Life after work – reflections from the” third age” – A Cressex School Governor gives us a few glimpses of life after the world of work.

In May 2006, at the age of 57 and after 36 years in the world of paid work, I found myself with time on my hands.


I have friends and acquaintances who have virtually had to be dragged from their workplace at statutory retirement age, frightened by the perceived abyss of time left when that working week disappears. In truth, my job had become pretty all-consuming and it was clear that I could not continue at the same pace for much longer. I had enjoyed a fulfilling career, but the chance to retire early and redirect my energies came as something of a relief.


I left work with few specific plans. No retreat to a seaside bungalow was envisaged – I had come to appreciate that my roots are too deep here. A world cruise or part-time consultancy work did not appeal to me and looked forward to the simple things. I would walk and cycle more in the glorious Chilterns, regain the habit of reading books which I had largely lost, and perhaps take a few more holidays. I would also have time to devote to interests and voluntary work which though part of my past life had previously taken second place to my career. I had a vague notion that I might formalise a very amateur interest in art history into study for an Open University degree. A growing fascination with the canal system might, in time I thought, lead to the acquisition of a narrowboat to pursue this new hobby.


I was certain that I would get to more Wycombe Wanderers’ games, particularly those on midweek evenings which work had previously precluded.


So how have things turned out?


Not for one single minute have I regretted the decision to retire. I have no trouble filling my time – sometimes usefully, at times frivolously, and at other times almost unconsciously. I maintain contact with some former work colleagues, welcoming the reinforcement that talking to them provides that I did the right thing. They in turn enjoy the opportunity to talk to someone who understands the challenges and difficulties they face, without their candor being perceived as weakness.


Those plans I had have pretty much been realised. I walk most days and have rediscovered books. “The Guardian”, which I have purchased regularly since leaving school, no longer remains unread. I feel better informed.


The canals proved a more immediate lure than I expected and urged on by an old university friend who reminded me “you’re a long time dead”; a second-hand narrowboat was acquired within 4 months of retiring. We moor in a wonderfully scenic location under Ivinghoe Beacon and often spend weekends there. Several holidays have been enjoyed, including 5 and 7 week cruises around rural England - a wonderful way to travel and see the countryside.


I spend more time on community work, developing activities I was already involved in, and acquiring some new interests. “Retirement” has shown me that there is still real work to get stuck into and no shortage of opportunities for anyone willing to remain active, engaged and, hopefully, able to make a contribution. I have also learned that there is a particular satisfaction in doing things for their intrinsic worth, and not through the contractual promise of a monetary reward.


I remain involved in organising road races through Handy Cross Runners; serve on the conduct and discipline panel of my professional institute, hearing complaints against members; act as a “lay” member of a committee which recruits new magistrates, involving some most enjoyable interviewing and continue to serve as a Governor of Cressex Community School, an immensely satisfying role as we see the new building taking shape and the school powering forward on all fronts. The change of status to a Cooperative Learning Trust will present great challenges for the management of the school but the result will be huge opportunities for youngsters in the area, their families and the community as a whole.


Some aspects of retirement have caught me unawares. The fact that I can spend some days without apparently doing anything, yet not be bored. How much more acutely I have tuned into the changing seasons and daily patterns of weather. I perhaps spend more time looking back rather than forward, a natural consequence of getting older I suspect, and try to balance this in a proactive way by remaining engaged with exciting things which have their focus in the future, or at least the here and now.


Perhaps the biggest, most welcome but unanticipated feature of retirement has been the arrival of a first grandchild. As well as helping me to maintain a proper perspective on things, and hopefully slow down the aging process, I somehow find that I do not have quite as much spare time as I expected!


David Riddington


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