Are there any olderpreneurs here?

HEALTH CHECK: more over-65s are using their skills and expertise to launch their own businesses.

FORGET the idea that people retire with a sense of relief that work and business are now things from their former life that they never need worry themselves about again.

It turns out that many of us bring the curtain down on our careers, only to start a new act, running our own businesses.

Research by the global banking giant Barclays reveals that, over the last decade, the fastest growing age group of business owners was those aged over 65. Between 2006 and last year, that age group recorded a 140 per cent increase in entrepreneurship and self-employment.

We may not be pulling down a regular pay cheque any more, but the good news is that many of us are putting the skills and expertise we have built over many years to profitable use.

Perhaps it is no surprise that former teachers and doctors are well represented in this category.

There is another, less welcome, motive behind the increase in ‘olderpreneurship’, however; some of us are becoming our own boss later in life because our pensions are not enough to maintain the lifestyle we want.

Of course, the internet has made it much easier to launch a business these days – but the rate of business failures is still as daunting as it ever was.

But, according to the Office for National Statistics, whatever the reason for starting our own business later in life, most of us are very happy with our new self-employed status.

Are you an olderpreneur? Have you started your own business since you retired from the day-job?


Never mind the distance, watch the clock

Monday, August 7

Back in the pool, which has been hosting the Welsh championships, and therefore closed to the public for a week. A change of strategy; rather than swimming 1,000 metres in whatever time it takes, I swim for 25 minutes, regardless of the distance covered. This has two advantages for a retired bloke; I don’t have to remember to keep count of how metres I’ve swum, and it is no longer made obvious to me that I’m getting progressively slower. What they call, I believe, a win-win outcome.

Tuesday, August 8

I have started reading On The Map, a history of cartography, by Simon Garfield (this is one of the hardback books I bought for 1 penny each). In his foreword, Garfield writes how our idea of maps has been affected by modern technology such as map apps on our smartphones, and Google Earth on our computers. I realise that I don’t use – or, indeed, have – either of these things.

Wednesday, August 9

A national newspaper survey of Premier League football clubs’ fans reveals that only 5 per cent of Swansea supporters are “extremely confident” of the team having a good season. This would be perturbing, except for the fact no other club’s fans are markedly more optimistic. It just proves that following a football team is a nerve-wracking and confidence-sapping experience. People who don’t understand this are prone to such fatuous remarks as: “looking forward to the game?”

Friday, August 10

The Current Mrs Feeney and I are in the kitchen, thumbing through the newspapers after breakfast. TCMrsF reads out a name, and asks if I know him. I say that I was in junior and senior schools with him. She passes me the page of death notices. Shocking.

Sunday, August 13

My final appearance on the Jamie Owen Show on BBC Radio Wales this morning. The show is being taken off air at the end of this month. “You sounded hesitant,” says TCMrsF. An opinion that is backed up by The Daughter. Everybody wants to be a critic.


Anything they can do, she can do tougher

Atomic Blonde

GINGER Rogers said that anything Fred Astaire could dance, she could dance backwards – and in high heels. Charlize Theron will know how she felt.

Theron plays an MI6 agent who is more than a match for macho action-men like Jason Bourne or latter-day James Bond. She shoots, punches, scissor-kicks and car-chases her way through a Berlin at the end of the Cold War. And does so in stiletto-heeled boots, and a series of figure-hugging outfits that take the “undercover” out of “agent.”

This is not so much ‘Lights, Camera. Action’ as ‘Neon, Soundtrack, ACTION!!!!’ The film is washed in glowing neon right from the opening credits. The story rips along to a background of 1980s tracks from George Michael, Nena, and New Order. And as for the action…

Director  David Leitch is also a stuntman (he’s been a regular stunt double for Brad Pitt), and boy does it show. Really, this is a stuntman’s film. The action shots come thick and fast, with a whack that makes you wince. It all culminates in a bone-snapping, face-smashing, body-wrecking long shot, where Theron fights her way down a staircase, through an apartment and into a car chase.

