The 'other' retirement plans

Last Updated: Sat, Aug 24, 2013 05:57 hrs

What do retired people do? Some run book clubs - I know because I attended one as a speaker recently. Do they read books? Well, most of that generation do, yes, and purely for pleasure, but the book reading, or "acquainting" with an author, is entirely incidental. What all of them like is to find an excuse to socialise, so they tog up in "smart casuals" and pool in for a tea of olde-worlde cucumber sandwiches and an upside-down pineapple cake. There's some small talk that's exchanged with whoever the writer is, till a bloke says, "Hey, I need something a little stronger" and heads off in the direction of the bar. Its contents are examined. Out comes a bottle of scotch; somebody else wants wine. And before you can say Jeffrey Archer, it's turned into a cocktail party.

Retired people are hard-boiled nuts and can be unforgiving critics after a couple of tots down. They tear into their successors, all young professionals, the state of the economy, the government - and the poor sod of a writer who's wondering why he accepted the speaking assignment in the first place. He might as well have a drink too, because no one's going to bother with his book after a while, incestuous gossip is so much more interesting.

Some play golf so they can drink beer afterwards. There's even a newspaper discussion group that does it over port - all the gentlemen, in what must be respect for the temperamental beverage, suffer from bad joints and a worse temper. There are others I know who, now that they have the leisure, travel religiously every few months, alternating between "discovering" India and "finding out" about the rest of the world, daring to drive on the wrong side in Europe, looking for and booking themselves online, and making sure they're in the neighbourhood of a speakeasy by happy hour.

Fancy watching cricket together with something to cheer over? Since our stadiums are spoilsports when it comes to serving alcoholic stuff, by necessity such gatherings must occur in the watering holes attached to the hallowed portals of the clubs where you can still get your quinine water in old-fashioned glass bottles, the better to water down your gin with. The intellectual set prefers discussion over such superficial pleasures, which is why, before the doors of the bar open, you can find a queue forming outside - the only time they'll behave orderly that evening since they hope to grab both a table and the steward's eye.

Not all spouses share in these dubious revels. They prefer libraries and knitting groups and good deeds that are aimed at helping the less fortunate among society. They like their tea, though on the whole coffee with a little whisky doesn't go askance. They like their sundowners too, sometimes alone, just a little to warm the old bones… Some actually fancy their sundowners with breakfast, or before lunch, or instead of tea, the poor dears, but it doesn't really matter any more, does it? After all, the kids are grown up and away, and they don't have meetings, or parties, to attend any more.

Not, that is, unless there's some bloke who has written another unreadable book and wants to go on about it. Nothing wrong with that, but it takes a bit of something strong to sit through, which is why anything a little more edifying than tea will do. And it's all by way of opening yourself and your mind to some intellectual stimulation - right?

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