Nuala McCann: Retirement and what to do about it
Everyone is talking retirement. I recently swam 58 lengths of the pool to celebrate reaching that milestone. If I live to 90, I'll be in over my head. "Stop boasting about the swimming," my ma advised. "Toving," said my friend. That's a new word for me, it means 'blowing your own trumpet'. Seamus Heaney put it in a poem: "I'm 58," I told a friend. "Honestly, I'd have put you at 53," she said. I think it was a compliment.
STILL, if I had listened to my head and not my heart I’d have done the sensible thing and joined the old Civil Service and not turned my nose up at a nice safe pensionable job.
But I never might have stood at the Hamburg vibrator as the big dirty gherkins jumped up and down, I might never have clambered the grey boulevards of east Berlin looking for a jazz musician or supped from the best barrels of sherry in Jerez... all for a story.
Sixty is the new 45, purple rinses belong in a museum and there is a whole wild Amazon out there just waiting for the dip of your paddle. Retired friends of mine are learning to tango, heading off to save tigers – whether the tigers like it or not – walking the camino and learning Spanish.
The important thing is to do an evening class, says one of ye retired ones, because being around young people keeps you young. I tell her that I shall be around young people for some years to come as I cannot afford to retire. They make me smile, they make me laugh and they keep me up to date with make-up trends, fashion faux pas and the current enthusiasm for Mrs Hinch and her minky – look it up on Instagram.
And all this is a propos of my retired friend who travelled a long way by train to meet up with me in Belfast. It helps that she is the wife of a CIE inspector – there are perks.
"Where are you? I’m waiting here in the car," I asked on my mobile phone as I counted off the free 10 minutes in the car park at Central station... they call it Lanyon Place, but it’ll always be down and dirty 'Central' in my heart. The free pick-up time was running out, my heart was a-flutter.
"I’m here but you said to go straight down the stairs to the car park and there are none," she replied. The penny dropped: she was in Great Victoria Street station and I was in Central.
I zoomed off to pick her up. Before long, we were seated in the fancy dining room at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, partaking of a fancy lunch and chatting about the joys of her new life as a retiree whilst gazing out at Carson wagging his finger.
Not a lot of people know that you can book to dine at Stormont and you don’t even have to suck up to an MLA. The waitress said it was worth spreading the word and the dessert was to die for.
The subject turned to living life to the full. She said she and her beloved plan to spend a month in Paris. I fell in love with the idea myself, but such little adventures come with a price tag.
Later that very same day, another friend on the brink of the 'R' thing, came up with the solution: House sitting. This, like Mrs Hench and her slinky minky, is all the rage.
There are lots of people in the wide world who need a home, a garden and a few pets looked after. I started trawling the internet the following day. You have to draw the line at 10 feral cats and a wonky donkey, but oh, the treasure out there.
There is a man with a lovely little two-bed in central Paris needing someone to housesit for two weeks this summer. You’re doing him a favour. There is the little matter of his cat. It is 15 and a diabetic. In fact, le chat needs insulin injections twice a day. What price a stroll along the banks of the Seine?
Henry of Navarre chucked caution and religious allegiance to the wind when he renounced Protestantism, turned Catholic and thus, took the French throne.
"Paris is worth a Mass," he sighed.
"Paris is worth an ancient diabetic cat," I say. Pass me the hypodermic. Let’s live la vie en rose.