If you’re not an Ian Dury fan, don’t panic you haven’t missed parts 1 and 2 – it’s one of his song titles! Today marks two months since we set off from Cholsey in our motorhome, to embark on this exciting phase of life that some call a sabbatical, and some call early retirement. We’d been planning it for ten years, in worrying levels of detail, and we had shared with all our loved ones our plans, dreams and aspirations.
Yet, when we set off that March morning we were forced to abandon all those plans and dreams, and like the rest of the world, we were rapidly heading into this new reality of lockdown, distancing and uncertainty. In the two months since we have enjoyed many calls and conversations about our adjustment to this unforeseen hiatus. Many friends have been concerned that we’re devastated not to be touring the South of France in our motorhome, and are surprised that actually we’ve adjusted quite well. We have many reasons to be cheerful.
Before I go on, a disclaimer: in no way do I underestimate the impact of the pandemic. We have friends who have been ill, we have lost an elderly relative to Covid, we know people face economic, mental health and other challenges as a result of lockdown. Whilst we don’t know any frontline NHS (or other services) workers personally, we appreciate the phenomenal pressure they have been under and the sacrifices they have been making. However, one can honour all of that, and still look for positives.
During our six-hour, fifteen-mile walk in glorious sunshine around the South Hams area yesterday, including some stunning cliff walks and awe-inspiring views of Dartmoor on the horizon, I took time to contemplate my own, or our own, reasons to be cheerful:
- First and foremost, we have our health and fitness – not only to be able to tackle such walks, but just to be surviving in this difficult time
- We have great friends and family, who stay in touch with frequent video calls where we all discuss how we haven’t done much, but we enjoy the contact!
- We have very generous friends who helped us in our time of need with the offer of this property in Devon, we are forever in their debt
- We are “stuck” in a beautiful part of the country, with amazing sea views, rolling green fields and an abundance of life, both farmed and wild.
- We have had THE most amazing weather – in over eight weeks here we have had four or five wet days. On only one day have we been totally confined to barracks. After the wet winter we had, this is even more amazing. Our new neighbours here want us to stay forever, because we seem to have been a luck charm on the sunshine front!
- We have been able to give back a little to our community here by volunteering as middle-class drug pushers – collecting prescriptions for the shielded elderly residents and delivering them to their door (and then retreating 2 metres…)
- We have developed a great routine – blending our physical fitness with some intellectual stimulation and socialising (virtually) and enjoying some incredible films and documentaries via Amazon Prime and Netflix.
- The pressures and worries of normal working life, and running a home, have gradually fallen away – and without them you realise how consuming they are. Living in a property where you can’t do DIY and there is no gardening to do is both unsettling but also hugely liberating. For the first time in decades we have no real job list* so we can just enjoy our time and do as we please
*Let’s not be silly, of course we still have a job list – how could anyone function without one? (!) It’s just a lot shorter and a lot less pressing than before.
Our greatest reason to be cheerful, it has emerged, is that without the distractions of work, of jobs around the home, of activities within Cholsey, we have much, much more time to just be together and to talk. And, surprisingly perhaps after 30 years together, we both really like that. Whilst most people we speak to are concerned that we’re devastated not to be in France and doing our Grand Tour, we’ve actually adjusted really well to being here in Devon. Mainly because we have realised that seeing all the places we had planned to visit wasn’t actually the most exciting part of our plans. Just being together was.
Of course, a time will come when we venture out of Thurlestone and start to re-engage with the wider world. Like everybody, we still aspire to travel far and wide, even if we are nervous about what travel will look like post-Covid, and whether plans will be disrupted like this again and again in the coming months and years. But lockdown has taught us two things about travel – firstly, if you’re going to do any travelling, book through an agent who can manage any changes for you (personally we would recommend the professionally talented and personally gorgeous Gill Nicholls) and secondly, it’s not about the travelling per se, it’s about what happens inside you as you travel.
So, two months into retirement, and lockdown, we have many, many reasons to be cheerful. I can’t speak for Bev, but personally I actually hold no regret that we didn’t get to France. I have got so much from the time in Devon, not least some real, quality time with her. I can do that anywhere. I guess now it would just be nice to be able to choose! We might have to wait another couple of months for that, but France will still be there, and hopefully our enjoyment of each other’s company will still be there too!
I hope you have reasons to be cheerful, and I hope in some small way these thoughts have given you one or two more. Stay safe, stay well and stay in touch.