Andy Murray has made me wonder about retirement – and realise how impossible it seems

Once upon a time I’d have been 14 months off receiving my state pension, but don’t expect to see me disappear into the wings just yet

Jenny Eclair
Monday 14 January 2019 10:32 GMT
Emotional Andy Murray says Australian Open could be last tournament after struggling to recover from hip surgery

Last week the world watched as Andy Murray, fighting back the tears, announced his plans to retire from tennis after Wimbledon.

The man is just 31, and although I’ve barely seen him hit a ball with a racquet, I know that he is a great sportsperson and that people love and admire him. This morning he is raging against the dying of the light in a first round match at the Australian Open against Roberto Bautista Agut.

Thirty-one! Imagine being forced to retire from the job you love at the age of 31? Tennis has broken Murray’s body, apparently the man is in agony and even the best doctors and physios can’t put him back together again.

I’ve read a few predictably obtuse online comments about how Murray should be delighted that he is financially secure enough to retire young, because surely that’s the ultimate dream, to be able to give up the day job and doss about watching daytime telly and buying cars?

Er no, to be honest I can’t think of anything more mentally challenging for a young man to have to step away from the game that has been the centre of his life since he was a boy.

I feel nothing but enormous sympathy for Murray and for his wife who will have to live with the fallout of his disappointment.

In fact, I feel incredibly sorry for anyone whose career takes an early bath, for all those footballers who snap something crucial and are on the scrapheap in their twenties, for the barely shaving pop stars who fall out of favour and find themselves back on the Xbox at their mum’s, and for the models who grow into women only for the phone to stop ringing.

In fact I think the whole issue of retirement is something none of us really know how we’re going to cope with when the times comes... and, increasingly if the time comes.

I’m 58. Once upon a time I’d have been 14 months off receiving my state pension, but while the constant moving of the pension goalposts for women is a disgrace, I don’t know anyone around my age who feels properly prepared for retirement either financially or mentally.

Those kind of people tended to be of my parents’ generation, proper oldies, who once they hit their mid-sixties started buying bungalows and pruning roses. They went on driving holidays to the Lake District and filled flasks before they went.

My father, having exited a fulfilling army career in his forties, took early retirement from his job on civvy street just before he was 60 and for the decades that followed, he happily played golf and pottered.

In the 30 odd years before he died, aged 90, I never saw my father depressed or miserable, he did a bit of conversational French and joined an art class. Retirement suited him, it meant he got to spend more time with my mum, who had accompanied him around the globe as an army wife rather than having a career of her own and together they had a great time.

They were lucky. They were never Wimbledon wealthy, but my parents had no real financial problems, the kids had left home, they were mortgage free, they lived in the north where the housing stock still offers value for money and were content with what they had.

They did everything properly, my mother was/is a good cook, my father had an allotment, it was textbook stuff. When the big house got too much, they downsized. They seemed prepared, they seemed to know what they were doing, there was no agonising or weeping or wishing things were different.

Things are less simple now. When my father retired, he had several pensions. While they might not have been able to afford fancy-pants holidays they were never going to starve, they didn’t struggle to buy shoes or heat the house, they retired well.

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Retirement, particularly for those of us who are self-employed is a much trickier option these days, mostly I don’t really think about it, I view retirement as something rather fuzzy in the distance, like a blurred impressionist painting hanging on someone else’s wall. Other people retire, I won’t, I’ve still got a lot I’d like to do, I’m not finished with this business, thank you very much, so don’t expect to see me disappear off into the wings just yet.

Anyway, what would I live on? I’ve got a tiny pension and some savings, but I’ve done the sums and to retire nicely, I will need to keep working until I’m at least seventy.

Anyway it’s not just about the money, it’s about adjusting your brain. I get bored on a two-week holiday, doing it for the rest of my life isn’t going to work.

So I’d just like to wish Andy Murray all the best, I’m sure the world of sports punditry will snap him up and if he fancies a laugh, then there are plenty of reality shows to choose from.

As for the rest of us, we might as well just plod on and be grateful that we still can.

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