Today I have been sober for 88 days.
My first night at home, and my first morning back at my daily AA meetings after a ten day break.
I was given a more rapturous welcome than I had thought possible, and was somewhat taken aback. They really are a very good-hearted, well meaning bunch of guys there, and I have no doubt that without them I could have never remained sober this long, and have started to change my life around.
During my “R & R” in Bangkok and Phnom Penh, I was a naughty boy and failed to go to any meetings, despite the numerous daily meetings available in Bangkok, and the offer of being taken to the daily meeting in Phnom Penh. Maybe I was worried that I would repeat my lapse that occurred when I went to Chiang Mai and got a bit upset in the meeting there. Anyway, I made it back to Pattaya in one piece, although I must confess that on my way to the meeting this morning I got angry in the traffic, which was the first time I have done that in many a week, so I guess I arrived back in the nick of time.
‘Peace and serenity’ is the name of the game, and I must continue to remind myself of this essential rule for recovering alcoholics.
Now I will continue with “Mobi’s Story.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 18)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS.
It was the summer of 2000, I had just turned 54 and I was now a fully fledged retiree, cut off from my employer of some 18 years, without much idea what the future was going to bring.
For sure in many ways I was very fortunate. I had been given a very generous retirement package, which effectively kept me on something close to my full salary until I reached my 60th birthday, I had accumulated a considerable sum in my non contributory, defined contribution, pension scheme, contributions to which would also continue until my 60th birthday.
On top of this, for the past 10 years or so, I had resisted the temptation to “upgrade” my standard of living and embrace the extravagant lifestyle to be more in keeping with my city peers. So whilst my family and I had never wanted for anything, we spent our money carefully and frugally, which meant that we now had a considerable sum sorted away in investment portfolios.
We still lived in the second house that I had bought in South Essex, (having sold the first one in 1988), a large 3 bedroom detached house at the end of a quiet, leafy cul- de -sac, with garage, a large garden, and within walking distance of local shops, a large Tescos, and importantly for me, the railway station. This saved me a lot of money, as several years previously I had given up driving to the city as I was in dread of getting caught drink driving after a few narrow escapes, and once I decided to commute by train, I was able to dispense with my second car, and the family could use the limo provided to me by the company.
Another factor which persuaded us to stay in the not so fashionable area of South Essex was the fact that my youngest daughter had succeeded in passing the ‘11 plus’ and had won a place in one of the top performing grammar schools in the country – Westcliffe High – only a short bus ride away, and which saved me a fortune in school fees, as I would never have let her attend one of the dreadful State ‘comprehensives’, that now blighted the education system throughout England.
We were perfectly comfortable there; as we had upgraded the premises to a very high standard; we had made a number of good friends, so there really was no need to move.
But during the months leading up to my retirement, I started to get the “moving itch”. Although we had been happy in South Essex, I somehow didn’t feel I want to spend the rest of my days there. I had a hankering to move to the countryside, and on this particular fancy, I was surprised to discover that my wife supported me.
We started to look around for possible locations, and following a trip to East Northamptonshire to meet with a work colleague who lived there, we fell in love with a large three bedroom bungalow in one of the prettiest villages I have ever seen.
East Northamptonshire generally seems to be one of the forgotten ‘jewels’ of middle England, and has dozens of beautiful villages which easily rival the beauty of villages in such places as the Cotswolds, but for some reason, are not so fashionable. more importantly, as far as I was concerned, East Northants properties were not so expensive.
The properties in the village we wanted to move to however did command a bit of a premium, due to the outstanding beauty of the village and the consequent desirability of living there. The bungalow came with a large parcel of land, the back of which looked out onto open countryside, and the front ran down to a genuine babbling brook which was lined with weeping willows, sycamores and other towering trees, both deciduous and evergreen, of ancient vintage.
We spent a number of weeks haggling with the American owner, who worked at a nearby US air base, as he was desperate to move following the tragic death through illness of his wife. The deal was finally done, and we took possession of the house some six months prior to my retirement. Then in a strange, unexpected “reverse” sort of deal, we then rented the house back to the previous owner for a couple of months or so, as it suddenly transpired that he had nowhere to move to, and the US government was very generous in rental arrangements for their employees.
We finally had vacant possession about three months before my retirement, and we started to travel there on weekends to make arrangements for re-decoration, renovations and extensions to be built etc, so one way or another, the period immediately prior to my retirement was packed with activity. I had the new house to sort out and all my detailed planning for the family trip across North America, which would commence within days of my ceasing to work, and last but not least I had to sort out schooling for my daughter, which eventually resulted in her being accepted for admission by one of the major “Public Schools”,(for “non-Brits”, read ‘private schools’), in the area
In retrospect, this hive of activity probably masked or put out of mind the real issue of exactly how I would handle my retirement, once all the pieces of my new family life had been put into place.
Our subsequent “retirement” holiday, in the Summer of 2000, rudely awakened me to what lay ahead, and the prospect was not something I was looking forward to. In fact by the time I returned to the UK, the looming retirement years was a prospect I was starting to hold with foreboding.
How this holiday gave me a “wake up call”, I will recount in my next blog.