Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Following a blog

To follow one of these blogs you have to go back to the first post and work forward. Or you can simply keep going down and read it backwards by clicking on "older posts" at the foot of each page.

Or you can see the previous posts and click on any that you want to look at. They are listed on the lower left hand side of this page.

Welcome to my world.


I was listening to a live radio broadcast about retirement. It was extolling the virtues of a physically and mentally active retirement. I rang up to have my say. Each to their own I said. "I have spent some of the happiest hours of my life in the front of a TV watching sport. It may not be active, but it's fun."

Each of us will approach retirement in our own way. I thought deeply about those matters that were important to me. Then considered what I needed to do to ensure that those matters were addressed. That set the pattern of my retirement. Two things are of the highest importance to me. A sense of freedom. And a sense of peace. It has taken a long time. But I'm there.

This blog is my story. Nothing out of the ordinary. Typical of a type who was able to take early retirement in the very different conditions of the mid 90s. It's a story of a very fortunate man, living a comfortable and happy life.

And yet although that's true, I'm a very sad person too. Anyone who has studied history and who has followed closely the events of the past 60 knows how lucky they are to enjoy a happy life. And I never forget it.

I hope something in this blog will make you chuckle. I've enjoyed a few memories putting it together.

The two of us.

I first met Ruth in 1960. We were 17 and 14. Here we are in Jersey on our 40th wedding anniversary in 2005. Whose a lucky fellow? Already I've had 14 years of retirement with my best friend. We spend a lot of time doing separate things. Ruth these days is far more involved than I am in community life. A past President of her WI, committee member in gardening, flower and embroidery clubs and a member of other groups, she is out and about bringing home the gossip. After a lifetime of public and voluntary service I have withdrawn from organisations and groups apart from my table tennis and golf clubs. I spend my time either with Ruth doing the things described elsewhere in these pages or on my various hobbies and interests. My diary is free from meetings or commitments involving anything formal. It's my recipe for a contented retirement. And it works. For me.


Our complete family together for the first time at Christmas 2008.

Tom and Joyce, Ruth's parents.

Lil, my mother and George.

Retiring early has meant not only being able to spend more time with my family. But being around when it has really mattered. Sadly, Tom, Joyce and Lil are no longer with us. Now the next generation of Tom, Megan, George and Zeb are growing up fast.

And so life goes on.


I left the most important things to the end. What would life be without friends? Ruth and I have been very lucky to have our fair share of really good friends with whom we have spent a lot of time with for over 30 years. Here are a group of us on one of our many golfing trips. Meals, parties, theatre and other trips come and go all too quickly. I have a couple of close friends who I have lunch with regularly, and Ruth has a gang who eat often at much posher places.


Ruth and I go away a few times each year. Mostly not far or for very long. We once spent two weeks in Tenerife. But usually we go away for 4 to 7days. Our longest trips are to visit Sandra, our eldest daughter in America. Sometimes Europe but more often short trips in the UK. Probably our most memorable trip was a cruise down the Nile. Truly magical. We are not extensive travellers. Just love being away. Together.


How can shaving be an interest?

Fido's Shaving Blog

Will explain.




And a lot more!

Another time consuming hobby - or chore? Only joking.


I almost forgot about bells!

If you really want to know what I've been up to, take a look here:

Watching TV

No it's not mine. Nothing unusual about watching TV. But I do include it among my interests. Following sports, politics and current affairs does take time. Tend not to watch soaps or popular programmes like strictly or the X factor - until finals night! Then my curiosity gets the better of me. Ruth and I record and watch a lot of detective and drama series. Our favourite is Midsomer Murders. Will be our chosen subject for mastermind.


I've already referred to reading about a variety of subjects. I also enjoy reading novels and biographies. One of my more ambitious projects was to read the twenty volumes of Emile Zola's Rougon Macquart Cycle. I tend to switch between the classical novels of famous novelists of the past like Dickens, Trollope and more recently Hemingway. Then read a variety of modern novels, often passed on to me by Ruth. Then there are the true literary masterpieces like Harry Potter which I followed avidly from the beginning. The two last books I read were Child 44 a novel set in the immediate post war years of the Soviet Union and Jonothan Livingston Seagull, a gentle fable about the essence of freedom. Variety is the spice of life!

Ballet and other Arts

Ruth and I have now seen eight ballets at the Royal Opera House and enjoyed theatre visits to Shakespeare and other plays, musicals, concerts and films. For many years we have been with friends to productions at the Chichester Festival Theatre. We also occasionally attend art exhibitions and events.


