episode two: refusing the “r” word and resisting being blotted out altogether


1. in conversation…

Thanks to those who have uploaded messages on the blog and on Facebook – very enjoyable, unexpected and much appreciated. Thanks also to those who have signed up as followers.  I hope the blog can become increasingly conversational and interactive, with more people signing up online as followers. Just click the box Follow. A number of other welcome readers have sent supportive emails, and in order to protect the innocent, I have changed their names and paraphrased their wise comments here.

In response to my failing to have planned my finances and thereby nailing a secure future, the astute Arabella Persephone observes that it is particularly hard for a single person to accumulate and sustain savings, stocks and shares and other properties. She says encouragingly that ‘If you have some superannuation you are doing well’, reflecting also on the galling reality that both economic and social life favour hegemonic coupledom as the prime unit. Those of us who have gone through a divorce also know that finances can be an issue relating to the splitting of property – thanks also for pointing this out again Adair. I appreciate your frankness and I am glad you are thinking globally. My old mate Tom Rapaport called to vent on the growing invisibility factor as we age. Agreeing with Tom and others, the venerable Madam Ping notes that, ironically, as we are being ‘seen out’, so to speak, we are also becoming increasingly invisible.

One burning question here, Tom suggests, is that ageing people may be lashing out because we are slowly but surely losing relevance and power, railing against the excessive celebration and privileging of youth in our culture – hence the media stereotype of the increasingly irascible, ‘grumpy’ old person. Hopefully we can age with grace. On the other hand, in her groundbreaking book on ageing, Germaine Greer has put forward, in her inimitable way, the confronting idea of throwing caution to the winds and embracing being an old crone, basically an anarchist, who resists ageist stereotyping and behaves outrageously with wit and wisdom at every turn. Not quite sure what the male equivalent of a crone is, but I am sure we can find one. Perhaps the growing invisibility factor as we age is a blessing, as no one bothers to check what we are up to. Very liberating.

Old friend, Sassafras Renee Fandangle, who is a proud and much more successful SFR (Self Funded Retiree) than I am, writes that she has set a rough ‘end of life’ date for herself – about mid-80s, thinking ‘that will do well enough’. She points out that, contrary to people’s fears that it might be hard to fill up each day, she never has enough time. I agree that this is yet another myth that needs exploding. Along with Hannah Christiansen, Jenny Wren points out that the retirement word is irrelevant and volunteer community work is an immensely satisfying occupation in highly creative ways. And fashionista Missy DeLaney hopes I will last well past 74 to at least 104 (?!), in defiance of the nasty Financial Adviser…

2. Separating the financial wheat from the chaff

On this burning planning-for-the-end theme, my accountant made investing in a funeral bond a very high priority on my list of duties immediately post-retirement. Some of my friends had a good laugh as I dutifully compared funeral bond deals, sorted out a new will, and wrote an Advanced Health Directive. A few tips for those interested: shop around for the best funeral bond. I decided on the Australian Friendly Society, run by Bendigo Bank. Centrelink approves budding pensioners investing in a bond, and the money invested can’t be touched until you die… Don’t be confused with a funeral plan – a bond is different and a sensible if rather ghoulish investment apparently.


Heading into the sunset with a funeral bond…

Also shop around for a competent lawyer (don’t DIY) who doesn’t make any painful mistakes that will cause problems later, but also who doesn’t overcharge for the will. I had a rude awakening when, for reliability and continuity’s sake, I went back to a company at the ‘big end’ of town where a friend used to work. Of course I didn’t get ‘mate’s rates’ this time, but at least I know that all legal bases have been covered. One useful piece of advice that the pricy lawyer gave was not to leave anything to anyone under 25 (i.e. make it that they can’t access their inheritance before 25). By then they are fully-fledged adults at a time when the money might mean something.

