I just wanted to say that I’m getting a bit fed up with having to apologise for being in receipt of a nice NHS pension. I expected colleagues to be envious when I retired – after all, I had spent the last ten years looking on with ill-concealed jealousy as older colleagues beat me to the escape tunnel; what I hadn’t anticipated was the naked resentment in some quarters. All those “it’s alright for you – I’ve got to carry on working until I’m 80 to support your hedonistic decline into senility,” comments get a bit wearing.
For what it’s worth, I agree with those who say that the government needs to be careful when it messes with NHS pensions – in fact I’ve said it myself – and I do sympathise with young colleagues who will not enjoy such a comfortable retirement as me. But look – it’s not my fault, OK? I can’t do anything about it, and it has always been the case that pensions are supported by the current workforce, largely because our pension contributions have been swallowed up by the black hole that is NHS funding. So just, as our American cousins say, suck it up.
Anyway – when I retired (did I tell you I’d retired?) me and the wife thought it would be great – we could go away for a few days whenever we felt like it. We would of course studiously avoid the school holidays and the hordes of shell-suited chavs who think it’s OK for the offspring of their feckless loins to smear my new M&S chinos with chocolate and snot as they race around in a ritalin-resistant frenzy.
So last week we had a few days in Cornwall, taking advantage of our new-found freedom. And do you know what? It was awful. Sure, there were no kids, but there were all these old people everywhere. Hundreds of them – shuffling around in their grey shoes with thick soles and man-made uppers, getting in the way and smelling of mint humbugs and stale urine. What happens to old men that makes them think it’s OK to wear grey synthetic shoes? Grey shoes only look good if they’re in dove-grey calfskin and worn by a svelte Italian, and these weren’t.
And it’s not just the shoes. Every time we arrived at a cash desk we would find ourselves behind one of these geriatric day-trippers, fumbling fruitlessly in a capacious purse for their National Trust membership card or rummaging through a huge canvas shopping bag, hauling out large-print library books and bags of incontinence pads in a vain search for their reading glasses.
As I say – it’s depressing. But the most depressing thing of all happened on our last evening. Sitting in a nice little restaurant, looking out at the harbour lights of Looe reflected in the incoming tide, I surveyed the old people at the other half-dozen tables. I was almost beginning to wish there were a few noisy kids present. “I shouldn’t have to sit and look at old people all the time,” I thought. Then I saw one of the other diners, a man in his late sixties or early seventies looking back at me. And I knew he was thinking exactly the same thing.