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skiddingtowardsretirement

semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

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Leisure

Lockdown

New Zealand went into lockdown on Tuesday last week. The last time I was in lockdown was for five or so weeks last March/April 2020.

It is weird living in lockdown – almost other worldly. Where we live the traffic is always light; it is now even lighter. Working from home, mask wearing, social distancing, bubbles and sanitizing are the words of the day.

In spite of its challenges, this lockdown has completely removed any doubts I have been harbouring about retiring early. Indeed, it has categorically demonstrated that it is the right thing for us.

The fact is my enthusiasm and self-motivation levels have increased significantly this last week while at home, even though I am working remotely. I guess rolling out of bed at 7.30 instead of 5.45, and the no travel means I am not exhausted by the end of each working day.

Certainly this weekend, besides the never-ending cleaning and washing, I had the energy to finally start stripping the wallpaper in the kitchen, a job that I have put on the back burner for months. I also made bread, baked a slice, went for a walk, and spent quality time with the grandchildren in our bubble. I also managed to finish my book, and start on a new one. Bliss!

Bread – didn’t know if was going to be successful as yeast was old!
Wallpaper stripping – an OK job when you get into swing of it

The garden beckoned too – truthfully, I have ignored it since I started back full time 21 months ago , but this weekend, I rediscovered the itch to get my hands dirty working in it. Pity I ran out of time, but I now know that when I am no longer time poor, I will be out there getting it back into shape. Hallelujah!

Early retirement will mean we have to watch our dollars a bit more, but the man and I have no doubt whatsoever that the pluses of a more satisfying and balanced lifestyle makes this sacrifice absolutely worth it.

Roll on retirement.

Time to hang around the fire pit and toast marshmallows. The teenage grandson camped in the tent.

Putting the house in order

Having publicly committed to retiring in the New Year, I am getting my house in order.

This means making decisions about what we need to do to make our retirement work well for us. I have therefore got a list and a budget – a true Virgo, right?

My list started off with many grand things including recarpeting the house, recurtaining the bedrooms, a new fridge and a tent for copious camping trips. I have subsequently rethought this and the list is no longer an absolute, rather it can now be described as ‘a work in progress’ with items being added, taken away or parked.

The changes I have made are sensible ones, I think. I have decided against recarpeting – the carpet is fine and I am just bored with it. I also want to replace it with wool (it is wool now) and that is not cheap. I will therefore do it in a few years when most of our retirement savings can be accessed. The curtains – well, I have washed them initially in a bit of bleach, followed by a rinse and two out of the three sets are perfect again. The other one? A sad story really that would bring a tear to any house proud person’s eyes – suffice to say, I will buy new ones!

The new fridge? Well, I have purchased one after much research (how big, what make, energy rating etc etc) and it is looking mighty fine in the kitchen. The power bill has also reduced which is an added bonus.

The tent for our NZ trips has been relegated to the ‘decision pending’list. I will keep the $$ aside for it in the budget.

New additions to the list include a cat door with a microchip so our kind neighbour can feed our moggies, rather than every cat in the neighbourhood when we are away adventuring. I have also factored in some maintenance including the three yearly septic tank clean and new glasses for me.

Meanwhile, I am saving hard for this early retirement lark, albeit I am fast coming to the conclusion that we will dip into our savings pot early if required so we can do the things we want to when we want to. Yes, life is short, and we don’t want to live with regrets.

Carpe diem, folks!

PS I have been told I can join the temp pool at the hospital where I work any time which is kind of nice, though at this stage this is not what I see in my future.

Shackle-free

In October, we sold our boat.

Our feelings at the time were a mixture of sadness and relief. Sadness because she had been ours for ten years and we had had some fun times in her. Relief? Well, relief was due to a multiple of reasons, but the primary one was that for the last four years we had not used her as we should, and we felt guilty we hadn’t!

No, the poor old thing had sat on a mooring in Parua Bay growing weed (not the illegal stuff, by the way) and getting used by the (insert the rudest word you know here) swallows as their home and ablution block. None of this was pretty.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, in the last couple of years the Mediterranean fan worm had infiltrated the bay and every unsuspecting hull floating there had been under attack. This resulted in the Northern Regional council employing dive teams to check the hulls and work out a remediation programme for each contaminated vessel. Once the programme was completed, the boat was then certified and allowed to go into other marinas and areas (no waterway wants fanworm to take up residence!).

