Monday, September 28, 2009

Searching For Gravitas In An Emerging Social Milieu

We were at this Royal Medical Benevolent Society "do" the other evening and we were ushered into the room which appeared to have been reserved for the oldies. Everybody there seemed to have retired and there was much chatter about the ways in which those precious retirement years were being filled to the very brim with good works and useful endeavor. Some people were doing degrees in Egyptology whilst others were cultivating new species of hybrid tea roses. I developed an unhealthy interest in the accumulated fluff in my trouser turn-ups in order to avoid the dreaded question : "and how do you occupy your time?". Walking the dog, enjoying a decent pint, and a little harmless blogging doesn't sit well amongst all that service to local charities and research into the etymology of modern Sanskrit.



I was still turning this over in my mind the following morning when I was getting Amy ready for her walk and downloading the latest Guardian Football podcast to my MP3 Player. And there on the iTunes site I saw something called iTunesU. It is a kind of University of the Modern Age where instead of doing boring things like turning up at lectures you can download them to your iPod and learn whilst you are lying in bed ... or in my case whilst you are walking the dog. Participating institutions include respectable institution like Oxford, Cambridge, Stanford and Cornell. It's free, it's easy and it is an instant way to acquire some post-retirement gravitas.


I eventually chose a series of lectures delivered by a certain Dr Beat Kumin (I kid you not) of the University Of Warwick on the role of the 18th century European public house as dynamic multi-functional spacial environments. I downloaded the first episode and set off merrily on my way. By the time I had got to the top of the road my mind was wandering: by the time I got to Bradly Roundabout I was practically asleep. It was like being transported back forty years to one of those pointless, pseudo-academic, jargon-rich exercises in self-abuse that used to pass for university lectures. My search for gravitas had come to an end. I clicked the MP3 Player forward and listened to the Archers instead.


Later I went for a pint at the Sportsman in Huddersfield and wrote the visit up for my Great Yorkshire Pubs Blog. I suppose I could have written about how the pub was no longer fulfilling its central role as an inter-cultural communications space within the emerging social milieu. But I didn't. I wrote about curved mirrors and bitter beer instead. What the hell, if anyone asked what I do with all my retirement time I will simply say "I enjoy it".

17 comments:

  1. Enjoyed the post Alan. You're dead right, there's a lot of horse s..t talked about retirement activities, as well as during some of these pseudo lectures. I must say I have really enjoyed doing the BA & MA, especially the dissertations as they were my subjects, and I enjoyed the research. I don't have a dog and we don't have the moors, so it helps me pass the time while Susi works and keeps me in a style that I can get used to. Have a pint for me.

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  2. John : I am sure you are right - it just depends on the subject (and the lecturer) But for me pubs remain places to drink a pint, have a chat and maybe read the paper - not the subject of detailed research. I will have the pint for you and toast your name as I lift the glass.

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  3. "Walking the dog, enjoying a decent pint, and a little harmless blogging doesn't sit well..."

    As a beer-drinking blogger who wants to get a dog this doesn't bode well...

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  4. I absolutely enjoyed this! And it sounds like you are a professional lint-picker to boot! ha!

    I can't imagine going back to college and listening to those lectures...and not just listening but retaining it for exams. Good luck to your Alexander and my Taylor as they do that today! :)

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  5. mo : Mo, your blog is NOT harmless. It is good quality stuff which is why I am a fan. Fear not and get the dog.
    Betsy : Amen to that. Mind you they have all the Powerpoint presentations from their lectures available to download these days. Not like in my day when .....

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  6. think i will skip out on iTunesU...had a hard enough time making it through university. i hear what you are saying about the pub and enjoy a good debate or conversation in the coffee shop to expand my mind...or a good book b/c if it is not good, i can always put it down. enjoy it!

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  7. I think you learn more in a pub anyway. Have a pint for me, friend!

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  8. Fun post--& you have nothing to apologize about--with your blogging & various other activities, it sounds like a fulfilling retirement to me! You also prove that some rather obscure subjects can be fun--not deadly dull as in the Ipod lecture.

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  9. LOL. It's too bad that lecture didn't work out for you but I wouldn't give up on ITunes U entirely- I hear there are some amazing things on it! I have yet to try it but am looking forward to doing so one of these days when I have an afternoon free (walking the dog sounds perfect).

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  10. Have another pint on me. I really appreciate your attitude and your philosophy about all of that. What are you going to do now was a question I heard when I walked away from technology and education? I find that it is time to do whatever I want and I really don't want to impress anyone, I just want to share life, absorb all that is around me, and have a great cup of coffee. My wife and I are going to see the newest Star Trek movie at a science center with a dome theater. Saw it on flat screen so on the dome it will be like walking around in the movie. Pet the dog, buddy and take a walk.

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  11. Now you're talking . .I didn't know you had a "Great Yorkshire Pubs" blog. That's worthwhile research in my book! Thanks for the tip. I need to break out the treadmill and I'm not fond of my daughters music on the iPod! I'll get me an education instead. Talk of P's and degrees isn't restricted to the retired. I'm sometimes embarrassed to say that I'm someones Executive Assistant but hey, I'm getting paid more than a University Tutor!

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  12. Forget Egyptology and hybrid roses. Dog, pint and blog sounds pretty darn wonderful to me.

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  13. Bravo, good for you. I fully support post-retirement enjoyment of life. I fully support pre-retirement enjoyment of life too, by the way. Oh yes, and I fully support everyone's freedom to choose. :-)

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  14. Alan, the question is, are you happy spending your time writing blogs, drinking beer and walking your dog?
    The purpose of life is to find your fulfilment, so if you've found yours, who cares?
    Plus I think you need to re-evaluate the educational quality of your blogs...

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  15. Oh for a contented retirement (right now) - I've just had to learn how to make acceptable mitre corners for kitchen units - I'd hoped I could avoid them but my fudging idea didn't look good!!! Shucks.

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  17. I found out today that I could drop to 2 days a week at Work starting 2nd November.....................Time to dust off all those textbooks I got on Accumulated Fluffology! By The Way Alan.thought you might be interested in
    this if you can tear yourself away from the hybrid tea roses.?

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