Trying to do some good in retirement

22.04.2017 Osios Loukos monastery (15).JPG
A pretty dish of flowers in a Greek monastery

One of my aims for retirement was to be helpful and do some good.  It is now over six months since I packed up my work laptop and phone and gave up my salary and it seemed a good time to review how I have got on with this aim.  Although I never think I have done enough and know that I could almost certainly do more if I wasn’t so busy enjoying myself, I have done a few helpful things.  Below is a flavour of how the retired can still be useful members of society:

  • We have spent a couple of days working in the garden for our son and daughter-in-law [not sure if this really counts as a good deed as we would do anything for these two]
  • I spent an afternoon helping a neighbour organising her work files on her laptop
  • I am the volunteer Treasurer for DIY Theatre Company, an established company of learning disabled performers and I provide support to the Artistic Director
  • I voluntarily take the minutes for the Board of Directors that runs the development we live in
  • I visit an elderly house-bound neighbour and have helped her with online shopping
  • We helped another neighbour clear his storage unit and fitted some furniture in to our van and took them to the auction rooms for him
  • We have collected litter locally to try and keep the streets a little tidier

It certainly feels good to have the time to do all these things but I think I could try harder.

 

Advertisements

Doing just one thing a day in our frugal retirement

20170515_190513.jpg
The Stretford End is usually packed for a match!

Now we are both here we are finding this retirement life pretty good.  As with our pre-retirement life, we are continuing to live frugally [that is within budget], stay active, get out and engage with the world and generally enjoy our lives.  We are also trying to remain relaxed and content by adopting a strategy of doing just one thing a day.  So far we have slipped in to doing two things just occasionally but the policy mostly applies.  Below is a list of our activities and spending on additional activities in the last week:

Day one – We attended a political meeting [free].

Day two – We bought day passes for the bus [£4.50 each] and went for a countryside walk.

Day three – We got free tickets for a play through the wonderful Show Film First and we went to the matinee because we can, walking there and back.

Day four – We walked in to Manchester to spend a book token Mr BOTRA had received for his birthday.  While we were choosing books, the book shop had a fire alarm and we went for a drink while we waited for it to re-open [£3.30].

Day five – We joined a shared lunch with friends and drinks for a friend’s birthday in Manchester in the evening [two things]!  [Public transport £13.20, drinks £23.60].

Day six – A guided visit to the interior of the lovely Ordsall Hall [£3 each]

Day seven – We went to see the Manchester United Reserves under 23 team play against Tottenham Hotspur.  Entrance is free and the crowd of a few hundred [the capacity of Old Trafford is over 75,000] watched Manchester United win 3-2.  We resisted the temptation to buy any of the over-priced refreshments.

So we spent a total of £55.10 [less than £8/day] on getting out and about this last week, this might be slightly unusual as we don’t celebrate birthdays every week [but we really enjoyed going out to the pub] and this amount is well within budget and has been so much fun.  We have learnt more about our local area, met some people with shared political views, enjoyed some culture and sport and kept very active.  Roll on more weeks of retirement!

 

 

Wales: surprising and delightful

2017 March Gladstone Library (5).JPG
The Gladstone Library in Hawarden

Finding an unexpected gem is one of the lovely things about travelling and it can happen even near to home.  The Gladstone Library in Hawarden just over the Welsh border beyond Chester was one of those moments.  We were walking through the beautiful Hawarden countryside, watching early butterflies on the verges and stopping to examine the first signs of Spring.  In the village we sought out a tea shop for refreshments and found much more.  The grand stone 19th century building in the photograph is The Gladstone Library.  This building holds over 150,000 items in its library and has a reading room where many writers have toiled.  The magnificent building also runs a variety of residential events and courses; you can learn languages or brush up on your local history or theology.  Alongside this, anyone can pop in and enjoy the atmosphere and comfort of the building as visitors to the tea room, and sitting in the elegant dining room with excellent afternoon tea and a view over the well-tended gardens is hard to beat.

