Retirement Practice (part 2)

Why Retirement Practice?  This is my first school summer holiday as a school employee.  For years I have had to put up with comments from Lindsey’s colleagues like ‘have a good summer’ and ‘what are your plans for the summer’ etc when my answer has usually been ‘well, more of the same’ as I had a normal job.

My favourite/most annoying comment of this ilk was someone explaining to me that to a teacher the month of August, being close to going back to school, is the equivalent of a normal person’s Sunday being close to Monday.  In recent years working as a consultant I was able to negotiate longer periods off in the summer but even these times were set around long holidays where I would work up to the Friday, come back on a Sunday some weeks later and then go straight back to work.  So this is the first time that I’ve been off for an extended period of time without necessarily being on holiday and when I have also been paid.  In summary we have spent our summer going on a short holiday to Vietnam, two weeks in the countryside in the UK at my family’s shared country cottage,  a further two weeks in London in our own flat, two weeks in the States visiting Lindsey’s family and a few more days in London back in our own flat.  To my mind I imagine our retirement will be like that.  We will definitely spend time in the cottage, go on short holidays and spend the rest of our time in our London flat in which we intend to retire.  In truth I have been working during the summer on a project and also answering emails but these tasks easily equate to time I will spend on personal projects after we retire.  How does retirement practice feel?  Pretty damn good I have to say and I am already looking forward to next summer’s retirement practice.

So, what of the rest of our summer?  As an aside I should mention that to the Burmese people working at school, the whole ‘summer break’ thing must be quite annoying.  To them, we are not on a summer break but are going off during the monsoon season and then part of the rainy reason.  The monsoon (mo oo ya dthi) usually lasting the month of June, comes before the rainy season  proper (mo ya dthi) which lasts from July until around the end of October.

We arrived back in London on a morning so had plenty of time to get ourselves to my brother’s place where we spent a few days first.  That night we met up with my family in a pub which felt totally normal and not at all like we’d been away for a year in a far flung place.  The next days were spent catching up with friends before hiring a car and heading off to the country for two weeks.  One of my guilty pleasures is hiring large new cars at great expense and this one was no exception.  So much so that the hiring agent asked us how many people would be travelling and was surprised when we said only two!

Our time in Devon (which is the county in South West England where we have our country cottage) was great and felt the most normal with the one major caveat that our dog, Nell, was not with us.  Since the day we got her back in 2011 we have never spent a day in Devon without her so our whole routine was thrown out of whack.  While we were there we had the novelty of a visitor from Yangon.  One of our colleagues and friend from the school had been travelling mainly in the Middle East with a friend of his and planned on spending the last part of their trip in London.  On arriving they hired a car and bravely drove straight to Devon never having driven on the other side of the road before let alone facing the perils of tiny single lane country roads.  They arrived in the dark without putting a foot wrong having had the added bonus of driving right past Stonehenge at sunset 3 days before the summer equinox.

The other fun thing we did in Devon the day before leaving was our annual task of putting on a beer station for the North Devon Marathon.  A few years ago we were cheering on the runners outside the local pub, beer in hand, when a passing runner suggested that a beer might be good right about now.  This gave Lindsey the idea that putting on a beer station might be fun.  The following year we did just that much to the amusement of the landlord and onlookers who though we were crazy and would get no takers.  To everyone’s surprise the beer station was a roaring success.  That year’s winning man stopped for a beer.  In subsequent years the winning man and women have almost always stopped for a beer as do many other runners.  This year the winning man did not stop for a beer disappointingly although the winning woman did.  I should say that this is one of the hardest marathons going as the second half is spent going along the North Devon Coastal path which is a series of sheer climbs and descents.  The pub is just after mile 18 and is followed by one of the cruellest hills on the entire course.  Some feel that a beer is good preparation.  There’s a lady at the top of the hill who gives out sausage rolls so at least there’s an incentive at both ends!

Then back to London for another 2 weeks and this time staying in our own flat as our tenants are conveniently away for the month of July.  It was great to be back in our flat although felt a little strange to be guests there.  This time flew by with a constant stream of meet ups with friends all interested to hear our tales.  (Note to self – next year we need to host a barbecue or something and try to see as many people at once to avoid having to tell the same stories over and over again – read our blog people)!  The year that has gone by in Yangon has been too full of novelty to allow for any sense of homesickness however, I know that one of the things that we will miss will be the culture that is so readily on hand in London.  While we were there, for instance, we saw an exhibition of the glass sculptor Chihuly at the the main London botancal garden, Kew, and an exhibition of Van Gogh.  The Van Gogh exhibition was nice although a little contrived as many exhibitions are these days.  A handful of paintings by the lead artist and then a whole load of paintings that sort of go along with the theme.  This one was Van Gogh in London and the influence he subsequently created.  One aspect that we had not experienced to anything like the degree we did this time was the phenomenon of people standing right in front of the painting and taking a photo with their phones followed by a quick photo of the explanation and then quickly moving on to the next painting and photo.  People (and not by any means just young people) were literally shoving you out of the way to get their shots without spending any time looking at the actual art itself.  This was particularly poignant in a Van Gogh exhibition where the art has to be seen in the flesh to get a real idea of the colours and sheer volume of paint and style of painting.  This was especially true of the painting called Starry Night over the Rhone (not to be confused with Starry Night) which was mesmerising to say the least.

I know I promised you a rattlesnake but this post has gone on long enough.  I promise a rattlesnake in the next post – part 3.  Honest.


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