Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Mem Speaks: Surviving Retirement


Hello dears! You may not know who I am, but my name is Letty Moseley. I live in Moseley Towers in Oxford Road with my husband Wilfred, retired MD of Moseley Engineering and formerly of the Queen’s Hussars. Wilfred writes pieces for this weblog and sometimes for Birmingham 13. You may know him as Colonel Moseley and me as “the Mem”.

Last week we had just watched Countdown and were having tea and some of Wilfred’s favourite Mr Kipling Country Slices, when I happened to comment on how that Des Lynam with the moustache and twinkling eyes was appealing to ladies of a certain age.

Given the adulation lavished on Carol Vorderman by Wilfred most afternoons, this seemed entirely reasonable. Surprisingly, however, my innocent remark seemed to unleash the green-eyed monster in Wilfred – for the first time since a young subaltern had asked for one valeta too many in a dance in the officers mess in Poona all those years before the war.

I may be flattering myself, but whatever the cause, this put Wilfred in a jolly bad mood. Trying to change the subject, I made what I thought was a constructive comment on his last piece. But like the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, one thing led to another and Wilfred flounced out proclaiming “Well, old girl, if you can do better, have a go yourself” and I said “Alright then, if that’s how you feel, I will!” So here I am.

The trouble is, unlike my Wilfred, I don’t really hold myself out as an expert on anything in particular. After racking my brain, I suppose there is one thing I am qualified to advise on more than anyone else. So here are my top ten tips on how to survive retirement:

1. Make sure he has a hobby: after all those years of concentration at work, he needs something interesting to occupy and absorb him, whether it’s pigeons, fretwork or brass-rubbing.
2. Get him out from under your feet: try to find him some activity that’s extra-mural. Golf, walking or bowls mean you have some free time in the house again.
3. Get a dog: dogs provide companionship and require exercising to varying degrees out of the house.
4. Take holidays: if you are fortunate enough to be able to afford it, get away occasionally. A change of scene and some sunshine does wonders.
5. Allow him friends: retirement shouldn’t be a prison sentence or solitary confinement. Try not to lose contact with all the friends from your working days and hopefully make some new ones together in retirement.
6. Stay well: the key to everything is good health, so try to keep agile in mind and body and keep off the sherry until after six
7. Have fun: if you are healthy, solvent and together, celebrate it and look on the bright side. A good laugh is most definitely the best medicine
8. Do some things together: it’s good to have some “us” time as well as “me” time, so make a point of doing what you both enjoy at the same time. This doesn’t mean twin bob sleighing down the Cresta Run, but could include ballroom dancing, whist or bridge
9. Break the routine: you’ve got this far together, so don’t make the mistake of getting into a boring rut. From time to time do something new or off-the-wall. Keep trying new things: food, books, films, clothes, trips...whatever. Just because you’ve reached a certain age doesn’t mean your mind is closed.
10. Keep romance alive: much as they pretend it is, love is not the sole preserve of the young. The odd compliment, bunch of flowers or candle-lit supper for two alone can do wonders for morale.

Remember you’re a person, not just a pensioner! I had better go and give Wilfred a large gin and tonic before supper. Bye, dears

* a version of this article has appeared in Birmingham 13

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