A proud son of Glasgow, I sought work abroad during the recession of the 1970s. I've been a social worker in London and a teacher of English (of a fashion) in Japan. For over 30 years, I held various positions in further education and now live in the north of England (which would actually sit more comfortably as part of Scotland). I recently joined the ranks of the retired and hope to promote some discussion around the concepts of "age", "pensioner" and "old".
This week, she's headlining Royal Ascot, following closely on Trooping The Colour, the Birthday Honours, and that Jubilee bash.
(And never forget the ever present soap opera, “Will and Kate”. It’s just one regal exaltation after another.)
But as far as Scotland is concerned, why would any self-respecting Scot want to have anything to do with the English royal family? And that includes Alex Salmond and his SNP Government.
So of course time for another Scottish football disaster. On this occasion, a 5-1 thrashing in steamy Florida at the hands of the erstwhile minnows, the USA.
You see, Scottish footballers don’t do hot weather. Maybe it’s a national characteristic.
Personally, I keep well away from the sun. When, for some reason, I come into contact with its rays, I turn beetroot red. Then I bleed. No intermediate stages.
No soft shades of brown or an interesting Mediterranean look. No, with me it’s beetroot red. Then blood.
It's also raised a wee stushie over the name. Why not the more correct "Grandparents' Tax"? Well, that certainly doesn't trip off the tongue quite as smoothly.
Then there's all that dratted stuff about apostrophes. I suppose too that "Granny Tax" is some consolation to the exasperated women who have to put up with all those careless references to "mankind" and "manning the office" and so on.
Well, according to Jock, the ultimate answer to a happy life is 20-40-20. Here's how it works out:
20 years of play, education and training
40 years of work
20 years of retirement.
The raising of the school leaving age means that soon everyone will be in some form of education or training till 18 and that's the way it should be. Add in a few more years of higher education or further training and that takes care of the first 20 years or so.
Take the Tories. It’s 60 years since they had a majority of Scotland’s Westminster seats. We can confidently predict there’s no chance of them matching that in the next 60.
In fact, 600 years might be more realistic. The Scots have remembered Edward Longshanks with a shudder for 700 years so it’s unlikely they’ll forget the toxicity of Thatcherism during the next 600.
I'm reminded of the Inuit by the subtle changes in this country’s attitude towards the elderly which have occurred over the past few years. These changes were reflected in the Budget but it’s much more pervasive than that.
Basically the story that’s now put about is this. The current crop of people in their sixties and upwards – the post-war Baby Boomers - are the most pampered generation in history.
One product in particular caught my attention. It's the Union Jack Door Mat. That's right, a door mat with a union jack design on it.
Now, let's just work out in detail how that functions. You walk around the streets picking up the usual mess on the soles of your shoes: dirt of all sorts, sticky sweets, chewing gum and, if you're unlucky (though some say it's lucky), dog poo.
In my case, I’ve started reading catalogues. Specifically, those ones selling household goods of all descriptions that are pushed through my letter box. During my working life, these lay untouched in their plastic bags in my hallway until I put them outside by the front door on the designated collection day.
“The phone will stop ringing.”
“You’ll lose all status.”
“You’ll miss the structure of the working day.”
“You’ll be lonely.”
“The cut in income will be a shock.”
I’ve experienced all of this and, honestly, none of it has been a problem.
The emotion I've experienced which has been hard to cope with – and totally unexpected – is...guilt!
I was told that retirement gives you more time for the things you like to do - so I’ll make the most of that and have my annual New Year’s gripe about Auld Lang Syne.
It’s a tribute to Burns’s genius that the emotions conveyed in his words are so universal and deep-rooted that most of the Americans, Chinese, Japanese and Indians who sing them (or local versions thereof) apparently think the ballad is one of their own ancient folk songs. Once again, Scotland is denied the credit it deserves!
"You and blogging just don't go together," says one of them. "You don't tweet and you're not even on Facebook," says another.
"You leave your mobile phone at home most of the time," says a third. "And don't turn it on when you do have it."
"At least, it's very safe in my bedside drawer," I counter.
"Safe? Safe from what?" The youngest one scoffs sarcastically. "Who'd steal a five-year-old mobile that hasn't even got a built-in camera?"
It's Christmas time and the seasonal sights, sounds and smells are all around us. I mean of course the bratwurst, the apfelwein, the gluwein mugs, the Dutch cheeses, the Swiss chocolate, the Bavarian wooden toys and the "ember jewellery all de fay from de Beltic".
Yes, that's right. It's the Christmas Continental Market. That village of wooden kiosks selling all kinds of foreign goods, food and drink. Usually supplemented by a beer tent or two – Czech or German of course.
Well done for just getting old, surviving to get the pension? Still, the sentiments are definitely better than those hopes "for a long and healthy retirement". Thanks for alerting me to the alternatives.
Surviving to reach the home straight does make you think about the meaning of it all. In his famous essay, The Station, Robert J Hastings compares life to a train journey. He advises us not to focus on the illusion of reaching a particular station in life (graduation, promotion, retirement) when everything will fall fulfillingly into place.