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On old friends, some new hobbies, and not having to act my age

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IT was with no small degree of trepidation and significant soul searching that I decided last year that I would retire early

There were various reasons, none of which on their own would have been reason enough to go but friends were retiring, and in recent years I had developed new interests on which I was anxious to spend more time, plus my husband had retired several years earlier. (I married a much older man!)

One of my worries was that I might not have enough to do. Himself took to doing absolutely nothing like a duck to water, having always believed that he should have been born a gentleman.

But the accident of birth stymied that particular idea even before he was conceived given that he was born on the wrong side of the river in the People's Republic, but that's a whole other story.

I spent many years as a stay-at-home mum before going back to the workplace when my youngest child (I have three) went into second level. We were called housewives at that time but I was never particularly comfortable with that moniker, given that neither the house nor the husband got much of a look-in.

Stay-at-home mum is a much more suitable name, though I used to refer to that period of my life as my demented mother-of-three phase. On his fourth birthday my middle child said to me: "I'm four now, Mum. You're a demented mother of four."

FREEDOM

I worried for years that I may have scarred him for life but looking at him now, travelling independently around South America just for the hell of it, I don't think so.

When I returned to the workplace, I remember with pleasure the feeling of pure freedom of having eight hours a day which had nothing to do with lunches, runners, shirts, meal preparation, bed-making or cleaning. The feeling was something akin to culture shock.

Having conversations and negotiations where the words 'child' or 'husband' were not mentioned was an eye opener.

After the exhausting, if very fulfilling work, as a stay-at-home mum, going into paid work for eight hours a day was a doddle. It broadened my horizons and I made new friends. It was a whole different way of life, so I was a bit worried that I might have trouble settling back into that world upon retirement – it could be either domestic bliss or domestic chaos, depending on what way you look at it.

I made a deliberate decision not to expect things to work out but to do things which would involve meeting new people. I have reconnected with my book club that I just couldn't manage to fit in for the last two years or so.

I have joined a hill-walking club, because even though I hill-walk fairly frequently, I have never been in a club. On a whim my friend and I joined Movie Extras. Going to the photoshoot for that was great fun in itself and it was interesting to see the other movie aspirants.

There were only two or three stage-struck youngsters that I saw. The majority, both male and female, appeared to be what Leo Varadkar might have described as "of a certain vintage", i.e. about Gabriel Byrne's age, but not as good looking. They were probably getting involved for similar reasons as those of my friend and me.

We hoped it would be an opportunity to get an inside view of the world of film-making. There were two housewives who clearly were there for the giggle and like ourselves enjoyed the experience. Some of the youngsters appeared to be students and were probably in it for the money, though you wouldn't want to be depending on it to pay the bills – I'd say we won't get rich on the fee.

Though we have not been inundated with offers of fame we had great fun for three or four days walking in and out of a Court House pretending to be legal eagles. I've always wanted to be a barrister and the consensus was that I really looked the part.

SNAP

In the interests of taking up a new hobby I joined a photography class for beginners. I had been given a very nice camera as a present but it has a manual about the size of the not very concise Oxford Dictionary, so I thought if I went to a class I might be shown how to use it in a few easy moves.

It wasn't a great success. I'm not exactly a beginner – I've been taking photographs badly for most of my life. But I think the tutor expected me to know more than I do. Still, I can always sit down and read the manual some time when I have a month or two to spare!

So, despite my fears, I am really enjoying retirement which I just regard as a new phase of my life. It has, of course, given me much more time for writing and connecting with other writers. But my brother must get credit for the best description of a successful retirement: "Every day is a perfect Saturday."

Miranda Manning held a number of jobs during her career and wrote the social thriller 'Who is Alice?'


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