I was a novice of sixty-five when I first hung up my gloves and placed my favourite chair determinedly close to the hearth. That new dictum of ‘behaviour in retirement’ took time to learn. I had to understand that my perception of retirement as a period of rest and dignity was not shared by others; that even as I was entering my sunset days of employment those around me were plotting my course from gold watch to dotage with meticulous care. The list, by the time I reached harbour on my final day, was writ large upon the wall.
In case you, my reader, have yet to encounter my situation, I will introduce a phrase to you that will become familiar: it begins “Now you’ve got more time on your hands…”
This clause cannot be argued: I had, at least initially, more time; I had always hoped that would be so. Nor could a constructive case be prepared to vie with the ensuing clause: the pavement of the patio did need repointing, the bathroom did need modifying, that kitchen was just SO last year, and the ton of rocks we had delivered in 1990 for the rockery were finally going to get moved then, weren’t they? All true.
Now I have acquainted you with the phrase and its possible conclusions, let me add a warning. Do not counter with a protest: “I was hoping to get a little time to myself,” or you will meet with the instant riposte:
“You need to keep active. I won’t allow you to just vegetate.”
Oh, patient reader, you know me by now. I am not sexist by nature – far from it. But this much is undeniable; women live longer than men, a truth that has gone unacknowledged most of your life, until you hit the wall of sixty-five. At sixty-five, as you long to melt into cabbage-like quiescence, the woman in your life will suddenly shift to a higher gear. She will buzz about the garden, hum over the floors with the vacuum, wash paintwork you had forgotten existed, join line-dancing classes and begin a Masters Degree with the Open University. She will tow you around the supermarket like a faithful if reluctant dog and around stately homes with vast gift shops which swallow you whole for hours while she peruses dried flowers, china ornaments and small, expensive packets of Jasmine soap.
You see the obvious conflict? You may observe this frantic, flitting creature with tolerant good humour, or with active distress, but never with indifference. Inevitably you will feel guilty. You are accustomed to keeping pace and no longer can, you feel required to enthuse when really you just want to sleep – somewhere, anywhere.
It is this tragic breakdown in human communication that drives men to abandon the comforts of home for long hours in snooker clubs, to plant allotments or live in sheds. Let’s be absolutely clear – no man wants to spend all day in a shed. A shed is a refuge, a place to plot the final steps on the downward spiral, arranging tools upon carefully constructed racks, or dousing the lawnmower with unnecessary oil. There is an unwritten law which says no man must be interrupted in a shed. This law is especially sacrosanct if the shed is also on an allotment. Allotments are sacred ground where men are able to indulge in certain sectarian rights not shared by the female sex, like the ‘Earthing Up’ ritual applied to asparagus, or the ‘Thinning of Carrots’.
Anyway, I found retirement to be illusory: my dream of rest from the daily toil was never realised, and all I could plead in its stead was a transformation from constructive career to demeaning labour. Retirement merely served to rob of me of any sense of self worth or self confidence, forcing me to face my inadequacies. All of which, come to think of it, was ideal preparation for the official new status I shall now enjoy: that of Advanced Septuagenarian. Incapable of lifting another rock, getting down far enough to repoint a patio, or walking the distance to my allotment, at last I can claim sanctuary within my own four walls.
My list is completed. There is more to do but I can no longer do it. I am officially worn out!
© Frederick Anderson 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content