A Year in the Life of a Newly Retired Woman

A Year in the Life of a Newly Retired Woman

Elizabeth Rogers



Format: 13.5 x 21.5 cm
Number of Pages: 68
ISBN: 978-3-99064-078-4
Release Date: 22.03.2018
Meet the author who has an agonising decision. Retire or take a massive pay cut? She decides on retirement. She dumps her ex-partner, experiments with painting, upholstery, spends a lot of time gardening, cooking, doing volunteer work but loathes housework.
JANUARY 2016

I have been informed after forty-five years’ service, that the contract at my current grade will not be renewed. They have kindly offered me a job at £10,000 per annum less, should I choose to apply for it. This has come out of the blue and I am not ready. I have thought about retirement and what I would like to do if I had more time, but I have done nothing about it. I have a few weeks to decide. The problem has arisen because I went parttime two years ago and ended up on annual contracts. The current policy is to review them as they come up for renewal and in an effort to save money, I have become the sacrificial lamb.
I am keeping this to myself. My work colleagues have no idea what is going on, apart from another member of staff faced with the same. I alternate between being angry at the way we are being treated and tearful at facing the end of my working life. A few months ago, my boss was telling me how much she relied on me, but suddenly I am dispensable; no wonder she hasn’t looked me in the eye lately. My previous boss, until a few years ago, would be up in arms and fighting my case. Sadly, my new boss has no backbone; she does however have very bad varicose veins.
When I went part-time it was a good opportunity to start doing other things that I might enjoy and to get things in place for retirement. The reason my ideas didn’t come to fruition was because we worked odd shifts; a normal day was eight forty-five a.m. to five fifteen p.m., but there were not many of them. The others were nine forty-five a.m. to six thirty p.m., seven thirty a.m. to seven thirty p.m. and seven thirty p.m. to seven thirty a.m. and this included Saturdays and Sundays.
I tried to be amenable and helpful, to the extent that it was Friday before I knew what days I was working the following week. There was no way I could commit to any kind of classes or courses on a specific day of the week and in many respects, that was my fault.

***

In an effort to find a focus I start by writing a list of all the things that need doing in the house and the garden. I must mention that I still have a few days work to do this month, plus some holiday booked and am officially employed until the end of February. There is no real pressure to do anything on the list, but it’s good to know I will have plenty to do, if I choose not to take up the new post.
There are currently thirty-nine jobs on my list (some of them are the same jobs that were on a list made about six months ago). First on the list is ‘make a list’ so I can cross that off straight away.
There is a trick to lists, which involves breaking down large jobs into subsections. For example, if I wish to clean my bathroom thoroughly I can break it down so: a) wipe over all walls and painted woodwork, b) clean bath, sink, taps and remove mould from tiles, c) mop f loorboards and apply new wax. This gives three ticking-off opportunities.
As my bathroom window blind gets showered when I do, it ends up with pink mould on it. I once tried to clean it but I gave up after five minutes and popped down to the local wholesalers and bought a replacement for £ 8. Job done although I cheated, but still ticked it off the list. Also, it is important that should you do a job that is not on the official list, you add it to the end and cross it off. Apparently, it is motivational; only time will tell.
My sister is very impressed with my list-making as she is fond of lists herself and frequently tells me to ‘get a grip’. I have another sister who is also a list maker, but she has lots of different lists dotted around all over the place, without any cohesion. I fear her list making is a sign of some mental problem rather than organisational skill.

***

Today is the tenth and my Christmas tree is still up. I was going to do it at the weekend but got side-tracked. I removed the outside lights from the fence, threw away the Christmas cards and removed the door wreath, so that’s a start. There is also a carrier bag of rolls of wrapping paper sitting at the bottom of the stairs waiting to be stowed away and it has been there since Christmas Eve. My sister would be horrified.
Ironically, I have just bought a pack of ten Christmas toilet rolls from Lidl which are adorned with snowmen and snowf lakes. They were very cheap for obvious reasons, but do the job (have just tried some out), and are perfumed with a ‘Christmas essence’.
Having previously been a cat person, I am considering a small dog. Why now, you might ask. Well I had two elderly cats that died within a couple of years of each other. One had a malignant tumour, the other had a stroke and both their deaths were drawn out. Yes, I know they could have been put down, but I couldn’t do it, so there was much sobbing and I am still traumatised. The second reason is that retirement is the proper time to have a dog.
All you people who go out to work all day leaving the dog alone, please pay attention: a) your dog may seem the happiest on the planet when you come home. That is not because he is a happy dog, it is because he has just spent eight hours of utter loneliness and separation anxiety, b) you may love your dog, but sure as hell the neighbours don’t, as they listen hour after hour to its pathetic howling, as it tells them of its misery in the only way it knows how.
My neighbours have one of the howling variety. It starts at eight thirty a.m., when they leave home, and continues until four p.m. howling at fifteen second intervals (it was getting on my nerves one day and in a Victor Meldrew moment, I timed it). They have had it for six years and I have seen it three times, which gives you an idea of how often anyone walks it (never).
Apparently, it is acceptable to treat an animal like that, although it’s the canine equivalent of sticking a toddler in a playpen, turning EastEnders on, leaving it a rusk and a sippy cup and buggering off to bingo.

