New Year, New You vs Being the Best Version of Yourself.

Every year in January we get the marketing blurb, TV advertising and social media frenzy about starting the year with a diet, do more exercise, give up alcohol, eat more vegetables, in fact become a new you! No-one can disagree we probably need to improve some elements of our lifestyle.

However, when working in the Beauty category a few years back, a lot of our attention in the golden quarter (3 months leading up to Christmas) was spent not looking after the customers in that moment but thinking about how to encourage trade in those months directly after the Christmas peak when the public were paying off credit card bills and generally keeping spending tight. The big industry dream was to make the “New Year, New Me” a thing! It was felt if you could get people focussed on fitness, health and diet, why not stretch it so they could try a new beauty regime or, better still, new products, dispensing with the products they had been gifted at Christmas etc.

In fact, a couple of the big brands always planned their biggest mascara launches for early January, throwing huge amounts of media spend on promoting a very visual new look that could be achieved at the same time as promoting the full make up cleansing product range to be in tune with people’s desire for being natural in the new year with incentives to sales staff to encourage customers to buy the full three products for best results. 

Perhaps now you can see why I’m a tad sceptical of the whole “new year, new you” thing. To be honest, I’m not even convinced starting something new in the month of January in the U.K. is ever a good thing. For those from distant shores, it’s normally cold, damp and dark with short days, not the most motivational month to start anything that you want to sustain. Whilst I agree it’s the start of our calendar year, I’m not aware of any natural reason for January being the start of anything. Again, you have to wonder at the motivation of this whole New Year, New Me thing. You have to hand it to the marketeer who came up with the concept, in our time more and more of us launch the year with the latest new fad etc.

So, having said all the above, what’s the alternative?

Perhaps its about concentrating on choosing to be our best self more often, taking time to be our bes, realising sometimes we will let ourselves down and that’s ok we are only human. The important thing is to be self aware enough to be able to own the problem, If we are eating too much, eat less, if not taking enough exercise, get out and walk some more etc. The date you start improving is not the key to success. 1st January or 17th October will make no difference to any outcome. It’s more important to have the awareness and understanding of when you are struggling so that you can refocus your energy and efforts on getting back on track to improvement and make the changes to your routine that will embed the change of habit that’s required.

So, what does it mean? I’m not going to try and be someone else, I’m going to work hard at being a better version of myself. I want to be comfortable with the person I see in the mirror. It’s not about perfection, especially in my case, but I know I can be better and it will be good to be a bit healthier.

I find regular measurement and recording data helpful to my own motivation. Weighing myself regularly, recording what I eat and drink and how much exercise I have taken helps to keep the focus on doing a little better each day (Im not saying its perfect i failed to lose the weight I had hoped in December). Another tip that has helped me over the years has been to look at improving lots of things slightly rather than trying to crack one thing 100%. I believe it was the head of the UK cycling team who said its better to get the team focused on improving 100 things by 1% than improving 1 thing 100% (Again not fool proof, I find its easier to concentrate on less elements of improvement, however when I succeed its normally because of hard work and discipline).

I would like to remind all readers I have never professed to be an expert on anything, my rumblings are just my own thoughts/personal experienced shared, If you have enjoyed the read please let me know.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year. By the way the photo is of the Lane out of our village on New Year’s Day at the start of our walk.

2020 A personal perspective.

So as the year comes to a close, it’s time to look back and review the year, before launching into the New Year, while it’s easy to allow COVID 19/geo-political events to define the year, in reality they have played a very small part in my year while still being impactful.

I have chosen to do my review under several headings, not in any order of importance just as they came to mind as I was composing this post.

Travel: The year started with a short trip to Marrakesh, the concept of social distancing had not entered our heads as we pushed our way through the crowed souks, haggling over the price of a bag before realising the vendor only wanted a few more pennies than we had been prepared to pay. The trip to the Atlas Mountains, which ended up being a trek literally up the mountain to see some beautiful scenery including fantastic waterfalls. All in all, a great trip. After Marrakesh, we had a few cancellations due to COVID, however managed to get to Italy a couple of times as mentioned in other posts. I suppose the biggest trip not to happen was our world tour. On the bright side, having not done the trip, it’s still something to look forward too.

