I have to say, right up front, that I’m not sure what this blog is about other than it’s about retirement in some vague way. I wrote it a while ago but didn’t publish it because I thought it had no ‘essence’ to it. But now I’ve decided that’s OK, it’s just a blog, not life or death. We’re not looking for a Pullitzer prize here. It’s probably just the literary doodlings of a relatively newly-retired person trying to make sense of his new-found situation. It may contain some great truths about lost dreams, for example, but more likely it’s just a doodle. The holiday snaps (just 3 of a large number I could have bored you with) are an added bonus starting with Mrs Summerhouse (above) looking suitably Russian in Red Square.
Back to the title. It may be true, certainly I’ve heard it said, but maybe it rather depends on the kind of holidays you take. They say life’s a beach and then you die. Well not for us over the years it hasn’t been. It’s a long time since we lay on a beach on holiday. Since the very early days of Ibiza and Yugoslavia (long before it was the former) our holidays have been pretty active – travelling around, cultural visits and so on.
You might say that holidays – at a stretch – are the Rorschach test of every day life. You can interpret your holiday time as you wish. Here you have your blank sheet and, with a few boundaries, (admittedly significant) time and money but, within these boundaries, you can, in theory, at least, do whatever you damn well please.
I had thought my retirement might be a bit like this. We would be free to do what we ‘damn well pleased’, I used to dream, to live the life we chose, to go where we wanted. However, when it came right down to it I didn’t know where to go – we found it easier to stay home. Of course we provided ourselves with excuses for our inactivity. There was always M and then, as back up excuse, we got the puppies. In other words our tabla wasn’t quite as rasa as I had imagined.
Is a failure to grasp retirement opportunities a form of cowardice? Maybe, but then we have taken brave decisions in the past with our travels. We were never one of those couples that said, we’ll travel when we retire. We went ahead and did it. In some ways that’s the problem right there. When we thought about where we might go, we sort of found that we’d already been to the places that some people dream about. We’d lived in the USA (last time I counted I think we’d visited 38 of the 50 states, including Hawaii although alas not Alas-ka); New Zealand (top to bottom, side to side), Australia (parts of Western Australia at least that most tourist don’t usually get to see – the proper outback, the east coast and a train ride between the two), visited bits of Canada, although I understand there’s plenty more to go at there. ‘Done’ a lot of Europe, China even. India quite appeals, but not for a protracted stay
We, or rather I, had a vague plan to take the concept of city breaks and extend it a bit – to six month weekend breaks. Where would we live for six months if we had free choice? We liked Vancouver but everybody likes Vancouver, Sydney, Melbourne, the same. New York, well a bit rich for our elderly blood, Shanghai – too scary. San Francisco, maybe, but I read it’s not the city it once was. We’ve visited a few ‘Far East’ cities (Singapore at night, see below) and quite a lot of European capitals and there, of course, you have the small matter of the language barrier. I’m quite anti-social but even I like to exchange the odd word with my fellow creatures. And so it went, so, on the whole, it is probably easier to stay at home.
Easier, yes, but is that the point of retirement? To do easy things? One long holiday? A life or relaxation and ease? No, I think not. I need to be doing something.
To digress slightly, I realised the other day that in retiring I had given up three things that are/ were important, very important to me – social interaction with the people in schools, not colleagues because we would never meet up from one day to the next; a feeling of doing some good or at least doing no harm and finally, money. When we both retired although we have, I think – I don’t really know – decent pensions, we are a lot worse off than we used to be. No spare cash. No popping out to buy yet another guitar (my main extravagance of late – I intend to blog about my guitar collection at a later date).
So, yes, I gave up a lot in one go but then if you had asked me a year ago what would I replace work with, I would have said – travel. Wrong, it seems, although we did take the pups to the seaside the other day. How are the mighty fallen? From Frisco to Filey. Not what I predicted for my retirement at all. Retirement might be one long holiday but we just don’t go anywhere, at least not yet. Just to round off with a photo of one of our favourite destinations – New Zealand. We could have worked and retired there if the cards had fallen differently but if you read my mini book on NZ maybe it’s as well we didn’t.
Mount Taranaki, New Zealand