Salad Days

It is time to confess:  I am seventy.  I have reached the gates of Old Age.

I was a novice of sixty-five when I first hung up my gloves and placed my favourite chair determinedly close to the hearth.   That new dictum of ‘behaviour in retirement’ took time to learn.  I had to understand that my perception of retirement as a period of rest and dignity was not shared by others; that even as I was entering my sunset days of employment those around me were plotting my course from gold watch to dotage with meticulous care.  The list, by the time I reached harbour on my final day, was writ large upon the wall.

In case you, my reader, have yet to encounter my situation, I will introduce a phrase to you that will become familiar:  it begins  “Now you’ve got more time on your hands…”

This clause cannot be argued:  I had, at least initially, more time;  I had always hoped that would be so.   Nor could a constructive case be prepared to vie with the ensuing clause:  the pavement of the patio did need repointing, the bathroom did need modifying, that kitchen was just SO last year, and the ton of rocks we had delivered in 1990 for the rockery were finally going to get moved then, weren’t they?   All true.

Now I have acquainted you with the phrase and its possible conclusions, let me add a warning.  Do not counter with a protest:   “I was hoping to get a little time to myself,” or you will meet with the instant riposte:

“You need to keep active.  I won’t allow you to just vegetate.”

Oh, patient reader, you know me by now.   I am not sexist by nature – far from it.   But this much is undeniable; women live longer than men, a truth that has gone unacknowledged most of your life, until you hit the wall of sixty-five.  At sixty-five, as you long to melt into cabbage-like quiescence, the woman in your life will suddenly shift to a higher gear.  She will buzz about the garden, hum over the floors with the vacuum, wash paintwork you had forgotten existed, join line-dancing classes and begin a Masters Degree with the Open University.  She will tow you around the supermarket like a faithful if reluctant dog and around stately homes with vast  gift shops which swallow you whole for hours while she peruses dried flowers, china ornaments and small, expensive packets of Jasmine soap.

You see the obvious conflict?  You may observe this frantic, flitting creature with tolerant good humour, or with active distress, but never with indifference.  Inevitably you will feel guilty.  You are accustomed to keeping pace and no longer can, you feel required to enthuse when really you just want to sleep – somewhere, anywhere.

It is this tragic breakdown in human communication that drives men to abandon the comforts of home for long hours in snooker clubs, to plant allotments or live in sheds.  Let’s be absolutely clear – no man wants to spend all day in a shed.  A shed is a refuge, a place to plot the final steps on the downward spiral, arranging tools upon carefully constructed racks, or dousing the lawnmower with unnecessary oil.  There is an unwritten law which says no man must be interrupted in a shed.  This law is especially sacrosanct if the shed is also on an allotment.  Allotments are sacred ground where men are able to indulge in certain sectarian rights not shared by the female sex, like the ‘Earthing Up’ ritual applied to asparagus, or the ‘Thinning of Carrots’.

Anyway, I found retirement to be illusory:  my dream of rest from the daily toil was never realised, and all I could plead in its stead was a transformation from constructive career to demeaning labour.   Retirement merely served to rob of me of any sense of self worth or self confidence, forcing me to face my inadequacies.  All of which, come to think of it, was ideal preparation for the official new status I shall now enjoy: that of Advanced Septuagenarian.   Incapable of lifting another rock, getting down far enough to repoint a patio, or walking the distance to my allotment, at last I can claim sanctuary within my own four walls.

My list is completed.   There is more to do but I can no longer do it.  I am officially worn out!


© Frederick Anderson 2017.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content


15 responses to “Salad Days”

  1. Well done Frederick.. I have just short of four years before I can pull the drawbridge up. My problem will be, am I able to drag myself away from the computer or is that allowed?


    1. I think the computer is sort of digital equivalent to a shed – although the environs are warmer, it is not, unfortunately, on sacred ground. So, my ruling is: advantageous, but not a foolproof defence. xhugsx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I go to my computer to do my thing, but am interrupted by my husband before I can get into it – over and over again. I wouldn’t mind a shed!
        Hubby & I turn 70 next year. We have our individual hobbies and activities, but travelling to visit (& bury) siblings, kids & grandkids take up plenty of time and energy.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Happy Birthday! … I think? …

    Here’s hoping you can just veg out and be, at least for a little while. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your good wishes Carrie, although I admit I am cheating a little. I actually have two birthdays (something I arranged as a child with gullible parents) and something I share with the Queen and most racehorses. I have to confess this is neither of them, however…. G’bless, nice to hear from you!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love being retired! Find something to keep you busy so that chores don’t fill up the time. Write more stories, for example! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I shall try – I do try – look what they’ve done to my song, Ma… Life is, unfortunately, rather overfull, and certain things are not open to me. I am not, for example, allowed to fly, which makes a journey much more stressful, even if it saves me from the clutches of British Airways!.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I understand—and I am sure you try. I just wish for you more time to do the things you love to do.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I know the feeling, Frederick.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, Paddy, a fellow sufferer! I am thinking of launching a line of themed decoration exclusively for sheds…


  5. Jane Sturgeon Avatar
    Jane Sturgeon

    I laughed out loud Frederick: vast gift shops and thinning of carrots are inspired lines…washing of paintwork is hilarious. I am still laughing. Thanks. Hugs Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Always good to make you laugh, Jane. Thank you, and I’m glad you liked. Hugs back!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. “She will tow you around the supermarket like a faithful if reluctant dog and around stately homes with vast gift shops which swallow you whole for hours while she peruses dried flowers, china ornaments and small, expensive packets of Jasmine soap.”

    The mental images I get from those lines are hysterical. I feel kind of bad laughing at your um…reluctance, but you make it so entertaining I can’t help myself.

    I have a number of years before I can retire (which I m looking forward to) and many more before the “gates of old age” but I have plans! And yes, some of them will surely involve vast gift shops and rambling supermarkets. Women are experts at finding things to keep them entertained 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. :-} I kind of see myself as Chancy Gardener from ‘Being There’ – sitting stoically watching television as the world goes by unnoticed. ‘I like to watch’ is one of my favorite quotes….

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Your observations make for excellent stories and blog posts 😉

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.