The inevitable question is “What are you going to do with your time?”

Something momentous has happened to Northern Male. Find out how he is coping with retirement in his latest article for Annabel & Grace Magazine…

It appears I have retired. After 42 years of scraping my nails at the coal-face it’s over. I’ve stopped chasing the dollar. To give up work when so many are looking for it seems wrong but age has caught up with me. We all come to this point if we’re lucky. Police officers generally retire after 30 years service. I was uniformed staff dispensing wisdom on the front desk. I could have gone on but illness has put a stop to that. “What are you going to do with your time?” is the inevitable question I face which bemuses me.

The inevitable question is“What are you going to do with your time?”

Surely it’s the other way round. All my life I’ve been stopped from doing what I wanted as I had to make money – which is not what life should be about. Now I don’t and am released the world is the shimmering pearl in my oyster. The only problem is I don’t work properly. All that effort has taken its inevitable toll on my body.

The left hip needs replacing and my legs wobble from a nerve condition the specialists cannot explain, so I’m on a stick and lame. Just when I should be spreading my wings, they are too unstable to fly.

As we emerge from this awfulness I had planned to go exploring in my beloved Yorkshire Dales. Perhaps metal detecting in Norfolk near where my daughter lives to find that elusive Viking hoard. Maybe visit the places we see and read about but never get the chance to physically go – maybe with a canine companion. To run along an empty beach in winter with an angry sea and a wet Labrador.

Not now.

In the occasional moments when I’ve thought deeply about life’s ups and downs I feel we’re just so lucky to be here at all on this colourful blue ball. In the deep cold of space there is nothing else. But for a change this isn’t about me banging on about the carnage we do to Nature. It’s to ask you to value the more mundane. In the maelstrom we are emerging from I feel we are all guilty of missing the small things.

I officially retired and celebrated my 65th birthday in lockdown and there was no partying or being allowed near others. So I decided to visit Ilkley Moor in my Jaguar XJ40. She is special to me as she’s a mature lady who like me is British engineered – but failing. Yes the 4L engine does 19 to the gallon as she weighs 1.8 tons but her sills are rusting and there is leakage in the boot. So I drive her sparingly.

Jaguar designed and created this car with great care and got it absolutely correct in fine detail. A lady in the passenger seat can open the glove-box, press a button and up pops a mirror specifically for applying lipstick. Fine detail. So when I need to feel better I go for a drive.

Walking was out due to my condition, so I just stopped the car and got out to admire the views. After lockdown, taking in the cold Yorkshire air was better than the best champagne I’d ever tasted.

The countryside where I live has long been celebrated by novelists and film-makers. They try to bring you how it feels but nothing beats being there with the wind in your hair. Female first time director Frances O’Connor is the latest to try. She’s at the helm of ‘Emily’ a new movie which starts shooting here soon.  

Like her I have great hopes as it celebrates the life of Emily Bronte the writer of ‘Wuthering Heights’ who died aged just 30. It will be an imagination as she was shy, reserved and quite unsociable so little remains of how things were with her. I’m currently growing hair for a chance to be a supporting artist. I’ve given up on the beard as I looked like Catweazle.

So many have wondered how this young woman came to write such a dark, frightening and singular novel under the pen-name Ellis Bell as women were not allowed to be published as writers when she was alive. How did such a sheltered Victorian lady create the monster that was Heathcliffe? Was he born from pure imagination? There is only one confirmed image of Emily Bronte which is by her brother Branwell. Interestingly, there is a space between the ladies where his self portrait was originally. However it was later removed by the artist himself. Why is the subject of conjecture, although many think it was due to him bringing shame on the family through his lack of success, alcoholism and drug addiction.

Emily, centre, painted by her brother Bramwell

All Emily wanted to do was leave her words. In her eyes she was never the focus. It was about the detail. When Emily was laid to rest in the family vault at St Michaels and All Angels, Haworth she’d become so thin her coffin was only 16 inches across. The carpenter who made it said he’d never made an adult one as narrow.

Consequently I drove home a tad guilty as on such a significant locked-down day when only the nearby countryside was open, I returned to a fabulous roast beef dinner with proper home-made Yorkshire puddings. I owe that to my partner, to the virus – and to Emily, to whom we all owe a debt. I wish I could go back in a time machine and help her. To walk with her on the moors and tell her how much her words mean. She died not knowing.

In my retired world I’m going to take my own advice and try to get out there too – with help from the beleaguered NHS.

Oh, and today I met Ivy who is six. She’s growing herbs which she brought to show me. Oregano, parsley and coriander. She is really proud and a gardener in the making.

New shoots and new life.

New hope for us all. 

More articles from Northern Male can be read here