In a recent retirement blog I wrote about de-cluttering or simplifying our lives. On the whole we thought it to be a good thing but with one small caveat. Was there a danger that we might overdo it and, by so doing, our lives would become boring? An unpleasant word in my lexicon and one that came back to, if not haunt me, then to challenge my sense of well-being, at least. It happened like this … You don’t know this chap, we meet in the park when we’re walking our respective dogs, let’s call him Dave. He is what you might describe, if you knew him, as a blunt Yorkshire man. Harry Enfield had an amusing stereotype of a Yorkshireman in his TV series some while ago. Like all stereotypes it had more than a grain of truth in it. His catchphrase was, ‘I say what I like and I like what I bloody well say’. Fair enough and so back to Dave, a short step some would say.
We met on Tuesday morning and I was telling him how my latest goal-setting was going. That’s the one to not drop anything, the one that lasted until 11.30 the previous day. The one that I told myself never mind, I’ll do it again tomorrow. Tomorrow arrived, as they do, and I hadn’t even got out of bed when it all went wrong. In this case my first act of the new day was to drop my digestive biscuit in my mug of tea. Let me explain a little. Every morning while we are at our Leeds house Mrs Summerhouse, who gets up an hour earlier, brings me a mug of tea in bed, Yes I know it sounds a bit spoilt but in other houses I get up first and make the tea. But on this day I got my tea in bed and, as is my custom and their expectation, I share three digestive biscuits between the three of us (me and the two dogs). It was in the act of breaking a bit off the biscuit for first dog that it dropped into the mug of tea. How I laughed.
It wasn’t easy to extract because the tea was hot and I didn’t have a spoon but I managed it and so reset my goal for the next day. Not a great start. This was also the day of the bloody cricket. So not a good start at all. Is there another side in the world that collapses as emphatically and as consistently as England? I texted my daughter who suffers similarly to myself. I would love to reproduce verbatim her response but common decency and the fact that her parents-in-law often read this blog, and may (would) be shocked at the tirade of foul-mouthness that came winging back. She thanked me once again for bringing her up to ‘love’ the game of cricket, this ****** ******** **** **** game as she so delightfully put it. And they say, on the radio, storm Caroline is on the way.
I wrote about the day so far in my diary in an effort to exorcise my demons – clumsiness, the misery of sport (my football team lost on Saturday as did the England Rugby League team), retirement life in general. Deep joy. The act of writing helped, it was writing as therapy again, and I felt able to set out with Mrs SH and the dogs for their morning walk. I was feeling slightly more philosophical but then I hit a metaphorical bump. It caused me to have a recurring thought that life was like the arcade game of Wappersnapper (I think that’s how you spell it). For those of you unfortunate enough not to have experienced this game, briefly it involves waiting for a crocodile (false) to stick its head out of its hole and you’re supposed to whack it on the head with the rubber mallet you’re holding. You have to be quick or it dives back into the hole and another one pops out elsewhere along the line. Deeply intellectual, no but it does help develop your gross motor control.
Yes, you’re right, it does sound a tad infantile but it’s great fun especially if you’ve had a few beers which I had given that the last time I played the game was in an arcade in Scarborough on cricket tour (a weekend renowned for its alcoholic leaning – literally). Anyway I digress from my digression. Sometimes I feel like one of the crocodiles, every time you think things are looking up some bastard hits you on the head with a rubber mallet. So it was this morning. As I say I left the house feeling slightly better and then we met Dave- the blunt Yorkshire man in case you’ve lost track.
I started to tell him about dropping things. Why he said, do you drop things, as if it were a hobby I had chosen? This was not going to be easy. I tried to explain that it wasn’t planned then said at least I could write a blog about it. Then he said, a propos nothing at all, you’re not doing well are you? What could he mean? At first I thought he must somehow have seen my readership figures and was commenting on these. How do you mean? I asked. I should just have left it alone. Your blog, it’s, he searched for the perfect word – boring. Go for it you blunt Yorkshireman you, say what you like and like what you bloody well say. Erm, how do you mean? Well nothing ever happens, you haven’t done anything, have you? When are you going on holiday again (obviously implying that our lives, when not on holiday, were not worth writing about). Not until May, he looked thoughtful but about what I wasn’t going to ask. No sirree, Bob, I’d learned my lesson. It was a perfect Wappersnapper moment. Then he said I keep all your blogs, I haven’t deleted any of them. I hope he’ll keep this one with him as the star Yorkshireman. I can’t make it any more interesting for him, the rest of you will just have to wait your turn.
For the rest of the walk my head kept returning to Dave’s description of – boring. Were we really leading a boring retirement life and was my worst fear about over-simplifying all coming true? After some thought I arrived at the conclusion that I wasn’t sure, which I suppose is a bit of a boring conclusion but I will monitor this aspect of our retirement, a chap can’t be too careful, can he?