Stuff

I'll Never Get To Retire, So I Spent the Day Trying It Out

It's increasingly unlikely that I'll ever be able to stop working, so I'd better make the most of it now.

by Joe Bish
28 April 2016, 10:30am

The author, paying respects. All photos by Jake Lewis

The closest I get to thinking about retirement is browsing the homes I'm going to put my parents in, which I do every lunch break. I suppose in the modern era, where people are not so company-orientated and constantly move from job to job, it becomes less of a pressing milestone in our heads. There are some older people who have been working at the same place since they were 18, and are now approaching that sweeter spot. They start planning cruises, moving to boring places and preparing to really deal that final blow to their livers.

It used to be 65 was the age we could just call it a day. No more sitting around people eating reheated fish in an office. No more getting erections on the tube and having to awkwardly hold your bag at waist height when you disembark. No more being told how much 'holiday' you're allowed to have. Fuck you, my life is a holiday now. I'll do whatever I want. But from 2020, this will go up to 66, then 67 between 2026 and 2028, then after that it's just based on your life expectancy. Judging by the amount of trendy Neapolitan sourdough pizzas I consume on a weekly basis (two to three), it's likely that I will die of an exploding heart before then. I won't get to book my Sandals holiday and think about killing my wife in Spain. I don't get that luxury. So I decided that, for one day only, I would delve deep into the pathos of the pensioner. I got the stereotype section of my brain whizzing and whirring, and set about living a day in the life of a retiree.

The first thing I knew I had to do was wake up unreasonably early. As a weak millennial with a brain that is still developing, sleeping long and unreasonable hours is part of my swag, and I work at a mimsy milksop media company, so I can get away with it. But old people always wake up at like 6AM, seemingly through some sort of horrible insomniac arcane witchcraft. It's not even by choice, they just sort of arise, like Dracula bolting upright as soon as the sun sets, smashing through the lid of the coffin. I only get up at 6AM if I have to get on a plane, and even then I strongly resent it. But it was time to get into the routine of the quiet life, so I got up, had a shower, had a shave, drank a tea and went for a walk. It was a pleasant start to my life as a rapidly deteriorating sentience.

I thought to myself, 'What shit do old people do to fill out their days?' and I, like I'm sure most of you did, concluded that 'feeding the ducks' was the top of that list. I went to Clapham Common where I knew there was a really big pond teeming with waterfowl. I sat on a bench and doled out little snippets of shit manufactured bread. More ducks came, and then some pigeons, and then some quite leery geese. The geese got very close to me and started hissing at me, and I became quite scared. The geese then started hissing at each other and the ducks. I'd created some kind of pond life race war. I can't imagine why an old person would want to elicit this kind of stress in their life. Having said that, looking into the beady, needy eyes of these birds made me feel wanted. Much like children, they would bleed me dry of resources and leave me to go out on the shag. It was kind of sweet.

Next stop was a garden centre, which was hilariously named 'Battersea Flower Station'. Old people like tending to their gardens, it's one of the only things they can take pride in, and it also never leaves you and starts renting flats in east London and taking cokey pills every weekend. You can trust your garden. But when I was there all I could think about how much I'd like to work in the garden centre. How much I'd like to be potting flowers all day, helping people pick out olive trees and what have you. I shouldn't be thinking about work now, I'm retired! This was all too much, and I was hungry.

In terms of food, I think my gluttony and hedonism would really go into a league of its own once I retired. I pretty much eat whatever I want at the moment, to the great detriment of my egregious figure, but without the petty concern of not wanting to be seen roaming the streets as an amorphous blob, my eating would go into overdrive. But what would be my unhealthy meal of choice? It would have to be easy to eat with weakened or no teeth. It would have to contain a sense of nostalgia, a hark back to an ashen childhood lost. Most importantly it would have to be thrifty, as I'm already picking out plots for my paupers grave. Step forward: pie and mash.

Goopy, sloppy, old school, delicious: the pie and mash has it all. If I retired properly I would eat this shit all day every day. It fills you up and keeps you warm, so if your electric blanket is on the fritz you wont catch pneumonia and die in your sleep. This is the good life, I think, getting parsley sauce all over my chin and dick. I've done my activities, my errands, but now I need to really relax.

One thing old geezers excel at is not drinking very quickly and making a meal out of everything. With that in mind, I headed to my local boozer to spend three hours drinking one pint. I bought a couple of newspapers to keep me company. I quickly became depressed reading their contents. It was the same as the internet, just as horrible and anxious and weird, except someone had taken the time and effort to print it and sell it in Sainsbury's. I tried to do the crosswords in the middle, but very quickly discovered I am just too thick for it. I don't know what a three-letter synonym for 'bribe' is. I'm not even totally sure one exists, I only have the word of some freak at the Daily Mail's Boring Fucking Games department. Even the answers I wrote down I was unsure of. Is this it? Is the end of one's life just a series of obtuse puzzles designed to simultaneously bewitch, degrade and upset the mind?

It was time to return home, away from the scary, fast-moving outside world, back behind my curtains so I could get my twitch on. Firstly, though, a stop at the local supermarket to stock up on some essential late-in-life provisions.

Sufficiently lubricated, and without anything else to entertain me, I began to think about all the things that make me annoyed and how I can respond to them. I drunkenly started drafting a strongly worded letter to Southern Rail, the incompetent oafs in charge of getting me to work every day. I thought that now, in my retirement, when I'm increasingly less likely to use their service, was the perfect time to let them know how I feel. I called them Dickensian, mocked their poor service, questioned their spurious excuses for tardiness – I gave them the sort of verbal seeing-to that only myself and a disgruntled racist colonel in an inner city youth centre could muster. I shoved it in the post box with all my might. I may be retired, but I'm not dead.

But I was dead soon after. I filled my stomach with wine and Revels and fell asleep in front of an episode of Eggheads, which I fucking hate. My old bones had tuckered themselves out with sheer inanity, with grumpy nothingness, onset alcoholism, meaningless meandering and pie consumption.

§

I don't really like working, I find it tedious in the extreme, but I'm not sure I'd like not working that much either. You see 75-year-olds who are still at it, still building things, still working, still about, and they're sharp and they look good. Then you see 75-year-olds that just sit in chairs all day and wait for all their senses to go, to the point where they have to read the Radio Times with a magnifying glass and get someone to clean their tits for them. The problem is, the crushing monotony and abject depression that work brings to your life makes you yearn for that freedom of nothing, to do whatever you want, the big school summer holiday of life where no one tells you what time to go to bed or when to come home for tea. Maybe if we worked a bit less, retirement wouldn't seem like such a necessity.

I enjoyed my day as a retiree. I see the point, I get it, and I will miss it dearly when I'm waiting for some weapon to tap their contactless card on the card reader in Pret a Manger tomorrow lunchtime. But I'm not quite ready for its placidity yet, and I may never be.

@joe_bish

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