Why Perpetually 49?

Why Perpetually 49?

When my husband was approaching his 50th birthday the family tried persuading him to have a ‘big bash’. But, no matter what theme or venue was suggested, he was having none of it.

He declared he was no longer celebrating birthdays, his 49th was the last he was acknowledging, and he would stay that age foreveeer!

At work one day and chatting to Caroline about my future plans I talked of my idea for a website relating to retirement – ‘just an idea, no name or details at present’ I said.

The conversation turned to age and individual concepts of ageing – which led to me recounting the discussion with my husband, above.

‘That’s it’ she said ‘you could call your website Perpetually 49’

So I did.

(Courtesy of Google Images)

Photo Acknowledgement:

Featured Image – Photo by Ken Treloar on Unsplash

China 2017 (Part 1)

China 2017 (Part 1)

We left Hong Kong early Sunday morning from Hunghom Train Station. I had expected the process to be like that of travelling from England to Scotland. That was not the case at all. Despite HK now once again a Chinese territory there were border controls and passport visa checks.

It was interesting watching the scenery and noticing that Chinese towns, like many countries worldwide, have a typical skyline. That of high rise buildings.

My arrival into China did not start well, in fact, I thought I was going to be refused entry.

The night before, whilst in HK, we had purchased some fruit. One orange and apple were not eaten so I had dropped them into my backpack. How was I to know that taking fruit across the border was illegal? I didn’t even that the border still existed.

Anyway, once I understood the error of my ways, had apologised profusely and signed the required documents we were on our way. (Annoying as the oranges had been sweet and juicy and I could have eaten it on the train)

We were met at the designated point by our guide. A lovely young lady who spoke English fluently. On the way to our hotel she suggested we stop for lunch. We were informed that it was ‘National Children’s Day’ so many families would also be eating out, a good way to gain a sense of the family culture.

We assured our guide that we could manage ordering food etc as she appeared to prefer not joining us. Looking at the menu and associated photographs was a little more difficult than we thought, eventually selecting Peking Duck. We understood that dish and what could be easier?? We expected shredded duck, wanton pancakes, hoisin sauce etc.

What we received was a Whole Duck!

Apparently, this dish is for the table (usually 8) rather than for individuals. We ate what we could – our guide coming to tell us how the kitchen staff had been greatly amused – brought with her some small plastic boxes to gather up what was left. We ate this as a prelude to dinner and it was just as good cold.

We spent the remainder of the day with guide and driver sightseeing in the district. We visited the Ancestral Temple of the Chen Family, now an educational facility. https://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/guangdong/guangzhou/chen_family.htm

 

Although at one time neglected it has recently been restored and it is easy to identify the old from the new.

 

 

 

We had a whistle stop tour of the Nanyue King Mausoleum, only discovered in 1983 it had laid quietly for centuries underneath buildings. It was ‘whistle stop’ as our guide quickly realised my husband would have stayed all day so demonstrated how to keep him moving whilst missing nothing (wish she had taught me, I still struggle to move him quickly through museums, usually take a book and meet him at the café)

https://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/guangdong/guangzhou/nanyue_king.htm

An unexpected sight was the Sacred Heart Cathedral in the city centre. https://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/guangdong/guangzhou/sacred-heart-cathedral.htm

Reminiscence of the Notre Dame, it demonstrates not only the skill of the craftsmen who designed and built it in the mid-19th century but also the Catholic Heritage in the city. Unfortunately, we could not enter as a service was in progress, although assured it is worth a visit.

On the way to our hotel we stopped to stretch our legs as we walked around the grounds of Dr Sun Yatsen’s Hall. Although built in 1930 it’s architecture gives it the appearance of a much older building. From what I could read Dr Sun Yatsen was a democrat supporter of a one party state and is spoken of highly and still held in great regard. https://www.chinahighlights.com/guangzhou/attraction/sun-yat-sen-memorial-hall.htm The building is still in use today, entry is free and although, other than the internal architecture, there is nothing to see it is worth calling in if you are nearby.

 

Shamian Island, where our hotel was situated, had been built in the mid-19th century for the English and French merchants who were based in the region. The gothic and baroque style buildings are still there today. Despite being a busy area there was a tranquillity amongst the parks, riverside paths and many statues portraying every day scenes.

The hotel (White Swan Hotel Guangzhou) was excellent and listed the Queen amongst its many important visitors. It was wasted on us to be truthful as we were only there one night and had little time to explore nor make use of its facilities. We decided to ‘wander out’ for dinner so I cannot comment on the food although I defy anyone not to breakfast well at the morning buffet. Such was the array of foods I could have sat all day and still not have tried all the options.

We sat and had a leisurely breakfast looking out onto the Pearl River. Different from our breakfast 30 years ago on that date which I recall was full of the last minute preparations and ‘comings and goings’ natural on a Wedding Day.

Following check-out from the hotel we had a leisurely walk around the local park with our guide. It was surprising to see the group activities that were taking place – dance classes, Tai Chi, Chess – amongst the trees. All too soon we were heading on a train to Guilin.

