Wow! That year went by quickly. One year ago it was goodbye speeches, presents, emotional farewells and the prospect of being on permanent holiday. What's it been like since then?
I've missed the company of my former colleagues and students and there is no doubt that teaching is one of those jobs which defines you as a person, an activity which furnishes a sense of self-worth, so for me it has been important to continue to keep in touch with education and to be productive. My website and blog have kept me thinking and sharing ideas and resources and these have been default retirement pastimes for me.
There is a degree of website management needed, dealing with queries and subscriptions. When I was a young teacher I had thought of eventually going into teacher education after being a Head of Department. (Senior management was never of great interest to me.) Sharing ideas and advice through blogging, writing and tweeting has certainly satisfied a need. I really should spend a bit less time checking Twitter, though! I very much enjoyed doing a training session on A-level MFL for the PGCEers at York University and look forward to doing a second one in October.
Beyond that, it has been good to have more time for reading, which was only ever a holiday pastime when I was working - not enough time and energy when I was teaching. The Kindle has been a great purchase. I've discovered new books and writers, one favourite being Jojo Moyes (romantic fiction, loosely defined), another Peter May (the Isle of Lewis crime trilogy). I've also been enjoying Jo Nesbo's nordic noir crime fiction. I have just read a brilliant, refreshing little novel by R J Palacio called Wonder. Do check it out. Favourite novel read this year? Probably Me Before You, a Richard and Judy recommended book by Jojo Moyes.
There has been more opportunity to travel and be with my wife, with motorhome trips to Scotland and Germany and more time in our French house near La Rochelle. I've also had more time and energy to do some semi-serious exercise at the gym, even managing two or three sessions a week through the winter and spring. Most of us neglect our physical fitness when we are working.
I am a person who has "hobbies" so there has been more time to sing barbershop and play the drums. I joined a second barbershop chorus, took part in the national contest in Bournemouth and improved my singing technique somewhat thanks to some superb musical direction from Sally McLean at the Spirit of Harmony. I also became Chairman of my original barbershop harmony club, the Big County Chorus. We have plans to recruit new members and get better.
I was already playing drums in a pub band called Fischer's Ghost, but I have been devoting a bit more time to improving my moderate drumming skills. I wonder if I should take up another instrument, apart from air guitar.
My gardening skills are improving even if the birds manage to get to a fair proportion of my fruit and veg. If we are not in the garden Elspeth and I like to curl up to DVD box sets or easy TV. This year's obsessions have been Dexter, Homeland, Downton and The Big Bang Theory. We have also enjoyed the blu rays of Start Trek TNG.
In addition I have managed to design a website for our village thanks to Wordpress and an excellent Youtube video. My frenchteacher.net site has grown considerably and is about to be relooké thanks to my IT man Harry Green, a former student at Ripon Grammar School.
I would say this much: when you retire it's a good idea to keep feeling productive, especially after 33 years of one's daily life being guided by a bell and timetable. It's easy to feel a bit rudderless on occasion, but, that said, I feel I have more energy now, more time to do other things and no regrets about stopping work at 55. I was still enjoying teaching, but, truth be told, I was feeling tired, just a shade bored now and again, and more than a shade irritated by inspections, accountability and targets.
Future plans? I've toyed with the idea of writing something for language teachers, maybe a general guide/manual, drawing on material I have built up over the years on frenchteacher.net. We'll see. I enjoy writing resources so maybe that will keep me satisfied.