Doris Lessing was asked a few years ago at Hay Book Festival during the Q and A session if she had thought of retiring.
Why should I?” she replied. She was 87.
Today she is 90 and still writing.
Retirement is a word I refuse to use. As far as I am concerned I have now moved into the “financially challenged” part of my life. And I intend to make the most of it. Starting with freebies.
After a lifetime in journalism I know all about freebies: weekends at health farms, test driving new cars, golf in Marbella, lunch in the south of France, flights on Concorde. Oh yes I have done it, been there got the t-shirt, or as in the case of Concorde the key ring.
I reckoned there would be a lot of free stuff out there once you became “financially challenged”. Maybe not so glamorous but free all the same and it was all a case of finding it.
Well, I didn’t have to wait long. An invitation came from the doctor for a free flu jab, and I soon found myself in the queue at the local health centre.
I go in and sit down. A young doctor, just out of medical school, turns around:
“Stand up! You can stand up can’t you?” he says in a loud voice. He thinks I’m infirm and deaf. Eager to disillusion him I leap to my feet.
“Yes, of course!” and this is the first inkling I have that the world I am entering is very different to the one I have known.
Take phone calls. Once it was about double-glazing, new kitchens and invitations to time-share presentations. Now it’s more likely to be about aids for the elderly.
Yesterday I got one:
“Can we interest you in a stair-chair lift?”
“What do I want with a chair lift when I live in a bungalow?” And I slam down the receiver.
The post takes on a whole new meaning. This is great I thought at first as the
brochures and leaflets come tumbling through my letterbox. Until I started to read them.
“Have you thought of making a will?’ demanded one.
“You should,” it said.
Well that put a damper on my Monday morning.
Another one invited to pay in advance for my own funeral.
“Dear Mrs Shaw (yes of course they know my name which they have got from the postcode)
Preparing for your funeral can save loved ones money and worry”.
Tough I think and chuck it straight into the bin.
Suddenly I had become a sitting target for every disease that could affect the “financially challenged”. Arthritis, cancer, hard of hearing, Alzheimer’s, incontinence pads – what do I want with incontinence pads? I never knew such things existed.
Except one leaflet. I keep it.
“50 fun things to do for free” when you reach a “certain age”.
Well, I am all for anything that’s free and this looked different. A big glossy poster, the kind you can stick up on your kitchen wall, so I open it:
“Jump in puddles”…I have never jumped in a puddle in my life and I have no intention of starting now. I might break a bone.
“Fly a kite.” What do they think I am? Six years of age?
“Go tadpoling.” Bit difficult if you live in a high rise flat.
“Pitch a tent in the garden and spend the night under canvas.”
Do they know what Scottish weather is like?
I check the sender: it’s the Co-operative will and funeral planning department.