Tuesday, 9 June 2009

'Snakes alive.  Fifty five, two old guys.'

(Steve Waugh, Philip King; who they?)

Every working day brings 'retirement' closer . . . a truth universally acknowl-etc. 
That's normal, the way of things . . . as it should be.  Kids cost more, grow up and leave home, I retire and at some point later, later being the way we want it, we die a painless and peaceful death with all the trimmings. 
Retirement first though, but retirement has not been coming at a steady annual pace.  It has leapt at me in five year jumps - from 65 to 60 to a de facto 55 which is where I am now. 
In my twenties, Life Insurance and Retirement Annuity Policies projected that I would retire at 50, and the general expectation was that our life of work would end before 60. 
The policies I took up then paid out at 50 and that's another story, but retirement was not what they paid for.  I would have used the bonanza for school fees, tuition fees, or to help the graduates pay off their student loans but it was no bonanza, it went towards a few white goods and to keep the bloody car at the city kerbside paying for parking. 
As for retiring, no talk of that any longer. 
No thought of that.  Expectations were on the turn. 
Hard on the heels of racism and sexism, prefigured by feminism and universal franchise, along came ageism to mess with the retirement age and our expectation of work and who should do it and what work we variously should be doing and when we can afford us to stop work and start paying us a pension and maintain the health services to keep increasingly fit and active retired people living ever longer doing nothing. 
Even before subprime pooped the party in 2008, the life-expectancy demographics were raising awkward questions about how retirement can be paid for. 
All of a sudden it's, 'let's keep the old buggers working until 70 . . . or longer', and I agree it would make a sort of sense to work everybody until they drop and keep the young in education for as long as it takes until somewhere, anywhere, there's a job vacancy.  After all, why waste education on the old?  What's the point of providing leisure classes in The Renaissance or watercolour painting?  Why bungee jump or take up dinghy sailing or golf at 55, or 60, or 70 when it's much better to do any of those in your 20s; better when the students can walk to the lecture theatre, see to paint, can understand the technology and not need a buggy to get around 18 holes. 
Let the old alone to work in peace, don't hound the old and harangue them out of work. 
Let the young idle, let them to think and learn, let them go through the stress of education and breeding with a bit of time on their hands. 
Let the young hit balls with sticks while they have strength, reflex and flex to do it with power and style and grace and pace. 
As we had, and will still have to find the money from somewhere to keep the old idle now, give that money to the futures and keep the old busy.  Let's invest in the young. 
I have an interest here.  I'm homing in on my fifty-fifth and I'm too young to die, I mean retire.  Symbolically though, I must mark this rite of passage from aged, tolerated but still useful citizen to sage-cum-drag on the coffers.  I'm considering committing Twitter suicide (thanks C) or, I could 'retire' my blog . . . but would either be gesture enough? 

I've just rested from this to, one: fend off a mate trying to get me to accompany him to a tribute band gig somewhere in Euston, (I hate all tribute bands, and reformings, particularly tribute bands to bands I've never heard of.  Don't you?) and two: to try and work out the exact date that a 27-year-old will be 'exactly' half my age.  Mind manglingly difficult mathematics for me - far beyond my capabilities. 
Umm, approximately the eighth of July (more of a guess in fact), but - 
Q.  Given I'm 55 on 1106this and my guess is correct: what date was her 27th birthday?  (1106 is 11 June here, not November 6.)
No prizes for the answer, but purchase prize for best working out in pretty colours and / or dynamic graphics.  No cracks either, 'her' is a daughter.

FUTURES: now there's a TAG. . . but in the meanwhile, what of my retirement expectations I ask?  What of 'my rights? '
If they're mine, I intend to have them. 
Okay, cracks are fine, and will be considered. 
I want that gold-watch-gesture.  The change of the guard parade, the go away and enjoy yourself oh good and faithful, now useless, drone, drudge, slave, retainer and 'good riddance (go and die)', we need that sinecure you've been occupying for someone else promoted to incompetence. 
Wouldn't I like the 'Free at Last', go and enjoy yourself gift from society to crown the sense of achievement from a life of dutiful work (? ) and my fifty-fifth hoves . . . I was supposed by date of birth expectation to be considering retirement. 
Enjoying my work as I do and not having achieved half I want with it, I've never needed a hobby.  I could never afford a hobby, neither the time nor the money, so I've nothing to fall back on see, and I don't have the money to stop working even if I wanted to . . . which I don't.  Look, I'm just getting into my stride and life is short and quickly passing. 
It's not just presidents of the Royal Academy I miss; entire world beating cricket teams have conquered and retired unremarked. 
Retired again.  Retiring, this rite of passage that doesn't know when it is, or how we can pay for it; how tiresome it is to be burdened by birthdays. 
I've never liked birthdays much. 
Well, I've never liked mine. 
The year spins around and I've got to have one, a birthday, a token click of counting, a reflection or accounting of period passing and of survival. 
But to 'celebrate' a birthday every single year, rings hollow.  To celebrate 'me' this frequently seems an indulgence. 
Why not once a month, like Lovers do when love is new.  But not monthly for long for each year, a New Year, a Cup Final, another Christmas; one a year, every year and there's no surprise left and barely time for anticipation. 
The D Day Veterans have just had their 65th and I confess to a twinge of annoyance, not at our remembrance of the trauma of a seminal day, but irritation at the number. 
65 as a number.  2009 as a year.  Neither a decade nor a half-century.  There's no punchy zero factor to get misty eyed about - this is no millennium for sure. 
What does 65 mean to young soldiers who served and died as soldiers have always died and continue to die in old mens' wars?  Obviously the D Day survivors are thinning out, the veterans at youngest are in their 80s, but still, 'why the sixty-fifth anniversary? '
We used to retire at 65, is that it? 
In '67, McCartney sang of 64 (When I'm Sixty-four).  I guess it scanned.  Or, is it a sentiment from a bygone decade where the expectation was that men retired at 65 and their 5 year younger spouses at 60, or: was it a presentiment that by age 65 McCartney would still be working as artists never retire, while none of the rest of us has the least idea whether, or when, or if we will be able to afford to retire at all. 

(Steve Waugh, Philip King; who they?  Part 2.)