Lost Weekend

ButlinsI was supposed to have spent this past weekend at Butlins in Skegness – a typically bracing English seaside resort. Strange choice for December, I can hear you say. Normally I’d agree with you, as a holiday camp wouldn’t be my first choice for a holiday, and certainly not at this time of year. But I had booked to go to the Great British Folk Weekend which, as you can see from the poster, boasted an array of folk artists that would do any of the more traditional folk festivals proud. I was really looking forward to this, even, rather sadly, to the train journey to get there – there’s a small child in us all! But I didn’t go.

Why not? The simple answer is that my body let me down. I have suffered from migraines since I was 15 and it was just my luck that one launched itself at me on Friday, when I was due to travel. I don’t have experience of an Exocet attack (!) but when I get a migraine it feels like I imagine that would be: something hits me completely out of the blue and I feel instantly debilitated. When I get the full works I endure not just the incredible pain of the headache, but also sickness, the aura affecting my vision to the point where it would be unsafe to be outdoors, and the heightened sensitivity to light and sound. And this all lasts for two to three days. So instead of a convivial weekend in good company, listening to some great live music, I spent the time at home, largely in darkness on Friday and Saturday.

Why am I telling you this? To be honest I’m not entirely sure! I’m not looking for sympathy – anyone who is also susceptible to migraines will recognise this as an unfortunate part of our lives that we just have to go through. In any event, you only have to open the paper or switch on the TV to see many people who deserve your sympathy much more than I do. I don’t treat this blog as a diary, as I don’t have the discipline to write every day, but there is an element of that in this post. I felt the need to record my disappointment, for that is all it is: disappointment at the loss of something I knew I would have enjoyed, that would have enabled me to make some new friends and widen my horizons. But there will be other opportunities to do that. My real disappointment is the sense of not being able to trust my health. For many people, this is something they face everyday and I have the utmost admiration for them. But this is something that doesn’t happen to me.

But now it does, and I’m finding that this small event is causing me to think a lot about my life. It has made me more wary of booking ahead for things, in case I have to miss them. That looks really pathetic and stupid now that I can see it on my screen, but I can’t rid myself of the thought. I suppose this is one of the less good parts of retirement and the aging process: I’m only 61 but I’ve never been older than I am today and I need to rethink my approach. Amazing that what counts for me as a deep thought process can result from one migraine, isn’t it? But this one is symbolic for me. It is a kind of sign – that I should re-evaluate my lifestyle and what I need to do. It’s not as though I can prevent migraines occurring, but maybe if I was thinner and fitter I’d be better able to withstand them? I know this is sound advice for myself and really intend to take it seriously.

Oh, but Christmas is only 16 days away, with all the culinary temptations that it brings. Perhaps I should start cutting back and forego those temptations. But New Year closely follows, so I can make this a New Year Resolution, can’t I? No need to cause myself additional suffering, is there? So it’s sorted then. My new approach is:

When in doubt, procrastinate!

…….But I Feel Fine


But not that actively!

It has taken me longer than I intended to make this post. If you can cast your mind back to the end of August I published the first of two planned pieces on research into our attitudes towards retirement which had been carried out by the Skipton Building Society. And in case you can’t, or you somehow managed to miss it (!), you can find the post at It’s The End Of The World As We Know It……. and the Skipton Research by clicking this link – you’ll need to scroll down the page a bit.

In that post I looked at the negative aspects of our view of retirement, and promised to complete the two-parter with the positives. And here I am!

As I said previously, the research was roughly 2:1 in favour of positive thoughts about retirement. In total, there were 13 positive words and phrases, which were:

Carefree, Relaxing, Holidays, Family Time, Golden years, Stress-free, Exciting, Fun, Wonderful, Quiet, One long holiday, Adventurous, Idyllic

You’ll be delighted to know that I don’t intend to work through these one by one. as they tend to overlap and form one overall picture. In short, if you’ve done your planning and are prepared for retirement, it is this:


Alright, it may not be all about football (though that does feature a lot in my life!) but if you listen to the words they talk about taking the chance to enjoy yourself when it comes along. If that isn’t at retirement then I don’t know when it could be! If football isn’t your thing – and yes, American readers, I’m sorry but that really IS football! – then maybe this will sum up for you what people said in the survey:


There are so many versions of that song, which conveys the ‘let’s have fun’ approach that so many think of when they consider retirement. I love this version, though I’ve never understood why Mr Porter was wearing a wetsuit underneath his clothes. Anyone know why?

By now you’ll probably have gathered that I agree with those who said all those good words about what retirement can mean. I’ve had just over a year and have loved every minute of it so far. Well, maybe not the penalty shootout at Wembley in May, but everything else. I did my planning and preparation and, whilst I have to keep to a budget and avoid any wild spending sprees, I have enough to live on and can enjoy my retirement. I know I was lucky enough to stumble into employment with a good pension scheme, but as I’ve said before I invested a lot in it and feel that I’ve earned some time enjoying myself. I can recommend it! There are some minor downsides though: as I get older I do tend to forget things, and often have to check what day of the week it is, for example – but at least I can always tell when it is the weekend: the newspapers are much heavier and there’s footy on the telly all afternoon!

imageSomeone once described the retired person’s week as comprising 6 Saturdays and a Sunday, which I think sums it up rather well. Looking back at the survey results, I do feel carefree and relaxed just about all of the time. I can balance the quieter times at home on my own with forays into the big wide world – family, friends, our local town centre, London, Leyton Orient, music, theatre etc. I’ve got myself a decent camera for the first time in my life and am learning how to use it and to take ‘proper’ photographs for a change, rather than the snaps I have so far managed on my iPhone. If you’re really lucky I may share some with you one day – unless you pay me large amounts of money not to! I’ve just signed up for an online course to learn how to develop apps for iPhones and iPads (other tech brands are available – but you’d prefer the best, right?). I’m going to learn to play a musical instrument. I’m planning to write more, not just on here but other kinds of writing too – though that is some way off, I’ll admit. And no doubt I’ll come up with other ways to occupy my time in a way I enjoy. That, to me, is the essence of retirement: the ability to choose what I want to do and when, and to give it up if I don’t like it.


My Butlins weekend

One of the words that came up in the survey surprised me a little: Adventurous. I’ve never thought of myself as being the adventurous type, and after 61 years of mundane normality I think it unlikely I’ll change now. Unless, of course, you count my having made a booking for Butlins. In Skegness. In December. For those who don’t know Skeggy – which I guess is anyone outside the UK – it is one of the old style English seaside towns, whose main claim to fame is that it had one of the first Butlins holiday camps when they started in the 1950s. It doesn’t enjoy quite the same cachet as, say, St Tropez, Bondi Beach or Malibu. Its reputation is more like the Jeremy Kyle Show on holiday – or Jerry Springer, if that means more to you. To be fair, I’ve only been there once before, for work reasons. It was in August, in the British summer – allegedly. Even with my extremely low centre of gravity I was almost blown away in the gentle breezes that crash in off the North Sea! Not quite Hurricane Gonzalo, more like Windy Wilfred, but it certainly lived up to its reputation as being ‘bracing.’ I’m not going for a seaside holiday though – they run a number of themed music weekends throughout the year, and I’ve booked on one of those. Again, if you behave yourselves, I’ll tell you more after I’ve been.

Until then I’ll continue to enjoy my retirement and hope that you do too, if you are already in that fortuitous situation. If not, enjoy whatever life brings you. Hi-De-Hi!