***

I have previously found it difficult to get men in to do jobs as I didn’t work fixed days, but that problem is now resolved and my calendar is an open book.
A well-known window/conservatory company has just given me a quote to replace my rotting conservatory, which was a home-made erection (and not on my list). They gave me a ridiculous quote. Having spoken to their manager, they offered a reduced price which was still too much, so they asked how much would I be happy to pay.
Sorry, but I am not bartering in a Moroccan market. I just want a new conservatory. I would not go into a shoe shop and say, “Golly those are a bit pricey, but I would be happy to pay X amount.” Needless to say they didn’t get the job, but a nice company from Wales did, as they do a similar product for far less and the price is fixed, with no fannying around. I have booked it for May.
I need to reorganise my kitchen as it is quite small and the microwave takes up about twenty per cent of the work surface. I could shift it so it is on top of the fridge but it would need an extension cable. To be truthful I rarely use it, I bought it one Christmas for £25, solely to do the pudding rather than steam it for hours.
Since then I have discovered uses for it that won’t be found on any package insert. It goes like this: My son asks if there are any clean underpants and I say yes, there are, but they are in the washing machine and still wet. He rolls his eyes at me, as if I am useless and I tell him that if he doesn’t bring them down they don’t get washed, (he is twenty-seven years old for Christ’s sake). Get the ironing board out and give underpants a once over, fold over and give one minute on full power in the microwave. Take out and wave around to disperse steam. Repeat process two more times and you have a dry pair of underpants.
These instructions are only a guideline; times may vary according to wattage. Ensure underpants cool before wearing, as I do not want to be sued by someone who has overheated their gonads (as if I would care).


FEBRUARY 2016

I have thought about the job offer with reduced pay. Options: Wait until the last minute and say, “No thank you, lots of leave owing and I’m jolly well having it!” or email the boss to say, “Will not be returning to work!” and send a copy to most of my longterm colleagues who have no idea what’s going on.
I have received a snotty letter from my line-manager asking if I will return my ID badge. Most of my colleagues are a) gob-smacked b) supportive. I have returned my ID badge with a card telling, my colleagues what a pleasure it has been working with them, and advising them to pin up my badge in reverence, or throw darts at it accordingly. No need to go in and clear my locker as I did it a couple of weeks ago. I also put my CPD (continuing professional development) folder in the bin.
I have good days and bad days. I have had some phone calls and texts from colleagues, most of which start me crying again.
I decided to have a retirement meal at my house (at my expense), as I will be in control of who comes. This necessitates a big tidy up, vacuum, toilet clean etc.
We had (in my opinion) a lovely meal. There was Moroccan lamb and lentils, giant couscous, roasted vegetables, baked salmon and a potato frittata. For dessert, there was chocolate torte with fruit and crème fraîche. I really should have people over more often, as this is my only motivation for housework. I know I should live like this all the time, but I can’t be bothered. Perhaps I can buy a few Pickford boxes, dot them around the house and pretend I have just moved in. Maybe my retirement will result in a tidier dust-free house, but I wouldn’t hold your breath!

***

I have done a lot of reading this month. There are gardening jobs to be done, but it is far too cold. My sister passed on to me a book that was about turning sixty. It was written by some agony aunt or columnist whose name I have forgotten and would not be allowed to print anyway. Said writer has lots of ‘funny’ scenarios for someone who has just turned sixty.
First, she gets a friend to take her to hospital because her vision has gone weird, but it turns out she has been trying to drive wearing her reading glasses. Ha! Ha! Next, she visits an elderly relative in an old peoples’ home, but as she has put her dress on inside out, the nurses try and find out which room she belongs in.
Did I laugh? No! Who was the book aimed at and will they find it funny? No!
Retirement age is now sixty-five years for women, so to suggest we are bonkers when we turn sixty is just rubbish. I can only assume the book was printed because the author was well known (but not for writing books). Well I am neither well known nor an author, but I can tell you that the funniest scenarios come from real life, not some patently made up stuff that is crap. You know who you are even if I’ve forgotten your name!