Arriving at Guilin we were met by our new Guide – another young lady who spoke English fluently. Although the British are noted to be commonly poor at speaking foreign languages in our defence we find it difficult as others which to practise their use of English with us. We did make attempts to learn basic words – Hello, Goodbye, Please, Thank You etc – in fact husband mastered approx. 12 and considered himself practically a Master!

Guilin was very busy as there was a public holiday and festival happening. Our hotel (The White House Hotel) was situated alongside the river and so, to avoid the crowds, we walked around the 4 lakes and 2 rivers before eating in the hotel. Obviously the lakes were small although it was all picturesque especially as we returned to the hotel in the dark – very clever use of lighting added to the festive atmosphere.

Whilst on our walk – and to give an example of the keenness of the locals to speak English – my husband was approached by an elderly gentleman. He asked very politely if it would be possible to have a word with him. I wondered what it would be about although stepped away as I felt the approach had not involved myself. 20 minutes later they said goodbye and the gentleman continued on his way. Turns out he was a retired University Professor of English and whilst still able to read books, journals etc in the language he worried about losing the ability to converse so took any opportunity to practise – English tourists not being common in this part of China. They had a good conversation – ranging from literature to politics (we were in the middle of an election at the time so the men compared the styles of Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May). I whiled away the time posing for photos with the locals, most likely my only experience of what it would be like to be pursued by the paparazzi.

Heading back to the hotel we had to cross the road – a terrifying experience. Standing at a zebra crossing meant nothing to passing drivers and the Pelican crossings did not work no matter how many times we pressed the switch. Following a few aborted attempts to cross we noticed a group of local people, so quickly attached ourselves to them and ran when they ran!!

Again the wonderful setting of the hotel was wasted on us as we were up and out early the next morning and on our way to the Li River for a gentle cruise to Yangshuo. Such a delightful few days that I think they deserve a ‘post’ of their own.

 

 

Lasting Power of Attorney

Lasting Power of Attorney

Do you have one in place?

Not one to nag, although I could go on for hours as to why you should have this sorted. I think it should be a mandatory process alongside paying tax etc.

My personal experience of what happens when one is not in place was worrying, time consuming, required assistance from outside agencies and financially the bill was not small.

Although I was able to retrieve the monies, I had to part with over £2,000 initially. I am sure my parents never intended to place me in that situation, yet it happened and happened so quickly. Despite help from my parent’s GP and Social Services the process took 7 months via the Office of the Public Guardian/Court of Protection (OPG/COP).

During this time the bills were growing and companies, landlords etc required payment – so I had some interesting conversations with a variety of people. Whilst most were understanding and patient that was not the case with others. This made an unpleasant time for the family even more distressing.

To avoid my children having a similar drama I will have a LPA in place shortly. Only delayed so I could go through the process ‘live’ and highlight the ‘highs and lows’. Allegedly it is easy to do online so here goes.

https://www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney

Follow the link to the site, there are many sections and I would advise reading them all before starting to input any information. I found it readable and easy to follow.

First you must set up an account with the service – was quick and asked nothing you would not expect.

You are required to have both a witness and a ‘Certificate Provider’ (a person able to confirm you are of sound mind and acting voluntarily) alongside a person/people who have agreed to act as your Power of Attorneys. Once you have completed inputting the basic information online payment is required, (there is then a 40-day time period during which you must obtain the required signatures and post the printed forms to the OPG Office, if you do not make this deadline the payment is returned to your bank account). My understanding is that you can continue and re-pay, although if you think that you may not be able to make this deadline it may be simpler to select the ‘pay by cheque’ method.

To input the required information took me approx. 20 minutes and if I had had the Certificate Provider, Attorneys and witnesses ready and waiting with pens in their hands the whole process could have been completed within an hour.

I choose to only have ‘Property & Finance’ LPA status and that the attorneys could act ‘jointly and severally’ in regard to decision-making. This means that they can act separately or together, the alternative is ‘Together/Jointly’ which means that all attorneys have to agree on the decision. The former suits my circumstances better – my children live in different parts of the world and I felt ‘Jointly’ may prove too restrictive. Again, this is something that you need to consider, dependant on your own circumstances.

Undertaking this process on my own behalf has been much quicker and simpler than when acting on behalf of someone else, so again I would strongly advise you to do this, if only to save a member of your family having to work through the process at a time when there may be other stresses.

Deputyship:

When implementing an LPA is not possible, like myself, you may need to obtain a Deputyship instead.

Although following completion of this the support and guidance I have received from the OPG has been excellent I cannot say the same for the process itself.

I found the communication between myself and the COP Office easy to misunderstand, responses from my queries often took a long time and no matter how quickly I responded to their queries the COP office adhered to the timeline for each procedure. On behalf of my parents I applied for an LPA and a Deputyship at the same time, the LPA took approx. 8 weeks, the Deputyship took 7 months. I maintained regular communication regarding our situation although nothing appeared to encourage them to ‘move the timeline’ at all.

