Up until 1994 when I was 46 I harboured a delusion that, given the right circumstances, I would be able to relax, to become a laid back kind of guy. It wasn’t that I was never relaxed but let’s say such a state for me was a rarity. In 1994 we went to live in New Zealand. We went on a promise from me that in this country I would be a different kind of father / husband. More easy-going, less uptight. As I thought New Zealand to be before we lived there. This in itself was a misconception. Turned out from my point of view to be ‘a blatant lie’ as number one son frequently reminded me. I couldn’t but admire his command of language if not his attitude. Perhaps I might take this moment to suggest that readers of this blog might enjoy reading 4 go to New Zealand, one of my earliest attempts to write a book outside of my professional sphere. First five chapters are drop down from tool bar at top of blog. It is a record of our year which unfortunately never got finished – the book not the year – but the first six months are there. I think it’s pretty good even at this distance and goes a long way to explaining why the word relaxation didn’t figure large in that 16 months in total.
From that year on I pretty much gave up on the idea of leading a relaxed life and bumbled through the remaining 17 years of my career, so why I thought that possibly when I retired I might once again revisit and maybe even capture that state of bliss, I really have no idea. To be really honest I don’t think, as I vaguely planned what retirement might look like for me, I ever really wanted an easy-going (code for nothing much happening) retirement. As I’ve written before, I get easily bored. This week I have needed to remind myself that I don’t want to be bored in my retirement because sure as apples is well, apples, this week has been a full one to say the very least…
First, the wider world has gone crazy. England has voted to leave the European Union. Bad decision in my opinion. Second, the England football team has been knocked out of the Euro competition by Iceland, a country I’ve always wanted to visit, haven’t so far and am now highly unlikely to ever do so. Ah, you’re English, welcome, tee hee. So I’ve been knocked out of Europe against my will twice in one week. An Australian journalist had a nice line after we beat Australia at the rugby and left Europe – that’s two continents that hate you. Yep, not easy being English right now, for me at least.
So in this broad context this week Mrs Summerhouse is working hard to get her exhibition ready at How Steen gorge, an outdoor education / camping site near the vineyard. Then there’s the vineyard itself and, as it’s de-suckering time and tying up time, there’s plenty to do – watch out for the next episode of this in my exclusive blog. In addition, there’s the gardening business and here again I shall write a blog dedicated to this aspect of our retirement lives. In terms of the stress it’s causing us, it certainly merits a blog of its own. Admittedly no DIY at the Derbyshire cottage this week on account of other commitments but on Thursday morning we’re revisiting the stained glass group I wrote about several months ago with an expedition to look at the stained glass in Ripon Cathedral. I’ll let you know how it goes.
So all of the above to occupy my thinking but these pale into nothing compared with a couple of family considerations this week or possibly next concerning number one son and number one daughter and her husband. After waiting about three months to see if he can have a visa to stay and work in Australia for four years, he will find out either this week or next (at least so he says but he’s not exactly reliable in these matters) so fingers and toes crossed. If he has to come back and either take on or not take on (who knows) the gardening business, then Gawd only knows what life will be like for us all. Second, and perhaps even more important, on Friday (I’m writing this on Wednesday) we will find out whether our daughter and her husband’s third attempt to have a child via IVF has been successful. They’ve got this far before only for it all to fall apart. So our thoughts are with them.
Mrs SH says she can tell when I have things on my mind when we walk the pups because I walk with my head down and grunt when she says did you see that bird / tree / flower? You’re not appreciating the beauty, she says. Damn right, there’s no space in my head for anything beautiful, too busy being stressed. So in an uncertain world one thing that seems crystal clear is that my retirement, whatever it may be, is not relaxing. And, yes, OK, I don’t want it to be too relaxing and that fine line separating relax from bored is indeed a thin one and yes, I do want a challenge but steady on a minute, the current state of affairs has taken me (from semi rust out) to burn out terriitory. These are terms we used when talking to teachers about how stress gets generated. We used to have a rather neat graph like the one at the beginning of this blog, the one we used was rather better than this one but I can’t find it, so you’ll have to make do with this one.
It’s not that this challenge hasn’t been with me for a long time / maybe for ever but when you get to retirement the challenge seems to me to get that bit bigger, the potential for failure or success much greater. There’s simply more time to be either bored or fulfilled. Trying to hit the optimum peak on the graph seems so much more difficult. Retirement is, I reckon, a difficult business. Or is it just me?