Wellbeing: As the years go, everyone around us has been in good health with the exception of Sarah’s mum who was taken seriously ill at the beginning of 2020, ending up in hospital for over 6 weeks. In fact, she has not been well for the whole 365 days of the year. For us as a couple, it’s been a good year, the initial lockdown became good practice for full retirement. We found that being together 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is manageable and in fact, quite good fun, however also realised the need for diverse interests and having a chance to catch up with friends on our own was more important than we first thought. This will be a key consideration when Sarah gives up work.

Family and friends: Clearly COVID 19 has impacted how we see and interact with family and friends. A lot less physically catching up, more virtual interactions, I speak to people more now than perhaps before on the phone etc. We have managed to make the most of technology to create virtual gatherings, having a weekly Zoom pub quiz with friends, a couple of virtual drinks parties around our dining room table, connecting from their own dining tables. Also, when restrictions were lifted, we made the most of visiting restaurants and the local pub in a safe and responsible manner. From a family perspective, the big news was our youngest going off to university, our eldest being made redundant as a consequence of COVID (the positive being it’s pushed him to throw himself into doing a full qualification in web design which will hopefully define his future) and our middle child managed to get promoted in her job during lockdown. In fact, she has not physically met the team she now manages.

Financial: Having full control of my pension pot was important to our retirement plans, however March was a bit of a trial as the value of the pot saw a 40% reduction! Whilst I had always understood the risk, in the moment that risk became reality. With such a reduction, the immediate worry is will my pension pot be sufficient to see us live our retirement dreams? Do I need to find a job? In reality (after a stiff G&T) I realised it’s a paper loss, I didn’t need the money at the moment! However, still a consideration in the year 2020. It’s worth noting as we finish the year, due to the great work from my pension advisor and the investment manager who looks after my pension pot, we have seen a full recovery with moderate gains. So, whilst a turbulent year, in the end we are still on track.

Organisations: As mentioned in earlier posts. I’m a non-exec director sitting on the trustee board of the local museum. Again, while COVID has had an impact on the operation, actually the museum is in a stronger financial position than prior to lockdown and has benefited from the drive to go “online”, managing to have visitors from the USA pay to attend a virtual event. We’ve also had time to spend strengthening the management structure which will enable a strong recovery once the pandemic recedes. The other organisation I’m involved in is the local secondary school where I serve as Chairman of the Board of Governors. Again, it’s been very challenging, especially for the teaching professionals who try their best every day for every pupil with little recognition from parents. I’m not a teacher and thus cannot understand the motivation to engage with often difficult students who, in all honesty, don’t want to learn, but these teachers don’t give up! This year it’s been a privilege to be part of the organisation and I’m so glad as a school we have had such a dedicated team that have not allowed COVID-19 to define the education of this year’s students.

In summary, 2020 was not the year anyone planned; however, I’m not sure it’s been as bad as some elements in the media and wider world would have us believe. Whilst it’s clear Covid has caused major disruption to people’s lives, I’m sure everyone who has not lost someone close to their heart has had good times amongst the angst of 2020, as they say what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I think for my family we are still all well and probably stronger for getting through 2020. Perhaps we have found out we are more resilient than we thought and have had more time together as a family than we would have normally. From my own perspective I have enjoyed the year, learning new skills, finding time to speak with old friends, planted trees and found out I can do retirement.

Hope you have enjoyed my review of our year and have taken some time to review yours. Wishing anyone who has bothered to read this post a happy new year, let’s hope the vaccine helps the world to be a safer place and better place for everyone in 2021.

Defining Incompetence

Incompetence: inability to do something successfully, inadequate, unfit!

I’m sure in years to come the dictionary definition will use the example of the current U.K. government to describe incompetence. Whether it’s the handling of COVID-19 or our exit from the EU Boris Johnson and his leadership have failed to deliver the most important job of government “The Protection of its Citizens” the British People.