My parent’s financial affairs were in joint accounts so, despite obtaining the LPA on behalf of my father, I could not access anything until the Deputyship process was complete – so also consider your joint accounts and how you would like them to be managed.

I often reflect on that time and the speed at which the COP could finalise the request when informed that my father had died and that now the situation was becoming untenable – Care Home fees and other debts had grown and now there was a funeral. It was all sorted within a week.

In retrospect the speed at which it was all concluded was very frustrating. I am guessing that the documentation was in a tall pile and was swiftly moved to the top.

Although, as stated earlier, the guidance and support from the COP/OPG Case Workers has been very good so – all’s well that ends well.

Have you started your LPA documentation yet?

Photo Acknowledgements:

Line of People – Photo by Levi Jones on Unsplash

Dog – Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Featured Image – Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash

 

Couch 2 5Km Update 1:

Having survived to week 4 I thought I would up date you on my progress. Week 1 involved 3 sessions, each of 30 minutes and comprising of 7 sixty second light jogs. These were interspersed with timed episodes of brisk walking all the while Michael Johnson spoke encouragingly in my ear. It all sounds a doddle – it wasn’t.

Although fair to say that by the third day I was looking forward to it, not proud to say it was more to do with ‘getting it over with’ than any anticipation of enjoyment.  At the end of the session Michael J. advises a drink and a snack to ‘replenish and re-energise you’ – so I had a cup of tea and 2 biscuits, not sure that is what he meant ?

In week 2 the length of the light jogs increases in time to 90 seconds. I did find these more difficult although mostly because I had miscounted the number of runs in Session 1 and had not finished when I thought I had ☹. The disappointment stayed with me all week. That said I did notice by the end of the week I was running longer distances in each 90 second jog than I had at the beginning of the week. Now for 2 days off (I don’t do weekends)

Week 3 had a shock – the sessions now included 2 runs of 3 minutes! I had decided to try running on the treadmill at the gym instead of the paths near the house. Previously I have had difficulty even walking fast on treadmills, so anxiety levels were high. All was well, so I now know if there is heavy rain I have no excuse. Is that a good thing?

Week 4 already and is approx. 50% of the way there.

Just some general advice – Be Sensible, whilst offering encouragement by sharing my story I have no idea of your state of health or fitness so can not offer any specific guidance.

If you have never run before or have been inactive for some time I would suggest that you ‘step it down’. Instead of ‘walking briskly’, walk at your usual pace, instead of doing the ‘light jogs’ walk briskly. It may mean that instead of jogging 5Kms in week 9 you walk 3Kms briskly – it is still beneficial and could lead to you then taking up the challenge as originally intended.

Week 4 really stepped it up a gear – there are two 5-minute runs in each session, interspersed with shorter runs and brisk walking. I must admit by the third session and the final 5-minute jog I was struggling. I consoled myself that I had spent the previous two days going up and down a step ladder whilst decorating a bedroom and yet here I was, still on track.

Onto Week 5 Run 1 – I still dislike running.

Photo Acknowledgements:

Photo by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash (Featured image)

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

Planning for retirement (Stage 2)

Planning for retirement (Stage 2)

Thrift and Frugal Living

Very few of us are lucky enough to retain the same level of income once we retire.

Whilst the cost of working could be offset against the reduced income there is often a noticeable difference. For example, my income was reduced by 2/3rds!

This would have been an enormous shock to the system if I had not been aware nor spent two years planning for this change.

Despite the changes in income it is very likely that reductions in some outgoings had already occurred over the final working years such as mortgages finally ‘paid off’, childcare and childrearing no longer a major outgoing (no books on childrearing really present how much that ‘little bundle of joy’ will cost – and go on costing).

The Bank of Mum and Dad will, no doubt, also be coming to an end of its major purchases – University costs, weddings, assistance with house deposits etc hopefully becoming a thing of the past.

What I am attempting to present here is that the need for a large income is reduced, that with planning and a few alterations there can still be sufficient income to maintain your lifestyle and enjoy the future.

Following my parents’ retirement my mother once stated, ‘you have the greatest income when you least need it’. I think she was pointing out that with no dependants and no mortgage any financial outgoings were more constant and therefore manageable.

There are various ways to both manage an active retirement on a reduced income and to increase access to funds.

The most obvious that comes to mind is down-sizing the house, yet it can also be the most difficult.

Although I know that many people move home during their lifetime many others, like myself, stay put and build out. As a consequence, there can be an emotional attachment that is difficult to sever.

Plus – children sometimes do not/cannot leave for a variety of reasons so down-sizing to free financial capital and reduce household bills may not be an option.

As my children are still young adults and only one has reached the stage of having a permanent home of her own moving to a smaller house is not an option for us, besides when all 3 arrive along with partners and friends I daydream of ‘elastic walls’. And – do they ever remove their ‘stuff’!

I digress, back on topic now.

Down-sizing, financial investments, savings plans, and pensions could all provide a ‘safety net’ but what of the general ‘day-to-day’ cost of living and ways of reducing casual spending.

