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.