Currently, the U.K. has seen one of the highest excess death rate due to COVID 19 in the G20 whilst also managing to deliver the biggest fall in economic output of all the major economies and still the government have the audacity to speak of the success of their strategy!

To think in December 2019 the U.K. government was made aware of the need to prioritise contingency planning for a potential pandemic, including the urgent need to develop track and trace in line with what the Asian countries had developed on the back of SARS in 2010. Cost equated at less than 2 days of U.K. economic output. However, allegedly, it was felt this was too expensive and leaving the EU was more of a priority, pandemic contingency planning was postponed even though ministers were advised were the country was ill prepared with little medical reserves etc. Whilst no-one could have known that said pandemic was just around the corner it’s the job of government to at least prepared.

Since then, it’s been one crisis after another; we have a Prime Minster who talks about “following the science”, however he seems to diverge from this thinking as soon as difficult political decisions are required. Deny, delay and blither seem a better description of the way things have been handled. For example, lockdowns have always come much later than science had advised, normally after a denial about the needs for the lockdown, once a change of mind had happened implementation delayed followed by a blithering description of the rules so as to make the instructions difficult to follow. Secondly, wearing of face masks, despite the scientists advising of the need to slow infection by having people wearing masks in public, it was denied as being a useful option, then the change of mind but blithering exceptions to enable the general public to opt out of doing their duty. The list of examples goes on!

Then we have Brexit, a dream of a small group of very rich people, who managed to persuade a small majority of the U.K. electorate to support their aims with a twenty year campaign of lies and a nationalistic argument. The outcome being we will have a country distinctly poorer in both financial and global influence; those rich dreamers have managed to make their money out of the uncertainty and I’m sure will be leaving the political scene in the coming years as the poorest in our society start to realise the bill they have left for future generations to pay.

Despite knowing the nation is poorer with a forecasted 1-2% drag on our economic growth because of BREXIT in addition to the negative impact of COVID, we also lost out on the freedom of U.K. citizens to freely move/work/live across Europe and the enhanced security co-operation which helped prevent terrorist atrocities (they argue that all has been protected in the trade deal, blatantly not true as the the EU president stated), drug smuggling and money laundering. Our government still maintains it’s a success, describing gaining back ownership of our borders (we always had ownership of our borders), being able to control immigration (over 80% of our net population growth was coming from countries outside of the UK, so in fact BREXIT will make little difference) and winning back control of our fisheries (no one seems to mention, we sold our fishing quotas to the foreign fisherman and the deal now signed protects their rights).

I suppose the only thing worse than the incompetence is the fact there seems little guilt accepted for the damage done. Whilst it’s common to repeat the joke “how do you know when a politician is lying?” Answer “Any time you can see their lips moving”, in Boris Johnson’s case now you can see he lowers his gaze and starts looking at the camera through the top of his eyes like a naughty schoolboy! Also, I have noted, lately points which he clearly knows are untrue get repeated several times and then get picked up and are repeated verbatim by other cabinet ministers as if the more they say things the truer they will become.

For me the Classic lie in recent weeks was the combination of both themes, we had the story of how because of BREXIT we had been the first country to regulate the use of the COVID vaccination, no mention the drug had been developed by German/ Turkey scientists, was being produced in Belgium by a pan European drug company, nor the fact we had always had the power to regulate our own drugs. One minister even claiming we were better than everyone else.

If ever there was any justice, we would have a Royal commission to look at this Government’s handling of COVID 19 & Brexit as soon as possible, leading to prosecution of individuals who have caused the current crisis through incompetence or for personal gain.

For the record I am by nature a Conservative party supporter, believing in the need for individual to have the opportunity to work hard and benefit from their endeavour, the need to enable business to flourish so as to support economic growth and keeping control of money supply to minimise the impact of inflation.

