Domestic Goddess, Families, Family, history, Inspiration, Laughter, love, Motivation, New life, real life, Whatever, women

1st week of retirement

Well, I’ve got that first week over with! It was a little surreal I have to say. I have been planning this now for about a year, but because of COVID I put it on hold (together with anything real) until the planned date was the end of March 2021. So it’s been in the fore front of my mind for a long time.



How do you plan for these things? The first thing I did was to go on some retirement training provided by the organisation I worked for. I walked in foolishly thinking it would be all about the best day time TV programmes to watch, the best place to buy fluffy slippers and what is the acceptable time to open the wine and/or gin! Actually it was far more helpful than that. They spoke about investments and wills and protecting you assets for the future. Its sounds rather dull – and to be honest it was a little, but very informative. I did learn things I never knew before. It also gave you time frames for the agencies you needed to contact to start the wheels in motion for this to happen seamlessly.

My count down started in December – the day I wrote my notice, and handed it to my manager!

I have been working since I was about 16. This is the first time apart from a short period when I had my two children I haven’t had to go to work every day. Not that that was an opportunity to sit and do nothing!

My first Saturday job was in the good old fashioned shop F.W.Woolworth It’s a long disappeared shop from the high street. In 2008 the chain went into administration and all shops had closed by the following year. It was a well know shop famous for its pick ‘n’ mix sweets, and ability to sell just about everything. Vinyl records, books, garden plants and tools, ladies underwear. Tinned foods, paint, nuts and bolts, children’s books and toys. The shop I worked in was in a little Welsh high street in the Rhondda. At the time I worked there we were in the throes of some dangerous activities in the British Isles. They called it the ‘Troubles’ – fighting in Northern Ireland spilling out to England and to Wales. I add this to my story – as the first job each Saturday was checking under the counters and displays for bombs! Seems odd now when you say this out loud – but the organisation involved had been known for placing incendiary bombs in shops and places where crowds of people met. Luckily I never found anything like that – just a few Riley’s chocolate toffee rolls and jelly babies that had fallen off the plastic scoops the day before and rolled under the cabinets!

I next worked for a few weeks before Christmas in a fruit and veg wholesalers, making up orders, weighing fruit and veg, and packing them into large cardboard boxes ready for deliveries. Problematic? Yes  – I didn’t know the difference between a Satsuma and a Mandarin orange. Or the different cabbages and potatoes. I soon learned!

My next job was as a waitress for a catering company. They generally did weddings, and anniversary celebrations. A great place to work as a 17 year old. Lots of banter from the ‘older’ waitresses – who were probably only a few years older than me – but seemed so much wiser on how the world – and the minds of men – worked! An eye opener to be certain. I worked here most of the time I was in college, it gave me the money to be able to go out and party. It was hard work, trying not to tip plates of food down the dresses of brides! The wedding venue was above a row of shops – the kitchen was at the back of the shops- a logistical nightmare. Although there was a dumbwaiter lift that took the food from the ground floor to the venue, the empty plates were carried down by the waitresses!  One advantage was that at the end of the night – the company took everyone home in a mini bus, more opportunity to listen to more about these young women’s lives. And I saved money on bus fare!

I left home the day after my 19th birthday, and moved to London as a nanny. I’ve worked in a makeup factory on the production line,   I then moved into the offices sales. From there I worked for an insurance company in the sales office – before computers – manually working on their sales cards. What a job!

I tried working in a pub – but that only lasted 1 week! It was too complex for me to remember the drinks, the prices of each drink, and then using a manual till and giving change- all while smiling and looking like I knew what I was doing – no chance…  I’ve typed architectural reports, sent messages on telex machines for the tax office, worked for a local hospital in the Nurse education department typing and preparing exam papers, I’ve typed meeting minutes as the secretary to the chair of the board of governors at a local school, produced a newsletters for the local scouts and organised fund raising events. I’ve been a pot washer and a waitress in a local restaurant.   I’ve cleaned offices, and polished brass handrails. And I’ve sold eggs on my own market stall! Whew! Lots of those job gave me the money to put down a deposit on a flat with my boyfriend.

I’ve  worked in a stationery company as an import sales clerk, a PA to the operations director, and then a computer operator – all for the same company over a span of 5 years. I them moved to an insurance company where I was an assistant manager.  

Then I had my two babies. But I didn’t give up work, I was my husband’s book keeper, and I did regular deliveries across south London while carrying my babies in their little carry tots in the car.

When my youngest was 4 weeks old- I went back to work as an early morning cleaner in the local Beefeater restaurant, while my hubby looked after the two boys until I came home and he went to work.  I’ve worked in Waitrose as an early morning cleaner and in a private hospital as an evening cleaner and seamstress.  Things were tough and I did what I had to do to keep food on the table and to stop us from going under.

I’ve worked as a book keeper for a carpet shop, and managed one of their shop. I’ve worked in a centre for Adults with Learning Disabilities, a fruit & vegetable import company as a sales clerk, then an Office manager in a team that provided wheelchairs. Finally I’ve spent the last 17 years &  ended my career as a Lead Administrator for a mental health service! Although during those 17 years – I didn’t let the grass grow under my feet – I was offered two secondments. Firstly within the performance management team – looking at data and how to improve things. And as a project manager working with a team who were undergoing change.  I’ve also done my sons paper rounds when they were ill, and to give them a weekend off every so often.

Is it time for me to hang my gloves up? No chance – I’m not ready to stop yet. My brain is still active, and so are my fingers. I’m looking to start some training that will allow me to go into schools and read with young people. Reading – whatever it is – is the way to learning, and independence. And as an avid reader – it hasn’t done me any harm through my life has it?

