Three years into retirement….

I saw an ex-colleague of mine when I was working in the charity shop this week.  She had just finished her last day at school and so had retired!  So how am I finding it, three years in?

I think I am happier than I have ever been – much more relaxed and the only stress is about workmen and when they will come and if they will do the work well.  Minor worries about holidays – will I get to the coach park/airport on time; what should I take; what will the weather be like….

I feel fit and healthy and have a routine of things to do each week – a timetable for an ex-teacher! – and two more possibles to put in.  Then there are a host of other things to do, time to visit or have lunch or coffee with friends, the freedom to not do any activity and go on holiday or visit family.  There are occasional days when I am a bit bored or lonely, as I have two days in a row with no activity, hence the “two more possibles”.  I don’t want to overdo it and get too tired though.  I am also talking to other retired people to find out what they do, in case I want a change from my present volunteering.

I thought I would have a category on this blog called “grumpy old woman” – but haven’t found anything to put in it yet!  I am working on it, but can’t find anything to be grumpy about except the weather, of course, but that is a given, being British.

I have found things to fill chunks of time, I have got to know more people and some of them provide stimulating company and I have found several roles, or perhaps found that I don’t need a role in the same way.  I suspect that I have also slowed down – which is good in some ways, but not when I have tasks to do.

Our rector is retiring in the autumn and said he talked to a vicar who had just retired to find out what it was like.  Apparently he said that after a few weeks he was in tears!  I can see why he might be, but given time to sort out ones life and activities there is a way to retire actively and gracefully.

So was retiring a good thing?     YES!!!!

 

Housegroup end of term barbecue

I am not usually that keen on barbecues, but with the very hot weather we have been having, I thought it might be quite nice to go to this as it was our end of term social.  And it was good.

D had got the barbecue going before we got there, so we avoided all the smoke and ‘getting it lighted’ problems.  B and D had also put chairs outside under a tree, so it was nice and shady.  We all (10  of us) brought food, and as well as the usual chicken joints, sausages and burgers (with all possible things to go with them), someone had brought some excellent kebabs.  There were 2 green salads, a tomato salad, various types of crisps and H provided his pasta salad special – which is a meal in itself.  As well as pasta, I found bacon, cheese, peppers, tomatoes and I am sure there were other things, but I enjoy the the combination too much to remember exactly what.  Then we had some yummy ice-cream (Waitrose special) afterwards, which provided an excellent finish.

So apart from the food what was so good?  Being outside and cool in the very hot weather, was one and also the good and easy company (we know each other quite well) and conversation.  After we had all finished eating, K and H provided a Bible Quiz game – to show that we are church linked, maybe?  It was supposed to be done in 2 teams, but we decided to do it all together.  On cards, there were given categories and we had to find the ten answers given.  This was not necessarily easy, as we had right answers that weren’t on the card, so they didn’t count!  For example, they had one category of “Cities in the Bible”, where Nazareth was right (K argued strongly that this was a village not a city), but Caesarea  and Damascus were not included.  Some of the answers were a bit obscure, too – “jawbone of an ox” as a “weapon in the Bible” – OK that was Samson, but where is “a dart” and why didn’t they include “a tent peg” if they are into being obscure?  Anyway we had a good time guessing what was on the cards and working out the last ones (with heavy hints from the person holding the card) until it got too dark to read the answers.  A different and amusing diversion!

Altogether a very pleasant evening to finish off the term.

A special session with the Coffee Choir

This week we had a special session with the Coffee Choir, led by a young man from Brazil called Pedro Consorte.  He has worked with ‘Stomp’ and is into percussion, including body percussion!  Fiona knew of him because he shared a flat with her son.  Having seen the YouTube clips but been reassured by Fiona that he would match the session to our (age! and) abilities I was not really sure what to expect.

I have to say that he was impressive – he managed to get a load of chattering ladies quiet and concentrating for an hour and a half without raising his voice!  OK , so he started by using a standard teacher trick of going silent and not starting or continuing speaking until we were all quiet and listening, but he held our concentration from then on.  I didn’t think it was possible to get us all so quiet!

