Beware the Cliff Edge


Beware the Cliff Edge
I hope you will indulge me as this month’s tale is my own regarding retirement and beyond. They talk of the great event milestones in life: Bereavement, Marriage Moving house etc. But there is another to add to the list: retirement. Perhaps this tale might help anyone coming up to retirement?

I’d had many jobs in my working life time and my final job was working for a metropolitan district council who had an obligatory retirement age of sixty-five years. For a while I had been marking down time to retirement like on the demob charts we had in national service and folk would say, you lucky B you’ll soon be able to take it easy and that was my thought too. About five or six weeks before my retirement was due another chap retired from the office and we had ‘a bit of a do’ for him like we always did and off he went and I thought he won’t be coming back to this great office on Monday morning and inside I thought. ‘Oh, I’m glad that’s not me’. From that day I had a sea change in my outlook instead of happily winding those days down I realised I was walking towards a ‘cliff edge’ and each day became a jewel to be savoured. An unreal situation begins to manifest itself as time grows short, you are in the work place but not of its future, instead, you are being persuaded ever so gently towards the cliff edge. Plans are being made of which you are no longer a part, someone else in the twinkling of an eye is absorbing the tasks you previously performed. Nobody ever prepared you for this.

Colleagues who had shared your joys and woes and you theirs are going to be plucked away from you in a frightening finality – no longer will you be privy to tales of the doings of their loved ones, sons and daughters and, oh! No more of those great laughs, the book is going to be slammed shut with an alarming thud. You had never thought before of how much you were going to miss this the old place. Worse is to come, there’s a dawning realization that there is going to be one particular day when the cliff edge will be actually reached and you will have to say goodbye to all these great mates with an element of composure and walk out of the door for the last time, a daunting prospect and as that day approached it made me feel quite ill. They had a bit of a do for me too and I had to give a speech and lay a ‘bun fight’ on for them, then while they were all still tucking in I slipped my pass and keys on the table and slipped out of the building for ever before I blubbed in front of them all, I couldn’t have faced having to shake hands with them all.

When I arrived home Brenda, my wife, could see I was bit upset and she said I have just seen Stuart he’s just retired too, I asked him how long it took him to get over it and she said, he thought for a bit and then said. ‘Oh About an hour.’ So that brightened me up a bit. It was coming up to Christmas 2002 and on the first Monday of my retirement I took to the canal bank it was a fine morning and all the crush of weekend walkers was over and I virtually had the bank to myself. So I walked along the canal bank thinking I’m a parasite on society now and wondering what I could do in my retirement. (No, I didn’t contemplate jumping in). So I walked and walked, I have a pedometer and when I got home I found I had walked six miles and enjoyed it. This isn’t so bad I thought I can walk everyday and so I did I walked twenty miles the first week and I thought I can do better than this so I walked thirty miles the next week and then forty and even fifty and I thought fifty seems a bit too much but perhaps I can maintain forty miles each week and see how far the gets me. So on the first week in 2003 I started walking forty miles every week and I kept a record and I thought I bet I can walk 10,000 miles like this at forty miles a week and I did it took me four and a half years. There was a contemporary record out that had the lines, ‘I have walked 5,000 miles and I can walk 5,000 more.’ So Brenda bought me a tee shirt which had printed on it; ‘I have walked 10,000 miles and I can walk 10.000 more’ Of course I daren’t wear it.

We had fallen into a quite indolent life style in that convivial office and we’d take any excuse: Someone’s birthday, someone becoming a grandparent and we would all celebrate with buns or sausage rolls. The walking helped to take off the four stone off I had put on in the office and got my blood pressure, which had been high, back to normal, within a year of me starting to walk.

So, I had well and truly got the walking bug, though I did get a bit obsessive on the days when for some reason I could not get out and do my six miles and I would make it up by walking more on others days. Even when I was away on holiday I would manage to take time out to get my six miles in. So, after achieving the 10,000 mile goal I though what can I do next? I found out that it was 24,901 miles around the Earth at the equator, so I thought is it possible for me to do that? (I counted in the 10,000 miles I had already done of course). I put a map of the world up on the wall and drew a red line around the equator. I kept a record of my mileage each day and where I would be if I was actually walking around the world properly I marked it off on the red line after I had completed each 1,000 miles (see Pic). Folk knew what I was doing and asked where are you now? and I would say I’m in Brazil etc. As the pacific is nearly 7,000 miles at the equator I was in there for nearly four years and folk would say are you still in the pacific and I would say yes, and my boots are beginning to leak ha-ha.. So, like Forrest Gump I walked and walked but like Howard in ‘Last of The Summer Wine,’ I had to be home for tea.

Daily walks record.
I completed the circumnavigation on American Independence day (4h of July) 2014 it had taken me eleven years and a bit, approximately 4,150 straight days at six miles a day. I had worn out four pedometers and a pair of boots a year I considered as the boots had a year’s guarantee on them and I hadn’t had them a year yet taking them back and saying look these boots are still under guarantee and they have worn out, of course I wouldn’t tell them they had walked 2,000 miles and of course I never did anyway. I completed did all the walks around West and North Yorkshire and I was always home for tea but I did have a few adventures, I got chased by a few bulls, fell in a few bogs, got caught up in a bit of barbed wire and once found a dead body but otherwise I was unharmed. I managed to walk the ‘Wakefield Way’ once and the ‘Leeds Country Way’ twice. These ‘Country Ways’ are a great starting point for any potential walking plan, the local councils have produced leaflets outlining the maps and dividing the walks up into ‘bite size’ walks with starting parking areas or bus routes for the none drivers. I can thoroughly recommend the ‘Country Ways’ and you get to see bits of the local area you hardly knew.. The ‘Maenwood Valley Trail’ is another fine hike if you live in the Leeds Area. I suppose I was lucky in seemingly having durable joints. Once or twice I thought a knee or an ankle was starting to fail but apologies to those with knee problems, I seemed to be able to walk through it

So did I pack up after completing the world trip? Nah, I’m still walking I have slowed down a bit but I have now done 34.700 miles since retirement. Have I got another milestone in mind? Well there is Earth to the moon but that’s 240,000 miles I don’t think I have enough time left for that. But seriously, for anyone coming up to retirement and at a loose end for something to do why not contemplate walking around the world frorm home? It improved my health and my wellbeing and you can always be home in time for tea.

