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Open Features: Retirement

...at my retirement party it was affectionately said they would always remember me as the one who would always help a one-legged Afghan over a stile...

Eileen Perrin and her husband Les both retired in the same year, 1986.

Eileen continues her account of her life and times.

On January 20th 1986 the U.K. and France announced plans to construct a Channel tunnel.

In America I.B.M. bought out the first lap top computer.
The M25 motorway was completed.

1986 was the year in which both Les and I retired from the workplace, Les at Easter and myself at the end of term at Kingsway College in July. As Les took early retirement he had what was called a ‘golden handshake’. Two years earlier in 1984 he had been presented with a beautiful French atmosphere clock by Jaegar le Coultre for his twenty five years service.

When I retired a few months later in July, I had asked for more practical things and one gift was a pair of long-handled secateurs to prune my taller shrubs. There was a spread of drinks, sandwiches and cakes. Some of the teaching staff came in to wish me good luck in the future.

In the following weeks I thought over this change in my life and wondered how throughout our changing roles in life we are dealing with it.

How had I dealt with things I asked myself? What of those years at work?
It wasn’t until I worked in the busy London College office with the ‘phone ringing continually, I came to understand why the public sometimes had to be fobbed off when making their enquiries about courses.

During September enrolment, applications arrived twice - daily by the sack-full. No time to open them - must answer the telephone. “Yes, we are dealing with it” was the stock answer.

Many and varied were the situations dealt with in my seventeen years there. Not batting an eyelid, counting thick wads of newly-changed English notes handed me by sons of Greek, Hong Kong and Iranian businessmen, hoping the money would not be snatched from under my nose. Their enrolment fees were £1,000 or more and the students had not yet had time to open a U.K. bank account. The Office Manager said if there was an incident to just hand over the money. He didn’t want anyone getting hurt.

Being attached to the Science department I took more overseas fees than other departments. Behind me, high up, I used to hang a bright green Marks and Spencer carrier bag which contained all the bits and pieces needed during a long, hot enrolment session. Easily seen from the entrance at the other end of the hall, the office manager dubbed me the Bag Lady. Overseas students could recognise a Marks and Sparks bag, even if they couldn’t yet read the sign “Science department”.

In my bravado I had prided myself that I could deal with anyone, for I always believed in giving time to listen to students who had problems in understanding, and was often taken to task by the office manager who said ‘not to waste time and it wasn’t my job’.

So, at my retirement party it was affectionately said they would always remember me as the one who would always help a one-legged Afghan over a stile.
That year we holidayed in Guernsey, flying from Southampton. We stayed in St. Peter Port and toured the beautiful island in a hired car. Just like they have at Edinburgh castle, a noonday gun is fired from the old fort. During our stay we took a boat trip across to the island of Herm and saw the shell beach and the famous herb garden.

After retirement with thoughts that we would have to be careful of our spending now that neither of us was earning, I began to keep a record or everything we spent. After about six months of this tedious task, we ended it, deciding that we were going to be alright.

On television the popular ‘Only Fools and Horses’ was still on, with David Jason as Del boy, and the ‘Blackadder’ series with Tony Robinson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Rowan Atkinson. There was also the Police series ‘The Bill’, and Joan Collins in ‘Dynasty’.

A film made in Australia, ‘Crocodile Dundee’ with Paul Hogan was popular.
In January 1987 news came that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s envoy in Lebanon had been kidnapped in Beirut and he was not released until 1991.

In June Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first woman Prime Minister was elected for the third time. She had initially been elected in 1979. She decided to resign in 1990 and was succeeded by John Major.

In the summer of 1987 we shared a holiday with our daughter Cathy and family and her in-laws. We rented a place in Charmouth, Dorset, called ‘The Cheese House’ and spent time on the lovely beach with our three granddaughters, Elizabeth, Rosemary and Josephine.

The driverless Docklands Light Railway was opened in July by Queen Elizabeth the second.

On October 27th a hurricane force wind swept over southern England and devastated great swathes of forest. Twenty-three people were killed. That same night our sixth grandchild, Rowland Lawrence Parr was born in Northwick Park hospital, Harrow to Cathy and Geoff.

When we visited my mother in Essex we saw huge oaks torn out of the ground alongside a green park on the road to Leigh.

On Remembrance Day in November eleven were killed by an I.R.A. bomb at the Enniskillen war memorial service.

On November 18th there was a terrible underground fire at Kings Cross Underground station, and 31 people died. It was in and around the very same set of passageways and escalators that Les and I had been using for years when travelling to work.

The construction of the Channel Tunnel from Dover to Calais was initiated on the first of December 1987.


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