He started by getting us to take off our shoes (if we wanted, and it was a warm day so most did) and shut our eyes.  He then led us to relax but to be aware of our bodies – breathing, relaxed jaw and neck etc. – and also of what was around us – mostly what we heard, but also what we were touching, where we were in the room etc.  It was very relaxing and if he hadn’t continued talking I think I could have fallen asleep!  Still with our eyes and mouths shut we had to produce a note and listen to the rest of the group so that our note blended with the rest.  We were then encouraged to change notes, to open our mouths to project our note, to change the volume but to continue blending with everyone else.  We also had to try to feel the vibration of the note in our bodies. (OK, I failed on that bit!)  I think the idea was to make us aware of ourselves as part of a group, so we work together.

That part took about 45 minutes, but it didn’t seem more than a few minutes!  Pedro then gave us a demonstration of his “body percussion” – fun to watch.  He then gave lots of rhythms to copy – some clapping, some vocal sounds, some tapping feet or fingers on arms or hands on legs etc.  I don’t think he ever actually said copy them – just made it obvious that we should.  They weren’t  too difficult and there was a considerable variety.

We were already sitting in a circle around the room and Pedro joined us and he started clapping a rhythm, which he kept up and then going round the circle we had to join in with clapping our own (simple) rhythm which would fit in with everyone else’s and which we could keep up.  He then split the room into quarters and each quarter in turn continued while the others stopped – and then had to re-start with the same rhythm they had used before.  He then did the same but got only 2 to 4 people to continue while the others stopped.  (At one stage I was one of only 2 clapping – very exposed!)  Good for getting and remembering rhythms and for listening to others and fitting into a group.

The final thing was where we had to make sounds like rain…..

Just as Pedro was drawing to a close, Q’s mobile went off – she was so embarrassed.  I can’t think of anyone in the group who would have been more embarrassed by it!  We just laughed and finished.

It was an interesting, different and enjoyable morning.  Glad I didn’t miss it.

Holiday in Lulworth Cove

When retired we can have as many holidays as we want/can afford!  And they don’t have to be in school holidays, either – Yeah!  If one is only a volunteer, we tell the people in charge when we are going and nothing has to be booked as it does if one has a job.

My first holiday this year was with hf holidays to Lulworth Cove.  This was a 4 night, 3 day walking holiday and was in one of their new locations.  The hotel was not yet up to their normal high standards, which was disappointing, but the walks, leaders and company were good.  I chose “easy” walks every day as I am never sure if I can walk the longer distances.

The first day started at Lulworth Cove and we walked across the military ranges, passed the Fossil Forest and back to the hotel via West Lulworth.

Lulworth Cove

Lulworth Cove

The weather was mostly dry with one dribble of rain – not enough to get out a waterproof for.  It was quite windy, though, so not all that warm.

The afternoon was to Durdle Door and back – with time for an ice-cream, which is, of course compulsory on a sea-side holiday.

Durdle Door

Durdle Door

 

The second day we had a coach to Corfe Castle.  As I was on the easy walk there was time to go to the station to see the steam train arrive and leave.

Steam Train at Corfe Castle station

Steam Train at Corfe Castle station

I really liked the pile of old trunks on the station – reminded me of those we used to have at home and how luggage used to be sent in advance in a trunk like these.

Trunks on Corfe Castle station platform

Trunks on Corfe Castle station platform

We looked at the Castle from the outside, but didn’t have time to look round, but it was a landmark looking back for the first part of the walk.

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle

We then walked on to Studland, by the sea.  There were excellent views all day, but again it was windy and quite cold and we had to find a slightly more sheltered place for lunch, rather than their usual stop.  As we headed towards Studland we had very good views of Swanage.

Studland Church

Studland Church

 

The third day took us from the viewpoint of the Cerne Giant and around it so we were walking below it at one stage, but had no idea it was there except that we saw signs saying so!

Cerne Giant

Cerne Giant

We had time in Cerne Abbas at the end to have a good look round and also have a cup of tea, while waiting for the other groups to arrive and before going back to the viewpoint to get the coach.

Row of houses in Cerne Abbas

Row of houses in Cerne Abbas

All the walks provided good views, but it no doubt helped that the weather was dry and clear.  It was also not too hot, which might have caused a problem as some of the walks were quite exposed.  I hadn’t realised that Dorset was so hilly (!) – although I knew the coastal path was – and so attractive.

The final night we had a barbecue and a (sort of) boules competition.  It got a bit cold towards the end but good fun anyway.

 

Would I recommend it?  If you like walking, yes, but I would probably wait a year or so to go to Lulworth until they get the hotel sorted out.