Some ways to reduce casual spending occur naturally and were only a result of working. Who know it cost so much to have a job? I had read of the cost of items such as the coffee purchased at train stations and the lunchtime salad/sandwich as you run from one meeting to another but once no longer working I noticed many other things I no longer needed. Smart work clothes, parking fees and petrol are examples. I would fill my petrol tank at least weekly just to travel to the workplace. Now, even though I do a similar number of personal miles, I only need to buy petrol approx. every 2 ½ weeks.

So, whilst some outgoings are reduced naturally, I still thought it would be useful to look around the internet and gather some ideas. Not surprisingly there are many sites relating to Thrift/Frugal Living/Savings advice. Many are similar in what they advise, perhaps with little new information although reading them can act as a catalyst to action – switch off that light, share that car journey etc.

Many that I read are written for those with families, especially those with young children, rather than retirees. Although useful for those with grandchildren I guess.

I have listed examples below of those I thought useful and easy to read. Many suggestions demonstrated will not be new, just sometimes reading a collection of ideas encourages you to apply suggestions to your own personal situations. Possibly even sharing thoughts and joining in the conversation on the website comments page.

http://www.frugal.org.uk/home-and-life/around-the-house/

https://www.thesimpledollar.com/little-steps-100-great-tips-for-saving-money-for-those-just-getting-started/

http://www.shoestringcottage.com/

 

Another that I found useful is http://www.frugalwoods.com  This is a Website/Blog written by a young mother in the USA. Now, you may think that it will have little connection with retirement planning, yet I found it very useful to view some of her categories relating to Thrift, financial planning etc. Her and her husband decided to abandon the city life and move to the country. This took some planning and re-thinking of how they used their income, how to sustain life on a reduced income and how to generate an income by identifying opportunity and utilising transferable skills. Her writing style is friendly and easy to read and often her family-based articles are entertaining (especially when read at my stage of life, brings back memories of toddler training and enhances the joy of being able to read her blog whilst enjoying a peaceful cup of coffee. Which I think is life’s own reward ?) I only ‘follow’ two website/Blogs – and this is one of them.

In general, the common and easy suggestions to follow to reduce spending were:

Electric and Gas Tariffs – check for better deals.

Mobile phone tariffs – check again when contracts are coming to an end. Often identifying a cheaper tariff and showing it to your current supplier results in the company matching it to retain your custom. If not move your contract or consider ‘pay as you go’.

Rail travel – Obtain a Senior Rail Card (save approx. 30% – it will soon pay for itself), book in advance where possible. Check if travelling with specific rail companies is cheaper. This may mean you need to plan your journey more attentively but can result in a substantial saving. For example – using TransPennine Express between Darlington and York can result in approx. 50% less cost than travelling on other services. The journey is slightly longer and the trains less frequent but if that is of no matter than I think the money saved is better in my pocket than the train company’s.

Cinema – Midday showings on week days are often cheaper

Restaurants – Lunch is often a cheaper option than dinner in many eateries

‘Yellow Label’ Food Shopping – the foods are usually only reduced as the Sell By date is imminent, my son introduced me to these and I would recommend looking when you are in the supermarket as once purchased the item can be frozen for using later or used on the day you shopped. Look out for seasonal vegetables etc – another common suggestion for reducing the food bill.

Menu Planning – this is an activity I have implemented for decades. My initial reasoning was around organisation of wholesome meals despite working full time with young children, being able to make all meals from scratch was important from both a nutritious stance as well as providing an environment in which the children learnt, sub-consciously, about food and cooking. Whilst helping with the ‘chopping and stirring’ it is surprising how teenagers communicate, and I then learnt about their day etc. The benefit to this is that having a shopping list of only the ingredients required means you only buy what you need – well, if you stick to the list that is.

Gym Membership – Use it or cancel it. If you find that, once no longer working, your attendances are usually week days between 9 – 5 your gym may offer a ‘Off Peak’ membership at a reduced cost – worth thinking about.

Petrol – Plan your trips so that you reduce your mileage and usage of the car. I try to avoid using the car for journeys that I can walk to in less than 30 minutes and when travelling further afield I try to complete several tasks on the day rather than have multiple journeys over the week, each for a single purpose.

Am sure there is nothing new in this although hopefully it has re-awaken some thoughts

Photo Acknowledgements:

Featured Image – Photo by Niels Steeman on Unsplash

House – Photo by Cosmic Timetraveler on Unsplash

Laptop – Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

Dog – Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

 

 

36 Hours in Hong Kong (2017)

36 Hours in Hong Kong

To celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary my husband thought it would be good to spend the day on the Pearl River in China (very appropriate)

Although I had always had a desire to visit the Terracotta Army the Pearl River is very much in the South, so we planned a more rural tour of the country. First stop was Hong Kong from where we would take a train to Guangzhou and start our adventure, but that is a different story.

First, I had 36 hours to show my husband where I had spent a period of my childhood. We did the tourist things – funicular train to Victoria Peak, night markets, street food and ‘real’ Chinese restaurants.