It became a weekend of memorable cafe stops, as the one we found the next day made a good attempt to rival the Gladstone Library.  Having stayed near to Llanrwst we walked in more sunshine to Grey Mares Tale waterfall and through the woodland and old mine workings emerging over the hill to a panoramic view of the Snowdonia hills across the trees.   We stopped for a picnic lunch at Llyn Geirionydd, watching red kites soar across the blue sky.  At the remote Llyn Grafnant you wouldn’t expect to find any facilities but here we stumbled upon another fantastic Welsh cafe on the banks of the lake.  The cafe was being run by two people who sparred in an amiable fashion over the cakes and teapots in the converted Welsh stone barn, entertaining us as we chose which cakes to try.  We sat on a bench in the garden with home-made cake on china plates, lazily watching kayaks on the lake and making friends with the ginger tom cat that stopped by, it was blissful.

It seems that even places just an hour or so from home are still waiting to be explored.  It is just as well we are retired and have the chance to find more hidden gems.

 

 

 

Recognising the pattern of our day will be different in retirement

2016 March Wigglesworth Cottage (19).JPG

For as long as I can remember Mr BOTRA and I have generally spent the first half an hour or so after work in what I think of as our evening debrief.  Once we are both home from work we will put the kettle on for that essential pot of tea and then sit down and share our news from the day or talk through something we need to sort out.  We might chew over a tough problem, making use of the each others insights to find a solution, we might share something we have learnt or blow off steam about something annoying.  This dedicated time has always given us chance to catch up with each other, transition from work to home and it allows us to then leave work behind for the evening.

When the weather is warm enough we will take our mugs of tea outside and sit in the garden for this debrief.  As our garden is now a shared space this can sometimes mean that we meet neighbours and catch up with them too.  Our garden is in a sheltered quadrangle and has benches that catch the evening sun making it a perfect spot to relax at the end of the day.

When it is cooler or wet we will stay in the flat and sit on the sofa, hands hugging our hot tea gratefully after cycling or walking from work.  There will be no radio or TV on and we just focus on talking to each other for a short while.

Retirement will mean we will mostly be together during the day and this will change the pattern of our days.  The daily debrief will become redundant and I know that I will miss that time.  Will we need to build in dedicated time during the day for talking through ideas and issues or, will our relaxed and retired selves find time to chat to each other naturally throughout the day?  We shall see.

Happy in Arnside whatever the weather

2017 March Silverdale (6).JPG
Looking towards Grange-over-Sands from Arnside Knott

Very soon we won’t be constrained by the weekend for our camping trips, we will be able to take off as soon as the sun peeps through and come home when it is damp and cold.  And yet, we do appreciate the variety of weather and seasons we get in the UK and perhaps we will still purposefully take some rainy trips out in the campervan.  We are just back from a few days in Silverdale and Arnside, one of England’s most beautiful areas whatever the weather.  The Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has everything for a perfect holiday; atmospheric woodland, quiet bays, good tea shops, lots of wildlife and good campsites.  We climbed up Arnside Knott, which is criss-crossed with footpaths and looked down on the river Kent and a moody and magnificent Morecambe Bay from the top.  After a cafe stop in Arnside we explored the chasm of Middlebarrow Quarry, a huge disused quarry, and walked through the lovely Eaves Wood back to the campsite.

Returning to the ‘van we put our feet up with a brew and read the paper, leaving the big sliding door open as it had stopped raining and the weather was fairly mild.  We were joined by this gorgeous ginger tom with kitten soft fur and deep amber eyes.  He came in cautiously at first but after exploring all the corners of the’van curled up on my lap and purred loudly.  In the ‘van with a brew, the paper and a purring cat – I was in heaven!

