You hear it time and time again, it’s arguably the most common retirement mantra. The key to retirement happiness or encroaching old age if you prefer, and I for one do not, is to keep busy. Busy, busy, busy. Well, I see the logic but I have to ask is it possible to keep too busy? I only ask because I’m writing this the day after a) having a very hectic day indeed and b) hearing on the radio listening to Classic FM (our radio station of choice during the day apart from the bleedin’ adverts, I’d like to listen to Radio 4 but honestly 4 is no station for the pensioner on the move. I’ve written before that if your retirement constitutes practical, DIY, make things with your hands, type projects as is the case with a friend of mine who retired at the same time then it’s perfect, but for my life style, no good).
In this case I caught a bit of a news item about how people spent their time. I think, as I say, I only caught a bit of the item and Mrs Summerhouse filled in a few, although not all I suspect, of the gaps, that some sad sack had totalled up how many years we spent over the course of our lives engaged in given activities. Apparently, and I think I have this right, we spend huge amount of years deciding what clothes to wear, watching animal videos (weird I know but Mrs Summerhouse said this was so as we were watching our dogs play with each other, but this is surely different and much more reasonable) and driving to work. What’s moderately interesting about this is that none of these activities take up any part of my typical retirement day. My method of choosing what to wear in a morning, or as they say in these parts, of a morning, is to take the top item off of the pile in the wardrobe which is usually the one I wore yesterday. Unless and until the item is confiscated by Mrs SH sometimes when I’m wearing it. She has a particular bugbear about a favourite top that is invariably covered in dog hairs. You’re not going out in that, is a favourite phrase of hers even though I’m often wearing it to take the dogs for their walk. We might meet people, she says.
Obviously driving to work doesn’t figure because I don’t have any work but driving between our various properties might take up a bit of my retirement life. Anyway the point is, given I don’t much engage in any of the above, how come my retirement days are so busy? If you’ve read these blogs before you will know that there are a number of life choices we’ve made, and some we haven’t, that take up our time. Gardening business (due another blog soon), vineyard (ditto), renovating the Derbyshire cottage aka my late mother’s house, dog walking and of course writing this blog twice a week not to mention my penchant for buying and reading mostly second hand books, they’re so cheap, they’re just begging to be bought, be rude not to. So all of these retirement ‘choices’ translate into daily timetables, planned or otherwise.
Take Wednesday, admittedly slightly more frenetic than usual but not by much. To summarise, it went like this – get up take pups for their walk, hook up trailer (now with brake lights and indicators) and drive to our tip (a local farm), negotiate a price for tipping with farmer, fail in this, drive home, have hurried breakfast, check business bank statement, send out bill to non-paying customer, pack bags and head for Pateley cottage. Find my cartoons which I have a plan for but you will have to wait for this. Drive up to vineyard to find no grapes at all, it seems that the ones that the sheep left have been eaten by the birds, so once again we won’t be making any wine this year. More of this in next vineyard blog. Feel very pissed off, I don’t use the word depressed but if I did, this is what I would be. Mrs SH escapes my misery by sitting in mini barn and making art (there’s talk of a wine bottle label if we ever have any wine). I try to do something useful by fitting the over-large waste pipe to the shower tray in the barn. Miraculously it seems to work so my refrain of, if there’s a God in heaven you’ll let this be successful after the pain of losing all the grapes, seems to have struck a chord with the big guy upstairs or whoever decides these things.
Enough of this we pack up again (after having paid farmer neighbour for some red diesel for generator) and explained – again – why we have no grapes. Eeh lad, you’ve been unlucky with them grapes. I laugh though do not feel like laughing, thank God, or whoever, my livelihood doesn’t depend on making wine, I say in a philosophical way, even though I do not feel at all philosophical.
We get to cottage and unload our stuff, not much as we’re only staying one night, we don’t have time for any longer stay. We decide we will hunker down so I light a fire. If only I had cleared out the grate and brought in the coal ready for a day like today, but, on a day like today I have to suffer before there is pleasure. So clear out grate, bring in coal, try to light fire with remaining firelighters which I feel fairly sure are not enough, proved right, fire goes out, send Mrs SH to shop for more, start again and eventually fire grudgingly cranks up. Mrs SH takes dog for a short walk, I pass on the walk, a rare event, and open up one of my books that I bought in Scotland, a Dorothy Sayers / Lord Peter Wimsey bit of tosh, followed by Dracula, bought at Pateley show you will remember (you don’t well read the blog). We have fish and chips for dinner. So after several busy and challenging hours today morphs into the kind of day I enjoy.
Wouldn’t do for every day to be like the latter part of this one I suppose, I’d be bored. So a degree of busyness is good but surely there is a balance to be struck. Past a certain level of keeping busy it starts to feel like I’m just doing all this stuff to prevent myself from worrying about the apparent lack of purpose to my retirement. Keeping busy for busy’s sake you might say. I know this thought has occurred to me so before it crystalize into something altogether more negative, I’d better get on and do something.