Embracing Retirement

More than one former colleague who came back to visit told us it had taken a year or more to get used to retirement. I doubted this would happen to me. Without exception they wondered how they’d found time for a full-time job.

I marked my retirement by leaving my wristwatch in the bedroom unless I had an appointment to be on time for. Nevertheless, I entertained thoughts of a part time retirement job, or perhaps volunteering (an animal rescue shelter was my first preference). But my husband had bought a house in the Cambridgeshire Fens, and I still had a foot in the London suburbs that I didn’t want to give up. Most of my children and one of his live in the area (one was actually living in my home at the time, albeit temporarily).

Keeping a pied-à-terre would mean regular trips between bases, and employers expected even volunteers to be available for regular work. I looked around for something that would fit into a peripatetic lifestyle. I can’t think why I decided on proofreading as a possibility. At work, I’d been in the habit of running my campus-wide emails past the Senior Librarian before I sent them out, to flag up typos and the other errors I’d missed.

In spite of this awareness of my authorial shortcomings, I registered on a mail-order proofreading course and proceeded to work my way through the assignments. The course convinced me that checking the minutiae of others’ prose wasn’t how I wanted to spend retirement.

With similarly hazy recall of my days selling Tupperware and Avon (and the rest) I signed up as an ‘independent distributor’ for a company that sold – sells – eco-friendly products. The concept seemed worthwhile and, unlike most direct sales ventures, I didn’t have to pay out for a ‘starter kit’. I simply bought the products I liked the look of for my own use and some catalogues. Order forms, advertising leaflets, tutorials were available online to download.

I was, as always, my own best customer. But stuffing catalogues through doors proved a good way to get to know my new locality. (I discovered that Fenland communities tend to build houses in the back gardens of other houses, which can be interesting.) I still use the company’s products myself, and occasionally a customer calls me for items from the catalogue, but I don’t pound the streets any more. Even before lockdown more products were being sold through distributors’ websites than by doorstepping.

For a couple of years, I worked for a home shopping venture, dealing with customer queries, complaints, returns and refunds. Using the company’s Skype account, I called customers back, took payments via Sage Pay and filed reports to Action Fraud. I also collated sales and refunds. Compared to customers, spreadsheets were easy. I’d been devising spreadsheets and collating performance indicators over multi-site institutions for my last three employers.

The customer portal became a constant background to each day; customers expect a prompt response to problems with purchases. Even on holiday in our ancient motorhome, we sought out campsites that offered wireless internet. Following the Easter Sunday when my laptop died, I had another up and running by Easter Monday. That first Christmas I gained an insight into how many people spend Christmas and Boxing Day on shopping channels and websites. The queries and refunds that followed filled my weeks well into the New Year.

The following Christmas was less demanding. The company had dropped its level of TV advertising and was moving into different fields. Later that year, I was happy to hand over my responsibilities to another member of staff looking for extra hours.

The absence of daily portal checks was liberating. My hours-based earnings – never generous – had dropped as the orders reduced and I spent less time on queries. But the commitment had still been greater than the income merited.

I finally embraced retirement.

picture of pond and waterfall

A large garden with two fishponds demands a certain amount of attention. I could now spend time in it without being pulled back – as if on elastic – to the laptop and customer emails.

I don’t have green fingers. Even with time to lavish on the garden, things die. I prefer natural-looking gardens to manicured borders anyway. (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.)

Gardens are for sitting in.

In the evenings, while watching TV, I crochet to keep my hand from straying so often to the Scotch at my side. I don’t knit because I drop stitches. In crochet, it doesn’t matter if you drop a stitch or forget to put your work away out of dog-reach. (A ball of wool is fun to play with – ask any cat.)

But one household can only use so many scarves, ponchos and blankets, and I never was a doily sort of person. If crochet was for evenings, how was I to fill my days?

Doing nothing is harder than you’d think.

(Unless you’re a dog.)

22 thoughts on “Embracing Retirement

  1. Like me, you seem to have filled your days and evenings once retirement came knocking. I saw myself as lucky when being offered early retirement. Almost 10 years on, I still see that day as one of my luckiest days ever. And I still ask myself, almost every day, how did I manage to do a full-time job and look after myself and the house simultaneously. It was a work of art I’m very proud of.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I find it a little more challenging during the pandemic since I have been socially isolated. I long to return to frequent long visits in person with friends, concerts, plays, films, etc. I have definitely read much more since I retired. And of course blogging fills a need for connection, albeit remote.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’re rather physically isolated here anyway, so unless I go into the nearest town (U3A meetings, writing group, etc) the only people we see are our neighbours (with whom who share a drive and our collective dogs) and the lady we meet when walking the dogs. I think my husband is quite happy though while I’m not pushing him to go out for a meal or visit anyone (our offspring are a couple of hours drive away, except for the one in New Zealand. I’m normally happy doing my own thing as well, but am now at the point of looking forward to getting out again when restrictions are lifted and meeting people in real life.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I never had to endure working after retirement because my regular job left me well off enough that I could actually retire and live freely and as wantonly as desired. It has been 20 years since I retired and I am still captain of my own ship as the saying goes. No pressures!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve discovered that we don’t need extra income either. The amount we put away monthly for utilities, council tax, insurance, etc hasn’t been touched since my husband gave up smoking just before his first hip replacement. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        1. They’d told him to stop two weeks before the op, but he was afraid they wouldn’t do the op if he didn’t stop smoking. By the time he’d had the second hip done, three months later, even he realised he’d be daft to start again. He still slows down for a sniff though whenever we pass those groups of smokers outside buildings.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve always said, “The only problem with doing nothing, is I never know when I’m finished”.

    It actually took me years to get used to not working. After 20 years, I still dream of being at work as a police officer, and riding the wind on that large police motorcycle. I guess I have finally retired, from being retired for 20 years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My husband was with the Met Police until he retired. He loved it! He still automatically memorises number plates of vehicles that have come to his attention.
      When we went to a certain European holiday destination one year, he walked up the road to our villa saying, “That’s a stolen car. And that one… and that one there…”
      Now, when we leave him behind on our dog walks, he reverts to his early ‘beat’ training and tells me I won’t notice anything if I’m walking too fast. I think that’s just an excuse. It’s taken him a while, but he’s perfected the art of relaxation.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Cathy, what a lovely article. Congratulations on finally taking the full step. My husband did the same thing as of January, he no longer has a real estate license. We still enjoy thinking about things we could do, but I’m enjoying this pace of blogging, walking, socializing a little bit, and soon, e-biking and kayaking. The exercise will do me good. 🙂 This is the post I will link to your Story Chat comment.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m settled now after nine years. Vince is fully retired now as of January, and selling our property has made retirement even more pronounced. We had an acre that he manicured in CA, and we sold that in November and moved to Prescott, AZ to a condo where everything outside is taken care of!!!! So nice. So we are going to start riding e-bikes and kayaking as soon as the weather warms up a bit.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I read you about that acre. Our big back garden with two fishponds is getting a bit much (especially since half a eucalyptus tree blew down in one of last winters gales. That was a lot of sawing…)

          Liked by 1 person

          1. That sounds like a lot of work. We had about ten eucalyptus trees that the neighbor put in, thinking it was on his property and it was on ours. Their little flowers dominated our pool in the spring, and they were just there 30 feet tall blowing in the wind. We were glad to get away from all the work.

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