Commuting days until retirement: 100
I thought I had invented the word, but on googling, I find there’s nothing new under the cybersun. Antiversary, according to my search, has been adopted to mean the anniversary of a split-up, or a divorce, rather than a wedding. Well I’m going to stick with the meaning I coined back in March 2013 at the time of my 500 day antiversary: it’s the celebration of an event a given time before it happens, rather than after*. And here I am at my 100th. Days, of course, not years; the prospect of another hundred years of commuting would find me under the train rather than in it.
“100 days” always reminds me of a prime minister who, in 1964, before the start of my working career, gave himself that time for ‘dynamic changes to get Britain moving again’. This was Harold Wilson, in 1964, whom I am old enough to remember quite well. I expect he was consciously taking a leaf out of the book of previous politicians – but presumably not the one who was originally associated with the phrase. This, it seems, was Napoleon, who returned from exile in Elba to rule France again, on 20 March 1815. His last cent jours as Emperor ended after defeat at the Battle of Waterloo.
It was in the USA that the yardstick of 100 days was taken up as a way of measuring the effectiveness of presidents on taking up office, and the first, and most successful, was Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose ‘New Deal’ began America’s recovery from the depression. Inevitably, later presidents, and indeed Harold Wilson in Britain, did not bask in such widespread approval after their own inaugural 100 days. Fortunately I don’t have to fight a battle or put a country back on its feet, but just coast gently towards the day when the work really begins: house and garden to be taken in hand, years of accumulated debris to be cleared, vegetables to be, grown, blog posts – and perhaps other things – to be written. How much time I will have for all that is, you might say, yet to be determined. And at almost the same time as my 100 days ends, that of another government in the UK will start. What sort of government that will be, and whether indeed it will last that long, is anyone’s guess at the moment.)
So now the much-anticipated moment has moved closer, and become certain; we’ve taken the financial advice and started to make the arrangements, and I have made my intentions public at work. I mentioned in a recent post how broaching the subject of retirement might be a bit of a conversation-stopper in terms of company culture. When I made my announcement at an informal meeting, I felt a sort of collective frisson shiver through the room, as younger colleagues suddenly sensed the proximity of something thought of as remote and unreal. “Congratulations!”, said one, with a sort of well meant awkwardness.
I’m not sure whether I deserve to be congratulated on anything, but it’s obvious to any reader of this blog how much I savour the prospect of retiring. However after nearly fifty years of working life, with few breaks, there’s a rather uncomfortable feeling of cutting myself adrift from my source of sustenance. The only time I have known the branch I was sitting on to have been sawn off was when the company I was working for folded; but now here I am, busy doing the sawing myself. Can that be sensible?
It’s as if I’m together with fellow workers in a building (as of course I literally am) but in the metaphorical building I’m thinking of, some, leaving for other jobs, simply take the lift down to the ground floor and walk sensibly out of the main door into another building. I’m a bit concerned about the way these suicide-related images keep occurring to me, but here’s the only retirer I’m aware of at my workplace – me – gaily jumping out of the office window on the assumption that his pension safety net is held, stretched out, by strong hands far below.
Maybe it’s the prospect of doing nothing while being paid – it doesn’t seem real to me. Yes, I know it’s more that I’ve actually built up a fund over time by making contributions, etc etc – but there’s still an eerie unreality about the thought of spending the day doing as you please and still getting money, even if rather less than before.
So a hundred more commuting days left, which I celebrate here with strangely mixed feelings. No snatch of doggerel to celebrate this antiversary, as there was for the 500th – for one thing, I exhausted all the possible rhyme words for ‘antiversary’. For a while now I haven’t been inspired to express myself more seriously in poetry, either; but perhaps retirement will give me a chance to look out that muse from wherever she’s hiding. But I am planning to revive one poem for the New Year.
And I’ll only add that, while engrossed in tapping this into my tablet on the train, I failed to notice the station I should have changed at, and had to get out at the next stop to go back and catch a later connection. I’m not even a competent commuter any more. Definitely time to think about stopping.
*My son suggests that the word should be ‘anteversary’ (ante = before). So there we are. I can have my word and the divorcees can keep theirs.