Alan's Blog





I always admire old people who somehow have a great deal of energy – even well into their 70s and 80s. In many of these cases they continue to 'work', never retiring. As I was beginning to write this, the headline "Long-time Schnitzer BMW team boss Charly Lamm has died suddenly at the age of 63" that I'd read earlier came to mind (refer to URL: Charlie had worked fanatically hard since he joined the team whilst still at university, and had even worked for them whilst still at school. Within a short time of retiring to have a 'calmer' life, he died.

This scenario seems to be quite common. I remember what Steve Redgrave, the former Olympic seven times gold medal winner said during an interview some years ago after announcing his retirement. When asked if he was going to stop rowing altogether, he said that if he did that, he'd be dead within two years. His wife, a medical doctor, had informed him of this and that he should continue his rowing, gradually reducing it, over at least a two-year period.

I well remember Fred, a man I worked with many years ago just after I'd left school. He'd bought an old bungalow style cottage and spent all his spare time rebuilding it – even adding a new extra floor. He was doing this in his 60s so that he and his wife would have a home in which to live after he'd retired. He did all the work himself. Many is the time I looked at him and was quite alarmed by his grey countenance and haggard look. He completed the re-build and they moved in. Soon afterwards, he died. The house was sold and his wife moved in with their son. All Fred's incredibly hard work wasted.

A few weeks ago, I spoke to John, who'd recently retired. He encouraged me to continue working and not retire. His reason for saying that was that he had nothing to do – almost like he had no reason to continue living and that he was now waiting to die. He'd taken up art, painting, but I could tell that he had no real interest in it – it was something to do whilst the rest of his life passed. There may well have been other things he'd like to have done but he had no spare money, which is common amongst people living on a small pension.

More recently, I talked to Martin, an engineer with whom I worked. He said he'd never retire as he had no hobbies and therefore had nothing to do after he'd stopped working. It was his work that kept him going.

One of the reasons that women usually outlive their husbands is because they spend a lot of time and energy looking after the family. That is their work. Often, they will look after their grand-children, or even great-grand-children, particularly if the parents have jobs to go to. This is, typically, the women's traditional role whereas, once her husband has retired, he has nothing much to do and feels that he isn't needed anymore. He gives up and dies.

For me, the choices I have are much more limited. I work because I have to in order to support my family. I suppose having a teenage son at my age is far from the norm. Although my pensions would just about support Grace and me, it certainly wouldn't be enough to support all three of us (and our dog!). So, I have to keep working. Unlike many of the cases I've mentioned and many more that I haven't, I do have lots of things to do when I retire. If I could, I'd be off on my travels with our caravan right now, travelling Europe with my camera at the ready and writing about our experiences. I'm ready to go, but JP's education has to be my main priority at present. I just hope I have the good health and strength – and motivation to get moving as soon as he finishes his education.

As I get older, there are many times that I've said to myself "I can't be bothered" to do whatever it was that came to mind. In many cases, this is because the weather is so horrendous in the UK that I can't be bothered to go out into the freezing cold or pouring rain – which is always something of a blight when it comes to taking photographs. I take one look out of the window and think "never mind".

I have lots of photographic (and writing) projects that I'd like to get stuck into but the weather is just too awful to even consider doing them. I just need the sunshine and warmth to bring me back to life once more – and this would certainly help my health too. How I miss living in hot countries. I can't imagine why anyone chooses to live in the UK when there are so many other places in which to live that are warm and sunny. I think much of my lost energy would return if I lived somewhere warm and sunny. In particular, it's the grey, miserable, wet days that are the worst – which is most days. I can cope better with blue skies, cold and snow than the misery of the wet grey days.

One of the things that helps to keep me going is reading books from my collection of about 300 guide books – about a quarter of my library (and thousands more in eBook format). In my mind I can escape to the sunshine through the pages of my books. Looking at the photographs of places I want to visit one day; looking at maps of the routes I want to travel in my life as a gypsy. I've never found it easy to settle in one place for any lengthy period of time. I always want to be moving on to somewhere else, which is why having a caravan is such a necessity for me. I could live very happily in our caravan – permanently, rather like Liliana and Emil Schmid who have been travelling the world in their Toyota Land Cruiser for more than 34 years (refer to URL: and still continue to do so despite their advancing years – Liliana is 77 and Emil a little older. Good for them! They are currently travelling in South America.

Quite frequently, when we're all travelling out and about for the day in my car, I think how wonderful it would be if we could just continue our travels. Just point the car and GO! How wonderful it would be if, as we were driving along, I could continue our drive and end up in Italy, or Spain, or Greece or anywhere else we felt like going to, instead of returning to our home in miserable England. That's what would really motivate me!


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