Thursday, 24 May 2018

The R Word

When I finally quit teaching at the school where I had been working, on and off, for about fifteen years, a few people asked if I was retiring. "Retiring?" I replied, shocked. "I'm far too young for that!"

As a child, retirement was something people did when they were tired of work and practically had one foot in the grave. It meant you were seriously old. You had finished with life. Early retirement was for the sick and pools winners.

Now, things have changed. A number of our friends have taken retirement, ready to potter at home and complete all those projects they've been contemplating for years. (Their partners would quite like them to get on and *do* said projects, but that's another matter.) Others have retired in the sense that they have given up paid work but now got on with life, walking the length of the River Thames or trying to visit every gin joint in London. None of them are what I would consider old - and I don't mean that in a biological sense, but more in a psychological sense. They don't have an old attitude.

Back at university, I was looking at the effect of personality on retirement; the conclusion I quickly came to was that if your job was everything in your life, then retiring was a disaster. You lost everything and waited to die. If, on the other hand, you had plenty of other interests in addition to going to work, then retirement would simply allow these other interests to expand to fill the time newly available.

It is all too clear that not everyone has what I would consider to be a good work-life balance, but perhaps now - or perhaps it's simply in this village - there is more opportunity to have other interests, helping people to keep that youthful attitude. Age, more than ever, is a state of mind and retirement is something that appeals once financial commitments have diminished.

I certainly wonder now how on earth I held down a full-time job, I am so busy with other things. Though I still haven't retired. I'm just doing different things, some of which earn me some money.

Speaking of which, have you got your tickets yet for the BCOS production of Chess? Friday is already sold out.... More info here.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

A worthwhile pride

I'm just back from a long weekend in Madrid. After the initial metro journey from the airport to the hotel, we resorted to Shanks's Pony for the rest of the trip, even walking back from the concert that finished at 11.45pm. (It was warm, it would only take 40 minutes, why not?)

Madrid is not the largest of cities, but it is a capital, and it does attract tourists. Standing in line for the free entry to the Thyssen Museum, several languages and accents could be heard. So it is perhaps not surprising that they want to keep the city looking good.

How does one achieve that? Sunshine certainly helped, but there were other measures taken by the city council and planners.

Several of the buildings that were undergoing renovation had scaffolding on, but a wraparound facade was then attached so that from a distance, the building looked unaffected. Immediately the city looked neater and less like a building site.

But also, on many of our café stops, we watched council employees in hi-vis jackets working at keeping the city clean and free of litter.

I know that employing such people costs money, but they perform a greater service than simply sweeping the road and/or pavement. They are highly visible, thus providing a deterrent to petty crime, and they know the area, so that tourists can - and do - ask for directions. They are also in a position to report on damage to street signs etc.

I do acknowledge that there are other things councils could be spending money on - filling in the potholes so that the road surfaces are less hazardous for cars and cyclists would be high on the list - but demonstrating a little pride in our surroundings, and making the urban environment better for its users, in addition to provide work for unskilled labourers, has to be worth considering.