I had anticipated that the territory would be different, when I was there as a teenager it was a British Colony, American Soldiers spent time here away from the conflict in Vietnam and the poverty amongst refugees from other countries was much in evidence. Now returned to China the islands and Kowloon were bound to be different – surely?

Well, yes there were visible changes – so many more high rise buildings around the harbour, more modern buses, even more shopping malls yet so much was not changed – the crowds, noise and bustle were as I remembered, as were the small tea houses, crammed markets and street traders (my husband was nearly persuaded to be fitted for a new suit ‘ready in 24 hours, Sir?’ before I intervened). And the Star Ferries – our commonest form of transport in 1967 and in 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our first evening we decided to eat in a restaurant on the Kowloon side near our hotel as we were slowing down due to ‘jet lag’. We were reminded that Hong Kong is known as the most vertical of the worlds cities when entering the restaurant of our choice and realised that the ‘front desk’ was just a doorway – we were heading for the 7th floor! A real traditional eating house with great views over the harbour, we were the only tourists which was encouraging – always a good sign if the locals eat there too.

We had forgotten an electrical adaptor and whilst not needing one in Hong Kong we thought we would need one as we travelled through China so decided to risk a purchase at a night market. A great experience if you ever have the chance. Noisy and chaotic yet very business-like. We were not overly jostled by the traders and found it simple to explain what we were looking for.

Once at the correct stall we were offered a variety at various prices. I choose a multi-country one which cost approx. £20.00 – no haggling was encouraged as I was informed it was a high-quality product and the price was already fair. I took the risk and bought it – turned out a very wise investment and has proved useful back in the UK when foreign visitors have arrived without an adaptor for their iPhone chargers etc.

Next day we went over to HK Island and travelled the Peak Train up to Victoria Peak – I swear I had been on that train ‘back in the day’ as it looked so old and so familiar.

The Views from the Peak have not overly changed although it is a much more organised tourist area with pathed walkways, tourist stalls and more eating opportunities than I remember. Even though it was busy on the paths it was not crowded and so worth the time in the queue waiting for the train upwards. We were there on a Saturday, I understand it is not so busy on weekdays.

 

 

 

 

 

We had a quick lunch then headed back down to lower levels and began looking for the ‘oldest tea house in Hong Kong’ which our guide book recommended. On the way to Lin Heung Tea House we walked through many small but busy markets. Amazing how many stalls can be fitted into the tightest of spaces, sell an enormous number of different items yet each be so visible, it was easy to identify fruit from flowers from vegetables, from fish etc. On such a small island space is obviously at a premium and every nook and cranny utilised. Below is a photo of my mother walking through a market placed on a set of steps near Aberdeen Street in 1967 – the market is still there today.

 

Entering the Tea House was like entering a different world, nothing like an orderly British Tea Room at all. You are sat at the nearest table which has the vacant number of seats you request so we were sat at a table of 8 – lucky for us our new companions seemed to know what to do so we could copy them.

Basically, you help yourself to the Dim Sum passing by on trolleys and have your card marked so that you can pay the correct bill as you leave. Our difficulty was not knowing what each of the Dim Sum were, my mistake was leaving the first purchases to my husband – he arrived back with Chicken Feet! I appreciate they may be a delicacy, but I could not put something in my mouth that needed a pedicure. Anyway – they were only a few and not filling so he managed to eat them all. The next choices were much tastier although I did not know what it was I was eating, then finally we had Lotus seed dumplings – gorgeous and so worth the trauma at the start.

I am not noted to be a tea drinker and, as you would expect the tea came regularly throughout the meal so, all I can say is I enjoyed it. Fresh, hot, not strong yet full of flavour.

I have since heard the Wellington Street/Aberdeen Street area on the island is marked for redevelopment, so the Tea House is threatened with closure – go before it is too late.

We finished off our manic run around by having dinner at a Street Diner – literally sitting on small chairs at a small table (think nursery furniture) on the street whilst cyclists and pedestrians whizzed by. Drinks were kept chilled in vast open chest fridges swimming in ice and food arrived quicker than you could say ‘instant’, there was an atmosphere of pure chaos yet there was also a sense of order. It all tasted fresh and wholesome and I felt that I belonged.

We stayed at a hotel in Kowloon and one of the first things I noticed was the sculpture in the Lobby.  There were also smaller sculptures and art works nearby, although to be truthful I was more interested in checking in then heading out to really pay attention.

Arriving back at the hotel on our first evening we were late so used a short cut through the lower ground level that during the day is a Coffee shop/Bar. As we walked through the area to the lifts I noted that the walls had some noticeable works of art displayed.  ‘The walls look like an art gallery’ I said to my husband, then noticed that is exactly what it was. Further investigations revealed that the hotel does house established and emerging artists.

http://origin-hongkong.eatonhotels.com/enews/art/mobile/index2.html
Follow the link for some examples of art on show or call in for a drink and see for yourself. The hotel is called The Eaton Hotel and is on Nathan Road, Kowloon

 

My favourite is a Statue by Chen Wenling called ‘Childhood’, I thought it so expressive of fun that despite its size I knew it was a representation of the joy that childhood should be even before I discovered its title. I said ‘hello’ every time I passed.

