We had a good position in the middle of the floor, safely on the edge of the mosh pit. In front of me energetic fans ebbed and flowed like waves on the beach as they flowed towards the stage and back. As the tempo increased the band screamed ‘Jump,’ and these people reached for the roof, briefly levitating and bouncing off each other like human pinball. I could feel the rhythm of the bass guitar to my core. ‘Jump as high as you can and try and stay there,’ the band instructed; there was so much energy in the room this seemed possible. No one was checking their phones or talking about their day at work, everyone was completely in the moment. A mosh pit might look like chaos but there are rules to keep everyone safe in this bundle of energy; someone fell and my daughter-in-laws strong arms quickly pulled him up before he was crushed, at the end of a song our son waved a handbag he had found in the air until the owner claimed it.
I have written before about my love of loud rock music; the noise, energy and total immersion of the experience. Academy Three part of the Student Union building in Manchester is a small [holding 470 people] and intimate venue on the third floor. Turbowolf have a loyal following that made for a great night of heavy rock music but you might be forgiven for never having heard of them and attending one of their gigs is not on everyone’s tick list. Every person that was there on Friday night was there because they love rock music, not because it was somewhere to be seen and brag about.
We walked home in gentle rain, hot, happy and tired and soaked in mass-produced lager spilt from glasses as fans rushed to join in the fun at the front. It is a feeling I want to hang on to.
Retirement has completely changed my experience of winter and given the season a different character that is new and refreshing. I have always dreaded the winter and would become quite low in November as the days got shorter and colder. But now we are retired and no longer tied to just two days of freedom we can take off for a day trip or camping tour as soon as sunshine is forecast. This flexibility means that winter starts to feel like a succession of fantastic frosty and sunny days and is suddenly much more enjoyable and fun. Last week we spotted another window of opportunity to make the most of the blue skies and we headed north. After some mooching around the border city of Carlisle with its red sandstone castle and marvellous museum, we visited the dramatic ruin of Lowther Castle whose roof was removed in the 1950s to save the estate from crippling taxation. The castle and gardens have been recently opened up and are a fantastic place for a day out at any time of year.
We returned south via another ruin, Shap Abbey. Set in an idyllic and peaceful valley the remains of this ancient abbey are open to the public, although only one tower remains from the original buildings. From the village of Shap we had views to the Lake District fells dusted in snow and in the sunshine the north-west of England showed off its most beautiful side.
We popped in to Preston for old times sake and were pleased to see the hot potato and parched peas stall [the original street food] was still doing business in the Flag Square. Continuing south to the town of Ashbourne in Derbyshire we had a great day walking in more sunshine. Then the weekend arrived and with it the drizzle. We met friends for a pub lunch and a walk and had a lovely afternoon thanks to excellent waterproofs but it would have been better if the fine weather had blessed those working folk too.
The forecast was for a cold and sunny few days and so with nothing in the diary we were able to hop in to the ‘van and take a couple of nights in the Peak District to make the most of the fine weather. We stayed at the Caravan and Motorhome Club Chatsworth campsite which is in a peaceful walled area in Chatsworth Park. We gave the stately home a miss and walked through the glorious countryside but if you did want to visit it is very near to the site.
On a sunny and frosty morning we walked out of Chatsworth Estate to Baslow, where after a coffee, we climbed through woodland and out on to the open moorland behind the Robin Hood Pub on to Birchen Edge. These Peak District edges are glorious places to walk, with views over the crags in to the valleys below, I always enjoy the lofty feeling of walking along these distinctive features. On Birchen Edge we passed Nelson’s monument, a tall thin stone pillar on the rocks. This was erected by a local business man thirty years before the more famous monument to Nelson in Trafalgar Square. Our walk took in not one but two of these stunning Derbyshire edges. After a boggy section of moorland we followed the track towards Baslow Edge, finding the Wellington Monument that celebrates the 1815 Waterloo victory. We walked along the top of Baslow Edge and as the sun started to set we returned to our pitch via one of the many paths under the crags.
We also took in a lovely walk around Longstone Moor, a beautiful limestone ridge that is criss-crossed by paths. This area was once a thriving lead mining area but is now a quiet and less visited spot among the bustle of the Peak District. The area around Baslow is lovely but it does get plenty of visitors and finding space to yourself is near to impossible on a fine day. On Longstone Moor we met no other walkers and we had a sense that the space and fresh air was just ours to enjoy. We did find the crowds when we popped in to the Packhorse Inn for a swift half. This charming pub in Little Longstone had welcoming warm fires and is happy to serve walkers with muddy boots.
Twelve months retired – so how has that gone? We’ve certainly packed a lot in to the last year and at home we have settled in to a pattern for a shared retirement that is comfortable and relaxed. At home we both have our own projects and interests and often beaver quietly away at these before taking an afternoon walk around the neighbourhood or cycle to the supermarket. But we were only home for eight months of the year and those holiday days have a different pattern of walking and cycling and discovering new places. In some ways this year has been unusual as after the incident in Greece we were without a campervan for two months while it was off the road.
I have managed to keep my resolution to not say ‘I don’t know how I ever had time to go to work’ which I guess must annoy all those people who are squeezing work and life into their seven days. We have also made a conscious effort to do just / at least one thing each day.
Holidays and trips – 16 different holidays from one-night to two months. We had planned two longish trips to mainland Europe in the spring and the autumn and we had a wonderful trip to Spain and Portugal in September and October but our trip to Greece in the spring didn’t go quite according to plan. Now this is all over we can look back on the whole Greek tragedy as a learning experience [although one we would have preferred to do without] and we haven’t let the trip knock our confidence; we might even head off to Greece again in the future. In the UK we spent a few weeks in Scotland, went to the wonderful Upton Blues Festival and various other short breaks. We have been away in the campervan for about 120 nights during the year. This is less than we would have expected as the ‘van was off the road for a couple of months. We tried other types of holidays and these just confirmed that the campervan life is the one for us.