The first year we got notification we had fan worms, we had to pay some divers to remove them from the hull; this last year we dealt with them when the boat was hauled for maintenance.

So there we have it, our lovely boat was unused and deteriorating and costing us quite a few $$. The sensible solution was to sell her. This is, of course, easier said than done: boats are notoriously hard to sell. Indeed, we had had a couple of attempts previously with no joy.

We were, however, determined to sell her this time around. Firstly though, we needed to get her looking cared for and loved again. She was hauled in June last year and the man set to work to get her up to scratch. Over a four months period, he worked week days upon her. This included replacing some rot, painting her topsides and antifouling her hull. Our sail cover had fallen to pieces so we commissioned a new one of these. The engine required some work so a marine engineer was employed to do this. Parts were shipped in from overseas.

With hardstand fees and maintenance costs, getting her up to scratch was far from a cheap exercise. We also couldn’t add the cost of this to the sale price of the boat and had to absorb this expense- no surprises there, it is a boat, after all! Luckily, the man’s labour came gratis.

When she was nearing completion, we popped her on NZ Trademe (for overseas readers, this is the NZ counterpart of Craigslist or ebay, I think). We wrote the ad carefully – we pointed out her amazing cruising history, including being part of NZ Peace Flotilla that went to Mururoa in 1995 (see Steinlager ad on NZ TV at the moment), her circumnavigation, her gun running story, and the link to the book about these adventures.**We also pointed out her live aboard potential.

We priced her well – that point between so dear as to be unrealistic and so cheap one wonders what is wrong with it! Within a couple days of putting the ad up, we had had a few nibbles. We had two lots come through her, and both wished to buy her.

We sold her for less than we asked. This is par for the course, and is the cost we were willing to pay to move forward. We thought it was worth it!

We also sold her to the best possible people ever. A young Australian couple, they are intending to head to the northwest coast of Canada with another couple of boats and settle there in a couple of years.* Meanwhile, they are living aboard her with their husky and cat during the week and heading out most weekends and holidays exploring the Hauraki Gulf. We are following their adventures on social media.

Sorry, for quality of this photo: saying goodbye to Te Kaitoa as she leaves Whangarei Harbour with Tash and Patrick and friends

Every time we drive past the mooring where Te Kaitoa sat for the last four years, the man and I no longer need to look and check her out. She is, after all, in Little Shoal Bay, Auckland, where she is being looked after, used and loved as she should be. A perfect ending for us and a perfect beginning for them.

Safe and happy adventures on Te Kaitoa, Tash and Pat.

*We have been invited up to Canada for a sail when they get there. We do intend to take them up on their offer.

** BOAT BOOKS – How to find nautical yarns and stories. Page 1 of our huge WORLDWIDE range of nautical yarns and stories

Rebalancing

On Sunday I made a very important decision.

I chose to go out in the boat.

When I was first asked whether I wanted to go boating, I declined. I had jobs to do, you see.

In truth, I can always find jobs to do.

And that is the problem. I have fallen into the trap of prioritising jobs over leisure. Every time.

But not anymore. There is going to be more leisure time in my life. And the jobs.. well, the jobs can (mostly) wait.

New Life – Family Traditions

Mahurangi Regatta – a harbour full of boats, many of which are traditional and a day of old fashioned picnic fun with three legged races, sand castle contests, sack races, swimming races and …. for young and old

The Saturday of Anniversary Weekend means only one thing to the man and me – come hell or high water, the day will be spent at the Mahurangi Regatta.

And it’s been this way since our kids were littlies. It’s a family tradition, you see.

In the early days, more often than not, the two grandmothers would join us. Sadly, the years have passed and both Hilda and Dorothy are no longer with us.

But our family picnic group has not diminished in size, it has grown. Firstly, each of our three children introduced a partner to the mix; one brought with them our delightful step-grandson. Then, last year, our daughter and son in law introduced their three month old daughter to the tradition. This year our granddaughter was joined by her seven month old cousin. Our  picnic group now stands at 11, with, no doubt, a few more additions still to come.

The thing that the man and I find most gratifying about all this is that the children choose to come. They have continued the family tradition with no prompting from us. We, therefore, think it is here to stay.

Having said this, change is inevitable. Always.

The man is coming to terms with this at the moment. Let me explain. For those who don’t know, the man is a mad keen sea kayaker and has been since he discovered the sport as a 30 or so year old lad in the early nineties.

