Going Nowhere Slow
Autumn into Winter
A short story by David Muir
The book describes events during his first year of retirement and is tales of nature, gardens, science and surgery.
Below is a brief introduction to this book.
A Brief Background
In the past, I was going nowhere fast, and now I’m going nowhere slow.
How did that come to pass? Read on if you want to know.
1955 was a good year.
Jim Henson invents Kermit the Frog, West Germany becomes a sovereign nation, Rosa Parks refuses to obey a bus driver in Montgomery, Alabama and Cardiff is declared capital of Wales.
September 18th was particularly special.
The United Kingdom annexes Rockall, the People newspaper announces that Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean were spies and not diplomats as had been previously reported and, I was born. I was the fourth of five siblings with two older sisters, a younger sister and an older brother. I was brought up in the Scottish Borders town of Selkirk.
As a child, I liked watching things, I liked growing things and I loved burning things, in bonfires, with matches, or with a magnifying glass. Was I genetically predisposed to become a chemistry teacher (or perhaps an arsonist), or did my early environment and experience lead me towards it? Probably a bit of both.
After primary school, I went to the local Selkirk High School before heading off to St Andrews University in 1973 where I did a bit of physics and geology, but chemistry was most fun so that’s what I concentrated on. Coming from a small town like Selkirk, I enjoyed St Andrews as it was only around twice the size of Selkirk. You were less likely to get lost, in more ways than one, than if you went to college or university in a larger place like Edinburgh. There was more to St Andrews than just the academic and tourist attributes: I met my wife Lynn there, in 1974.
After St Andrews, I spent a year at Moray House College of Education in Edinburgh, qualifying as a chemistry and science teacher. My first school placement as a student teacher was at Selkirk High School, much to the discombobulation of some of my old teachers. ‘Poacher-turned-gamekeeper’ was one of the more delicate expressions used to describe me; this was taken as a complement.
Lynn and I moved to Edinburgh where she worked for one of the large financial institutions and I taught in Holy Rood High School for five years, moving to Portobello High School for the next thirty two years, before retiring from teaching. This brings me to why I’m actually writing this document.
When colleagues found out that I was retiring, the question most commonly asked was how I would fill in my time. I found this rather difficult to understand because as far as I was concerned, there is not enough time in the day to do all the things that I want to do. My trouble is that I’m curious. I want to know the how’s and why’s of stuff, not just the stuff itself. A thing I found slightly sad was that ex-colleagues who had retired before me were asking me the same question as to how I would fill my day.
I didn’t really want to answer birds, insects, flowers, trees, mosses, fungi, how they interact and affect each other, the chemistry and chemicals in their different constituent parts, how they evolved and continue to evolve their mechanisms to attract and defend, and the etymology of how they all got their common and scientific names.
I didn’t really want to answer clouds, their formation and nomenclature, how they are beautiful in their own right, the optical effects they exhibit, the weather patterns associated with clouds; never mind astronomy, literature, history, gardening, writing and lots of other interests, pastimes and assorted ways of keeping fit or experiencing new environments, situations and learning.
So what did I answer? I’d generally say that I like wandering and pondering, and leave it at that. If I got some funny looks and comments, I’d expand this short answer with the explanation that I like watching stuff like the sky, and grass growing, and that I liked thinking. Folk would then smile and nod, then walk off shaking their head, probably assuming that I’d already entered my dotage. Maybe they were right.
It crossed my mind that perhaps I should document how I kept myself entertained during my first year of retirement, if I survived it, given that Lynn may get a little annoyed with me underfoot, metaphorically speaking. Not a diary of daily events, but a log of what entertains me, and of some the ponderings around the science that underlie the simple things that we see, experience and take for granted, and how knowledge of that science raises the simple and mundane to remarkable and marvellous.
Writing Going Nowhere Slow has been one of my ways of staying sane and entertaining myself at the same time. If anyone reads this and finds it diverting, informative, and perhaps amusing or thought-provoking in parts, then that makes the writing of Going Nowhere Slow even more worthwhile. The writing has been fun and satisfying in itself.
This is a beautifully written story about David’s first year in Retirement and the age old question of “how will you fill your time”. I agree with David that there is still so much to learn, so much to discover that retirement is the time where can blossom. Writing is one skill that many retiree’s can pick up, write their memoirs or short stories.
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