The sun appeared Up North last week bringing a lovely day, the first in weeks and months, so with not much on my agenda I jumped in the car and headed for the coast. In my year off, I’ve become relatively fit so my plan was to do a five mile run (jog) along the shoreline at Scarborough, from the South Bay over to the North and back.
It was rather blustery when I parked up on the sea cliffs of South bay that overlook the town, but the sun was shining and I duly headed off down the steep slope toward the harbour, hoping that the seafront was relatively quiet. I still feel somewhat of a twat jogging, partly because I’m going pretty slowly (a child once shouted “Slow train to China!” at me as I passed) and partly because I’ve always thought that joggers are twats anyway. So I don’t like much to be seen puffing along by the general public although I can usually get over myself and get on with it. Why? Because I always – always – feel infinitely better and brighter when it’s finished.
I reached the seafront and paced along it, dodging several mobility scooters and hoping that they wouldn’t show me up by accelerating past me. It made me count my blessings, all the same, that I could move on my own two legs. The mobility scooter is one version of old age and retirement that nobody wants, surely, and motivates me to keep the fitness going. If you haven’t got your health…..this time last year I was suffering really badly from toothache and it was utter misery. You take good health so much for granted until it goes amiss.
The sun had brought plenty of people out into the fresh air, but they split into two distinct groups: pensioners and the unemployed. The former far outnumbered the latter and I amused myself by trying to segment them into further groupings. Firstly, you could do this by perceived social class: the pensioner middle classes were quite well represented, generally well dressed in their Barbour jackets, wearing proper walking shoes, sometimes sporting a walking pole or two (on the concrete seafront FFS) and with occasional expensive binoculars or cameras slung around their neck. They tended to barrel briskly along, looked you straight in the eye and carried themselves as if they owned the promenade and demanded the right of way. The pensioner working classes, well, I hesitate to write this, but I could spot them because they tended to be (1) pretty overweight and (2) often suffering from some sort of limp or shuffling gait. Their clothes weren’t really aimed at serious walking, but they often smiled at you as they passed and would generally get out of your way as they saw you approaching. The upper middle classes, well, let’s be honest, they wouldn’t be seen dead on Scarborough seafront buying a bag of whelks, would they? The unemployed? There were a few out, generally young, wearing trackies, smoking and lethargically slouching along.
Or you could split by demeanour. There were the happy couples, the clearly-less-content couples (bloke about ten yards ahead of partner), the singletons, the glad to be alivers, the feeling like deathers, the nursing a hangovers and the downright confused.
Or you could do more traditional groupings: the single mums, the fathers for action, the families with kids, the immigrants and, of course, one or two twats like me out jogging.
Doing this classification reminded me of a passage Simon Armitage wrote in his book “Walking Home” about his hike across the Pennine Way, where he categorised the fellow ramblers he encountered into “prejudicial” groupings, noting the numbers that fell into each.
The Last Hurrah – 24
The Exuberance of Youth – 9
The Call of the Wild – 17
She’s Left Me/I’ll Show Him -16
Bear Grylls/Ray Mears Box Set -9
Julia Bradbury – 4
Mid Life Crisis – 11
Finding Myself – 2
Away with the Fairies – 1
Unclassifiable – 26
The thing is, neither Armitage on his hike nor me on my jog spotted many people who we thought were similar to us. Perhaps this is just a common psychological trait in which we all think that we’re quite unique beings, as encapsulated by an old Scottish toast, “Here’s to us. Wha’s like us? Damn few, an’ they’re aw deid”. But I often find myself looking out for people who might have retired early, even though I know it’s a pretty impossible task to spot them by sight alone. I’d like to know how they’re finding the lifestyle. It’s partly why I started this blog, because I felt that the majority of the FIRE sites I visited were relentlessly positive about the non-working life and it got my goat. It’s just not all that, and surely there were people like me out there who were finding early retirement and financial independence not any better or worse from working for a living? It’s similar to the travel blogs that witter on about just how fantastic touring the world is, while failing to mention the sheer drudgery of travel, the boredom of a wet Tuesday afternoon in Ulaanbaatar and the peculiar melancholy of homesickness that sees you surfing the web for a cheap flight home as soon as possible.
I’m too embarrassed to admit how long this five mile jog took me, but by the time I finished it had passed from morning to after midday. By this time, there were quite a few more joggers out along the promenade who were at least my age or younger. I suspected that they were taking their lunch break to maybe come out and get some fresh air either from the office or from working at home. So I completed the jog having confirmed my prejudices. Everyone my age is working.
17 thoughts on “Coasting”
> Everyone my age is working.
But everyone your age is working. Early retirement is very, very rare in this country. Everybody who I have told doesn’t believe I am retired – my dentist flat out refused to believe it saying I look too young to be retired and I am sure my hairdresser thought I was using retired as a euphemism for unemployed 😉
You are, of course, getting sample bias going to Scarborough, it’s not like employment opportunities are rife there so the working-age people will tend to be under represented anyway.
Curiously enough, when I walk into town on workdays I see the same two cohorts, the retired and the unemployed. However, in Ipswich it is the unemployed who are generally the fat ones and the pensioners who are relatively trim. Obviously I am getting sample bias in the latter, I’m not going to see the bedridden walking around town, but it struck me nevertheless that there were a lot of large folk in the working-age population. The number of people who are younger than me in mobility scooters is positively frightening (I am mid-fifties) and it’s not hard to diagnose why many are in mobility scooters, they are just way too heavy. Of course if they have limited mobility I guess they may put on weight a bit, but something clearly very, very bad is happening with health and nutrition with the working age but not working population.