 

 

 

There was more to Hong Kong than I recall, although I was young and spent most of the time at school I guess. So much had changed and yet, so much was the same – the same could be said for the girl on the statue.

 

And so on to the main part of the adventure…

Couch 2 5Km

Couch to 5 Km

Firstly, I must admit – I hate running. I can climb on a bike and cycle for hours but running, it’s not for me. I would rather miss that bus and walk to the next stop.

When at work I regularly walked between buildings, returned on foot to the railway station etc. and always wore a pedometer to ensure I was keeping mobile despite hours sitting on trains and at meetings (a day in Sheffield including a walk from the train to the Hallamshire Hospital and back was a journey of 17,000 steps).

Since I no longer work, nor travel as much, I have looked at a variety of ways to maintain fitness – physical health underpins mental health and agility as I am sure you know.

Listening to BBC Breakfast one morning I heard a discussion about a Public Health England App – Couch 2 5Km – and thought ‘now there’s a challenge’

https://www.nhs.uk/LiveWell/c25k/Pages/couch-to-5k.aspx Follow the link for detailed information, find the downloadable App on the App Store

One You Couch to 5K logo image

Looking at the information on the website there is a 9 week programme which guides the participant through a common sense build up of strength and stamina towards achieving a 5Km run – and you get to choose your trainer, I choose Michael Johnson.

Now, I am still not convinced I will run 5Km, nor that I will enjoy the process although determined to accept the self-imposed challenge.

Updating on a regularly basis, I think, will encourage me to at least be an enthusiastic participant. Starting on Monday 16th April I should be running 5 Km on June 25th. I’ll let you know.

Photo Acknowledgements:

Photo by Coen Staal on Unsplash

 

Planning for Retirement (Stage 1)

Planning for Retirement

A hand holding a coffee mug in front of a road, pine trees, and river in Vancouver

How do you do this? Do you do it or just let it happen? Nowadays as we tend to live longer – and be more informed regarding our possible retirement dates/choices/pensions it is most likely that we do some level of planning.

For me there were 2 main areas to consider – finance and activity. As with many women (and now increasingly men) I had career breaks to have children, then worked part-time for several years whilst they were young. For me this was definitely the correct path to take and I enjoyed it tremendously – the best of both worlds.

Although it did impact on my career progression in the long term, I also had opportunities that may not have been open to me if I had followed the normal signposted career pathway.

Aside from the impact on the occupational pension because of working part time there was also the change to the State pension and retirement age. I had started work thinking that I would be retiring at the age of 60. Whilst in my 50’s I was informed by the DWP that my eligibility to draw a state pension was now 66!

Added to this and, again like many others, I had my children in my later years rather than my 20s as was considered the norm. My last child was born when I was 43 and so I had to take his need for support during his ‘Uni’ years into consideration as I wanted to offer him the same level his sisters received.

So, first I needed in-depth information around what my pensions would be and the out-goings we would have. Whilst I acknowledge that as one part of a couple this is easier than as a singleton I am very independent and have always ‘paid my share’ and had no intention for that to change.

Once I had information relating to my occupational pension (for example https://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/nhs-pensions ) and my state pension estimate (https://www.gov.uk/state-pension ) I was able to calculate my income. Then to calculate the out-goings, obviously there was to be a level of guess work involved due to such unknowns as inflation, gas/electric/council tax price rises etc.

Once these are known it should be possible to understand what level of planning is required and enable you to identify a possible retirement date and how to work towards it. Obviously the earlier this is undertaken the better prepared one is.

I know that I had no intention of retiring at 60, I felt fit physically and mentally to undertake my role yet 66 seemed too late to be up at dawn every day. So, I decided I would leave at 62 (in fact I left at 63, but that’s a different story). Having calculated the monthly income of my occupational pension I decided to consider that figure my income for the last two years of my planned employment and save the difference.  Whilst not everyone would be able/wish to do this for me it provided a saving pot which is contributing to a massive renovation of the house and demonstrated that the level of the pension was adequate to cover my outgoings. So far so good.

There are many websites offering much sounder financial and investment advice, some of which I read when planning my financial future, others I have discovered since.

I have listed some below:

https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/manage-your-money-in-retirement

https://www.gov.uk/plan-retirement-income/get-financial-advice

http://www.laterlife.com/financial-advice/financial-advice-retirement.htm

https://www.thebalance.com/retirement-blogs-worth-reading-2388632

https://theminimillionaire.com/personal-finance/30-uk-based-personal-finance-blogs-you-need-to-follow/

Another consideration is looking at ways of reducing spending – a different way of managing financial concerns and I am preparing a ‘post’ relating to Thrift/Frugal living as there are so many ideas and hints that I thought it warranted its own space. (coming soon…)

Yet another option – is re-employment. Don’t stop working, change the day job – this could be part time, short term projects, turning an interest into income or simply job-sharing the current job. I have friends who have ‘re-invented’ themselves and I plan to invite them to write their story, hopefully it will give you some enthusiasm to review your skills and consider how they can be utilised in a different way.

