Alan's Blog




Time, or Time-Up!

Time. We all live lives that are far too busy. Many people are chasing more and more money so they can buy more and more things that they think will make them happy. Another reason why so may married ladies and mothers go out to work. We're all too busy chasing money – and most families need a double income on which to survive. Recently, one of our friends
e-mailed me to say “ The more you earn the more you spend! And worry about acquiring more!“. Of course, I realise there are other practicalities involved too but our lives are far too complicated and busy. That is the point I'm making.

When I lived in the Philippines for some years, one of the folks I knew had the right idea. He was from Norway and was probably aged under 40 years. He'd written a computer program to run an industrial plant and sold it to a large international coffee company. He also received some form of 'royalty' payments for updates and modifications. Instead of banking the money and working on the updates and writing other programmes for other companies, and becoming quite wealthy by doing so, he spent most of this income on hiring someone else (a university professor) to maintain and update the programme(s). The rest of the money he used to support himself and his girlfriend in the Philippines. He used to fly to Europe once a year to talk with his client(s) and the person who did the work for him. The rest of his time was spent doing exactly what he wanted to do – chilling out in the Philippines where he lived a very simple, low cost, stress-free life. I often used to chat with him when we happened to meet in one of the restaurants by the shore of Subic Bay.

Another person I knew in the Philippines was telling me a story about the way that some Filipino's work. He compared their attitude towards life with ours. One of the fisherman he knew caught a massive load of fish one day and sold it for Php 20 000 – a lot of money for a catch of fish (towards the end of 1999). He went on to say that whereas he, as an Englishman, would have been out in his boat the next day to see if he could make another big catch, the local fisherman sat around doing nothing (or, as he put it; drinking beer!) until the money ran out after which he'd go out fishing again. Good for fish conservation maybe but also a massive contrast in attitudes towards work. Maybe they have the right attitude. Live a simple life and spend more time with family and friends. Who can criticise that?

Most of us, by far, are brought up to work, work, work. This gives us no time (and energy) to think about or do other things, which is what our evil leaders want more than anything as we don't have time to consider what is really going on in the world and have no energy to do anything about it anyway. It also means we have no time and energy for spending time and doing things with our families and friends, beyond the odd times when we can take a holiday - during which time we just about recharge our 'batteries' ready to go back to work again. If you remember, during the summer of 2016, JP and I rode our bicycles along the path by the River Rhine for five weeks. It was an amazing experience for both of us. Prior to that I hadn't been working for about 2.5 years, in part because we were caring for Annelise. However, after Annelise had gone to Heaven, I had the time and energy (and motivation) to plan, organise and carry out this wonderful trip. During this particular summer, a year after our trip, I managed to take 3.5 weeks holiday and spent the first two weeks recovering from the effort I'd put into my job. I wasn't fit to do anything, let alone undertake a long bicycle trip. After that two week period of resting, where I had no motivation or energy to do anything, I was ready to take on some sort of travelling experience – but there was too little time left to do anything worthwhile. Isn't that sad?

As I mentioned previously, a few weeks ago we were sitting eating dinner one evening when I made an announcement that frightened Grace half to death and gave JP cause to cheer! I announced that as soon as JP was allowed to leave school (at age 16) we were off on our travels. Hitch up our caravan and go! What has really annoyed me is that I have recently found out that the law has changed and JP is not allowed to leave some form of education until he's aged 18 years. That is 6 years away, instead of 4, and I will be aged 74! This is not good news. I don't know how to overcome that at present. Any suggestions? Apart from taking him out of his draconian school in the near future and educating him as we go along there doesn't seem to be a practical answer – especially as there is no way that JP would study as we travelled. If it wasn't for his education there is no way I'd tolerate living in England – especially in the winter. At this time of year, Autum and Winter, we'd be heading for southern Spain for the winter, taking our time and visiting interesting places ènroute. After the winter had passed, and spring was forthcoming, we'd be off on our travels, touring Europe, heading north and east as the weather improved and the temperature increased. As far as I'm concerned, we may never return to the UK. As JP and Grace would be with me there would be no reason to do so as there is nothing in this country for me. In many ways, this would give JP a far better education than attending school.

If I'm still here at the age of 74 it would be great to have JP along to help his old dad with the driving and the various tasks associated with living in a caravan. However, I haven't given up on the idea of taking him out of school at the age of 16 - or earlier. I'm looking into the situation if we are non-resident. In fact, most European countries permit children to leave school at the age of 16 – some even at 15! The great thing is that he can always continue his education at a later stage in his life – perhaps when he is better able to decide what he really wants to do in life.

There are so many opportunities open to people these days, so JP can make his life into whatever he wants it to be. I wish I was much younger so I could take advantage of them too! So many people I've met have changed their lives by getting educated or reeducated later in life and taking a different path in their career.

When I left school in May 1965, life was rather different. I left school with nothing to say I'd even attended but my father managed to get me an apprenticeship (5 years) as an industrial electrician and I built on this opportunity. If I hadn't done that, I'd have been stuffed. I was one of the lucky ones. Fortunately, I managed to stick it out and make a go of it. There were few other options in those days. Others from my school went on to become a car mechanic, painter/ decorator, bricklayer, compositor, and one, a chartered accountant. Many others took more menial jobs. In my parents generation most working class children left school at the age of 14. My father was lucky as his parents were just able to pay a local business to accept him as an apprentice plumber and electrician for seven years. Yes, they had to pay! That was the way it was in those days. Both my grandfathers served in the trenches in World War I. They had little education and no trade. They survived by doing any job they could get. Working class people had few choices to make in the days of my parents and grandparents. It was a case of working hard just to survive.

And look what happens when we get to the age where we are no longer able to work. We get a miserly pension that is barely enough to pay the bills. We're burned out and in bad health to the extent that we're not fit to enjoy our retirement - and some don't even get that far! One of my former colleagues bought a VW camper van a few years before he was due to retire. He never used it even for holidays. Around the age when he was due to retire he died from cancer - his campervan unused.

Another of my former colleagues lived in a company house. Before retiring he bought an old country cottage and spent every moment he had available restoring it - including adding another floor. He made it really lovely. Shortly after retiring he passed away, his wife sold the property and moved in with their son and his family. What a waste of all his hard work. He'd worked himself to death and never lived to fully enjoy his home.

Of course, I wouldn't encourage anyone to go to work at all if they can possibly afford not to. Work is a scourge as far as I'm concerned. A necessary evil for people without money. A chore. A blight on our lives and on the lives of our families. An entire waste of our precious short lives. And by the time that one can just about afford to stop working, having paid off all our debts, there is precious little time left in which to enjoy life and the financial resources one has are usually extremely limited; health may be a problem and energy levels are flagging – as is motivation and, to a large extent, the self-confidence required to take on the things that one would really like to do. Isn't that sad? Work hard for 50 years or more and then lie down and wait to die! That's the reality of what is expected of us.

I think the Filipino fisherman got it right after all.


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