Today would have been my mother's 65th birthday.

She retired at 60, at the earliest possible opportunity, having planned a range of pleasures in which she would indulge once she had the free time. She loathed her work almost as much as I loathe mine - similarly, it was not the work itself she disliked but the incompetent, mindless managers, the penny-pinching petty bureaucracy and the rise and rise of "efficiency and rationalisation" over standards of good service and positive relationships with clients/customers. (She worked as the manager of a local branch library and was renowned for setting "memorable" passwords for the computer system: "w@nker bo55es" being a particular favourite....) Unlike most, she made her displeasure well known - and she was good at her job and popular with customers, so the w@nkers couldn't do a damn thing about it...

Not all were pleasures, as such - she was fierce when it came to the idea of "social justice" - but I'll list a few of her plans, so you can get an idea of how she envisaged her retirement:

  • Get involved in a "Pensioners Rights" group, so she could get some very rude chanting going.
  • Return to doing some voluntary work for the Citizen's Advice Bureaux.
  • Rejoin the Labour Party - so she could tear up her membership card and quit... again. (Previously she had quit the party over the dropping of Clause 4 from the party's constitution... There are a million and one other things she would have wanted to quit over since then.)
  • Go to Unison conferences as a retired member and spend much of the time in the hotel jacuzzi flirting with other retired -or indeed not so retired-members (there was precedent for this - and indeed a fuchsia pink and diamanté swimsuit just for the purpose).
  • Continue her work with the local Bookstart charity (she used to get furiously angry when people said they had "never read a book" and believed that you should start kids young to give them the best chance) She wasn't much into "charity" -unless you count charity shops- but books for kids was the exception.
  • Travel more. She had been to France a couple of times, but really had her eye on the shopping opportunities in NYC . She quite fancied New Zealand, Australia, a tour of Europe... pretty much anywhere except the Norfolk Broads, which she hated with a profound and abiding passion.
  • Eat more cake - cake was a passion, as were steamed puddings and custard (she was a connoisseur of custard and, considering she had no sense of smell had a surprisingly sensitive palate...)
  • Watch more film - the local independent cinema offered pensioners matinée tickets for a quid. Always with a keen eye for a bargain, she planned every other Wednesday afternoon to be spent watching "arthouse" cinema, even if she didn't actually like it.
  • Buy more shoes.
My mother started to get ill a few months into her retirement, but put-off going to the doctor because it didn't fit in with her plans. Eventually it became too much: she was scanned before Christmas and by her 61st birthday she had been diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas: prognosis - terminal. She died four months later. Ironically, towards the end one of the very few meals she could eat was custard, so at least she could fulfil one of her plans, albeit with no pleasure whatsoever.

Now, I'll admit that I get a bit "low" around this time of year, but one positive thing of which my mother's birthday serves to remind me is that tomorrow is never guaranteed; plans can never be certain; today is all that counts. So I make an account of all the things I like in my life and all the things I want to change and I try my hardest to either enjoy them more or change them - and to not put things off until it is convenient, but to start doing something now. Both my sister and myself have already changed our lives for the better, learning from this experience and neither of us "plan" retirement: it just might never happen. It isn't easy, but it is necessary.

In addition -and on a somewhat lighter note- out of respect for the memory of a woman with a passion for patisserie, I resolve today to eat a cake. I would be honoured if you would join me...



Anonymous said...

Raises a Sticky Toffee pudding. Here's to your Mum.

I always wondered where your love of cakes came from?

I am sending you my love G xxx

Random Reflections said...

I shall purchase some cake for my team in a bit.

A sad day I'm sure. All the best.

Anonymous said...

thoughts and fresh cream cake to you.

mc said...

I'll go have some chocolate fudge brownies to you and your mum.

30-Something said...

I don't really do cake, but for such a poignant post.. *mouthful of cake* Here's to your Mum indeed.

The Gripes of Wrath said...

In a rare moment of sincerity, it actually means something to thanks.

Last night Mrs Gripes asked me which cake had been my mother's favourite: I proceeded to list cakes for something like 15 minutes... I could have moved on to pies, puddings and pastries, but Mrs Gripes was asleep by then...

Again, thanks folks.

Anonymous said...

A glass of tequila and a large slice of steamed treacle pudding in memory of your mum, whom i remember wearing purple LONG before she was an old lady....
Sweaty hugs from down under (30 deg in the shade...)