Monday, 29 June 2015

Time of Our Lives

The BBC has recently added a new programme for retired people to its radio schedule.  Entitled “Time of Our Lives,” this weekly show includes studio interviews with retired people as well as features from external locations about all kinds of activities and pastimes.

The broadcaster’s own description of the programme is that it is about “life stories, experiences, and ambitions of older people in Northern Ireland.”
It occupies a prime slot on Sunday afternoons and lasts for one hour.  
Being broadcast on Radio Ulster, it is accessible globally live on-line.  In addition, programmes from each of the last four weeks can be listened to again on the station’s i-player.

The programme includes a four-minute section when a retired person is invited to chat about what retired life has to offer.   
A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate to be asked to contribute my tuppence worth. [1]  The following is a copy of my script.

The joys of retirement

What is there not to like about being retired?

Our pensions may never make us as well-off as modern sports-stars or as rich as bankers with their bonuses.  What we can do, however, is to celebrate the important things that make life beautiful.

Everybody loves free stuff.  
I used my bus pass in March to go by train from Belfast to Dublin and back for free.  This was to watch Ireland play France in the 6 Nations.  I used it previously to travel from Belfast to attend magnificent free events (the Turner Prize, the Fleadh Cheoil and the Lumière) in the UK City of Culture.

One of the first things I did after retiring was to buy a shiny new road bicycle.  Expensive?  Certainly.  Fortunately, my bus pass compensates when I take the scenic route down the Ards peninsula and my pass gets me across from Strangford to Portaferry free on the car ferry.  
Bonus points are rewarded to the over 60’s for reduced carbon footprint.

When I do have to pay, I rarely have to fork out the full price.  Being retired, I get discounts in cinemas and likewise to attend orchestral concerts in the Ulster Hall.  On such occasions, I tolerate (reluctantly) the otherwise pejorative term OAP.

Pensioners can attend night-classes at discount rates in Queens University’s school of open learning, at Stranmillis College and at the Crescent Arts Centre.   
Since retiring, I have attended classes on a wondrous variety of entrancing topics from languages, art, the history of jazz, creative writing, the celtic nations, yoga – and there is a huge chunk that I haven’t even tried yet.

A world of new interests has been opened up thanks to the knowledge and patience of academics.
·         I have been taught to appreciate the skill of Matisse and what he could do with a pair of scissors and rolls of coloured paper making cut-outs;
·         I have learned how to make Cornish pasties;
·         I was able to pick up sufficient Italian to bluff a few sentences at my daughter’s wedding in Sicily.
·         As a spin-off, I can enjoy the TV detective series Montelbano far more.
Key life skills for retirement.

Emboldened by renewed linguistic confidence, I studied a Russian language book and CD set that my wife bought before our recent trip to Moscow and St Petersburg.   
After greeting our guide with a cheery Hello (Zdrastvoite in Russian – a difficult tongue twister), I surprised her later when she asked our group if we had any questions about Red Square.

Up went my hand.
Sez I: - “Kak oo vas deela.”
“Spaseba karasho” replied Olga.  (How are you; reply - very well, thank you).
After which she wryly added – "Impressive fluency, Michael, but if you keep speaking to me in Russian I will lose my job."

The greatest boon of retirement is the twin blessing of independence and time.   
We are free to do what we want whenever we want – within the normal constraints of the law, of course.
When I was a working man, my job (as a town planner) meant that we were either looking back to conserve the best of the built heritage; or else looking forward to devise blueprints for regeneration and a better tomorrow.  
In retirement, that perspective changes.  There is no rush.  

It’s time to live in the present.
·         Time for travelling, visiting family (most of ours live in Scotland and England), staying healthy,
·         doing occasional voluntary work, and - as important as anything –
·         having the time to read the weekend newspapers’ supplements with their extensive features about unmissable holidays, wine, film and book reviews.
·         These can be read languorously over leisurely breakfasts right through the entire course of the following week.  Bliss.

A couple of years ago, I visited the UNESCO World Heritage city of Bath.
One thing I learned there was that the Roman governor was collected each morning and transported from his villa on a hand-drawn carrier to the Roman baths for his daily pre-work exercise.
So inspiring is this practice that I have adapted his habit by visiting the gym most mornings and (in the absence of slaves) transporting myself by bike - before retiring later, re-energised, to other less strenuous activities.

©Michael McSorley 2015

[1] BBC NI Radio Ulster 14 June 2015 Time of Our Lives