Nuala McCann: Keep rolling, keep clinging, keep getting up – a template for later life

Tigger, Kanga Roo, Owl, Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore - which one are you?
Tigger, Kanga Roo, Owl, Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore - which one are you?

Two weeks into retirement; four books down (two misery memoirs, two deep, thought-provoking tomes about marriage and life and the universe, ho hum).

“Hand me my Bog Bodies Uncovered,” says my other half. He likes fact, not fiction.

Seriously… hand me the cornflakes box, at this stage I’ll read anything.

In celebration of retirement, I’ve enjoyed a raspberry double chocolate Magnum every night for a fortnight alongside a dark Skandi mystery.

The bodies are piling up; the scales are deeply disappointed in me and the camino is lurking just around the corner.

Perhaps the revels should end.

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“Shall we last three months?” asks my nearest and dearest. “Do you need to find something to do?”

Antsy, that’s what it is, just decidedly antsy. The others have their own routines.

I’m down the gym making friends with whoever is hogging the rowing machine.

Sometimes, as a book lover, I like to think of my family and friends as characters from Winnie the Pooh.

“You’re a Tigger,” says my other half. “Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, so much fun.”

“The most wonderful thing about Tiggers is that I’m the only one,” I say back.

There are those who would argue I’m Eeyore really… miserable as hell and lurking in the background, scratching my behind on a tree.

But certainly, the bounding energy of Tigger is beating a tattoo and I’m forever chasing my tail and asking: “What’ll we do now?”

A group of us meet for a regular lunch – we used to have half a job between the four of us but then I retired.

I tried to emulate the lovely John Salters who taught us in the long ago and who, in retirement, formed the Romeos… Retired Old Men Eating Out.

So we meet under a name that doesn’t have the same panache as the Romeos, but we’re sticking with it.

At the last meeting, new ovens came into the conversation.

This is because I now have a new kitchen – cheap and cheerful – and a hob that lights up and practically wags its tail when it sees you approach. Not quite a dog, but then you don’t have to deal with back end issues.

“What about your new oven?” asked my friend.

“It’s wonderful,” I told him.

“Do you have an eye-level one? You don’t want one where you have to bend down to look in at the food cooking,” he said.

I fixed him with a steely eye – my mother had a great one of those – and confirmed that I do indeed have to bend down to open my oven, but half an hour of squats and lunges every morning does wonders for the knees.

The conversation turned, as it does, to our failing faculties – who ever thought it would come to this?

Somebody asked whether, if you had to lose one sense, which you would choose.

It was like that old chestnut, answer dead fast: would you rather be nearly saved or nearly drowned?

I asked my other half the question later.

“If you had to lose one sense, which would you choose?”

“How about the common one?” he shot back.

“I lost that long ago,” I said.

But it strikes me that, more and more, we are all here, retired and raging against the dying of the light and the price of a knee or hip replacement.

We’re doing that and waiting to be 66 and 10 months which is when the state pension kicks in.

It reminded me of ma and her sister who is older and still alive.

On visits in later years, they’d talk about how they were both falling out of bed.

Ma’s sister said she had to lie on the floor all night. She just couldn’t get up.

Ma was having none of it.

“I fall and then I just roll and roll and roll until I find something to cling on to like the curtains and haul myself up,” she said.

Sometimes, after her bath, I’d be drying her feet and would spy a jagged cut or a purple bruise the shape of South America on her leg.

“Oh that old thing,” she’d say and I’d know she’d been falling and staying schtum.

Maybe that’s a good template for later life.

Keep rolling; keep clinging; keep getting up.

It’s two weeks into retirement, I’m antsy, I’m bouncy, bouncy, not much fun… maybe I need to find a job.