Pandemic Pets

My blogging friend David Miller from sent me this article from America. He thought that I might be interested in it, and I was.

That got me thinking about the recent issue of ‘Pandemic Pets’ here in Britain. From the Spring of 2020 until the end of 2021, pet ownership exploded in the UK. People forced to stay at home because of lockdowns, or working from home permanently due to changes in working practices decided that what they needed in their lives was a pet.

But they didn’t think it through.

Pets need a lot of attention.
Dogs need regular exercise.
All pets need food, beds, leads, collars, toys, and some need cages and straw.
They also need to have innoculations, worming, regular health checks, and in some cases, medication or surgery.

The bills start to mount up, and even if you have Pet Insurance, that doesn’t cover everything. The weather puts people off of walking dogs. They make a mess in the house before they are trained, leave fur all over the place, chew things up, and generally impart their odours into the once clean and fragrant house.

Even a non-pedigree animal has to have a lot of money spent on it on a monthly basis. Some need grooming regularly too.

Meanwhile, the once-excited new pet owners are busy on Zoom calls, or have been summoned back to their former office or workplace once the Pandemic restrictions ceased to operate. That cuddly pup, cute cat, or fluffy rabbit has become a money pit that has to be left to its own devices for eight to ten hours a day, and those new owners begin to resent their new pet, wondering why the hell they thought it was a good idea to get one.

Then comes the war in Ukraine, the global financial crisis, increased fuel bills, rampant inflation, and huge hikes in the price of petrol and diesel. Mortgage rates are set to increase, and money is tight even for those with well-paid jobs.

What happens next is that animal shelters and rescue centres are inundated with unwanted dogs, cats, rabbits, and other animals. The Pandemic Pet owners are even resorting to giving away their supposedly beloved pets via Facebook, or selling them cheap to anyone with the cash who will collect them. Some owners are crowdfunding to cover the cost of operations on their pets, or in the worse case scenario having perfectly healthy animals put to sleep because they can’t be bothered with them any longer.

I know this doesn’t apply to everyone who bought a pet during this period, but you only have to look at animal shelter websites to realise there is a huge issue to deal with.

Let’s hope if we have another pandemic, people who didn’t want a pet before don’t go rushing into thinking having one will change their lives.

Because ultimately, it is the poor animals who will suffer.

More domestic irritation

Monday, 25/11/2019.
(Yes, my American friends, that is the right way round)

Just when I thought it was safe to start feeling positive…

The decorating is finished, at least until the kitchen is tackled next year. On Wednesday, barring Acts of God, the new carpet should be fitted in the living room. Everything has been paid for, and anything unexpected is covered by savings. I am hopefully approaching the end of my awful cold, and although Ollie’s fur continues to refuse to grow back, at least he has no sores or itches.

Could all finally be well, in the world of Beetley?

You guessed it. Not a chance.

After a load of washing finished at lunchtime, I went to the machine to get it out. My usual routine is to sort out what can go into the tumble drier, and after that is loaded, I hang up what cannot be tumbled on a clothes airer. As it is winter, nothing can be hung outside, for fear of rain and cold.

But everything in the washing machine was still soaking wet. Wet enough to drip copiously over the floor as I tried to take it out.

Undaunted, I closed the door, selected ‘Rinse and Spin’, then pressed the button. Other than a constantly flashing red light, nothing happened.
Wash it again, I thought. I set the dial to a 40-degree wash, pressed ‘Start’, and waited. Nothing.

Try ‘Spin’, my mind informed me.

I set ‘Spin’, and pressed ‘Start’. Nothing.

Hmm… It is over eight years old, bought in summer 2011. It has earned its keep, and decided to ‘die’ gracefully.

I can go to the shops today, and buy a new one. Though I would sooner not have to spend up to £400 this close to Christmas.

But will it be delivered and installed this week? If not, we have a problem.

And Houston cannot supply the answer.

Do it now

A reflective post from 2012. My advice to younger people at the time when I had just retired, and was regretting many decisions I had made in life.
Hardly any of you have seen this one before.


When I was young, I anticipated that later life, and old age, would bring with it peace, financial security, and well-being. My car insurance premiums would be ridiculously low, and I would have enough money to travel anywhere I wanted to go. Worries would be behind me, work a distant memory, and free time would stretch out ahead of me, just waiting to be enjoyed.

Next birthday, I will be 61 years old. That means that if I live for nineteen more years after that, I will be eighty. There may have been a time when nineteen years seemed like a lifetime. Perhaps when I was still a teenager, and could not imagine life as a 38-year old, I don’t specifically recall. What I do know for sure now, is that nineteen years seems like a very short time indeed. Although we are ‘comfortable’ financially (whatever that really means), I…

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Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

Gardening, and Houses

After tackling that long grass at the back yesterday, I woke up thinking about gardening today. Not just gardening, but houses in general, and the choices we make in life.

