What does the word mean to you? Take it easy? Keep busy but be beholden to no man? Starve?
I speculate thus after news that more than six million Britlanders over 50 have little or no pension or savings in place for retirement, and will be living on less than the minimum wage. Ladies and gentlemen, I salute your reckless courage.
However, this is undeniably grim news. The minimum wage itself – currently £6.08 an hour; they couldn't even round it up – is not a liveable wage, it's simply the amount we can jemmy out of the capitalists.
The prospect of living on that or less leaves workers with the choice of retiring into poverty or working till they drop. There's the state pension, of course, the handout subject to annual rises so derisory that the rich ministers taking credit for them must surely be having a private joke.
At the time of going to press, I'm not quite clear what I pay my taxes for, beyond wars and a state that I do not support. Oh, and a little pension to keep the wolf at bay. I've a pension from my last job but it seems balanced on the scales with a small to medium-sized bag of peanuts. It's hard to tell from the shifting private companies who run it. They never write. They never phone. I think they're hoping that, after paying several hundred quid in every month, I'll just go away.
I now have a small private pension arrangement with Sir Richard Branson, which may cover my annual bill for haircuts and toothpaste. Starve I may, but my follicles will remain exuberantly sculpted and my fangs polished to a tawny hue.
That's plan A. Plan B&Q is to get a job in a DIY store. These often hire older men, on the assumption that they've experience in practical skills. Ha! Everything I do in old age will be ironic. And vengeful.
All my life, I've suffered from competitive males giving me bad advice about DIY. Well, once I don my authoritative orange apron, how I'll enjoy sending them up blind alleys and persuading them to buy inappropriate screwdrivers. One thing experience tells you is that most males don't know their bottom from their bowsaw and that their main DIY skill is bluffing.
But must one do anything at all, never mind It Yourself, in retirement? Whatever happened to leisure? At one time, it was going to go hand in hand with work. When computers and automation first lit up the horizon in a sad neon glow, we were telt that, soon, we'd all work a 10-hour week.
One employee could do the same amount of work in a quarter of the time. So what did the capitalists do? Got rid of three-quarters of the workers and made the remaining quarter do their work as well. So, paradoxically, when we're telt retirement won't necessarily mean leisure, many of working age have had leisure thrust upon them.
Others in work fare little better. Official figures, published on Wednesday, show that 2.03 million UK citizens are trapped in part-time work that barely covers their bills.
Work, work, work. Can't live with it, can't live without it. It's eating us up. First they came for our lunch hours, then they came for our retirement.
It's all right for me. I enjoy my work. But my leisure seems to be all work, or at least exercise, too. Sitting doon is the new smoking. Soon, they'll be making you go outside to do it. Recently, illness forced me to stop exercising and, d'you know, I rather enjoyed it. I thought: "I wonder what it would be like to take it easy."
I envisaged a life of tai chi, meditation, and light gardening. But is doing little a recipe for a long happy life? Or must we keep busy? Alas, evidence suggests the latter. Use it or lose it. It's a grand life if you don't weaken. Yada times two.
But, oh, to weaken. Just for a little while. Meanwhile, with "retirement" being redefined as "the continuation of work", we're advancing backwards to lifelong serfdom. It's called progress. You wouldn't understand.
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