God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December…
I read that line in a Reader’s Digest many decades ago – it is usually attributed to J M Barrie, the author of Peter Pan.
This is my 500th blog post, but don’t get too excited! I’m afraid I have no giveaway or special offer for you. I’m not even going to do a roundup this time, although you may find some of my favourites in my Blog post 300 and counting.
I’m afraid this post is just me reflecting on my “real” life outside blogging, so don’t feel obliged to read it! It has been brewing for a long time – ever since I first “retired” from my journalism “job for life” 18 months ago.
I have become a different person since then. Now I have been made redundant again after just a year working in a copy-editing hub for another newspaper group. At least this time it’s not personal – the whole department is being closed down.
It helps that this time we are moving into summer and longer hours of daylight, while autumn and dark winter were coming the first time I lost my job. It also helps that this time it was long expected – the first time it was a total shock.
Sub-editors are going the way of bank tellers and supermarket checkout assistants. We live in a “do-it-yourself” world, with online banking and self-checkouts. Now reporters are expected to write their stories perfectly first time, to a set length to fit into a box, and write their headlines and captions themselves. Inexpensive trainees can do it, so there is no need for vastly experienced and more expensive sub-editors. Even “editors” themselves are being lost in the regional newspaper industry. Maybe I’ll look into the reasons for that in another post one day.
As I look for a new career to take me beyond state retirement age (the government have moved the goalposts by six years since I first “signed up”), I’d like to put on record what I have learned in the last 18 months – and I am no longer bitter.
It also gives me the chance at last to share some pictures of the lovely flowers I received on my first “retirement”. Until now I have been a bit too tearful about it all, but time is a great healer.
Retirement sounds better than redundancy…
When I was “let go” from my job as editor and training manager after 38 years in newspapers, I was in a bunch of “old-timers” leaving at the same time. So we all agreed with management to call it retirement. That meant we could have a party and presentation and farewell gifts. When you are made redundant you leave quietly, without fuss, by the back door.
My husband, a few years older than me, DID retire around the same time, from his job at the university. Those were REAL parties and presentations and went on and on for months…
You have to keep busy, you must get out of the house…
As well as missing my friends, I missed having somewhere else to be, somewhere to hang my coat and keep my mug and teabags. You can’t look forward to going home unless you are obliged to be somewhere else for a while. Routine means a lot.
The first six months after “retirement” I did some freelance writing from home, for money, which at least made me feel useful. I am very grateful to the former colleague who passed the work my way. I am also grateful to the workmates who kept in touch and who sometimes took me for coffee or lunch – or even out on 10-pin bowling nights.
For a long time I didn’t go out much and must have put on weight and become very unfit. My husband, also looking for a new purpose, was doing all the shopping so I stagnated at home. In case you haven’t realised by now, we have no children or grandchildren to dote on and other family members don’t live close by.
Then I started going 10-pin bowling by myself (how sad) in the daytime when there was hardly anyone to see me. I enjoyed it, although I am still not very good!
Finally I discovered Thompson’s Park, close to where I live, and at least had somewhere to exercise.
You have to network…
There didn’t seem to be any newspaper jobs around, so I couldn’t apply for any. But then, by chance, at the leaving do for a shorthand teacher at the university, I met the woman in charge of the Newsquest copy-editing hub, in Newport, our neighbouring city, for 100 regional newspapers across the UK. She needed sub-editors. A month later I was working there. Those were the days. There were 70 subs. Six months later, after redundancies, there were just 30. At Christmas this was cut to 16. Now the hub is no more.
But I am so thankful that I happened to meet her that day.
I love sitting upstairs on the bus…
I am lucky enough to have a free bus pass (in Wales you get one when you are 60). What a wonderful thing!
For the last year I have been commuting between Cardiff and Newport three days a week, catching a bus from my suburb to the city centre and then from the castle to the office in Maesglas. Depending on traffic, I could make the door-to-door trip in 75 minutes or 95.
