Tuesday, September 27, 2022

On being 'retired'

Let's leave the obscenity of the current government's policies on one side for now and think about other things.

I've been thinking about retirement, and how I've never liked the word. That might be because I've had a patchwork life in which only 6 years was spent working full time in an office outside the house. There has been plenty of work done in other venues and in other forms, some of it well paid, some of it not paid. I've just not had that day after day, year after year, monthly pay cheque for 'going out to work' which ends for a lot of people in retirement. 

Anyway, the word retirement has always conjured up the picture in my head of someone who has become a blob. So it follows I have never wanted to think of myself as retired, even though I am 72 and have a pension and no paid work. Until 2 years ago I called myself a writer. Now I call myself a painter. I realised recently that I actually think of painting as 'my work,' which is exceedingly strange. 

On Monday I was sitting in bed keeping warm at 7.30 in the morning not wanting to read the news and depress myself, and I decided to do the mending instead. And as I was mending it occurred to me that this is what retirement is all about - the liberty to do what you like when you like. And what's so bad about that? 

The other thing I've been thinking about is my obsession with grass in my paintings. This is the latest. 

Acrylic on canvas board 50 x 74 cms

My brother thinks it is finished. I am not so sure. But that's beside the point. Why do I like grass so much?

I like the lines. I like the way it catches the light. I like the variety and the delicacy of the seedheads. 

And it's everywhere, at least where I live. So many of my paintings are about the everyday. I love the everyday, in art, in fiction, in drama.

I watched the latest version of Little Women again the other day, smiled again in recognition at Jo running down the street in joy after having her first story accepted for publication, cried again when Amy says she has been second best to Jo all her life. (Wasn't Florence Pugh fantastic as Amy?)  And then there is this quote which Jo reads to Amy:

“We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it, if it were not the earth where the same flowers come up again every spring that we used to gather with our tiny fingers as we sat lisping to ourselves on the grass, the same hips and haws on the autumn hedgerows.... What novelty is worth that sweet monotony where everything is known and loved because it is known?”

One advantage of getting older is having the time to appreciate the beautiful details of our immediate surroundings. 

And now I need to get to work on my new painting, which is of grass and corn and bright red poppies.


Shafia said...

Your thoughts on retirement resonated with me, to be able to do what you like, when you like. I'm not retired, but I have been working from home since the first lockdown and I honestly could never go back to a "9-5" in the office. A little bit like retirement, I work my hours according to what else I want/need to do. Some days I will start at 6.30am, have a long lunch to go shopping, meet a friend etc. before turning my laptop on again, or decide to work on the weekend. It's liberating and I wonder why so many of us believed that working set hours, five days a week until we reached our pension age was normal.

On a side note, your paintings are so good.

Shafia x

Christine said...

Leave that picture alone. It is finished. xx

Sue Hepworth said...

Interesting to hear your experience of your working from home, Shafia. And thank you for the compliment on my paintings.

Chrissie, thanks for your advice on the painting. I’m looking at it now and am baffled as to why it is finished. This is one of the few paintings I’ve done that I am not attached to. My (painter) brother thinks it’s my best but he hasn’t seen any of them in person - only photographs.

Anonymous said...

I love the painting of grasses! It's so beautiful!

Sue Hepworth said...

Lovely to hear from you!
And thank you. xxx