Retirement brings about many changes. Take this blog, unusually, maybe uniquely, I’m writing it as we drive along the M1. Mrs Summerhouse is driving of course and this in itself is different. She drives more since I’ve been having troubles with my foot. I don’t miss driving as much as I thought I would and the good news is it allows me to write as we drive. We’re driving north back to Leeds after a couple of days at the ancestral pile, aka the Derbyshire cottage. This trip generally, this one included, has become a version of going back to our roots and the question I want to consider in this blog is whether going back to one’s roots is common or even desirable, for the retired person? If it is, what is it, other than, in our case, pure chance, that takes us back? Why do we do it? What’s the attraction of going back when we’re retired?
In my case my mother continued to live in the area of my birth for all of her 94 years and when she died and left me the family home it was on the cards that we would return in some way as we had been every week when we visited her at home and in hospital in her later years. If our original plans had worked out the house would have been sold immediately after her death and I guess that would have been the end of any connection to our roots (for we are both pretty much from the same part of Derbyshire). Mrs SH being born and brought up in a council house (how lucky she was I came along and took her away from all that common-ness) when her parents died the council retained the house, so no roots for her house-wise but of course many connections to the area generally. Anyway ‘my’ house did not sell in its unimproved state and so we set about ‘doing it up’. Strange thing was, as we got involved with the renovations, we actually grew to like the house. The more we stopped thinking about renovating it to sell it and the more we pursued our own design ambitions, the more we liked it.
The more we liked it the more time we spent there and the greater the connection to our roots. Even coincidentally getting an email, out of the blue, from a woman about a reunion. Mrs SH was convinced it was an old girlfriend. Not quite, but it was somebody that I went to school with and who is organising a 60 year anniversary of our year in two year’s time, would you believe ( the last email I had from her said they had contacted 40+ of my peers, so a way to go yet)? Just hope we live that long or the numbers will go down rather than up. Anyway, the point is, how rootsy can you get? And all unsolicited and as I say, out of the blue.
As the relationship between our retirement years and our youth grew in this rootsy sort of way, the more often I started to have thoughts about where we might end our days, a euphemism for die. Is that why we were here, is there some kind of spiritual symmetry about finishing up where you started, the wheel turning full circle or, if you prefer, the circle being squared. Is this the reason we go back? All sounds jolly neat but is just a load of old bollocks? Probably the latter but there is a very pretty little cricket ground (see above photo) where I used to spend a lot of time, which would make a fitting denouement – maybe.
Another, and perhaps rather more uplifting, part of this ‘roots’ business is taking trips out into Derbyshire, as we used to when we were courting, borrowing my mother’s Ford Anglia. We decided that, if we kept the Derbyshire cottage and sold the house in Pateley, as we are currently trying to do (subject of another blog), the more often we told ourselves we should take advantage and visit some of our ‘old haunts’ – Matlock, Cromford canal, Monsel Dale etc. etc. Trips down memory lane.
So yesterday we took a trip to the picturesque village, Ashton on the Water, a couple of miles outside of Bakewell (where the famous tarts come from) and where Mrs SH and her sisters spent the weekend a few weeks ago. As I said, on this trip, she was driving, which is not in itself noteworthy these days apart from the fact that, as I wasn’t driving, I was a passenger and while there is some pleasure in this, after a while, I start to think about the geriatric aspects of going back to our roots. Namely, being driven around like an old guy in his dotage.
We watched a film many years ago which starred Billy Crystal and Debra Winger Forget Paris was it? In the film they spent their weekends taking out her elderly father. He would sit in the passenger seat (Billy in the back) and he would read out the signs as he passed – Weiner’s Chevrolet, Dunkin Doughnuts. It was funny, at least until yesterday, when I swear I started doing the very same thing. I read out the signs – Weston’s garage, Tideswell well-dressings, OMG I thought, this is it I’ve finally lost my marbles. I’ll be dribbling soon. In fact I may be already and we had vegetable (cauliflower and Stilton) soup for lunch and I bloody hate vegetable soup but you don’t have to chew. If this is revisiting one’s roots then I’m not sure I like the concept.
So there we are, a brief look at the implications of returning to our roots now we are retired. Yes, there’s a neatness to it all, as I say circles being squared and all that but I’m not at all sure that the accompanying thoughts of death and dying are quite what I’m in need of at the ripe old age of 69. I think we’ve got to enjoy the house and the area while we have it and it will probably have to be sold to pay our care bill assuming the kids don’t front up, but not get too mystical, not too engaged in the hidden meaning of it all. That’s the trouble with retirement, too much time to contemplate a decreasing future. Just enjoy.