Compare the following two;

a) Tim Vine and his laboriously thought over ‘play on word jokes’ which make you groan and which belong in crackers.

b) Michael McIntyre’s observational sketch on the different choreography we adopt when vacuum cleaning.

I rest my case.

***

I have finally got one job done. It was in fact two jobs, but one has created a new job so net gain only one. I have had a hole in my kitchen ceiling caused by a leaking bath for about eighteen months. There was no point repairing it until the source of the leak had been found and fixed.
In exasperation (and after a bottle of wine) I slathered on the bath sealant so thickly that I could now rule it out as a source of the leak. Water still came through the ceiling when anyone had a shower so I have finally called a plumber.
He looked at my bath and said, “I don’t know what the hell that all is,” referring to the sealant and I didn’t own up. He thought the leak was almost certainly from around the bath, and I said I was one hundred per cent sure it wasn’t. Having given me a ‘what would you know’ look, he reluctantly agreed to take the wooden panelling off the side, but couldn’t guarantee that it wouldn’t get broken in the process.
When the panelling was removed and the tap turned on, water gushed from the plughole as the previous occupants had put a new bendy pipe from the bath which was the wrong size and, to correct their mistake, had employed a big glob of plumber’s putty (which is like blue-tack) and then wood-panelled the side of the bath to hide the mistake. This will prove to be a recurring theme in my house.
So, the bath has been fixed and a nice man came to re-plaster the hole in the kitchen ceiling. We exchanged our history with bad backs in the process. Two jobs done but I have had to add ‘re-paint kitchen ceiling’ to the list.
Sadly, a cold spell has cracked the plastic elbow of my outside tap and it is leaking down the wall. No matter, as the knobs Tom Plumb replaced on my kitchen tap a year ago have failed. I can no longer turn the hot tap on and if I do it might not turn off, so the plumber (not you Tom) can do both jobs at the same time. I must add that to the list.

***

Not this winter, but next, I will be eligible for the winter fuel payment. Having spent much of January and February at home, I can see how my fuel bill has increased and will appreciate the extra £ 200. My worry is that before too long they will want to means test it. There are almost one million expats living in Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Thailand, Greece etc, and despite living in a warmer climate, they get their winter fuel allowance, which pays the gardener or pool attendant.
Forget about means testing. It will require thousands of people to check the forms, another thousand to help the idiots fill in the forms and it won’t save any money. Here is a plan: set up a database, and issue vouchers for £ 200, only redeemable with UK service providers. So, for example, I can ring Southern Electric, give my voucher number, and credit my account. They can access the database and log it as redeemed.
If you live in Spain and are supplied by Electrico Iberica (I just made that up) it will be useless and quite rightly so, as you will be sitting by the pool on Christmas Day and slapping on the suntan oil, while I am lighting an open fire to supplement the central heating.


MARCH 2016

Still thirty-eight things on the ‘to do list’.
From the first of this month I am officially a retired person after 45 years of working.
I had many things listed I would like to do in retirement, but they are not in place yet, as it was always in the future.
I am in a strange place. Imagine you are given an envelope marked ‘your retirement’. You think it will be full of photos of holidays, adventures you have been on, grandchildren you spent time with and scenes of garden chairs with a bottle of wine on the side. If you open the envelope it is empty. You realise that retirement is what you make of it, not something that happens on its own. Is it a blank canvas with a multitude of ways to fill it, or a void that you don’t know what to do with?
To some extent it will depend on whether you have a partner, children or grandchildren. We don’t all come from the same mould and I don’t have a partner to share holidays and adventures with. I used to have one, but he was ‘not fit for purpose’ so after twenty-eight years he had to go.
I get very down during the dark winter months. It is known as SAD which stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder, or as I prefer to call it, ‘Suffering Another Day’. This is why I love springtime; the days get longer and warmer, plants begin to wake up and my thoughts turn to my garden. I love my seed tin; it is my little tin of promise and hope for the coming year.
What I fail to do is check out the contents before going to the garden centre in a wave of enthusiasm. I bet most of you have done the same thing. You come home with a few packets of seeds only to discover that you have some from the previous year that didn’t get planted. Last spring, I did exactly that with carrots, sweet peppers and wildf lowers. I had three packets of ‘butterfly mix’ and I have just purchased a fourth. Some of them are out of date, so I have hedged my bets and mixed them all together with some compost, sewed them in small pots and when germinated will transplant randomly amongst the vegetables.
Note to seed suppliers, have a good think about the average gardener’s needs. Yes, I need two hundred and fifty seeds in a packet of peas, I may even buy two packets for successional sewing, but what will I do with two hundred tomato seeds? I am not a market gardener. Put ten seeds in a pack and sell them for 50p rather than make me pay £2.99 and waste ninety-five per cent of them.

***

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