Carpe diem

Charles 3 Comments

Posted by Richard Rawlinson

Some of us enjoy our jobs; the social and creative buzz, and the income. Some of us also look forward to retirement; liberation from work routine, and time to pursue other interests, be it camper van touring or attempting a novel. But anecdotes about retirees reveal pros and cons.

Retire too early and the planned escape from stress can be replaced by loss of identity and boredom. For some, alcoholism ensues resulting in mental and physical sickness leading to early death.

Retire too late and limitations of natural ageing, from weakened immune system to impaired memory and diminished bladder control, can mar enjoyment of leisure time.

These potential setbacks can also be joined by any number of external forces derailing dreams of riding off into the horizon of the golf course in a buggy. The spouse might need extensive care following a stroke, for example.

Good advice seems to be to retire ‘slowly’ by working part-time in some form, or taking a hobby job such a volunteering for a charity. It also seems sensible to not put off doing things until retirement, assuming that only then will you have more time for family and friends, travel, exercise, oil painting and learning Spanish.

This random musing is triggered by noting how many British Prime Ministers died soon after leaving office: Sir Robert Peel and William Gladstone (four years); Ramsay McDonald (two years); Lord Salisbury (one year), Andrew Bonar Law and Neville Chamberlain (six months). Others, such as William Pitt the Younger and Lord Palmerston died while in office.

Then again, several lived 10 to 30-plus years after retiring: Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan, Alec Douglas Hume, Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, Margaret Thatcher.

Meanwhile, John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are still alive.  

More PM deaths here.  


  1. Charles

    I can’t see myself retiring. And my life is already far too busy, meetings, charity, events, as well as 60 hours minimum doing my proper job!

    Most of the healthy happy people I know aged 80 plus, are fit and active and have been active since official retirement. One even working for his old multi national corporation as a consultant until very recently. I am convinced this is the only way. Slowing down looks dangerous, almost as dangerous as stopping! And if you’re married, you should fear spending every waking minute with your partner.

    Mind you, frankly undertakers seem prone to fear an early death, I do usually think it’s possible I will go at any minu

  2. Charles

    Carpe diem is an anagram of ‘me die crap’; a miserable pessimist’s advice at best, and I’m surprised by you, Richard, whose god surely offers better than degeneration into shit to those faithful who apply to him in innocence for a life worth living to the end, even in this vale of tears. With no god I have complete faith in Life itself, whatever It may bring, simply because I know It will end and that all pleasure and suffering is finite.

    Well, unless there really is a hell, but who believes in that any more?

  3. Charles

    Your good advice paragraph is good advice indeed, Richard, and sums up in part why I do what I now do. As for slowing down – we do slow down as we grow older, and I find it disturbing to watch people well past retirement age rushing about in pursuit of a non-existent state: their youthful vigour.

    I guess as in all things, it’s finding The Balance. Busy enough doing something reasonably useful, leaving time enough just to be in the moment – easier said than done, but energising and rewarding if it can be found.Whatever the social and personal utility I do or don’t offer people as a celebrant, it’s certainly given my retirement (i.e. end of full-time paid employment) direction and meaning, and helped me face the fact of my own mortality.

    David, it seems to me that thinking it’s possible one could go at any moment greatly enriches the value of that moment.

    Carpe diem – was it not part of Horace’s urging us to trim our vines, i.e. to stop fooling ourselves we can do everything, concentrate on what we can do and are doing at present – seize the day and live in it, not in some hazy notion of what we’ll do the day after tomorrow? Nothing gloomy about that!

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