When I was working, we used to write objectives for the coming year. So this year I have decided not to make resolutions about things I will stop or start doing. Instead I have identified eight outcomes to aim for by the end of 2022.
I will have a happy family. For various reasons the past couple of years have not been easy for my sons, but things are on the up and this will be a good year. Mandy and I will continue to love our retired life.
We will have had an amazing year on the narrowboat. Last year we were able to spend 4 months travelling the canals in the north of England. This year we will spend over 6 months in the south, meeting friends and family as we travel, seeing wonderful places, and enjoying the best of the countryside.
I will have lost weight and will be fitter. I made pretty good progress on this when we were travelling last year, but the past couple of months have been more slovenly.
We will have decided where we want our house for the next twenty years. This was also a goal for 2021 but we have struggled to choose between the many wonderful places in the UK.
Covid will no longer dominate our lives. This is a hard goal for me to achieve by myself, but I have a good feeling that after the Omicron wave, we will be living with the disease as we do with flu or a cold.
I will have been abroad again. I have really missed travelling. This year I want to go to at least one new place outside the UK.
I will have experienced many perfect moments. I love those moments when you suddenly see an incredible view, or a sunrise, or you sit down with friends for a wonderful meal and you realise that it does not get any better than this.
I will have continued to write this blog. There is something about writing each week that I find really satisfying and mindful, as I take the opportunity to reflect.
What about you? What are your goals for 2022? Whatever they are I wish you a very happy, healthy and prosperous year.
This week marks twelve months since I retired. Overall it has been a wonderful experience but I am not pretending there is nothing I miss.
Five things I really miss about work are:
The people were great. I know it is corny but I do miss them. I worked with some really talented and really fun people. I try to keep in touch but I am rubbish at it.
I miss weekends. The routine of work and the rhythm of a working week are something I have lived with for nearly 40 years and it feels strange that I can now do anything any day. Either every day is like a weekend, or no day is like a weekend.
I miss chatting early in the morning. I used to wake before 6am and email, text or call with my fellow early risers. Sotimes I now have a lie in till 7am or occasionally 8am but more often I am up by myself these days. Nice to have my own space but I miss sharing.
I miss having money coming in. This is a bit of a strange one because we worked out our finances before I retired and we can afford it. We even have our money set up so that a fixed amount goes into our account each 18th of the month, just like it used to. But there is something psychological for me when it is existing money I am spending, rather than new money coming in.
One year in and I still don’t really understand what being retired means. I was warned it would take a long time and it has. To some extent this still feels like one long holiday, and I still rush at what I do.
Two things I though I would miss but I don’t:
I thought I would miss making decisions that really mattered. I worked in the sharp end of banking and some of my decisions affected literally millions of people and very large sums of money. I remember ny friend Matt (who reads this blog) telling me that the biggest decisions I would make in future would be whether to buy brown or white bread. He was absolutely right but I really don’t mind. The decisions I make these days are about me and my family, and I am very happy with them.
I thought I would miss the adrenaline of work, especially when things went wrong and needed fixing urgently. Looking back I think I was a little addicted to that adrenaline, but I don’t think it was healthy. I am much happier being more chilled now.
And there are many things I love about being retired:
I am not tied down by anything. If I decide I want to cancel all my plans for tomorrow and do something different, I just can.
I can take as long as I want. When we were on our narrowboat I did not have to think of where I needed to be by Saturday – we could go fast or slow.
I get to meet new people, do new things. Orkney for a month for instance was a great opportunity I could never have had while working
Overall I have no doubt I made the right call to retire and I am really looking forward to whatever new adventures 2022 will bring. But as it is Christmas I will raise a glass to my time at work, and to all my friends from that time.
My Mum is 86 and had a fall this week. She was walking up the street outside her house and seems to have just collapsed. Fortunately an off-duty paramedic saw what happened and called an ambulance, so when my Mum regained consciousness she was in hospital. The good news is that she is now off the acute ward and on a cardiac ward. The bad news is that they haven’t yet worked out what is wrong.
The odd thing is that I am not feeling too upset about what happened. She is a little older now and a little more fragile. Unlike my Dad, her brain is still sharp and she is reasonably fit, but we should expect issues. However, what was both frustrating and upsetting was my inability to contact her. Her mobile phone had almost no reception and she doesn’t do texts, there was no way of calling her in hospital, the ward wifi would not allow facetime, and even the ward phone number for enquiries was permanently engaged. She had called my brother when she could and he was with her, so I could talk to him, but he was only allowed to see her for an hour a day.
The irony is that I have spoken on this blog before about one of the benefits of retirement being that I am no longer “always on”. I sometimes take days to reply to emails or messages, so I should understand that hospitals are busy and their main job is not to allow communication with distant relatives. But it did bring to life for me how much I rely on electronic communication. And quite how far Scotland is from my parents in Salisbury.
I was doing some more family tree research, and found a newspaper article about the tragic death of my Mum’s uncle Gerald, who died while on a school swimming outing aged 17. His parents were notified by telegram. There was no WhatsApp a hundred years ago. Perhaps we are all too dependant on contact these days.
But I was worried about my Mum.
