|27/07/2012||Filled under England, family, house refurbishment, Retirement, sailing|
My leisure-time reading has just taken me to a book by Mike Carter, a man who cycled around Britain a few years ago, coincidentally going the same way around the country as we did on Cirrus Cat, anticlockwise. As it happens his journey took place during the same summer as well, which may account for the fact that the conclusions he draws on the state of the country, and the welcoming attitude of its people, were very similar to our own. But of all those he met and wrote about I was most struck by his account of Steve, the ferryman who takes passengers across Salcombe Harbour in Devon. Himself a well-travelled cyclist, the simple wisdom of this man almost took my breath away. His view of life and of how he feels we should view life’s many challenges, made me re-read this section of the book several times until I had committed to memory something I felt I should take away with me. “Finishing lines are good”, the author quotes, “but their most important role is to get you over the start line in the first place.” How true this rings today when too often we are focussed upon goals and achievements, so many of which are meaningless in their own right, when it is the journey itself that is important.
Our son Mike’s journey is now complete and whilst Kate is supervising his introduction to Carradale life, something he seems to be taking to rather well, I am wrestling with the estate agents dealing with the sale of my mother’s house down south here in England. I feel as though I am having to push through treacle to get anyone, solicitors included, to even attempt to speed things up. It is as if the whole English sale and purchase system is geared towards sloth and even to suggest that things could be done quicker is met with surprise and alarm, horror even. Small wonder the housing market is in recession at the moment. The contrast with the more efficient Scottish house buying and selling process, where much of the work is done up front by the seller, is self evident and I know which I prefer. Estate agents, however, are of the same mettle all over the universe.
I take a weekend off to visit friends Rich and Gerry and help them celebrate Rich’s retirement from full-time work. Joining us is the other Richard whose retirement last year we tried to celebrate in a weekend of sailing on the sheltered waters of the River Swale in Kent, and when due to atrocious weather we were forced indoors. This time around the weather looks far more favourably upon us and in the middle of a brief heat-wave, we all take to the water on board Waxywoo II and Courageous, respectively a yacht and a sailing dinghy. The silt-laden waters of the Swale and the River Medway are places where traditional sailing boats are plentiful so it is far from unusual to pass by some beautifully restored piece of floating wooden history like this ancient fishing smack. Our own craft are a little more modern but over two days on the water we manage to sail, swim, potter around a few creeks on the Isle of Sheppey and generally have a ‘Swallows & Amazons’ type adventure with plenty of scrapes and jolly fun. Just what I need to take my mind off the madness of house removals.
Rich and Gerry generously feed and water me at their Dungate home where we find that in our absence, Wendy, one of the badger-faced ewes who live in the orchard behind their house, has given us a real treat by producing two fine lambs. She manages the whole business entirely on her own, with no human help, so we are very proud of her, although she does look a little sheepish in this picture.
Hovering expectantly around the comfortable barn where Wendy had installed herself was our old friend Hot Horns, a ram who loves having his thick coat tickled just behind his head. In fact he is tolerant of almost any human attention he can get and although he wasn’t saying much one has to wonder whether he was an active participant in Wendy’s big event.
My mother is now finally re-locating, making the long journey north, and will stay in our home until she can take up residence in the house next door which she is buying for herself. She has great plans, naturally, to add new features here and there, to decorate the place to her own taste throughout, to tame the wilderness that is the garden, and no doubt there will be a long list of other jobs in the months to come. Once again a member of our family plunges into a house renovation project. Mere age alone cannot stop this – it is in our genes, I fear. At least it will take Mum’s mind off of the fact that she has left behind the over-crowded warmth of south-eastern Britain with its tame hedgerows and tightly clipped lawns as she struggles to adjust her eyes to the rather less kempt surroundings of the scenic Highlands with its dramatic views and rugged mountains.
The final part of her journey is inside the fuselage of a twin-engine Otter aircraft piloted by a lady we all assume is the air hostess… until she takes her position in the driving seat. Flying in a plane this size is flying in the raw, intimate and noisy, unlike the insulated, flying-above-the-clouds Airbus 319 that brought us as far as Glasgow. Propellers whirling we pick up speed then spring into the air and level off just high enough to clear the chimney pots then head towards the Isle of Arran whose mountains loom at us on the horizon. This being a new experience for me my camera is shooting in every direction, sometimes capturing part of the plane in shot (oops, is that the wheel!) or sometimes a yacht sailing not far below us. At times we are so close to the ground that it feels like we might just bounce off it and a power station chimney we pass over looks almost close enough to touch. But we do clear the peaks of Arran then soon we are starting our descent to Campbeltown Airport where we make a gentle landing then taxi towards the tiny terminal building just as a fire engine rushes towards us – normal procedure, apparently.
