk Nailsworth To The Sea

Purton Hulks

Purton Hulks

We also had a good day out walking in New Quay and Aberaeron in West Wales. We were staying with friends who have a second home there in what seems to be a lively and familiar community of second-homers based in London, Birmingham and South Wales. The health benefits of all the recent walking were offset by rather too much tasty food and drink in New Quay. On the route back from Wales, these indulgences continued as we stopped off at a family party celebrating a brief visit of one of LSW’s first cousins (once removed) from Singapore; lovely!

Views Of New Quay, Wales And Nearby Cliffs

Views Of New Quay, Wales And Nearby Cliffs

The food, drink and merriment isn’t going to stop this week with more of the World Cup to watch and celebrate (I hope), and the marking of LSW’s birthday with dinner in London on the way to a weekend in Paris.

So: busy and full days, full weeks and, as I near 12 months of retirement, I will shortly look back on a full year.

Picasso And Goldfinger

As I write this, I am travelling up to London for the second time in a week; I still look forward to my regular ‘fix’ of London life.  Today, I’m using the excuse of the need to visit my long-term dentist for a check-up.  The previous visit was primarily to enable Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) and I to meet with Eldest Son’s (ES’s) new girlfriend for the first time.  She was lovely and we all had a splendid evening at one of our favourite restaurants: Morito in Hackney Road.

I also managed to squeeze in a rather drunken lunch and impromptu darts match with an old mate of mine from my Accenture days – getting on for a decade ago now.  Meanwhile, LSW saw an art exhibition and we followed up next day with a bit more culture.  First LSW and I saw the Picasso exhibition at Tate Modern and then we went to Hampstead to visit 2 Willow Road, a modernist house designed and previously owned by architect, Erno Goldfinger.

The Picasso exhibition was unusual in that it focused on just one year of his life.  That was 1932 during which he conducted a secret affair with a young woman who he painted almost daily.  It was interesting to hear how the affair came to light – including to his wife – only at a retrospective exhibition of his work which included several paintings of his mistress.  For someone so apparently confident in his ability, it was also fascinating to hear how he curated the 1932 retrospective in a way to try to reassert his continuing relevance following the success of his earlier work.

Picasso

One Of The Many Paintings Picasso Created in 1932 Showing His Secret Mistress

The visit to 2 Willow Road was also eye opening.  It’s an early reinforced concrete building built in 1939 by and for the architect who later became (in)famous for some of the tallest reinforced concrete residential tower blocks in London.  It was given to the National Trust after his death and has been largely untouched since then.  The art he collected – including pieces by Henry Moore, Bridget Riley, Max Ernst and Delaunay – is still on show and we got a real feeling for the way he lived and entertained.

Most interesting were the similarities between the features (such as the en suite sinks), inter-room connectivity (facilitated by removable and sliding doors) and huge windows in 2 Willow Road, and the nature of our previous family home built in Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire almost 20 years later.  Clearly, unbeknownst to us, the architect who designed our house and the one we used to develop it were familiar with Erno Goldfinger.  Like 2 Willow Road, I suspect, our previous house was rather ugly to look at, but lovely to live in.

2 Willow Road

2 Willow Road, Hampstead

Now we have moved on to an old farm house with a Georgian façade.  However, the extension LSW helped to design a few years ago offers plenty of space and light so we have retained some of the best aspects of our house in Minchinhampton.  The combination of old house and modern extension feels right and our garden – recently walled and extended to take over half of the previous car parking space – is more manageable than that we had before.  With the additional time I now have, and LSW’s increased interest in gardening (plus 4 hours of paid help most weeks), we are gradually getting control of the garden.  Once I finish the endless painting of the TV room I will have even more time to relax in it!

