Getting my eyes tested

It is over three years since I last got my eyes tested, so this week I popped over for a test to my friendly optician – Robert Callendar in Linlithgow. The good news is that my eyes remain healthy and my prescription is unchanged. I was happy because I thought I could keep my existing glasses, but Robert was in sales mode and persuaded me otherwise.

I was born short sighted and wore glasses till I was about 40, when I had my eyes lasered to get 20-20 vision. I loved not having to wear specs, and I still would rather not. But a few years ago I realised that I could not read small print, and got some reading glasses. Then, when I had my last test, I found my distance vision was also deteriorating, so I got some glasses for driving and watching TV. Now I have the two pairs, but most of the time I do not wear any.

The optician suggested I get some varifocals, so that I could wear them all the time, without worrying about where they are, but I am holding onto my identity as someone who does not wear glasses. If my prescription had changed I would have been persuaded, but I did not want to spend money. This is where my salesman optician got smart. Rather than continuing to argue for varifocals he just asked whether I had been wearing sunglasses on the narrowboat this year. Apparently not wearing them at my age on sunny days can lead to cataracts. That did make some sense and when I mentioned we were hoping to go skiing this year his eyes lit up.

So I have ended up ordering some fancy Bolle prescription sunglasses, with rose-blue lenses which apparently are best for bringing out contrast on the piste.

I do feel as if Robert has stolen my wallet, but I am pleased my eyes have not deteriorated these past few years, and I am looking forward to testing out my new sunglasses. As Huey Lewis said, “The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades”.

Is retirement busy doing nothing?

I saw a “mash report” article this week on social media, commenting that the author’s parents are retired and spend their time doing jobs that really do not need to be done. It is very common to hear retired people saying that they have no idea how they ever found time to work, given how busy they are. It made me wonder if that is us too.

North Wales Coastal Path near Prestatyn

We are certainly busy. During the summer months we were moving the narrowboat most days, and that took up much of our time. I’m not complaining. It was more like a holiday than work and we loved it. And when we returned to our house, there were many postponed jobs to be done, so again I was very busy. But this week we have been back at the boat, in a marina, so there is no excuse for not just chilling. And yet I find myself still with lists of things to do. Is it “make work”?

I’ll let you decide. This week I have been on lots of long walks with the dogs, including a big chunk of the North Wales Coastal Path, and around an Iron Age hill fort. I have been to the chandler to find out why the new metal plate on my deck is corroding (it is aluminium and needs painting). I have spent time on chat with British Gas, trying to sort out why my smart electricity meter will not talk to them. I am trying to source a bendy metal strut to hold up the middle of my new tonneau cover on the back of the boat. We had a trip out for lunch to see some friends in Wales who we have not seen for a while. I have visited two National Trust properties – Chirk Castle and Erddig house. And we spent a boozy Saturday night talking to other boat owners in the marina bar. My “to do” list still has booking a ski holiday, finding a new car, booking a hotel in Salisbury for when we go on a road trip at the end of the month, buying new walking boots, and arranging sight and hearing tests.

I am enjoying retirement. That is certain. But am I just making up things to do, or am I making the most of the time we now have? What do you think?

Learning to ski – again

My wife, Mandy, and I did not learn to ski till we were in our forties. It was at a time in my life when every year I would try something new. I learnt to fly a plane, to scuba dive, to do long distance walks, and to ski. The last two hobbies have stuck with me, but we have not been skiing since January 2020. Just as the pandemic was beginning we found ourselves in Morzine, France. We had great sunny days on the piste, and nervous evenings in crowded bars. Since then, lockdowns have prevented us having a ski holiday. More importantly, Mandy has had both her knees replaced, so has been very unsure about whether she will be able to ski. But we have missed it, so this week we took a trip to the “snow factor” artificial slope in Braehead, near Glasgow.

The very good news is that we both can still ski. Mandy remains a little scared that an accident could damage her new knees, but we have done the research and the risk is not really any more than with natural knees. She plans to stick with the easiest pistes (green and blue), but that is fine. Neither of us are into scaring ourselves on the slopes. Rather, we love the scenery, and the fresh air in the mountains.

So my next job is to find somewhere to go, with nice easy skiing for us both, and a few more tricky intermediate runs for me. Probably France – perhaps La Plagne, Les Deux Alpes, Morzine or Courchevel. Any thoughts from my ski savvy readers?

Spring cleaning in the autumn

I’m back at the narrowboat for a couple of days. Last year we left the boat over winter for nearly six months, and when we returned, it felt a little sad. Some surfaces and fabrics had gone damp and mouldy, and it took a few weeks to get it back feeling like home. This year we plan to spend more time on the boat during the cold months. And before that starts we determined that the boat needed a really good autumn spring clean. That is easier without the dogs, so Mandy is looking after them in Scotland while I clean everything, top to bottom. I have even done a bit of indoor painting and the boat is looking great. Our new boat covers have also arrived so we are prepared for the next few months.

Our smart new tonneau cover

Many people ask us how we can stay on a narrowboat when it’s is cold. They are right and wrong. It is true that the boat is single skinned with leaky windows. When we wake up on a cold winter’s morning, the inside of the boat can be nearly as cold as the outside. But it is perfectly cozy under the duvet, and the good news is that the boat has a very small volume of air, which means that once I have started the heating in a morning, it warms up very quickly. We have something called a “webasto” which is a diesel boiler and heats the water and central heating. If we want it even warmer, we have a bubble stove, which looks like a wood burning stove but also runs on diesel, and gets the boat really toasty warm.

We are looking forward to our first winter boat vacation in a couple of weeks. For the six months we were away this summer, I largely wore shorts and t shirt, so it is amazing how quickly autumn has arrived. The boat is in a marina but was getting rocked by wind and rain today, and I had the heater on. The cleaning has gone well and I am very much looking forward to the winter. My favourite mornings on the boat are when the canal and marina have frozen over and sparkle in the dawn light, but we feel safe and warm inside. Having spring cleaned in the autumn, it should be lovely. As the Dutch say “Gezellig”.

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