A couple of years ago we sold our house in Richmond, where we had lived since 1965. Our three daughters had left the nest long since, many of our friends in the area had gone to live elsewhere and as I had finally retired I no longer needed to live in the metropolis. But the main reason for selling was that I had not put enough into our pension fund during my working life and my entrepreneurial efforts over the years had not succeeded in creating a comfortable cash cushion. We were living in a highly desirable house, in a quiet cul-de-sac adjoining Richmond Park, which we could sell and with the substantial proceeds buy a nice place in a town out of commuter range of London and put the surplus into our pension.
Paul and Penny had been with us on holiday on the Canal du Midi earlier that year and had told us that they were downsizing from Sherborne, for similar reasons, to Buckingham where they had just bought a Georgian house in the centre of this ancient market town which lies twenty miles to the north east of Oxford and about ninety minutes drive to our two daughters in London. When we returned from France Julia and I checked out a couple of other towns as well as Buckingham, but it soon became obvious that you get "more bricks for your buck" there than you do in Bath or Saffron Walden.
We found an ideal house and spent eighteen months adapting it to our needs and seeking to integrate ourselves into our new community. I then made an attempt to resurrect the language flashcard project on which I had previously spent so much time and money, but decided not to press ahead after my trip to my dental clinic in Budapest, during which I had canvassed a number of language schools in the city without eliciting much enthusiasm for the concept.
I had brought with me to our new home the golf clubs which had been languishing in the attic since I had resigned from the Richmond Golf Club a dozen years previously when pruning costs had been necessary. I then joined the Buckingham Golf Club and took a number of lessons from the pro. The old magic (if, indeed, there had ever been any) had alas vanished and I did not even feel sufficiently confident to venture onto the course proper from the practice ground. Therefore I did not resume my membership at the beginning of this year, thus closing striking another pastime off the list.
All this while there lurked at the back of my mind a possibility that I had entertained even before leaving Richmond, the possibility of doing a postgraduate degree at the local university. The MA in Biography is open to graduates either in History or English, and there are no upper age restrictions. My hesitation about enrolling all along had been due to the fact that there is no individual in whom I was sufficiently interested to study in depth for the final dissertation, but I concluded that doubtless something would turn up if I pressed ahead, so in April I applied, I was interviewed then accepted and on Friday I went through the registration process.
I am now the proud bearer of a University of Buckingham satchel which could contain my new Toshiba notebook and various other electronic gizmos, but these I think I will put in my claret-coloured hessian Waitrose wine bag when I go to meet my fellow students with Professor Jane Ridley at noon tomorrow.