Saturday, 29 October 2016

2010 - Life Begins

It struck me, now many of my friends are retired or semi-retired, how different our lives have become. Mine, especially, I feel. Since 2010 I have, instinctively, it seems, carved out a new life without needing direction nor too much guidance from elsewhere. I remember a friend saying to me, within hours of leaving my place of paid work for the final time, 'So I bet you feel wonderful.' I knew I should have felt wonderful but I didn't, not straight away. I felt the same as I always had. It hadn't sunk in. The pattern of my life was still ... get up before 7am, take painkillers for the inevitable headache brought on by, I now see, chronic over tiredness, hit the road about 7.15am, sit in traffic and hopefully enter the prison ... ahem... the school gates, about 8am. Then the day would truly begin. I felt I'd already been at work for two hours by the time official tasks took over. And even now, six years later, I still have to go to bed at 10pm. I'm making up for all those years of sleep deprivation. I certainly don't leave the house at 7:15am anymore and I don't have a perpetual headache, but I find I tire relatively easily. In other words I like lots of rest.

But in 2016, my daily routine is far less prescribed, yet I feel constantly busy. We have been on five holidays this year plus trips up to see mum in her nursing home every three to four weeks, so there's been a lot of packing. Beyond that it seems unbelievable that I managed 32 years of, as I say, I now see was, chronic over tiredness. Something I guess anyone working in the NHS will recognise. These days I get up before 9 am, but open the curtains earlier, so it appears we are up by 8 o'clock! Thank goodness for sleep-masks, those things you put over your eyes to block out the light. Why do I open the curtains? Well-there are many reasons. 1)We have so many deliveries it seems sensible to appear to be up in case there's a banging at the front door. 2)We have had builders, plumbers, window cleaners, fence repairers here more or less every week since the summer and they tend to arrive around 8am so it seems polite to appear to be ready for them. 3) Richard works very early one morning a week. So we are both awake. May as well open the curtains...

On Saturdays and Sundays I generally leave the curtains closed a little longer but I like to listen to Rev Richard Coles and Paddy O'Connell at 9am, on Saturday and Sunday respectively, over breakfast. Yet for all this getting up later than I did prior to July 2010, when I got an 'early retirement/ voluntary redundancy' package, I'm often in bed by 10 pm, sometimes even 9pm. Sounds crazy but I do read, reasonably rapidly, once there. I'm trying to wean myself off watching catch-up tv on the ipad as the backlighting does keep me awake. But these activities are new to me. A luxury I can afford now my life isn't reserved for going out to work.

In more sweeping ways my life is so changed I would hardly recognise myself, I feel, from the worker I was for all those years. When I first 'retired' I made myself a timetable. Can you tell I was a teacher? Did I stick to it? Did I heck? Yet I felt the need to put structure on my new-found freedom. I worked at our local Cancer Research shop as a volunterr, I did some tutoring at Kip McGrath and went away. Not on the round-the-world-cruise one is supposed to take in 'retirement' but off to Spain.
We did many private views, bought fine art from semi-famous artists and prints from more famous ones.For about two years I cleared the house and sold my wares at car-boot sales. And we had the builders in. By builders I mean: double glazing chaps, (to replace the 125 year old sash windows which rattled and steamed up by turns), electricians - a father and son who provided us with central chandeliers in our main living room, new side lights in our bedroom and my workroom, new kitchen ceiling and bathroom ceiling lights and sockets for a new electric cooker and various plug-ins in what was called 'the breakfast room'. We had new garden fences, and,very recently, new water pipe installations which required the temporary destruction of our many steps to the front door and much of the patio. One of the works I enjoyed most was turning our downstairs wetroom into exactly that-rather than the lumber room it had become. Our breakfast room is now almost a kitchen - with new work surfaces, space for a food processor, a fast-acting plug-in hob and excellent fridge-freezer. I want a new sink in there too-if we can find a plumber to do it. But enough of these building tasks. I haven't spent six years doing the house up. (Well I have and I'd still like better internal doors out to the revamped kitchen - but that may have to be put on hold. Can't get the staff.)

I was very pleased when 'my editor' said she was really engaged in my last 50,000 words. My novel seems to be doing what it should be: involving the reader. So that's a huge change for me. Am I turning into a writer at long last? I certainly read more and take note of the perfectly formed sentence. That's a huge change from my years as a paid worker. All I could manage was a Ruth Rendell murder.  I was very poorly read. In the early days of  retirement I went to the cinema more often than I had imagined and out for cappuccino at our favourite riverside hostelry as often as we could ( almost every day at one point). And I went swimming. But then, as now, not often enough. And now I'm making endless felt and ribbon-swathed Christmas decorations to sell at market stalls. I arrange most of Richard's art sales too. So, yes, I'm constantly busy but am doing what I choose, rather than what has to be done. I don't yet feel the need for a cruise. I'm enjoying pottering, writing, creating, cooking - yes, cooking, and, best of all, time to be me. I'm lucky I managed to leave work while still relatively young and fit. There's nothing like the freedom. I embrace it. So much to do and enjoy. My life began in 2010. Carpe diem!

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