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Grabbing Life Firmly by The Bollocks!

Since writing this, I’ve been asked the same question many times ‘what are bollocks?’ So, for anyone unfamiliar with this very English term and alternative terminology for the most valuable of masculine assets, it literally translates as balls or testicles.

I want to begin with a confession.

I’m unusual; some would say strange or even weird.

To put this into perfect perspective for you, I’m different in many ways and stand out as prominently as a nudist in a convent. Neither my size, shape or appearance would be classed as even close to normal. Nor would the way I dress, the food I eat, or the way in which I choose to lead my life. However, it’s the way that I THINK which separates me from the crowd and status quo the very most. Where most people mentally zig, I always zag and generally follow the less walked and more lonely pathway.

Unlike the majority of our population, I had never looked forward to retiring. It has nothing to do with ageing or getting older but has everything to do with change, unfamiliarity and the unknown, which for me was a bit of a worry.

Mental organisation is good!

I like to know in fine detail what I’m going to be doing for the rest of today, tomorrow, and if possible, the day after as well. I’m a huge planner, and I become more so with every passing day. I follow a simple philosophy, which is, why put off planning what you can do tomorrow when you can do it right now. I like to know what I will eat for the next two or three days, and that I have it in stock ready for preparation. My wife says this makes me a pain, it probably does, but it’s the way I am. Knowing these things makes me feel comfortable and reduces the need for making last-minute decisions or suffering related stress or disappointments.

Today, and as my family is away, I will finish writing the first draft of this essay, have a shower, go to the supermarket and buy hummus, arugula, goats’ cheese and a bottle of fruity Shiraz. I’ll read for 45 minutes and then prepare my chapatis for my meal. I have a good film, and a documentary picked out for this evening viewing. Get the idea?

If you can understand this and my way, then you’ll understand why retirement was such a worry to me.

 

Knowing what you want is an advantage!

I’m just two days from my sixty-fourth birthday, and mentally I still feel in my teens or early twenties. Where the majority of the saner population knew what they wanted to do with their lives since kindergarten, I never did. In fact, it was only four months ago that I knew for certain what it was I wanted to be when I grew up. I suppose another way of describing myself would be a slow developer.

The fact is, I like an orderly and predictable life and lifestyle. It’s taken me years to get my life as it is now, and as I want it. As far as I was concerned, I have the greatest life in the world, so how on earth can you improve perfection. That was my problem and the hurdle that needed to be crossed, and it kept me awake at night. It really did.

You see, unlike most people, I have a passion for my work.

For that reason, I work for at least a few hours every day, seven days a week, even when I go on holidays. This is my way of working. Okay, I admit it, to most individuals, probably you also, I’m as dull as watching paint dry. However, the upside of this scenario is I have an enviable life of enjoyment filled with wall-to-wall fun and fulfilment every single day!

For the past twenty years or so, everything in my working life has started with words. Whether I was writing a webpage, an email, or even a script for a new video I was going to record the same afternoon, everything started with the written word. So, writing became the most significant part of my daily life.

 

Words, and making them compelling is addictive!

I always wanted to do more writing.

Some people regard me as a workaholic.

What’s wrong with being a workaholic anyway I ask? This question usually leaves them stumped and armed only with their opinion, which is weak and easily overcome. Being a workaholic comes down to your sense of perspective. If you see your job as fun, then it’s no longer work.

 

Unfortunately!

Most people wouldn’t class their job as something they enjoy doing for fun, and it certainly wouldn’t be something they’d do in their spare time, or without being paid, perish the thought. By contrast, they trade their time for money. I soon learned that for me, this exchange would always be a mistake.

Those who follow this strategy are more likely to live solely for the weekends, and then a two weeks’ holiday in July. This always sounded particularly unappealing and wasn’t me at all.

The beginning of an idea was propagating in my mind!

 

The big decision

I have always been quite resourceful, and in my twenties, I came to a firm conclusion about happiness and how I could lead a good, contented, and enjoyable life. I decided upon a powerful strategy for happiness and success! It was simplicity itself, and from that point forward I only did what I enjoyed doing. If I didn’t enjoy it, then I wouldn’t do it. The seeds of lasting happiness were sown and quickly propagated and grew into something workable.

I have implemented this exact strategy for the past 35 years of my life and mainly it’s worked wonderfully well. In fact, I’m very methodical and have improved continuously every aspect of my working life for maximum enjoyment which I have always put before profit. I keep my lifestyle constantly optimised for the best results, and most people are amazed when I tell them about this simple strategy. However, armed with just a little creative thinking outside the usual comfort zone, anyone with even a minimum of intellect could be living a similar lifestyle. Mondays quickly become as good as the weekends, and you’ll look forward to returning from vacations as much as starting them.

The trick, of course, is finding something which you enjoy doing, or can learn to enjoy, and then turning it either into a service, or a way of making money. Dependent upon tastes, it’ll be different for every one of us. This is the hardest bit! Even if it’s not 100% fun, look at the related benefits and ramifications. Some potential professions and opportunities will be far more enjoyable than others, and these are the ones that should be at the top of your list.