When the scenario is not typical.

What I had described had been most likely the average path taken towards retirement in respect of relationships, pensions and mortgages. ‘What about the folk whose ‘normal’ turned out to be different?’ I have been asked.

Divorced, widowed, children late in life can all impact on planning the future. It is also possible that many people re-mortgaged the house to release funds or because of divorce had to start again. In these situations the financial considerations are obviously different and may, in fact, require retirement to be delayed.

An alternative is to consider re-employment in a part time role or a less demanding job. You may be pleasantly surprised at how many employers are keen to employ experienced people on a part time basis – the skills and organisational knowledge is retained. As said earlier I will shortly be uploading an article focused on how to utilise your skills – in similar or different industries than you once worked in.

Each person’s story is individual to their circumstances so all I can offer is a general guide – sit down with pen and paper. Having listed the incoming pension alongside the known and anticipated outgoings you will know if it is manageable. If there is an imbalance – what are your options? Will you be receiving a ‘Lump Sum’ as part of your occupational pension? If so, could that be used to clear some of the outstanding costs? For example – if there is a mortgage would the Lump Sum’ be enough to clear it? Or – if you used some of the money to clear part of the outstanding mortgage would paying the remaining as a monthly payment be a possibility, that way leaving you some funds in the bank in case of emergencies.

It may be that there is no ‘Lump Sum’ or it is insufficient but leaving your job is the decision you have made. Then it is time to look at the alternatives and seek financial guidance. https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money/getting-financial-advice/  The Citizens Advice Bureau is a good place to start.

Finance is, of course, not the only consideration when planning retirement as the change in your life is much wider than that and so hopefully, again with help from friends, I will be posting articles to give you as wide a view as possible of all the angles and opportunities.

Also – happy to upload your personal experience if you wish to share – send an email, I’ll make contact (perpetually49@gmail.com)

Photo Acknowledgements:

Yoga –  Photo by Marion Michele on Unsplash

Coffee Mug – Photo by Matthew Sleeper on Unsplash

Featured Image – Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

A Cheesy Day out

A Cheesy Day Out

Like many we find present giving often becomes difficult the longer you know someone – there are only so many purple jumpers you can give a person. Over the years Christine (my husband’s sister) and I have had several Activity days instead. Learning/improving a skill whilst spending a day away from the children does have its attractions (we love them really)

We have learnt the basic intricacies of both Thai and Indian cookery, improved our bread-making ability and made a good team creating a flavoured sausage you will never find in a butcher’s cabinet.

Our latest ‘day out’ was to the Northumberland Cheese Company. https://www.northumberlandcheese.co.uk/

The day started gently with a coffee and a chat with Martin (Manager), previously a Naval Chef he discovered a passion for cheese after leaving the service.

Once acquainted we were instructed to ‘don the appropriate gear’ – white coats, wellies and a hairnet – and had a very instructive guide through the various ‘cheese rooms’ so we could gather a sense of the process from when the milk arrives to the point of distribution of cheese to the customers.

Then it was down to the business of producing cheese – the visitors (us) have the option to observe or to join in. Well, we are both ‘hands on’ folk so having rolled up our sleeves and thoroughly washed our hands we joined in the days work. I think that doing something improves the learning of a skill – plus it provided a greater opportunity to ask questions. We had so many queries Craig must have ended the day with a headache.

Both batches were made using Jersey milk – although the morning’s cheese will differ from the afternoon’s due to the various techniques used during the maturing process.  One will sit in brine for 24 hours, the other will spend time in the Mould Room (enough science, I learnt a lot in 6 hours but not enough to give a lecture)

We added starters and Rennet when instructed. I learnt why my one previous attempt to use Rennet was a disaster – always read and abide by the instructions is now my advice.

There was great fun in cutting the curds (often performed by a rotating set of cutters – but we just had to try).

We then impersonated ‘artisans’ when we netted and transferred the curds to the moulds – overseen by Craig and Johnny, who also made sure each mould had the correct weight as it was surprising how quickly the whey separates even more and what was once a full mould becomes shallow.

We attempted to assist with the ‘turning’ of the moulds but quickly decided that really was best left to the experts, although we did help to remove the nets.

We think, in total, we assisted with making 180KG of cheese. We were not involved with the making of the Wedding Cake you will be pleased to note, although we did have the opportunity to make a small round for ourselves. Christine made sure those moulds were well filled ?

I was really surprised at the volume of whey that is left over once the curds are removed so it was good to hear how it is re-cycled back on the farm (well, excluding what we spilt on the floor – it really is a messy business)

In-between batches we were treated to lunch in the café. It is very popular so call in if you are passing and enjoy a drink and light meal. Follow the link for directions. https://www.northumberlandcheese.co.uk/cheese-loft-cafe

I tried the Cheese Soup, new to me, and very good it was too. Each day the soup is made fresh using any available cheese so each day it is different. Very recommended.

