Saturday, August 26, 2017

Keeping Busy

Well, here we are late at night and I had the crazy idea to write a blog post. For those of you who thought me dead, this might come as a pleasant surprise......I would like to think???????

Anyway, I have decided to write a bit about what I do with my time in retirement, or at least since I gave up my job some 4 years ago now. It seems whenever you see any adverts on the telly to do with retirement (usually linked with DEATH....oh boy), they always seem to show the old man pottering around in the greenhouse or in the garden....or some suchlike thing. Often the wife is talking really enthusiastically about some "British Old Gits" death insurance policy which will ensure their loved ones will get all of £26.50 each to bury them when they pop their clogs, which, if the ads are to believed they are enthusiastically looking forward to! Well, OK, I wax lyrical and exagerate somewhat, but if you follow the popular fiction, your later non-working years are the twilight zone where you are in some kind of gardening, insurance paying limbo awaiting the arrival of the grim reaper. I decided this kind of retirement was not for me. It just isn't me, and it never will be. I am a retirement non-conformist.

So what DO I do with myself, I hear you ask (not). Well, I have developed an interest in the history of the RAF, and particularly RAF Wyton, the place where I began my career as a boy in blue, and finished my career 46 years later as a civvy, spookily habitating the same office as my first boss in 1967. How's that for full circle! RAF Wyton has by good fortune a heritage centre, and I have found a bit of a bolt hole there as a volunteer. I now spend time showing people around the exhibits as well as teaching them some history, though some know considerably more than me! We also do road-shows to educate the public as well as give talks both at the centre and away at libraries, WIs, Probus groups and such like. All the time I am having to keep reading and researching to increase my knowledge so I can speak more authoritatively . The subject matter is the entire history of RAF Wyton from 1916 to the present day, the RAF Path Finder Force (RAF Wyton was the Headquarters of the Path Finder Force in WWII), and photo reconnaisance, as the base has spent a lot of it's life in that sphere of activity.

In 2015 I had a surprise visit from our local District and Town councillor who thought it a good idea if I ran for the Town Council. This was all a bit of a surprise as I never saw myself in local government, though he had suggested it briefly before, and after a milisecond I said no. Obviousely he was not convinced! Following conversation over coffee and biscuits I decided, oh what the heck, and accepted to stand. The next thing I knew I was out knocking on doors around the ward and more or less got a friendly reception. On the night of the election I won 1306 votes which won me the here I am doing my bit for the town as best I can. Given my background in media, I am now chair of the Media sub-committee as well as chair of the Town Twinning sub-committee. I am also vice chair of the Leisure and Community Services committee, to name a few of my responsibilities. Last year, the District Council in their infinite wisdom decided to cut our 4 year term short by one year so as to bring town and parish elections in line with the district elections. However, there is a twist in this tale in that I have decided not to stand next year. I was so disgusted with the policies and actions of the Conservative government and after a re-assessment of who I really am and what I really care about, I left the Conservative Party and joined the Green Party.  I have decided that I will be a Green activist in the future, but I will not be standing again for office, although I reserve the right to change my mind!

I am a lover of books. I am a real bookworm. For me, an hour in Waterstones is like a kid in his favourife toy shop or an alcoholic in a brewery!  I just can't get enough of books, and regard the gift of reading one of the most precious things in my life. In 2013, shortly after I packed in work, I went for a browse around my local Oxfam bookshop, which I had only just noticed, despite the fact that I must have walked past it many times over the years. I fell in love with the place instantly and offered myself up as a volunteer. A month or so later, following a holiday in Cornwall, I worked my first shift.  Since. then I have never looked back. The manager is a  man who in his previous life was a college English teacher. The ethos of the shop is number one, have fun, number two, offer the customer the best experience you can. We get masses of donations, and some of what we get turn out to be real gems, including first editions which we might sell for hundreds of pounds. We do a big trade in vinyl records, which have made a big comeback in recent years. Many of our customers are serious collectors and it is not unusual for a customer to spend a three figure sum before walking out the door. Of course, we are very particular in what we put out for sale at the front of shop, as we have built up a reputation which we have no intention of tarnishing. We also, as well as selling things, give our support to local artists. These can be painters, contempory artists, or musicians. A couple of weeks ago we sponsored a concert by two local rock groups at a local hotel. I did the photography for the event, the prints from which will soon be used as a window display.

So there we are. There is a lot more I do than I have mentioned here, but it ought to be apparent that I am far from having nothing to do and have no excuse for being bored, though I have to say, I did spend an hour trimming our front hedge earlier this afternoon.