Regarding financial planning, I avoided the dudes who were clamouring to look after my money  (mostly second-hand car dealer-types as Jeanetta Blanchett wryly points out), and stayed with my long-suffering accountant. I was quite bemused by his advice to take money out of my super, deposit it in the bank, then immediately place it back into super again. Regrettably during this stage of the journey, issues of superannuation and managing finances became hot topics for analysis, comparison and discussion for a while over coffee and dinners with friends. Understanding my lifestyle habits, my accountant comforted me that if/when I ran out of money, I could always take out a reverse mortgage on my flat. I am not quite sure if that is an actual comfort (certainly it isn’t to anyone mentioned in my will) but it seems to be one viable safety net as I head towards the financial sunset.

Now several years later, one main topic with my peers seems to be about what ailments we have and what medical /health/drug regimes we are following. We have moved from superannuation to medication, barely without blinking.

More on that and many other topics in other ‘seeingmeout’  episodes. Thanks Cat G my guardian angel from disruptor web (http://disruptorweb.com.au) for likening this blog to a serialised Dickens novel, with readers hanging out for the next episode – a bit of a stretch..but nice to think about.

Catherine at work – disruptorweb in action

Catherine at work – disruptorweb in action

3. film and tv fulfilment writ large or how I spend these hazy, lazy days.

Preamble: For better or worse, as promised, here are my personal lists to add to the excessive number of lists that have been spawned online, for instance from Senses of Cinema, Sight and Sound and the BFI. See also the lists by such luminaries as Geoff Gardner http://www.filmalert.net/2013roundup/Best-Films-of-2013.htm and by David and Margaret http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s3908586.htm.  You can also vote in the At the Movies viewers’ poll for your own 2013 favourites from their handy list.

I realise I have fallen behind in the viewing stakes compared with other such conscientious bloggers and listmakers – see also the great film blog of my friend and colleague, the intrepid Tim (http://www.milfull.com).  Some 2013 gems certainly haven’t made it onto my lists. And one young friend, the redoubtable Horatio Philibuster, went out on a mission to send me lots of films so I could actually catch up, but he appears to have become sucked into a viewing vortex in the deep south…

Another ‘excuse’ regarding my missing some great films along the way is that, for about 5 months of each year, I preview hundreds of films from around the world for BIFF (http://www.biff.com.au). This full-on programming panel occupation tends to curb my viewing of the latest films screening at the cinema. During this time I often become quite appalled at the gall of some so-called ‘filmmakers’ for entering their films into the festival in the first place.  I am tempted to cross the line and communicate directly to some who have put me through absolute torture watching their execrable attempts, to the extent that I feel my life draining away and I simply want to poke my eyes out rather than keep watching. I wish to say to them (expletives deleted) – don’t give up your day job, and please never write a script or lift a camera again. While there are, thankfully, some hidden gems uncovered in the mix of films viewed, I can never claw back those particular precious hours of my life wasted on the bad ones – a throwaway line that I find has greater significance as I head towards, and rage against, Dylan Thomas’s  ‘dying of the light’.

best feature films (made or viewed in 2013)

  • Amour
  • Rust and Bone
  • The Hunt
  • The Place beyond the Pines
  • August: Osage County
  • Inside Llewyn Davies
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • American Hustle
  • Blue Jasmine
  • The Grandmaster
  • Life of Pi

another standout:

  • The Great Beauty

best documentaries seen in 2013

  • Stories We Tell (superb film by the extraordinary Sarah Polley – deserves an Oscar)
  • Paul Kelly Stories of Me
  • Mexican Suitcase
  • Bertolucci on Bertolucci
  • Michael H – Profession: Director
  • Ping Pong

unexpected film delights

  • A Gun in Each Hand (Opening Night of Spanish Film Festival – a warm, witty examination of middle-aged masculinity in crisis)
  • Stoker  (spooky and stylish)
  • Ilo Ilo (most accomplished first feature film)

most disappointing film (this will annoy some people!)

