Nobody warned me that one day I would be sixty.
No one mentioned how quickly it would happen.
It always seemed so far away.
When I was young, Insurance companies waggled promises of large pension policies in front of me and I laughed and shook my head at the ridiculousness of thinking that I would ever reach retirement age.
My Friends thought differently and in hindsight more cleverly.
I remember them saying, as each year I took a few months leave from work to head off around Ireland or europe on my bicycle, that I was mad! They wouldn’t dream of breaking their service.
They were saving for houses and such. Objects they considered to be the important things of life.
‘Boring’ I laughed as I flew down the road, my hair blowing out behind in the wind, my bicycle packed with what I would need for the months ahead on the road.
‘Careless’ They exclaimed!
‘Irresponsible’ they cried when I paid no heed to them, though kindly because I was their friend.
‘Dull’ I retorted, but gently because they, in turn, were MY friends.
Was it my imagination or were there more words for how they described me than for how I described them?
I never found out for I was long gone, the wind at my back, my saucepans a rattle, sending them postcards from faraway places.
And when I got back they introduced me to the men they had met and married and showed me round their houses and
‘Doubly Boring’ I thought though I didn’t say it aloud and anyway it was the houses and the settling down I was referring to , not the Husband’s who were really nice.
But now the shoe is on the other foot or rather the wheel is on the other bicycle
Now I have no house (and no man either) Well at least not anymore.
‘Been there , done that’ is an expression from the seventies I believe.
Though I still cycle on my bicycle with my hair blowing out behind in the wind.
When a company sends out invitations to it’s clients for a seminar, the visuals are important.
Indeed it may need to employ another professional from a different kind of company to give advice with the layout of the invitation/brochure and on the order of presentation. And most certainly on the appearance and photographs of each presenter. (The cost of employing such a person is of course none of the business of the clients)
No one in their right mind will be interested in listening to a overweight frizzy haired untidily dressed woman with no makeup on, giving a talk on ‘Wellness and achieving a greater work/life balance’.
Therefore the photo of the presenter must match the talk.
And not only must the talkers look presentable. They must also smile in a friendly and encouraging fashion, if they are trying to sell us something, or look serious, if their job is to warn us of what will happen if we don’t buy what the company has on offer.
I am perusing such an invitation.
Book-like in size, there is enough reading matter in it to catch my attention for more than a few seconds.
The light blue and green colours are well thought out, not only are they fresh and pleasing to the eye but they also give one a feeling of the approach of spring, of hope, of optimism.
The heading is clear and the glossy paper itself of good quality.
It is an invitation that means business.
An invitation to a seminar by our pensions company, and It takes place in the local hotel just down the road from my place of work. (No excuse for awkwardness of distance)
I read that they are kindly giving us a free light lunch.
I note the word ‘light’ with concern (I presume that rules out a glass of wine) though I suppose having heavily food and wine filled middle aged nurses dozing on their seats is not the purpose of this talk.
These people wish to be listened to.
And just for safety, from their point of view, I note that the most important presentation is cleverly given first when I am wide awake.
Though it doesn’t mention it, I expect I may well be given a cup of coffee when I register to ensure this
Yes, a smiling young Lady will talk about ‘Options with your pension plans on retirement’ And when she gasps and looks at me in pretend horror on realising how small my pension will be due to, yes you have guessed correctly! All those cycling breaks of service in the past, she will swiftly swoop in with sympathy and an answer.
‘Don’t worry, All is not lost, You can buy Additional Voluntary Contributions …. from us’.
Has cynicism along with age crept upon me?
Perhaps. But why else would they invite me to this talk six years before I retire.
Maybe I am being unfair.
But there is more.
Next up is a kindly looking and clean shaven smiling man.
He will help me get organized on financial matters, advise me on prudent use of my retirement lump sum.
I will be getting a retirement lump sum? I perk up a bit at that good news.
Next another smiling but nearer to my age lady, who despite my cynicism, I really like the photo of!
She looks like someone I would choose to have as a friend. Someone who would fit in with my other arty/ bookey / philosophical minded friends. And she will tell me what I consider the most important piece of information, ‘How and when to apply for OAP’.
Once I know this, I can put the whole affaire out of my mind until nearer to my retirement date.
I look across at the next page.
Things now take a graver turn!
I know this because the photos of the next two presenters are not smiling.
A young serious looking Lad will advise us on eating healthily and nutritiously on, in my case, a much lower income.
He will advise me on weight loss techniques. I am presuming that this is because research has shown that lower income people are more prone to obesity.
Yes! everyone knows it is cheaper to fill yourself with slices of tesco’s brand white bread and jam than a plate of organic lettuce, grilled chicken, avocado and spelt bread from your local organic shop and bakery.
And although he is young he will know all about staying fit in retirement though I must wonder how he will have any concept of pains and aches caused by years of lifting heavy patients in the days before manual handling courses became compulsory.
And last but not least an even more serious looking man, wearing glasses to leave me in no doubt of his seriousness, will talk about self discipline. Self resilience. Building mental fitness and getting more energy (from one’s slices of white bread and jam maybe)
‘But I know all about self resilience’ I want to shout at the brochure as I consider the happenings and overcomings of the nearly sixty years of my life so far.
Of course I don’t, Instead my eye’s skim down to see what time the light lunch will be at.
Or more importantly what it contains.
Organic lettuce, grilled free range chicken, avocado and a slice of organic hand milled spelt bread?
More likely sliced pan sandwiches and a cup of tea.
Oh please take the above with a pinch of salt.
It is written with tongue in cheek.
Because of course I won’t go.
Instead I will invest in a day’s cycling to the beach, where I will walk as far as the bird sanctuary and watch the brent geese grazing peacefully and the swans dabbling their beaks among the watercress and collect some stones to bring home and later when I sit down with my glass of wine and my grilled chicken salad, I will paint them.
And as I leave my financial worries for another day, my friends will throw their eyes to heaven and say ‘ Careless, irresponsible!’ and they are probably quite right.