not the real one that’s been bricked over as close as I could find

In writing this retirement blog it’s the first sentence that’s often the hardest, apart from this one which has the words retirement blog in it because SEO says the reader needs to know immediately what it’s about (on account of how y’all are a bit dim) and has to have the key word/s at the beginning. So there we are, and now I need to come up with an additional first sentence, one that tells you what the blog is actually about. So here we go.

I’ve written about the need to maintain standards as a retired person twice in recent blogs. Of course keeping up standards is going to mean different things to different folks. To Mrs Summerhouse, in my case, it means not going out with porridge down my jumper or my flies undone. I don’t actually eat porridge so it’s more the latter. But keeping up standards means something else to me and that’s what this blog is about, the something else.

The ‘something else’ in this case came into my thinking while I was watching England beat Sri Lanka. Nothing unusual in that you might think. What’s new about watching England play cricket? Well two things, one is that they won away from England in a place called Galle, (for the geographically minded among you), and this is a ground where traditionally England do not do well. The second unusual aspect was the time. I was watching this game at about 10.30 onwards in the morning and for four days a week. The game actually starts in Sri Lanka about 4.30 GMT but those standards that apply require me to wake up, get dressed, take the pups for their morning walk, eat breakfast and then I watch the cricket. Again you say, so what?

The point is I do not normally allow myself to watch TV in the morning or during the day, in fact not until after 5 o’clock when I now watch reruns of Frasier. This viewing was a long way before five o’clock. So there was a certain amount of guilt involved. True it is unusual for cricket to be on in the morning unless they’re playing in Australia, New Zealand, India, UAE (that’s where Pakistan play these days) which doesn’t sound all that rare. But overall it is rare enough for the guilt not to weigh too heavily upon me even though there are another two, potentially five day games to come.

I have been quite hard on people who believe reading in the morning is an OK thing to do when they’re retired, even sometimes in the PJs. I’ve written a previous blog about the topic, that’s how strongly I feel about it. They may even be the same people who don’t get of bed until 9 o’clock. We know at least three couples who have admitted to this. And I may be just scratching the surface.

I don’t know whether this is in the bible as an actual sin but we can be pretty sure it would be if the bible was written for today’s audience. I’ve told anybody who cares to ask or even cares, full stop. If you’re going to read before lunchtime then it must be educational reading, i.e. non-fiction. I myself am currently reading A History of Jazz and this is perfectly OK. Crime fiction however must be kept until after the second dog walk (or an equivalent time if you don’t have a dog).

And talking of walking the pups brings me to a less obvious side of the keeping up standards debate. I’m not sure how to write it but roughly it’s about paying into the guilt account so you may make a withdrawal. Stay with me here. This translates into, if you perform a chore of some kind like walking the dogs or, as in recent blog, some tedious task of DIY or maybe, even at a stretch, practising a little jazz piano, then this can somewhat alter the balance of what’s OK.

I know you’re thinking at this point, the man has completely lost his marbles, retirement has finally claimed his sanity. But think about it. If you pay in you may make a withdrawal. Ergo (I like that word) you can treat yourself to something that might normally be off-limits – i.e. reading in the morning in your pyjamas. Although I would have to say there would need to be a great deal of paying in for this to be OK. But maybe I’m being a bit purist. Maybe.

And they say Catholics have the monopoly on guilt. True I was christened Catholic at my father’s (from a strong Catholic family) insistence, but as he died when I was four that was the end of Catholic upbringing and hello Methodist chapel at the end of our street. My mother was a strong pragmatist above all else. Happy to get me out of the house on a Sunday afternoon but not to the point of actually taking me anywhere. Those were her standards as a single mother.

I suspect that, if there had been a mosque / temple at the end of the street, I would have been sent there and would have received a Muslim / Sikh religious upbringing about standards and would not, therefore, have had to listen to Andy Marron, (part-time lay preacher, full-time gas man), deliver his homilies from, what passed for a pulpit, in the tin chapel (true, a bit like the one in the photo) that I attended, lovely man though he was. God rest his soul or whatever it is that happens to Methodists.

You couldn’t accuse my mother of not having given me a balanced religious education and exposure to a variety of standards. She always bought The War Cry (it may have a different name now) from the Salvation Army people who came round the working men’s club where we spent every Sunday night. But that’s another story. Whatever was close or came past suited my mother. If not for these early childhood exposures (in a good way) then maybe my standards would have been rather different, but I think the basic premise – no reading novels (of any kind) in your pyjamas in the morning – would remain true in any religion.

I feel I’ve strayed somewhat from the original premise of this blog which was, as I recall, about keeping up your standards in your retirement. Easy to let them slip and you end up writing drivel as opposed to fine literature. In a way my standards, vis a vis my writing, I think have remained remarkably consistent. I’ll let you, the reader, be the judge of whether that’s a good or a bad thing. Depends on your standards I suppose.

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