Don's diary: 'one career over, another launched'

June 18, 2004

First trimester

How do you know when you're ready to retire, I asked? You just will, said Professor Already Retired, and I did. But you love your job, they said, you're a 24/7. Will you do some part-time lecturing, marking, research? No, I said, "all passion spent"1 for RAE 2008, a 26th student intake, another keynote speech in Timbuktu. It's cold turkey for me: only three concluding doctoral students, one book and a few school visits to make.

With "Autumn nodding o'er the yellow plain"2, I find myself nodding off scarily often. Is it sleeping sickness, ME, work withdrawal symptoms? Somehow I cook for 90 at my October retirement party. In November, I represent the university abroad for the last time; and Lincoln becomes the first British university admitted to the prestigious US University Council for Educational Administration. Acknowledge applause for preparing the application. Go to sleep again.

"Got through the falling asleep stage yet?" a retired colleague asks.

"Three to six months, you'll re-energise." Delicious, I yawn.

Second trimester

Christmas: - 30C, 12 inches of snow. Retirement allows three weeks with US-resident daughter. "Too dangerous for seniors to go out," informs the television. I stay in writing my last academic article, tidy up a second edition book. And sleep.

Back home, I rediscover my crafty life skills. Create six camouflage evening dresses (don't ask), brush up on photography, card-making and knitting. Get fit with walking, swimming, morris and ballet dancing. Establish Red Hat chapter (do ask). Discover a cultural world of literature, film and theatre. Suddenly, the long sleep is passing.

Attend degree ceremony - a happy ritual in that soaring creation of a cathedral, and no end-of-day marking to spoil it. Are you keeping busy, they ask? I tell them I am lest they think retirement scary, but my "busy" is not their "busywork of administrivia".3 Third trimester

"Frabjous"4 wedding day for younger daughter. The first family event in years to which I am able to give wholehearted attention. Bathos as newlyweds return to Canada. Their winter will be - 60C - a great place to write my final academic oeuvre5 and replay my Professor Zapp6 with Saskatoon University friends.

At Lincoln's College of Professors annual meeting, I realise I haven't seen an agenda since August. They've risen 30 points in the league table since I left (just coincidence, of course) and now have 30 professors, six times more than two years ago. Glance at The Times Higher, the marching orders of some battle I have long forgotten.

Are you enjoying yourself, they ask? I try to temper my enthusiasm, knowing they are incredulous that one can cope with an apparent lack of position, money, international conferences and academic discourse. I know now - it's easy.

Rebirth: June

Visit the university's new arts and architecture building; recollect my 1996 start in offices adjacent to the prison (of later Jeffery Archer fame). I spend all day reading in the library (never did that while fully employed). Energised, I stride off to morris dancing. One career over, another launched.

Angela Thody is emerita professor, International Institute for Education Leadership, Lincoln University.

1. In my previous existence, I would have footnoted this source, but now you can find it yourselves!

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid encore.

4. And again.

5. Research Writing and Presentation, Sage 2005.

6. Oh, come on, you must have read David Lodge.

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