Reflections on Retirement – Looking back over 12 months

Now I feel officially one of those people who ‘do not have time to work’ ?

I had thought that statement was, at best, an exaggeration and, at worst, a comment made to make the ‘Retiree’ feel better about their ‘non-working’ existence. But – it is True, I never have a spare minute and still need to keep a diary, so I don’t double-book myself.

So, what do I actually do with all this time? I thought it would be useful to re-visit the past 12 months. Although I left work in the summer of 2017 there were a few ‘things to tidy up’ as well as planned family events so I only consider myself a retiree from November 2017.

I had planned two major activities for my first year – to renovate the house and to become a Lifestyle Blogger. Neither went to plan.

The house renovation is still ongoing – 12 months should have been doable. I watch ‘Homes under the Hammer’ where new owners complete amazing refurbishments in approximately 14 weeks. They obviously have secrets that they are keeping to themselves as I now accept I will be lucky to complete our house in 24 months. ☹ The main delay has been organising tradesmen – I have learnt that good plumbers, joiners etc have full diaries and you have to wait your turn. Patience is having to become a character trait.

The 2nd thing I have learnt is – nothing goes to plan and will cost nearly double the original quote. So far we have – fully refurbished a bathroom and the downstairs Washroom, had major roof repairs, replaced all external windows and doors, replaced all radiators, upgraded the central heating system from a one-pipe to a two-pipe system (no, me neither) and had 30 years of Ivy removed from external walls – along with 3 wasp nests.

I gained new skills by decorating 3 bedrooms – thanks to YouTube I learnt many ‘hints and tips’ to make a better job of this than would have occurred otherwise and now regularly use this website as a source of learning.

Still to undergo – refurbishment of small bedroom to a formal study, new staircase and major modernisation of hall and landing (sounds simple when the Joiner talks although I know it will be a nightmare!). A new sink is sitting behind the settee waiting for the plumber to find time to insert it into the kitchen – so far it has waited 3 months and I fear it will still be there at Christmas ☹

Designing and uploading a website was as confusing as I had anticipated so I completed 3 web-based courses and read 2 books on the process – then employed a web designer to complete the task. At least I understood the words he used even if I could never have done it myself. I do manage the day-to-day stuff which is an achievement. There is a lot more to ‘Blogging’ than I realised, and self-discipline is a must.

Alongside of this I have volunteered to take on two roles. I recently contacted and was accepted as a Regional Outreach Volunteer for the Silver Line organisation ( )  raising awareness of the work of the organisation to alleviate loneliness in older people. I also support the pre-retirement course presented by Tees, Esk and Wear Valley Mental Health Foundation Trust to members of staff shortly to retire, sharing my experiences both in planning my retirement and of retirement itself.

I have joined some local interest groups, to ensure I leave the house, to support my ‘Blog writing’ and to keep my brain active. So far, I regularly attend a local Book Club (which has widened my reading material), a local Writing Club (which has improved my writing style – I hope) and a local Family History group (offering insights in the local area and its ‘people’ history as well as providing an opportunity for support in researching my own family history).

And – I never turn down an invitation to go anywhere. Unless, of course, I already have something in the diary.

I challenged myself to achieve ‘Stuff’. There were two main targets – general fitness and driving anxiety. The first involved completing the ‘Couch to 5Km’ challenge (  ) – follow the links to the tale of my achievement. Now I have to maintain fitness!

Secondly, I aimed to regain confidence in driving longer distances and so widen the opportunities for walking in the country etc. For many years I had only driven from the house to the local train station. So far I have driven to York (120 miles round trip) and to IKEA at Gateshead. This statement, I know, does not look much of an achievement but I have a bad history of driving north on the A1 and so this has become a road I avoided with a plethora of excuses, it was a bigger challenge than it sounds – but I did it and without a panic attack. Much to the relief of my passenger! And then we had the joy wandering through the store gazing at the number of items we had not realised were essential for our well-being ?

So -is retirement what I expected? Yes and No

I expected to be able to ‘do stuff’ that working prohibited, which I have done to the point my days are full and I looked forward to the weekends to relax. Except I manage to fill them as well! I also expected to have excess time to do things that hadn’t occurred to me – like laying on the sofa, eating chocolate and watching daytime TV. Luckily retirement has proved too consuming to be that boring.

(PS- have you noticed the content of daytime TV adverts? Funeral Plans and Chairlifts! Someone needs to have a word with Advertising Executives)


Photo Acknowledgements:

Man using Phone – Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Person Running – Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

House renovation – Photo by Milivoj Kuhar on Unsplash


Day Out Sundays

I have recently spent two Sundays learning new skills. Both events were ‘Gift’ days and as Christmas is approaching and you may be looking for ideas, I thought I would share my experiences with you.

In August a friend asked me if I would like to join her for a one day ‘Thai’ cookery course. Unknown to her, when she phoned, it was soon to be my birthday and I was thinking of what my ‘treat’ to myself should be. (I always give myself a birthday gift – why not?) This year it would be learning more about Thai flavours.

