It’s that time of year – again. That is the end of this yearend of year and very nearly the beginning of a next year. For me this means it is a time of review and goal-setting. By the way, don’t be misled by the jollity of the image, right, we’re usually in bed by the time New Year comes along, there are no balloons. That established, let’s take the review part first. This year, 2014, has been the first complete year I have been retired. Last year was only partial in this sense. This means it has been a significant sort of year. A real opportunity for me to ask myself how is this retirement business going? I don’t just casually look back on the year and ask – well, how was that? I am, and have been for a long time, a fairly obsessive, if that is not an oxymoron, goal setter. So any review is set against the goals I had for myself for the year.

These goals are contained in my blog, written, unsurprisingly, this time a year ago. I do not propose to repeat them in any detail in this blog. Suffice it to say that, against these goals at any rate (of course life has been about more than just these goals), I have had a good year. As I suggested in a recent blog, the only goal I have been unsuccessful in achieving is to listen to more Radio 4. I also suggested the reason for this – unless you have a life made up of mindless, and I mean this in the best possible way, activities, like whittling or making HMS Victory out of match sticks – nothing wrong with either – then it’s quite hard to devote the time to listening to the many excellent programmes that Radio 4 has to offer. In other words I have been too busy achieving my other goals to have the time to sit down and listen to Radio 4. I have to say, in view of the fact that every Wednesday we spend nearly 4 hours on the M1 driving down and back to see my mother, even I am surprised that we don’t listen to the radio then, but we don’t. So for whatever reason I’ve failed on this one but enough of the negative. As I say, the rest on my list, I’ve done pretty well with.

So much for the brief review of this year, what about new goals for next year? I know new year resolutions are a bit of a joke in some people’s minds and dressing them up by calling them goals doesn’t help, but, for me, it’s helpful to have a time in the year when you can kinda step back a little and take a slightly detached look at where you’ve been and where you’re going. Yes, I know you can do that at any time but some of us need a little prompt to engage with the programme. So then let’s have a think. Is it just more of the same and would this necessarily be a bad thing? You know, steady as you go? This makes some sense because you see this last year my goals weren’t just one year goals as they usually are, in a sense they were retirement goals, the way I wanted things to be for maybe the next three years, maybe longer. Given that my goals were very much, as recommended in a previous blog, values based it’s perhaps not surprising that they should be reasonably enduring. Values like being creative, learning new skills, variety, challenge are key values for me and therefore inform the actual specific goals I set this time last year. It is right that they should have some permanence. And yet..

Yes, it’s true that I’m plagued (maybe too strong a word) by the feeling that there is a missing ‘something’ from my retirement plan. Typically I have thought of that missing factor as travel. We haven’t done any. Two obvious reasons for this – our charity work in the form of weekly visits to my mother being one and, of course, the pups. We did manage one weekend break without them but then spent most of the Oslo weekend worrying about how they were and whether Mrs Summerhouse’s sister was coping alright or, worse still, whether they would like her better than they liked us. On top of this we’ve had a few overnight stays with friends when we have taken the dogs with us. All in all for us, previously significant players in the field of world travel, this was a poor return. So will it be there as a goal in 2015? Even though we’ve got friends in Shanghai who would like us to visit and even though we have some land in Colorado we would really like to visit and build a cabin on, the truth is, it’s unlikely. The only travel plan we have, and it’s a tentative one, is to rent a cottage by the sea and take the pups with us. And, in terms of the missing link of travel, that’s about your lot.

As for any other version of the missing X factor well, ideas are a bit thin. I read a review in last week’s paper about a community of creative people –artists, poets, musicians, writers and so on in New York in the 1950s, if my memory serves me correctly. I thought, that would be nice, I wish there was something like that round here that I could join. But then the more I thought about what that might mean, I couldn’t see an increasingly anti-social sod like me joining something like that.

Which leaves me with building on the ones I have. Some different form of writing, and I would very much like to develop the blog in some way; extending the jazz skills; better luck or better planning with the vineyard and wine-making are all possible ‘goal developments’. Maybe building on the exercise goal by playing a bit more golf. But then, as extensions of what I’m already doing, they’re nothing like a brand new X factor activity. Although taking the pups on public transport might be a new and challenging, goal. Yes, indeedy, that would be a challenge.

It’s not easy to set new goals because it’s not as if I get any encouragement in the family, my kids think I’m a plonker for trying to plan my retirement life and Mrs Summerhouse, when asked what goals we might set ourselves for next year will reply, in that Budhist way she sometimes has, I don’t have any, I’m happy as I am but you go ahead if you need to. Actually, to my surprise (nice that she still has the capacity to surprise me after 42 years of marriage), this turned out to be quite unfair. As we were discussing the matter over our early morning cup of tea on Monday morning, she said she wanted to return to her drawing, an area of her art she felt she had neglected of late, and also find a local stained glass course perhaps at Swarthmore College in Leeds, which she enjoyed before and wanted to take up again. Yes, there was the more predictable ‘stay healthy and happy’ but then a bit of a further surprise she said in her first proper year of retirement she had been getting used to the new life style we had and now she was ready to build on what we had. Wise words. Then she spoiled it by suggesting I should continue to support the kids, whatever that means. Then she said something nice, she said I was at my best when other folks needed me – we have had our ups and downs with the kids – so that made me feel nice although slightly anxious.

So, there we have it a retirement blog, a review of our first proper year as retired people and a rather low key and vague description of next year’s retirement goals. I shall, as is my custom, write them out at the beginning of my new diary (an inevitable Christmas present) when I have had time, in the next couple of days, to consider exactly what my new year retirement goals are going to be. Watch this space.

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