Retirement: Four Months In

DucksFirst thought: who would have thought it? I should have marked the first three months, or quarter-year, in June, but it passed by almost unnoticed. I see from my diary that on 20 June I was recovering from (and writing up) the giddy excitement of my jaunt to Sheffield, wimpishly failed to go to the Castle Hill open day because it was raining, and had a friend round to tea.

This reminds me of a strange phenomenon: when I was at work I barely needed a diary, except for things like dental appointments. Now I have a pocket diary in which to note upcoming things, and a larger book for recording past events. Without rigorous use of these two, I cannot function, because my memory is getting so bad.

Vital tools for the new life.

Vital tools for the new life.

I suppose an advantage of work was that, five days out of seven, from 8 a.m.-ish to 6 p.m.-ish, I would be at my desk, or clocking up pedestrian miles in the wider office, and didn’t therefore need to self-organise to any degree. But now that the world is my oyster-bed, the individual oysters need careful regimentation.

Oysters Joke

Another other strange phenomenon is my sleep pattern. I have a firm belief that I got all behind with sleep fifty-odd years ago while revising for my A-level exams (one of my recurring nightmares is having to re-sit either these or my finals, being unable to persuade anyone that I’ve already done both), and have never caught up since. I was actually once diagnosed – after weeks of falling asleep in the stacks in the University Library – with narcolepsy, though I’m fairly sure this was an error.

The University Library should not be conducive to sleep...

The University Library should not be conducive to sleep…

Child-rearing made it worse, of course: it is a miracle that none of my children drowned in the bath, given the number of times I fell asleep on the bathroom floor while they were innocently splashing around. And I have vivid memories of the child who enjoyed being read to hitting me and shouting ‘Wake up, Mummy!’ as I slumped over the gripping social and ethical drama that is Miffy’s Birthday

I have always known that I was much more of an owl than a lark – though I don’t think many owls usually go to bed at ten o’clock at night. (I love having lots of candles with both ends intact.) But what is mildly interesting (to me, at any rate) is that – if I’m not woken up in the middle of the night (yes, Max the Cat, this means you) – I regularly become compos mentis at about 8.30 a.m.

Don't believe a word of it...

Don’t believe a word of it…

Even if I’m sort-of awake beforehand, it is at about that time that I really feel I don’t need any more sleep and can face the day. (This explains why I so often noticed, on arrival at work, that I wasn’t wearing the clothes I had intended to put on (though thankfully I was usually wearing some clothes): the brain–eye link had clearly not kicked in at 7.30.) I wonder when I’m going to get to the stage of Old Personhood when I don’t need so much sleep – certainly no signs yet, which is a pity.

So, what have I done? I have had one trip abroad, one trip to Sheffield, eleven trips to London, some local jaunts, and innumerable visits to the Cambridge University Botanic Garden and the Fitzwilliam Museum. I have attended talks, lectures, seminars and walks. I have posted 39 blogs, and some of them have even been read. (Thanks – you know who you are!) I have – strange and indeed thrillingly illicit sensation – met friends for lunch or coffee on weekdays, though not as often as I would like to, as they are mostly still respectable people with jobs rather than layabouts like me.

My garden is rather tidier than it was wont to be, and my tomatoes look a bit more loved.

The back garden.

A bit of the back garden.

Super-Marmande, looking promising...

Super-Marmande, looking promising…

I’m taking lots of photos and am hovering on the brink of getting a real camera. Various knitting projects are proceeding well,

Work in progress...

Work in progress…

and I’m reacquainting myself with weekday Radio 3 – a not unmixed blessing, since they seem to have brought in chat shows in the mornings while my back was turned …

But the thing I really haven’t succeeded in is serious reading. I’m less than halfway through my Christmas haul, to say nothing of items that have accumulated since.

The pending pile.

The pending pile.

Is this because I haven’t recovered yet from the last six years of necessary skim-reading, making it difficult to concentrate on anything that needs thinking about (as opposed to re-reading familiar fiction, which acquires very little effort)? Or is it because I’m gadding about so much that I don’t have time to sit down and get stuck in? Since the one unmitigated good I had been looking forward to was uninterrupted books, this is very disconcerting, but I hope I’ll work my way back into it.

And I’m still thinking about volunteering on a regular basis for an indeterminate Something – but how will I find the time?


This entry was posted in Cambridge, Gardens, London, Museums and Galleries and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Retirement: Four Months In

  1. Liz says:

    Recently I’ve been having the textbook ‘I have to read 5 works in the original Greek for this final exam and can’t work out what they say’ dream :-/ Hope it goes away when I’ve finally moved house!


  2. KasimsKorner says:

    Wow that’s one hell of a load of books to catch up on… If you ever manage to get through those, I’m a writer myself, short stories and poetry is kind of my thing. I’ve got a novel in the works too, hopefully manage to keep working on that and get that done ASAP. If you’re interested, I’d love for you to check out my blog ( If not, thanks anyway and have a good day and keep blogging!


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