 

Receptionist for a Charity

At about the same time as I volunteered in the second charity shop I also volunteered to work for the Trussell Trust.  This again involved filling in an application form and giving references.  I thought that I would be offered a task with the food-bank but was actually offered several positions, most of which were at their shops and I decided another shop would just confuse me!  I was also offered the task of being receptionist and as this seemed like a new challenge I went for a “taster” and decided that this was something I would like to try.

So, I now volunteer there as receptionist one morning a week.  This is probably the most interesting and challenging thing that I do at the moment.

The Trussell Trust is known mostly for its food-bank network, but it also does work in Bulgaria and with the local community.  The website describes the work they do.  The people who originally set it up went to my church, so I can remember some of the early days, but it is now much bigger and has changed quite a lot, although it is still a Christian organisation.

As receptionist, I never know who will be on the phone and it is my job to answer it and pass them on to (hopefully) the right person.  It can be someone needing food or wanting to know how to access it; someone wondering how to set up a food-bank; someone wanting to volunteer or offering furniture for the shops, just as examples.  It is also my job to greet people who come through the door and again there can be a large variation.  Some have come to an arranged meeting with a member of the staff, some are the usual volunteers (some of whom have social or physical problems), sometimes it is a person bringing food and recently work experience students and the lady from Tescos about the food collection.   I try to be cheerful and welcoming and get them to sign in!

When I am not either on the phone or welcoming people, I am given administrative jobs to do.  This has been quite varied and has included entering information on databases, cutting and folding birthday cards, doing some laminating, stuffing envelopes, counting tea bags into bags of 40 (!) and phoning to get references for new volunteers.  I am not always kept busy, but usually have something to do.

I really like the variety of things to do and the variety of people to meet, although I have had one or two distressing phone calls – but that is what the charity is about.

Would I recommend it?  YES – this fulfils the criteria for things to do – meeting people, providing a useful role, filling time….

Another Charity Shop

Having given up my job, got the work on the house under-way and recovered from the operation, I quickly got bored again.  The obvious answer was to volunteer at a charity shop again.  There are lots of charity shops in T so it was a question of which one to choose.  Some of them seemed a bit posh or arranged their clothes by colour (which I find really irritating) or were in the wrong place so weren’t very busy or were for a charity I didn’t care about.  That left the small, crowded, busy British Heart Foundation (BHF) on the High Street.  Just my sort of place!  So I went in and offered my services(!) and was accepted.  This again meant filling in an application form and also going through an induction – mostly reading a folder of information.

I was initially asked to  go in on a Wednesday, but that was soon changed to a Friday afternoon so that I could work on the till.  This is actually quite a good time to be on the till, as it is usually quite busy.  The best days are when it is sunny and the end of the month so people have just been paid!  I think some people finish early on Fridays, so have time to trawl the shops.

After a while I discovered that Tuesday afternoons were rather short of people, so I started going then too.  That is to work upstairs  i.e. sorting the things that come in, putting tags on clothes and other “behind the scenes” activities.   There is usually a lot of chat and I have great fun trying to wind up the manager, A.  Don’t worry, she gets her own back!

It is interesting seeing the similarities and differences between the 2 charity shops where I have worked.  Both have managers who are “characters”, but in different ways.  The clothes and other items for sale are prepared in the same ways – sorting, putting on labels and hanging up clothes, steaming the clothes, pricing.  The numbers of items put out each day is counted and there is a prescribed number.  There is a target for the money to be raised each week – but in the first shop this was only for donated goods and in the second it is for everything.  In the second shop they also have “van goods” collected from charity bags given out and collected from house to house collections, but in the first shop there were goods passed on from other shops.  T is apparently too far from the other nearest shop for that to happen.  In the second shop the labels and the code for the till have to show if they are donated goods or van goods.  And there is also “gift aid”, where people who pay tax have donated goods and extra money can be claimed from the tax man if the goods are sold.  These obviously have special labels with the unique gift aid code for each person so the money can be claimed – the joy of computerised tills!

In the first shop, the only paid staff were the manager and a lady who was in charge (and only paid for) Sundays.  In the second shop there is a manager, an assistant manager and an assistant who are all paid.  The last 2 are part time, with the last one mostly covering Sundays.  There are more paid staff because they take  more money!

In the first shop, the last thing I was taught to do was sorting the goods coming in, but that was the first thing in the second shop – probably because there is so much more, with all the van goods.  Because I know my alphabet (!) I very often am asked to do gift aid – it involves finding the appropriate sheet from a filing cabinet with that person’s gift aid stickers to put on the labels.  When I am feeling lazy/tired I beg to put labels on and hang up clothes – it is fairly mindless so can be done with little effort.  A (the manager) put me on pricing bric-a-brac the other day as she thought I might like a change, but I hated it so much that I really complained and (pretended to) threaten to walk out.  She has taken the hint and I have not been asked to do it again!

