It’s that time of year – again. Time to review this year nearly gone and speculate on the nature of the year to come, sometimes known as goal-setting or more prosaically (nice word) thinking about my New Year’s resolutions. Actually this didn’t happen but read on anyway. How much you’re in the goal-setting camp, as opposed to the ‘I wonder what’s going to happen next year? group’, depends quite a bit on your view of the proactive reactive debate or, how much of a control freak you are. As you may know if you’ve read these blogs before both my feet are firmly in the control freak encampment. I shall return to the implications of this life philosophy in a moment. But before I do, let’s, not unnaturally, take the review bit first and here’s one thing that I can say right up front and without any hesitation – it’s gone bloody quick. I’m convinced that somebody is playing a trick on us and this last year has actually had about 223 days in it. God knows how many days it would have been if I’d actually been enjoying myself. Clearly I need to stay a miserable old git, maybe even crank up the old git persona, otherwise next year will be down to about 50 or 60 days.
My tried and tested (over many years, about as long as I have been keeping a daily diary – getting on for 40 years) method of reviewing the year has been to look back to the goals I set myself at the beginning of the year – New Year resolutions to some people – goals to me, and rate my performance against these goals. It’s true, and I’ve admitted it in previous blogs, goal setting in retirement has lost a little of its focus but if you’re expecting me to say that retirement has produced a laid back, easy-going, come what may, kind of guy, then you’d be very wrong and that’s putting it politely.
What I have done is set less and perhaps more general goals and so it was this year. Briefly, there were three main goals and two subsidiary ones. The main goals for me for this year were, according to the first page of my diary – to improve the ‘health’ of our vineyard / to renovate the Derbyshire cottage / to assume full control of our son’s gardening business and make it profitable. The lesser goals and by lesser I simply mean that they should theoretically require less effort to make them successful were to continue with, and perhaps develop, this blog although I had no idea how I would do this, and to continue with a modest form of travel. Were they ‘good’ goals or, in the words of the management literature, SMART targets where SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic, Timed (can you believe I had to look these up given I used to refer to them all the time when I talked to people about goal-setting, a mere three years ago?)? Well not bad, probably could have been sharper but maybe retirement goals can have a bit more of a warm, fuzzy glow about them.
So briefly, the vineyard, my goals were SMART involving applying specially developed granular fertiliser for the plants and, later in the year, tailored leaf spray fertiliser and more protection against the bloody birds. As it turns out I need not have worried about the bloody birds because the bloody sheep ate the plants before most of the grapes developed. How we laughed. So there’s a moral here for the control freak in us all, something like, the sheep really enjoyed the healthier bushier plants we produced. Oh and maybe strimming the grass, whilst looking nice, means the sheep are keener to look for substitute food. We still don’t know how the bloody animals got into the vineyard that has stock fencing around it and to think we have two collies / sheep dogs who unfortunately wouldn’t know a sheep if it sat on them. I’ve got one pawing me as I write this, wanting me to rub his tummy. Hey ho. So we did what we set out to do and it didn’t work. Do I score this for effort or outcome? I’ll give it five, as Janice used to say on Thank Your Lucky Stars, used to say as a compromise.
Next, the Derbyshire cottage project (projects remember are very good things to have when you’re retired). It’s gone well, a bit in fits and starts and these last few weeks while waiting for those external forces to get in line otherwise known as the plumber fixing the new sink and electrician doing the re-wiring, has been slow and bit frustrating. We’ve taken care of other aspects of the project even if it has meant getting my neighbour (and his brother) to do a lot of the work. It’s generally coming on and we have no plans to sell it in the coming year. Sounds like one back for the taking control team and I’m going to give this goal an 8. Only thing is at the beginning of the year I think this was a ‘do it up to sell it’ goal, not to keep it and live in it goal. Once again my attempts to get this retirement life under control have proved only partially successful. Still I’ll stick with the 8 rating.
Running the gardening business is an area of life that deserves a blog all to itself and hopefully, if I can bear it, will get one shortly. Suffice it to say it has not been a bed of roses although roses have figured. It’s our single most stressful and out-of-control life area and it’s due for serious review in July which will be the extent of the two-year commitment we made to our gardener/s. If you asked me to predict its future I genuinely couldn’t do it. A very weak 4.
So far, it’s not looking like a great year goal-wise – average score, at a stretch a 6. Strangely, or maybe not, my ‘lesser’ goals did better. I’ve written, with help from Mrs Summerhouse, two blogs every week and received some nice feedback along the way. I wish Facebook commenters would put their comments on the blog but you can’t have everything. The blog is some way from going viral but I was pleased to notice that, a few days ago, I topped 10,000 hits is that the word? Not 10,000 people of course but a nice round number, whether it’s good bad or indifferent for a blog of this kind I really couldn’t say and perhaps better not to know. So I’ll give this area an 8 in the absence of any better data. The travel, well, within the parameters we set ourselves – no long distance, plane travel – we’ve done OK. Ireland, Scotland and even a recent weekend in that London. We continue to spend periods in our four properties so overall I’m inclined to a slightly generous 8 for this area. Bringing the scores on the doors rounded up to a 7 goal-setting wise yes, I know it’s actually 6.6 but that rounds up to 7 at least it did when I was at school, admittedly that’s a long time ago so things may have changed.
I’ve written nearly 1200 words in this blog so far, more than I had anticipated when I began but, as I’ve written before, I really have no idea what I’m going to write when I sit down at the laptop, so I’m going to stop and maybe at some point come back to other life areas that I would normally have included in my rating of the year, like health, finances, children, learning and music goals, Mrs SH’s art and budding garden-design. And also, assuming I take these steps, what we’re planning for next year. There’s enough in this blog to make the point that reviewing a year of retirement is a bloody complicated business and in fact every bit as complex as reviewing a year before I retired. Now this must tell me something about my chosen (mostly chosen) retirement life style.