The First Carolean Bus Pass
'This weekend marks the Coronation of King Charles III and a transition into another era, the Carolean age'.
That was the opening sentence of my 'weekly hit of wellbeing advice' from the brilliant Dr Radah Modgil in her wonderfully upbeat weekly email update.
Yes, in what can sometimes feel like very depressing times, I'm signed up to several positive newsletters to balance all that 'negative noise' generated by those who should be leading us.
And Dr Radah is absolutely right, whether you're royalist or republican, from Saturday, history will see you as a Carolean. For me though, Saturday 6th May 2023 is far more significant than a simple coronation.
Later in her opening piece, Dr Radah continues 'we all in our individual lives experience constant transitions, even if they are not marked in an obvious way'. Once more, the lovely lady hits the nail right on its head and the timing of the message in her email, for me, is simply perfect.
Fact is, work-wise, the past year has been a very necessary 'fallow' one in my life. A much-needed break and rest from routine. A time for real reflection.
Dr Radah covers this too 'Transitions are the hardest periods of our lives, even the ones that we look forward to or which are joyous'.
Well, the last year has been a very useful prelude to full retirement but Saturday 6th May 2023 is most definitely THE transition day for me.
No, not because of the coronation or becoming a Carolean. Nor is it because it's my/our 26th wedding anniversary (not bad considering we both had previous marriages of over a decade each and the wonderful kids they blessed us with). Lockdowns thankfully proved to me that I live in the right place and definitely with the right person.
May 6th is a transition day for me because it's my 66th birthday, the day I become a state pensioner and the day I qualify for my senior bus pass. The real bonus is that, very fortunately, I still feel exactly as I did on the day HM Gov started taking those NI contributions out of my tiny apprentice pay packet, way back in the 70's. Crazy a?
After a wonderful 50 years of incredibly varied work, my last working role came to an end in July 2022. Half of that career was spent in the electricity industry, working in numerous different and varied environments from the dark depths of a nuclear warning bunker during the Cold War, to the lofty heights and the roof of Canterbury Cathedral, preparing for a historic visit by the Pope.
Volunteering with my trade union above and beyond the role of craftsman led me to eventually becoming a senior steward and senior safety rep for Kent, Surrey & Sussex. At one point I was appointed by my union as the representative of 6,000 employees to help negotiate our annual pay rise - assisting our full time officials, whilst simultaneously being seconded by my company managers to work with consultants 're-engineering' the electricity distribution business across Kent, Surrey & Sussex.
When the manual part of my career came to a sudden end, by grasping further educational opportunities I added to my advocate experience and re-trained with the CAB in welfare, gaining practical experience and a degree level qualification - with distinction. Five years supporting students in FE was an absolute joy and the second half of my career sprung from that welfare experience, my trade union experience and all the associated social policy studies.
The new millennium arrived and with my son and daughter now adults, I decided to indulge a personal passion of my own and I threw myself into local politics. This decision, coupled with my compulsion to volunteer whenever roles became vacant, led to me becoming a district councillor, a county councillor, a political group leader of the opposition and eventually the council leader. I was also immensely proud to serve as the Chair of Governors at an 'outstanding' (and very) special school for five years+.
What a rollercoaster ride that period was. Non-stop pressure, across the county, 24/7. So many experiences in so many different places, way too many to mention. I loved it and it was an absolute honour to represent local residents.
When I decided to step back from politics, all the knowledge and experience gained throughout my previous career led to patient representative and advisory roles with our local NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups - CCG's (first Thanet then Kent and Medway). Another great experience for which I'm very grateful.
In the summer of 2022 CCG's ceased to exist and I too decided to call it a day.
I've really needed this past 'fallow' year as I said earlier, to take time to reflect and decide what is really important going forward into a truly meaningful 'third age' and full retirement.
There's no doubt the third age will be a battle (and one that if we're fortunate to live long enough) we just have to fight. We will eventually lose. It's simply the way of the world. But we must not let that stop us fighting. The battleground is our health and wellbeing and staying as healthy and mindful as we possibly can, for as long as we possibly can, without letting the situation rule our lives is a tricky call, but it has to be our strategy.
The good news (I reckon) is that if we're lucky and we put up a good enough fight, the third age can be lengthy and should be the very best time of our lives.
May 6th 2023 is a start date for me, a new beginning, a chance to act on all the experience and wisdom gained over those past 66 years, including those 50+ years of working life.
Dr Radah sums up her excellent email piece with some beautiful wisdom that I intend to put to good use 'all of these transitions offer an opportunity to grow and develop as a person, and learn more about ourselves. We all have a choice in any change in life to try to make the best of it and keep on learning hard life lessons. Life is best done when we make those choices consciously and keep on being curious'.
So watch out folks cos despite qualifying for a senior bus pass, this Carolean still thinks and feels like he's 15 and he keeps getting curiouser and curiouser.