 

Boss not needed!

As my wife will be glad to agree, I’m not very good at being told what to do. I have my own mind and like to do things my way and in my own time. I’m not even very good at telling other people what to do either. I could see that a business that required employees could be a problem and soon become a headache. The way forward for me became crystal clear; I decided I needed to become an entra solo-preneur and to work from the comfort of my own home, without the need for commuting, and with just a minimum of overhead.

I drew up a list of potential moneymaking ideas, the top three being: Ice-cream taster, Bed-tester, and best of all, Gigolo! It was a starting point. After a few false starts, I became a presenter and entertainer. I am one of life’s natural show-offs and can be an extreme extrovert, and entertaining people was a great and enjoyable way of making a living. Most of the time, I was sort of still trading time for money, but that was soon about to change.

I then got serious and came up with the idea of producing an inexpensive newsletter on a particular subject that was not being served or pampered too. I tested it, the interest was high, and it sold like hotcakes.

 

Less is more!

The great thing about paid email or newsletters is that you write them once, and get paid many times over. I still generate an income today from an evergreen email newsletter I wrote fifteen years ago. Then, I moved into marketing by post, quickly followed by marketing on the Internet and affiliate marketing or what would later become known as IM (Internet marketing.) I learned many new skills and enjoyed every moment.

 

Why retire now?

 In hindsight, the big reason was I was ready for a change.

I have been doing a lot of the same things daily for almost 35 years, and there were other things and new challenges which I wanted to focus on.

A change was imminent; it was just a matter of when.

Coincidentally, my accountant suggested it was a perfect time to cash in some of my pensions, so I did. I was amazed at how large they had grown. Suddenly the need for earning money was no longer there, and my monthly pensions payments were not that far away.

 

A congruence of ideas

A couple of years before my wife, referred to by the family as the dragon lady, because she hails from the orient and almost breathes fire when she is angry. She, more specifically, comes from the sunny island of Cebu in the Philippines, where a few years ago she started to build a new house. Not just a holiday home, but a five-bedroom dwelling right on the beach which boasted a roof terrace garden and every modern convenience. I have always enjoyed being in the Philippines and being around my Philippine family. Although annoying at times, they are eccentric, funny and quite unpredictable.

Warmth in winter suddenly became hugely attractive to me and was a subject that became constantly on my mind. What’s wrong with living in the UK I hear you ask? Very little actually, I love it, and we have a lovely beachside home in the West Country which is quite beautiful. Especially in the spring, summer and early months of autumn. The only problem with the UK as far as I’m concerned is the winter which is too damp, too cold and far too long. When the weather turns cold, damp and too dull for me to sit in the garden or conservatory, then I want to be somewhere else. I don’t want to be dressed in thick layers of clothing and spend these months hugging a radiator. I used to enjoy the winters, but not anymore. Perhaps that has something to do with age?

Although the last winter wasn’t unusually cold, it seemed to go on forever. Every passing year, I find the winters more challenging to endure. I need the sun and the warmth and in the Philippines every day is warm, and most days are sunny, you can see the attraction. Spending the late autumn and winter there for me is the ideal solution, and my wife knew it, and I love her for it.

Our new house is almost ready, and I can almost hear it calling my name. I’m looking forward to visiting and inhabiting it so much. Good reasons for immediate retirement were adding up and becoming quite overwhelming.

 

The biggest reason

I wanted to write!

I have a dream of becoming a well-read writer.

There are so many things which I want to write about but have never found the time to do so. I wanted the opportunity to explore my thoughts and record them, be free with my ideas and scribble them down. I want to write emotional and moving narratives.

What started as a dream soon became an idea that I thought about every day until it became an obsession, and now it’s happened. The more I thought about it, the keener I became. The time for a new chapter in my life was dawning, as well as the time to get serious.

Because what I have done for my living is difficult to categorise and explain with one word, such as I’m a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker. We always told people I was retired; it was much more natural, and anyway it’s no one else’s business.

Most people, including the neighbours, presumed while my wife went out to work, and was seen in a medical uniform that she was the breadwinner. Then, and by complete contrast, I stayed at home, did nothing and watched the television or walked on the beach when I felt bored.

Reading their minds and what they thought of me was not difficult.

Comments, distaste and jealousy from those who think I’m nothing more than a lazy bum and scrounger are quite apparent. I I remember one of my neighbours once commenting “retirement at fifty, you lucky bugger!” and their attitude towards me dramatically deteriorated, I saw no reason to tell them any different.

 

The decision

I can’t remember the precise moment, or when it happened, but at some point, the scales tipped in positive favour of retirement, and then I couldn’t finish fast enough.

All I had to do was wind up my old business and close all unnecessary services and tools I would no longer use. I delivered my final company books to the accountant, and I was retired.

 

I don’t do things by halves!

Did I mention I’m extremist?

As far as I’m concerned, if you’re going to wear a hat you might as well wear a big one. A bit like the condemned man and his last meal, I decided to start retirement with a bang. It was a sort of retirement. Last Supper, but it was going to be alone.

