semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living



Fast-tracking an escape

Yes, I know! Instead of a two word title, I have gone completely overboard and today’s offering is  three, or four words if you count the hyphenated ‘fast-tracking’ as two separate words. And before you get picky, I counted my last blog’s title, ‘Babysitting’, as two words because it is a compound word and I am not beyond a bit of manipulation if it suits.  So shoot me!

Anyway, this blog is going to be short. I am writing it because I have been stressed! Deeply stressed! Sometimes in life, I think, we all find ourselves in a situation which impacts so adversely on our happiness that we start to have a meltdown.

Now I am not going to go into what happened, rather the reason for this blog is to point out that my first reaction to the situation was to be reactive.* I won’t spell out exactly how I reacted, but, suffice to say, being reactive is totally exhausting. With a capital E!

Now this may be a very human reaction, but it is not helpful. No, no, no! The best thing I can do is be proactive and this is what I intend to be.

So yesterday with that thought in mind, I went on a road trip. Strange, I can hear you say, how is that going to solve things? Well, I went on the road trip just to change things up and remind myself that life is pretty good! The man and I chose to head to a small NZ seaside town that neither of us had been to since we were each about 4, and, believe me, that was a long time ago!

And do you know what?  This small, quirky, beautiful gem of a town (sorry about the hyperbole, but it was) inspired the man and me. It gave us some  concrete ideas and options on how to fast-track semi-retirement.

Now it won’t happen overnight and I will still need to sort out the things that aren’t working for me, but I can now see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. And, hey, the tunnel is considerably shorter than it was yesterday! Brilliant.

*There was no physical violence involved.




Up Beat

Commonwealth War Grave Commission’s Coventry Blitz Civilian Memorial, London Road Cemetery, Coventry

Sometimes a week is a stellar one.

And this is exactly what the last seven days have been for the man and me. Here are the highlights:

My work days are beginning brilliantly;  I am walking to work via the clifftop path and down past the beach. Yes, the views are amazing, but there is the other big plus, it allows me time to just be. This enjoyable stroll (no speed records here) sets me up for the day.*

Being back at my home site has also confirmed for me that I made the right decision to return and not seek any further promotions. The job is an excellent fit for where I am in life and I enjoy it. I will therefore happily stay in it until I am in a position to reduce my working hours as planned.

The second thing that has happened is that I have discovered the whereabouts of my paternal great grandfather’s grave.

The cousins in Coventry,  England, contacted me after reading my posts about graveyards. They were looking for the final resting place of our great grandfather to no avail. Could I help? .

For those readers who don’t know, Coventry was a major player in the English engineering industry, making  among other things bicycles, motor cars, and aeroplane engines. During World War Two, its manufacturing base tooled up to produce machinery for war. These included being a big player in the making of parts for British war planes, and armoured cars. It was therefore a no brainer that the German Air Force included this city on its bombing schedule.*

Coventry Cathdral after bombing
Coventry Cathedral after bombing

Seventeen small raids took place here during the Battle of Britain (August and October 1940). However, it was on the night of 14/15 November 1940 that 449 Luftwaffe bombers executed the  biggest assault on the city. Understandably, my father, who was 11 years old at the time,  remembered it vividly.  Called Operation Moonlight Sonata, the bombs hit numerous factories, surrounding houses, and the 14th century Coventry Cathedral.  Approximately 568 people died that night, including the baby sister of a friend of my father’s who was lying in her pram when the air strike happened. In addition to the deaths, there were another 863 badly injured and 393 people who sustained lesser injuries ( )

Among the wounded was my 80 year old great grandfather, John George Downing. For five months he fought for his life in the No.1 Canadian General Hospital at Marston Green, near Birmingham; a battle he finally lost on 17 April 1941.

From the information available on Family Researcher, it appeared that his final resting place was in the Meriden Rural District. My cousins had, however, visited the St Laurence churchyard, the local cemetery there, but  could not find his grave. It was at this point they emailed me.

After four weeks of trying every avenue I could, including obtaining his death certificate, using the expertise of the family history librarian and trawling through databases, I resorted to using a process of elimination  i.e. writing to every likely cemetery authority I could find. This rather tedious process provided the answer: he was buried in the London Road Cemetery in Coventry. It is a fitting place for his final resting place as this was where the mass funerals took place in the days after the raid. It is also where the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Civilian Memorial is situated remembering those who perished in this air strike.

