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St Giles Oxford treesI met up with some former Council colleagues on Friday and conversation turned (as it inevitably does on these occasions) to the subject of retirement. The main focus for the non-retired is financial – will they be able to survive on their pensions? And if they do take the plunge, what will they do and will they cope?

Incredibly it’s almost five years since I retired, so it seemed like a good time to reflect.

The main difference between work and retirement is the amount of agency (Social Science #101) that you have as a retired person. Although my weeks have a certain amount of structure, there’s a flexibility to them that is simply impossible for people in employment.

After lunch, I had no particular plan, so wandered into town to enjoy the light and take some photographs.

St Giles Oxford Remembrance poppies and crossesPassing through St Giles, I came to the war memorial and was able to reflect on the remainders of last Sunday’s Remembrance Service. As regular readers will know, I’ve been quietly angered by the increasing appropriation of this event for the promotion of political, nationalistic or sectional agendas. After glancing briefly at the official wreaths, it was good to have time to read the hand written messages on the little crosses pushed into odd patches of unofficial earth. The little crosses that don’t reference “all those …” or “the men of this city”, but “Charlie” (Malta, 1941), “Dad” (Italy, 1944) and “Granddad (France, 1915)”. A reminder that our links to Europe are older, more deeply rooted and more personal than many of our politicians would have us believe.

Moving on to Parks Road, I popped into the Natural History Museum just in time to join a (free) tour.

As a frequent visitor, I already knew something about the history and architecture of the Museum, but it was good to learn more. I knew, of course, that each of the pillars is made from a different type of stone, but hadn’t realised that the botanical carvings at the top each pillar were designed to be instructional as well as decorative and that the masons had worked directly from fresh plant specimens brought daily from the Botanical Gardens

Oxford Museum of Natural History, cat window

“Cat” window

I hadn’t realised that the building had never been completed (obvious when you look at it), or that birds roosted in the tower or that there was a “cat window” (the work of mischievous Irish stone masons).

So there you have it – a glimpse into my retired life. Freedom to cultivate friendships, freedom to explore; freedom to reflect; freedom to seize the moment and, above all, freedom to never, ever be bored.

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