‘You’ll be slowing down a bit now, I expect.’ Julian had dropped in to see how the artichokes were progressing. As he and his host loitered in the veg garden, the conversation turned to what it is like being a pensioner. The visitor is a lad, barely into his fifties. And he made a great show of respecting someone who has attained the grand old age of 66.
‘You don’t look a day over sixty,’ he said.
‘I can’t think of you as an OAP,’ he said.
‘You’re quare fit,’ he said, leaving out the ‘for a man of your advanced years’ phrase implied in his assertion. It was reaching the point where Medders was beginning to wonder whether Julian had called by looking for a loan or some other favour.
The unrelenting gush of contrived positivity – as a man of all those advanced years, he was grimly proud to have mastered such up-to-date lingo – was getting on his wick. At least Julian diplomatically avoided the R word, retirement being a sensitive subject.
Medders held a firm conviction that retirement is bad for the health and nothing could persuade him otherwise. Those who have worthwhile work to go to, and the blessing of good health to carry it out, need not rush to hand in their notice, he reasoned.
Declarations by retirees of intention to trim a few shots off the golf handicap or write the long gestated novel he was sceptical about. Surely there must be a limit to the satisfaction to be had from clipping that little white ball down that big green fairway, was his logic. If the golf (or the poker classics, or the oil painting, or the ballad singing, or the hill walking or the whatever) becomes mere routine, he mused, then it is like work, but without the pay.
Hobbies and pastimes are treats which must surely lose their thrill when they become the everyday – that was his conclusion. And though he always told would-be authors that he would be delighted to have a look at their planned bestseller, he had yet to receive a single manuscript. He had never been invited to any publication launch parties either.
The claims of those who say they have never been happier since stepping down from the work-force he took with a pinch of salt. He had the example of actress June Brown fresh in his mind.
She was the woman who played the character Dot Cotton in ‘East Enders’ for decades. June declared very publicly that working was her life but she eventually stepped off the set of the soap series in 2020.
Within a couple of years of retirement, she was deceased. Case proven, as far as Medders was concerned, overlooking Ms Brown’s chronic nicotine dependence and the fact that she was 95 when she died.
He railed against public policy which dictates that gardaí, civil servants, nurses and so on, must step aside on reaching a set, arbitrary age: ‘All that experience thrown away!’ he harumphed, ignoring the fact that most of those gardaí, civil servants and nurses are only to keen to take their pensions and skedaddle.
He gathered tales from the newspapers of folk who have refused to enter the twilight zone of retirement, each one a hero in his eyes. There’s the barber who continues to clip and snip and shave deep into his eighties with no thought yet of hanging up his scissors. There’s the 86 year old school PE instructor of his acquaintance who, though side-lined by Covid, was limbering up to return to her post only to collapse and pass away.
‘That’s the way sign off,’ he opined after learning of her demise. ‘She never fretted over whether she could afford a cruise to help her while away the endless hours of doing nothing. She never insisted on having her payments made in cash at the post office just so she would be guaranteed to meet other people at least once a week.’
Julian, who has always fancied the notion of travelling or maybe taking up woodturning whenever his turn finally comes to take the gold watch, was taken aback by the forcefulness with which Medders expressed his views on the subject.
‘You’ll be slowing down a bit now, I expect, all the same,’ ventured the younger man.
The reply came in one word: ‘No.’