The plot – British, Russian, French and East German spooks in an increasingly violent search for a missing list of British agents operating undercover behind the Iron Curtain – is just the vehicle for the action.

Director: David Leitch

Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan.

Verdict: Stylish, brutal, and very, very enjoyable. ****





A city suffocated by heat, humidity – and racism

data=YyyY5q2mhehogtWUC-gEVP0sKo4rsavrbR8717sWw7KLWjiInRfyhAmVRK0CgnWkklIVKAtJ4O90kTl15-EZZlv6323lAC-SNOQ1SETlKHyy7NUYRg8kE8-fzWqGtIMTOy6ZtLbeCtPzpl7brd9fF2G1X1evh7rNjpioQw0E4zD5w9EGXCF_VWorld Crime Atlas: Georgia, USA.

World Crime Atlas is my retirement project to read a crime novel set in every country in The Times Atlas of the World, concentrating on the sense of place created by the author.

Darktown, by Thomas Mullen.

Publisher’s Blurb: On one side of the tracks are rich, white neighbourhoods; on the other, Darktown, the African-American area guarded by the city’s first black police force of just eight men. These cops are kept near-powerless by the authorities – most of all, they can’t arrest white suspects.

When a poor black woman is killed in Darktown having been last seen with a rich white man, no one seems to care except for two black cops from vastly different backgrounds. Under pressure from all sides, they will risk their jobs, the trust of their community and even their own lives to investigate her death.

When and Where: Atlanta, 1948.

The cops: Atlanta Police Department Officers Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith.

Sense Of Place: Mullen sets the scene early, with this description of the city in the first chapter: “Two parts Confederate racist to two parts Negro to one part something-that-doesn’t-quite-have-a-name-for-it-yet. Neither city nor country but some odd combination, a once sleepy railroad crossing that had exploded due to wartime need for matériel and the necessities of shipping it. Even after the war, all those factories and textile mills and rail yards were still churning, because normalcy had returned and Americans were desperate for new clothes and washing machines and automobiles, and the South was very good at providing cheap, nonunionized labor. So Atlanta continued to grow, the trains continued to disgorge new residents and the tenements grew more crowded and the moonshine continued to be driven down from the mountains and the streets spilled over with even more passion and schemes and brawls, because there on the Georgia piedmont something had been set loose that might never again be contained.”

This is the setting for a story that is saturated in racism; for a negro, even making eye contact with a white woman was a criminal offence. They called it “reckless eyeballing.” Atlanta is a city where streets change name for no better reason than because they move from a black to a white neighbourhood, and white residents do not want to share an address with their black fellow citizens.

Contrast Mullen’s picture of the city with his description, much later in the book, of the South’s natural abundance: “The thick overwhelming ripeness of the South, the sheer three-dimensionality, the way it grew everywhere and anywhere, vibrant and unstoppable. The beauty of the tulips in March and azaleas in April and the many-hued leaves of November. Even the suffocating humidity of a summer day like this.”

An uncontainable city, set in an unstoppable natural environment. Alongside the racism (even a ‘sympathetic’ white police officer considers the policy of exclusively black cops patrolling exclusively black neighbourhoods as “a better kind of segregation”) the heat and humidity are also an ever-present fact of life. There is a constant sense of storm, literal and metaphorically.

Verdict: this is a gripping, shocking tale that vividly portrays a place where all lives – white too, but especially black – are stifled and suffocated by the oppressive natural and social atmosphere. It is also a first-rate police procedural crime novel, with Officer Boggs in particular a fascinating character who is based on historical reality.

The truth is staring us in the face

Sunday, July 30

They say there’s no fool like an old fool. A survey finds that three-quarters of older British men believe they become better looking with age. This contrasts with only 56 per cent of men aged 16 to 24 feeling confident about their looks. How come? Perhaps the explanation why 71 per cent of the over-65 group thought they looked younger than their years is found elsewhere in the same survey; younger men look in the mirror more often.

