Well, who’d have thought it? First there was 100, then 200, then 300, followed by 400 and now, good heavens, 500. Yep, 500 The Summerhouse Years blogs loosely pertaining to the subject of retirement. It’s true that not all of them are from my own fair hand, I’ve had some help from Mrs Summerhouse with her art and yoga and a number of them have featured cartoons produced by Mrs SH and myself some years ago. I think they still have a place on these pages. But in total, I’ve broken the 500 barrier and this after about 4 and a quarter years of retirement at a steady target of 2 per week on Tuesdays and mostly Fridays. Which is more than I promised when I started out all those years ago. As Tom Peters (who he you say, a management guru of whom I was a great fan when I was a working guy, I reply) used to say – under-promise and over-deliver. Wise words.
My original tutor on the first of several Guardian courses, the Gentle Author of the Spitalfields Life blog, told us if you’re going to blog and hope to be successful, however you define success, you have to post consistently. People want to know that a blog they enjoy will ‘always’ be there. So that much I’ve achieved. I also, if the statistics are to be trusted, a big ‘if’, have slowly increased my readership numbers over the four and a bit years that the Summerhouse Years has been in existence. Nothing spectacular but steady. Who wants to go viral anyway? Seems like more trouble than it’s worth and if I had thousands of readers I can’t help but feel I’d find the pressure overly-stressful and I don’t need any more stress in my retirement life.
I like to think of myself as a niche market, an exclusive club rather like some iconic brand, that only a few select people know about and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Making lots of money not being the object of the exercise and, as I believe I’ve mentioned in passing before, I have turned down the offer of paid advertising on these pages. True I have no doubt that incontinence pads and Stenna stair lifts can be attractive but maybe not yet.
It’s nice when other bloggers reference my blog and I do enjoy positive (or any) comments but mostly I’m content to write for myself and a few select readers and you know who you are. True, again, I still hold the ambition of turning my blogs into a book but haven’t quite fulfilled this ambition, as yet. It seems to me getting a book published is relatively simple if you’ve already written something like 500,000 words I’ve got enough of those to make several books. Although deciding which of those crafted words to leave out might be a challenge. You’ve only to look in a certain kind of magazine (like The Oldie* to take just one example) to see there are any number of companies willing to produce your book, for a price of course, it’s getting the damned thing marketed, distributed, publicised afterwards that’s the challenge. Here would be where I would fall short, way short, because I’m not very good at self-publicity.
What of the future, you ask? You didn’t, well that’s a shame, but I’ll tell you anyway. I have no idea. If you had asked me how many of these blogs, about the broad topic of retirement, I would write before moving on to some other pointless hobby, I would have said well, maybe a 50 or 100, and yet here we are, some of you from the very beginning as far as I can make out. I keep thinking I will run out of topics. Admittedly retirement is a fairly broad subject but just how many variations can there be on the topic? Well, all I can say is I haven’t run out so far and, looking at my daily diary where I make a note of any possible variations on the theme, aka, something to write about, I’ve still got a few untapped possibilities waiting in the wings.
Thing is, life keeps happening to us, sometimes I wish it wouldn’t but then be careful what you wish for, isn’t that what wise people say? So some retirement, broadly speaking, event happens and I can write about it, sometimes willingly, sometimes as therapy and sometimes, even though it’s a great struggle but like my diary, the blog assumes a momentum and a life-force of its own and I’m almost scared to let it die. You know, once it’s gone, it’s gone as they say in the Aldi catalogue although in their case it’s a ‘they’ rather than an ‘it’, they’re not likely to have just one of each item are they. But I digress, I do that a lot, it’s what Jack Kerouac used to call free flow or was it stream of consciousness or something else altogether or am I digressing from my digression and do two digressions make a back on track scenario?
Is it possible that this blog will assume such a momentum of its own that I will actually start doing things to have something to write about? I believe it’s quite a common and maybe even legitimate strategy for keeping a blog alive. A travel blogger obviously has to set up trips in order that they may have something to write about. And that’s what retirement is of course, a journey where the old adage of it’s the journey not the destination, carries more weight than is usually the case with this particular mantra. Right now I don’t seem to need to do this, as I say there’s plenty happening to write about in this blog without needing to ‘construct’ anything, but you never know.
In the meantime I will attempt to carry on making my writing entertaining, possibly even amusing. My helpful psychological advice (an early goal for the blog) about how to get the most out of / cope with retirement, seems to be fading a bit but I suppose that’s inevitable the further I move from being a working professional. I shall continue to try and provide comfort to anybody who needs to read about other people trying to make sense of their retirement lives / older age and I include myself first and foremost in that category. I still find retirement a puzzling business and if this blog can help me to make a bit of sense of these ‘interesting’ times, then that’s enough. Isn’t it?
*I’ve advertised this blog in this magazine a couple of times, don’t know whether it helps increase my readership.