  • Gravity (great CGI, so-so script, not enough George, too much Sandra)

sublime cinematic moments

  • Mirror – Andrei Tarkovsky retrospective at BIFF/GOMA
  • Beau Travail and Chocolat – Claire Denis retrospective at GOMA

best Oz films (though not a great year…)

  • Mystery Road
  • The Turning

Oz Film I most look forward to seeing in 2014

  • My Mistress Dir: Stephen Lance; Producer: Leanne Tonkes

Stephen Lance and Leanne Tonkes: Photo courtesy of Kate OS


films I hope to see soon

  • Blue is the Warmest Colour
  • Like Father, Like Son
  • Stray Dogs
  • A Touch of Sin
  • Her
  • The Darkside
  • The Act of Killing
  • Frances Ha
  • Nebraska
  • Only Lovers Left Alive
  • Fruitvale Station

and now to the small screen…

my top television programs

  • Borgen
  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
  • Breaking Bad
  • The Bridge
  • The Killing 3
  • Broadchurch
  • Justified
  • Louie
  • Girl
  • The Colbert Report
  • Boardwalk Empire

want to see more of

  • Treme
  • The Fall
  • Spiral
  • House of Cards
  • True Detective

disappointed with..

  • Final series of Dexter

best unheralded delight of the year

  • Hit and Miss

best Oz tv

  • Kerry O’Brien’s superlative interviews  – 1 with Clive James (what joy!) and 3 with my hero Paul Keating
  • Redfern Now

looking forward to

  • The Broken Shore
  • Rake 3
  • Borgen 3
  • The Bridge 2
  • The Newsroom 3

loved seeing again on dvd…

  • State of Play (British series)

most wonderfully eccentric series

  • Fred Vargas collection (thanks DP)

can never afford to lose (ie no cutbacks whatsoever to the ABC!)

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • The Insiders

most disappointing series

  • Top of the Lake

4. postscript on naked ping ponging

A number of you picked up with some relish on Bronwyn’s comment regarding our special plans to play nude ping pong in New York. Now that this is out in the open, so to speak, suffice to say that this plan has been hatching for a while, ever since I read about the wonderfully saucy Susan Sarandon’s ping pong club Spin in NYC (there are others now in LA, Dubai etc).  See a recentish article on Susan, politics, ageing and ping pong. http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/feb/09/susan-sarandon-ping-pong  – thanks to the wondrous Savannah Burgundy for sending me this link. While there is no mention of the nude option here, when Spin was first set up, I did read about this as happening in a special room for celebrities. I have felt since then that it is an option worth exploring for normal folk, if only in the mind or as a voyeur!

As you may have gathered, I am heading to New York with close friends for a significant milestone birthday in 2015. Part of the group also belong to my wiff waff / ping pong team the Hellenic Angels, making this ping pong clubbing gig high on the agenda, clothed or not. I also hope to experience live both The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report.  Any tips regarding nailing seats for these brilliant shows, and for that matter playing ping pong with Susan, naked or otherwise, will be most welcome.

New York graffiti – courtesy of BF.

New York graffiti – courtesy of BF.

I also feel very excited that this naked ping pong strand has inspired Ade, a wonderfully talented artist friend from school days, to go to her neglected studio and pull out her paints once again! I eagerly await her creation. As I strip myself bare, metaphorically speaking, in the blogosphere, I also want to spend an evening next year at a Naked Girls Reading gig on the Lower East Side, a very special area I have loved since I first stayed there in the 80s.  See http://nakedgirlsreadingnyc.blogspot.com.au  – sounds like fun.

As the great Bob Dylan says in My Back Pages, one of my favourite songs: ‘I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now’…

episode one: unplanning retirement


This ‘seeingmeout’ blog has been intermittently evolving in my mind ever since I accepted an early retirement package from being a film academic at Queensland University of Technology at the end of 2010.  Contrary to managing, years in advance, a well-thought-through retirement process, my departure from permanent work turned out to be a speedy, unexpected roller-coaster ride over a couple of months. This rather unorthodox and unplanned experience was essentially a metamorphosis into the unwelcome, even alien state of becoming a ‘retiree’, a label I had shied away from for years. With the wisdom of some hindsight now at the beginning of 2014, this experience has become quite a liberating, though not at all straightforward, transformation into the mysterious messy world of post-work.

I started morphing from long-term worker to newborn retiree at the end of 2010. The University was enacting a form of ‘generation change’, and, of course, the ageing generation called the Baby Boomers was targeted.

