Alan's Blog

 

Living

 

Forced into Retirement

Before I left school in May 1965, I had no inclination to go to work at all. However, I believe it was on the 10th of May 1965 that I started an apprenticeship that my father had obtained for me. This was about 6.5 weeks before my 16th birthday. So, that was it. My working life started. Going to work was something I never wanted to do at all. I had far better things to do than go to work. Like staying at home doing my own thing. It was something of a shock for which I wasn't at all prepared. Life would never be the same again. Fifty-five years later, my aversion to going to work hasn't changed. Or has it?

After completing my apprenticeship, I continued studying and working for about the next fifty years. As a young man, I soon realised that I had to stand on my own two feet and the only way to do that was to become qualified and put considerable effort into my work. Nothing at all came easy. In fact, a great deal of my life has been a hard slog – and unhappy. The last twenty years of my life have been the happiest – the years that I've spent with Grace. I came from quite a poor, working class background where nothing was gained except through hard work. Having been born soon after World War II into a country that was just about bankrupt and in ruins, there were few opportunities – or money – available to working class people, unlike the situation in more recent times. I was even issued with a 'ration book' that allowed my parents to purchase food for me. Life doesn't get much more basic than that.

My father had an exceptional attitude towards 'duty, responsibility and work ethic' and these have always been my priority too. How successful I've been is not quantifiable as it depends on what you consider 'successful'. I've never been a wealthy person by any stretch of the imagination, but I've supported my two families, helped many others and have always tried to do the 'right thing'. I guess not many people would call that being successful but that's the way it is.

It is now April 2020 and I haven't worked since my last contract was completed on 28 March 2019. What with the confusion over Brexit and then changes to various tax rules that make it almost impossible for consultants and contractors to work, and now the Corona Virus pandemic, its been impossible to find any contracts that are worth taking. So, I'm now more-or-less resigned to having to retire. All I have to offer a potential employer is 50+ years' experience and a wide range of skills, but that doesn't seem to be attractive to the hiring department of many companies or organisations.

Having said all the above, you'd think I'd be dancing with joy at not having to go to work ever again. In some ways I am, now that more than a year has passed since I last worked. And yet, I can't get used to the idea of not working and I'm actually missing going to the office. In fact, I've spent a lot of time during this period looking for, and applying for, new contracts. After all these years, stopping work seems quite alien to me. In fact, I've only just applied for my old-age-pension which I was entitled to draw almost six years ago (it will be six years once it starts to be paid to me in July 2020). Not drawing it earlier is something of a bonus as my pension income will now be considerably higher than it would have been had I drawn it when I was first entitled to do so.

This is perhaps a good job because, contrary to what people often say about old people spending less money, I would suggest that older people would spend more money – if they had it to spend – because they have more time in which to spend it. Having more money means they can enjoy their retirement by spending more money – not less, on, for example, holidays in the sunshine or, a favourite with older people, cruising on ocean liners or by taking up new interests.

The sad fact of life about retiring at the age of 70 is that I don't have the strength or energy that I had as a young man – the strength and energy that I would love to have to fully enjoy my retirement and to take on projects that I would have relished as a younger man. Motivation is much harder to find as "I can't be bothered" is my usual answer to anything - even things I normally enjoy doing. Isn't this sad?

That said, getting back into work would soon rejuvenate me as it would give me a purpose in life, instead of just drifting along from one day to the next. Yes, I have things I can do to pass the time but that's completely different to having a 'purpose' in life – a reason to live! I firmly believe that this 'lack of purpose' is the reason why so many men die at a relatively young age, particularly compared to their spouse who often has a reason to live by taking care of the family – looking after grandchildren, for example. Another attractive aspect of going to work is that it becomes part of one's social life. In my case, almost all my social life as I have little contact with other people outside my working life. Losing that part of life because of retirement is a really big thing to lose.