Before we moved to Norfolk, the idea of a big house and large garden had lots of appeal. Prices here are some of the lowest in Britain, and we could have bought a much bigger house at the time, had we chose to. This bungalow seemed to offer the right balance though. Small bedrooms, a large living room, and a kitchen-diner with enough space for a good sized table and chairs. The garden was certainly big enough for our needs, and looked easy to care for. We compromised on only one bathroom (something we have later regretted) as this place offered a garage, and driveway parking for three more cars, if that was ever needed.

Some people seem to take naturally to gardening. They potter about as if in a trance, and with what seems to be very little effort, they produce stunning gardens full of delightful blooms and plants. I am not one of those people. Early attempts at planting exposed my lack of knowledge immediately. Suitable soils, ph balance, acidity, and when to plant. I got all that wrong. I suppose I could have studied the subject, devoted my ‘golden years’ to learning a new skill. But I was interested in other things, like writing and photography. There was a dog to walk too. And weeds, they don’t tell you about those. Despite pulling and spraying, they come back with a vengeance every time, new ones arriving as if on weed coach trips. And that nice patio seating area. The cracks get full of weeds, and moss grows all over the slabs. The guttering around the house fills with leaves and moss too. But as there are no upper floors, I can at least use a short ladder to get up and clear those by hand.

The shade provided by the old oak trees is desirable, until you realise that the fall of leaves will have you slaving like a labourer for weeks on end, just to get rid of the soggy mess that appears in Autumn. So I soon settled for not being a ‘real’ gardener, and just trying to cope with what the previous owner had left behind. Some shrubs that need little attention, a decent-sized lawn area that must be cut, and the leaves from the oak trees that get everywhere, even inside the house, and into both our cars. And that huge expanse of leylandii hedge that provides us with privacy from the near-neighbours has become a fast-growing menace that almost kills me off when I have to attempt to cut it back.

And I got older of course. Less strong physically, and tired more easily too. We don’t think about that when we are excited to buy a new house, do we?

In the space of six years, jobs that were once relatively easy have now become what feels like a marathon task, a chore to be disliked and avoided. And we didn’t end up sitting out in the garden as much as we had imagined, oh no. Some years, what passes for Summer weather has been hard to find. And with months of rain not uncommon, our use of the outside space has been far less that we ever anticipated. And we never budgeted for employing someone else to do jobs. No spare cash for hiring a gardener to do the heavy or unpleasant jobs, or someone to clean the windows and clear the guttering. All of this is still manageable at the moment, but what of the years to come?

Based on my experience, I am going to offer some advice. A list of things to consider, before you rush off to buy that new house in the suburbs, or retire to peace and quiet in the countryside.

1) Think hard about how many stairs the house has. You won’t want to be walking up and down them all the time when you are 70, believe me. Don’t end up trapped in a downstairs room later in life.
2) Remember that a big garden takes a lot of work. Much more than you might imagine, I assure you.
3) Think about your ability to climb ladders, as you get older.
4) Keep money back, and invest it to be available to pay people to do things, like cleaning those top floor windows you can no longer cope with.
5) Really think about how much you will use that outside space once you are old. A small patio or courtyard might end up being all you will ever need, and easier to manage too.
6) Gravel driveways are a weed nightmare. Use some money up front to get them block-paved, or covered over properly. You may not have that money around later.
7) Get a home with a second bathroom, or a second toilet at the very least. People will visit, and problems will arise.
8) Be aware that things feel much heavier when you get older. They really do.
9) And also be aware that you won’t be able to work on jobs all day, like you once could.
10) Don’t buy a bigger house than you will ever need. You will never need it, I assure you.

If you are well-off financially, or anticipate an inheritance or windfall, then all of the above is meaningless. You will just pay for services, and sit back and admire the results. If you are considering downsizing later to a smaller and more manageable property, then my advice probably won’t concern you that much either. But a word of caution. Things rarely turn out like you imagine they will.
And if you are just an everyday person like me, with a fixed retirement income, and some small savings you are guarding, make sure to plan ahead carefully.

Do it now

When I was young, I anticipated that later life, and old age, would bring with it peace, financial security, and well-being. My car insurance premiums would be ridiculously low, and I would have enough money to travel anywhere I wanted to go. Worries would be behind me, work a distant memory, and free time would stretch out ahead of me, just waiting to be enjoyed.

