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A few days ago Stevie Turner posted on this subject, taking her cue from an earlier post by Colline Kook-Chun. It inspired me to think about some of the events that influenced the direction my life has taken.
- My father’s death in action in 1943. Had he survived the war, who knows what my life would have been like? I would probably have been brought up as a Londoner, since both parents were from there. I certainly would not have gone, at age 10¾ to a boarding school established for boys who had lost one or both parents. The school still exists, although the majority of pupils these days pay expensive fees. I shall be back there later this year celebrating 60 years since I left. Thanks to modern technology, many of my contemporaries communicate regularly with each other despite being scattered in different parts of the world.
- Meeting my wife in the summer of 1961. I was 19, she 16. I proposed in the early hours of December 27th, as I walked her home from the Boxing Night dance. We kept our engagement secret until her 17th birthday in June 1962 and were married in September 1963.
- Discovering, in the spring of 1965 as we moved into our first new house, that she was pregnant. We had not planned to start a family quite so soon but our son brought a new phase in our lives as a family unit and, as you will discover below, led to us coming to live in Ireland.
- Joining the staff at the Engineering HQ of a large corporation in the summer of 1968. That took me to South Africa and eventually to East Lincolnshire. Altogether I worked for over 18 years for that corporation and the pension I paid into now provides about 1/3rd of my annual income. It also led to:
- Being elected to Humberside County Council in May 1985. I was one of 4 Liberals elected that year. The other two parties had 35 and 36 members so we held the ‘balance of power’, able to veto any proposal from either of the other parties. I like to think we used this power wisely. It was certainly extremely time consuming because, in order to do the job, we had to be represented on every committee, sub-committee and working party.
My employer was extraordinarily generous with allowing me time off to do this, but after a year and a half I was offered the choice: cut down on your council activities or take redundancy. The redundancy offer was generous and I accepted, having visions of a new career as a writer and politician. After working, unpaid, for the party in the run-up to the 1987 General Election I needed to find some alternative source of income which takes us to:
- Our shop. We decided that, since Freda had worked all of her life in shops, latterly as manager of a charity shop, we should set up our own shop. I would look after the administration whilst she worked ‘front of house’. I researched the market and decided that Cleeethorpes could benefit from having a quality glass, china and giftware outlet. A unit was available in a building belonging to a kitchen design specialist who had his show-room upstairs. This seemed like an excellent fit. I talked to potential suppliers, put together a business plan and everything looked promising until the building went on sale. The owner’s plan to increase his income by creating and letting units had not worked out. Any thought that the new owner might still be interested in having us as a tenant was dashed when planning permission to open a fast food outlet was applied for.
The next premises we looked at meant a complete change of plan. It was a moderately successful food retailer. The owner, a chef, prepared a range of chilled ready-meals in a kitchen at the back which he sold in the shop, alongside the usual deli-type goods and speciality foods. His recipes had been so successful that he had taken a small factory unit in Grimsby and wanted someone to take on the retail business, with him continuing to supply the popular ready meals. We opened in September and did great business in the run up to Christmas. Then the chef lost a big contract and had to close the unit so we lost our main supplier. We struggled on for the next few months but the risk involved in food retailing is enormous and we just could not compete with the supermarkets who were starting to develop their own deli counters and chilled ready meals.
I got a part-time job writing business profiles for a regional business magazine but in the May 1989 election I lost my council seat and returned to my original career as an Engineer.
- Our son’s marriage in 1993. His wife is Irish and in due course they moved to Dublin with their daughter. So, when considering retirement options in 2006, moving to Ireland to be near them was a ‘no brainer’. More than eleven years on we are still here, enjoying life in a small Irish country town where we have met many new friends, some through the writing group to which I belong, and some through the support centre for people touched by cancer where we both volunteer.
At the end of Stevie’s post are two questions, originally posed by Colline. Here they are, with my answers:
- Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s… a Ryanair jet bringing home the owner of the Grand National winning horse and offering free drinks to all the passengers
- What music do you like: Jazz, Folk, Rock, Blues, Broadway/West End Musical scores.
Thanks, Colline and Stevie, for the inspiration. I wonder how many of my followers will be tempted to follow suit?
I like this post from Australian author Robin Storey. The only quarrel I have with it is her suggestion that ladies of ‘mature age’ still wear Crimplene. Maybe they do down there in the antipodes. I don’t know anyone who does among my contemporaries in the British Isles.
“With Queen Elizabeth turning 90 recently and still looking pretty spry, it got me thinking that one of the secrets to healthy aging has to be a sense of purpose, a reason to get up in the mornings. In the case of the Queen, she has commitments – speeches to make, buildings to open, medals to give out. And hundreds, often thousands of people would be put out if she pulled the covers over her head and refused to get out of bed because her arthritis/lumbago/gammy hip was giving her trouble.
