|16/01/2010||Filled under Italy, Retirement, Torri|
There are berries too, which come in a variety of colours. The black ones here are produced by one of the least endearing plants we have found here. An invasive creeper, it is tough and well armed, both the stem and the leaf edges being lined with tiny sharp hooks which grab and tear at clothing and which will seize passing legs in an instant.
|12/04/2009||Filled under London, Retirement|
Quickly, before the events of the last few days slips into memory, I must make a record so that they are not forgotten. Never again will we pass this way and just as starting one’s first job is an event that sticks in the mind, so equally is the end of that job, the end of all paid work. But for those who have yet to come this way let me warn you that it may not be what you expect, it may feel more like a beginning than an end. You just have to decide what it is that is beginning.
But first we have to thank so many who have wished us on our way, for all the wonderful greetings and comments we have been pouring over on cards and messages we received and for the retirement gifts given to send us on our way. Thank you, thank you, thank you, we’ll miss you all.
And thank you to those of you who wished us on our way out of Central London, especially to Alison and Nathalie, our neighbours on Loch Invar for the colder months of this last winter and who were our official ‘waver-offers’ on the day Cirrus Cat left fresh water and emerged from the marina lock out into the salty brown waters of the Thames. The general sentiment from you all seems to be envy but you may have felt differently had you been on board as we motored down river later in light rain, fully clothed in our warmest hats and gloves with darkness closing in and miles yet to go.
The passage was not without its excitement, however. Woolwich Reach on the Thames is perhaps best known for its free car ferry crossing the river many times each day rather than its wildlife. But nobody told the two small porpoises we saw frolicking in the water just by the ferry…. yes, porpoises in the Thames! No pictures, I’m afraid (a porpoise doesn’t exactly hang around with a smile on its face waiting for the camera flash), so you’ll just have to believe they were there, but they certainly put a smile on Kate’s face that lasted for miles.
By 9pm we were turning into the Swale, the thread of water that separates the Isle of Sheppey residents from the rest of Britain, the rising tide sucking us in till the water shoaled and the anchor plopped to the sea bed. With the engine off, finally, the quietness surrounded us and took us into its shell so we could sleep at last, almost alone in peace with just the birds for company.
So today we awoke for the first day of our new life. The air was completely still and so was the water when it paused between the tide rushing out and returning again, Cirrus floating effortlessly between the two. The sky was cloudy and the light had an unreal silvery sheen to it, obscuring the air/water divide in the distance. We emerged slowly from the cabin, savouring the silence, keeping our own movements quiet in response.
Later we were boarded by noisy pirates in the guise of friends larking about and joining us out on the water. Here are just two of them caught in the act of boarding.
We plan to spend the Bank Holiday weekend here just drifting about at anchor or maybe sailing a little further west towards Queenborough in a few days time when we run out of food on board. The weather has been kind all day, just the lightest of winds with the sun warming the boat nicely and giving us a chance to take stock and make the mental adjustment from our life on a stationary boat to our new life of travel.
|15/02/2009||Filled under Retirement|
Somewhere along the way we paid an emotional visit to the very house where Kate spent much of her childhood, a schoolhouse then, now a privately owned property but still stuck out in remote Yorkshire farmland. Snow earlier in the week had melted on most roads but the tiny lane here was almost untouched and a skating rink for our hire car to get to grips with. Fortunately the steep descent from the main road was not matched by a similar ascent otherwise I’m sure we would still be there now. Externally the only change here is that the trees are bigger, so Kate tells me. But then they would be, wouldn’t they. To get to her school she had to travel first to Otley, the nearest substantial town, which boasts an imposing statue of Thomas Chippendale (the cabinet maker, not the exotic dancer) and a café which can produce, without effort, what must have been the longest potato chip in the world. Maybe there is a connection of some sort here.
But the bay can also be stunningly beautiful, particularly with the winter sun catching snow on the cliff tops and the wind waterfall whisking to produce a fine mist, like steam on the water.
|22/02/2008||Filled under Retirement|
In 12 months time my working life, and that of my wife Kate, will come to an end. For me this will be just 43 years after it all began, although to be honest there were a few gaps during which various people tried to squeeze some rudimentary education into me. My preparation for this unique event ought perhaps to be some deep reflection, either on what I have achieved or on what is to come. Or again maybe there really is no point in looking back, no point in trying to fathom out what if this or that had happened. It simply won’t make any difference. The fact will still remain that I am here now and in March 2009 I begin a new life.
I shall be the same person, of course, that I have always been; bearded for as long as I can remember, ears slightly smaller than standard for a human and a long, straight, nose that has never been broken despite all it has been through. The thin legs that have carried me up mountains too numerous to mention and the sun or wind burnt skin that fades to pale every Winter. Little of what is external to me will change as I move from being a working man to a retired one, from a contributor of effort to one who benefits from the efforts of others. No, it is the radical shift in outlook that I must adapt to, acclimatise and learn to live with as I join the league of retirees, this is what concerns me. And there is no gradual run-in towards this, no gentle slope into relaxation and freedom from cares. I can expect no mercy as I am plunged from my world of target driven mayhem to enforced idleness, with only memories lingering on.
OK, that’s the scary bit. Now for reality.
Retirement does not come as a surprise and nor should it be unplanned for. In fact if it does come along with no forethought, no imagining and no preparation then I really can’t see why I should want it at all. If I were just to let the day arrive and awaken (despite the absence of the usual alarm clock) then roll over in bed and suddenly begin to think about the ‘what next?’ then what a waste this would be. All those years spent tipping the pension pennies into the jar just for a longer lie-in. No, I don’t think so.