Reasons to be cheerful… when still working at 60+

(With apologies to Ian Dury!)

I’m always being asked when I will ‘retire’. Well, to be honest, the word fills me with ‘dread’. In the sense of ‘drawing back’ or even ‘standing still’ I never will. Most people I know at my age are now retired – and happy with it. Stewart ‘retired’ in a sense at 40 and loves it. He spends a lot of time in the garden, plants, weeds and potters. He goes to the library and meets friends for coffee.

Loughborough market

But I am not really ‘a potterer’. I have a low boredom threshold and like to have 20 things on the go at once. Once I had to; now I like to. Sometimes I go to the market on Thursdays, carry a pink basket and buy cheap stuff (that invariably goes rotten before we have chance to eat it). If it’s a sunny day I think ‘Oh wouldn’t it be lovely to do this every week’. On a grim day I think ‘Oh the poor souls who have nothing else to do!’. I find it depressing. And in a small town you see the same folk. Summer-time is the worst when the students have left. Although I did see some foreign students who were taking photos. Maybe tourists or new students. I wonder what they think, there’s not much to see (see previous blog).

One of the best things about still working is the people I meet. Every new client and project exposes me to really interesting people. I have ‘friends’, old and new. Some you just click with; others you get to know. Some I have worked with once; others for 15 years. I am fortunate in only ever having a couple of unpleasant people to work with. One was a guy from a (low-level) supermarket chain who played football in his office – yes, really – as I tried to talk to him. The other was a snooty woman buyer who said to me ‘So you’re really an administrator, then?’. But these are the exception which is why I remember them.

I have made at least 3 new ‘friends’ at work in the last year. One in Hong Kong, she looked after me when I was working there. One when we did a project together over a few months last year. She is so lovely, caring, interesting … Both these friends look at least 10 years younger than their age – we don’t have that in common! And another is a man who makes me laugh a lot – always a winning feature. If I ‘retired’ I may meet new people but I’d have to think carefully how I would do this in Loughborough. Groups I have joined have included a knitting circle (all-night knitting with wine!), Italian class (couldn’t bear the slow pace and dumb questions!) and ‘remedial’ sewing class with Emma (neither of us got to make anything we could wear and spent most of the time unpicking what we’d sewn). These things tend to attract older folks and I like a mix of young and old.

Another reason I enjoy working is that I get to learn about new things. At the moment it’s nurseries (kids not plants), ship-building, food and fitness. Other people’s jobs are endlessly fascinating. I don’t care which industry, skills or level, I am genuinely curious. I am lucky to get paid to ask questions and probe. My first job was with civil engineers on the topic of resurfacing roads. I used to be able to describe the constituents of tarmac (popular at parties!) but now forgotten(Geraldine, bet you remember!). I worked with roadside services men. They told great stories about the hazards of picking people up after road accidents and how you decide whether to speak (they need comfort) or remain silent (they are traumatised). It’s the hidden skills that are often over-looked.

I once interviewed a bishop. And had tea with a Jesuit in the Ritz. But that’s another story. I’ll write that book when I stop working – at some point.

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