The challenge for many people after they retire from the workforce is to keep active and fill their days with challenging and worthwhile activities; otherwise it’s a short slide into a twilight of daytime TV, curtain twitching and writing daily irate Letters to the Editor.
From that point of view there are many advantages to being a mature age author.”
If you want to know what they are you’ll have to click through to Robin’s original post.
This post was suggested by The Writing Reader’s prompt #1753, the first line of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.
Last night I dreamed I was back in Urishay, a small community of farms and cottages in the hills above the Golden Valley, close to the Black Mountains that mark the border between England and Wales. I was a babe in arms when I first arrived there with my mother and grandmother. It was to be my home for the next 14 years.
Our cottage had thick walls of local stone. A stream ran in a deep ravine with two waterfalls behind it. Cattle grazed the surrounding fields for a large part of the year. In summer sweet smelling hay was harvested to provide winter feed for these animals. It is a place full of memories of warm summer days spent roaming the lanes and hedgerows. There was an orchard with ancient apple and pear trees. I remember well the delicious, golf-ball-sized, pears that grew in abundance on two or three of these gnarled trees, fruit that were as attractive to wasps as to us children.
Home is a strange concept. I have lived in many other places since, but that cottage in Urishay will always be ‘home’ to me. So, too, will the boarding school at which I resided for 40 weeks of every one of the six years between the ages of 11 and 17. I have been back a number of times recently and it fills me with memories of my youth, as do the many exchanges between myself and other former pupils on a Google forum created for the purpose.
The city of Hereford, Coventry, Cleethorpes and a small village in East Yorkshire have all been home to my wife and I at various times during the 50+ years of our marriage. Over the past few years we have created a home with a beautiful garden in a lovely part of the Irish Midlands. One of the new friends I have made here in Ireland recently published a book entitled Home. His experience of home is very different to mine. He remained in the same small town throughout his life, apart from a brief period in university. Now retired from a teaching career in the town in which he was born, he has spent the past few years researching the history of the town. He created a website filled with photographs of the town’s buildings, each one accompanied by details obtained from census returns of the various inhabitants and their trades.
Home contains much of this same fascinating information that documents the life of an Irish market town from its inception as a defensive fort at the time of the Tudor plantation of Ireland to the meteoric expansion of the ‘tiger’ years and their accompanying construction boom.
But in his book my friend has preceded the historical facts and anecdotes with eleven delightful short stories about fictional characters and their lives in the town in the 1960s and ’70s.
It is this fascination with the way life was lived in one’s youth that, perhaps, most accurately defines the real sense of ‘home’. For me it is the rural backwater in the Welsh Marches and the boarding school among the heathland of Surrey. For my friend it is the market town with its music, its shops, its prison and its small cinema. My friend’s home town is not merely the backdrop to his short stories but a solid character whose history shapes its inhabitants, creating that unique quality that makes them different from the citizens of any other place.
The castles and hills of the Welsh Marches mirror those to be found around my new home in Ireland. The same people built both sets of castles. A few years ago my own research centred on these people and their involvement in the history of both places. This led to the creation of the Hereford and Ireland History section of this website and Strongbow’s Wife, my novel about the young woman who became the wife of the man who answered her father’s call for assistance in his ambition to become High King.
Urishay features as the setting for my own second novel, Summer Day, in which a boy believes himself to be responsible for his father’s death. Many of the characters who feature in various ways in the tragic events of the day that follows are loosely based on the real people who inhabited the district when I was growing up there. And I’m guessing the characters in my friend’s short stories are based on real people and events he experienced in his formative years.
Home is available from http://www.portlaoisepictures.com/purtockpress.htm
Strongbow’s Wife can be purchased from Amazon. A soft cover version is also available via this link: https://www.feedaread.com/books/Strongbows-Wife-9781786109910.aspx
Summer Day can be purchased from Amazon via this link: https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Day-Frank-Parker-ebook/dp/B007ZBK4UI?ie=UTF8&ref_=asap_bc
Many people who have retired from full time employment find renewed fulfillment by volunteering their time and skills to organisations working to improve their local communities. Everything from running a “meals on wheels” service to maintaining flower beds in your local shopping centre can be done by volunteers.
Are you approaching retirement and wondering how to fill your time? Or maybe you are retired already and starting to suffer from “cabin fever”. Have you considered volunteering? There are lots of organisations that involve people like you providing services for others. Some of them are near you.
What do volunteers do?
Maybe you want to let people benefit from the specialist skills you developed over a long career in a profession. Many organisations need legal or financial advice, for example. Most have volunteer management committees for whom such administrative skills are vital.
Perhaps you could teach art or craft to people with a disability, or computer skills to people in your own age group who have yet to discover the magic of internet communications. Assuming you are still able bodied, you might consider helping people much older than yourself with simple “DIY” tasks like basic plumbing, gardening or decorating.
