Retirement and a Fruitful Liason with the Enemy
Remembering the 1960s
by Gordon G Kinghorn
(Berkshire - UK)
As much as I adore the Retirement on Line, (ROL) website, to say nothing of Wendy’s sterling efforts in providing a meaningful conduit for our respective expressions and analysis of antiquity, it strikes me nevertheless, that many poor souls out there, posses a rationale that is wholly out-of-focus and one quintessentially, that undermines their individual sense of belonging and overall contribution to society as a whole – former General Zee’s recent comments being an ideal case in point.
As a former Officer with the British Army, (thirty-five years service) I can relate only too well to the goodly Mr Zee’s concerns - ours was an occupation that demanded much more than a professional nine-to-five mentality – we didn’t merely enlist into our respective Army’s, we became indoctrinated with specific values and standards for utilization within a disciplined and highly-motivated infrastructure…and employed each of them accordingly.
When it transpires that a soldier’s lengthy service in uniform is at an end – and we ultimately don civilian clothing on a full-time basis, it is not merely our exterior appearance that must alter, but that of our respective mindset’s – and it is not an easy transition, I speak from personal experience.
Collectively speaking, as reluctant seniors all, our sensibilities and vision can, and all too often, become distorted when we wrongfully ascertain that life has only a couple of relevant chapters pertaining to the story of our existence – one being that much-cherished installment we refer to as youth - the other relating to our contributing years in the workplace and everything associated with them – wrongful assumption for sure!
On leaving the armed forces, I entered a melancholy period and remained at a loss as to how to fill the void. After many months, I discovered an outlet working with former soldiers who had fallen on testing times – a learning curve for me and the ideal panacea for what ailed my weary mind.
As time went on, I soon discovered that I had regained my appetite for being even more involved and thus, searched for more outlets to engage within the social and wider scheme of things, the mirror told me I had reached sixty, yet my mind was saying thirty.
Where I had opted for a safety net within an environment that was familiar to me – and felt comforted and assured by that existence, I overlooked the possibilities of working with those much younger than myself – essentially, it was pretty much a taboo subject and one I simply could not consider – what youngster of sixteen or under could possible find benefit from a liaison with an individual who had lived just over six decades on this troubled planet? –Few that I could think of!
During a wet, cold October evening last year, the doorbell stirred me from my post-dinner power-nap, a nightly thirty-minute interlude that I have enjoyed for many years and something that has little to do with my current vintage.
Convinced that I was being beckoned by the annual Trick or Treater’s, I armed myself with a few ‘goodies’ before opening the front door – half expecting to see the usual group of kids, bedecked in various colourful guises and scary masks, demanding appropriate fruits for their extensive labours.
I was somewhat astonished therefore to find my neighbour’s twelve year old daughter on the threshold – holding a couple of books and still in school uniform. Before I could enquire as to the nature of her surprise visit, she, in a somewhat agitated tone asked, “Do you remember the 1960s Mr K?”
I wanted to respond by saying that anyone who remembered that wonderful decade was never really there, but I thought better of it, I simply acknowledged her query in the affirmative and awaited justification for her question.
Within a couple of minutes, I learnt from Claire that her teacher had asked of her class to select a topic from the decade in question – and then each write 500 words on the subject of their choosing – given the fact that I was not twenty-one anymore, (in Claire’s considered opinion) she suspected I might be better placed to discuss her dilemma – “Mum is only thirty-seven and dad is just two years older” she innocently remarked, adding further, “They have heard of the Beatles and Martin Luther King but know “nuffin” about either of them!” I must stress at this juncture, if I was feeling elderly before I opened my door that particular evening – I felt a damn sight older after exchanging a few words with this ruthless if not charming child.
We soon established her concerns and the size of the task in hand – I invited her into the kitchen, my wife made a hot drink for us both and then we cracked-on with my recollections of days gone by.