Kate has driven out to meet us to complete this lengthy journey, the finish for me but the start line of a brand new journey for my mother.
|03/10/2011||Filled under Carradale, Retirement, Scotland|
In Carradale the one big event by which we residents can mark the passage of the seasons is over for another year, thus heralding the end of the holiday season and the slide towards winter. I write, of course, of the annual Duck Race, an event which brings the whole village together in one place to celebrate nothing less than the voyages of hundreds of small yellow plastic toys down a short stretch of Carradale Water. Pointless though this activity may seem, the event brings with it the kind of excitement normally reserved for a big football match or possibly an episode of Strictly Come Dancing (I speculate) as we all stand on the river bank cheering on the one we have chosen and named for the occasion. The organisers must have heaved a sigh of relief as this year we were blessed with superb weather, lots of sunshine and conditions underfoot along the river that needed only stout shoes and not, as so easily could have been the case, wellington boots. For twenty two years now (so I am told) this event has been a feature of village life, a way to raise church funds but also a social gathering par excellence. That it should take this bizarre pastime to bring us us all into one place at the same time is strangely British, I fear, but no less welcome for that.
Kate was unable to enjoy the day with me on this occasion as she was away in England visiting family. So there I was striving to complete the tiling around our new multi-fuel stove so that I could use it to take the chill off the evening, at which point it suddenly struck me that I was alone in our house here for the first time since we moved in. Maybe it was this that made me become reflective, to begin thinking that despite now being well into our third post-retirement year, something keeps peeping its head over my mental horizon, a slightly worrying thought that niggles away at me just when I ought to be relaxed and carefree. I am aware that the source of this comes from my working life for the years leading up to retirement which was, like that of many, a pressured, self-driven existence. This was not something I was particularly aware of at the time but it had become very much part of my mental landscape just the same. My working days never simply took care of themselves, they always had to start with a plan, sometimes concocted many days ahead, and then this measured afterwards against what had been achieved. If a day did not end with the satisfaction of progress being made towards its goal then it felt like a day wasted, one that ended with a real sense of disappointment. Worse than this was the fact that the goal still hung there with less time now to achieve it, pressure creating more pressure.
This was the treadmill which I walked, daily, and for so long that the behaviour had disappeared into my character; it became a part of my very being. It is as a result of this that today I do not find a state of relaxation very easy to achieve and despite no longer needing to, I find myself setting goals which I later measure against what I have done on the day. So why is it that I am still this way, more than two years after having to be? Why is it that, as our friend Paul would say, I still have ‘ants in my pants’?
Part of the answer to this may lie in what Kate and I have done with our lives since retiring, most of which is recorded in the pages of this blog. We have sailed extensively and travelled nomadically around the shores of the British Isles. We have lived abroad for a time, refurbished and re-decorated a house, then just this year moved north to God’s own country to do more of the same again. We have set ourselves targets and then driven ourselves towards achieving them, not against our wishes, I hasten to add, but nevertheless behaviour like this does not comply at all with the retiree stereotype; it looks more like we are still working! In our post-retirement lives there has always been something to do next, something to plan for, a journey to make or a task to perform.
We enjoy being this way, not fitting the mould is the way we think about life, it is what we are comfortable with. But what next? For the first time since retiring we have settled in one place, Carradale, a place we love and have no intention of leaving. We are beginning to live differently from the way we have lived over the last two years, a more settled existence. For the moment there is still plenty to do here, the jobs are queuing up for some months ahead – there is decorating to do, we have a new shed on the way and we are soon getting some roof windows fitted which will transform our tiny back bedroom into a workroom Kate can take over. But what is niggling away at me is whether I am equipped mentally for what is peering at me now, an end to our target-driven lifestyle when all the jobs are finished and all we have to look forward to is ‘normal’ life.
As I see it now, one of two things could happen. Either our whole personalities will change, the ‘ants in the pants’ will run away from us creating something new, something more in keeping with the populist view of our status, or else we will throw ourselves into new things, driving ourselves on into new adventures ever more bizarre and unlikely. Hmmm, I wonder which it will be.
|13/05/2010||Filled under Crinan, England, Retirement, Scotland, Yeovil|
After a brief visit to the property it will be ‘business as usual’ as we continue our sailing circumnavigation of Britain. Later in the year, however, this blog could well become something rather different as instead of bounding up and down mountains it is more likely to be a stepladder and instead of recounting tales of rushing rivers or twisted kneecaps it will be all about painted ceilings and plumbing elbows.
|19/04/2010||Filled under mountains, Mull, Retirement, Scotland|
|24/01/2010||Filled under France, Retirement|