Apologies for the nature of this post especially during the Christmas break, however in a free democracy we all have a duty to stand up for what we believe in. As per the old fable of the emperor with no clothes you have to call out the truth as you see it even if you are in a minority and may be ridiculed for being out of tune with the consensus.

My next post will be about our hopes for 2021, I’ve made a resolution to make no resolutions for the new year (Damn, that’s that resolution broken).

Christmas 2020 Wrap Up

So despite the various COVID restrictions, we had a fantastic Christmas celebration, we managed to speak with loved ones on Christmas Day wherever they were and had a family feast at home.

For me, the highlight was just seeing our close family chatting, eating, drinking, singing together with no petty arguments, they must be growing up.

The day started as tradition in the Roncaglia household, a bit of Christmas gift opening accompanied with tea and biscuits in our room, it’s still great even though all the children are adults now and it’s a bit of a squeeze to fit everyone on our king size bed. Of course, years ago it was the wonder of what Father Christmas had left in stockings.

When we get up, it’s a light breakfast followed by a good long walk with the dog. There’s something special walking on Christmas morning, saying a Happy Christmas to everyone you meet, seeing excited children trying out their new bikes and this year, despite COVID was no different, walking around our village on a crisp morning makes it difficult to believe there is a pandemic across the country.

Once home, a warm Nespresso coffee greeted us as we sat around the tree opening more presents, phoning friends and family to give thanks and generally a chilled morning. As head chef at Christmas, I’d done all the preparation on Christmas Eve so no need for panic just a couple of glasses of Bucks Fizz!

With Christmas crackers pulled and hats on, we sat down promptly at 2pm for lunch, finishing at just after 5pm having enjoyed a glass or two too many of wine and extra cheese that was not needed to fill the stomach. A great meal even though I say so myself and just the enjoyment of enjoying good food with good company. It’s interesting how with no little children to entertain,time can be taken to savour flavours and discuss better options for next year.

After our meal, groups went off to play games in the lounge while others just chatted and lounged in the conservatory, laughter heard throughout the house while Christmas music played in the background. All I needed to complete the perfect picture was a rocking chair and an open fire blazing.

At the end of the night, Sarah and I described this Christmas as one of our favourite times ever as a family, it’s great seeing your kids growing into adults in front of your eyes and be in the position to provide a home where they can gather and enjoy each other’s company as when they were small children growing up.

Another reflection on the day was a lack of news permeating our bubble, perhaps, as I reflected in an earlier post, it’s good for the soul to switch off the outside world now and again, taking time to enjoy the moment spent with those who are most important.

This year I’m in no rush to see the end of Christmas and think it’s probably more important than ever to celebrate the full 12 days keeping the Christmas spirit going.

Christmas 2020

So here we are, it’s arrived, not quite as planned a couple of years ago!

As I write this, we should have been in Australia looking forward to Christmas on the beach, having seen the snows of North America, watched the whales off the California coast, visited New Zealand. Instead, we are preparing for Christmas at home in Dorset amongst the COVID restrictions which are becoming ever tighter to stop the spread of the new variants which have come to light in the U.K. over recent weeks.

This year, no Christmas parties, visits to friends, restaurants or pubs. Whilst none of this is important, it has been part of normal life in December. So this year its actually going to be a real home Christmas, with only our son, daughters and partners at our house for dinner on Christmas Day.

We have made the effort to go traditional in terms of decorations and I love it (picture above is our tree with Lucy are ageing English Springer posing). Whilst it’s not going to snow we are due a cold snap over the Christmas holiday so should wake up to proper frost giving a white covering to the trees and bushes. Unbelievably, we will have visibility of the Christmas star (convergence of planets) for the first time in 800 years and while we don’t have young children, there is excitement in the house that Father Christmas is coming.

Our Christmas lunch will be served around 2PM giving a chance for a morning walk before preparing the meal. As we have not been able to go out, we have spent more than normal on our feast, but what the heck, it’s been that sort of year, we need to celebrate something.

As we have not been able to see our parents, we have set up phone calls and virtual get togethers. Both sets of parents have decided they want to stay protected, hoping for vaccine calls in January and who can blame them, we want to make sure they are part of our celebrations even if from a far. It’s so sad that so many of the elderly are staying at home alone this year.