Apart from getting back into work, the main project that would motivate me would be getting out of this country. Living in a land of sunshine is what I would really like in my retirement (if I have to retire). I quite like the idea of buying a property with some land that I could make into a caravan site. A few months ago, I almost did just that but the timing, as with many things in life, wasn't right. I had the money available but the time wasn't right – and still isn't, sadly. The only reason being JP's education and I haven't yet come up with a solution to overcome that – although the school-leaving age in Spain is 16, not 18 as in this country and France. However, he doesn't speak Spanish. Neither do any of us, although Grace would probably learn it quite quickly.

My ideal retirement should be relaxing in the sunshine enjoying my photography and writing and going touring around Europe - and, maybe, running a caravan site of my own. That would give me an objective in life – a purpose. Aged almost 71 now, I think it's time to enjoy life, but first I have to get JP to be self-supporting and get myself and Grace out of this country. Did I say retire? Now, where can I find a worthwhile job? Writing technical documents or teaching English in the sunshine would be a good start!

Update: August 2020:

Bored, bored, bored!

Not being able to live the life I'd like to lead (see last paragraph above), in addition to not working, is driving me mad - and I'm suffering from depression.

Making the situation even worse is the lockdown imposed by the virus pandemic. This has meant that we've not been able to go abroad for our holiday even for a couple of weeks. Here in the UK, mental health charity Mind, said the country's emotional well being had deteriorated during the virus pandemic and it warned of a possible even bigger crisis further down the line. According to psychotherapist Aaron Balick, "We're missing an ingredient that makes us human," regarding the effect that reduced social interaction has on us. I know the feeling. I'm sure I'm not alone in believing that retirement has a serious negative affect on many people; men in particular.

Grace had 20 days leave and at the start of this my car decided not to play and I had to wait a week for an appointment at the auto-electrician where I could get it fixed. This would have still left us with almost two weeks to go somewhere with our caravan, but not abroad – and most of the caravan sites in this country are fully booked.

My biggest problem is lack of motivation – and lack of energy. Of course, I know the answer, which is to get outside and start towing our caravan again. Sadly, our caravan is going in (again) to the workshop for serious repairs in early September so this also limits our travelling in the short term. Buying a van and camping in the wild is a possible option as it would save us a fortune in site fees and towing costs (refer to: http://www.alsblog.co.uk/what_to_buy.html and: http://www.alsblog.co.uk/home_in_a_van.html). Another alternative may be: http://www.alsblog.co.uk/HolidayHome.html which I'm considering as I write this.

I'm also really up against it when it comes to going touring, especially for long periods, as Grace hates caravanning and hates being away from home for more than a couple or so weeks. This is exactly opposite to my ideal way of life which is to keep on the move indefinitely, or, at the very least, sell our home in the UK and live abroad in the sunshine and go touring from there. I can understand Grace wanting to keep a home in the UK, of course, but we don't have sufficient funds to buy an additional home abroad and run two homes (renting out one's UK home not being a very good idea).

In recent times, most things cause me to think "I can't be bothered". Part of this must be due to having to stay at home for most of the 'lockdown' period, part of it due to the weather we have in the UK and part because I'm getting old and losing my self-confidence – some of this also being caused by not going out – a vicious circle. Sadly, this negativity is eating away at me to the point where I'm sometimes looking at something, either on-line or in one of my books, and I soon stop looking, thinking "What's the point?" For example, I'll pick up one of my many travel guides for a few minutes before I realise there is no point reading about the place as going there just isn't going to happen.

What Grace fails to understand is that I'm much nearer to the end of my life than she is. I need to make the most of what little time I've got left while I've got the good health to do so. Living here, rotting away in the UK, is not my scene at all. Of course, I could go travelling alone but what enjoyment is there in that? I married Grace to spend my life with her – not alone.

I hate being in the same place for very long. Grace would rather be stuck here in the misery of the UK instead of spending the winter in the sunshine in our caravan in Morocco or Portugal, then going touring Europe during the spring and summer. I can't get my head round that at all. In fact, I would never choose to live in the UK at all – ever! I'm only here by force of circumstance and fully understand why so many British people leave this country every year for a better life elsewhere. I'm being held here very much against my own will and better judgement – and how I HATE it – with a passion.

All comments on my blog should be addressed to: enquiries@alsblog.co.uk