I really don’t know how to start this blog. I know how I intended to start it and what I planned to write about. This was easy I intended to write about the mysterious Guardian course I referred to in a previous blog but that was before our journey back to Leeds on Sunday. We’d been booked without realising it on East Midlands instead of Virgin rail the company we travelled down on. I couldn’t, hand on heart, say Virgin catering was fab but compared to East Midlands it was gourmet stuff. I took the photo (which in the old format would have been on the right of this text but which is now probably at the beginnning of it, sorry about the poor quality, it reflects the service), that sat proudly above our seat, great, let me try it, but no, it wasn’t, for some reason, available and if we wanted sandwiches then we would have to pay for them. Great service for First Class. This merely added insult to the injury of this train taking one hour longer than the train we should have been booked on. No big deal you think but it meant that picking up our doggies from our pal out in the Yorkshire Dales became impracticable and we would have to wait until tomorrow to pick them up. This, having to change train companies and stations, is the first reason reporting on the course took a back seat.
An even bigger reason was found on walking into the bar at St Pancras station to meet up with Mrs Summerhouse (where 4 halves of beer cost £26 incidentally). That London strikes again. But that’s not the point, the point is that there sat our son who we had not seen for two years on account of him being in Australia and that, until I walked into the bar, did I mention beer coast £26, was where we believed him to be. He explained why he had to leave the country in a hurry, it was ever thus with him and how he wanted to surprise us. He certainly did that as the video he took on his phone of him greeting his long lost mother in Trafalgar Square, clearly shows. Not a pretty sight. Confident as ever he explained, with all his not dimmed by a couple of years away, charm, that he wanted to work for his business while he was here. His business I thought, some bloody cheek but of course you don’t want to get the reunion off to a bad start after all this time, so we, as they say, just sucked this information up, politely enquiring how long he was staying. He wasn’t sure, probably until June I found out later. Our two gardeners are going to love this, they didn’t always get on. So here we are, Mrs Summerhouse and I, sitting on this bloody slow East Midlands train trying to digest everything that is happening to us.
So how was the course, Mrs SH eventually enquired? I don’t know it was so long ago, wasn’t that last week? What I could do was tell her what the course was about, explaining why I chose to attend this course might take a bit more effort. The title of the course was ‘How to Transform Your Career’. Perfectly normal kind of course title but perhaps not so normal if you don’t have a career to transform. Having retired more than 3 years ago the whole concept of ‘career’ has blurred somewhat*. Let me try harder to explain. Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with my habit of agonising about the ‘missing link’ of my retirement, assuming such a thing exists. It’s that feeling which, it seems, will not leave me, that my retirement would be a whole lot ‘better’ if I could identify just one more activity to set alongside the usual suspects – this blog, gardening business, vineyard, etc. But, despite my best efforts at problem-solving, the ‘answer’ has eluded me. Sooo I thought, time for a bit of lateral thinking. If I redefined retirement as the equivalent of starting a new career – not strictly correct but close enough – then maybe I would get some new ideas about my perfect retirement from a course on career change.
OK, good idea but naturally the reality was a little less sensational. The tasks we were asked to complete by the facilitator, who wasn’t totally irritating, were sensible enough – what are your skills / qualities? What exactly are you looking for in a career / what do I want? What are the important aspects of your current career? How can you go about moving from one career to another in smaller steps than simply stopping one and starting another? What might get in the way of achieving your goals? As I say, all perfectly sensible process-oriented questions. On arrival I was a tad nervous, not that I haven’t done these courses before, but never one on changing my career whilst retired. There were 35 of us on the course, 10 men and 25 women. We worked in pairs on each of the questions. It did get a bit boring telling each person that I was retired and this was a bit of lateral problem-solving for me but the people I talked to were nice and, considering they were probably half my age, sympathetic to my circumstances. One prediction – that I would be the oldest person in the room, was correct but the other – that I would be the only retired person, was incorrect. The last person I teamed up with was a retired senior police officer who, after a year of retirement, was ‘climbing the walls’ with boredom either that or she was retraining as a plasterer. So that was nice, her sentiments fairly closely echoed mine except that I am not bored and she was actually looking for a new job her being, I would confidently predict, quite a lot younger than me.
I enjoyed the course, learning two new human activities – side hustle (starting your new career in the evenings / spare time while continuing with the safety of your current job) and sand pitting (literally playing in another person’s job usually within your existing organisation). I’m not quite sure how I can drop these new terms into your average conversation down the pub, but good to learn new things, as you know an activity I’m very committed to. You might just possibly want to know what decisions about my retirement the course helped to facilitate and whether they were life-changing but, given that I’m well over my 1000 word target, you’re going to have to wait.
*Just in case you’re not convinced of the truth of one of my favourite mantras – it’s a funny old world – on opening my emails on Monday morning there was a Linkedin message from somebody (I didn’t know) apparently offering me a job as a supervisor of educational psychologists. Or maybe my head is so full of stuff that I misread it. Funny though but that’s retirement for you.