Plain Jane 14th December 2012: Coping with (his) retirement

Isle of Thanet GazetteAs some of you may know, I write a fortnightly column – alternating with My-Mate-Mike (he who hovers just to the right of Genghis Khan and is considered a suitable antidote for what he views as my ‘dangerously-pink” tendencies) – in the Isle of Thanet Gazette. In theory this appears online on In practice it frequently doesn’t. If it does, you need a degree in orienteering to find it and then, when you get there, it doesn’t bear my name.

Plain Jane. Isle of Thanet Gazette. Friday December 14th 2012

A missive from one Hilda Rarebit of Ramsgate (real name supplied). She doesn’t want her husband to know she is writing, as she is seeking my guidance on coping with retirement. His! Mr Rarebit is due to hang up his working shoes come Christmas.

“Have you,” Hilda enquires, “got any tips on how I am going to hack it  when he’s under my feet all day?”

Well, strange you should ask. I am not sure whether the good Mrs Rarebit, who describes herself as “an avid Gazette reader”, recalls that my own spouse is some two decades my senior and put down his own tools of the trade (a phone and corkscrew) longer ago than I care to remember. Or if she has heard that my enduring ambition is to be an agony aunt (a reincarnation I am hoping to slide past the editor at the Christmas Drinks, leaving Mike-things-aren’t-wot-they-used-to-be-Pearce to moan about the council and gripe about Turner Contemporary, while I solve the Isle’s dilemmas). But I am ready to meet the challenge. My advice, dear Hilda, is as follows:

  1. If he lives for the 18th hole, count your blessings!  You may have railed against being a golf widow for all the years he disappeared for hours whenever the kids needed collecting or your mother was coming to stay, or be used to muttering darkly about his train-spotting, fishing and time in the pub. But a good, solid, time-consuming sport or hobby partaken outside the home, will now be your saviour. Forget socks and hankies and present him on Tuesday week with a new notebook and bobble hat, tankard or gross of maggots.
  2. Discourage any interest in cooking. It may sound good to have all the food prepared but it won’t end there. There is a definite syndrome displayed by Men Who Are At Home Too Much and it is encapsulated by the word “system”.  As in “I have a system when I do that” whenever he watches you chop an onion or wash the kitchen floor.  And he may be watching a lot! My friend Anna was driven to distraction by  her newly-retired husband  delivering  lectures on the correct way to both stack and empty the dishwasher until she was forced to threaten him with one of the saucepans he’d re-positioned. He’ll also use every utensil you own and expect you to wash up.
  3. Give him other things to be in charge of (if these happen to be based at the end of the garden, so much the better). In our house it is the Composting and Recycling System. This has involved our son receiving in-depth training on The Correct Way to Flatten a Cardboard Box. And regular interrogations over whose transgression had led to a tin being found among the newspapers. But it gets him into the driveway.
  4. shed 671283Be creative when his birthday comes along. Buy him membership to the gym, evening classes or a new shed with running water and its own kitchen.
  5. Get a shed of your own.
  6. Leave articles lying around claiming older men are sexier if they spend several hours a day in the fresh air. Or possibly a week…
  7. And those who do voluntary work live longer.
  8. Encourage him to join things. Flattery can work well here. That committee/theatre group/local choir really needs someone like YOU. And  they’re crying out for aid workers in Africa…
  9. Make a space of your own. Take over the spare room as your crafts or sewing room. You don’t actually have to do either. Just leave lots of material and coloured card all over the floor then, shut the door,  put your feet up and  read the paper.
  10. Book yourself on a long cruise.
If YOU have a problem you’d like answering, send it to Dear Plain Jane (address below). And Hilda, don’t mention it…
Plain Jane
Isle of Thanet Gazette
Suite 1
3rd Floor
Mill Lane House
Mill Lane
Kent CT9 1JU
Editor: Rebecca Smith


  1. Marvellous, Jane. I laughed myself silly. Will share your advice with all my pals who have retiring husbands. I’ll credit you, natch. You forgot to mention getting him lined up to support the local library, especially those with a library bus and picket parliament!

  2. My partner has shown hints of these tendancies ever since I met him…Which is disturbing as he is now only 28. You are absolutely right that you should give him something to be in charge of! I have given mine the cat litter trays. He has full responsibility of poop scooping….That taught him to stick his beak in and critisise my housekeeping skills…. 😉

  3. Great post. My husband is retired and it works very well. He is a golfer, though doesn’t reside on the course full time.
    But I would add a couple of things to your marvellous list: encourage him to take a little part time job. You know, for ‘pin-money’ – the sort of thing that women were encouraged to do some years back.
    Buy him a greenhouse – a great extra to the shed which means you might get loads of fresh tomatoes as well as a bit of peace.
    And ensure that he understands that his new full time job is to bring tea and biscuits to you at the computer at regular intervals.
    Everyone should be able to feel useful, even when retired. 😀

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