My Retirement Wish List

I went to someone’s 60th birthday party just before Christmas. The birthday boy’s presents included a new pair of ski boots (following 30 years wearing the old ones), a GoPro and some cycling gloves. Two friends (just over 60 and actually retired) were planning to spend two months in India. Another three had recently been to the Andes, having taken time off work now as they were on ‘pick and choose’ contracts. Two more seem to spend their time sport-fishing and lounging on Greek islands. I am a bit bemused as to when any of these people are going to get OLD…

 ‘What has been your favourite country to live in?’ used to be my friends’ favourite question. These days it is ‘What do you want from retirement?’ I haven’t a clue, but here is my attempt to do my top ten:

  • Food. Regularly and easily available tasty stuff. This may involve lowering a basket down ‘Naples style’ from a window; or having a vegetable man come round with a bag full, as in Egypt; or even belonging to the local Co-operative with all the neighbours , as in Japan. Here in Italy it is an easy stretch to a juicy mozzarella.
  • Sunshine. More than in the UK. But seasons too. My worst ever job was in Singapore where I got very irritable after nine months when winter never arrived. I went back there this summer after 30 years and got grumpy all over again in three days. A chance to wear a flashy scarf and a woolly sweater is a time of beauty. And an excuse to stay indoors and watch cheesy old movies and catch up on reading. Actually, you can do that when it is too hot as well, but it is less fun.
  • Trams. I love trams so this is to some extent a personal request. They are somehow more user friendly for older people as well. And ‘tram’ implies somewhere fairly flat which is a good idea, I suppose on those slippery cold mornings I have just asked for. Oh, and some subtle changes in the transport timetable now and again so I can indulge in a bit of intellectual stimulus working out the new route to the shops.
  • Countryside. Yes, I know it doesn’t go with the trams but you can always get the bus at the end of the line. My husband’s relations have all left Sheffield for rural southern France now and they seem pretty content. Somewhere with trees and sedentary bird watching would be a bonus. A river is good—it can make you think profound thoughts about the passing of time and these days often has a cycle path which might mean I get a bit of gentle exercise.
  • An unusual hobby. I am currently an orchestral double bass player; I may have to stop this energetic pastime when I get too creaky and look for something else. Perhaps I will relearn Ancient Greek or really get into that sedentary bird watching. Or keep bees and save the planet.
  • Somewhere that speaks one of the several languages I know; local gossip is far more fun if you are a competent listener at the time of life when you have time on your hands to enjoy the juicy news. I am prepared to learn a new language but worry that I might not have the flexibility quickly enough to spread the latest scandal.
  • A Kindle. Although there are many very interesting and intellectually stimulating books out there, some of them are a bit weighty. It is quite nice to vary a bit of bedtime ‘tome callisthenics’ with a bit of electronic finger-flicking. I would not give up on books completely though—you need an atlas for a start to trace your acquaintances’ latest postings and exotic holidays.
  • A chance to keep teaching. This may seem dedication beyond the call of duty to the British Council but in fact for me teaching is fun. I work with teenagers and I know I would miss their interesting take on life—including a very bizarre perspective on what constitutes being old.
  • Skiing. I am not the one with the new boots but I am not stopping any time soon. Sedate slipping down the slopes is very relaxing—no need for speed any more. I look forward to the time when I can go skiing in January between New Year and ‘white week’ Carnivale and commandeer a chair lift all to myself on a Tuesday afternoon.
  • Lots more of those 60th birthday parties and 70th and 80th and marriages and christenings and all the things that make up the photo collection. It is quite important to be somewhere where family and friends can visit you and you can visit them. A desert island hideaway is all very well, but most people do not enjoy travelling by packet boat just for the chance of a chat!

Since I am in a cheery frame of mind today I am not going to talk about health care as I might just not be in such a good mood at the end of it, and I am sure there are other articles on the subject!


Heather Oxley