This is the Royal Opera House. I have now been there 35 times to see opera and ballet, the latter with Ruth.
Soon after I retired I decided to take an interest in opera. I began by reading The Rough Guide to Opera. This provides a brief history, an introduction to all the great opera composers, their major works and opera plots. I then went on to study more about the history of opera and selected the truly great composers for a more in depth study. So it came that I read the biographies of Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi, Puccini, Richard Strauss, and Rossini. From all this study I was able to identify the most popular operas by these and other lesser known composers. Around 150 in all. It took several years, but through listening and recording radio and TV productions and borrowing from the library and colecting CDs and DVDs. I gradually listened to and or watched all the 150 + operas I had identified. And the truly great operas were my targets for attendance at the royal Opera House.
It is impossible to exaggerate the joy I've had from opera. Both at home and at the Opera House the tears flow during moments of sublime music and singing. To witness what good things humans are capable of is always incredible. But sublime moments in music are something no words can explain. Just listen to Madama Butterfly, La Boheme, La Traviata, The Magic Flute and Tristan and Isolde. You are linked to whatever you understand as divine.

Grandpa Pete's Study

It's 11 feet by 9 feet. There's a lot in it. And it's where I've spent a lot of my retirement. And it tells a story. On the wall is my hard earned Accountancy qualification certificate, Jonny kicking that goal, and daughter Zilla in a Royal Opera House advertising poster. The duck is a reminder of my cricket fortunes. Bells and radios abound. But this also highlights another of my interests - hifi and home cinema. I spent a lot of time selecting all the components of the system and have spent many happy hours making use of them.

I bought my desk for £17.50 in 1961. I must have used it every day since then. This is my music listening position. More bells, telephones, radios and books.

Viewing chair and a few other mementos. And a rarely used duster! As I look round my study, so many memories come back to me of the days spent selecting each item or of the event depicted in pictures and photos. Books, sitting quietly, always to hand.

Other sports

I also follow tennis, boxing, athletics, motor racing, american football and baseball, cycling, Tour de France,sailing, and rugby league. And any other sport where I observe something exciting happening.
So you can imagine my excitement when London was chosen for the 2012 Olympics.
The olympics has always been right at the top of my must not miss agenda. As my family remember when I cancelled a holiday at the last minute because I discovered that the cottage had no TV just before the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. We did go, but to a place that had a decent TV!.


Jonny Wilkinson's last minute drop goal to win the Rugby World Cup for England was the most thrilling moment I have ever witnessed in sport. (The saddest was England's penalty shoot out against Germany - another story!) For me, rugby is one of the most compelling and tense spectator sports. Even within a yard of your opponents line you are vulnerable to a counter attack so you must concentrate on the action at all times. Following England's matches has always been another priority in my sporting life.


From the age of 6, when I saw my first Pompey match, I have been addicted to football. Never an active player - I played rugby at school. But I have followed football with a passion all my life. England, Pompey, and Manchester United take first,second and third place in my affections. Bit unusual for a fan to put country first. I was at Wembley when England won the world cup in 1966. I watched Pompey's 2008 cup win on TV. It was great to watch a Pompey cup win. But nothing has matched the joy of '66.
Being a football fan is hard work, heartache and occasional joy. It takes up a lot of time. These days, I usually turn on the TV just a minute or two before kick off. And off, at the finish. Might lurk a little longer after a great triumph. But that isn't often. Don't go to grounds much these days. But still make the odd appearance at Fratton Park. But radio and TV are rarely far away for too long .

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Table Tennis

This is one of my favourite photos. Patrick,Geoffrey,Michael,Hugh and me. The Sway Last of The Summer Wine Table Tennis Club. Thursday afternoons, winter months.
Friday mornings at Sway doubles club. Practice sessions with New Milton TT Club team mates. Bournemouth and Southampton league matches. Practice with Southampton West TT Club on late summer evenings. Coaching sessions in my garage and practice against my robot.
These have been part of my life for the last seven years. Table tennis is a vigorous competitive sport. And a lot of fun to play casually with friends and family.


On my way to a stunning 836th place out of 1109 entrants at the Totton 10K.
Just one of many triumphs of training and endurance. Running never appealed to me in my youth. I recall school cross country runs. I usually walked after leaving the school grounds. But then most of us did. Conscious of the need to keep fit in my old age I decided to take an interest in running. More books! Handbook of the Competitive Runner was my guide book. Training regimes all worked out for races. On and on I plodded building at my peak to around 25 miles a week. Not that it did me much good. My best 10k was 50 mins 9 seconds. And distance? The longest race I entered was the New Forest 10 mile run on a hot summer day in July. Never again! Marathon and even half marathon runners have my total admiration. How they do it is beyond me. In addition to Totton, I recall races at Christchurch, Boscombe, Poole, Eastleigh and Ringwood.
Don't do too much these days. May have another go when I get to 70. Seem to recall there being only three runners over 70 at my last race in Eastleigh. I may yet get on a podium!