We have invested in updating the old Nintendo Wii with new controllers, a new balance board so as to provide some family fun in the evening and now a karaoke microphone to allow us to torture each other with poor renditions of Christmas classics once the wine has flowed through the day! In addition, the old fashion board and card games have been hunted out ready to keep the day going. I love seeing everyone joining in with something, laughing, shouting (they call it singing) and generally having fun.

Whilst it’s not been the year we would have liked, I still think we have lots to celebrate and be thankful for. I hope everyone who reads this is as lucky as we are to be in good health, able to spend time with some family and enjoy a peaceful holiday. At least Christmas 2020 will be memorable, we won’t forget who we were with or even the people who could not be here, it’s like the Year Father Christmas brought me my first proper bike, it was the year it snowed at Christmas it’s still etched as an early memory.

Wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas, keep smiling, try and bring happiness to at least one other person on the 25th even if they are a phone call away!

How to find happiness?

I’m sure everyone has their own opinion on the answer to this question…

In the last few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on what I see around me, strangers, friends, family and pets. Taking time to listen, observe and get a feel on feelings. What became clear in these difficult times is happy people standout, they seem to be taller, louder and dare I say it happier than the people around them. Looking closely, the people further from the happy person were less happy than those who are sat/stood right next to them, it’s as if happiness weakens the further you get from the source. 

To define happy people, I took some time to look at the opposite. In the broadest terms:

Firstly, unhappy people see the downside in every situation, struggling to recognise value in anything they have, often including a lack of self-worth (I’m sure experts will be able to delve into reasons and such, my rumblings are just an observation of what I see, hear and feel). This point is huge and from my experience is the foundation of unhappiness, it’s surprising how often you see people with literally nothing, not even a roof over their head, can find a positive in the moment.

Secondly, unhappy people always want what someone else has, the grass is greener elsewhere mentality. It’s my belief that because of the first point, there is a feeling everyone else has it better, or is lucky for their situation etc. But again, we often see in the news stories of those who have it all, money, fame and the ability to do anything, wish they had normal lives or sadly take their own lives. In my experience, wanting what someone else has is a recipe for unhappiness. I know some will argue that it acts as an incentive to work harder, I’m not sure it’s a positive behaviour! Working hard in itself is good for everyone, I know doing your best is the key to success (doing just enough is never enough), channelled with good life choices brings success (I’m not saying wealth).

Thirdly, unhappy people seem self-absorbed, looking inwards rather than outwards, oblivious to how others are feeling, more concerned with sharing their unhappiness before understanding the mood or needs of others. We’ve all seen how an unhappy person acts as a mood hoover managing to suck all the positive energy out of a room of people just by their presence.

Fourthly, unhappy people in my experience get stuck in a rut of routine, failing to have time to use the creative side of their brains. Reading non-fiction and getting caught up in other people’s misfortune.

Happy people on the other hand also seem to have some common traits:

1. Value what they have, the people around them and their own self-worth. They always seem to be “lucky” to have great friends (it was the famous golfer who coined the phrase, “the harder I practice and work at something, the luckier I seem to be”), take pride and look after their possessions, never afraid to be the butt of a joke or criticism as they know their own strengths and value. I know when I’ve felt low a comment seems to sting more than it would on a good day.

2- Always showing their gratitude, never afraid to give thanks for help, feedback or just being there for them. It seems happy people have the ability to see the small things that are done for them and always make the time to recognise the fact that generally people don’t wish harm on others (we all know there are exceptions) but happy people get the perspective and believe in the good in people. 

3- Show no fear, there is a confidence in being happy. I see happy people always willing to try new things, begin new adventures, test themselves with new challenges. They don’t seem to have any worries about failure or ridicule for happy people, it’s about taking part (unhappy people are worried about being good enough or winning). The word “Yes” is more prevalent to a happy person as compared to “No”, “I can’t” and other negatives as seem to be uttered by those struggling for happiness.

