A week of adventures as always, travelling from near Market Harborough, down the Watford staircase locks, onto the Grand Union Main Line canal to Braunston, before heading south on the windy Oxford canal, to end up in Banbury. Mandy accidentally threw a windlass in the canal, and I retrieved it by magnet fishing. I leaned over too far and nearly fell into a lock, just saving myself by jumping down onto the boat. Most of the week has been warm sunshine but we are now back to icy cold, especially first thing each morning. I think the scariest bit this week has been the long Braunston tunnel, 2000m of dark wet claustrophobia.
Believe it or not from the photo, this tunnel is just wide enough for two narrowboats, and we met five of them coming the other way. The noises as we bumped and scraped past each other, echoed in the gloom and added to the atmosphere. Doing a long tunnel is a bit like watching a horror film. You do your best to enjoy it at the time, but the relief when it finishes is wonderful!
We are having a few days moored up in Banbury. A chance to fill up the shopping, do the laundry and rest. I also popped into London on the train for dinner with some workmates from my last job. I have not seen them in person since 2019 (pre pandemic) and it was really good to catch up. I was a little concerned that I would have nothing to say, being so far away from work gossip these days, but it was not a problem, and over a lot of wine and steaks, we solved most of the world’s problems.
Next week, we are travelling further south, past Oxford and onwards.
I’d love to hear, do you do anything that scares you?
This week marks the six month anniversary of me retiring, and is an appropriate time to reflect on what I have learnt.
Work is much less important than I expected. Many people would tell me that after 35 years I would miss the challenge of work, and that I would be back soon. It has not turned out that way. I have been offered odd days of highly paid work and have turned them down. Maybe that will change in the next six months but for now, retirement is definitely for me.
Sleep is great. I have always got by on about six and a half hours of sleep. Although I still like to get up early, I now have about eight hours of sleep. It definitely helps my well being.
Food and drink are far too accessible. At work, even working from home, the rhythm of meetings kept me busy all day. Now it is much to easy to reach for the cookie jar. One for me to watch in the next six months.
I love the freedom to do the unexpected. Yesterday, we were moored up, and I discovered the Falkirk monument was nearby, commemorating the battle between Jacobites (Scots) and Hanoverians (English) in 1746. I spent a happy afternoon wandering the battlefield imagining how it would have been.
Mandy and I really like each other. I had heard so many stories of couples that retired and found that over the years they had grown apart. I am not saying we never argue, but most of time it feel like we are a team. I love it.
It can be as motivating to do a trivial job in retirement as to solve a billion pound problem at work. I truly loved my work. I felt I was involved in big decisions that really mattered. I loved being involved in fixing the problem one day when no-one in the UK could make a faster payment. But surprisingly it was equally motivating yesterday to fix the electrical horn on the boat.
I miss the people from work, but am making new friends. The good news is that I have stayed in touch with quite a few of my old colleagues. Also a little surprising because I am terrible at staying in touch. But I have enjoyed getting to know new people in my new life, especially on the canals. Boaters are an eclectic bunch, but always interesting.
I think I will always be a planner. I had great intentions of not planning anything and just seeing where we ended up. But I do plan a lot – where we need to be when, what we need, what we will do. I like to think I am now prepared to be more flexible to circumstances changing. But I do like a plan!
I enjoyed the stress of work, but I am enjoying more the abscence of stress. There is something energising about the adrenaline associated with stress. In most of my roles, I was “always on” 24 by 7, ready to deal with major incidents. It was exciting. But I don’t miss that stress. My blood pressure is down and I feel better in myself.
Retirement is about enjoying the moment, not about distracting yourself. We had plans to go to Orkney for a month and then travel on the canals, as a way of distracting myself from wanting to work. These plans got disrupted by Covid, but in some ways I am glad they did. As we set off for four months on the canals now, it is all about what we will do, who we will see, and how lovely it is.
Are you retired or thinking of it? What is your experience?
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?
After last week’s moan about missing people at work, and the things I had planned for my retirement that have been postponed due to COVID, I have been reflecting on what is really good about being retired. It is not a bad list.
I am more healthy. My blood pressure is down, I have lost a little weight, and I am getting out to walk most days during the week as well as at weekends.
I get to read. My old work colleagues used to complain because I have always found time for self development books and I would bore them with insights from them. But now I also get to read more lightweight books. I am currently half way through Robert Harris’ “Archangel” and Richard Clubley’s “Orkney – A Special Place”.
I am no longer “always on”. For at the past 30-40 years I have been on call for incidents or issues. It feels like a weight has been taken off my back.
I get to do jobs around the house. This week I oiled my wooden floors, waxed my furniture and replaced a security light. These kind of jobs used to hang around for months because I never had the time.
I gain new skills. I have mentioned previously about learning the euphonium. My playing is apparently not quite as awful as it was a few weeks ago. I have also been trying to learn basic electrics to help with our narrowboat.
Sleep is better. I no longer wake in the middle of the night worrying about some work issue, and remarkably for me I have started getting up around 7am instead of 5am.
I can be spontaneous. OK, lockdown is not helping here. But I can change my plans at any point. I am writing this blog first thing in the morning with many options for today and no fixed plan. I never thought I would like that but it is great.
There were things at work I always hated, such as performance reviews. I can’t tell you how good it feels that I will never have to do them again.
I have more time with my wife, Mandy. We are really loving doing things together, from playing cards to watching great films.
I am my own master. Instead of half my life being driven by a diary of meetings and deadlines for others, everything I do is my choice. It feels great!
I have often felt that writing a blog is self motivating, and this one has certainly reminded me why I made the call to leave work this year. I am very lucky to have had this choice.
What about you? If you are working, what would you love to change? If you are retired what are the best things for you?