Category Archives: Just Retiring

Pine Cottage Supper Club – entertainment

Well, my head still hurts and today is a very slow Saturday, after last night’s Tuesley Lane neighbourly shindig at Snoo Powell’s Pine Cottage Supper Club in Hydestile.

For better or for worse, we asked everyone to provide a short piece of inter-course entertainment. On a strictly voluntary basis. It helped the evening whizz by. As did the alcohol.

My own humble offering is reproduced below. It wrapped up the evening. It wasn’t funny but it came from the heart.

Numbers and Words

65 million people living in the UK.

22,000 in Godalming.

19 bottles of wine.

12 people.

3 courses.

1 host.

Numbers….functional, precise, unemotional.

But numbers can’t describe the friendships forged between 12 people over the gentle effluxion of time, initially neighbours but becoming so much more with each passing year.

You need words to describe the simple pleasure of those people sharing birthday celebrations; a bike ride on a grey winter morning; a walk across harvested fields in the full glare of a late summer sun.

18 years of marriage. But how can a stark number begin to convey the depth of love, affection and respect forged in that period, through times of work, stress and leisure alike?

Words are needed to portray a child’s love and memory of their parents, prompted as simply perhaps as by running a finger over the well burnished handle of an over-used garden tool.

5 holidays in 12 months, but only words can allow family and friends to share and understand the cultural differences experienced in an alien land, the exhilaration of seeing an Oriental sun rise at dawn from a volcanic crater rim, or the taste of a freshly cooked blacktip trevally, redolent still of the Indian Ocean waters.

4 countries in 16 years, but words are needed to give depth to the multi-layered emotions of expatriate life..the unalloyed pleasure of meeting new friends from a foreign culture; freedom from the straitjacket of domestic routine; the thrill of spontaneous weekends in another country. But all the while, an invisible force pulls you back to the home you left, as surely as a foraging bird returns to the nest.

19 bottles of wine. 2 colours. 5 countries. But that gives no sense of the soil from which the vines eased upwards, the passionate, nurturing hands of the winegrowers, the patient fermentation process in oak barrels as old as the estate owner’s grandfather.

1 host. Well, 2. But neither number can begin to tell of the generosity of spirit from Snoo and Gary in opening up the doors of Pine Cottage to 12 complete strangers. Nor of the flexibility and friendliness. Nor of the brilliant food and hospitality. Thank you, Pine Cottage….thank you, Chef Snoo & sous chef Gary.

Thank you, words.


Bombs and terrorism

On Saturday 24th April, 1993, I was on holiday back in Bermuda. That day the office of the Japanese company I was working for, high up the tower of 99 Bishopsgate in the heart of London’s business community, was destroyed by an IRA bomb.

An IRA bomb destroyed the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank in the City of London.

Hidden in a stolen tipper truck parked by the HSBC building, the device – a huge and deadly concoction of fertiliser and diesel – killed 1 person, injured 44 and caused £350 million of damage.

I never worked in the building again.

The long-running mainland UK bombing campaign by the IRA eventually came to a halt, after decades of murder and devastation, and thanks to tortuous political negotiations.

On Wednesday 6th July, 2005, I stood in Trafalgar Square with colleague David Kuo and hundreds of other Londoners awaiting an announcement from the IOC, in Singapore, about the venue for the 2012 Olympics.

Paris was hot favourite. London won. I have never known such a perfect, instantaneous outpouring of elation as on that hopeful summer lunchtime.

The following day, Thursday 7th July – known as 7/7 in a poignant homage to New York’s 9/11 of 4 years earlier- Islamist extremists  detonated 3 separate backpack bombs in quick succession on the London Underground, Soon after, a 4th ripped apart an iconic red double-decker bus, in Tavistock Square.

52 people died and more than 700 were injured.

On Wednesday 7th January, 2015, two Al-Qaeda inspired Islamist terrorists entered the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, killing 11 and injuring 11 others.

In related attacks across the city, a further 5 were killed and another 11 wounded.

On Friday 13th November, 2015, ISIS-inspired and Syrian-planned extremists carried out a series of deadly attacks on bars. restaurants a music venue and the Stade de France sports stadium in the heart of Paris.

At the moment, 129 people have died and 350 have been injured.

I was in Paris earlier this year.  Security was visibly high, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack, and suspicious drones had been seen in the clear blue skies of a Parisian spring.

Gill and I are going back to Paris in 11 days time. We’ll be staying near to the site of some of the restaurant attacks last Friday.

We could cancel but I believe we should still go. To carry on life as normal, as France is defiantly doing today, and because the risk of something happening to you exists every day, wherever you might be.

The politicians will slowly work towards a potential solution for the current Syrian crisis, and the ISIS threat. But this is much more complex than the Irish terror we faced for so many years, and could take a generation to resolve.

In the meantime, life MUST go on. As it always does.

The sands of time

I wrote recently about a brutally fascinating book, Being Mortal.

