Getting the picture

An attempt at 'painting with light'. I call this one
An attempt at ‘painting with light’. I call this one “Breakfast”….

You remember I said I was given a digital camera as a present? Photography seemed a good retirement project.

The first thing was to get to know how to use the camera. I had two choices. Read the comprehensive manual that came with the camera. Or go on a course.

I decided that reading the manual would give me all I needed. I learned about shutter speeds and apertures; about composition and depth of field. I reflected on what I’d read, and how I’d be able to put all of it into practice.

Then I joined a course.

The course was based in a building that was once a boys grammar school. It was the school that I went to. Now I was returning as a pupil, 50 years later.

There were 12 of us in the class, nearly all of us retired men and women trying to learn new skills and ways to occupy our days.

The tutor, in his 40s, curly dark hair, wearing a short-sleeved shirt on a cold January morning, sounded bored as he went through an introduction he had clearly had to do too many times before. “After that, we can stop for coffee, which gives me the chance to get out of the room,” he said encouragingly.

He asked everyone to write down what each of us wanted to get out of the course. I wrote: “Being able to take photos.” I wasn’t setting my sights too high.

“What you’ll really want to know about is printing,” he said (no, or at least not yet) “but that’s…” and he made a vague waving gesture as he wandered out of the room.

It got better. Over the weeks we learned about composition, lighting, exposure,  and editing.

I’m still not especially interested in all of the technical aspects of Photoshop and production, but I’m fairly competent with the camera. I’d say I’ve achieved my admittedly fairly limited objective.

And I don’t have to read that manual again.


Now, where did I leave it?

Putting things down, and forgetting where you’ve left them. It’s a cliche about getting older. And like all cliches, it’s rooted in reality.

Glasses, keys, books I can understand. But cars?

I’d only been retired three months when this happened. One morning I looked out of the bedroom window as I was getting dressed. The car was missing from its usual place opposite the house.

I called downstairs to Jacqui that I thought it had been stolen in the night.

She went outside, looked up and down the street, and said the car wasn’t anywhere to be seen.

I called the local police station to tell them the car had been stolen. An automated reply put me in a queue. While I was waiting, I went over yesterday in my mind.

I remembered driving to the local shops…and walking back home.

I hung up, grabbed my jacket and car keys (ha! hadn’t forgotten where I’d left those!) and hurried to the shops.

The car was where I had left it 24 hours earlier – in a one-hour parking bay. Amazingly, it did not have a parking ticket.

I drove it back to the house, and parked it in its usual place. Jacqui was watching from the bedroom window.

“You need to go back to work,” she said.

Shopping for a hat

Lots of retired blokes wear hats. I was not designed to do so.

That was proven one day when we were in Cardiff to watch Wales play New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium. It was pouring with rain, and Jacqui told me off for not having an umbrella. Who takes an umbrella into a football crowd?

I said I would buy a hat in M&S. I tried on a dozen different hats, Jacqui passing them to me, examining each in turn on my head, and rejecting each as unsuitable.

Flat caps, peaked caps, tweed, corduroy, waterproof canvas. The verdict was always the same: “It doesn’t suit you.”

Eventually we settled on a fur-lined square hat, with side-pieces that could be lowered as ear muffs.

I looked like the female lead in Fargo.

The Retired Gentlemen’s Swimming Club

I’VE been an early-morning swimmer since leaving university. When I was still a student, I didn’t know there was such a thing as early morning, obviously.

While I was still working, this involved getting up at some ungodly hour and flinging myself into the deep end of the pool at the precise moment when more restrained colleagues were just poking a tentative toe out from under the duvet.

Since being a retired bloke (and taking advantage of the Welsh Government’s scheme of free swimming for the over 60s), I don’t submerge until 8am.

That’s still reasonably early, but there are plenty of fellow retirees splashing in at that time with me. The keener among us have even been known to form an orderly queue at the poolside while we wait for the free swimming session to begin.

I have given us the resonant title of The Retired Gentlemen’s Swimming Club. Though probably regrettably few of us would qualify as gentlemen.

And with abilities ranging from the pretty average to the downright shocking, describing our morning exercise as “swimming” is probably taking a  bit of a liberty too. Still, enthusiasm makes up for expertise.

Put a bunch of retired blokes together in a confined space and things happen. Conversation breaks out. Hence, the RGSC has a lively shower debating society.

Recent topics have included winning the Euro Lottery; the meaning of a piss-pot jerker; sun dried mushrooms as a source of Vitamin D; Descartes, Newton and infinity; and whether there is ever an excuse for missing a penalty.


Views are exchanged. Unexpected prejudices are laid bare – literally, until the shampoo and conditioner have been sluiced away.

Naughty and Nice

Returning books to Swansea Library, I am surprised to find a central display of erotic books. They are attracting much female attention.

This is the 50 Shades of Grey effect in plain sight.

I go to a supermarket. I’m amazed at the range of indulgent products available – for pets. Including something called Harry Hamster’s Yippee Treats.

Also, I’m fascinated by the range of pasta shapes. Who would have thought a simple wheat product designed to soak up sauce could spawn a science (or should that be art?)

Photography for Retired Blokes

ONE of my retirement presents was a digital camera. I took it to Rhossili. Early grey morning turned into a brilliant sunny day. Sky and sun deep blue in the November sunshine. I took lots of photos of the Gower landscape. On the way back to the car I realised I had the camera on Portrait setting. Despite this, the images appear to be in focus. Clearly, modern digital cameras have an in-built allowance for the general incompetence of their users.

A useful tip for Retired Blokes

SHOPPING with the wife. Be honest. Retired blokes dread it. But we all have to do it.

I had spent several hours with Jacqui shopping for Christmas presents (we are still in November 2012). I was baffled by miniature replica US ‘gas’ pumps on sale in one store. What was the point of them?

I discovered that the front could be opened, to reveal four (very small) shelves.   Far too small to hold anything useful. So, no point to them at all, then.

On we moved to the next store. There was the usual background music playing. Without knowing I was doing it, I started tapping one foot to the music. A shoulder may have inadvertently twitched.

“What on earth are you doing?”

“What? Nothing.”

“Come on, we’re going home.”

The mortification of watching your husband dancing to the in-store muzak is greater than the appeal of shopping.

A useful tactic to deploy in moments of over-shopping distress.