Part of the New Garden Area At Our House

Part of the New Garden Area At Our House

Spring and Stuff

Spring has arrived late but with waves of sun and warmth that suggest it is trying to catch up on lost time.  Leaves and blossom have burst into life and colour and the landscape suddenly has that fresh feel of Spring.  The carpets of bluebells in the nearby woods are already usurped by the wild garlic and the paths and verges are lined with cow parsley 4 foot high.  Already, we seem to be marching into summer.

Wild Flowers OnThe Way to Town

Cow Parsley, Wild Garlic, Bluebells And Cowslips On The Walk Into Town

The recent improvement in the weather has encouraged me to resume vegetable gardening in between trips to London (a cheeky, impromptu visit primarily to see a favourite band, Kefaya) and Nottingham (to see my parents).  I have been planting seeds, digging the vegetable patch and putting up a bit of new fencing.  For the first time, I am retired from work during a Spring.  When I was working, I used to perform what I called ‘speed gardening’ at weekends.  This year I can devote time throughout the week to a more relaxed style of gardening.

From bitter experience I know that not all this reinvigorated effort will bear fruit in terms of usable crops.  Not everything germinates or thrives and squirrels, deer and badgers have taken more than their fair share in recent years.  However, now Spring is here, frustrations with the local wildlife, and memories of needless gluts of vegetables that the animals don’t like, are set aside and the vegetable patch is cultivated once more.  Once again, in a few months’ time, we will probably be scouring recipe books and the internet for meals requiring lots of beetroot or courgettes and having beans with every meal.

About three weeks ago, Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) had one of her periodic purges of our possessions to populate a table at a village table-top sale.  I had my usual power of veto to prevent the discarding of things that might conceivably be useful to me, our sons or any of their as yet entirely unplanned children at some point in the future.  However, I kept my veto in my pocket and a car-load of stuff was priced up and went for sale.

Unfortunately, our village evidently has a lot of people who want to offload things but few who wanted to accumulate them.  By the end of the sale, due to LSW buying yet another designer tap, she came back out of pocket and only one item lighter.  Given the investment of time in pricing all this stuff up, LSW had another go at a local car-boot sale.  She had about £60 more success but it’s clear that much of what we are trying to sell is going to take the normal trip to the local charity shops.

We gather so many material goods over a lifetime.  Some have a now outdated function and some are purely decorative but are no longer in vogue or have a place.  A classic example was an Apilco tea set which we once used and loved but which has been in a cupboard untouched for years.  We tested whether any of the sons wanted it and got negative responses (‘its horrific’ said one).  They already have what crockery they need and, if they need more, will go online at Amazon, John Lewis or Ikea.  Handing stuff down over the generations doesn’t seem to work any longer.

Apilco Tea Set

Apilco Tea Set Awaiting A New Home

At our age, we simply don’t need many additional material goods.  Indeed, LSW is strong – and persuasive in the face of my greater, but softening, reticence – on reducing our footprint by clearing our old stuff out.  Thank goodness for the recycling work of charity shops but the dump is also a regular destination.

These thoughts were going through my mind as LSW and I visited the annual neighbourhood open studios events of the last couple of weeks.  Lots of creative and talented people were displaying their art and craft work in their homes and in local galleries; some was impressive.  In past years we have bought some of the items but, more recently, we have walked around the open studios rather aimlessly.  We just don’t need any more things to sit on shelves or to go on walls.

LSW has recently started a ceramics course.  My fear is that her work – worthy and perhaps even lovely as it may turn out to be – will be another avenue of stuff entering our home.  If so, then at least I will have a bargaining chip in negotiations around hanging onto some of my long-standing possessions for another year.  But my realisation that I have to declutter that stuff is growing – maybe I’ll go to the next car boot sale or even learn to try eBay…..

Kefaya At Archspace, Haggerston, London

Kefaya At Archspace, Haggerston, London; One Of My Favourite Bands

Happy Week

The last week or so has seen warm temperatures at last.  Despite my fears, Forest Green Rovers have had sufficient success on the football field to ensure that a dreaded relegation will almost certainly be avoided.  I’ve been able to get started on preparing the vegetable patch and growing seedlings for the garden and managed to fit in another trip to London.  It’s been a good time.

