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!

Sunday 9 October 2016

Follow the crowd?

There's a line in 'Passage to India' by EM Forster - I paraphrase -
                        '... and it will work its way to its end...'
Elderly Mrs Moore, the voice of reason, tolerance and experience, speaks these words. During her visit to India she is horrified at the effects of The Raj; petty officials and their rudeness towards native Indians. In her visit to the fictitious Chandrapore she cannot believe how her son - the magistrate - seems so ingratiating towards the English 'rulers'. She believes he and they are treating Indians badly. Her words '... it will work its way...' refers to her son's fiancee's accusation of rape against an Indian doctor. Mrs Moore believes the 'machine' ie 'the Brits' will take the rape case '... to its end...' British justice will see the Indian punished.

In fact the young woman sees, before it's too late, that she has been buoyed up by the British establishment in bringing a charge of rape. But it won't stick. In court, under oath, she retracts her accusation.British women call her a bitch. She is alone. But the Indian is free '... without a mark on his character...'

Run with the hare or hunt with the hounds - or go your own way? Accuse folks who are 'not like us'?  Is this what is happening to England and Wales as we hurtle towards Brexit? Are some folks on a kind of band wagon which suggests life outside Europe, without immigrant workers, will bring back a nation we love and feel pride in?

I don't personally understand a lack of enthusiasm for migrant workers. If people do a good job and speak English, since I speak nothing but English, pay their taxes, are law-abiding and help get things done, where is the problem? But then I was lucky. I had educated, compassionate parents who taught me not everyone had our (few) advantages.

 I was brought up reading 'Spotty' and 'Ferdinand the Bull'. My father got me reading these stories when I was pre-school age. The tales celebrate difference. I couldn't have analysed the stories as such  aged three or four but I felt for the 'spotty' rabbit who was different from the rest of his family. I liked Ferdinand who preferred to smell the flowers rather than go into the bullring. Spotty and Ferdinand were different. But one didn't dislike them.

When I was nine or so I befriended a girl who was 'poor'. She had no mother and was friendless. It cost me nothing to speak to her and I never cared whether I lost friends as a result. Perhaps I should have cared whether I would lose friends but I never felt allegiance to people who were unkind to others or talked about them behind their backs. I doubt whether it's because I'm a goody-goody. I never felt the need to follow the crowd. And I was brought up to value difference.

While it seems, in some quarters,  migration has to be tackled - although I think there is a sickness, a fever surrounding this issue in Little Britain - it's a passing fad. It will 'work its way to its end' (I hope) and be seen as a hollow tirade. Britain cannot cope without migrant workers.

Nor can Britain cope with poor housing, a run-down social services, an over-stretched NHS nor underfunded schools. While the Tories battle on who will stop them running down a welfare state put in place to help those in need? Who will stop them underfunding services? Where is Labour?

The rhetoric about migrant or foreign workers, nastiness towards 'others' who live here, Amber Rudd, Brexit, Theresa May and infighting in both Ukip and Labour make me feel shame for our nation. Never before this year have I felt so unrepresented by those who are elected to represent us. We are the fifth largest economy in the world. Can we really not build more affordable housing or pay for our services? Migrant workers are not people we should be blaming. An unequal society is - I guess - at the root of the problem. If we are such a rich nation why are so many feeling so aggrieved? ( I know why. I want to know how it happened.)

We are living in unsettling times. The prevailing political atmosphere will work its way to its end.
Let's hope for a truly inspirational political leader some time soon. As a nation we are running on empty.