4. Being creative, writing, playing musical instruments, painting, drawing or just being inventive (I wonder how many of the great inventors had a happy disposition). They always seem to be reading books by new authors and able to have a conversation about a myriad of ideas and thoughts, whilst unhappy people struggle to interact with drawing from group discussion.

In my mind, if you have the basics for life, a roof over your head, to be safe where you sleep and the ability to feed yourself and your family, the choice of happiness or not is yours to make! It’s one of the many positives of being human, self-awareness, the ability to recognise feelings, making conscious decisions rather than acting out of habit or instinct 

In simple terms it’s about:

Attitude, training yourself to think a moment longer and realise who you want to be, before acting so you have the chance to be and be seen to be your best-self in every situation. 

Behaviour, practice the behaviours of happiness as described above, remembering the harder you work at it the luckier you will become. It’s not a problem if you aren’t good at practicing being happy, it will come with hard work and perseverance. Try to balance the need to be rational with the ability to be creative. “When it’s raining outside, put on your boots and go jump in the puddles” comes to mind.

In summary this world needs more happy people especially this year, it’s up to all of us to make it a better place. I don’t want to minimise other people’s problems just believe we all deserve and have the ability to be happy and more importantly make others happy. Hope you have enjoyed the read, please feel free to add comments on the things that make you happy.

Where has the time gone?

Whilst it’s a well-known fact to many, I’ve only just discovered over the last few weeks how quickly time goes by when retired. It’s hard to believe it’s been a couple of weeks since my last post on here and whilst on the surface I have more time than ever in my life, I don’t seem to have any time to sit down and put some thoughts on paper as such.

It has got me thinking, why is time going so fast? We are still in limbo lockdown, not an actual lockdown. Defined as we can’t do the things we would want to do, but can do the things we have to do! Can’t meet friends for a coffee but can go to the doctors, bank or hairdressers. 

I suppose the biggest change to what’s taking up my time is the virtual meetings. It seems that as we get better acquainted with our technology and the ability to hold virtual meetings, the easier it’s become to have meetings. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had over 15 hours of meetings related to school governor work or being a museum trustee (double what I would have done if we were meeting physically), in addition to Zoom and Skype calls with friends and family, catching up virtually with relations I had not seen actually in years! We’ve also set up a weekly pub quiz group with friends replacing our once a month visit to the pub for quiz night. 

In addition to my online activity, I’ve been busy doing the things talked about in earlier blogs, walking, cooking and earlier this week going to the clinic to give blood for the first time.

For those who have never given blood, it’s brilliant! No downsides other than the nerves of going through the door the first time, the people in the clinic were fantastic and afterwards there is a feeling of having done something that truly helps some unknown person. I’m not sure why I never had time to do this before, but I’ve booked in to give another pint in March 2021.

So back to the point of this post, time seems to be going fast, I don’t feel I’ve achieved anything grand in terms of my retirement plan, no travel, no new great adventures, whilst I’m walking, I have failed to keep losing weight in the way I had planned (something to do with my cooking), I’ve not discovered my new hobby or interest. However, I’ve kept busy doing stuff and as Sarah has continued to be out at work, it’s been mostly on my own. Not at all as I envisioned my retirement. I’m sure lots of retired people have found over time this just happens.

So what? I may hear you ask.

In my experience if you are driving somewhere and you find yourself lost, the best thing to do is to stop, consult the map or get directions so as to get yourself back on route as quickly as possible. Or, put another way “when you’re stuck in hole, stop digging”. This, in my mind, is the time for me to stop, to take a moment, I didn’t want to be saying time’s going faster since retirement, I want to savour every moment of this new life stage. In fact, I want life to slow down! As they say, time to wake up and smell the beans.

Of course, it’s easy to blame COVID or that my wife’s still working etc.etc. The fact is, it’s my own decisions in recent weeks that have left me busy doing nothing. It’s down to me to look at my map and find my way back to the perfect retirement before time’s wasted.