IMG_6289

Lincoln Fields: Every Green Space In London Fully Occupied When The Sun Comes Out!

There has also been some nostalgia this week.  20 years ago, Boards of Canada, a band producing an evocative brand of psychedelic electronica, released their first studio album called Music Has The Right To Children.  I bought the CD soon afterwards and have spent the last 20 years buying their other albums and loving almost every minute of them.

It’s hard to pick a favourite band because there are so many music genres and different music suits different moods and circumstances.  But I believe that, at any time over the last 20 years (including today), I would have said Boards of Canada are my favourite band.  An example of their sound – with typically off-beat images evoking public service documentaries, childhood and nostalgia is here (Everything You Do Is Balloon).

Boards of Canada are two Scottish brothers who have only produced three more full albums since that first one that got me hooked.  To my knowledge, they have never played live.  They leave me grasping for more.  I therefore jumped at Eldest Son’s (ES’s)suggestion that we go to a jazz interpretation of the Music Has the Right to Children by Byron Wallen’s Gamelan Ensemble at Camden’s Jazz Club in London.  It was an excellent event – though inevitably a shadow of the real thing – and so popular that, I understand, a repeat performance is being scheduled.

Byron Wallen's Gamelan Ensemble Reinterpret Boards of Canada At The Jazz Club, Camden

Byron Wallen’s Gamelan Ensemble Reinterpret Boards of Canada At The Jazz Club, Camden

The gig was a good reason to visit London for a couple of days.  I not only spent time with ES – as usual staying in the Barbican flat he rents from us in a very convenient arrangement – but also managed to meet up with Middle Son (MS).  I also saw the Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition at Somerset House, which was a huge and incredibly varied array of often remarkable photos, and then the superb, new Monet and Architecture exhibition at the National Gallery.

Sony World Photography Award Winner: Veselin Atanasov

Sony World Photography Award Winner: Veselin Atanasov

I really enjoyed the Monet exhibition which recalled the Impressionists in London exhibition I saw at Tate Britain last year.  Several of individual pictures were stunning, the information provided was just the right level for me (not too much and nothing highfalutin), and the gallery was busy but empty enough that I could see every piece up close.  There was a little personal nostalgia here too since the exhibition sponsor was my last employer before retirement.

Monet and Architecture

Monet And Architecture: The Boulevard Des Capucines, Paris

Since returning to Gloucestershire, I have started longer spells of gardening than I managed before Spring truly sprang into life this week.  I have also resumed the interminable painting of the TV Room.  Both activities have provided moments of humour.

My vegetable patch is adjoined by a field of sheep that have been fed with hay recently because the pasture is so far behind its normal growth levels due to the poor weather.  When I appear in the vegetable patch they expect me to feed them and so rush over towards me.  One got so enthusiastic that he barged through the fence, jumped over the wall and started munching the weeds in our garden.  Fortunately, we managed to guide the sheep back to his field quickly enough to leave us amused by the experience rather than concerned.

IMG_6323

Sheep Intruding Into Our Garden

On the painting front, I have recently opened another pot.  As I was leaning over it to dip in my brush, my spectacles dropped off directly into the paint.  I felt pretty stupid as I fished the drenched, dark blue spectacles out and rinsed them off.  Luckily, the paint is water based so, as with the sheep, no harm was done.

Happy week!

Sunny London

Sunny London: Somerset House, Royal Courts of Justice, St Pauls And The 4th Plinth In Trafalgar Square

Spring Or April Fool

One of the toughest things about coming back from South Africa has been readjusting to the English weather (‘you poor things’ I hear you cry!).  Long Suffering Wife (LSW) and I were lucky to miss the cold and snow of the ‘Beast from the East’ just as we left.  However, we returned in time for the mini version of that icy blast and, for the last week or so, have struggled to avoid the rain.