Good news. She is now on a side ward with a phone that works. I have let her know about Gerald. 😊
I was out walking along the coast in Fife yesterday with one of my sons and my sister in law. I realised that I was not sure what day it was. One of the benefits of retirement is that I can do anything on any day. No longer do I need to wait till the weekend to go for a long walk, or go shopping, or fix the crack in the bathroom tiling, or visit my new great nephew for a cuddle, all of which I did yesterday. Rather I have the flexibility to avoid crowds and do what I want when I want.
But the downside can be that every day is like another. I chatted to my sister in law, who has been retired for seven years. She deliberately builds routine into her weeks to help provide some structure. She eats fish on a Friday. She cooks a roast Sunday lunch. She tries to make Friday evening as relaxing as it was when she was working. Maybe I should do the same. But I am in that honeymoon period of retirement when the freedom to do anything on any day feels simply wonderful.
I know when people say “they have no idea what day it is” they often mean that the person is losing it. Sadly, my father has advanced Alzheimer’s dementia and really does not understand the world any more. And I am wary of the naysayers in my old work, who told me not to retire because my brain would turn to mush. And I am aware that even though my life now has few meetings and appointments, I recently missed a meeting with my financial adviser, not because I was too busy, but because I was not busy enough. But it honestly feels great to wake up in a morning and know that today I can do pretty much anything I want.
Especially now lockdown is easing in the UK, those freedoms are widening. On Sunday I head down to England for some narrowboat training. I had better not miss the course because I forget what day it is!
What about you? If you are retired do you always remember the day? If you are working, do you long to be freed from the constraints of routine?
On Sunday my wife and I had our first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and it made me reflect on why we all should be vaccinated if we are able.
It can save our lives. Admittedly, as an overweight mid fifties man, I am more at risk, but the evidence shows that the vaccines prevent near 100% of deaths from Covid-19, in all age groups.
It will save other people’s lives. There is clear evidence now that the vaccines reduce the transmission of Covid from you to others and therefore helps stop the spread of disease to those that are not yet vaccinated.
It protects the health service. Sadly we have seen some health services across the world come close to breaking down in recent weeks. In the UK, we got pretty close in January. None of us want to see people get sick and die without the support of doctors and nurses.
Even for young adults, Long Covid is a real risk. The vaccine helps stop the disease and protects you against long term symptoms.
The vaccine does not discriminate. Unfortunately the disease is more prevalent in some ethnic groups, The vaccine however, is effective for all. In Scotland, the biggest challenge with vaccine take-up is amongst Polish and some Black communities. We need to protect them too.
It gives our children a future. Not only does the vaccine for adults mean that fewer children will lose their parents, but it means that they can have normal lives at school and with their friends. There has been more than enough damage in the past year.
Any side effects are well worth it. My wife had no real side effects at all. I had a pretty bad 24 hours, with fever and muscular ache. But a day later I was feeling fine. And the benefits far outweigh any issues. If I got Covid it would be so much worse. If anyone is worried about the risk of getting blood clots for instance, the most likely way of getting a clot that will kill you is to catch Covid.
The vaccines have been properly tested. Some people are suggesting that because the vaccines were approved in months rather than years, there is more risk. This is not true. No corners were cut. Instead, literally billions of pounds were spent accelerating the testing.
All the vaccines work. In the UK we have Pfizer and AstraZeneca with millions and millions of jags now given safely. The other approved vaccines are also rolling out effectively – Moderna, Sputnik, Sinovac. I am looking forward to the new French vaccine Valneva being approved because it is manufactured a couple of miles from where I live. The evidence I have seen is that against hospitalisation and death, they all protect equally well.
It is better than another lockdown. I have written before about how fed up we are all getting with the restrictions. We have a clear route map out now, but it can only happen with the extensive vaccine rollout.
I apologise for writing a preachy blog. I also apologise for winding up those that really want the vaccine and have not yet been offered it. But this is important. If you have been offered the vaccine, please take it up. I respect people who choose not to take up the vaccine. But I think they are mistaken.
And if you are not sure, rather than listening to internet guff (even this blog!) please talk to a healthcare professional.
A couple of things have made me reflect on my mental health this week. I read an excellent blog from someone managing depression. I won’t share it here because it is personal but it reflected on how difficult it is to balance taking ownership for solving mental health issues yourself, with the need to ask for help. The author is in the final year of university, with the stress of coursework and exams reinforced by demoralising rejections for job applications. That would be the same in any year, but layer on a lockdown when the opportunity to get out, get away and get support is more difficult, and depression looms all too easily.
The second thing is much more positive for me. For some reason this week I have had quite a few friends reaching out to check in. It is amazing how much difference it makes to receive a message asking how you are. I have certainly found this lockdown the hardest. I am not sure if that is because now I am retired, I do not have work to distract me; or if it is because vaccines make the end seem so close and so far at the same time. But the small contacts with friends have certainly helped. A lesson for me that I should make more effort to stay in touch. Not a strength for me!
My wife and I have been talking about what we do with our plans for this year. We were meant to be staying on Orkney for six weeks and then travelling the English canals in our narrowboat. Realistically the Scottish government seems to be saying it will be summer before we are allowed to travel. Perhaps we should see more of Scotland and postpone moving the boat. Or move it at the end of the season. We are just looking forward to the time we can make decisions without restrictions.
Has the lockdown affected your mental health too? If so, how are you managing it? I’d love a comment to hear from you.