Hope you have enjoyed the read, any advice much appreciated.

Pimp Up November, before celebrating Christmas in 2020.

I’ve always known November as a long month. With its 30 days, it’s clearly not the longest but it surely feels it with shorter day light hours and more cold, wet and windy days to content with. It’s the month linking Autumn to Winter, a dark month to endure before coming into the brief light of the Christmas season. 

In normal times we are normally lucky enough to break up the month with evenings out at friends or in restaurants, in recent years we’ve managed a music concert or a cheeky weekend in London to see a show. This year with lockdown due to COVID, these treats have not been possible.

Over the last week I’ve been busy with my volunteering, lots of virtual meetings, phone calls and reading during the day light hours, broken up with some walks around the countryside here in Sturminster Marshall in Dorset. It’s not glamorous traipsing around the muddy lanes, avoiding showers and splashes from passing cars driving through the roadside puddles. But it’s my way of enduring the month.

It’s been frustrating watching the media coverage of people getting their Christmas decorations up in November, with the story being everyone needs a bit of early cheer in this difficult year. Surly if Christmas decorations were the cure to the world of misfortune, there would be a law making it compulsory to display them all year long! We have had lots of discussion at home as to whether we need to go early!

As you may have guessed I’m not a fan of Christmas coming early, not because I don’t enjoy Christmas, (I love Christmas), not because I don’t want people to be happy (I love seeing happy people), it’s because I believe Christmas is our break in the middle of winter, we enjoy Christmas because we’ve managed to get through November and after December (Christmas), we’ve only to endure January before we start to see the beginning of spring as the short month of February comes to an end. As someone said before “to truly enjoy something you must have endured the path to get there” perhaps getting through the long month of November is part of the Christmas celebrations. I”m also afraid the consequence of an early start to Christmas this year, will perhaps spoil the actual event with us all getting a touch bored with Christmas all around us for so long. If there were ever a year that Christmas needed to be less commercial and more focused on the true meaning this must be the year.

So, here’s my plan. Let’s go for a big finish to November! Let’s look back on November as a great month because it”s November before we start to celebrate the Christmas season.

For the first time ever, as a family we are celebrating Thanksgiving, We know it’s the norm in America, buts it’s not on the calendar in the U.K. I’m cooking Turkey with all the trimmings, it may have been a tough year, but we still have lots to be thankful for.

Secondly, I’ve decided to lose a stone in weight over the next month and to celebrate, I’m giving 300 tins of tomato soup to the food bank (this equates to the number of calories I need to reduce my intake by to lose the weight in a month). Here’s hoping that at someone else enjoys a meal as I lose weight.

Thirdly, I’ve signed up to give blood for the first time (never had time has been my excuse in the past); it’s a random act of kindness an idea that came from international kindness day a couple of weeks ago.

Signing off for now, hope you are enjoying November, Happy Thanks Giving. Please Feel free to add comments.

Dreams of travel.

This last week, I’ve been catching up with some reading, especially travel and food blogs which has got us thinking of travelling again.

The plan for this year had been to spend three months in Italy through the spring and summer, then set off on our 4 month around the world gap break! Little did we think that flu thing that was in China would disrupt our plans even as we were seeing more and more travellers wearing masks as we spent a few days in Marrakesh in early Feb.

In the original plan, we had thought we would go to Italy for a month in March, with the hope of travelling on the train to Venice for a few days from Abruzzo for our wedding anniversary. We planned then to return to Italy in June by car travelling down through France for a stop off in Monte Carlo before entering Italy and travelling down the Italian Rivera. I was also hoping that we would get a chance to stop off in Florence on our way to Teramo. We had booked flights for our children and their partners to enable them to join us for my birthday in August, with us due to be back in the UK in time to deliver our youngest daughter to start her university life.