Stratford Park

Stratford Park, Stroud in Early Spring Snow

But today, April Fools Day, is sunny and bright!  Is Spring here at last or is this nature’s April Fool prank?

There are many signs of spring.  The sheep are back in the field opposite our house and their lambs will soon arrive, tree buds are becoming full and starting to open, the daffodils that survived the weight of the snow last month are out, and the birds are singing more enthusiastically.  As we move into April I am hoping that the rain will relent, there will be a sustained return to warmth and that this morning’s brightness is no false promise.

Since our return from South Africa, LSW and I have been planning our next trips abroad – to Paris and Porto in the summer – and getting back into familiar routines.  LSW is re-starting her part time garden guide job and resuming her slot in the village shop.  I have been walking, reading, catching up on the TV we missed while we were away, supporting Forest Green Rovers Football Club’s struggle to avoid relegation, and (seemingly interminably) painting the TV room woodwork a dark blue.  Both before and after our South Africa trip, I have been getting up a bit earlier and walking into Nailsworth before, rather than after, breakfast.  That has created space in the routine to do painting in the mornings as well as some afternoons.  Progress in the TV room has quickened a bit – though not enough for LSW’s liking – and one end is now done (provided no-one looks too closely).

TV Room Woodwork Painting

TV Room Woodwork Painting – About A Third Done And Proud Of It!

Both of us have also started digging in the garden and setting out seed trays but this has been rather tentative given the rain and sodden ground.  LSW is excited by a new walled garden she has had designed and built to replace part of our previous car park area.  Now she is in the process of inserting the first wave of plants.  I am trying to populate our small field with a greater variety of meadow flowers – another long term project I suspect.

The drift back into a routine has been punctuated by a few highlights.  On the evening of our return to England LSW and I attended a local event at which George Monbiot, a political and environmental activist, spoke about his latest ideas and book.  It was a very well structured and inspiring talk that was full of optimism in the face of what George, and many of us, see as clear political and social dangers.  The main message is that we need to defeat the neo-liberalism that dominates today with a new narrative that expounds the value of community, the household and what he calls ‘the commons’ which I understood to be assets owned and managed in common by communities.  A lot of this dovetails into thinking around the post-work society that may flow from robotics and other technical developments that eliminate jobs; this is a fascinating area.

Later in the week, LSW and I were both moved more than expected by the Italian, Oscar-winning film Call Me By My Name.  It is a gently-paced story of young (homosexual) love with some great acting, excellent music and a direct and important message about parenting.  The film was shown at our usually tedious cinema multiplex as part of a promising programme of one off showings of films beyond the normal diet of kids’ movies and action blockbusters; more please!

Then, just before Easter, we ventured out on a rainy trip to Wiltshire and Somerset to visit the Messums Gallery near Tisbury and the Hauser & Wirth outlet and gallery near Bruton.  The buildings were more interesting than most of the art but there were some startling pieces and we had a lovely lunch at Hauser & Wirth.  Certainly, it was better being out and about in the wet pre-Spring weather than staring at the rain from our back door.

Messums Wiltshire Gallery

Messums Wiltshire Gallery: Light Installation, Art Space and ‘Nomad Patterns’ by Livia Marin

Spring: no more delay please. Let today be a turning point and hurry up and arrive properly!

2018 Resolution Setting

Happy New Year!

Fireworks

New Year Fireworks in Bath (More Impressive Than This Photo Reflects)

How lovely it is (and how smug I feel) not to have to re-galvanise myself for work as the first working week of 2018 starts up.

Not that we didn’t have a very early start this morning. We had to take Youngest Son (YS) and his girlfriend to the airport for their return to Australia – a process made more stressful by YS assuming they were leaving from Heathrow when in fact we needed to get to Gatwick! Having dropped them off just in time, I am able to consider my New Year resolutions in relative tranquillity.