One of the mass funerals in days following November 1940 raids
One of the mass funerals in days following November 1940 raids

The cousins will visit the grave shortly and we will in August 2016, which is a nice segue into the next momentous thing that happened this week.

The man turns 60 next year. To celebrate this auspicious occasion, he wanted to go to Alaska. This week we purchased airline tickets to Canada and the UK. Details are a work in progress for this six week trip. The sojourn to England will include catching up with family, both dead and alive,  and friends (all breathing).

Now confession time: we have totally lost the plot regarding getting the yacht ready to sell. Weather has played a part in this, but the main reason it has taken a back seat is we have been busy doing other things including taking moulds off the Albatross, the man’s sea kayak design. This is for a collaborative business venture, but that is another story.

We are  also getting ready for a family wedding for which we both needed new shoes: the man has held true to our commitment to buy NZ made, and is now the proud owner of a pair of McKinlays. And as for me? Well, I spotted some shoes that met my brief. Two pairs only left, with one in my size. They will look corker on my feet at the wedding. It was meant to be.

Life is good. The man and I are making the most of it. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

*From next week, with changes in hours, I’ll walk home most evenings too.

***There was further bombing of the city in over the nights of 8/9 April 1941. This resulted in 451 dead and 700 seriously injured. The final bombing was  3 August 1942, in which 6 people perished.

Off road

Clifftop walk to work - looking down to Browns Bay and along the coast
Clifftop walk to work – looking down to Browns Bay and along the coast

In the middle of next week, I finish my secondment and return to work at East Coast Bays Library. One of the reasons I am looking forward to being back is its proximity to home, the commute being a mere hop, skip and a jump. OK, so I exaggerate!  It is, to be entirely truthful, 5 minutes by car or 20 minutes by foot.

In the past I have mixed this journey up by driving some days and walking others. When using foot power, I would stick to the roads as it was slightly quicker than the alternative tracks. It was however noisier with cars scooting past, and included a blind corner which the pedestrian crossed at their peril.

When I walk, exercise is always the secondary consideration; this precious time is used for thinking. Indeed, many a domestic quandary or world dilemma has been sorted while I am strolling at a leisurely pace.  Following the road with its accompanying distractions, therefore, is not ideal. The tracks along the clifftop with the breathtaking views and quietness is the way to go, and this is exactly what I plan to do next week. This will be much more more conducive to thinking, not to mention a good salve to stress.

The intention is that Shank’s pony will be my preferred way of travelling to work. This choice means my car will get little, if any use, during the working week.  And the chances are high that if the existing weekend pattern continues, my car will remain parked in the garage Saturday and Sunday too.

The question that I have to resolve if this happens is: do I keep my bat mobile or do I sell it? Now I know there will be some days when the weather is not kind and walking will be off the agenda, but the man’s schedule is such that he can drop and pick me up from work in the family’s car  (note the name change) without major disruption.

The big ‘but’ is there will be times when we both need access to the car at the same time.  On most occasions, we can probably sort out a solution, but there will be times when there simply isn’t a workable one. One vehicle will then be limiting, even inconvenient. So is selling my car the right thing to do?

I should state here that my machine is not worth a lot: it is a fourteen year old Honda Civic in very tidy condition with 117,000 ks on the clock. A reliable machine, it  has cost me little to run over the two or so years I have had it.  If I sold it, I would get under $5,000 for it – so the sale price, if invested, would fall well short of giving me an income large enough to retire tomorrow.

The major plus in not keeping my car is a reduction in our outgoings with registration, maintenance and insurance costs for a single vehicle only.  There would be a slight increase in running expenses for the one vehicle, as it would be used more, but my guess is that this would still be considerably cheaper than using the two cars.

Every living cost that we save makes reducing our working week to three days more achievable, of course. This is an attractive scenario. It also fits well with our commitment to downsizing too.

So is the second car history? Well, no. The fact is I don’t want to forgo the independence and convenience of having my own set of wheels to be able to achieve our goal of working less to live more. And I don’t have to. I can, in this case, afford to keep the car without saying adios to the desired work life balance.

For the man and me, slow living and downsizing has never been about making life difficult, it has always been about making it better. The hair shirt has no place here.

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