Thursday, 16 March 2017


When I woke this morning my to-do list was, amazingly, empty. I have written before about how the blissful state of being  en retraite  is nothing like how I dreamt it would be. My imaginings of having oceans of time to go to the coast, sit in the garden, read, even read the papers, travel and people-watch never became reality.

But - for once - today - I can read, catch up with the papers, even sit in the garden ... and next week I can go to the coast. Why? Because we are in a new season!

In my dreams of retirement I had forgotten something called winter - which annually eats up four months of garden-sitting and people-watching. It's too damn cold to be outside unless you're jogging. And I don't jog.

I'd also forgotten housework has to be done and no matter how long I put it off there's always ironing.
Machines wash and dry clothes and dishes but they don't press shirts, trousers, t-shirts, jeans etc.

Retirement isn't one long blissful journey to foreign shores with endless sunshine and a heavy privy purse to pay for it all. Retirement is simply not leaving the house every morning to go to a place of work in exchange for a salary cheque at the end of the month. So how have I replaced that ' going to a place of work' ?

I do clean, dig the garden, get workmen in to fix our 125 year-old-house (and pay for it handsomely.) If I didn't live in an old house would I have more money for travel? More importantly would I have the time?

If waking -  with nothing vital to tackle - as I did today - was less of a rarity maybe I would have time to wander abroad. But, I wonder, why am I so busy the rest of the time? Perhaps writing a novel has taken over where my job left off. I read far more now - as much to inform myself of the craft of writing as for enjoyment - and perhaps I'm more particular about the state of the house and garden. Maybe I'm using more of my free time on domestics than I care to reveal. After all I'd never admit that retirement has meant my cooker hardly ever looks in need of a polish. I can't imagine myself bragging to anyone about the latest vacuum cleaner and how much better my carpets are now I have time to devote to them. And I rarely tell anyone I bake my own bread - but I do. ( Just don't pass it on.)

I did dig my herbaceous borders and raised vegetable beds a few weeks ago and the miniature daffodils always look brilliant for my birthday. This year was no exception. I have to admit it, grudgingly, retirement has meant I do more around the house and garden. It doesn't sound glamorous but it makes sense that, as a result, I rarely wake with nothing on my to-do list.

But today I really am going to read-for-pleasure and loosely plan part two of my trilogy - i.e. begin making notes for my second novel. It opens in 1939, from the pov of a very young volunteer soldier - a rich field - and continues through the war to the emergence of the NHS and the end of rationing.

I have my father's diaries of his duties in an armoured car during the big campaigns of WW2. He was in the Royal Corps of Signals. To be able to use his first hand notes and experiences of battle in The Italian Campaign, in El Alamein, the D-Day landings and - even more frightful - being part of the liberation task force for Belsen - should translate vividly into a novel.

But first find his diaries. That will take days of searching. Time - there's always something to eat into it. And perhaps if I really am a writer it would explain why I don't feel as if I have left work. I haven't. I've just exchanged one modus operandi for another. My choice. No-one made me use my time in this way. And - in theory - time is what I do have. I certainly didn't when I was an employee.

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