Next birthday, I will be 61 years old. That means that if I live for nineteen more years after that, I will be eighty. There may have been a time when nineteen years seemed like a lifetime. Perhaps when I was still a teenager, and could not imagine life as a 38-year old, I don’t specifically recall. What I do know for sure now, is that nineteen years seems like a very short time indeed. Although we are ‘comfortable’ financially (whatever that really means), I certainly cannot afford to travel. My insurance premiums did go down, though only because I left London. Otherwise, they are still pretty hefty. I live a more peaceful life, but cannot say for sure that I am ‘at peace’.

As for well-being, who knows? Physically, I can see deterioration, in strength, eyesight, and energy. Mentally, I feel the need to push myself to feel better, hence this blog. Work is a memory, though far from distant, and the cumulative affects of 33 years of shift-work are beginning to surface. As for free time, it no longer seems to be stretching far ahead, rather rushing by, like a fast train viewed from a platform.

I find it hard to believe that I actually prepared for this. I saved money, paid into pension funds, and both myself and Julie invested in property, so that we could sell it later, and live free of debt. This all worked of course, and provided the life we live today. A life that I am not complaining about, as others live much harder lives than we do.

It is all far too late though. History and fate will not be outdone; prices always go up, never down, and old age never retreats. I should have done it all back then, whenever ‘then’ was. When I could have just ‘gone’, and it would have had no consequences. There was absolutely no point in preparing to live the nineteen years, until I reach 80, a prospect which is highly unlikely anyway.

Sure, I did some stuff. I went to China, cruised the Nile, visited most of the former Soviet Union, and a fair part of Eastern Europe. I watched a lot of films, collected cameras, and saw lots of castles, and museums. But did I live enough? I never will now, that’s for sure.

So, this is my best advice, aged 60, and in a very contemplative frame of mind.

Do it now. You really won’t regret it.

Ten tips for Retirement

I have been retired from work since March, so I would like to pass on this advice for others who are due to retire soon, or considering retirement at some stage in the near future. After nearly six months, I am no expert on the subject, I am really just passing on observations based on my own experience.

Walk about a lot. When you are still working, whether you realise it or not, you do walk around for a lot of the day. So, avoid sitting for too long, wander aimlessly from room to room if need be, or get outside for a stroll, if the weather is good. If this doesn’t work, then get a dog, and you will have no option.

Expect to use more toilet paper, and shop accordingly. You will not be using the facilities at work ever again, and you will be shocked at how many toilet rolls you get through in a week.

Get up at a reasonable time. If you sleep in too late, say until 10am, it is surprising how fast the day will slip away from you. If you are up and about by 8am, there will be enough hours to enjoy some free time, as well as doing all the necessary jobs.

Always take a shopping list to the supermarket. You will find that you have a lot more time to browse, and it is amazing what sort of rubbish you will decide to buy, because you think that it will come in handy, or you might need it.

Don’t take on too much at once, whether physical, or mental. Remember, you are retired because you are older, and you will not be able to do things at the same pace you managed ten years ago.

Keep away from the Television before 6pm. Even rolling news can be addictive, once you start to watch it. If you really must watch TV during the day, record a documentary, or current affairs programme, then the time spent will at least have some purpose. Make sure you do still watch the news later though, as it is important to keep up with the outside World.

Avoid lunch. A good breakfast before 10am should stand you in good stead until the evening meal. You are not working now, so you no longer need the extra calories. It will also make you sluggish in the afternoon, and less inclined to do anything.

Keep thinking. Do whatever suits you best. Reading books, keeping a diary, writing a blog like this, or letters to friends. Do not allow your mind to wander, or you will soon find yourself standing in a room, wondering why you went in there in the first place.

Ignore junk mail and catalogues. Once they discover that you are retired, and of a certain age, companies will bombard you with mail, containing all sorts of special offers, and ‘relevant’ must-have items, targeted specifically at the retired home owner. The problem is, they are as seductive as the Sirens of the rocks. Before you know it, you will be ordering all sorts of ‘useful’ gadgets and gizmos, most of which will never be used.

Don’t get another job. You will already be recoiling from the shock that your paltry pension is taxable; no need to make some small amount of money, which will only serve to increase your tax burden. Unless you have a trade, so can charge what you like, the hourly pay will be derisory anyway. You will probably never get a proper contract or the usual employment rights, and there is always the chance that you will be patronised, and considered to be a part-time coffin-dodger, of little consequence. If you still want to carry on working, or cannot afford to retire, then stay in the job that you had already, until you are 65.

This all sounds like pretty basic stuff, commonsense really. Don’t you believe it. The change from working life to retirement is bigger than you can ever imagine, and you will need all the help you can get.