Driving back from Cheltenham, we find ourselves stuck in a traffic jam on the M4 at 6.30 on a Sunday evening. The cause is the apparently perpetual problem of congestion approaching the Brynglas tunnels outside Newport. The Welsh Government has been loud in its protests at the UK Government’s cancellation of rail electrification west of Cardiff, but it should be concentrating on making a decision about the route of the M4 relief road, and get on with removing a bottleneck that has a far more severe impact on business and leisure traffic into Wales.

Monday, July 31

It’s 8.30pm, and our kitchen is full of animals. Our neighbours moved house today. They did not take with them their cat (Next Door’s Cat, an occasional player in the never-ending drama that is this retired life journal). So he’s in the room. But so, temporarily, are next door’s two dogs, waiting to be collected and taken to their new home. All is surprisingly harmonious.

Tuesday, August 1

I have started reading Darktown, a police procedural novel set in Atlanta in 1948, as part of my World Crime Atlas retirement project. One-third into the story, and I am already immersed in the book’s deeply shocking portrayal of a city where even crime, and its victims, are strictly segregated. Very impressive story telling by the author, Thomas Mullen.

Friday, August 4

Why do so many people confuse going to the cinema with going for a picnic? The people sat on either side of me at this afternoon’s screening of War For The Planet Of The Apes were fully equipped with popcorn (two, large), drinks (ditto), bags of chocolates, tortilla chips, and a tray of assorted dips. When I want to eat, I go to a café; when I want to watch a film, I go to a cinema. I like it that way. I don’t much like having to watch and listen to a film over the sounds (and smells) of my neighbours’ marathon grazing sessions.

My 5 Favourite Films of 2017 (so far)

SUMMER blockbuster season seems as good a time as any to look back at what films I’ve seen this year, and select my top five (in purely chronological order):


Manchester By The Sea:

Cast: Casey Affleck, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams.

Director: Kenneth Lonergan.

A restrained study in grief and loss, with an outstanding six-star performance by Casey Affleck at its heart.


Cast: Sunny Pawer, Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara.

Director: Garth Davis.

This tale of a lost child’s long journey home delivered plenty of emotional clout.


Cast: Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, Naomie Harris, Jangle Monáe, Mahershala Ali.

Director: Barry Jenkins.

Named the Best Picture Oscar winner (eventually), a complex tale in which what remains unsaid is as important as what is said.

Their Finest:

Cast: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston.

Director: Lone Scherfig.

Let’s hear it for the British. Nostalgic and patriotic, with some genuinely emotional moments, and a convincing Welsh accent from Gemma Arterton.

Baby Driver:

Cast: Andel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx.

Director: Edgar Wright.

A superbly choreographed match-up of a brilliant soundtrack and incredible driving stunts.

And a couple of duds

Going In Style:

A cast of starry veterans wasted in a predictable and limp tale, with some embarrassingly awful ‘action’ scenes.

Alien Covenant:

Not every film lives up to its hype. This was a tedious reprisal of over-familiar scenarios.

Apecalypse Now

War For The Planet Of The Apes

I TAKE no credit (or blame, depending on your opinion of the pun) for the headline to this post. It appears as a piece of graffiti in the film.

The latest in the Planet Of The Apes franchise, following Rise and Dawn, obviously pays homage to Coppola’s Vietnam epic. But there are strong nods also to quest Westerns like The Searchers, or – more recently – The Revenant. Director Matt Reeves also has some fun with POW escape movie tropes.

The title is actually misleading. The film opens with the scene of an ambush, and climaxes with a full scale battle (though even then it manages to overturn expectations of a humans v apes showdown). But what happens between these two set pieces is an intelligent examination of the shifting morality of resistance and revenge.

Andy Serkis, as Caesar, the leader of the apes, and Woody Harrelson, as the Kurtz-like rogue colonel in charge of the soldiers, are two conflicted figures. Each is excellent, and their scenes together are riveting.

One more thing; the special effects (by Weta Workshop) are extraordinary.

Verdict: Sentimental and moralising perhaps, but absorbing and thought-provoking. ****