Perhaps it’s something about my area – we did have the world’s fattest man after all.
Ah, I remember visiting the hairdresser! Many years ago and a lot of hair has gone down the plughole since then.
Just me, but I prefer evidence to anecdote
June 2015 survey of participation by age in the labour market:
Page 13 has the data:
– 85% economic activity rate of 46-55 year olds in 2013 (includes part timers)
– 57% economic activity rate for 56-65 year olds in 2013
– 13% economic activity for 65-75 yearolds
Seems most people retire somewhere after 55 but before 65
But you are unable to separate important variables in that data, because economic activity cannot discriminate between voluntarily inactive, ie retired early and involuntarily inactive, ie unemployed. At least the summary doesn’t split that difference.
Most people in their 50s who are economically inactive are unemployed and moan about it, like those from Panorama’s Finished at Fifty. When I see a business card saying consultant and I look up and see grey hair I mentally translate ‘unemployed’ – and that’s even though that assumption used to piss me off because I am not unemployed but people did the same translation from ‘retired’ 😉 For sure, some consultants are consultants post 50. You know that because they have a different presence and it’s all about the jobs they are doing now.
I know absolutely nobody personally who is an early retiree like me, although I know enough people who got iced or took VR from the company I worked for. They’re working, or want to. Indeed the fellow who taught me how to use AVCs and the pension system and was full of cockiness of how if you don’t retire at 45 you’ve screwed up is still working there. because his wife and kids quite liked the middle class lifestyle and so he is basically a walking wallet.
Just posting to say the walking wallet article was a great read 🙂
Tend to agree with your points Ermine. I was “iced” from my company if I’m honest. I had been dreaming of retiring early but would I have chosen it voluntarily? No. Your comments on consultancy are also harsh but fair.
There isn’t really a clear split between the voluntarily and involuntarily inactive once people are wealthy. You can be involuntarily inactive simply because the jobs on offer don’t appeal to you – this is the case with many well-off people in middle age, e.g. the blogger here
I don’t really regard such people as involuntarily inactive, really they voluntarily choose not to work just like Bartleby the scrivener
I do often have to remind myself about the wealth angle. I’m very lucky to be able to choose to go back to work or not. On the other hand, investing a lot of my income for nearly thirty years didn’t have much to do with luck.
I love organizing people by type. I used to work at a movie theater and had fun guessing what movie people were going to see before they handed me their ticket. I had to be right at least 90% of the time.
That almost tempts me to go and look for a job in a cinema! I’d love to know how accurate I’d be.
With 3 months to go to ER, I’m looking forward to going out with the veterans in the cycle club on Wednesdays. The thing is, I’ll be knackered as thay are all fit as fleas because they all have the time to go cycling regularly. I’ll be out paced by a 73 year old. – sheeesh.
With a bit of time I hope to join them in being really fit.
I am sorry you are not finding ER to be everything you hoped. One lady in the club’s advice is to keep “really busy” in the first few months on initially retiring. Wise words I suspect.
Myself – I have to stop work as a way of stopping my stress levels being so high. As a teacher, work colours my perception of the world in a negative way. I have had depression twice in the past eight years and this has to change.
You will find your way through this. All the retirees I’ve asked “have you had any regrets about retiring?” have said no. A couple of the guys in the club went at 50.
May I ask “Is it a status thing?”
Feynman (my real hero Physicist and Philosopher) always said “What do you care what other people think?”
Ultimately I think you hit the nail on the head by saying it is no better or worse than working for a living. Perhaps I’ll find the same thing but I hopefully will not have to start taking antidepressants again.
I’ll keep busy board gaming, cycling, gardening, reading and travelling around europe on a bike.
(BTW the long distance travel thing is absolutely correct, it can be really miserable but usually the highs balance out the lows.)
All the best,
Hi Matt, your comments made me think about the “status” thing. There is something in that, although I tend to worry about this most in relation to my DOH. I sometimes think she finds my retirement a lot more difficult to handle than I do! Don’t get me wrong though, the retired life has much going for it, as plenty of blogs attest to. Maybe I should post more about the positives but, to be honest, I just like moaning.
During my post FIRE weekday forays to the local slightly down at heel town centre or my strolls along the seafront, I’ve been really surprised at the sheer number of people around. There’s a whole secret sub-culture of skivers out there – whose entire existence you’re unaware of as you strive at your desk all day.
I hesitate to categorise as I have my own, unique (Mrs SDG assures me) binary people categorisation system. As, for example, new passengers enter a train carriage, I categorise them by whether they or I would win a bare handed fight to the death. Passes the time.
You’ve just made every last one of my commutes better. I like it even more than would I / could I get them into bed?
At work, we used to categorise employees by asking ourselves the question, “IF we had to fill a minibus and go and drive it round to our competition to kick seven leagues of shit out of them, who would we put on the bus?” Needless to say, most of the picks were women.
I don’t think I could ever travel long term, but love every minute of it whenever I do it. Longest we managed was for about 4 months, I think I could have pushed that to 6 before I got really homesick, but nowadays that would probably be less than a month (although practically impossible with baby in tow now!)
The low points often make the funny stories that you remember for years to come. I can see why it’s not for most people though, I’ve been on even short holidays with some people who seem to get stressed out very easily in unfamiliar surroundings. You need to be pretty chilled out and take things as they come to be a “travelling type” for any length of time I think, which I am about half way towards being (I think!)
Great to hear you are keeping up with the jogging, you are right that health is the most important thing we have!
Jogging can be a bit like travelling in that looking back at it is often more fun than doing it.