For someone who didn’t do very well in her exams, didn’t go to university – I’ve realised that life hasn’t been about learning on paper- but learning through experience. Maths isn’t my strong point. But working in retail has helped, especially when the business is yours- you don’t want to give the wrong change it’s your profit! I had an amazing accountant who helped me understand VAT when it was 15% then 17.5%, and suddenly the maths fell into place, by using it for practical matters! Making what little money you have go round also sharpens your sense of budgeting, and with it – maths!

For me retirement is about doing things at my pace, and if I want to work on days it suits me. I’m lucky to be able to do this now, and not when I’m too old to enjoy the choices.

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Family, Inspiration, Laughter, mental health, real life

In celebration of a life.

A day to celebrate – today is my mams birthday. She hasn’t been with us now for 25 year, she died on 1st April 1990, but I spend time each year thinking about her, her life, her commitment to us as a family, her health, and most of all the fun and love she shared.

She was born in the 1920’s, one of 5 brothers and sisters, to a miner and his wife. A relatively small family compared to some others in the South Wales Valleys at the time. She left Wales to work in London as a secretary, but as fate would dictate, she soon came back to the relative safety of Wales when the war broke out. She met my dad after the War, and in 1950 they married. They weren’t lucky enough to have children of their own, but I’m very fortunate they adopted me in 1960.

Life certainly wasn’t kind to them, in fact the opposite! My dad had an accident in work – he was caught up in a factory fire. His physical and mental health was affected, and he never really worked again. He had already suffered during and after the war – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – although then it was called shell shock, and the loss of his beloved mum had toppled him over the edge. My mam nursed him back to health, and looked after him. She made sure he took his medication, attended numerous outpatients’ hospital appointments, weekly blood tests and physiotherapy sessions. She supported him each time his health deteriorated, and made some heartbreaking decisions along the road. Un-relentless, un-flappable and always smiling. She made the very best of a bad situation.

Then she became ill, and was diagnosed as Bi-polar. They have such simple names now for something that was at the time called manic depression – that summed it up far more succinctly! At the time they told my dad he had the same illness, and even though I’m not a professional he wasn’t ill in the same way as mam was. You needed patients and encouragement with dad, quiet conversation, and letting him get on with his life the way he wanted to. Mam just wanted to stay in bed, and she did – for days, week and even months at some stage. Anywhere between 6-12 weeks was the norm for the cycle whether she was ‘up or down’. You never knew when she was going to change; you just knew it was going to be a roller coaster ride once she was ‘better’.

She became obsessed with shopping. You had no idea what she would come home with! It was lucky that our financial circumstances dictated the amount of stuff she would buy; there was very little money to go round. She came home one day from a jumble sale with a black bag of clothes, I though that day we had got off lightly. Little did I know that rest of the items were being delivered by a friend in a van later that afternoon. There were 10 bags of clothes, and 3 pieces of furniture. My poor dad and I had got used to it, his job was to stay calm, cool and generally out of the picture, and mine was to help sort, wash, and re bag up things she had decided she didn’t want, and arrange for them to go back to the next jumble sale. The clothes she wanted were carefully stored away in the 3 wardrobes she had.

Do you think it sounds a bleak life? It was my life, I knew nothing different, and we lived like this for 10 years until I moved away to London to work. Then my mam and dad carried on until 9 years later my lovely dad died. It took mam 18 months to decide to sell up the house, and move to a small flat. Luckily I had some very good and patient friends who helped move her. The move wasn’t the hardest part; the de- cluttering was the hardest! Of course she had no one to keep her in check once my dad had died, and so the 3 wardrobes had expanded to more. My friend Alison and I helped her to pack, she wanted to take it all, but of course she couldn’t.

You wonder why I’m babbling on, wasn’t this meant to be in celebration of my mams life. I’m sure you are saying it wasn’t much of a life, but that’s not for you to judge. Let me tell you the funny things I remember about her and why I celebrate her life like this. She loved yellow, all things yellow! We had yellow or gold curtains – in every room, yellow flowers everywhere, yellow cups, yellow towels; she and I wore yellow clothes, and my dad the odd yellow shirt. Our dinner service was yellow, and all the paintwork was yellow too. The house was bright and summery in the darkest winter, and in the worst times of her illness. She sang at every opportunity. At every TV program, whether there was signing in it or not, when she was well she would sing when she spoke to you, if she was on her own it kept her company. She was quite short, and petite enough for me to pick up and hug whenever I came home, like a little doll really, delicate and made of china. Her faith was a big part of her life, and this again gave her the opportunity to sing.

My most favorite story was just before she passed away, her last Christmas with us. As a family we had decided to go for Christmas to Bruge on a coach. The family consisted of my soon to be fiancé, his parents, and his granny. We thought that granny and my mam would get on well, so we asked them to share a room to which they agreed. After a long journey there fraught with a few disasters, we finally arrived in Bruges. I wasn’t surprised at her enthusiasm; she tried everything under the sun. The strange food – jellied ells being one of them. We had a great few days, we loved the time together as a family, and we were all so pleased that mam and granny had got on so well. The last morning came; we went to check out, my father in law preparing to pay the room bills. He nearly fell over at how much theirs was! They had a great time, afternoon tea in the room each day, they had drunk the mini bar dry – on more than one occasion – and had room service each night before going to bed, sandwiches cake you name it! They thought it was all free, and so made the most of it. Of course we never told either one of them, and every time we reminisce about the past – that story comes out without fail.

And the photo at the top of the page, yes that’s my lovely mam, on the holiday in Bruges, at the Christmas dinner table, with a cigarette in her mouth. No she didn’t smoke but she did on that holiday!

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