Having discussed the matter with my friend (he of the shepherd’s hut) we are agreed that they key to a happy retirement is to have projects. I have often written in these blogs about what I have called the missing link of retirement. That certain something that will make my retirement life complete, that, dare I say it, will make me a happy retired person. Yes, I know it’s bullshit, I have never been a happy person as a whole and almost certainly never will be. I have no doubt that the missing link, if and when I find it, will turn out to be a disappointment. Repeat after me it’s the journey not the destination, it’s the process not the product that’s the way to contentment, to value the former and not seek the latter. How many times must I tell you this, duh. That said I do keep looking for that one area of retirement that might quell the need I have for the perfect(ish) retirement. It’s on my strap line or whatever it’s called, the one at the top of my blog – the search for the perfectish retirement. So I know I’m going to keep on searching. I have a number of candidates lined up to fill the missing link role and they have a potential project flavour to them.The one I’ve written most often about has been travel. This area was, as I contemplated my retirement years from a distance, i.e. before I retired, my ‘banker’ my go to missing link. The one aspect of our pre-retirement life that we would certainly do more of. As you know if you’ve read this blog before, this has been a big disappointment. It is an aspect of our retirement that has been a struggle but it’s not without its successes. I will return to this judgement at the end of this blog with news of another travel project.
Another area that has been totally unfulfilled is what is commonly called charity work. Unfortunately I haven’t done any. Maybe it’s because working all of my career with people with problems of various sorts, on a paid basis of course, has left me with little inclination to seek out more (unpaid) work of this sort and again, as I’ve written before, it has been rare / not at all that people have sought me out to ask for my services since I retired. I don’t fancy giving my time to other sorts of charity work no matter how much I enjoy the area for itself – like working on the North Yorks railway or something similar. So, in total, it has been easy to ignore any distant calling in this area of retirement. I must admit the refugee crisis has given me pause for thought. Could I offer my services as some form of counsellor but, to be completely honest, I am too frightened to make this kind of commitment. You can’t just take people on and then drop them when it becomes inconvenient. More difficult to see this area as a project. So, as yet, I’ve shied away from this kind of work.
All of which brings me to the topic of this blog. There was / is one other area of retirement that I thought, before I retired, would figure large in my retirement years. It relates I think to Winston Churchill’s formula for a happy retirement about which I have written before – 2,000 words and a 1000 bricks a day. Can that be right? Well the point is that he reckoned a balance between the physical and the intellectual was the key to success in retirement. He was building a wall (his project) at his house by way of explanation about the bricks as well as writing his biography. I’ve pretty much got the writing side of it covered with this blog although my 2000 words is per week, not per day. Nevertheless this amount of writing feels OK for me. What isn’t OK is the physical side of it. Admittedly, we walk the dogs for two hours each day and we both find this both satisfying and knackering, so it’s easy to say to ourselves we do enough on the physical side. But it’s not quite the kind of physical effort I had anticipated. There’s no project in it.
When I was a younger man and we had considerably less money I used to do all kinds of DIY ‘projects’. In fact, there weren’t many DIY type tasks that I wouldn’t take on – electrics, plumbing, carpentry, plastering, upholstery, you name it. All of it badly and incompetently done, often unfinished, dangerously so in some cases but I did it. I thought there would be more of this kind of activity, not the dangerous bits maybe more the craft side of things – carving bird of prey, making guitars or furniture even common or garden, decorating, that sort of thing. I have, before retirement, made some rather nice and unusual pieces of furniture, probably the Rietveld chair (made some time ago) is my proudest achievement, the very one at the top of this blog. Alongside my friend who is, as I say, making (albeit very slowly) a shepherd’s hut, it’s a modest achievement but it’s all mine. So the track record is there. I know quite a few retired people who do do this kind of physical DIY type work now, either in their own home, their children’s / relatives’ homes, some even making a bit of money out of it. But I have not. At least I had not until this week. This week I built, with a little help from Mrs Summerhouse and no help from the instructions (see picture at end), an arbor or is it arbour?
There is a bit of a back story to this which, and I’m sure she won’t mind me mentioning it again – and again, is to do with the fact (disputed by her although how it can be I don’t know) that Mrs Summerhouse cut a bleedin’ great hole in the hedge between us and our neighbour’s front garden not to mention the street. The hedges that surrounded our house gave a nice sense of security. Yes, OK, it was also a haven for burglars to break in unseen from the street but the pleasure of the hedge out-weighed the downsides – mostly. So I was quite cross and then even more cross when our neighbours decided that now was the time to ‘trim’ back their side of the same hedge to the border of their and our land. Anyway long story short, we needed something to fill the gap and this is where the arbour came in or rather went in.
I toyed with the idea of making the whole thing from scratch as I might have done in my younger, cheaper days but a) that wasn’t happening and b) B&Q sold a nice solid one for £104 (hard to beat price-wise). This against £339 from Homebase who would take two weeks to order one. We strapped it to the roof-rack, bought a couple of climbing plants to climb up it – avoiding the obvious Clematis we bought Passion Flower and Jasmine and off we went home, feeling very pleased with ourselves. With a bit of huffing and puffing over two half days and we got it made without much help from the instructions and squeezed into its new home in the hedge. Looks pretty good (as you can see) and most important there was a real sense of achievement that I had conceived, bought and put together this project. This proved not for the first time that thinking of life and in this case retirement life in terms of projects is a very good thing. Hopefully there will be more to come.
Which brings me back to the area of travel. Earlier in the year we spent a week in Ireland, as you read this we will be making our way to Ireland again, to the same area, even the same house. Assuming I can make the same internet connections I did last time I will keep you informed about how this project works out. Retirement a time for projects me thinks.