One significant ‘ah-hah’ moment for me occurred when, amidst sorting out my finances post-retirement, I bought a brand new car in early 2011.  Seemingly well-meaning, sympathetic people commented, ‘Ah that’s good. The new car will see you out’. My immediate reaction was resistance – No! I want at least five more cars, including a red sportscar, before I’m well and truly ‘seen out’.

When the further acquisition of a shiny new stove brought forward another grim chorus that this stove would also  ‘see me out’, I found that this rather quaint expression, designed to comfort me, actually disarmed me, raising intimations of my mortality. I couldn’t help feeling that I was literally ‘on the way out’, with all my possessions lined up, waving me a fond farewell. I even found myself panicking and taking on this doomsday line of thought, scanning my wardrobe, for instance, wondering if the clothes I had already acquired would indeed ‘see me out’..

I pursued this rather puzzling ‘seeingmeout’ syndrome. My friends and acquaintances reported that their parents comforted themselves in their twilight years by saying they hoped that some possession or other would ‘see them out’.  I realized that this fateful bitter-sweet expression could lay the rather shaky foundations of a personal blog, with the modest aim of unpacking and hopefully disrupting the related myths and realities of ageing, retirement, financial planning, and many related topics. This resistant blog is definitely not meant to be a standard self-help tome on how to retire or age gracefully…but hopefully from my experiences there are some useful tidbits here and there for others to contemplate.

I had not prepared in any substantial emotional, psychological or practical way for this confronting ‘seeingmeout’ state called ‘retirement’.  When the offer came through, I was on leave in London in October 2010, and by December I had embraced the fact and retired. Having some distance geographically from the institution did help me make my decision to accept the retirement package – as well as some good advice from my long-suffering accountant.  For years building up to this, I had tried to avoid thinking about Retirement and associated concepts such as Superannuation or Financial Planning, and would even become irritated or bored if my peers raised these topics, especially at social gatherings. As with any form of literacy or skill acquisition, readiness is all, especially when one is thrown into the deep end.

By the beginning of 2010, retirement to me had seemed a long way off, given the rather shambolic state of my financial affairs. At the time, I was reluctantly persuaded to attend a Baby-Boomer-targeted Planning for Retirement seminar run by my superannuation provider, Q-Super. Thankfully I bumped into an old mate and we sat at the back of the room, mystified by the charts and projections, behaving like the naughtiest girls in the class.  Over a welcome recovery coffee afterwards, we both recognized that, while the people around us all nodded and behaved as though they knew how to realise the perfect dream of becoming successful Self-funded Retirees (SFRs), the path to retirement was a very shaky one, for different reasons, for both of us, and rueful laughter seemed the only way to cope.

My commonsense told me to face up to ageing and take a more mature approach to the realities of impending retirement. I therefore paid for a stint with a Financial Advisor. He made me feel as though I had been sent to a stern headmaster for a detention.  This Advisor forecast that I was doomed to longevity in the workplace, given that I had had my head in the sand for too long. I had apparently committed the following catalogue of lifestyle cardinal sins, indulging in, for instance:

  • Ongoing mortgage debt
  • Too many overseas trips
  • Living beyond my means each fortnight
  • An expensive social life etc (by implication perhaps too much crazy wayward spending on unmentionable pleasures)

I also quite categorically had no real safety net, apart from superannuation, summed up as:

  • No savings to speak of
  • No real inheritance
  • No stocks and shares
  • No second property investment…etc etc

Both my parents had sadly died a while ago at 74 years of age. On discovering this fact, the Advisor’s barely disguised disdain shifted to a kind of macabre optimism, that at least I wouldn’t need very much money to survive, given the family history.  Apparently his financial acumen also contained powers that could prophesy that I would definitely follow the family mortality pattern. In the midst of this financial and bodily damnation, I pathetically cried ‘Surely I can see New York and Paris again?’ The answer was a very predictable one from this grim financial reaper. He had already seen me out.

coming up: This blog contains no simple ‘seeingmeout’ recipes for life. But please tune in for hopefully diverting and refreshing views on my great timeless love, films, along with a further exploration of post-work pleasures and pain.