Fifty and Not Fecked

I had written a post I’d entitled “Fifty and Fecked”, about how it was hard getting back into employment once you’re into your fifth decade and find yourself out of work. It was a bit of a moan, so I’ve decided I’ll post it if and when I make a real effort – a real effort – to find myself a job. (And only then if I find it actually is quite difficult.)

Born to Run

Born to Run

Instead, I decided to summarise some points from an excellent essay from Garrison Keillor, entitled “Stop Complaining” from a book “50 Things to do When You Turn Fifty”, which is much more positive. Keillor (who’s actually in his Sixties) gives a Moustachian punch in the face to the elderly tendency to moan about almost everything, and recommends some alternative strategies which, I think, are good ones to remember. I also think they apply to almost anyone over twenty, not just those of us thinking about retirement.

  • Stop complaining about growing old. Nobody cares. Instead when people ask how you are, say “Absolutely great, Never better.”
  • Lose 20 pounds in weight. Eat one meal a day, two snacks. That’s all you need. Have one feast day a week when you eat what you like.
  • Give up TV and newspapers for six months or a year and sample an “unmediated life of direct experience”. You might like it.
  • Adopt a new dress style, but make it appropriate. No ponytails! Risk being a bit more conventional in a cool way. Stay trim, keep smart.
  • Put your past behind you and find something that will absorb you today. Your heart’s desire, not anyone else’s.
  • Start telling the truth. Say what you think. Express outrage if necessary. Don’t fear what the Big Cheeses in your life might think. You’re past that.
  • Express simple preferences. Don’t want to do dinner Saturday night with those moaners from across the street? Then don’t. Relax with a glass of wine and talk to your loved ones instead.
  • Talking of wine, try cutting out the booze for six months, if only to simplify things for a while.
  • Fifty is an excellent age for reform.

I really like the sentiments he expresses (apart from cutting out the booze!) Every now and then it’s a good idea for me to turn down the cynicism and sarcasm – much as I enjoy revelling in such an outlook – and turn my attention more to the positive things in life. Inevitably these are the simple things that generally cost little or no money. The moderate life. There’s a lot to be said for it.

Spending Your Pennies

I noticed this advert on Twitter this morning and it struck me that there are several leitmotif images about retirement that many companies reach for when trying to attract prospective pensioners with their cash.

Did You Pack the Preparation H?

Two Portaloos Ahoy!

Firstly, there’s the inevitable scene on the beach. After all, that’s where all pensioners want to go. In real life, you tend to see them huddled in their cars at the coast, sitting staring silently out at the horizon instead of running laughing along the sands. They have a flask of tea and a tupperware box with a cheese sandwich in it, instead of just exiting the champagne and seafood bar, as the pictured couple might just have done.

Blue, almost cloudless skies (there have to be some clouds, this is old age and retirement we’re talking about) frame the scene, but it’s difficult to tell if this is Corfu or Cornwall. It’s certainly not Cromarty, where the rain would be lashing in horizontally from the sea. The Blackpool Tower is also noticeable by its absence, so draw your own conclusions and paste your own geographic dreams onto the beach

The second thing that makes me question if this is a typically British retirement couple is that they look quite cheerful. Nay, joyful. You wonder what news they’ve just received? Is it that David Cameron has blown up the Channel Tunnel? Is it that their forty year old son has finally moved out their home? Or perhaps they’ve discovered they won’t have to contribute to their grandchildren’s school fees? Whatever, it’s clearly news that would cheer up a middle class couple who have a private (Charles Stanley) pension to live on. A state pensioner can forget the beach, unless they’re trolling it with a metal detector hoping they might find a pound coin.

In many of these ads, women take predominance, underling the position that old men are basically pretty useless. The pressure seems to be placed more on the woman to make the most of retirement – it’s the globetrotting grannies and the skydiving seventy year old great aunts that we tend to read about in the papers. The woman will take the lead, the man is in the background. Old blokes as pensioner role models? Not in the adverts, unless they’re pottering around the garden or selling constipation relief. I feel that men only have themselves to blame for this and that we need to take a more positive and energetic approach to our retirement instead of seeing Victor Meldrew as an aspirational figure.

Where is the mobility scooter in this picture, you may ask? I did. Last time I was at the coast, I made a mental note to look into which companies built these things so I could invest in their shares. They were everywhere. I’m not sure I can recall seeing an advert for a mobility scooter though. Bad health is a difficult sell and, if you have your pension with Charles Stanley, that’s clearly not going to be YOUR future.

What else is missing? The Portaloo, of course. For an elderly couple to be having this much fun on a beach, there has to be a vacant toilet somewhere just off camera. To paraphrase for a pensioner, if you can see a loo it means you’re about to pee, if you can’t, you’re peeing.

All in all, the above advert is, for me, an absolute incentive to retire as early as possible. The time to be running joyfully along the sands with a big smile on your face is now, while you still can.