I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this retirement malarkey. I get more than a little confused when I speak with other retirees (as they sometimes like to be called) about what they do with their new found time. Most seem to be of the opinion that they can’t imagine how they managed to find time to work before retirement. They are so full of activity now that there aren’t enough hours in the day to fit it all in. Frankly, I’m not sure what planet they come from; I'm on the other side of the retirement coin. My pre-retirement life was full to the brim. I was engaged, part of the team and my opinions were sought. Now it’s as empty as a politician’s promise and the majority of people only speak to me if they have to and then in a raised voice to make sure I’m getting it. I can only assume that before retiring these oh-so-busy others led very boring and uninteresting lives. Becoming a retiree has opened up many wonderful new opportunities for them such as “The Men’s Shed’, volunteer driving for local communities or painting by numbers.
When I was a working person and still a valued member of society, let's say 'pre-retiree', I would arrive home each evening and join my family for dinner. We'd talk about all sorts of things but rarely about my work or what I'd been up to all day. Now my wife returns home, she being a pre-retiree, and asks the question ‘what have you been doing today then’? Something about this smacks of the questions my mother would ask when I got home from primary school but, thankfully, without the added ‘little man'. My usual answer is ‘not a lot but thanks anyway for asking’. I have to admit, I’m confused. Is she asking because she wonders what the hell I fill my time with or because she thinks it’s unfair that I can stay home each day while she has to face the endless grind of employment? Or am I being mean by assuming either of these? Perhaps she's only asking because she thinks I need to be quizzed to give my retired life some meaning.
For the bored retiree, alcohol in its many wonderful forms can be a marvellous escape. It also doubles as a great pain killer and triples even as a reason for living on through retirement. Five or so large glasses of some five percent lager, two or three times a week, can make life appear to be a whole lot rosier than it actually is. Conversation with three or four mates, all retired of course, whilst enjoying these beers can reach incredible heights and being in such a position means you're both old and in turn very, very wise. We tend to make a lot of happy noises on our table which can sometimes cause concern and alarm to those at other tables - non-retirees who usually sit glum-faced over their beers, cursing whatever it was that went wrong at work. Sometimes they think we’re laughing at them whereas in reality we’re laughing at each other and the shared predicament we find ourselves in. Alcohol, retired friends and a local tavern, which must be surely one of man’s greatest inventions, can bring out the very best in almost any ex-worker. You see we simply don’t care. We don’t care if you're offended by our retiring conversations, we don’t care if you're offended by our raucous retiring laughter and we don’t care if we look like a bunch of old farts who have somehow managed to sneak past the front desk at the nearby retirement home. We retirees share a common thread: a feeling of all being in the same leaky boat, not sure if we'll make land before it all turns turtle. In some groups this can cause conversations to dwell on those less healthy subjects such as strokes, diabetes, heart attacks, hair loss and the cost of funerals but our retiree table doesn't speak of such morose subjects. We talk of bad women, cars with side valve engines, where you can get a cheap beer between three and five and how being retired is a complete load of old bollocks. We also laugh. A lot. Which they say is good for the classic retiree.
So to those pre- retirees out there who are busy counting down the days when you can join the ranks of the retired, a little advice: be careful what you wish for as you may find that being retired is not all it seemed from the outside. When your time comes and should you find yourself similarly stranded on the isle of boredom and frustration, fear not, as there may well be room for one or two more on our little table.
Written by Jeffrey Williams