Google ‘Problems of Retirement’ and you’ll get depressed…..Everything from ’99 Retirement Problems’ (you’d need to be retired to have time to read it…) to ‘Bullying Is A Growing Problem In Retirement Communities’ (so now you know). We (the missus and I, (Frances, hereafter F, and Keith) felt we deserved retirement after a lifetime doing many things, but most recently running two bookshops, so I thought I might spend a year or so doing a blog mainly for my own benefit assessing what we did during retirement and whether it was ‘worthwhile’. There may well be lots of reading, but I suspect it will be that plus many, many walks, plenty of seaside trips and lots of visits as we are moving to Cornwall hopefully within the next few weeks. My thoughts will run over the period 2016-2017, but we have already been retired about 6 months, so what have we found are the problems of retirement? Our simple answer, as for many people, there aren’t any! The first question each day is what time to get up, and from that point on it just gets better and better.
So, what do we seem to do most days? I get a cup of tea in bed for F (which she says is a great luxury), and then she gets breakfast for us…porridge with honey, then toast and marmalade. Whilst still at the breakfast table we do, from the book, a Times Large General Knowledge crossword (there are usually, although not always, a couple of clues for which we have no idea of the answer). We then normally go on our daily walk. Usually this is through Brandon Woods at the back of our house and then through Piles coppice on the way home, a total of about 3.1 miles, or we walk through New Close wood to Combe Abbey and back again or, if it’s very muddy everywhere, we walk around our own locality of Binley Woods looking at what’s for sale and any external home improvements we like the look of. We always pick up our copy of the Times on the way home, and then over a cup of tea I do the daily Times concise cryptic crossword plus the super fiendish Sudoku plus the word wheel (help where necessary from F with the first and last). Hopefully this will help stave off dementia for a short while. A bit of vacuuming and tidying is followed by lunch (which since retiring we have very successfully made the main meal of the day), and then reading up to the time ‘Flog It’ and the ‘Antiques Roadtrip’ are on TV! Evening is TV and/or reading, plus a smaller meal. Bed is towards midnight with half an hour or an hour’s reading. Conclusion – too much TV, but very pleasant. At least one day a week we visit somewhere, a new town or National Trust property, or museum. And, certainly before Christmas, we undertook a lot of extended trips…..three to Cornwall, house-hunting, two to see our son and daughter-in-law in Lausanne, one to see our daughter and family in Edinburgh, and one to see F’s sister in Barcelona.
When you run a bookshop, time and again you will hear ‘Oh, it must be really nice to own a bookshop, I’d sit and read all day’. Well it’s a good job these people don’t run bookshops, as it’s a difficult, complicated, onerous and busy life in which you have to be commercially hard-headed and with no time for reading, not whilst you’re at the shop anyway. So, for two literary people like us who have worked hard for a modicum of reward, it’s a tremendous relief to have the opportunity to sit and read all day if we want. And we do want. Since I had the best Christmas present ever in a pile of books from a list of my own choosing, I have plenty to read at the moment. And one present duplicated a title I had already read, so we took it to the local Waterstones to see if we could swop it, and we ended up with four or five more books! It only took me a few days over Christmas to read Bill Bryson’s ‘The Road To Little Dribbling : More Notes From A Small Island’. It was one of those books you just can’t put down and hilariously funny to boot. His original ‘Notes From A Small Island’ was the most enjoyable of all his books, and now this is up there with it. Yes, he is now a grumpy old codger, but so what? We (and certainly I) know where he is coming from. And his many grumbles too often hit the mark. I also read Phil Rickman’s ‘Midwinter of The Spirit’ over Christmas, mainly because it was set in Hereford. Location is often just as important as character or plot in infusing a novel with depth. This one has an unusual plot all about the Diocesan Exorcist and the relationships between folk at the Cathedral (this latter, however, nowhere near as good as Trollope). I enjoyed it more than I thought, and most of the characters were beyond wooden and therefore believable.