My grandfather retired at some point, at least, he claimed to have retired. It was presumably a matter of accountancy, or Ministry of Agriculture paperwork, or solicitor’s advice, for there was no discernible decline in his activity. Retirement is rarely part of farming life, what would someone whose whole life has been their daily round of work do if they suddenly stopped? It would be very difficult to be going out to the yard one day and the next day to sit in an armchair while someone else did the work you had been doing for fifty years.
It is not just farmers who continue to work long after their nominal retirement age has passed. Politicians continue for as long as possible: the veteran Labour Party member of parliament Dennis Skinner was 87 when he lost his seat at the December 2019 general election. The American presidential election this November will be fought between the Democrat candidate Joe Biden, who will be 78 that month, and the Republican Donald Trump who will be 74. In football, Premier League club Crystal Palace are managed by Roy Hodgson who will be 73 when the new season is due to begin in August. In acting, it was only in February of this year that June Brown finally announced her retirement from the part of Dot Cotton in BBC Television’s Eastenders, the announcement came just after her 93rd birthday. In art, in music, in writing, in business, in science, in industry, in many fields, people are working long after the age at which they might have chosen to retire.
Doing the sums, were it a matter of finance, I could retire from work when I reach the age of 68 and various pensions become available, but, like my grandfather, I fear I would sit wondering what to do with myself. Not being a gardener or a golfer or a fisherman, not being practical or artistic, not being a mechanic or a handyman, not being a technician or a craftsman, not being the sort of person who joins clubs or societies, not being a television viewer, not being very sociable, the prospect of retirement would be frightening.
The past four weeks of lockdown have been an experience in what it means to be unable to go to work, it has made me realise that I am what I do. There is comfort in the fact that Gloucestershire County Council allow me to continue until I am 75 in October 2035. If I should still be alive, I would need to look for part-time employment after that date.