I have made sure that I have not taken so much responsibility in this shop and that I am not available to call on at any time.  I actually haven’t learned to do all the things there are to do and don’t do steaming (I don’t like that much either and am very slow) or pricing.

Would I recommend it?  Probably, but it is not for any one who doesn’t like handling second-hand clothes!  I enjoy it, especially the contact with customers, staff and volunteers.

Have an operation!

Not something you really want to do, but better to get things sorted than leave them!

I found that a mole on my leg had changed and took it to the doctor.  By the end of next day I had seen a consultant and had the mole removed!   About two weeks later I went back for the next hospital appointment and was told that they had removed a melanoma. Although it was not very deep, it was recommended that they remove a larger and deeper area of skin round the mole to make sure that all the cancer cells had been removed and also that they carry out a “sentinel node biopsy”.  This means that they remove a lymph node or two which drain the melanoma area and look at it to make sure that the cancer has not spread.

It wasn’t urgent, so I had the operation about 2 months later, after everyone had had their holiday and not immediately after the doctors all change their posts!  It was supposed to be day surgery, but as there was no-one to look after me it was arranged that I would stay in overnight.  That was a good thing as the wound where the extra skin was removed started bleeding and had to be re-opened and sealed.  That bit was under a local anaesthetic whereas the earlier bit (especially the sentinel node biopsy) was under a general anaesthetic.

I was discharged the next day and friends, especially K,  were very supportive and took me places and helped with shopping.  It took me longer than I expected to get my energy back and it was 3 weeks before I could drive and go to the gym again and 2 months before I started doing anything serious there.  It took about 6 months before I got back to the programme I had before the operation – but maybe I didn’t try that hard!

Apart from two scars, everything now is back to normal – except that I will be going for check-ups for the next 5 years.   The most annoying part of that is the large parking charges at the hospital and that one can wait a long time for about a five minute appointment!   Also travel insurance needs either a medical questionnaire or to accept not being covered for any effect of the cancer.

 

Would I recommend it?   Well certainly I would recommend going to the doctor as soon as possible.  The sooner you go the less that needs to be done!  If I had left my mole then it might have spread.  On the other hand, operations are not to be recommended if you don’t need them!

I was also very much supported by friends and their prayers, and knowing that was very good.

Join a (Community) Choir

I was talking to an ex-colleague and she said her husband was a member of a choir where one didn’t have to have an audition or be able to read music.  That was a men’s choir, but she said there was a women’s equivalent.  On looking it up on the website, I found there were 2 ladies choirs  – one in the evenings and one during the day.  I contacted the woman in charge  and went along to try the day time “Coffee Choir“.  We have coffee first and then sing!

I have now been going for 18 months.  If it was all taken very seriously I doubt if I would have lasted more than 2 weeks, but we have a chat over coffee and get to know each other and Fiona, who leads it, is very tolerant and encouraging, so we don’t get told off for singing wrong notes!  Other people are tolerant, too, which is a good thing as I sing lots of wrong notes and have difficulty sticking to my part.  N, who usually sits next to me, says I am improving, but I am not convinced of it.   I am an alto, so we rarely get the tune and tend to stay on one note for a while, which does give me a chance to find it!

I also have problems reaching the higher notes – even the C above middle C is too high for me!  Give me a nice low A or G any day.  Fiona knows I can’t reach the high notes and sometimes in the warm up, when she knows I have given up as I can’t reach the note, she continues to go higher and  higher and just gives me a grin!  I have found another alto who has the same problem, though, so that makes me feel better – a bit.

Most weeks Fiona has a joke to tell us – many of which I couldn’t repeat – and we generally have a fun time.  How many other choirs sing “sitting shitting chickens” as one of their possible warm ups? Or have a conductor who wears pink boots?  A dressing up competition and Christmas quiz and food have all featured.

The choir does do “gigs” but I have opted out of these, partly because I am so bad and partly because they are at times when I cannot make it.  I guess there will be one time when I won’t be able to find a good excuse…..

Definitely recommended!

Decorating

I only have enough energy to decorate small rooms – I did larger ones when I was younger!  I am also very good at procrastinating over it……..

