Monday, 8 August 2016

You fat sausage

Harsh title I know but then you didn't see what I saw when Skyping my nephew yesterday.  I wanted to see my nephew's little baby daughter so we arranged to Skype.  Trouble is you get to see a little video inset of yourself at the same time.  My nephew whom I haven't seen for a year exclaimed, "You put on some weight uncle John!"  I looked at the video inset and nearly choked on my can of Kronenberg.  Could that treble chinned fat bloke really be me?  Did the drinking of beer have something to do with the alarming state of  of the body peering back at me.  

I made small talk, waved at little Molly, signed off and felt so depressed I immediately had to prepare a spaghetti bolognaise for four people.  I know what you are thinking; that I was making enough for four but I would be eating it all myself. Well you would be wrong.  My girlfriend was coming round and she would easily eat a quarter of the food being prepared.  To be fair, the previous two days had been a mini- bender where I went to see my sons in London, eat pizza, drink beer and watch Fulham beat Newcastle in the first league game of the season. Saturday was then spent with my youngest son eating a fried breakfast, drinking beer and watching Wivenhoe Town play their first game of the season followed by  a very tasty Vietnamese meal near where I live.  Yesterday of course involved reducing the impact of the two day excess fest by drinking beer, wine, eating cheese on toast and making the Skype call that could change my life.Oh and not forgetting eating that vat of spag bol.

Three days of excess and then in plain, incontrovertible sight, video of me looking like someone who had spent far too many days in his life eating and drinking way too much.  Gingerly I weighed myself.  A stonking 15st 6 lbs, which for a 5ft 8in 60 year old is well into the red of the BMI chart.  

Suddenly my goals for retirement look very different.  To have any kind of retirement, I was going to have to seriously address the weight issue.  Up until two years ago my weight was around the 13st 7lb mark, which although still too much was fine in that I could run without crushing my knees and in general enjoyed good health. 

This is different.  I am on blood pressure medication, I am too heavy to run or jog, sleep is poor and I look like a fat bloated sausage.  Change has to happen but I know from experience how hard it is to change and stick to changes.  Basically I love my food and drink and seem to lose all self control around these.  Of course so do a lot of people.  Losing weight and keeping it off is tough and I will need to come up with some different strategies if I am going to be be successful. And it's not just vanity.  Being overweight with the habits I have is potentially life threatening and could hamper the plans I have for myself over the next ten to fifteen years.  

I shall think, plan and establish a way forward.  Doing this on line means there is an added incentive to making this work, if it doesn't work I will look like a weak willed failure.  It's in my hands but I need a plan.  In the next blog I will share that plan and let us see if it works.  No, not "if".  It will work. It has to.  Anyone for salad?

So how does semi-retirement feel?

Picking up this theme of how it feels to be retired.  Let's start with how it feels two weeks into retirement. As I said it's slightly strange in that I would normally be on holiday now so it doesn't really feel like retirement yet. One thing that is different though is that if this were a normal 6 week break, I would have been going into work during these first two weeks getting some things sorted for the start of term.  I would also have been doing work at home; working on things such as the Christmas play, preparing lessons and sorting the many administrative tasks that a deputy head has to organize. I did go in on the first Monday but essentially I had pretty much tied things up so leaving meant leaving and so I started these holiday weeks feeling relaxed and even had the luxury of being able to sort out household type tasks.

Doing these things are not important in themselves but it's the fact that I can focus on stuff other than work which feels so liberating and unusual.  Also I'm not starting the holidays thinking "oh no, only 5 (4-3-2-1) weeks till we go back," and knowing that there is work to be done hanging like a black cloud over the summer holidays.

Ok, so how does retirement feel? It must be different for each person but something strange happened to me once I had made the decision to retire back in September 2015.  With the decision made there was a countdown and a countdown in months goes by very quickly.   An event that even ten years ago seemed remote was now very real and very close; a good thing you might think? A chance to relax and do the things I wanted to do.  So why the sense of foreboding?

I think for me retirement with its sense of being something remote that you never thought was actually going to happen suddenly took on some of the connotations of death.  Death is something we know is going to happen but we ignore it and say to ourselves that  we will face up to it nearer the time, hoping that that time never happens.  But death does happen, and retirement happening was a reminder that the other difficult event was now the next big thing likely to happen. Retirement first , then death round the corner, no wonder I didn't want retirement to happen!   The other association retirement had with death was the feeling that stopping work was almost an admission that one's usefulness had stopped, and just as squid mate just once then drop dead to the bottom of the ocean having performed their useful societal function, so I saw myself dropping to the floor of existence devoid of purpose. Over dramatic? Of course, I taught drama, but these were some of the fears and associations playing around in my mind in the run up to retirement. It was probably these fears and associations that made me sign up and train as a volunteer with a local charity and apply for a part-time job, so that straight after retirement from full-time work I was able to feel that I had still had my uses. This all sounds a bit morbid and I know that retirement is also a thing of great promise and even excitement but for me there was that reminder at the back of my mind that time does indeed march on and all things must come to an end. Ok that's the maudlin stuff out the way let's be positive because my retirement adventure is just beginning.

Putting some things in place has worked for me.  I am glad that I have some part time work starting in October using some of the skills and experience that I have accrued over thirty seven years of teaching.  I will still be working and volunteering but at the same time I will have time to do things that I want to do.  This squid doesn't want to drop to the floor just yet. 

Until the next time.