Who wants to go Dutch?

                There are joys too numerous to count about being retired. I know that for many, financial demands mean that they must continue to work, and that yes, we were lucky to be able to stop slogging and take our public sector pensions, but I’ve never felt, as some do, that I needed to work for my own wellbeing. On the contrary it is only now, without the constraints of daily routine, that I can do the things I like.

                Some, of course are obvious. I only ever had a chance to read novels when on holiday and now I am able to sit down and read a book when I choose. I read a lot. I can spend vast amounts of time nurturing the garden, weather permitting, and even grow things to eat! I can go out for a walk-on a weekday-during the daytime. I can go to the gym-in the daytime. I can have coffee with friends, or a meal, during the day, or spend an afternoon perusing the shops [not necessarily purchasing anything]. When the weather improves we tootle off in our small camper van for unspecified periods of time.

Some activities I’ve come to hate less, however, are a little unexpected. There are a number of chores that I used to find sheer drudgery when I went out to work. Cleaning was one; so much so that we resorted to getting someone else to do it [and a lovely job she made of it, too]. We’d been spending every weekend hoovering, polishing, mopping etc, leaving no time for anything else [like reading a book]. Nowadays I regard cleaning the house as satisfying, relaxing and good exercise [and I can listen to excellent Radio 4 at the same time!].

Cooking is another task I’ve warmed to, and one which has benefited from the extra time and effort put in. Even the food shopping is not unpleasant. I feel soothed by hanging up washing on the clothes line outside, folding it and putting it away or ironing things. I’m not unhappy to stand at the kitchen sink washing up.

                What all this says to me, is that the more ‘work’ is created to fill up the hours, the more people will cut corners by buying convenience meals and using expensive appliances. I have a conviction, based on my own working years that a lot of ‘work’ [especially administration-type tasks] is not only unnecessary but deliberately handed out for the sake of appearances. I wonder if it is really necessary for workers to spend all lunchtimes at their desks and keep later and later hours? Years ago shops closed for lunch, had half days on Wednesdays and weren’t open on Sundays. No one starved or went without anything because of it. I’d have thought the current economic squeeze would be the ideal time to get back to shorter working hours, proper weekends etc.

                The Netherlands, who have some of the shortest working weeks in the world, have made wholesale moves into the 4-day week. Employees, for the most part may choose to work longer for 4 days and take an extra day off! Wonderful! A whole day to catch up on chores, or spend time with children, or cook things, or exercise, pursue a hobby…or even sleep! How much more rested, rounded and motivated everyone would be!

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