One of today's tasks is to fill in a form that the Pension Service have sent me. This is to obtain another State Pension forecast. I can estimate what it should be pretty closely, but now that I'm post-GRC, and 'female' contribution and payment rules apply, my assumptions may be a little off! Apart from that, having commenced contributions in 1970, there are some historical complications that affect the net amount of my State Pension in small ways. So it's best to enquire.
Although the Pension won't begin until November 2014, when I'm 62, that moment is not so far away. I have in fact regarded myself as 'a pensioner' ever since retirement from my job in 2005. But I got out at 52, which frankly felt a bit young! Especially as I looked like someone in their forties. I thought (on appearances) that I'd be regarded as a lazy, job-shy layabout. Maybe even a benefit fraudster. The truth - that I'd worked non-stop for 35 years since 18, had never claimed a penny in benefits, and was not doing any such thing now - wasn't obvious to a casual glance. I braced myself to explain in vain to stick-wagging old codgers. And end up being stigmatised, especially by those old enough to have Fought In The War.
In fact there was no such social tut-tutting. But then I went out of my way not to gloat or exult about enjoying a life of leisure on an ample Civil Service Pension. That helped to keep people's feathers unruffled.
Believe me, I respected older people. I thought they had a lot to put up with, and didn't deserve bad behaviour and mockery - real or assumed - from young retirees. I had the example of my very own parents, and several much older people that I'd known, to show me that after 60 the Long Goodbye began in earnest. At first, by little degrees, so that there wasn't much amiss at 70, but by 80 you were beginning to live on borrowed time. 90 was attainable with luck and good health, but beyond that life was getting to be unsatisfactory, with immobility issues to contend with, contemporary friends and family dead or unreachable, and a general feeling that more or different things could have been done with the active years. It is a sad truism that the wisdom of old age comes too late to be of much practical use. I haven't forgotten the poet John Betjeman's regret in his last days that he'd not had 'more sex'. He'd had many experiences of the mind, but had missed out on something basic and physical, an important aspect of life as a human being. At least he could laugh about it; but there's a lesson in his remark.
So completing this Pension Forecast form will, in its small way, fix my attention on the years ahead, and where they lead to. Years not to be frittered away on silly things. At least, despite all the happenings of the past three or four years, I feel steeled and well-prepared to face whatever may be in store. And here's a fresh thought: who has the better time in old age? Old gentlemen, or old ladies? I reckon that there's more scope for having a ball as an old lady. Well, that's a bit of luck! Funny how it all came right in the end.