2017 March Silverdale (25)
A furry visitor joined us in the ‘van

 

Writing into retirement

P1000015

I am now ten weeks in to retirement [and still smiling] and very soon my retirement will be our retirement when Mr BOTRA joins me.  I am looking forward to a shared retirement and with warmer weather and opportunities to get out and about much more I have been thinking hard about my writing life and in particular how often I post on my Back On The Road Again blog.  Last year I set myself the goal of publishing posts twice a week as I built up the blog.  I have mostly achieved this with occasional failures [for which I beat myself up about of course].  In addition, over the last year I have written a travel article at least once a month and submitted shorter articles and campsite reviews and I have tried to keep on top of my Memorial Bench Stories blog.  In the last twelve months I have worked at practicing my writing at least five days a week in an effort to improve my writing and create some discipline and structure to what I do.

Despite all this practicing I have never really managed to become a fast producer of words and my craft is slow.  I spend hours editing even a short 400 word article, reading and re-reading to find just the right words and put them in what I think is the best order.  In addition, for every piece of writing you see there are hours of background research.  I really enjoy this aspect of writing as it feels like studying and learning and reminds me of those happy days as a student.  It doesn’t matter that much of what I learn never makes it on to the page.

During the last year my Back On The Road Again blog has taken up lots of my energy at the expense of my Memorial Bench Stories blog, never mind other new ideas I have in my head.  Although I feel proud to tell people I am a travel writer, I have other aims and plans for retirement and I want to leave time for study and reflection.  And so I feel it is now the moment for blogging to take up a little less of my time.  Although I intend to continue to make time to write almost every day during the next year, some of this writing may be just for me and may even involve pen and paper rather than a keyboard.  The retirement of Mr BOTRA represents real retirement and I feel ready to now really shift gear as I move in to my new retired life.

My revised goal is to publish a blog post here at least once a week.  This new ‘regime’ [I am in no way pretending this is a tough target] might give me time to write other blogs, space to complete around six travel articles a year and continue writing a few short articles.  This will also give me time to travel, to exercise, to find out new and interesting facts and just be.  It should also give me space for new and exciting projects [some of which I haven’t even had time to dream up yet].  So here we go!

 

Why we won’t get bored in our retirement

P1070869
These are our plans for retirement

Pinned up in the van is the above list of things.  Mr BOTRA and I think of the lines of this verse as our ‘to do’ list when we are on trips in the van.

Our plans for our [hoped for] long and happy retirement are to spend lots of time on campervan trips and doing all the things on this list.

This list is not ours it is one of those oft quoted things you find on a fridge magnet or a postcard but it does nicely summarise the things we like to do on our campervan trips.

Walk in the rain – or [hopefully] in the sun, or the wind; whatever the weather we will just walk [or cycle] every day.  We will walk up mountains, along valleys, traverse ridges, follow coastlines and explore towns and cities, at walking pace we can really appreciate the great outdoors.  When we were away in the van for a year in 2009/10 (blog here) we walked most days, slept well and were fitter and healthier than we had ever been.

Smell flowers – There is no better display than the one nature provides and I always take time to smell the flowers [and watch the birds and animals], as well as try and identify what they are with the books we have in the ‘van … sometimes this is very hard.

Stop along the way – In a campervan there is really no rush and no excuse not to stop and explore whatever we find because being in the ‘van is part of the fun and the journey.  Sometimes these unscheduled stops take you to unexpected and interesting places.

Build sandcastles – Or beach comb, or bird watch or just more walking but on beaches.

Go on field trips – For me every day in the ‘van is a field trip and the blog is my field note book.  When I was a geography student the field trips were my favourite part of the course and I picked modules to maximise the number of trips I took part in.  Field trips are about taking everything in, observing, experiencing and soaking in the sounds, tastes, history, smells and stories of a place.

Find out how things work – I will admit to a liking for interpretation boards and Mr BOTRA reads these avidly.  I am also addicted to looking things up on Google.  As far as I am concerned, every day is an opportunity to learn something new.

Tell stories – To each other and to others [when they will listen].

Say the magic words -These must be ‘Let’s go camping!’  I say these all the time.

Trust the universe – Okay, this is a bit dippy, I trust it to just keep expanding and be there.