Some three hours later, I received another knock on the door, on this occasion I was met with a concerned parent enquiring as to where her missing eldest daughter may possibly be – time had just flown by and I had erred in not paying sufficient notice to the clock – similar to my cookie jar I might add, Claire had certainly made good use of the time that night and quite surreptitiously, went on to consume the entire contents of my biscuit barrel!
It was a little disappointing to see her go as I loved every moment of her company - and remained astonished with the scope of her enquiring mind; it was just like being ‘Dad’ all over again.
Sleep did not come easy that night as I was enthralled by the fact that myself and a twelve year old girl, not of my kin, was so enraptured with what I had to say.
Young Claire submitted her thesis some days later, dealing specifically with the music of the early part of the decade, gaining a credible A-plus for her literary definition of the sixties pop industry…and it was better than good.
As we talked during that dank winter night, we sometimes branched off in the direction of the social aspects of the early 1960s, that special time when kids still walked to school, played ball games in city parks with little or no threat to their well-being and when children sat on Santa’s knee at Christmas time. In addition we also chatted about an American President who craved equal rights for all - and wanted to send a man to the moon by the end of the decade, not because it was easy but because it was hard.
We then discussed the loss of a brave American Negro who held dear a dream that his little black children would one day be able to play with little white children - but was not granted the right to see his vision realised.
We laughed together about the fact that nearly all male singers were called Bobby and female vocalists were either Sandra or Sandie or even Sandy – each crooning the same theme about failed puppy love.
It was so refreshing to escape back into a world from a child’s perspective, to a time where things were just a little simpler, a world that to the kids of my generation, never saw politics and war rear their ugly heads and the worst thing that could happen to you is that you didn’t become a school monitor or that your girlfriend/boyfriend opted to fall for another.
Even that wasn’t much of a worry because there was always another interesting extracurricular activity and another equally interesting potential girlfriend/boyfriend waiting in the wings.
I did take time to stress to my young guest that we are all young at one stage – adding that many of my age group would like to return to the fifties and sixties, solely to simply slap the back-of-the-skull of the youngster that was us all – a timely assault to stymie the errors and greenness of judgement that we all so naively extolled during the era of our adolescence and teenage rebellious years and possibly beyond – I am certainly one.
On the fifth of January this year, I was invited by Claire’s teacher, one Miss Watson, to attend the school and listen to her class deliver a series of lectures and participate in a school play concerning life in sixties Britain, this with the understanding that I would be prepared to summarise and deliver some of my own recollections regarding family values between then and now.
This exciting event takes place on Wednesday the 7th of March, a mere two days away and I’m looking forward to it immensely, to say nothing of mixing with a group of enthusiastic and educated youngsters, the same who until only recently, I regarded as the enemy.
We must never singularise or consider ourselves compartmentalised through age, there is scope out there to continue enjoying life providing we each want it. My status too has improved considerably, where I was once that “grumpy old guy who lives in the middle house” or ‘Mr K’ or simply ‘Sir’, I am now Gordon and I enjoy a rapport with a section of the community that was once upon a time, light years removed from where I stood.
To summarise best this fresh addition to my life – just before undertaking a recent trip to Germany, a number of youngsters discovered that I had played top-flight soccer for the British Army – another knock on the door, this time I was met with a sea of six or seven grubby faces, none yet of teenage years.
A shy spokesman from the rear of the group nervously enquired, “Hey Gordon, any chance you can come out for a kick-about. I did just that and scored twice in a thrilling 5-3 match, with tracksuits acting as goalposts.
We have a replay this coming Friday evening and I’ve been selected to play once again – result to follow soon!
My own book of life has many chapters and from where I stand at the present moment, I’m nowhere close to completing the final instalment. Retirement is the Genesis – it is a new beginning, a sublimely superb state-of-grace and one that should be embraced from the word ‘go’!
I’m waiting for no one, not even God, he’ll be along one day, in his own good time, I have far too much to do before that unavoidable rendezvous!!!
© Gordon G Kinghorn 2012