The venue was The Arches Cookery School based on a farm within the North Yorks National Park   I had already attended courses there before and can fully recommend it. Set within an old stable block the scenic drive and rural landscape is restful in itself.

The group numbers are small so you can chat and observe your fellow cooks. Sarah is very informed, encouraging and throws out hints and tips with abandon (so, listen).

Lunch is part of the day and you have an opportunity to taste the dishes you will be cooking and taking home for dinner. It just needs finishing and heating – what’s not to like?

I had attended the ‘Thai’ day previously and yet, this was different. The dishes were different (previous day had focused on fish, this one had more meat choices) and I learnt more about ‘balancing’.

The take home message from both was the same – make your own Thai Curry Paste (Red and Green). The difference between homemade and that in a jar is astonishing. It freezes well so can be made in larger amounts for quick future meals – and is really simple to make.

(Please note – all photos credited below, too busy cooking to use camera myself)

The next Sunday I was off to Preston Park, Eaglescliffe, to spend the day improving my camera skills.  Earlier in the year my youngest daughter had given me her ‘old’ camera. Although it appeared to be a straight forward Compact Digital I struggled to take decent photos. As a birthday treat the eldest daughter bought me a one day ‘Getting Off Auto’ course with a company called ‘Going Digital’.

‘Back in the day’ when I was young I had had an SLR with a variety of lenses so thought that I would, at least, understand some of what was being said. I have to admit – I struggled.

I had expected fellow attendees to have similar cameras and, like me, to be total beginners at the digital camera technology, this was not the case.

Many knew exactly what they were doing and were there to brush up on their skills, improving their technique.

The instructors, Bev and Ian, were informed, enthusiastic and Patient. As the morning moved towards lunchtime I gradually remembered/learnt what Apertures, ISO, AWB were. I learnt about my camera and its various settings – many settings I didn’t know it had!

The afternoon in the park practising skills of both camera and composition were of great benefit as Ian walked amongst us advising and correcting (well, correcting me especially).

Although early in the day I felt I was struggling with the information all my queries were answered clearly and I came away thinking the day had been beneficial.

In the end I took some decent photos and have since been out in my local park practising – just need to remember how!

Photo Accreditation

Steamy Kitchen – Photo by John Legrand on Unsplash

Food Preparation – Photo by Alyson McPhee on Unsplash

Bowl of Food – Photo by Sharon Chen on Unsplash

Lest We Forget

This year, 2018, marks 100 years since the end of World War 1 (WW1). Often referred to as ‘the Great War’ and more poignantly as ‘the war to end all wars’.

Personally, I think there is nothing ‘great’ about war and history shows that there has not been a single day of world peace since 1914 so the second statement bears no resemblance to reality.

That said, I do think it is important to remember the impact that war has on societies and environments alongside honouring those who died or were injured protecting their country. If only so that future generations are able to ‘witness’ the personal stories as well as the historical events and gain a sense of the devastation that such events have. It is also important that we are able to recognise, that just as our relatives lost their fathers and children – so did those families on the other side of this conflict.

We are shown, via Television and social media, conflicts on other continents although it is only by hearing the stories of our individual family members that I think we truly can gain an understanding of the personal impact. Why was great-grandmother on her own with 3 children, why did great uncle Joe jump when ever a car backfired, why did cousin Mark have his leg amputated and lose the fingers on his left hand?

I doubt there are many alive who lived through the first World War – and those who are alive were mostly babes in arms – so information is now passed on through letters, photos and family reminisces. It is quite amazing the ‘keepsakes’ and ‘mementos’ that have been unearthed as towns and cities prepare exhibitions and tributes.

Earlier this week I assisted the local Girl Guides install an insulation of poppies and silhouette soldiers in the centre of the village (to add to other organisations tributes) in readiness for November 11th. It felt good that this was a multi-generational activity and that the Girl Guides were the main design artists – us oldies mostly just passed over the hundreds of poppies to willing hands.

And, I learnt something new – some of the knitted poppies were purple. This is to recognise the war effort of the Horses and other animals who also contributed and suffered during those years.

The next day I travelled to Bedale in the Yorkshire Dales to see an exhibition of the Red Cross Hospitals that were active in North Yorkshire during WW1. These hospital units opened up in response to the number of wounded soldiers returning to England for medical/nursing care.

The buildings were mostly large Halls – which had up until then been the homes of the local gentry. I recall episodes of ‘Downton Abbey’ when it too became a refuge for the wounded. The medical and nursing staff were a mixture of army personnel and local Red Cross Volunteers and were represented at the opening of the exhibition by today’s Army Nurses and members of the Red Cross.

From a personal historic perspective, it was worrying to see a ‘Nelson’s Inhaler’ as an antique – I recall using them when I was nursing (and it is not that long ago!) 

Again, it was humbling to, not only see the historical artefacts, but to speak to people who had stored such items in their homes over the generations – to remember the loss, the bravery and the strength of the human spirit.