It was the middle of the winter, and I was in dire need of sun and a warmer climate. So, I invited my family to join me for a week of enjoyment in the Egyptian Red-Sea resort of Hurghada. Who could refuse such a generous offer, my family did, and none of them wanted to come? They all told me that they know what I’m like on Holiday. At first, I was a little hurt and disappointed, but as I’ve already stated, I am unusual and according to my children, overwhelming.

I’m up before the light and always talk to myself. I either have my head buried in a book, my computer or I’m writing notes. I’m also enthusiastic about engaging in conversation and interaction with individuals from other parts of the world; they always interest me. Apparently, I’m loud, flamboyant, and very embarrassing and entirely over the top. I’d never noticed, but no one seems to complain except my family. Perhaps the problems are there’s? Then by eight or nine in the evening I’m exhausted and have to head back to my pillow to recharge in preparation for the next exhausting day of generally the same thing that I have planned.

I went alone!

It was great thinking time and the opportunity to plan and consider my strategies carefully as well as to clear my head. I was so excited and didn’t waste a minute of my opportunity.

 

Sun, thoughts and words!

The hotel location and private bungalow were excellent, although secondary to my objective.

I was overwhelmed with thoughts and possibilities and had no idea where to start, so I wrote it down, as much as I had time for, anyway. In seven days, I filled eighty-three pages and I wrote between three-hundred-and-fifty and four-hundred words per page. In seven days, I had written approximately thirty-thousand words of thoughts, inspirations and ideas. I returned home with a severe repetitive strain injury of my right wrist.

When I wasn’t writing, I was reading or chatting to interesting people and taking advantage of the tasty all-inclusive beer, which was unlike me. I was ready and excited to start my new life when I got home; I couldn’t wait.

 

I was lucky!

COVID-19 was upon us and accelerating. In hindsight, I was stupid about going to Egypt at all, and I only managed to return safely to the UK without incident by a whisker. Everything still seemed normal at the airport, although the day after I flew home the airport was closed, and guests threw out of their hotels. They were left on the street or under Army guard. What a great idea for a story!

I later learned that my flight was one of the last out of Egypt, and other holidaymakers were stuck in poverty for weeks before being repatriated.

 

Lockdown!

I hardly noticed it.

Even before lockdown I never went out much, anyway; now I went out even less.

The dragon lady worked in hospitals and amongst patients already suffering from the virus. These unusual circumstances left me locked down from the world and then isolated from my family in our own home. It was bizarre; my children did my shopping for me and kept their distance. I remember well-holding conversations with my daughter and wife by phone; they were only yards away from me. However, the weather was terrific and stayed that way for the following three months, and never before had my skin become so brown and bronzed. Forty years earlier, and with a full head of dark hair and enviably muscular physic, I would have resembled a young Greek God, rather than the chubby sixty-three-year-old into which I had transformed.

Apart from my once-daily strolls along the long and deserted beach in front of our house, I stayed at home. I was happy doing so, I rarely fall out with myself.

 

My objective was simple!

I was going to write a lot.

Where to start, I still wasn’t quite sure; I decided to wait and see what inspirations unfolded in front of me. I set a goal of writing a minimum of a thousand NEW words every day; it’s not difficult. Or should I say, it’s not difficult until in addition to your new 1,000 words you have to start improving, editing and re-drafting the stories you’ve already written?

Then you get busy; I became swamped.

Every passing month I decided upon new techniques which I wanted to master, as well as overcoming some of the mistakes I made, which were many. Every day I read, I usually read for a couple of hours a day, sometimes more. Most mornings I’d be up before the blackbird and working until approximately six pm, by which time I became exhausted and prepared my food. I would generally finish the day with a little television and by studying films, and as I watched, I would take notes and learn.

It was my idea of heaven.

 

133 days later?

So, what’s changed since before I retired?

For me, it’s been mainly focus, and having the time to dedicate 100% of my concentration to my objective has been an opportunity. I’ve kept a daily word count of my writing, and as of this moment, I’ve written one-hundred and forty-seven thousand words, so I have maintained my thousand words a day objective. But it’s not about quantity; it’s more about quality.

 

Is my work improving?

I’ll have to let you be the judge of that.

It’s hard for me to be objective as every new story I write I feel is the best so far, but is it?

I have also become very brown and put a little weight on, and now seem to enjoy everything so much more. Other than that, nothing but my thinking has changed. I work harder now than I did before I retired, and I love it.

 

105 days from today

My flight is already booked for 31st October and COVID-19 willing, I’ll be on my way. The house is close to being finished and now being furnished.

I live my life one day at a time, making everyone the best I can make it by squeezing out maximum enjoyment and satisfaction from each one. For me, retirement is great, and I’ll be leading the same life in the Philippines, just on a different continent and living amongst a different culture.

Best of all, I’ll be staying warm and genuinely appreciating that variety is truly the spice of life.

On a recent form, I was asked to identify my ethnicity. From the selection, and just to be difficult, I ticked ‘OTHER’, and in the comments box which invited me to be more specific, I wasn’t sure if I should write either: Scribblermaniack or Englapino.

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