Is it really 10 years to the day since I stopped treading the 9-to-5.30 path to work and said goodbye to my colleagues on that final day when my whole department was made redundant? Where have all these years gone? They have certainly flown by at rocket speed. I was in the fortunate position of not having to find another job so decided to call it early retirement despite being some years off receiving my state pension. At last I could devote my day to my writing and become a lady of leisure.
When I looked back over the past 10 years I first asked myself what I had achieved. The answer was “exceedingly little” but upon reflection, that isn’t the case. And lady of leisure? Hardly! It has been 10 years of full-on things and I wonder now how I ever had time to work full time.
During those first few months of freedom I needed time to myself to adjust to being at home and I admit to feeling guilty about losing what was a good and well-paid job. I went for many long walks locally watching the season change and contemplating what to do with myself but when spring arrived the feeling vanished along with winter, and I moved up a gear. So, what have I done for the last 120 months? The answer is “lots”.
I helped a new friend set up a successful award-winning online writers’ support group that morphed into an online magazine. I took in lots of editing and proofing work. I set up a small publishing house publishing new authors whose books fell between genre cracks and digitally republished others whose books were previously only in print form. I revisited many of the novels I had started writing but not finished, published two, both winning awards, had book-signings in Waterstones; gave a few talks on writing; attended RNA conferences and other writing workshops; made many new friends in the writing and art field, particularly through social media. And now I run websites and numerous blogs on writing and books, on art, gardening and cookery, and am a regular contributor on another.
During this time, I played nurse to my husband, helping his recuperation following two separate major operations. His second spell was in early summer, a factor which made him decide it was also time for him to retire. I was glad he did for I had two spells of illness, at one stage unable to walk. I never did get the hang of those crutches! There were also several years of heartbreak, sadness and loss to deal with but I’ve come through it all and coped, coming up smiling as I always do.
There have been holidays too. Lots of them. Dave and I were able to take two wonderful trips to Spain and Ibiza within 6 months of each other following his retirement. With my sisters and a niece I holidayed in Corfu (twice), Rhodes, mainland Spain several times, and Minorca. With a writing friend, I toured Yorkshire, the Lake District, and had fun a on 3-day bluebell tour across Warwickshire by coach.
Then there is painting. I had more time to devote to my art and enjoyed 3 successful art exhibitions. I participated in various day courses on different aspects and mediums. Paintings sold and commissions came in, including my first pet portrait. My work achieved several awards and led me to join a local art group, where I taught a couple of painting courses. One of my pieces “Sunflowers” was chosen by an international art society for their online promotion of The Sunflower Project to help create a lasting memorial art website, and I donated one of my bluebell paintings of a nearby wood as a raffle prize for a local school’s fundraising ball.
During these past 10 years we’ve redecorated the whole house apart from the kitchen (next on the list), and had major hard-landscaping done outside. Sunny warm days would find me in the garden, pottering around, planting, weeding or simply enjoying the view, the birds and a quiet coffee any time I wanted to. My free time also enabled me to travel across country to finally meet up with a dear friend from my grammar school days. We’d lost touch, finding each other through the old Friends Reunited site 20 years ago but had never been able to catch up in person. I also became a lady who lunches with writing friends on weekdays instead of only on an occasional Saturday.
So what does the next year or two or ten hold in store for me? There certainly seems no sign of things slowing down, that’s for sure. Retirement is great though, and we enjoy every moment of it and value every second we have with each other. There’s more travelling we want to do, places still to see, beaches to walk. There are novels to finish and publish, more to write, a self-help book in progress, and the garden to look after – my husband’s and my sanctuary, hobby and pleasure – and for the moment I wouldn’t want it any other way.
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