‘Love Light’ and ‘Love Life’. Reflections on Retirement

The heading for this posting is taken from a festival held in Norwich in mid-February and my own admonition to myself. It has been a while since I last posted anything on my website, it was at the beginning of January I see. Confusingly quite a lot has happened, but at the same time it seems as though not very much has. Perhaps a sign of the times.

I am coming to the end of my second month of retirement. It is challenging. One of my wise friends wrote to me saying there were three things to be aware of with this changing status. The first is a dramatic decline in income. This is certainly true. That is not to say that I don’t have enough, I do, but instead of, in economic terms, drawing from the flow I may need to dip into the stock. Some argue good planning means the cheque for one’s funeral should bounce because there are insufficient funds. Sadly, I think this is not a feasible option. Gene Perret, a Hollywood screenwriter, said:

“Retirement: it is nice to be out of the rat race, but you have to learn to get along with less cheese.”

The second issue is around status and standing. Put simply one no longer has an automatic identity related to employment. Of course, one can develop other interests, this is why many people stand for local government seats. I was all set to do this two years ago when the pandemic hit and all elections in the United Kingdom were suspended. I should also note that this was for the lowest and unpaid tier of local government, the Parish Council. I have since been looking around for areas where I can contribute and think I have identified some. There are applications in the works. I will update the blog depending on what comes through.

The third warning was boredom. This is a potential threat. Nonetheless I remind myself that I am only two months into this process. Although I do not know how long retirement will last, i.e., and bluntly, when I will die or become no longer functional, I expect to have time to plan and come to terms with it. CS Lewis said:

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream”

Enough of this for now, but I will return to this theme in future blogs.

At a practical level the United Kingdom has been battered by storm after storm, sweeping across the country from the Atlantic. Norfolk has been somewhat protected, usually the storms have lost some of their force by the time they reach us. The Met Office (the British weather forecasting service) has taken to naming storms, saying it aids

“the communication of approaching severe weather through media partners and government agencies. In this way the public will be better placed to keep themselves, their property and businesses safe.”

In the last week we have had storms Dudley, Eunice, and Franklin.

While there was some rain in Norfolk, the main feature of the storm was incessant strong winds and gales. The wind howled around the chimney, set the trees thrashing wildly in the garden, and resulted in flower pots rolling, uncontrollably, backwards and forwards. Round the corner a square of Styrofoam is impaled on a branch about three metres above the path, not something a street cleaner would normally be able to deal with! Since it is still winter there was a definite chill in the air.

Rowan was greatly involved in the Norwich Love Light event. This is essentially a trail of displays around the city using lights. Linked to it were advertisements for cafes, bars and restaurants, ‘the food trail’. Ailsa took a walk around on Thursday. Douglas and I went in to see it on Saturday evening, as the weather meant the Friday events were cancelled. Some of the displays were quite spectacular. The kaleidoscopes of colours, lights and shapes projected onto the castle wall and the facade of the Cathedral were amazing. The outstanding ‘happening’ for me was the ‘burning horses’ where frame outlines of horses were set on fire on the Cathedral Green. I am not at all sure how to interpret this for my psyche.

The Covid pandemic is far less on the agenda. On 21 February Boris Johnson lifted all the remaining restrictions in England. There are still some in the place in the other parts of the United Kingdom. Was he right to do this? I think it may have been a little soon, but we will have to wait and see. I am more concerned by the way in which Johnson and the Conservative party are seeking to detract from the problems they face at home. In a just world, Johnson would have resigned over the dishonest and disrespectful way he, and other members of the Cabinet and government, broke the regulations they had imposed across the country. For a period there were people on the news, ranging from MPs to ordinary citizens, describing how they were unable to see dying relatives and loved ones while the parties were in full swing in Westminster. I think the British public feels as though they were taken for fools.

The situation in Ukraine is also prominent here. Again, the Whitehall politicians seem to see this as a way to take the focus off their misdemeanours and pretend that they have a significant role to play in this crisis. When Winston Churchill was working to form the United Nations after the second world war he is reputed to have said,

“Never let a good crisis go to waste”

Johnson wrote ‘The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History’, published in 2014. A review by John Kampfner of The Observer said

‘the book featured “not so subtle” attempts to draw a parallel between Johnson and Churchill’

There is no comparison, one is an dishonest, opportunistic buffoon, the other is not.

To bring this blog back to Norwich and what I am doing, I have been reading widely. Clare Tomalin’s autobiography ‘A Life of my Own’ was deeply interesting. She is best known as a writer of biographies including ones on Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. Her view on events from the 1940s to the present day makes for very interesting reading. Tomalin led me to order the first volume of Leonard Woolf’s autobiography ‘Sowing: an autobiography of the years 1880 to 1904’. To the credit of Norfolk County Council library service, when I ordered it online they were able to extract it from the stacks and lend it to me. It was a very retro hardback. I tend to choose books based on reviews in the papers or recommendations. I would like to say thank you to my friend Jeff Sturchio in the USA for his reading list. He puts my reading to shame. Sadly, I found myself unable to get into Douglas Stuart’s ‘Shuggie Bain’. I know it had excellent reviews and is highly regarded; it just did not do it for me.

Also on the agenda are an increasing number of lunches with friends. Sadly, while the lunches are increasing in number, the friends are not. It is a good way of catching up with people I have not seen for a while. With one a long cycle ride is required to ‘earn’ the meal. On the 21st February I arranged to meet a friend at a local hostelry for lunch. The plan was to go to one about a 15-minute drive away, and midway between our homes. It was closed, the second time we have forgotten that it is closed on a Monday. I followed him into the market town of Aylsham, and we went to The Black Boys Hotel Pub and Restaurant. This is a Grade 2 listed inn in the centre of the town and is highly rated. I had their signature fish pie and was both hugely impressed and very full.

My main form of exercise at the moment is walking. Ailsa and I have fallen into the routine of having a longish walk in the morning and a shorter one in the evening. I have a Fitbit, which communicates with my phone and my computer, recording what we have done. We are certainly averaging 5 miles a day, more on most days. I guess part of my pleasure is the way in which I am able to track the activity. I think it is a wonderful piece of equipment. It informed me recently that I had, since setting it up, walked the length of Italy. One side consequence of this is wearing out shoes, the soles of two pairs are now paper thin. To be honest I think that is also an achievement. According to the Fitbit, it and I have walked 2,322 kilometres together since 19th March 2021. I got it for my birthday and have worn it fairly constantly since.

3 thoughts on “‘Love Light’ and ‘Love Life’. Reflections on Retirement

  1. This is timely, thanks Alan.

    I retire in a month and I still have no firm idea of what Im going to (want to) do. I figured Id start with the 6 month sabbatical I never got to take before and schedule nothing but pottering around in it, to take stock. Tis gives me some useful food for thought.

    Very best



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