Religion has played a big part in my life. As it has in all our lives. When I retired and studied history it struck me just how much religion had affected lives throughout the ages. I went on to study all the major world religions and in particular I revisited Christianity, Judaism and Islam, their history and teachings. And I read too, the thoughts of some of the great philosophers and modern writers about religion.


When I tackle a subject I usually acquire a few books. These are the books I just found in my bookcase about mythology:

Classical Mythology by Pierre Grimal
A Classical Dictionary by J Lempriere
Myths and Legends of the British Isles by Richard Barber
Bulfinch's Mythology
The Myths of Greece and Rome by H A Guerber
The Greek Myths by Robert Graves

And The Aeneid by Virgil and The Iliad by Homer.

Give me a call when you are doing a crossword puzzle.

A fascinating subject. How amazing is the human imagination!


We are all philosophers. I never stop thinking. And wondering. So philosophy was a natural target for study in retirement. I had no desire to go too deep but just wanted an introduction to the scope of the subject studied by university students. So I read about the ideas of several of the great philosophers like Plato and Aristotle together with books by present day philosophers like A C Grayling, Colin McGinn and Alain De Bottton. But perhaps my most enjoyable project was to study the life and works of Bertrand Russell. This included biographies of the great man, his own autobiography - a great read, and his History of Western Philosophy.
How much of all this I have absorbed is impossible to assess. And I am really not sure what effect all my reading has had on my own preconceived ideas. But when one gets an insight into a truly great mind, it truly is something special to behold.

Grand days out

When I first retired, because we had so many separate interests, Ruth and I decided we should set aside at least one full day a week to spend together. We called them our grand days out. Doing something special that was not part of the weekly routine. However much I enjoy interests and hobbies nothing matches the times I spend with Ruth. We have been together since our teenage years and have no difficulty on agreeing what do do together on these special days. Sometimes we have long trips like a visit to London for ballet, the theatre or exhibitions and other places of interest. Or trips to historic houses and gardens. Sometimes we travel by train along the coast. Or we just visit towns and villages within a day trip range. One thing never changes. On arrival somewhere, we always start with coffee. After that, we often go our separate ways and agree a time to meet later. Keeps things fresh and gives plenty to chat about over lunch.

See what I mean?


I have taken an interest in politics throughout my life. My only formal politics was one term as a Brockenhurst Parish Councillor - hardly heady stuff! I would have been a hopeless politician. I can never avoid giving a direct answer to a question. Fatal for a politician. So my political activity is just as an observer following all the major issues and events on a daily basis through newspapers, radio and TV. And reading a lot. Since retiring I have read the autobiographies of Prime Ministers since the second world war. An interesting way of studying recent history. And whenever I'm in, I have my lunch while watching the Daily Politics show on TV. Pleasant way to keep in touch.


We are all photographers now! A basic digital camera, one click, into the computer, one or two more clicks. Another masterpiece. We can all do it. We all love taking or looking at photos. I'm not a fanatic at this as I may be at some other things but I have really enjoyed having the time to have photo sessions. Holidays, trips, and family events are all obvious targets. But what I really love is to just take my camera out on a nice day and go off on my own somewhere with just photography in mind. Back home, on the computer and within a few minutes paying a slide show on a large screen TV in high definition. It's not that long ago when photographers spent hours in the darkroom to produce just one picture. Of course they had a lot of fun. But I know what I prefer!

And here's another example of technology and photography in combination. Just a few random photos to illustrate this modern world where I can take photos and instantly share it with anyone with access to a computer anywhere.


My interest in computers only really began in 2002 when my daughter Sandra introduced me to Ebay. I came home and within a couple of weeks I was up and running. Now an Apple fan I have an iMac, two laptops, two Apple TVs and a network including two large screen TVs. The internet is an integral part of daily life. I don't spend hours on end in front of a screen. But I do spend minutes here and there throughout the day, sometimes longer, researching, communicating or taking actions as required. I do a lot of buying and selling. And keep in touch with news and events. For things like photography and video, use of the computer puts all of us on a professional level. Like everyone I only make use of a tiny fraction of what a modern computer has to offer. But we are all still learning.