At the same time he discovered kayaking was the sport for him, he also found out that he was very competitive.  Go figure? Yes, the Stone family travelled up and down NZ so the man could take part in many a kayak race. And by the medals clanging around in his drawer, he was pretty successful – not in the league of MacDonald and Ferg*, of course, but successful all the same.

Now each year since about 1993 the man has taken part in the Mahurangi Regatta kayak race.  Most years the man has taken out first place. Except in 2015 and 2016, he didn’t. Those years he had to settle for second.

In 2018 this changed again. Yesterday he came third.  A close third, but third nonetheless.

So yes, third’s not bad. Except there were only three competitors.

The man, to put it mildly, was far from thrilled. I view it differently though: he should be pleased.  You see, the reality is my almost 62 year old partner can paddle way longer and faster than most of the general population.

So instead of him feeling disappointed with himself for being beaten by some younger bucks, which they were,  I have convinced him to continue competing.

Grant’s cedar Albatross sea kayak. This was designed and built by him. For those who don’t know we manufactured these in kevlar and fibreglass.

Why?  Well, the old bugger loves it. And hey, there is something to be said about not giving up, not to mention being the oldest competitor taking part each year.

So I have no doubt that as long as he is able to crawl into his lovely kayak, he will continue racing at the Mahurangi Regatta.

And  as long as he is racing, the kids, their kids and I will be standing there cheering him on!

*Ian and Paul paddled Olympic class kayaks in the K1s, K2s and K4s competitions – sea kayaks are quite different!

New Life – well-situated

Today, after months of trying, I have finally cracked it!

Or I will have, providing I pass the obligatory medical and drug test.

Yes, I have been offered a permanent role. And it is part time, which will allow me enough time to help the man launch his lovely new product, and to enjoy our property. It is also a job which expands my skill set, and is not in an industry I have worked in before. Perfect.

The ironic thing is that after months of rejection – I tried not to take this personally – I was in line for two jobs! The other one, however, was a relieving job and I decided to sacrifice the flexibility of  this for a position that actually appealed more to me, not to mention the idea of regular money was pretty attractive!

So how come my fortunes changed? I think the fact that I got to the interview stage in jobs I have never done before was because I ensured the CV I submitted matched the skill set the advertiser was looking for.

Now I know that many CVs contain porkies, and some even stray into the area of outright lies, but rest assured, Dear Reader, mine doesn’t. It is absolutely squeaky clean. Indeed, as someone who is pretty self-deprecating, there is not even a whiff of exaggeration contained within.

No, my doctoring was simply a case of keeping the relevant information and deleting the rest. And this focused approach seems to have worked a treat.

The two interviews also went well – I finally have got my head around two winning interview techniques: engage brain before opening mouth, and, be honest, but don’t shoot yourself in the foot with this honesty!

The job I have accepted ended up being a two interviews affair. The first was the one with the normal questions, the second was ostensibly to introduce me to their software system.  And I did get shown their software system, but I also got to sit a numeracy and literacy test. Surprise!

The literacy part didn’t faze me. The numeracy did, especially when the first half contained the directive that this was a calculator-free test. What is that about? Anyway, I am delighted to say I nailed the numeracy test! Yep, one wrong answer in the entire paper.  Clever me, right?

As for the literacy test, it was straightforward. Strangely enough, the part I probably got the most wrong was checking the formatting in a business letter – it’s changed a lot since a 13 year old Heather sat in a 3rd form typing class (1973, for those interested).  And the fact is this girl no longer writes formal letters, she emails pithy notes to all manner of professionals and signs off with ‘Cheers’.

So what is the job? Well until I sign my contract, I won’t reveal all. I will tell you it is a Health and Safety Administrator’s role with an element of HR in it too. The firm itself  is in the quarry and civil engineering area, so it is completely outside my area of expertise. It also means a bit of fluoro, some hard hat wearing, and some serious shoes!

I am so excited. I know I am going to love it.

And meanwhile, until I start, I will be gainfully employed working for the elections!

 

 

 

Chasing dreams

You may have noticed I am blogging less: this is not because I have lost interest in ear bashing all and sundry in a figurative way via the medium of a post, rather it is because I am putting my energies into turning my dream occupation into a reality. Sorry, exactly what this is remains embargoed information – this girl doesn’t want to end up with egg all over her face.

It is my hope that this new direction may eventually give me a modest income. I also harbour much grander dreams: I dream that my new occupation is so successful that not only does it provide me with a very respectable income, it provides me with an express ticket out of the 9-5, 5 day per week grind that I seem to spend more than my fair share of time railing against.* Move over, Adele!