I drew a red line along the equator

9 Responses to “Beware the Cliff Edge”

  1. Douglas Farnill Says:

    That is an inspiring story Peter. It encourages me as I head off for my daily walk – of about 4 km – only about a third of your daily routine. I probably passed by you on your walk around the Equator because I’ve been doing 10km a day on my exercise bike, and coming now on to some 20 years which has got me all the way around once and I’m starting on my second circumnavigation. .I would not be able to keep up with you on foot anymore but I believe that every little bit of walking exercise is good. I retired at age 67, now 21 years ago, and I recall a big “bun fight” where I had to give a speech. I mentioned to people that great oil painting by Turner, a print of which hung in most schools during my day. It was the one where the old sailing ship was being towed off into the wrecking yard by one of those new-fangled steam tugboats. The year was about 1835. In my “speech” I raised the questions of whether I in my retirement was the old ship being towed away into oblivion, or whether I was the new tugboat starting a new phase of life, and was the glowing sun on the horizon a sunset on me, or a sunrise. I would like to think, that with the encouragement of your story here, more and more oldies such as we can get as much fulfilment and life out of the last phases of our life.
    I’ll wave to you as I pedal by you as you trudge through the Amazon rainforest.

  2. peterwwood Says:

    What a great comment, Doug and what a good way to compare retirement to Turners ship being towed to the scrapyard I know that paining well. Keep walking or peddling it is keeping your mind clear too.

  3. e-mail mark.c.wilson Says:

    Thanks for that piece.

    I didn’t have a cliff-edge; I sort of petered-out and I had basically been working towards retiring early for 20 years anyway!

    I do miss the laughs and camaraderie, but working in IT/Software Project Management is a cushy, very well-remunerated but deadly boring pursuit. I ended up working with an Indian company, so the banter was restricted to cricket and family…The most telling point you make, Peter, is that no-one prepares you. And it’s hard watching other people go off to work, watching your kids go to work.

    But congratulations on your remarkable walking achievements!


  4. Eric Says:

    An interesting take Pete on pre & post retirement. I had no regrets whatsoever & was happy & fortunate to be able to retire at 60. I deliberately decided not to have a dedicated pastime or hobby as I feared that could become as tedious as working became for me. So I chose to be flexible, play golf if I liked , do a bit of marquetry , or whatever took my fancy on the day. I also did a daily walk of about 3 miles & oddly, was hardly ever prevented by the weather.
    But Doug , an exercise bike?. That’s like going through a time warp , 10 minutes on an exercise bike seems like a lifetime & I used to fear that the kids had grown up , the world had changed etc by the time I’d finished on the bike.
    I’ve been fortunate to see the original Turner’s “Fighting Temeraire” on two occasions , once in London & another time at a Turner exhibition in the USA. It’s probably my favourite piece of art , partly because of the history behind the Temeraire & it’s undignified ending..
    But even so , it’s astounding that you’ve circumnavigated the globe. Great yarn.

  5. Eric Says:

    BTW Pete, your story gave me the incentive to see how far I may have travelled when walking & I calculate I’ve probably done around 15,000 miles dedicated walking since retirement. So walking West from the Greenwich meridian on the equator puts me somewhere in S.E.Asia, , around Indonesia. Phew, still a way to go

  6. Edward Blackwell Says:

    That’s a great story Pete well done, I used to do a lot of walking, I had several walks of various lengths, long medium and short depending on how much time I’d available. I never kept record wish I’d done so now, but this was in the years leading up to my retirement, which in 2002 was forced on me by my Aorta bursting, it took two years for me to get back to normal. Then in 2004 the RA started, and that was my dancing days done. I really enjoy your story Pete, hope I catch you at the reunion this year…

  7. Terry Byrne Says:

    An interesting story but nothing to do with the focus of the website.
    Time was when postings brought back memories of days gone by, but it seems lately to have been taken over by contributors who want to write the great British novel or let’s see who can name the most pubs within 20 mile radius of the Bridgefield.
    Nothing to do with the great, original concept.
    Let’s get back to basics please

  8. peterwwood Says:

    Thanks for your comment Terry which is true but as there ae now 155 stories originally about east Leeds I have run out of things to say about the old area and as I am getting few contributers perhaps you, or any one else could send me a tale more focussed on good old East Leeds

  9. Edwrd Blackwell.. Says:

    Your right Pete you do run out of things of interest from the Old East Leeds area, and there are some fantastic stories within those 155 you mention, and I’m sure there will be plenty more. Especially if more people were to contribute memories of things they remember, or even subjects they think people would be interested in. I think you’ve done a great job on this site Pete, keeping people in contact and entertained in a very professional manner, and long may you continue to do so.. Thanks Pete for all of your efforts over the years.

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