Retired Lives: the pot gatherer


IMGP5862John Wilson was a local authority adviser on mathematics and computing. He was responsible for teacher training inservice grants, and was Assistant Director of Education for Powys County Council until he took early retirement at the age of 50.

50 seems very early to retire. Why did you decide to retire then? I had planned to retire at 55. My wife was planning to retire the following year. The council was looking to save money, and was getting rid of the education advisory service. I volunteered to go.

Was it a difficult decision? I was not disappointed to go. I worked out that I’d be £100 a month worse off. I thought: ‘why work?’

But was it difficult to make the adjustment? I was not bothered about any loss of prestige or self-esteem when I retired. I had a few things with the council that I followed up on. That work was financially useful.

I understand that you were part of an interesting keep fit project. There was a student in the college doing a certificate to get a gym work qualification. He wanted two older blokes, one who had been fit, and two much younger people. I had played squash at a reasonable level until I was 50. The project was to do a comparison of how quickly we got fit. The end target was to run a half-marathon. I did not do that! My end point was just to get a lot fitter. I did six months with him in the college gym. At home, I walked up and down the stairs carrying weights for an hour every day. By the end of the year I had worn out the carpet. Since then, I have maintained a fitness regime. I have a home gym and spend an hour there every day.

You served as a local councillor for five years. How did you get involved in politics? It started with a discussion around the dinner table. I was complaining that ‘somebody should do something’ and somebody turned to me and said: ‘What are YOU going to do?’ There was a vacancy on the town council, and I was elected unopposed. After a while I realised we had no power at all. I found it a pointless exercise.

The tagline to this blog says there’s more to retirement than gardening; but you are a keen gardener, aren’t you? In the 20 years I’ve been retired, I’ve gathered pots. They have increased in number and size. Now it takes me one and a half hours to water them all. I have hanging baskets as well. But I’ve discovered that the worst bit of any garden is the lawn. To have a good one is a pain! I spend a lot of time out there. Before I retired I had a garden, but that’s not the same thing as being a gardener.

And like many retired people, you enjoy your holidays. Just before I retired, we started going on canal holidays. It did me the world of good. There’s always something to do. If you’re not on the tiller you are the one working the locks. Or you simply get off the boat and walk into the nearest town. There’s now a group of us who spend Christmas and birthdays together. Away from the canals, we have travelled in Europe, America, Canada and New Zealand.

How did your wife adjust to your retirement? I had a year when I was retired and she was still working. Now she is out more often than I am. The church always figured quite large in her life. She is a church warden, and volunteers with the WRVS and Samaritans. So it’s more a case of me supporting her because she does so many charitable and church duties.

Sum up your experience of retirement. There was the professional work at first, then the gardening, the town council work, and holidays all over the world. I have enjoyed retirement as much as working.


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