The next part of the plan was with some friends to leave the UK at the beginning of November for our “World Tour”, something the four of us dreamt up when we were in our early twenties as a celebration of completing our work lives (As I’ve said in other posts, “it’s never too early to start planning your retirement”). The idea was to travel across the world so as to spend Christmas day on the beach in Australia with stop-offs to cross Canada by train, visit California to hopefully see the whales off the coast at Monterey and drop in to see the volcanos on Hawaii before completing the crossing of the Pacific.

After our Christmas lunch on the beach we wanted to hire a camper van to tour around Australia, see the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, the rugged outback and catch some cricket at the MCG before flying on to see the wonders of New Zealand perhaps even from a hot air balloon. 

The final leg of the tour was planned as a trip to see the beauty of Thailand, the old-world tea plantations and elephants of Sri Lanka and a stop off in the Maldives before coming home. None of the journey had been planned in any detail except initial flights, Canada train ticket bookings and a plan to be on a beach on the 25/12/20 and in Sydney for New Year’s Eve.

Hey ho, the plan came a cropper in March 2020 like so many other people’s plans with COVID 19 and for us has now been postponed for at least a year.

As posted in earlier posts, we did manage to get some time in Italy, so at least we have had some travel and we must be satisfied with that in these difficult times.

So here I am today thinking about future plans. We have just booked a few days in Sorrento for March 2021; I can’t wait to re-visit Capri (Sarah and I managed a trip there on our first holiday together some 32 years ago). We have decided to spend June, July & August in Italy having never spent 3 months in Italy in one go. We’ve also agreed to do a sailing holiday around the Greek islands with other friends in 2022. 

With it blowing a gale and raining outside, having these trips planned brings a ray of sunshine into our world. Just as reading the exploits of others inspire us, I hope this post helps other to think/dream of the future.

Managing early Retirement when your partner continues to work.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I am trying to get in touch with old friends and colleagues, as my wife puts it “being sociable rather than staying in my own little bubble”. So, it was great to hear from a colleague I worked with for about 5 years who I had lost contact with a few years ago.

The colleague made contact through a social network site as he had recently been made redundant and being of a similar age to myself was considering whether to take the opportunity to retire early and wanted to know how I was doing, and did I have some tips. Gladly, he did not know of my blog or he wouldn’t have needed to made contact.

As ever, hearing from an old friend talking about the good times at work and laughing about the difficult times in hindsight, always make you feel good. Reminiscing about other colleagues and just catching up with news gives a sense of belonging and I think the timing could not have been better after my tough last week (see my “In a Rut” post for detail).

The biggest concern he had about retiring early was his wife would still be working for at least another 2 years and to be fair, this is something Sarah and I struggle with and does need to be considered in any good retirement plan.

Put simply, when I worked, I had lots of people reporting to me. They managed my diary, my work time; being the boss generally the team worked around me and when I got home, my wife managed my social life/ family time which was fitted around my working week. Very structured, no trauma, it was what we did. Now in retirement it’s a bit different; I have no-one managing my diary, I seem to have to manage my time around everyone else and whilst I want to be flexible about what we do, Sarah is still working and has commitments that we need to work around, to say this causes some tense moments is a bit of an under-statement. However, in the round, it’s just about adapting.

The other issue is roles have been reversed and now I’m in charge of cooking and cleaning. I enjoy the former, not so much the cleaning duties and thus there is more tension about what I’ve missed and making the offer to get a cleaner didn’t go down well, neither did asking whether it would be better for her to give up work so we could do the household chores together. Top tip one: Don’t get into an argument about something the other person is an expert in, and you are a novice! Top tip two: Don’t think the argument has any rational solutions! In reality I need to up my game on cleaning.

Back to the point of this post. My advice to my colleague was he needed to be honest with his wife about what retirement meant to him while she was still working and could an amicable solution be found around how they managed time, chores and the new priorities. A successful marriage is a partnership and if you are with someone, retirement is equally all about the quality of the partnership and the need to understand the changes that will be happening affect the partner as much as the retiree and like when you are off balance, it sometimes take a while to get your equilibrium back.

Hope you enjoyed the read and if you are adapting to retirement at the moment in a similar situation, please feel free to share how you have dealt with this issue with your partner.

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