Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Still here!

I noticed that it's been a year since my last post to this blog, so here's a summary of events in the last 12 months.

  • In April, Heather noticed a lump in her breast, and in June she had a mastectomy, followed by radiation treatment in September-October. She's just had follow-up checks, and is all clear of cancer. 
  • In July I finished 7 months of the "only a month or six weeks" relieving as E-Learning Team Leader. Nick Ford has picked up the permanent job and is breathing new life into our operations.
  • In August, I ruptured my quadriceps tendon skiing at Mt Hutt. I had immediate repair surgery, several months in a leg brace, and more months of physio - I'm 95% fixed now.
  • We went to Auckland for the Rolling Stones concert in November.
  • I bought an electric-assisted bike - it's wonderful!
  • We had a nice Christmas, with a week in a bach in Nelson, and a visit to Cam and Jen in Otaki Beach for Christmas itself.
  • Alice bought an apartment, and is a happy homeowner - about to undergo EQC repairs, but it all seems well organised.
  • We are planning a holiday in the Whitsundays, with Nicky and Merv Sarson, renting a catamaran for a week in August. We hope to see lots of whales and do lots of snorkelling.
  • We've got tickets for Fleetwood Mac in Dunedin in November this year.
  • I'm planning to retire in December. Heather is keeping her options open for a while.

So that's it - 2014 was a year of medical dramas and slowing down. I wonder what's next?

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Not here very often

I'm keeping this blog site in case I want to post longer pieces, but that is happening less and less these days. If I post anything online, it tends to be on Facebook; I was a Twitter regular for about a year, but I found the 140 character limit to be too restricting for posts with any kind of nuance. Twitter is fine for wisecracks and name calling, but in the end it seems a bit shallow. So blog posts take too much time and effort, Twitter is too trivial, leaving Facebook as the Goldilocks solution. That's a bit sad.

My acting manager job is taking up a huge amount of my working day; it was supposed to be a "holding the fort" situation, but that's a hollow joke. When I finally get back to my regular job, and get off the treadmill of endless meetings that are my work life at present, maybe I'll have some more time and energy. At present the keyboard looks like a ball and chain.

We were due to fly to Auckland on Tuesday for a few days exploring around Northland, then the Rolling Stones concert on Saturday 5th - of course, that's all off until October, if the rumours can be believed. It does mean that I have plenty of annual leave accumulated, so when skiing starts we'll be ready to use our $299 senior-citizen season passes for Mt Hutt. We're not planning to go far over Easter, but we may do some day trips to get out into the countryside for a day or two.

Monday, 20 January 2014

A wobbly start to 2014

January got off to a bad start, capping off a week of rain that started at lunchtime on Christmas Day. The weather cleared for New Years' Eve, so our barbecue went well, but early on New Year's Day I received a call telling me that an old friend, Jim Guthrie, had died that night.

Jim had developed Parkinson's Disease in his early 40s, at the top of his career as an environmental lawyer, and was forced to retire early as his disease worsened. In recent years he had been cared for in a specially set up home for people with long term neurological diseases like Parkinsons and Multiple Sclerosis, but he had become progressively weaker and less able to cope with life's complications. The news of his death was sad, but at the same time it was a relief, to his many friends and colleagues - and I dare say to Jim himself.

Jim and I had flatted together for three years at Otago University, and in the following twenty years we had done many trips into the mountains to tramp, climb, and ski. We'd known the exhilaration of standing on a mountain summit, and the awfulness of rainy days in tents. We'd skied the Tasman and Fox Glaciers, drunk whisky in alpine huts, and talked long into the nights about life, law, and politics. Jim may be gone, but the memories remain.

The funeral was superb; David Parker, deputy Labour leader, had been Jim's junior in the landmark river protection cases they'd fought for in the 80s and 90s (and which are being unwound by the current government to appease their water-hungry farming lobby), and he did a superb job of eulogising Jim's life and career. David was followed by Sir Tipene O'Regan, the elder statesman of Ngai Tahu. Jim had given the iwi the benefit of his knowledge and strategic advice many years ago, and Sir Tipene paid him a generous tribute. And of course funerals are where we meet those we haven't seen for many years, so the conversations and memories flowed from the service into an evening function, as old friends and colleagues tried to recognise each other after 30 or 40 years. The single malt scotches were as good as Jim had promised, of course.

The sadness of Jim's passing was relieved the following week, when our old buddy from Wanaka, Peter King, married his rediscovered teenage sweetheart Lauren Sleeman, at Rippon Vineyard in Wanaka. The couple might have been having a late-life second wedding, but they certainly celebrated with joy and energy - and again we caught up with people we hadn't seen for nearly 20 years.

So that's our January so far - a wedding and a funeral. It's a funny old world.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Old and tired?

The "diary" idea didn't catch on, so this blog will plod on with infrequent updates. But there is news about our 65+ experience: on 3 December we signed up at Work and Income's New Brighton branch, which was a depressing experience. Watching a Winz office in action provides a view of society we don't get in Parklands or at the University; it's easy to forget that there are a lot of people living on virtually nothing.

We were given a ritual speech that begins "Superannuation is a universal entitlement, it's not means tested..." three or four times; I think it's the MSD equivalent of the police caution. They processed Heather and me together, in less than an hour. Apparently, in spite of very clear instructions in pamphlets and web sites, it's rare for people to show up with their paper work all organised.

