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Remembering my first day at work as I ponder my last – it was another country

Tom Winnifrith
Wednesday 25 August 2021

Kept awake by the sort of irritating, minor and temporary but painful condition that a gentlemen does not discuss on the internet, I find myself, as is often the case, considering the idea of my last day at work.

I am not sure when that will be or why I would call it a day on writing for a living. There are numerous variables including, not least, my health, will Joshua and Jayarani require expensive schooling, the performance of certain investments in the portfolio and how much cash I opt to chuck down the money pits that are the hovels in Greece and Wales. And so, once again I do the sums and conclude that I could, with a following wind, call it a day when I can draw on my pension in 16 months time but that I can think of many good reasons not to. Just imagine writing a cheque to create a restored attic here in Wales with a mammoth train set for myself and Joshua and a home movie theatre for the Mrs!

But the biggest reason not to pack it all in is that I am not actually sure what I would do with my time. Having two young children and a younger wife with her career ahead of her rules out ideas I once had such as heading to the West of Ireland to drink, be miserable and write books which would be of interest to nobody at all, probably not even me. Or, more plausibly, to do some serious travelling in Eastern Europe.

The intent is that I will be the primary carer as of next week. If I show discipline I can fit my writing work into half a day allowing me to share the care of Jaya with her nursery and to deal with Joshua before and after school.  I hope Jaya will sleep enough in her pram to allow me to do some work in the garden or the barns. If not, I guess I will get up a bit earlier each day and go chop some more wood for the winter.

But what would I do with a full day if I did throw in the towel as a journalist? Goats? Chickens? Bees? I still suspect I’d be twiddling my thumbs for a few hours a day and that, after not very long, I would rather miss doing a spot of writing and podcasting. There are times when my work is a chore but there are others when I’d pay to be writing or recording what I do as I really enjoy it. And since folks seem to want to pay to read or listen why not do it? Of course, there are downsides to what I do as I considered yesterday.

My late uncle Christopher Booker carried on writing almost up to the very end as he approached his 82nd birthday.  A good part of the final years of writing was a chore not a pleasure. I am not at that point yet not do I wish to be. But Chris also got a real kick from some things that he published after his 80th birthday.

All of which leads me to conclude that I would like to battle on past January 12 2023 when I hit 55. That is normally what I decide when unable to sleep although not always. I suppose it is better not to think about it until then, to hope that the winds are indeed following me in a financial sense and then play it by ear. Having reached that conclusion I found myself thinking about my first day at work back in the early nineties at a City of London investment bank.

Having put on a bit of weight the summer before my suit felt tight. I wore a tie as did everybody back then. My partner at the time had bought me a smart leather briefcase as she said everyone had one. So I took it to work empty and every day brought it home empty. It was a hot day and the tube was a sweat as I headed to Liverpool Street. I sort of assumed I’d always wear a suit and that one day my briefcase might actually have something in it and that Id always work in an office until I made so many shed loads of cash at a young age that I would head off back to the sticks where I grew up to keep goats and bees.

I suspect that briefcases are about as rare as ties these days. Indeed. I wonder how many folks in the City still wear dark blue or black, sometimes pin striped, suits at all? I have not worn a suit in years and as for ties! I still have a couple: my MCC tie and my London Irish club colours but those are kept as a reminder of the old days, I really cannot remember when I last wore a tie. It really was a different world that September day at Liverpool Street, it was  another country. As I suspect, when or if it happens, will be retirement if it ever happens.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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