A cheese tasting session encouraged me to try cheeses I would not normally taste – the Nettle was surprisingly mild whilst my favourite was the Original, a mild cheese yet full of flavour.

Now, we must wait 12 weeks for the 500g sample of ‘our’ cheese to arrive in the post.

(note – except for photo of Cheese Company building, taken by myself, all other photos are from Google Images. We were too busy to have even thought of taking in a camera and I doubt it would have been permitted)

Photo Acknowledgement:

Featured Image – Photo by Alexander Maasch on Unsplash

 

 

 

Bangkok to Singapore 2016

Bangkok to Singapore 2016

After a crazy 24 hours in Bangkok accompanied by monsoon rains we looked forward to a relaxing journey back to Singapore aboard the luxurious Belmond train. The itinerary would take us through Thailand and Malaysia. We would be travelling for 4 days, spending 3 nights on board calling at River Kwai and Death Museum, Kuala Kangsar and Kuala Lumpar before arriving at Singapore Woodlands Station for a short car trip into Singapore city.

The purpose of the journey had been to celebrate my retirement. We started the holiday in Singapore attending the 3-day Formula 1 Grand Prix prior to flying north. Away from the noise and bustle of fast cars and large crowds – we obviously had never visited Bangkok before!

We knew we would only have a short time, so by pre-planning, we did manage to visit a variety of Temples, Palaces and markets. We used the popular local mode of transport – Boat/ferry – to move up the river then walked back towards the city centre stopping at places of interest. Well, most of the way, we did eventually give up and caught the boat back. They are very regular and behave like buses – you wait some time then two come at once.

Luckily the day we arrived was dry – and, again, luckily the next morning a monsoon arrived which changed our plans. Looking for ‘indoor’ pursuits we discovered the Jim Thompson Museum, him of Silk and architecture fame. I would recommend a visit to view the building itself alone – plus lunch in the restaurant was good. (http://www.jimthompsonhouse.com/)

Boarding the train at Hua Lampong station was interesting – meeting fellow passengers with who we would be spending the next 4 days could have been an anxious time but it was easy to see that everyone else was as excited about the coming adventure as I was. www.Belmond.com/trains

The cabins were comfortable and reasonably spacious, although not sure how someone of a larger size would negotiate the shower. We avoided the need to toss a coin as to who would climb up to the top bunk as we had twin beds. That said we did have a ‘bunk bed’ arrangement when we travelled on the Orient Express to Venice and coped well.

It is obvious that a lot of planning is undertaken by the train team to ensure everyone has a good experience – down to rotating seating plans and settings for meals. No panic if you were seated with anyone difficult to engage with as the chances were you would not see them again. We were lucky in that our fellow passengers were friendly and fun yet not encroaching when we wanted to sit quietly in the Observation Car etc.

The Observation Car was popular – it was the only place to obtain access to Wi-Fi, although few people were observed using it and then only for short periods. I used it for a few minutes daily just to send updates and photos to our children. Other than sitting peacefully watching the world go by the main source of fun in this car were the passing Palm Fronds and low hanging trees that would ‘whip’ anyone lost in a daydream – much to the entertainment of others.

For me the highlight, if I could call it that, was the trip to the River Kwai and the visit to the Death Railway Museum and Research Centre. Disembarking from the train we travelled on a slow boat along the river. The original bridge is no longer there although some iron sections of it were used when the bridge was re-built. During the boat journey an Australian expat related the history of the bridge and the many nationalities forced to suffer dire living and working conditions whilst it was built. The focus at the museum is to demonstrate the grisly events and conditions in realistic terms. Although not a vast exhibition I found it very emotive. ‘Man’s inhumanity to man’

Followed by a visit to a WW11 Cemetery, beautifully maintained as they always are, added to the poignancy of the day and it was a rather sober group that returned to the Train to continue our journey towards Malaysia.

The excellent dining experience soon lifted the mood and many found their way to the Bar to enjoy the piano playing and local traditional entertainment.  

The train also stopped at Kuala Kangsar where we visited local Museums, a Mosque and finally a Royal Palace (that was closed for renovation, so we only could walk around the perimeter)

Although a stop at Kuala Lumpar was planned our train had had to wait in a siding for a national express that was delayed, consequently we did not arrive in KL until late and so were restricted to a walk along the platform.

The train journey is a way to see local scenery and village life at a leisurely pace, providing an opportunity to gaze on paddy fields and the many uses (and abuses) of scooters as a mode of transport.

Nowadays the train terminates at Woodlands Station in north Singapore, so a short Taxi ride is required to travel to the city centre. For us this meant a journey to Raffles for a 4 night stay before our flight back to the UK.  The reputation of exceptional service and friendly staff is well deserved in this traditional hotel.

Returning to the office to render my resignation and to commence working three months’ notice did not go as planned – due to events in my absence I found myself agreeing to stay another 9 months.

Back to earth with a bump you could say.