I am, however, a realist. I know that being a success in anything is far from a given. It is also not something that is likely to happen overnight, rather it will take years of dedicated commitment and hard graft. To make dreams come true requires more than wishing; it requires one to take the first tentative step. In the last week or two I have done just that. I couldn’t be more pleased!

*The goal of reducing the man and my working week to three days by July 2017 still stands!

Letting Go

The son in the bosun's chair

Last night the man and I went on a wee adventure – we stayed on our boat moored in the marina. Odd, I can hear you saying, that is hardly sailing.  And you would be right. However, there was a valid reason behind it; we needed to charge the yacht’s batteries and this was going to take oodles of time, as they were spectacularly flat. Staying overnight was, therefore, the sensible thing to do.

It was nice to be aboard again – it has been a number of months since I have visited, and in the interim, the man has made a bit more progress getting her ready for the market. The middle cabin which was converted to the double berth last year is well on the way to being finished and, if I do say so myself, is looking very, very classy.

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The double berth

Now this is all well and good, except it raises a few issues. You see the more the boat is upgraded, the more we consider keeping it!  Part of us thinks: why shouldn’t we enjoy the benefit of the more luxurious beast rather than someone else?

This is not a new feeling; we do seem to be people who do the things we always had intended to do, when we decide to sell whatever it is. And yes, this always makes it a struggle to let go.

In the particular case of selling the boat, the man and I have also had an orchestrated delegation to contend with: the children love going away on the yacht, and the grandchild too and they have made it crystal clear that they are not happy for us to sell it.

Now we are the first to admit that taking the family out for the day or longer is a great thing to do. The man and I derive so much pleasure from having the kids on the boat and watching them thrive in this environment. It is the stuff of rich memories for all of us and simply cannot be measured by mere dollar value.  In a perfect world, we would therefore like to continue our yachting with them.  Monopoly, anyone?

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The son, daughter in law and grandson off exploring in Te Kaitoa’s inflatable

However, there are questions that need answering here. The first one is: would keeping the boat mean saying goodbye to semi -retiring in the foreseeable future? We aren’t sure: perhaps if we employ some  lateral thinking, we would be able to sort out a way to keep the boat and semi-retire?  Indeed, there are options: we could move onto the boat, give up work entirely, rent the house and sail off. *  Maybe? Maybe not?

The second question is: does the boat actually meet the family’s needs? It is a big, serious boat that is capable of going offshore. Yes, it fits everyone on, but maybe something smaller would be a better match for us, and more doable?

Lastly, if we do keep it, we need to make the best use of it. No point in it sitting in the marina getting a weedy bottom!

Yes, some serious thinking is in order. In the fullness of time, our wants and needs will align  of course,  and  we will choose the best way forward for us.

*This option always becomes very attractive after a slightly off day at work!

Goodbye weekend

laundry-405878__180

It is almost eight o’clock on Sunday night, so the weekend is fast coming to its conclusion and before we know it, it’ll be Monday morning again and back to work.  As usual the two days off has whizzed by far too quickly. Don’t get me wrong, the man and I enjoyed it, despite the fact that it unfolded in an ‘organic’ way i.e. it just happened and we rolled with it.

Now this rather lackadaisical approach to how we use our weekends is OK once in a while, but becomes a bit of a concern if it becomes the norm. And become the norm it has again – yes, we improved for a while, but there has been slippage and we are often finding that after completing the household chores, we are not making the best use of the time left.  This is despite having lots of things that we will tell you that we would really, truly like to do over the two days off. The man and I will instead find ourselves defaulting to making plans at the eleventh hour, which without too much trouble degenerates into doing stuff that just fills in time.

I am not sure why this is: both the man and I are pretty organised at work, so we can do the planning bit when we need to. Certainly there are old habits coming into play here, but maybe it is more than this? Perhaps it is because while we are at work, we get busy and we don’t think about getting our weekend sorted and then it sort of creeps up on us and catches us by surprise?

Whatever the cause, the man and I need to address it (again), if we are going to get the most out of our precious leisure time. We need to take a proactive, not reactive approach to Saturday and Sunday (note the management speak here – thank you to my present and past employers for sending me on courses where I learned these terms).

The weekend will still fly by no doubt, but by remembering to put a tad more thought into the forward planning side, we will hopefully be doing more of the things we say we want to do. Needless to say, this new approach to time management will work splendidly well until the vagaries of life get in the way!  Sigh.

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