So the wedding is over, it went well. More of this later. We’re back from our very nice holiday with the pups in Ireland (more of this and house buying in a later blog) and although this set me off again wondering about where we, in retirement, should live, it was definitely more good than bad. We still have the house (late mother’s) to clear out, I’ve given up one jazz class and sort of joined another, there are jobs beginning to come on stream in the vineyard. Our son is going to Australia and we’re taking over ‘management’ of his gardening business. There’s the pups to walk twice a day, art projects for Mrs Summerhouse, her latest picture to be published next Friday (I set her a deadline), her yoga classes to run. And of course for me there’s this blog to write. And yet … with all this activity I still find myself wondering, on an almost daily basis, does this activity mean that I am missing out on that really important retirement activity, the one that will make me happy and fulfilled? Don’t be stupid I hear Mrs SH say, you never will be happy, you’re just not made that way. Yes, I reply, I know that in my working life I was never satisfied with what I was doing even if we were doing in it different countries. But there was / is this little voice in the back of my head somewhere, saying things like, retirement is a chance to be somebody different!The problem is that when I allow the tiny voice to come to the front and I look it right in the eye and ask it – what exactly is it that you thought would be different? What does this elusive retirement happiness actually look like, or more mundanely what did you think you would be doing in retirement that you’re not doing now / yet? And what is the response? Nothing. Zilch. A blank. Other than this vague thought that we should be travelling to exotic places (even though I’ve proved that different places do not mean different person), the voice comes up with nothing at all. Perhaps the report from my Aussie chum about his retirement which had a simple pleasing simplicity to it has unsettled me – again. But as for the voice, I don’t know why I bothered bringing you to the front of my brain and asking you a simple question. Get to the back of my brain, go on, get back in your box. Leave me alone.
It’s about this point when I get to the ‘physician heal thyself’ position. Go on, you used to be a psychologist, use your brain and work it out. I try all those big picture thinking techniques that I used to use in schools when I was encouraging them to see the big picture which would then underpin the rightness (or wrongness) of any detailed planning. There’s the miracle question, you know the one, if a miracle happened tomorrow and you suddenly had the perfect retirement life, what would it look like? What would you actually be doing? Where would you be? No holds barred, nothing off limits at this stage. Blue skies ideas. Dare to dream, that kind of thing. It and similar strategies have worked well in the past when I have been the facilitator and I had a client whose job it was to then implement the ‘values into actions’ part of the process. Trouble is I can’t think of anything either different or inspirational or that feels right for me. So where does that leave me in my retirement ‘adventure’? Still searching for perfection or after nearly two years about at the point of accepting there is no magic answer and retirement will be more of the same.
Perhaps I’m aiming too high. A little mundanity may be required. I could always join something, a club or a society, that’s how a lot of retirees enjoy themselves (even find fulfilment) and last night we had a small taste of this belongingness. Except predictably for us, having been exposed to a Headingley version of our tribe, something I wrote about in a previous blog, after one evening we decided we didn’t want to have anything further to do with this admittedly loose, gathering of retirees. The occasion was a gathering of a kind of Headingley retired person’s film club at our excellent little independent cinema The Cottage Road cinema. The film we went to see was The 39 Steps (hence the image at beginning in case you were wondering), made in 1935, about the year that most of the audience was born. It was Mrs Summerhouse’s idea that we should go and I admit that the idea of spending an evening in the company of our peers made me a little nervous. Rightly so it turned out.
The first thing to say is that, in all the years we have been going to this cinema, I have never seen it so full. Probably at our age you need the big screen to see the picture and surround sound doesn’t hurt either. Of course everybody was talking very loudly before the film began, I feared the worst but most of them settled down when the actual film began and there was very little in the way of ‘what did he say?’ I suppose what surprised us was the amount of food and drink these people consumed. You name it they had and ate or drank it. All beer was served in plastic ‘glasses’. At the cricket this is a health and safety (what else) strategy for when the crowd get rowdy. In this group it seemed a safety device designed to prevent the old dears cutting themselves. Strangely the Pullman row was roped off I suspect to keep the wilder members of the audience under control. They seemed to drink shed loads aided by an, unusual these days, interval (let’s face it although the film is not a long one by modern standards there was no way half the audience was going to make it to the end without a toilet stop), where a young lady sold ice cream and drinks (admittedly not beer) from a tray at the front. They fell on her like locusts. She normally sells tickets so how her exposure to this tribe worked out for her I’m not sure but she certainly left with her tray empty and looking slightly bemused.
All this liquid had to come out somewhere and sure enough at the interval there was a significant queue outside the gents. This is probably the first time the queue for the gents outweighed the queue for the ladies. Of course us chaps always suffer more from what are politely called bladder problems and this crowd seemed to be over-represented in this department. There was a good deal of hopping about as we waited for our turn. An elderly gentleman, probably in some way the organiser of this seniors ‘club’, spoke at half time telling us about future films he intended to show. When he said that The Third Man was the next offering I thought the crowd were going to explode. They were practically salsaing in the aisles. I feared for their ageing bladders. Made me think back to the screaming girls in the early days of Beatles if you know what I mean. It’s a good film but not that good. That’s the trouble with retired people they lose their heads as well as their bodily fluids.
So is this our tribe? Bloody hell I hope not. Should I be joining something? Is this the way to retirement satisfaction? Well, possibly but I don’t know what I should join, after all my one and only attempt to belong to something – a retirees group – didn’t work out so well and I gave it up after the first year with some relief. There is a writer’s club I’ve seen advertised so maybe… In the meantime I continue the search for retirement satisfaction.