After eight years in the job, I stood down in December as Chair of the Herne Hill Society. Hardly world-shattering news, I realise. It seemed a good time to step aside and let someone else have a go – if I could find someone to take it on (which I did, eventually). Membership is increasing, book sales are on the up, and Herne Hill magazine is thriving.
One of the best things I have ever done was to plan and carry out the Remembering Herne Hill 1914-18 project, to budget and on time. I started off knowing little about the war but I threw myself into researching the hundreds of local casualties. I was determined to make it a success. When I am interested in something I will put in the hours. It doesn’t matter whether I am being paid or volunteering my time. It worked out better than I could have hoped, and I was able to write a report to our Lottery funders that impressed even me!
I was elated by the turnout for our Armistice Centenary commemoration in 2018, and at the installation of the new memorial a year later. What a contrast with November 2020…
But then I realised that I had had enough
I felt like I’d climbed a mountain and could never climb as high again. I started to tie up the many loose ends so I could move on. So six years after retiring from the British Library, I’ve retired from my retirement job. But what now?
I now understand that no matter how hard you work, how clever you may think you are, or whatever you might have achieved, there may be very little to show for it a few years later. As I said on the subject of retiring from the British Library, that is just the way it is. It shouldn’t keep you awake at night, as long as you did your best. When I left the Library in March 2015 I made a list of things I wanted to do, and I have done all of them (it was a short and not very challenging list) apart from, predictably, taking more exercise.
- I spent more time with friends and family
- I wrote a little book, as well as this blog
- I explored parts of London I hardly knew
- I spent more time at our French house
- I played more music, and even released a CD
- I took long-haul trips to the Maldives, India, Guatemala and Cambodia – and would have visited Indonesia last year, if Covid-19 had not put the mockers on it.
But in the Coronovirus era it’s been difficult to plan ahead – or even to want to do so. Instead of thinking about some wonderful place to go or something exciting to do, I am saying to myself, “Well, we least we’ve seen Cape Town, Venice, Baalbek… we’ve been to Wimbledon, the Olympic Stadium, Wembley (both of them) … the Royal Opera House, the Shard, Westminster Abbey…” In other words, I had begun to look backwards rather than forwards.
But, as of last week, there is hope
I was invited, unexpectedly, to make an appointment for a vaccination. It was a sunny day; it was dry; it was warm (for January). Two hours later I was walking the three miles to Montgomery Hall at Kennington Oval. By 3pm I’d had my jab and was on my way home. It was only then that it struck me that I’d not been asked to show any form of identification! But anyway, it was cheering to see how well organised the temporary medical centre was and how many people were being vaccinated. At the time of writing nearly 12 million people in the UK have had at least one dose of the vaccine (the current figure for France, scandalously, being under two million).
I walked back in the unseasonable sunshine, stripped down to my T-shirt, feeling much happier with life. For the first time in an age I dare to hope that things really would get better, and in the foreseeable future.
My pecker is most definitely up, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For now, I will settle for Scotland beating England at Twickenham and for Tranmere extending their streak of five consecutive wins. Oh, would you believe it!
Per ardua ad AstraZeneca
… would make a great headline, wouldn’t it? Except that I was Pfizered – and me an Oxford man too!