I am the sort of person who makes lists and so making New Year’s resolutions comes naturally to me. Of course, this does not mean I am better than most at completing them.

As with all objectives the idea is to make the resolutions for 2018 challenging but achievable (and measurable). This year I need to attune them to my new retired status. Some are continuations of the 2017 resolutions – especially those that I failed – and a few are new. So here goes:

Resolution 1: Get Below 11 Stone. This will be the third year in succession I have had this resolution. A big effort will be required but achievement of Resolutions 2 and 3 will help – I’m going to succeed this year!

Resolution 2: Average 15,000 Steps/Day. This target is up from the 13,500 2017 target and from my achieved figure for 2017 of 14,200. Achievement will depend on staying fit but the reverse is true too. This level of walking will be fun given the attractiveness of local routes, should be achievable given the planned excursions on holidays, and will be necessary if I am to achieve Resolution 1.

Resolution 3: Have 140 No-Alcohol Days. This is the level of alcohol free days I achieved in 2012 but it is a 20% uplift on 2017’s level. It will be hard to meet this objective now I’m retired even though there is no work-related drinking now. This is because of the likely increase in holiday drinking and the temptation of evening drinks with Long Suffering Wife (LSW) in front of our wood-burner in winter or in our garden in summer. I will need to be disciplined.

That gets the basic health and fitness related resolutions that are carried forward from 2017 out of the way. The others are more trivial or more oriented to specific tasks.

Resolution 4: Grow a Beard. This is like an anti-resolution in that it involves a reduction in effort. I used not to shave at weekends but retirement has meant that Saturdays and Sundays are largely the same as other days. Rather surprisingly, given that shaving is a bit if a chore, I reverted to mid-week habits and, since retirement last July, I have shaved every day. All three of our sons have beards and, at Christmas, they suggested I grow one too. Unexpectedly, that got LSW’s enthusiastic approval so I’m already on my way.

Resolution 5: Sort Our Internet Out. Recent road repair and housing development in the village, has enabled new fibre connection. I need to master how to take advantage of this to improve our Internet quality so we can watch uninterrupted catch-up TV more consistently and not suffer the abuse we get from our city-based sons about our chronically poor download/upload speeds. I hate doing this sort of thing but LSW is keen that I take on more house utility management and responsibility.

Resolution 6: Implement Better Composting. I love making and then using compost in the garden. Almost three years ago, I was given a wooden frame compost bin kit for self-construction and installation but it remains untouched. To install the bins in the right location means dismantling the current temporary arrangements, fixing the shed guttering which currently pours water into these, and digging deep holes in rocky, sloping ground. It’s a major project (for me) but this is the year to do it!

Resolution 7: Change All My Passwords. At the risk of confusing my online/mobile password use even more than now, I want to drive a systematic change to all of them. Most have been unchanged since I first set them up, often years ago. Several are written down. I need to improve my personal security by changing them and by making them less obvious; a boring but probably sensible objective.

Resolution 8: Buy LSW More Flowers. Especially now circumstances have changed and I’m a cost not a revenue, I need to work at being a worthwhile, retired husband. This resolution would be a good, if symbolic, start to that. Given my mediocre record of flower-giving last year, I’ll aim for a small improvement of at least once a month. I know that LSW would like me to do more driving rather than flower-giving so I’ll try to do both.

Flowers

Flowers for LSW. Not Much Choice In Nailsworth Shops Today – But A Start!

I could add objectives around clarifying how to spend the rest of my discretionary retirement time; for example, revisiting my attempts to learn Italian, doing political history courses, documenting local circular footpath walks, doing something constructive in the local community, and doing something creative. But that feels like too much of a hook to put myself on right now. It’s weak, I know, but I’m enjoying myself too much without these extra pressures and will think again about this in Spring.

I hope you have decided your resolutions for 2018.  Have a great year!

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.