Just as I was starting to feel comfortable with living a life of the ordinary, it (my comfort level) took a bit of a dive. There I was mentally lining up all my supporters and starting to feel OK about retirement. I assembled my back-up crew, I did this with a quick visit to the internet and a request for ‘quotes about the ordinary’. There’s a lot of them, admittedly not all of them support my position of valuing the ordinary, so I conveniently ignored those that didn’t fit with my hypothesis. John Updike, you will remember from one of my recent blogs, started the defence of the ordinary and he is nicely supported by C.J Heck who said, “A writer’s goal is to weave the ordinary into fine silk and the truly extraordinary into diaphanous clarity …” Another quote in support, “You can find something truly important in an ordinary minute.” From Mitch Albom in his book, For One More Day.
And then this one, a big bit of support I reckon
“Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life. Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears. Show them how to cry when pets and people die. Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand. And make the ordinary come alive for them. The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
So all going well in favour of the ordinary when, on the advice of my IT guy, I joined, and was looking at, Google+. People say it’s great. I can’t quite get hold of what I’m supposed to do with it but I’m on it for whatever reason and there she was. She being Jeanne Socrates (great name), a 70 year old British woman / grandmother who had sailed around the world solo on her yacht. It was her third attempt, she’d sailed 25,000 miles and it had taken her 259 days. http://dailym.ai/1ghlHUZ Bloody hell. Just as I thought I had got this ‘there must be more to retirement than this’ business neatly under control, this woman has to wander into my life. Pandora’s Box was well and truly open, the contents all over my desk, It’s true then, I am wasting my life by staying at home and relaxing, nay wallowing, in the ordinary.
So what to do, what to do? Of course I could do what I often do at times of stress – retreat to my past. Tell myself I have lived an adventurous life. Working in America, Australia, New Zealand, and wasn’t I asked to leave Turkey because the educationalists there found me too arrogant? Wasn’t I prevented from returning to Georgia because the Russians had invaded and they had to evacuate the people from that area to Tblisi and there to live in the schools we were supposed to be working in? The schools closed and so did our contract and I was nearly there. I worked for UNICEF at this time and in places they considered dangerous you had to take some kind of health and safety exam. They took it seriously. If you failed you didn’t go. One question I remember quite well was – what should you do if you are kidnapped and put in the boot of a car and driven away? Answer, and I swear to you this is true, you kick out the taillights, put your hand through the hole and wave! You have to agree that’s quite extra extra-ordinary.
And haven’t we planted a vineyard in the most ridiculous place and didn’t we buy 3 acres of land in Colorado without seeing it and didn’t we live in an apartment in Leeds city centre for a year? What about standing up in front of 150 secondary school staff and giving them advice about pupil behaviour in the classroom – how to manage them – when were you last in the classroom? What do you know? Go ahead, impress us, Really scary. Stop, stop, stop.
It’s not working is it? It’s not enough, is it? The issue is here and now, not what we might have done in the past. The past that’s all well and good but now I’ve retired where is the extraordinary when I need it? Where is my round the world, solo on my yacht equivalent? I told you about my ex-colleague who wanted to be a stand-up comedian, who paid money to appear at the Edinburgh Festival. Half the audience walked out on the first night, he sold two tickets for the second night and cancelled thereafter. Hmm, that’s not encouraging. We’ve got two sets of friends who’ve taken the Silk Road to China. One couple wrote about their adventures in Two Teach in China. Gail’s description of the toilet arrangements killed this fantasy escape for me. I’m not going anywhere that doesn’t have proper toilets. So that rules out quite a lot of the world.
So where does this leave me? Well, I guess it leaves me looking for adventure but not too much. I’ve got a couple of semi-adventurous things lined up which might just fill the gap between torpor and round the world yachting. One is a jazz improvisation workshop with possible public performance at the end – I’ve never played jazz in my life. And the second is becoming something called a retirement champion, as I’m sworn to secrecy about the latter I can say no more at this point. Except, given that it’s still largely unknown and fear of the unknown, as is known, is frightening, maybe I can legitimately put this in my great challenges of the world even though I’m not likely to leave Yorkshire. I don’t know, I just don’t know, this retirement business, it’s quite a puzzle ain’t it.