Like a hatching chick, I break out from my curled-up comfort. My head emerges first, before I unfurl my back, straighten limbs and tumble from the protective duvet. Like a dishevelled fledgling, I then take the first tentative steps.
There the likeness collapses. The baby bird will soon be hopping its Duracell way through the day, whereas I tackle my tottering with a line of tabs, each colour shoring up a different part of the body.
It’s a wonder
I ever come out of
the foetal position.
I sleep eight to ten hours a night, topped up with daytime naps. Friends worry; they think I should see a doctor. Some suggest it’s a waste of life. But this can’t be true if it’s something I really like doing. I’ve enjoyed this amount of sleep since I was a lad. I mean ENJOYED! I love the act of falling asleep – a surgeon’s ideal patient!
I’ve always asserted that sleeping and what some see as ‘doing nothing’ are life’s entitlements. Sitting on a park bench people-watching, or just thinking and snoozing are stimulating and rewarding pastimes, as is daytime television. Legitimate and deliciously self-indulgent.
When I recently retired, the most annoying question was:
‘What will you do now?’
Oh, COME ON! Spare the cliché. Okay, when I’m not doing nothing I’m obviously going to sleep more! In fact my avowed aim is gradually to sleep a greater proportion of each twenty four hours so that by the time my body finally pegs out I probably won’t notice. Seriously, that is a crass question. Although many retirees don’t have a plan, it’s never long before their hectic life spawns the other cliché:
‘I don’t know where I found the time before.’
For me, retirement means more of what I love – exploring, writing, singing, drinking tea, going to the pub, seeing friends and yes, sleeping and doing nothing. Perhaps doing something charitable. Definitely having a nice run out on the bus (free) or train (third-off), knowing that on the train I can now gloat when I see sweaty executives slaving over tablets and laptops and taking and making numerous calls about sustaining and maintaining and finding a window, being needlessly noisy about bottom-line prices and blue-sky b****y thinking.
A friend of mine approaching 60 says he’ll never retire – loves his work too much. His wife who is retired is as driven as him. I get exhausted watching them overstretch themselves, and wonder if they’re really fulfilled. But that is no more my business than it is for others to comment on my idleness. Everyone is different. This is not a blueprint for retirement or growing old; it’s simply my take on it.
Being idle is great!
Every day, as I squeeze out of my foetal wrap, I think:
‘What shall I do today?’
‘When shall I get up?’
And later, in my dressing gown:
‘Is it worth getting dressed now that it’s dark?’
Such luxury! I’ve spent forty-five years earning my modest pensions, thirty as an employed slave, fifteen grafting for myself. I now have freedom to decide.
I shall do anything and nothing.
Because I can.
Given that I’m into the last third of my life, I have thirty or so years still to indulge this passion for freedom – that’s assuming I don’t go early. I’ve never been afraid of dying. Que sera, sera. Okay, I might have ideas about good or bad ways of going, but since it’s a hundred percent certain that I will, I’ve never felt inclined to spend my waking life worrying about it. That’s for others to do, and I offer you my condolences in advance – you’re all fab, and do sell this article to fund the celebrations! Hey, I really am a surgeon’s best friend – I not only love going to sleep, but if I happen to die on him it’s no great shakes! Perhaps I should make that clear on the disclaimer. What a way to go – gently into eternal sleep.
I doubt I’ll age with dignity.
My dad did, bless him. To his dying day he was the cee aitch in charm. Yet he wasn’t beyond a trick or two. I remember him saying how, when he wanted to cross the road, he’d wave his walking stick (which was for comfort not necessity) high in the air, and the traffic would grind to a halt with drivers acknowledging his oh so innocent smile.
My mum, mid-90s, is more ‘say it as you see it’. I heard somewhere that the first brain cells to die are those that help you respect social norms. Inhibitor cells, perhaps? Without these, in a room full of pink-haired people you’re allowed angrily to declare:
‘I don’t like pink hair!’
Or in a TV lounge, yell:
‘Why are all the Arsenal players black?’
What a great excuse! No-one can possibly take offence.
‘It’s just my inhibitor cells!’
If you can’t speak your mind at that age, when can you? See it as alternative humour; there’s far more offensive material on the comedy circuit.
I have these joys to come.
I too shall raise a stick to traffic. I too shall greet people with, ‘How lovely to see you again’, even though I can’t remember who the hell they are. I too shall berate the lawn man who doesn’t trim my edges neatly. And I too shall growl, ‘Out of my way!’ to innocent pedestrians as I mow them down on my mobility scooter before freewheeling home down the centre of the road with my legs in the air.
I shall say ‘pah’ to Michael Parkinson for asking me to fork out my funeral expenses up front when people could perfectly well club together after I’ve gone. ‘Yah boo’ to the stooges on McCarthy and Stone hoardings who promise ‘A Greater Life in Later Life’ if you buy one of their apartments. (Yeah right). ‘Grrr’ to Saga Magazine for overusing both Angela Rippon’s smile and the term ‘Golden Years’. And I shall yawn openly at bronzed elderlies who mechanically recite their tick list – Australia, New Zealand, Tibet, Argentina, Brazil, China and Borneo ‘done’ so far – or bang on about Glucosamine Sulphate and Condroitin, or have dinner at exactly 6.30 every day and lunch at 12.
Each day I shall decide what I’d like to do. If anything. Because I can. For the next thirty years I’ll feel as free as that young chick – as I slowly shrink, and stoop, and bend, back towards the foetal position where it all began.
Copyright © Paul Costello May 2014 www.paulcostello.me
Related material: Chapter titled: Caught Napping, in my Bed and Breakfast memoir Utterly Undiscovered. www.fineleaf.co.uk
Latest Project: Terms and Conditions Apply – a play by Paul Costello. A sharp-witted comedy about a 5-year coalition government, seen through the eyes of ordinary, suburban households and, in stark contrast, the rose-tinted spectacles of politicians. Director Bob Maynard. Ledbury Market Theatre 31st July to 2nd August. www.themarkettheatre.com
Note: Any promotional material that appears below this article has been placed independently and is unrelated. I have no views on its content.