Where would you retire to? Do you picture yourself in an idyllic county cottage with roses around the door or maybe on the coast inhaling all that bracing sea air? No matter that the village that looks so pretty has but one bus an hour, nor that the seaside town smells more of vinegar and diesel than ozone, retirement is meant to be peaceful isn’t it?
Retirement peaceful? What like practising to be life-less? An easing into death from boredom? Maybe for some that is their dream but not for me!
Nowhere near retirement age but ready for a change, my husband and I moved from a pretty country setting with horse-chestnut trees aplenty to the centre of London Town. We swapped a family house for a two bedroomed flat; a flat perfect for retirement with a lift, a caretaker, communal heating, a balcony and within walking distance of a large Waitrose. A flat opposite a bus stop where, unlike the aforementioned village, there are frequent buses twenty-four hours a day. We are in a street that has restaurants, cafes , convenience stores, a book shop, banks and pharmacies within a three minute walk.
“Don’t you find it noisy?” we are often asked, “being on a main road with police sirens and the screeches of hen parties and football chanters?”
Thing is, there is no such thing as peace and quiet – only different sounds, the worst of which was in Chichester where a couple of years ago we stayed in a lovely country house in beautiful grounds, where each night the rooks and the peacocks screeched their territorial war and the foxes barked and the owls hoo-hooted and farm-yard cats awaulled as they are wont.
I am admittedly evangelical about London. Like Anita from West Side Story “I pity any girl who isn’t me tonight!” But then I do have a low threshold of boredom. Every evening there are two or three inexpensive things to do from theatre to bridge games, to comedy shows or writer’s groups or political meetings or late night shopping or just hanging out with friends many of whom use our place as a hotel or staging post between engagements; and we love it! We love entertainment.
As an actress (I dealt with the gender-ess bit in yesterday’s blog) I feel so much less stressed. I can WALK to some auditions, have walked to rehearsals and performances and, for those gigs out-of-town, I am but minutes from three mainline railway stations.
Having done a fair bit of travelling around the edges of the world, I can honestly say that for me no other city in the world can match my home town. New York comes close for culture, Hong Kong for busy excitement and the climate is nice in St Lucia but London has everything; plus the weather is rarely boring! In central London you are never more than a ten minute stroll from a garden square or a short bus ride from the river where the South Bank is now one of the most interesting walk-ways in the world. Whilst ticket prices for the big hit shows in London may seem expensive there are often many bargains to be found with a little bit of planning; tkts for instance. However, the great thing about London is how much of it is free. Most of the big museums and art galleries are free as are some of the smaller ones. Two of my favourites are The Wallace Collection for paintings and furniture and the extraordinary John Soanes museum in Lincoln Inn Fields.
So I what if I am exhausted? I feel alive here and, of course, can hope on a train to a rural retreat or seaside haven – if I must.