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!


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…….

Get a Job!

This might seem mad when you have retired, but it can be part time and with less responsibility.  It can also provide some extra cash, if you need it!

I found a job 2 months after moving to T, almost by accident!  I was looking at jobs for a well known store and seeing one available in T I started filling in the on-line application.  After a day or two a message came up that I would have to complete it within 2 days or start again, so I completed, checked and sent off the application, not expecting anything to come of it.  However, I got an email inviting me for an interview, which I went to and was offered a job.  The two day induction was the following week and I started work the week after that.  It all happened in less than three weeks so I didn’t have time to think about it!  I was quite flattered to be offered a job, actually.

When I started, I was working in the food hall and was almost entirely on the check-outs, as I was working mostly in the afternoons.  I quite enjoyed it, as one got to see the same people on a regular basis and enjoyed a little chat as I was scanning the food etc.  It kept me occupied as I settled back into T and I saw lots of people I knew (or who knew me!) as they passed through the check-out.

The job was a ten week contract, over the summer (student’s holiday job?) and I could probably have renewed it, but decided not to. Why?  I was working about 18 hours a week and that was more than I really wanted – I didn’t have time to do other things.  I had to work every alternate Sunday which I hated, as I wanted to be at church.  I was supposed to encourage people to get the store’s credit card, which I strongly disapproved of.  When I asked one of the managers about what happened after the ten weeks he said that one of them would talk to me.  They didn’t.  If I could have reduced to about 10 hours, with no Sundays, I might have stayed, but I decided to go.  It then took about 2 months to sort out that I didn’t owe them money, but they owed me some – holiday pay!

Would I recommend it?  Possibly!  A friend has a job 2 afternoons a week and she says it is really important to her, providing something to do and contact with people.  It does seem that those who go part time or take part time jobs find the transition to retirement easier.  It is probably best to think out how much time you want to do, though!

Possibly recommended, if you think it out and find something right for you!

Going to the Gym

My friend K thinks that “gym” is a swear word!  But I (sort of) enjoy it.

Joining the gym was one of the first things I did on moving to T.  I had been going to gyms for about 15 years but had to give a month’s notice in M so hadn’t been since the end of September.  On going back to the one in T, I found a staff member who remembered me after 7 years – not sure if that is a good thing or not!

Why join a gym?

When I was working, I originally joined as a way to reduce stress.  After retirement it provided something to do (!) and was a way of keeping moderately fit.  There is greater security than going for a run or a cycle ride; you can vary your distance without having to get back to your start point and the weather is not a factor – except when the roof leaked above me on a very wet day!

By going at the same times each week, I get to see the same people and so can get to know them and gain more acquaintances/friends.

How to choose a gym.

Go and have a look at all the possibles, at the time(s) you are likely to go.  The idea is to look what sort of people are there.  If they are all young, slim, fit and very hard working I would choose somewhere else!  Try looking for people with a variety of ages and shapes and effort and gear.  I don’t work excessively hard or take it that seriously but there are people there who are pushed to walk for 10 minutes, others who work really hard and seriously and get up a real sweat and those who go for a chat and minimum exercise  It is the variety that is good.

Look at the facilities – changing rooms, showers, sauna and/or steam room (if you like those) and see what sort of state they are in.  Choose later in the day, not first thing, to get a real idea.  Also consider whether you care if the facilities are mixed or if you would want separate male and female ones.

I have always been to the local authority gym, but there are more exclusive places.  I suspect you get what you pay for, so do enquire about the prices and discounts for age or off-peak times.  Some places have a joining fee, so look at the cost of that and see what you get for it.  There should certainly be an induction and the setting of a programme and maybe a T-shirt and/or water bottle.  And don’t sign up for a year until you are sure you will use it!  Read the small print!!


They should give you an induction i.e. show you how to use the machines.  Most places will also set a programme for you as part of the induction or part of the joining fee.  If you overstate or tell the truth about your fitness, the programme will probably be too hard!  You can always do less and you will find that you do improve and reach the level suggested.  The alternative is to understate your fitness or say how exhausted you are after a very short time on any machine during the induction!

You don’t have to do every machine!  It is worth trying them all, then you can find your favourites – I go for upright bike, cross-trainer and (my favourite by far) running.  You will be surprised how you do improve and can do longer at a harder level if you go twice or more a week.

How to keep going!

Yes, this can be a problem!  There are days when you just don’t feel like it, but the less you go the less you feel like going.  It is (usually) not as bad as you think it will be when you actually get there.

I wouldn’t go every day – this is excessive and you will quickly get fed up and give up.  Be realistic about what you are likely to do.  Most retirees go two or three times a week, although a few go 4 or 5 times.  Don’t overdo it – it is supposed to be fun(!!!) or at least moderately good for you.  I even find that a bit of running can make me feel better.

Some people think having a “gym buddy” is a good move, but then it does tend to be that if one of you doesn’t feel like it you both don’t go and it doesn’t take long to stop.  As I said, going at the same time each week and getting to know people works better for me.

Having been going for a while, I signed up for a year and then if I don’t go I don’t get my money’s worth and being mean, that matters!  The showers there are better than mine too, so it is a good place to wash my hair and they provide a free hair-dryer – saving money again!

Recommended, if you don’t get carried away!



