I’ve been a bit concerned, of late, at how apparently empty my memory of recent times is. I’ve said many times that I really enjoyed the pandemic lockdowns (especially the first), but when I sit down and try to think of those times, I remember very little. This is almost certainly because most days were the same and that (ironically, during a global pandemic) there were very few memorable incidents.
I spent a lot of time watching birds in the garden, stripped and repainted a table, went for walks and bike rides… rinse and repeat.
Now, on this day of strike action, the reason I find this concerning is that I have been thinking a lot about retirement lately. I turned 60 in December, which means I can officially take my teacher’s pension whenever I want. I still have to wait until 2029 to get the State pension (fucksake), but I could, theoretically retire at any point. At the very least, I could jack in teaching and get a part-time job in Tesco to top it up. My mortgage has about 18 months to run. Touch wood. White rabbits etc. And barring disasters, touch wood white rabbits, once that’s paid I could, theoretically live on less. It would be a massive struggle, but I could get rid of the car, clear the decks in terms of credit card debt, and live small.
Because I’ve always hated having to work. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. I’m highly competent at what I do, and it can be rewarding sometimes, but I never forget that the main reason I work is because I have to. But in a couple of years, maybe, I won’t have to. And teaching at the moment is, frankly, more of a toil than a reward. Lots of reasons for this, not least the social deprivation foisted upon the population by this government. There are post-pandemic issues, but also, it feels weird to be preparing young people to saddle themselves with a massive university fees debt which will hang around their neck about as long as a mortgage. As I said, lots of reasons.
So I’m ready. It’s hard to communicate the psychological change that reaching pensionable age has made. Before, it was all about the when. And now, well, it’s all about the now. Possibilities present themselves. Not a day goes by where I don’t think of it. And I really like not working, like today. Being on strike reminds me that every day could be like this. Gives me more time to write, and read, and think, and walk. Who knows what creative outlets I might find. Clearing all the teacher stuff off my hard drive will be cathartic. And I had a moment yesterday, just thinking about clothes. Pairs of trousers, work shirts, work sweaters, work shoes. I can kind of draw a line and say, I really don’t need to buy any new clothes for work. What I’ve got ought to last me till the summer of 2024.
And I was talking to a friend the other day about what a joy it will be not to have to get on the Eurotunnel at the beginning of September (along with every other fucker) to get back from France in time for the new term. To just… hang around as long as I want to. To see the leaves change colour, the chestnuts fall.
But then I need to think about this memory thing.
One of the things that capitalist lackeys pontificate about, when they write columns encouraging you to work till you drop, is that the chances of developing dementia increase if you retire early (not linking to a particular recent article because it’s in the Daily Mail — you understand). Correlation is not causation, but you can see that there might be some hand-wavy connection between not laying down new memories and a general feeling of forgetfulness. It’s scaremongering, of course, because so many over 50s have opted out of the workplace since the pandemic and the bastards are having to work hard to convince those of us still working to keep at it. Even capitalist running dog Clarkson was blithering something about boredom the other day, in between his poisonous sideswipes at anyone with a soul.
But let’s consider dementia for a moment. Just a quick google reveals the following headlines:
- Retiring before 60 may accelerate dementia (Mail)
- Countryside retirement may boost your memory (Telegraph)
- Three concussions in a lifetime may increase risk of dementia (MSN)
- Hearing loss major risk for dementia (WaPo)
- Improving eyesight may help prevent dementia (NYT)
- Hobbies may gird against dementia (WaPo)
It strikes me, more than anything, that headlines about dementia must generate clicks (hello, Boomers), but I find the contrast between the Mail’s scaremongering of their middle management readers and the Telegraph’s appeal to the complacent country set hilarious.
Of course, none of these people pontificating about the absolute joy of working until you die have ever had a proper job. I mean, tappety tap tap and all that. Not as if they’ve been shifting bales or smelting iron or swinging a sledgehammer for a living. Not even doing anything as demanding as teaching, which is up to five hours per day of fairly high-energy performance. Knocking off your latest column about why people are wrong about something is hardly comparable.
Nope, forty years is enough and I absolutely cannot wait to be doing nothing. No matter how small my pension, I’d rather be young enough and fit enough to enjoy having it, rather than wait until it’s too late. And it turns out, I’ve got this blog, and my photo library, and I can reconstruct my timeline, even over a period of time when one day blends into another. And I think I know now that, if I make the effort, I can send my memories down this particular memory hole.