It struck several chords, rather loudly. Not just how best to spend your end of life, when you know that you’re probably going to die quite soon. Hopefully, at that stage the medical profession will give you some palatable, more humane options, instead of fulfilling their surgical obligations to maintain life as long as possible, through any means available.

In sporting parlance, I’m close to hearing the bell for the start of the final lap of the 1,500 metre race that is my life.  At 58, I’ve hopefully got a long final lap still to run, but I think it’s fair to say that my PB is some distance behind in the rear view mirror.

I never used to read obituaries in the newspapers, but I find myself increasingly drawn to them. Most are about people who have had incredible, interesting and rewarding lives. Poets. Soldiers. Politicians. Writers. Sporting icons. Movie stars.

Listening to Desert Island Discs is also a source of simultaneous joy and envy. Hearing an interesting guest uncover their life story and achievements, to the soundtrack of meaningful music, is a delight. But it’s also a violent kick in the shins, the pain screaming that my own days are numbered. And demanding to know what I’ve achieved, compared to titans of industry, sporting giants, artistic legends.

To continue with the sporting analogies:

“You might be on the back nine of life, but it’s good to finish strong.” 

Morton Shaevitz, Refire! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life

So much to do, and so little time…..



April always conjures up images of the Masters golf tournament for me. The first major of the year, from anachronistic azalea-clad Augusta from the deep south in Georgia. A symbolic start to the summer.

Monday is back to work day. The start of a challenging week, psychologically hard enough at the best of times but exacerbated by a particularly fun weekend, or after a  routine-busting holiday.

By Sunday lunchtime that invisible, but weighty, cloak drapes itself around your shoulders. So uplifted on Saturday morning, they sag now as you chomp your way through Yorkshire puddings, thinking about that long to-do list facing you tomorrow, or wondering whether another sad jumper will delay the already painful commute to the office.

Monday is inextricably linked with hard graft. School, college, work. Inescapable for the first 60 years of your life. Joined at the metaphorical hip, like Crackerjack and 4:55 pm. Or the Queen’s Speech on Christmas Day, just as you wilt from the festive excess.

But not for me any longer. Friday was my last day at work – possibly ever – and I wrote this in bright early September sunshine, at 11 am Monday morning on a park bench by the bowling green, in the shadow of Guildford Castle. My Monday agenda was making sure a friend’s birthday present was safely en route to France; sorting out a few technical issues on my new phone; a walk around London’s Westminster & Whitehall areas; and seeing an intriguing new musical Dogfight at the Southwark Playhouse.

All a far cry from business meetings, financial forecasts, cash flow projections and tax compliance.

Mondays will hopefully forever be brighter from today. And Sunday’s roast will taste even better.  And my shoulders won’t droop.


I’ve always had  a love-hate relationship with DIY. My wife loves it, I hate it.

But on the cusp of my retirement, could that possibly change…?

Gill and her entire family are so practical, they make their own luck. I, on the other hand, head straight for the Smirnoff when someone mentions screwdriver. And I run for the hills – or the nearest pub – as soon as I hear the words rubbing down,  architraves, or 3rd aisle on the left in B&Q.

Whilst working in finance roles for 30+ years, I took the view that I’d rather pay a PPP (professional practical person) to sort out the decaying wood on the bedroom window than spend a cherished weekend holding a blow torch and one of those funny triangular things to scrape off flaking, rotten paint.

Well, you don’t think Rory McIlroy whips out a claw hammer rather than a 7 iron on his day off, do you? Or that Barack Obama hangs wallpaper in the Oval Office when he could be protecting the free world?

City analysts often say companies should stick to their knitting when an ambitious CEO is tempted into risky diversification away from the successful core business.


Understand your strengths, acknowledge your weaknesses, focus all available resources on your most profitable activities…and leave the other stuff to someone who really knows what they’re doing.

But now I’m suddenly time-rich and cash-poor, I’m not sure I can get away with that argument for much longer.  Perhaps I can even grow to love the smell of emulsion paint and white spirit. And maybe Gill and I can bond over the Polyfilla as we convert our home office to something more relaxing and appropriate for our post-work years.


Just as long as she doesn’t fall out of love with me at the same time  as I’m finally becoming passionate with a paintbrush…..




Only the beginning

On the cusp of retiring? Weary of being a wage-slave, bored by vacuous corporate jargon and yearning for the open road and a more creative, energised life?

You’re in the right place.

But forget the traditional image of retirement. Pipe, slippers, a lunchtime pint and falling asleep to the ticking Countdown clock are as restricting as the routines from which you’ve yearned to escape.

Learn a new language. Walk the Coast to Coast path. Dance a tango in Buenos Aires. Smell the freedom rather than the stale stench of inertia.


Let me be your guide and we can embrace the greatest opportunity of our lives together.

I plan on cramming my own third age full of interesting & stimulating experiences, some I’ve enjoyed for many years and some thrillingly new.

Sound like fun?

Stay tuned to find out more….