Volunteering in a Charity Shop

While waiting to move I had to think of something to do to keep busy, but I hoped it would only be for a short time.  A charity shop seemed like a good idea.  There was a choice of 7 in M, where I was living, so I chose a charity I approved of (Cancer Research U.K.) and the shop that seemed to be busy most of the time.

This proved to be a very good idea.  It filled time, provided company and gave me a (temporary) role.  With the right manager it was also good fun.

I got an application form (all charity shops seem to need a form and references) at the start of September and started 10 days later.  I learned to do steaming  (“vertical ironing”, as described by the manager), “tagging” (putting the tags on the clothes, writing the sizes on the tags and hanging up the clothes with the appropriate size on the hanger) and had a go on the till, all on my first morning.  I was initially doing 2 half-days a week and quickly got the hang of all these skills!

Within a month, the manager, K, was phoning me up and asking if I could go in and do extra time.  As I was a fairly short walk away and had too much time on my hands, I usually said ‘yes’.

Near the start of November I started doing the weekly figures.  (This is no longer needed as the tills are now computerised and do it automatically.)  It was quite interesting as I could see how much was made each week, if we hit our targets, what were the best selling areas and which were the best days – usually dry and sunny ones!

Later in November, another volunteer and I were left in sole charge of the shop – first for an hour and later for a whole morning.  I also learned to sort the items that came in – those things that were saleable, those we could sell as “rags” and those which, sadly, had to be thrown away.  By December I had learned to open and close the shop; by the middle of January I could do the end of the day till and cash up and by the middle of February I was left in charge of the shop (with the help of other volunteers at their usual times).  This meant that in 5 months I was volunteer assistant manager – although I refused to be called by that name!  If I had been looking for a job it would have looked good on a C.V.

I think I was lucky to find a shop which needed volunteers who were flexible, when I had time to do this.  Perhaps also to find a manager who let me do all the tasks in the shop.  It was enjoyable and felt worthwhile.


Moving House.

This is definitely not recommended unless you are missing the stress of your job!

There are reasons you might want to move, such as wanting to move back to the town (city!) where most of your friends live and to the church where you feel at home, as I did.  If moving is just because you feel like a new place, then consider carefully before leaving the place and friends you know and facing the stresses of moving house.

My Experiences

I put my house on the market in the April before I retired and had an offer within a short time.  I therefore went down to T and found a house I liked – and within a few days the people who made the offer withdrew it!

I did get another offer – 2 months later.  The original house I found was then withdrawn from the market, but after 3 trips to T in 6 weeks and viewing 7 or 8 properties, I found a bungalow and had the offer accepted.  Many thanks to my friend K, with whom I stayed a couple of times and her husband C and also friends I and S who viewed properties with me.

I then waited……and waited……..and waited……and waited…….. while the person who wanted my house tried to sort out problems with some land which failed to appear on the deeds of her house, I gathered.  She withdrew her offer in November.

There were no more viewings of my house until January – November and December are not good times for house selling – people are thinking Christmas.  Eventually, at the start of February I got an acceptable offer.  These people then started putting on the pressure to move.  I had lost the bungalow by then, so after 3 more trips to T  (more thanks to K, C, I and S) and viewing 10 properties (including the bungalow which came back on the market!) in mid-March I found a house I liked and had my offer accepted.  Hurrah!  But not time to get too excited yet…..

There were surveys, forms to fill in, searches for the solicitor to get organised and for me to read, removal firms to get quotes from, completion dates to discuss and numerous phone calls to the solicitor (who never seemed to be there!) to see if he was actually doing anything.  And gaps in the middle when there was nothing to do but worry…..

On the exchange date, my solicitor was away and there was a “locum” and they couldn’t find the signed contract!  It was eventually found and I was then told that I needed house insurance from the exchange date – that day!  I managed to organise that.  Then there was gas, water, electricity, council tax, B.T…….. for both the old and new properties, to tell about completion dates and the removal firm to finalise.  Then change of address and forwarding of post, cleaning the house and finally moving in the second week in May!

Not the end……  When I got down to T they would not release the key, as the money hadn’t come thorough.  That is fairly standard.  After telling the removal men what was happening and two hours waiting, I could get into the new house.  Yeh!!!  Only 13 months!

I used Pickfords as the removal firm but I would NOT  recommend them.  Two pieces of furniture scratched (one not repairable and the other repair not good) and they turned up earlier than they said they would!


Retirement is great, providing freedom to do whatever you want when you want, but…….

Well, after a few weeks of rest and relaxation, the first thing I found was how much time there was to fill in a day!  When I was working flat out there was no time for anything, but now time started to drag.  It might have helped if I could take the advice in Simon & Garfunkel’s “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” – “Slow down you move too fast,  You got to make the morning last”.  I am not very good at that though.

The second thing I noticed was the lack of stimulating company.  Pupils are surprisingly stimulating – you never know what they will say or do next and what you will have to deal with!  Living alone probably emphasised the lack of company – no doubt a partner would reduce this.  On the other hand, a partner who thinks organising their wife instead of their office or spending all their time with their wife (who has no doubt got her own perfectly good activities and friends) is something I am very glad to miss!

As time has passed I have also noticed that I have no longer got a particular roll in society, which I found I do actually mind.  That surprised me a bit!

So……it became necessary to find things to do that would fill up chunks of time, provide some stimulating company and preferably provide me with some sort of role.  I thought I would share some of my attempts to do this and those of some of my friends and give our opinions on how satisfactory these have proved to be.