The 30 service between the cities is shared between Cardiff Bus (orange) and Newport Bus (green). I love all of the buses, but particularly the double-deckers. I sat upstairs and read my Kindle. I have read SO many books in the last year. And upstairs you are usually not bothered by babies crying or pet dogs licking your feet.
I have seen the seasons change…
As my Newport trips have lasted a year, from the bus I have seen the trees beside the road through all the seasons. In particular I have loved the excellent trees planted in front of the houses along the B4487 Newport Road in what I think must be the Llanrumney area. These are in front of the roads named after places in the West Country – Taunton, Ilfracombe and Axbridge Crescents. The people who live there are very lucky as they can look out on small stands of oaks, maples, cherries, limes and pines.
I love Maesglas…
I find it possible to love any place when I get to know it well enough. I “even” love Maesglas, whose name means Greenfield. It’s an unprepossessing neighbourhood of housing and small industrial estates but I have found the people most friendly – although the local lads have a habit of doing wheelies along the pavement on their bikes. Just high spirits!
I will miss the big Tesco store there – where I grew to love buying food on the days I worked late – tuna crunch sandwiches, sushi and Mr Kipling cake slices – and microwave curries or noodles for the evenings. Nearby is a Curry’s, where I bought a shiny metallic red kettle with a spout that doesn’t splash, and a Hobbycraft shop where I bought an italic pen set.
The whole area is surrounded by land once belonging to the Morgan family, Lords Tredegar, and in my last week I went to explore the Victorian Bellevue Park nearby and to walk along the River Ebbw in Tredegar Park. I hope to post my pictures of these two lovely spots in the next few weeks.
I also blogged about the meadow flowers in the car park at work last summer, here.
I have seen Queen Street after dark…
The bus routes in Cardiff follow a one-way system, meaning my connection across town returning from Newport was lengthier than it was going in the other direction. On the late shift, and especially in the winter, I grew to enjoy my evening march along Queen Street, Cardiff’s main shopping street, as I hastened between bus stops to get home. At first it took me 15 minutes but by the end of my year I cut it to 10. It was especially atmospheric at Christmas, with all the lights, and the sequins twinkling on evening gowns in shop windows. The carousel in the middle of the street added a spooky carnival feel.
Queen Street is full of sounds and smells. There are the “barrow boys” trying to sell fresh strawberries and raspberries (even on the coldest days), buskers – opera singers from the music college, a jazz saxophonist, someone drumming amazingly on old pots and pans and tupperware – and all around you hear different languages in this cosmopolitan city…
I savoured the strong perfume and aftershave of scantily-clad people passing by on their way out for the evening and the welcoming smell of fish and chips from a posh cafe. Occasionally there was the less welcome whiff of rubbish put out for collection.
I have looked into the eyes of the homeless…
I have lived a sheltered life. This was the year I appreciated having a warm home to go to. The number of homeless people on Cardiff’s streets is increasing. On my walk along Queen Street I would notice at least 10 in a single evening – and they were just the ones I could identify as homeless.
It makes me angry and it makes me admire the work of some charity groups I see out there at night, giving support and food and hot drinks to these vulnerable people. I wish I could be that brave and strong.
I found myself doing what is probably totally the wrong thing, giving them money, even though what they really need is food and shelter. Some of these people are in such a state that the money will instantly go on drugs or alcohol. My £1 coins will probably send them to their graves sooner.
But I tell myself that at least I didn’t ignore them. I have looked them in the eye, teenage girls with mittened hands and men with blood on their faces from beatings. I’ve said silly things like “spend it wisely”, or “bless you, look at the state of you” or “keep warm” or “take care” – or just talked about the weather, sometimes so cold and wet on the streets.
Government and society are failing these people and I wonder why we can’t offer more care and more affordable homes, instead of allowing developers to profit from nothing but “luxury apartments” everywhere.
Count your blessings…
This last year has been an eye-opener for me after 40 years in a well-employed cocoon, working in a smart office just a mile from home.
As I strive to find new meaning and purpose in my life, I count my blessings – which include the old friends from Media Wales and newer friends from Newsquest and all you wonderful bloggers and followers out there who keep me going. Thanks for staying in touch and providing such a wonderful community…