Do you see retirement as an opportunity to do something completely different? You could decide that, after years of sitting behind a desk or computer screen, you would like to work outdoors. Your local “Tidy Towns” or “Britain in Bloom” group will welcome you as a part-time gardener.
These are just a few examples. The truth is that whatever you fancy doing, the chances are there’s an organisation near you that needs it doing!
How much will I have to do?
None of these organisations will ask you to do more than you are willing to do. Most will provide support and training. What they will expect in return is a commitment to turn up at the agreed time, with the agreed frequency, and to provide as much notice as possible if you can’t. Always remember that other people – often vulnerable people – are dependent upon you. So commitment is the important thing, not the amount of time you put in. Whether you’ve agreed to do 2 hours or 10, weekly or monthly, you must be prepared to stick to that.
What will I get out of it?
By its very nature, volunteering does not offer financial rewards. For retired people, it’s much more about continuing to feel useful after the world of work has dispensed with your services. Volunteers, and the work they do, are highly thought of in their communities. You will meet new people with a shared interest and enjoy a reinvigorated social life. And although you won’t be paid, you shouldn’t be out of pocket as most organisations will refund expenses necessarily incurred whilst volunteering for them.
How do I find an organisation that involves volunteers?
Within the United Kingdom voluntary activities are co-ordinated by separate agencies covering each of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In the Republic of Ireland, Volunteer Centres Ireland maintains a database of organisations and helps with recruitment, selection and training.
It’s a good idea to buy and read your local newspaper. Such publications often print stories about voluntary and community groups in their area. And the groups use such opportunities to appeal for new volunteers. Parish magazines also often list contact details of the voluntary groups working in and around their district.
What restrictions are there?
Anyone who plans to work with vulnerable people – and that includes the very young and the elderly – will need to undergo a DBS check (the new name for a criminal record check in the UK) or Garda vetting (RoI). All of the standard health and safety rules that apply to paid staff also apply to volunteers. You can expect to be provided with training to enable you to recognise, and deal with, any such risks that may be encountered.
Talking of risks, the biggest risk you are likely to face in retirement is boredom. So why not go for it? Volunteer today. You won’t regret it. If you are already a volunteer please share your experience in the comments.
We all like to remember the key events in our lives and to mark the date on which they occurred. The most obvious being births marriages and deaths, or ‘hatches matches and dispatches’, as someone once put it. The anniversary of an event is a useful device for the writer, providing a cue for a flashback to some event that played an important role in creating the character of a protagonist and the motivation for his role in the unfolding plot.
“He remembered that day, exactly one year ago, when …”
“She knew that, in just two days time, it would be exactly ten years since …”
How often have we read, or written, sentences structured like that?
How far do such tropes represent real life? Wedding anniversaries are widely celebrated; there is even a long established list of materials appropriate for wedding anniversary gifts. Many people like to recognise the anniversary of the passing of a loved one with an ‘in memorium’ notice in a newspaper and/or the placing of flowers on the grave.
Nations remember key moments in their history. July 4th., American independence day; 11th. November across the Western world, marking the armistice that ended the first world war. VE day and VJ day representing the two stages in the ending of World War II. For Ireland, 2016, and especially April, represents the centenary of the Easter Rising which accelerated the process towards independence.
What about other things? The day you moved into your present home, for example? Your first day at college or work, the day you were dismissed or retired? And, for a writer, the day you were offered your first publishing contract.
For me, April represents the month in which, five years ago, we moved into our present house. We had begun looking a year before, having decided that we wanted a bungalow with a bit more garden than we had with our previous property. We looked at several possibilities. Too many in our price range required the kind of improvement work that seemed daunting as I approached my 70th birthday, in itself, another important anniversary.
We looked at a retirement village where the bungalows were well maintained but the interiors too small to accommodate the accumulated possessions of almost fifty years of marriage. Many of these possessions were reminders of other key events in our lives; silver and ruby wedding presents, souvenirs of memorable holidays; leaving gifts from work and from my days as an active member of a political organisation.
Eventually we discovered a retirement village that had been abandoned when the Irish property market collapsed. The developer was trying to revive interest, and the properties were being offered at bargain prices. The show house was tastefully furnished but it, and thirty-odd identical bungalows, still looked smaller than our requirements. In one corner of the development, at the top of a hill, was a larger bungalow, on a bigger plot, that fronted the end of a cul-de-sac. To our amazement we were told the price of this unit was the same as all the others.
We moved in on April 29th. Since then I have created an attractive and productive garden on the area of land surrounding it. This year will also see, in October, the tenth anniversary of my retirement and move to Ireland. But that’s another story! What important anniversary will you be celebrating in April or in any other month of 2016?