Occasionally people ask me how I’m coping with retirement. One thing I can say is that I don’t do all the things I expected to do. This is not so much because I don’t find the time to do them, as I’m not often in the mood to do so.
I have a pile of DVDs and CDs to wade thru on my coffee table, some given to me on retiring 3 years ago. I’ve watched bits of some of them, and now can’t remember which episodes of TV programs, etc. I’ve watched and which I haven’t.
I also had a project for transferring concerts and music clips from my old VHS cassettes on to DVD. Haven’t done any of this for months.
What do I do with my free time? Well this computer takes up most of my spare time, when not watching the soaps, etc. on TV. There’s so much you can do on a computer linked to the Internet. Blogs like this one, games, corresponding with friends around the world, research via various websites, play music videos, etc.
I have a mother, aged 95 (96 in September) who lives near me and who I visit most days. I cook our main meal which we eat together or take her out for a meal. and when the weather is fine I take her in the wheelchair (she can walk, but tires easily) to one of the local parks or down by the River Thames, which is about half a mile away.
I meet up with friends for a drink and a meal several times a month, sometimes we go to the cinema or a music gig.
I go on rock’n'roll weekenders – one next weekend, another the first weekend in July, another in December (I was at another one in May). My mother and I will have days out to Brighton or somewhere on the coast by train during the Summer, and we have 4 nights at a holiday camp in Suffolk coming up in September.
Sometimes I get in the mood to play a record, CD or DVD. Usually a music DVD.
The thing that puzzles me is how I ever found time to go to work, even though it was only part-time. Nevertheless I had to be out of the house for 8 hours a day, from around 12 noon till 8pm at night, meaning my main meal of the day wasn’t eaten till 8.30 or 9pm. I usually just managed a sandwich or roll to keep me going till then, very rarely a breakfast. I still rarely have a breakfast, but usually have my main meal with my mother between 5 and 7 pm, unless we are eating out when it is midday or during the afternoon.
I certainly don’t miss work as the last job they put me on I was totally isolated, wasn’t entitled to any breaks because I was part-time, therefore not able to explore the local cafes and markets or to socialize at all. Even at our department Christmas lunch when the rest of the department would spend all afternoon in the pub, we had to gobble down our lunch and rush back to Reception/Switchboard, they never arranged cover for us for the afternoon. Bastards! I deliberately got drunk on wine one Christmas lunch and passed out on the floor of Reception, recovering in the Sick Room at about 8pm. I thought that would mean they’d get cover for us next Christmas, but no chance. They still expected us to remain sober, rush thru our lunch and then back on Reception. Again, f**king incompetent bastards!!!
I really resented the fact that almost everyone else in the organization had an afternoon off to socialize and get merry at Xmas with colleagues but never us on Reception. And the fact we couldn’t socialize any other time of the year either because we didn’t have any breaks just added insult to injury. What a horrible place to work, and what incompetent managers not to be able to arrange cover one day a year. Even on planned days out my department boss would sometimes say: ‘Everyone can come, except those on Reception’.
When my line of work, telex, became obsolete due to fax and email they had put me and my colleague down in the Reception area, which later became isolated from everyone else. Staff entered by a different door. We could go all day without seeing anyone we knew. This was NOT suitable work for us, certainly not for me, and didn’t use any of our considerable keyboard skills. We should have been transferred to the IT department and this was planned as we were pioneers in that field, being the first to have VDU screens, the first to deal with electronic mail, etc. We were already going into the computer room to do certain tasks, and the computer expert was training us up to transfer to that department. But the senior manager put a block on it – an American bastard who I never forgave. They were all very jealous of their own departments and didn’t like staff transferring from one department to another.
I ended up doing Reception/Switchboard, a job I was totally unsuited for. It was against all the organization’s rules and that of the trade union because I was given no training for Reception, and inadequate training for the work with the phones system we were also responsible for. I have never been a ‘people person’ used to dealing with the public and frequently lost my temper with callers. I should have been sent on an ‘anger management’ course, and also on a Reception course on how to handle different situations but I never was.
All this was against the rules, and we were supposed to be given an assessment after three months on the job to see how we were coping and if we needed extra training. This never happened, and added to all the other problems I was deaf and often couldn’t hear people who came into Reception properly thru the bullet-proof glass. I was so relieved to be able to take early retirement at the age of 62 to spend more time with my mother. It was supposed to be a ‘human rights’ organization, but as my partner used to say (he also worked there for a time) some of the people working there were more ‘human frights’. Quite appalling the way some of us were treated. My partner was blacklisted for reporting to the press in a letter about the waste of money, bad management, etc after he left, urging members/supporters to put things right. They barred him from even doing voluntary work, just for trying to save the organization’s money and reputation. Once again, bastards!!!
My mother and I (my partner died in 1991) went on several cruises before and after I retired, but now I feel they are probably a bit too ambitious for her at such an advanced age. She can’t enjoy the entertainment, not being able to hear properly even with digital hearing aids, and she hates dressing up. Also we’ve cruised the Med several times, and she is not keen on going North to Iceland, Norway or the Baltic States. Flying is too much for her at her age in a wheelchair, all the hassle at airports, etc. and she hates being stuck in a seat unable to smoke for hours.
That means any cruises have to be from Southampton or Dover and return to those ports, which strictly limites the cruises we can choose. There are the island ones (Madeira, Canary Islands) or long-hall transatlantic cruises there and back. We may decide to go on another cruise next year, perhaps around Britain and Ireland. We did this once, and it was very pleasant - we spent a few hours in Dublin, my one and only trip to Ireland.
With my mother dependent on me for meals, making sure she takes her medication, taking her out, dealing with correspondence, finances, doctor’s and similar appointments, I am unable to go on holday by myself or with friends. I did go for a week with a friend to Cyprus last November and came home to find my mother hadn’t eaten for about a week, or at least hadn’t touched the chilled meals I’d left for her in the fridge, being unsure how to use the oven. She refuses to have ‘Meals On Wheels’ which other people tell me are almost inedible anyway.
So the most I can be away is a long weekend really, or else we go together on holiday. This doesn’t particularly worry me as I’ve traveled all the places I really want to go, some I’ve visited many times.
On hot Summer days I like to go swimming in natural water (ponds, lakes or the sea) and sunbathe listening to Country Music audio cassettes I made up years ago (I haven’t gone in for an Ipod and probably never will). Sometimes I take my mother and we go the Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park, taking the bus to/from Kensington Gardens. If I go on my own Hampstead Mixed Bathing Pond is my favorite swimming place in London. That and the Serpentine Lido. I hate swimming pools, with their clinical appearance and chlorinated water.
Retirement suits me fine, and I’m never bored. I’m sure I’ll always find more than enough to occupy my time.