When you get to my age you start to realise just how much has happened in your lifetime. I read Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" I was astonished at just how much new scientific discovery there has been in the past 20 years. It was a useful introduction to some wider reading. With such a vast subject, I found it really useful to read broad surveys of each major branch of science. I'm not clever enough to get into the detail.
What really stuck me about scientific discovery was both the vastness and smallness of things.

We live in a universe the size of which is beyond human comprehension or understanding. And yet we continue to discover that it consists of ever smaller particles. And the latter is driving ever more exciting technological discoveries. Just consider the internet, how it is changing, and how it will affect all our lives.

We could all spend 24 hours of every day studying science, and still only scratch the surface of what there is to know.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Making movies

Perhaps the real joy of retirement is time. Something crops up and it's possible to really spend time on it. So when you get something like a video camera. No excuses. You really can learn how to use it. In my case, mostly badly. I popped this little clip here to test the blogger system. It works! Might add a few more. Making movies is fun. But it sure does take time.

There's a few more here:

And just one more!


Ruth and Fido at Brokenhurst Manor Golf Cub - on a summer evening. Fido's the one with the camera.

I started playing golf in 1966. Once got down to 16 handicap but played mostly in the 20s.
I joined clubs in Coventry, Peterborough and Huntingdon before coming to the New Forest where I became a member at Brokenhurst Manor in 1979. Routine rounds, days out, golfing holidays with friends. So many missed puts! Played a lot in my early retirement years. Quiet now, but not done yet!
Watching golf has been fun too. Had a great time in Lytham St Annes watching the whole of the championship won by Seve Ballesteros with friends in 1988. I played a lot of golf during the first few retirement years. Table tennis takes more of my time now. But I'll be back to more golf when I finally retire from the table.

Cricket lovely cricket

Fido far left, Bedhampton Cricket team 1959.

I'll never know the hours I've spent playing or watching cricket. A lot! I played for school and village teams until my mid twenties when golf took over. Then returned briefly in my early retirement years. I have followed Hampshire and England's fortunes around the world, mainly through radio and TV. And spent many happy hours at Hampshire's ground near Southampton. Here is their present ground:

I started playing some fun cricket for my rotary club in 1996. I enjoyed it so much I decided to join a club that played mid week matches against touring teams. When buying new cricket gear I met Adie Ames, Hampshire's wicket keeper. He suggested I went to the County Ground for sessions with the Hampshire cricket coach. Had great fun doing that. Bowling and batting coaching in the indoor nets. Facing a bowling machine at 90 mph was interesting! I played just one season for Hinton Admiral cricket team. Sadly my new career was cut short by a knee injury.
But not before a special highlight. While a rotary member there was an international rotary cricket festival in Dorset. I played two matches for England against Australia and India. So I became an England player at 52!
When I look back on my cricket days, I always remember the day I took a hat trick at Bedhampton. Within an hour I had a message that my niece Jo had been born. Much more important than my hat trick!
Watching England's cricket has seen so many ups and downs. Nothing has ever quite matched the day in the 1956 when I saw Jim Laker take 9 wickets and then all ten wickets in the second innings to enable England to beat Australia. Long ago!
Enjoyed watching England beating South Africa yesterday.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Radios sort of evolved into telephones. I decided to collect examples of telephones from when they were first introduced in public. I had about 30 at the peak. My most exciting find was this old Skeleton 'phone which was was the first GPO telephone in public service in the 1890s. I found it at an antiques centre in Lyndhurst. The other phones have gone now. Although I might have a couple of oldies somewhere!

"Antique" Derrick

Derrick worked at the Council with me. Nearly 20 years ago when he retired, he suggested I join him on a walk on the Isle of Wight. The trip involved a ferry from Lymington to Yarmouth, then bus to Alum Bay. From there we walked to the Needles, over Tennyson Down to Freshwater for lunch. Then over the golf course to Brook for tea, then back to Freshwater where we caught a bus back to Yarmouth. It is a glorious walk, taking in some of the finest views in the UK.
When I retired, Derrick asked me to photograph his collection of antiques. It took several weeks. Since those days Derrick and I have spent a day together every month. Annual walks on the Isle of Wight, trips to London and places of historic interest. Derrick has a wonderful knowledge of history and antiques. A little has been passed on to me.
Here's Derrick on the final assault on the peak at Tennyson Down this year.


