Maybe it’s time for a more upbeat view of retirement after a recent blog about being a dented seventy-year old car. I’ve offered a fairly consistent view of what makes for a successful retirement in these blogs and I’m going to repeat a couple of bits of advice that I think have stood the test of time (five years). First, it is my opinion that in order for a person’s retirement to feel enjoyable or fulfilling they need to have a positive view of their own identity. This sense of identity replaces that identity given to them by their career. You know the ‘what do you do?’ question at parties or wherever, where the answer is dictated by your job. Obviously this disappears when we retire and in my view we need to be able to say with confidence, I’m a …. I will return to this in a moment.

Second, I believe that it is important that our retirements have a sense of balance. In my perfect retirement blog, one I revisited recently I identified a quite long list of activities that at best balanced one another – indoor activity with outdoor, physical with intellectual, challenging with relaxing and so on. This is not a recent conclusion for me, I believed it to be true when I was working but I would say it has become more important to me now I’m in a position as a retired person, to actively determine the nature of this balance.

Which brings me back to the question of identity and how the concept applies to myself. I would now describe my identity as a writer who runs a vineyard and plays jazz piano. Admittedly all of the three in an amateur capacity but seriously meant nonetheless. There are other activities in my retirement life but these would be the main ones, the ones that largely define me alongside husband and father and owner of two dogs etc. etc. Keeping it pure matters I think so that’s why I’m choosing three.

And keeping it to three makes it easier for me to value the second of my tips for a top retirement – balance. Over the last few weeks my activities have become a little lop-sided. As will be clear from my last blog – Vineyard 51 – we’re spending a lot of time up at the vineyard and the prospect is that, in the next few weeks, we will be doing a lot more here. You’ll get to read about all of our challenges and decisions in this blog in the next two or three weeks and beyond.

In terms of the second building block of my retirement – my writing – I’ve also been fairly busy. I have sent off my manuscript to a self-publishing company. The manuscript currently constitutes 60 or so of these blogs. I would very much like to see them in book form and, as it’s highly unlikely any ‘proper’ publisher would take it on, I’m (possibly) going down the self-publishing route. I’ve written about this venture recently so I’ll keep it short for now and just bring you up-to-date on recent developments. Which are, that I’ve been offered a ‘contributory’ contract to publish the book which they describe as ‘immersive and engaging’.

Of course, you say, well, they would wouldn’t they. They want me to pay them £2,300 to publish a paperback and e version of the book. They said in their letter they were offering me a ‘contributory contract’ as opposed to the traditional ‘non-contributory contract’ because as I haven’t published any full length books I represent something of a risk to them. I wrote back and pointed out that in fact I’ve either co-authored or written as sole author, 6 books and 2 ebooks and therefore would they reconsider the deal they’re offering? It’s no surprise to me that they haven’t replied to this enquiry. Will they or have they lost interest if they can’t charge me for the privilege of publishing my book? Watch this space.

All this by way of long-winded introduction to the main topic of this blog – my jazz summer school which starts this week. By the time this blog is posted I will only have completed one day of the four, so any report will be only partial. I have written two previous blogs about the agony of summer school, the first as a guitarist and the second as a pianist. Different instruments but same levels of dissatisfaction which is why I had decided this year not to take part but then a personal invitation from the organiser pandered to my sad ego and well, I was hooked. Anyway it helps maintain that balance I am so keen on. I’ve written this far in the blog at the weekend because I didn’t want to leave the whole thing until Monday night but from now on, all being well, I will be writing about how this third year of summer school has gone at least on the first day.

OK let’s not get carried away, such way madness lies and after all it has only been day one of four, so be cautious. However, I have to say that the day went well, there I’ve said it and I know I’m asking for trouble but the fact remains, it went well. All I have to do now is work out why it went so well so I can reproduce it on the remaining three days. Trouble is I’m not sure. I did show a certain degree of assertiveness with one of the tutors along the lines of – look I can play it my way which may not be your way, or I can not play at all. Speak up sonny, which is it to be? And to my surprise he said no, fine it doesn’t have to be played the way it’s written, it’s jazz and, pause, ‘it sounded great’. Bloody hell, in three years this is literally the first compliment he has paid me, whether he meant to do so is open to question but I thought, wrap that up I’ll take it. And on such small events do success turn. With increased confidence I played more expansively and enjoyed the day a great deal more. Blimey retirement should always be like this. It isn’t obviously.


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