What do people do after retirement? What things can you do during your retirement? As a woman of pensionable age I’ve spent the last decade living in Spain and during that time I’ve travelled quite extensively, spending three or four months each year in India and one year travelling around the world on a container ship.
I’m now once again resident in the UK but not coping too well with the winter so have decided to do as the Swallows do and fly south. South being India. We did this in Spain most years and I believed it would be as easy to organise here as in Spain. There, you just pack your bags and go. Not so in the UK.
Challenge number one – House and content insurance
We live in a country with hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of pensioners, who have 360 days a year to fill. But just try and leave your home unoccupied for more than 30 consecutive days and the insurance companies throw up their hands in horror, making you feel you’ve just committed a criminal offense. The person who I was talking to finally managed to scrap himself off the celling and after much toing and froing and many phone calls he returned to me beaming, as if he had just scaled Everest without oxygen. “Yes”, he proclaimed, “we will insure your property; with conditions of course”. The conditions consisted of increasing the premiums on a policy with more holes in it than a colander. When I declined his kind and generous offer he looked truly devastated, like a dog that had just had its bone nicked. I did manage to find a company that covered my unoccupied property for 60 days, so I had to cancel my original policy which gave me 30 days, and begin the new policy which gave me 60 days, giving me the total 90 days needed. RIDICULOUS! It is possible to find an insurance company that will cover you for an occupied property for longer than 30 days but it is disproportionally expensive. So while insurance companies may want you to cross off long term travel as one of the things to do during retirement, tell them to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. There is always a way around it.
Challenge Number Two – Obtaining an Indian Visa
I can just about manage to find my way around a computer (on a good day), and after much huffing and puffing, I finally found and printed off the forms I needed. The forms were the same as I had always used, so I duly filled it in and posted it to the visa office, only to have it returned a few days later containing a letter telling me they would only accept on line applications, so why the hell don’t they take the manual forms off their website. I eventually found the on line forms and was horror stricken on seeing all the information they wanted to know, does anyone really read all this crap. I finally reached the end of the form (I think it was about day three). It was now time to submit all the information that I had given them, after which they condensed everything you had entered on the form, so it can be checked, and low and behold, you had missed something, but you’ve already submitted it so you cannot go back and change it or add anything to it. By now, I’ve aged about ten years and the gin bottles going down at an alarming rate. I think “sod it” and print it off anyway. There next little trick is to only allow to print two pages, when you know damn well you’ve filled in three pages so know you think you must have missed a page. At this stage of the game, I’m on the threshold of alcoholism and nervous exhaustion. My only salvation is my daughter Liz in London. She pulled up the pages to be printed and spotted the tiny paragraph numbers which mercifully followed each other. Thank you Liz, thank you Liz, thank you Liz, what a relief. They only require you to print and send off two of the three pages you’ve completed. Why don’t they tell you that. I posted everything off again (another 10 quid out of my account for postage), and received my visa a few days later. Another hurdle jumped.
Challenge number three – the Garden
Because the gardening always ranks high on the list of things to do during retirement, the thought of leaving the garden for a number of weeks, even in winter, can be a bit of a gamble. One assumes nothing will happen while your away, but going on my track record of bad luck, if I didn’t make arrangements to have it tendered there will be an unseasonable burst of warm sunny weather and I will be returning to a jungle. Help came from the most unlikely place. I mentioned my problem to my hairdresser, who smiled at me and said, “my husband will take care of that for you, it’s his job”. It was like a breath of fresh air. Her husband came to see me and we agreed a price (a fair and reasonable one), and incredibly he won’t allow me to pay him until I get back. How rare is that. I now have my house insurance, travel insurance, tickets, visa etc. and I’m ready to go. Next stop Heathrow.
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