Gosh, fifteen years. It does seem a long time, and an awful lot has happened in my life since I stopped working.
Have I used those years well - or wasted them? I certainly could have done more with my time - taken up more interests, learned more skills - but retirement is about casting aside the burden of things you have to do in favour of things that you choose. So I've felt under no compulsion whatever to be 'useful' to society. In fact I made only one resolution back in 2005, which was to get up early in the morning - soon after 7.00am, with an alarm set so that I would achieve that - and not waste half the morning in bed. I did not want to become slothful and sluggish. I have kept to this one thing and, being thus an early bird, I have generally caught the worm.
I really haven't added a single important new interest or pastime to the things I was doing in 2005. Is that bad? I had many other things to contend with in the period 2008 to 2011, which left me with little opportunity to relax and try something new. And at some point after 2011 I decided that is was becoming too late to embark on major new commitments. They would only be worth the effort if I could make good use of them.
So I haven't tried, for instance, to learn a language. It sounds fun, to learn Spanish, or German (two languages I didn't do at school) or something less obvious, such as Welsh (which I did learn at school until eleven, but have since mostly forgotten). But then, what is the point? Am I going to visit Spain or Germany again and again, and delve into their culture? No. What about Welsh? Much closer to home, and I do go caravanning in Wales. But again, I'm never going to immerse myself in Welsh culture, and learning the language would have no practical purpose for me. Besides, I know only too well that my ear for language is as poor as my ear for music.
What else do retired people do?
Dancing? I'm not a person who delights in physical skills, and as I have such a poor sense of rhythm, the endeavour would be doomed. Besides, my dodgy knee ligaments would never stand up to it.
A sport, then? I'm not too old for golf, and you'd think that as golf was Dad's passion I would have inherited a strong liking for it myself. But no. In later life, both Mum and Dad were good at bowling and derived great fun and satisfaction from bowling club life. But I'm not drawn to it, and I'm no team player. In any case, however friendly the play, both golf and bowling require a sharp appetite for competition, and I'm not competitive.
Gardening? I like a neat garden, but would never be able to find the time to tend a well-planted flower bed. It's enough to create a pleasing overall effect through mowing the lawns and occasionally clipping the shrubs and rear hedge. I know my limits.
Entertaining? That's expensive, and in any case I haven't got the right house for it: my home is too small.
Painting? When I so very much prefer photography? A non-starter.
So I've done my own thing, which involves a lot of driving around the countryside, seeking out good places and subjects for my camera. That's 15,000 miles a year in normal times, and 16,000 photos a year taken, processed and enjoyed. Plus some creative writing, in the form of blogging.
I have looked at doing other things that might appeal. I have a longstanding wish to take up knitting, for example. But again, to what end? I have no grandchildren to knit things for, and if I want clothes I prefer to have them now, rather than in a few months' time when I've finally finished them. (I am not a fast worker) Frankly, I am clumsy and inept at most things that require deftness and a sure touch, and therefore doomed never to become skilful at a craft.
And so the list of possible activities in retirement goes on and on. And I can always find a reason for not investing time, money and effort into something that other people find absorbing and rewarding. The truth is that the little I do is enough. And if that little keeps me happy, and free of stress, surely that in itself is an achievement, and proves something important?
The bottom line is that I enjoy my retirement, and see nothing vital missing from it. I'm looking forward to another fifteen years of just the same.