I don’t want half measures
Stuart 68, married. Lives in London. Retired teacher from Darlington.
How are You?
I’m on top of the world. I have a fulfilled life. I could do with another 24 hours in the day though. I’m busy. I have an allotment - it took a long time to get it up and running and it’s heavy work. I go to life drawing classes every week and staring at a live body takes an awful lot of concentration; getting the shape right, the light, the shading, it’s fascinating and wonderful. It takes all your focus and the time flies. I go fishing too - there’s not enough time in the day.
How did you end up in London?
I came down South in 1974 to spend four years at teacher training college and have been here ever since. After leaving school at 16 I worked in industry as a pattern maker * but when I was 19 I thought I wouldn’t mind being a teacher. I had no idea how to go about becoming one as I didn’t have any qualifications. I signed up to night school, got the right qualifications and was accepted into teacher training college - they were the best years of my life.
I retired from teaching 10 years ago. I think I had the work life balance right - teaching didn’t run my life. Colleagues used to say they took two weeks to wind down during the holidays, it took me two minutes. I work to live not live to work. After a long career in teaching I was counting down the years to retirement. I got fed up with it about 10 years before I finished.
*A pattern is a block of wood that’s shaped to the drawing/design you’re given. It’s then taken to the foundry where the moulder moulds it in sand and it’s compacted. It’s a bit like making sand pies at the beach, I’m over simplifying it but you get the gist.
How do you see yourself?
I talk a lot. I am a half full person. I don’t want half measures. I’m optimistic. I look forward to tomorrow but I like looking back too. I’m a bit nostalgic. I like Leonard Cohen, he might have written depressing lyrics but he was an optimistic guy deep down.
How do you think other people see you?
Traditional. I wont say I am resistant to change but it’s the rate of change I’m not keen on. I am a Luddite, stuck in my ways to a degree. I like things to be planned. I like order and structure to my week. You have to have something to do everyday or it’s a waste of a life.
What do you like about yourself?
I like me probably better now than I did when I was a teenager. I think I was too loud back then. I didn’t try at school, I wasn’t interested. I just wanted to go fishing. My uncle used to fly fish on the River Tees. As kids, we’d go and watch him then one day I thought I’d like to have a go. My dad bought me some fishing gear, and me and my mate went off and that’s how my passion for fishing started. Once your’e down by the river you’re just contemplating. I try and go every couple of weeks. Sometimes I can have the whole lake to myself - it’s fantastic. Occasionally I catch a fish, gut it and have it for me tea. In fact one of my favourite meals is - new potatoes, carrots and veg that I’ve grown on my allotment and fish that I’ve caught myself.
What do you think about marriage?
Over the years we talked about getting married but neither of us were that bothered. But 18 months ago after we re did our will, the solictor told us there would be a hefty inheritance tax to pay if we werent married so we decided to do it. A simple occasion; we got two witnesses and went along to the registry office. It was fun, we didn’t take it seriously.
What do you think about children?
I never wanted them, I don’t know why - I just didn’t.
Where does all your energy go?
I’ve got plenty of energy, the more you do the more energy you have.
What do you think about Life?
I do not believe we are alone. It’s impossible that we are the only life in the Universe. There must be at least one other planet with life on it - there’s got to be.
What do you think about Death?
I all for euthanasia - I would go to Switzerland, I’d take that drug.
How do you best express yourself?
Through my drawings, making things in wood, my allotment and fishing.
What have you taken from this experience?
I’ve enjoyed it.