We then drove to an AA shop and queued for an hour to get new drivers' licences. My clerical guy viewed every page of my application about 3 times, flicking at random from page to page. I was itching to ask if he wanted me to look for something, (I'm a good skim reader after 20+ years of marking kids' writing) but to be honest I don't think even he knew what he was looking for. Anyway, we finally got the obligatory awful photos, and 2 weeks later our licences arrived in the mail.

A week later my Super Gold Card arrived. I used it at the vege shop on Christmas Eve, and got a few dollars off the berries and other goodies, so I suppose I need to get into the habit of asking "Do you give a Gold Card discount?" wherever I shop. Thanks, Winston.

That's it for the administrative stuff. We got Christmas over and done with, which was all very pleasant - just a walk on the beach and a large lunch for Alice, Heather, and me. Heather did a light evening meal, and we had an early night.
The consolations of age - nice paintings. This is my birthday present,
"Ahuriri Shadows" by Adrienne Pavelka. It will hang in our bedroom.
Then today I woke up, and I'm 65. Really. In my mind I'm 35 (I used to say 21), but 65 it is. Now I'm really old! I did a Facebook post, "Well, that's it - officially old. None of this pussy-footing half-arsed "middle aged" pretence, the word is "old". And happy, of course."  So that's it for achieving my superannuitant status.

We have a few days of supposed home projects, weather permitting, then Ross and Julie arrive and we'll host a NY Eve barbecue. After that I'll do a couple of days volunteering at the Naval Point Club, being a race official for the Paper Tiger Nationals. I sailed in the 1993 PT Nationals in Motueka, so I'm paying my dues.

I go back to work on the 6th January for a week, then we have a week off to go to Wanaka for our old mate Peter King's wedding, and back home to host a 70th birthday for Heather's sister Elaine.

At work I have had to take up the role of team manager (this is my third stint), and we've had yet another restructuring report dropped on us, an hour before we left for the holidays. This is the 4th restructuring for us since 2009, on top of dealing with the earthquakes.

The inevitable "restructuring paralysis" means that nobody will make a decision about a new e-learning manager until all the new bosses are appointed, and it greatly increases the chances that someone who doesn't know who we are, or what we do, gets to make the decision.

It looks like I've yet again fallen foul of the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times".

Monday, 2 December 2013

The diary of a debutante superannuitant - Step 1, paper work

To begin at the beginning; I turn 65 on the 26th of December and Heather's birthday is 17 days later, the 13th of January. As we both turn 65 over the Christmas break, we thought we'd better get organised before everything closes for the holidays, so we are getting our paper work in order.

So far we have found, or requested new copies of our birth certificates, passports, bank accounts, and our marriage certificate. We need these because tomorrow we've taken a day of leave, to visit the Ministry of Social Development Senior Service office in New Brighton. I go first, with an interview at 10am - they've allowed 90 minutes for this! Considering that the NZ Government already knows all about me, from my health records to my IRD number, I'll be interested to see how much new information they actually collect. Heather follows with a similar interview time.

We hope that the MSD can organise pension payments to start on the single rate on 26 December, then shift to a married couple rate after one fortnightly payment, when Heather's birthday comes two weeks later. I am skeptical about their ability to be that agile, but we'll see.

After the MSD, we go to renew our driver's licences. These are set to expire in the month you turn 65 (anyone over 55, take a look) - so we've both had eyesight checks from the optician, because the eye test systems at the AA are renowned for not working well. I've also had to get a medical clearance so I can keep my truck licence - I don't know when medicals became compulsory for that, but I may as well keep the licence active in case I ever need to shift something large and heavy. They'll probably want our birth certificates as well.

So that's the story so far - lots of paper, several visits to doctors and opticians, and many phone calls to obtain other documents. How do people who aren't organised and literate cope with this bureaucratic forest?

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Still here

This blog has developed dust and cobwebs. I'll give it a spring clean one day, but finding the half an hour a blog post needs doesn't come easily. And I feel a bit self-important woffling on about my thoughts - they're usually best kept under a bushel. Or my hat. Or something. So I'm Facebooking quite a lot and Tweeting now and then. It fits with my diminished attention span.

Now for something completely different - I turn 65 in a month from today. I had a medical today so I can keep my truck licence when we renew our licences next Tuesday. (I've also had an eye test.) After the drivers licences we go to Social Welfare (or whatever they're called these days) for a 1.5hr (!!!) interview - each. I thought the Government already knew about me - it's taught me, employed me, taxed me, healed me, why do they need a long interview? Do they think someone will pretend to be me to collect the fabuslous riches they offer? Or do they hope I'll break down under the relentless bureaucrat-speak and say, "I give up, I don't want your pension anyway"? As a cost cutting strategy it doesn't seem that well thought through.

Maybe I should devote this blog to the experiences of a debutante superannuitant. That's not a bad idea.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Done and dusted

The photos of our Queensland holiday are now on Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/gregor_ronald/) They are in reverse order, i.e. the last ones are first. To see them in sets, try http://www.flickr.com/photos/gregor_ronald/sets/72157636421671814/ for the first two weeks in the Tropical North, or http://www.flickr.com/photos/gregor_ronald/sets/72157636523699146/ for the second two weeks in Mackay, sailing the Whitsundays, Noosa, and Brisbane.

A week ago we were cruising the Brisbane River on a high speed ferry; today I'm sitting in a cube farm office doing Moodle administration and going to meetings. Sigh...