Number of accidents in the campervan – 1 (see above)
Number of times we have set the alarm clock – NONE!
Writing travel articles – 8- this is a similar number of travel articles for MMM as last year. This doesn’t sound many and it truly isn’t and is in no way a full-time job. But I work slowly and each 2,000 words represents about a months work – research, travelling, taking photographs, further research, editing photographs, writing and editing. In addition I write some campsite reviews and short articles. This makes my retirement a working one, although if it felt like work I would stop tomorrow.
Number of matinees we have been to – Three – hurrah!
Number of times I have wanted to go back to nine-to-five work – NONE!
Foreign languages learnt – 3 [although I am not fluent in any] – before our spring trip we both worked hard at learning some Greek with flash cards and 1970s TV programmes and our efforts were generally appreciated. I also used Duolingo to brush up my Italian. In the summer I learnt Spanish on Duolingo and TV learning and Mr BOTRA picked up some Portuguese. This learning meant that we could confidently book in to campsites and order in cafes. Mr BOTRA also keeps his German up to scratch. Next year we will want to learn some Croatian and Slovenian phrases as well as brushing up other European languages.
Good deeds done – Never enough! I wanted to do some good in retirement and continue to do the things I listed in this previous post. My elderly neighbours situation has recently worsened and I feel guilty for not helping her more.
Tai chi – Between once a week and daily! While we were away in September and October we practiced tai chi every day, a combination of fine weather and peaceful campsites made this easy and fun to do. At home we just about have enough space for tai chi without bumping in to each other and so manage to do occasional practice, as well as get to our weekly class.
Number of books read – 64 – this year I have made a conscious effort to read more travel books and fiction as well as novels.
Number of blog posts in 2017 – 101 – I managed 78 posts on Back On The Road Again and just 23 posts on my Memorial Bench Stories blog [I must try harder].
Number of days we haven’t been outdoors for at least half-an-hour – 4 [this is a guess] – mostly we like to get out and enjoy some fresh air even if it is raining and we get out for just half-an-hour.
It has mostly added up to a good year and bring on year two of retirement, I’m loving it.
This is our first year of retirement so we are interested to see how the spending has panned out for us with no income compared to our budget when we were both working. I did consider not sharing our review of our 2017 finances as I am not sure how interesting or useful this information is to others. Everyone’s situation is so different, people have different priorities, hobbies and needs. So is it really helpful to know that two people with a campervan-habit living in a small flat in Salford need around £24,000 a year to have a good quality of life?
We are really head-over-heels to have come well within our budget of £27,000 a year. We always knew this was a generous amount but it is good to have it confirmed in hard figures. I don’t think we will slack off the budgeting in 2018 as we like the idea of having a good financial cushion for any future problems.
All that said, here are the numbers:
Holidays [our favourite spending line] – £5,285 – for this we have been away for over a third of the year [118 nights in the campervan, plus a couple of other holidays in self-catering cottages] [this amount includes £1,000 for two 2018 holidays] – a bargain!
Food – £3,612
Restaurants & cafes – £2,864 – [this spending increased in 2017 in part due to better tracking of where the money has gone]
Running the campervan [servicing & insurance etc] – £1,636
Diesel for the above ‘van – £1,641
Gifts & donations – £1,173
Tickets for concerts, football & attractions – £633
Other household spending [including parts for the bikes] public transport & miscellaneous – £2,271
Our health [including tai chi classes] – £376
Clothes & accessories – £525
Utilities, insurance & service charges for a 2-bed 58 sq mtrs [624 sq feet] flat – £4,166
TOTAL SPENDING FOR 2017 – £24,196 – comfortably within our £27,000 budget.
We loved touring around Spain and Portugal and highly recommend it. If you’re planning your own trip to these or many other European countries these costs might be a useful guide, although WARNING – everyone’s trip is their own and everyone’s spending is different. We are not uber-frugal campers and anyone could do this trip cheaper [even we could if we tried] but this is our trip, it isn’t all about money and we set out to enjoy it in our own way. So below are a few notes on our spending.
Of the 66 nights we were away only seven of these were spent free-camping, the rest of the time we were on campsites [although we stayed on low-cost camperstops and ACSI sites].
In Portugal we had coffee and cake in a cafe almost everyday because it is cheap enough and the cakes are fantastic [hence the €434 spent in cafes] but we are vegetarian and so had very few evening meals out in restaurants as Portugal isn’t always ready for vegetarians.
We did drink wine or beer every night but we did try some very cheap [and very good] red wine [the lowest we tried was 1.89].
As you can see, we paid to get in to some attractions as we travelled, budget travellers could skip these.
Other spending includes an occasional washing machine, presents for loved ones at home, bike spares, some clothes and a few household replacement items.
Diesel – €523
Food [supermarkets etc] – €864
Cafes & restaurants – €434
Campsites – €931
Bus fares, taxis etc – €48
Entrance fees to attractions – €174
Other spending – €146
TOTAL SPENDING – €3,120
Interestingly, this amount is more or less the same as we would have spent had we stayed at home [and while away we’ve not been using gas, electric or water in the flat] so the only additional cost to our normal spending has been the ferry. Portsmouth to Bilbao is an expensive route at £730 but it does take you straight to Spain and I feel that this amount represents better value when spread out over a two month trip.
We have been generous with our budget and expected higher spending than this on our trips away so our annual spending for our first year of retirement is still looking good at the moment despite additional spending following the incident.
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.