It began with a book. Not sure what made me pick up  "The Setmakers" from the library. A history of the British radio industry, the book contained the story of Roberts Radio, a company that for many years made radios which were in homes throughout the UK. The name still exists although the radios are now made in the far east. I decided to build a collection of their old radios. I collected about 40. From antique shops, fairs and Ebay, in they came. I found a person who restored them when needed. Among my Roberts buys was a collection of radios and ephemera from Gordon Bussey, the author of "The History of Roberts Radio" The ephemera included company scrapbooks and old advertising leaflets. I paid £150 for a boxful. Several years later, I sold my collection. The ephemera alone raised around £2000 on Ebay. That was fun!
The radios have gone now apart from a couple. The one in the photo was an old American radio given to me by my friend "Antique" Derrick. More about him in the future.
One of my more memorable trips was a visit to a radio collectors fair at The NEC. Thousands of radios and ephemera galore. Bought very little, but a great day out.


Since early childhood, sport has been one of my passions. I have followed all the major sports, have played some and experienced joy and heartache in full measure. I could write a book of sporting highlights I have witnessed. From England's '66 world cup triumph to an unimportant five set table tennis thriller in the Bournemouth league.
So it was natural that sport would figure prominently in my retirement. The opportunity to attend sports events, watch the big matches on TV and to participate in more sport as a player. Some of my memories will appear in future posts.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Further studies

During my history studies I began to think about subjects I would like to explore in more depth.It struck me just how much religion had affected the course of history, as had developments in philosophy, politics and science. For over ten years now, I have read widely in these subjects. So much to cover and so much to think about.

As the years have passed,I have developed my ideas, formed opinions, and occasionally express them. But it is not my intention in this blog to use it as a soapbox.

My purpose here is briefly to describe the things I've done and the fun I've had, not to lecture or philosophise. Another blog?


If you decide to take a fresh look at history, where do you start? Seemed to me that you need to set parameters. I stumbled across the four volumes of "A History of The English-Speaking Peoples" by Winston Churchill. As I read each volume, I made a note of people, events and subjects for further study.It ran to around 30. I really had to set a limit. I then researched each topic to identify recommended books.
I had great fun collecting them.This was before the internet had taken off.I got several on a memorable two day visit to Hay on Wye.

And then I read the lot.
Simple really.

It opened up other subjects of interest. More about that will follow.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Some of the topics that come to mind.

Wonderful wife,family,friends,sport,cricket,running,golf,table tennis,bells,radios,telephones,antiques,flags,inkwells,photography,
politics,religions,science,great writers,hifi,home cinema,gardening,blogging,shaving.............

And each involves a story, and a lot of fun.
Where do I start?

A second public life

My early retirement years were as busy and sometimes even more stressful than my former job. Working in a voluntary role brings you into contact with a lot of people and organisations. Not all contacts are pleasant. After a lifetime of meetings, here I was again at meetings, meetings, meetings!
Rotary was great fun. And a lot of hard work. And more meetings.I was once again drawn into roles as a Chairman and President.Interesting, challenging but,too often, more hassle.And so, a few years after finishing work, I decided on a second retirement from public life. Into my personal wilderness.
And that's when the fun really started.

A step back

Perhaps I'll set a background to my retirement. Born in 1943, I was of the generation deeply affected by war. Brought up by my mother with two sisters and a brother, I had a very happy childhood.After wasting my education at Churchers College in Petersfield I left school at 16. I worked for a County Council, then a Borough Council where I qualified as an accountant.By the time I was 30, I was married, had three daughters and was working for my sixth local authority as Finance Director.Then in 1976 I joined New Forest Council as Treasurer becoming Chief Executive in 1989.
So by my early 50s I had been in a top management role for over twenty years. Demanding but, on the whole, happy years. Even after all these years I still decline to talk openly about events and people from my years in public life.I'm not going to change now.I decided I wanted to retire.For many people, early retirement is a polite form of dismissal. In my case it was perhaps the reverse. I wanted to go. I no longer wished to work for politicians.And that's as far I will ever go in talking about my career.
So for me, retirement was a golden opportunity to be free to determine my own way of living. I was in a fortunate position of having a retirement package commensurate with my level of responsibility. So I really had no need to seek any form of paid employment.
I was a lucky man.


I retired on 30 September 1995 in my early 50s after 36 years with seven local authorities. I loved my job but wanted to do other things. So I suppose this is the story of what the "other things" turned out to be.
I spent the first few weeks digging out beds in our new garden, pondering my next moves. One thing I was clear about. I had no intention of getting paid work. I intended to be my own master.At all times.
I was a governor at a local college and soon joined a voluntary service organisation of which I became Chairman. I joined a rotary club. I was an active member before becoming President a few years later. The pattern of my early years was set.


I have no idea where this will lead. A sort of retirement auto biography. A reminder to me of some of the things I've been up to. Most of my blogs are a personal story for me to look back on. If anyone else stumbles across them, I hope they find something of interest.