I sit here at my desk, my forearms resting on the papers open either side of the rings of a document binder, my hands swaying as my fingers dance across the keys of the laptop – typing this post.
Inserted into the spine of the 4-ring binder is a long strip of paper with a 7-letter word inscribed many years ago in bold felt pen, but now faded to near-invisibility by the sun pouring in through the windows of our office.
It must be ten or twelve years ago – at least – since this file was last reorganized, probably in response to some change thought to be significant enough to warrant the granting of a new folder to hold the papers accumulated over several decades, and the trouble taken to find the right thickness of card and cut it to just the right size for it to fit nicely in the spine pocket. Since then, the file has been opened just once every two years – to add another statement of account.
But the letter that came with the postie this lunchtime, and which is about to be punched and filed in the same folder, is not a routine bi-annual statement. I’ve known to expect that I would receive a letter such as this some time shortly before my 60th birthday ; but this has caught me by surprise.
The letter announces the intention to make good on a promise made to me very nearly 39 years ago – on the 1st August 1978, to be precise. That’s the date on which, recently graduated from Portsmouth with a degree in Civil Engineering, I stepped across the threshold of Citadel Chambers in Carlisle, Cumbria – and entered the world of work.
The promise made to me that day (I have it here in front of me now – Form S3, Notice in accordance with Regulation L4 of the Local Government Superannuation Regulations 1974) was – well I’ve given the game away, now, haven’t I! – was to pay me a pension, in return for deductions from salary.
I stayed with Cumbria County Council for just five years or so, after which I moved on, taking my pension with me, staying with a number of other local authories over the next ten years or so. As long as I stayed in local government, my pension moved on with me – the pension scheme was nationally recognized, but locally administered. The last local authority I was with remains to this day the administrator of my pension.
It’ll not provide much of an income – certainly not enough to allow us to wind up our various micro-enterprises and ‘retire’ in the old-fashioned sense. Only a third of my professional career was spent in local government, and all of that at relatively junior level. But the terms of the pension scheme, in the time I was a contributing member, were generous, and by leaving local government (and thereby that pension scheme) when I did, my pension was not affected by later changes to the rules: retirement age is now 65, and contribution rates are higher. Thank heaven for small mercies!
Receiving this pension won’t change our lives. We’ll have to keep working at what we do now, probably for as long as we are capable of doing so. But we will, at last, be able to afford to travel a little – not least to visit our grown-up children Rebecca (in Wales) and Catherine (in Spain) – though still not both of us at the same time, unless …
… well, the care of livestock is a problem we’re increasingly keen to find a solution to, as we now have a very special reason to want to travel to see Catherine in late November or early December.
That’ll be in response to another important notification we’ve recently received, from Catherine herself, just in the past few days. Ah, but I’m not giving the game away on that one – not just yet, anyway.
But perhaps you’ll guess?