1. Why bother?

1. Why bother – a silly way to celebrate retirement?

What possessed me to do it?

Well, in September 2010 I heard that I was to be made redundant by the Audit Commission (AC); an organisation high on the Coalition Government’s hit list and one which was duly hit. I was 57 years old and had spent over 30 years working in the public sector. I knew that, with a good redundancy payment and pension, I was far luckier than many younger colleagues with mortgages to pay, kids to educate and jobs to find. However, while redundancy came at a good time for me, it still threatened to leave an unexpected vacuum in my life.

What was I to do? I considered the options;

  • Nothing? After all, I had expected to retire at 60, so wasn’t I simply enjoying an early release for good behaviour? This was never really a serious option; I have a low boredom threshold and would go crazy doing nothing, probably driving my partner round the bend with me. I also think I’m young enough to have something left to contribute and don’t feel that I’m in god’s waiting room just yet.
  • Join a golf club? One drawback might be that I can’t play golf, although I’m told that this need not be an insurmountable hurdle. I’m also hindered by an aversion to Pringle sweaters (although partial to their crisps) and wouldn’t look good in the sort of pastel clown- pants many golfers favour.  
  • Drinking? I like the odd beer, but even I have never seriously considered drinking as a career choice.
  • Gardening? I grew up in a terraced house with a small back yard and have never really acquired the requisite skills: most of my gardens resembling the “before” picture from a gardening makeover show.  

So, I needed to find something else to do. I was fortunate enough to join Exeter Shilhay Community, a charity caring for homeless and vulnerably housed people, as Trustee and Treasurer. I also planned to find other ways of utilising whatever skills I may have acquired over the years, including taking people out walking on Dartmoor and doing the odd bit of consultancy in governance, my specialism before retiring from the AC.

Before settling down to my new life though, I needed a challenge to mark the transition from work to (semi) retirement. I’ve always loved mountain walking and have been lucky enough to indulge this passion throughout the world. As a Lancastrian based in the South West for over 30 years, I’ve come to love the remote moors and spectacular coastal scenery on my door step. Combining my passion for walking with my fortunate location, an idea gradually hatched to walk the South West Coast Path (SWCP).

I decided to make the walk more meaningful by seeking sponsorship for Shilhay. However, in doing so I was not motivated by altruism – make no mistake, the walk was a selfish enterprise that was all about having a good time. The sponsorship was just a spin off.

On the subject of charity giving, I see lots of requests for donations to worthwhile causes which seem to involve sponsoring the fundraiser to undertake an arduous “challenge” like cycling around Cuba or climbing Kilimanjaro – trips that many people would call “holidays”. A proportion of every pound raised does go to the charity, but a sizeable chunk must also go towards subsidising the selfless fundraiser’s holiday. Call me an old curmudgeon, but I prefer to contribute directly so that the charity gets all the benefit. I’ve also noticed that many of these “challenges” seem to involve long-haul travel to exotic locations: I don’t ever recall being asked to sponsor someone to take on the “challenge” of painting an old people’s home or cleaning the toilets? Hopefully it goes without saying, but all of my sponsorship money went directly to Shilhay.

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