I have done 2 in the last couple of years and I start all keen and clear the room and take up the carpet and take it to the tip.  I then realise that I need to do the preparation and that means rubbing down paintwork which is boring, tiring and needs a face-mask, which tends to make my glasses steam up! That means I put it off by finding any excuse for not having time to do it.

After a while (days? weeks?) I decide that rubbing down can be done in bits and start on the skirting board on one wall.  Over time, with lots more procrastination, the rubbing down gets done.  I then need to wash down the walls and ceiling with sugar soap.  I usually assume this is easy and won’t take very long.  Having started, I find it is hard work and will take much more time and energy than I expect.  In the 2 rooms I did here, the ceilings have artex designs and destroyed the cloths I was using!  I gave up on them, having decided they weren’t too bad anyway.  The walls took long enough, so the next meal was very late!

Having chosen and bought the paint, it is “just” a matter of doing the painting.  I start with the ceiling.  This produces drips of paint everywhere – on me, my glasses, the floor…. I naturally walk in all the drips, so spread the paint further.  I have managed not to walk out of the room and put it on carpets all over the house, by some miracle.  Reaching up to the ceiling, is really tiring on arms that are not used to it and going up and down steps is not good for legs, either.  Perhaps I should do the stepper at the gym!  The other problem is painting a white ceiling white, it is impossible to tell which bits I have done and which I haven’t, especially as I have to keep moving the step ladder.  In the end, I decide that if I can’t tell, it can’t matter and assume it is all done.  It doesn’t seem to have been a problem since.

The woodwork and the walls also have to be done.  I have major problems with joins – wall to ceiling; skirting board to wall….. I have tried masking tape and a metal shield, but in the end they don’t work any better than my unsteady hand.  I usually give up and leave slightly wobbly joins where the paint goes into the wrong place.  I doubt anyone will notice and if they do they won’t say anything!

Failure to paint the joins straight!

Failure to paint the joins straight!

The walls are very hard work and take much longer than i expect.  The last (tiny) room I thought I could do in a morning, but in fact took most of the day.  I suspect I really need a new roller, but as I am never going to do any decorating again, it won’t matter.  If I say I am going to do some decorating, remind me I am not going to do any more!

Is it recommended?  Well, that depends on you!  You probably need to be better at it than I am and more energetic.  There is some satisfaction in doing it yourself and it is certainly a lot cheaper than having someone in to do it.  Personally, I find it looks rather neater if I have the painter in to do it!

 

 

Doing up the house

Having moved into the house it was fine to live in for a while, but the bright yellow hall and staircase and the hideous green or pink carpets everywhere needed removing.  Also everywhere needed painting and a new kitchen and bathroom looked like a good idea.

By the time I had finished my job, I had been given suggestions for good workmen, so started with a painter who did a really good job of painting over the hideous bright yellow and filling in all the holes where the stair lift had been removed.  Then it was only a case of locating new light shades.

I decided I needed better double glazing – so that was the next thing that got done.  It took longer than it should have as one of the men supposed to be doing it had to look after his child while he had a sick wife!

The next job was the two main rooms, which are linked with an archway.  I first got a cupboard built in the alcove under the stairs.  The man who did this was busy (as are all good workmen) so I had to wait for that.  Then my painter was busy (also good, so in demand!) so I had to wait for him.  Another excellent job done – filling in holes and covering over marks where sleeving was removed and then painting.  Locating and having a new carpet put down was easy, but not cheap and the same went for new curtains.  Pity my furniture now looks so shabby!

“My” painter also did the outside – becoming necessary to avoid deterioration.  It looked better, too!

During the waiting I got round to getting the local kitchen and bathroom firm to design and get fitted a new bathroom – but again had to wait for the men to actually do the work.  And there was the day with no loo…..  Expensive, but I quite like the result!

I also decorated the second bedroom myself!  Then got a new carpet, hung curtains brought from the last house, found light shades and put together an Argos wardrobe – with a little help from some friends!

I then needed a rest from men, but recently I have decorated the third bedroom – “study” – and got new curtains and carpet there, too.  Only the main bedroom and kitchen to go – after 2 years!

Would I recommend it?

Well, my house looks a lot better!  If you are retired you are likely to have a lot more time looking at yours, so it depends on how shabby your house looks, how bored you are with the décor, whether you dislike the colours you have – and whether you have money to spare to do it!  Then you have to decide whether to do it yourself or find the right person to do it for you…….