This year can be summed up with the phrase, “steady as she goes”. Like everyone else in the affluent West, Covid rules continued to curtail our activities. Easing of restrictions in the summer brought hope of a return to the old normal but, as winter set in, the Omicron variant sent us almost back to square one. So we have been spending a lot of time staring at TV and computer screens – for information, for entertainment and for social contact. And that’s good enough for me. I never did like large gatherings, and Zoom calls work pretty well for small groups. The only thing I really miss is being able to go to the shops without worrying about catching or spreading the virus.
Mary and I have managed to avoid getting Covid. We had the AstraZeneca jab in February and again in May, followed by a Pfizer booster and a dose of the flu vaccine in November.
The biggest health scare this year was when my dad was admitted to hospital in the Spring with what turned out to be pneumonia. He was kept in for about two weeks before returning to be home alone. We couldn’t visit because of the Covid restrictions. Fortunately, he was able to recuperate without our help. He still has an annoying cough, though, which remains under investigation.
Mary’s grandson, Alex, graduated from university and moved to London to start his first job as a programmer in the city. He seems to have fallen on his feet there.
And Mary’s sister, Helen, is moving again, this time to a ground floor flat in case her polymyalgia makes it difficult to use the stairs in the years to come.
Committee and Other Work
Mary still occasionally gets some paid work from the WEA, most recently providing feedback on course tutors as part of the WEA’s quality assurance processes. She also serves as a governor for Wymeswold primary school, and she’s on the village Open Gardens and Memorial Hall committees.
I am more selective. I only serve on the Charnwood U3A committee as the administrator of the Beacon online membership management system we use. It’s a fairly undemanding role, but deficiencies in the Beacon system itself and recent unreliable service led to my suggesting that we look at alternatives. The prime candidate is something called Simple Membership, which is used to run eight other U3As (including the Milton Keynes U3A, for which my dad is the Secretary).
The Lighter Side of Retirement
What have we been doing for entertainment? Most of the local U3A activities had closed down temporarily or moved online. So, this year, I signed up for several new online groups to fill the gaps, and was soon overwhelmed with webinars from New Scientist, the online-only Trust U3A and one or two other organisations.
A U3A group called Coding Café turned out to be particularly distracting. Its most active members build electronic gadgets that make noises, produce light shows or move around. They are mostly driven by conventional microcomputers programmed in Python, but three of us were lured into the rabbit hole of quantum computing. There’s an unfinished and unpublished blog elsewhere on this site that describes my current understanding of the subject. Writing that has improved my understanding of quantum computers considerably but, unsurprisingly, I still have a lot more to learn.
I have kept up writing for my Crotchety Man music blog, and the other like-minded Wymeswold resident has opened his music lounge again for our shared enjoyment of folk, rock, jazz and hard-to-categorise genres.
Mary’s Philosophy group continued online and when the Covid restrictions were partially lifted they started to meet socially (and unofficially) at a café in the countryside outside Loughborough.
Mary did venture out for two evening trips recently with her daughter, Rachel. The first was to see the Christmas lights at the National Trust’s Belton house, which was well worth the visit. The other trip was to an Enchanted Forest event with a Harry Potter theme not far from Chester. The light show was impressive, but it rained hard all the time they were there, leaving Mary soaked to the skin and glad to get back to the hotel for some dry clothes and a hot drink.
The Trent 36 group switched to catch-up meetings and slide shows on Zoom. They took us on a Peoples’ Tour of China and to Zagreb.
And, with that, I shall wish you and yours a small-scale Merry Christmas and a healthy New Year. See you in 2022.