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Posts Tagged ‘winter’

I hate this time of year.

The clocks have now gone back one hour and the days seem much shorter, darker and so very much colder. It has been the same every year, for all of my life; but now I don’t have to be up early and off to work. Now, I can do the work I get, online, so I don’t have to leave the house.

Perhaps in those ‘leave the house’ days I appreciated the slightly lighter mornings in November, but never the very much darker drive home – THAT was ALWAYS horrendous, no matter where I was working.

I understand the reasons behind the original implementation; we had considerably more rural areas back then and there was a war to fight (the Germans implemented daylight saving time in 1916 – so we did too!). I guess the long hours worked by factory/mill workers during the Industrial Revolution meant that it didn’t affect them much (no matter what time the sun came up in November-January, they wouldn’t see it), so only over time, as working hours were reduced, did it ‘matter’.

I can see why those living in more northerly climes would want an extra hour of daylight in the morning as it could stay dark for an awful long time – but there really is just an exact amount of daylight available, there’s nothing we can do about that. So if it’s lighter in the morning, it’s depressingly darker in the early evening.

For those of us who hate winter, and who have the chance to ‘see’ some the day, it is very depressing to be pulling on the curtains at 4:30pm and closing down for the day. Especially when, as usual, the day has been overcast and (often) damp.

As I say …. I hate this time of year.

 

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I don’t think we’ve had a bad winter so far. We’ve had a bit of snow at home, but it came and it went. The car has rarely registered anything lower than -1°c and the roads have all been well gritted.

We drove through a completely different world on Saturday!

We are staying in a cottage fairly close to Thetford on the Norfolk/Suffolk borders. The reason for being here is very sad, but suffice to say that we are staying close to Sharon’s sister Joanne and Mike’s place. There are no motorways in East Anglia, unless you include the M11, which skirts around the edge of the region, so our choice of route could include busy ‘normal’ roads, heavily used by all kinds of traffic, or the skirt-around route using the A1 and M11 and Newmarket.

However, we took an in-between route that skirted the north of Peterborough before delving into Fenland, via Wisbech and Downham Market. It was a fabulous fairyland of a journey.

The A47 can be fairly busy but on Saturday, just like the M62 and A1 at the beginning of our journey, it was delightfully quiet. As we got closer to Stamford, the temperature began to drop; -2°c, -3°c and occasionally -4°c, by the time we reached Peterborough and the A47, it was a steady -5°c and not wavering. At this stage we entered a winter wonderland.

The road to Wisbech is fairly scenic at the best of times, but this time the countryside was covered in a beautiful, pristine white.

East Anglia had had a good shuttering of snow last week and it was till there. What’s more, it was exceptionally cold too, reaching a low of -9°c around the centre of Fenland. This meant that everything above ground was covered in hoar frost.

It was a real pleasure to drive along this exceptionally gorgeous display put on for us by nature.

Sadly, there was nowhere to pull over and photograph, so much of what we saw has to be committed to memory, but the picture here gives something of the flavour.

The air-frost itself had begin to disappear by Downham Market, but the fields and surrounding countryside were still a pleasure to behold.

Thank you Mr and Mrs Nature.

Hoar Frost image details: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Air_Hoar_Frost_2008-02-07.jpg by http://www.flickr.com/people/7365168@N03

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Sixty (two)

We now slip quietly into November, the clocks have gone back and the leaves have finally started to fall off the trees. I rarely see leaves on trees on my December birthday but the actual ‘drop’ gets closer to it year by year.

Must be global warming they say, but I first heard about global warning back in 1967 at college, it’s taken some time to recognise that hasn’t it?

Nevertheless, although I really hate winter, there’s a comforting regularity about it. Something you can expect to happen that happens! Unlike pension planning these days.

Not that I’m ready for retiring yet, not by a long chalk, but as much of my working life has been in self-employment, I’ve had to provide for my own pension whenever I could and whenever the law allowed me. These ‘private’ pensions mature at 60. I never expected much so I’m not as disappointed as I could be with what looks like coming to me in December.

Luckily, I’ve also spent almost twenty years in education and 15/80ths (which looks like being my share because of large periods of part-time work) of a teacher’s pension is better than a poke in the eye. However, due to market turbulence my private pension pot is tiny and the cost of annuities (which the law says I HAVE TO BUY) is huge. After this week’s stock market shocks, the value looks like being even worse than I’d hoped. Ten years ago, I might have expected something like 10-11% return on my pension pot; today I might struggle to get 4-5%.

And once again, I have to ask – what did I do wrong? Whenever I could, and could afford, I paid into private pensions. When I first started teaching (part-time) the law prevented me from supplementing my pension (which took some time to gain access to as I was prevented from joining the TPP until that situation was eventually overturned by European courts) with a private one – despite me being self-employed at the time. It was one or the other.

Then the current crash came along and they started messing with the national retirement age too. I may just be able to retire with a pension at 65, but that remains to be confirmed: at one time it looked like I would fall into the ‘retire at 66’ band. I won’t get a bus-pass until I’m almost 63 because of the sliding scale imposed some time ago. But I hear that prescriptions will be free (but for how long?) whoo ooo.

I suppose we get used to winter as it just comes once a year but pension time and retirement only comes once in a lifetime and, apart from making sure we have one, we have very little control.

Now, please remind me, what are we celebrating with all the bonfires? Ah – really? Now there’s a good idea!

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