I retired before the state retirement age. Some might think I am lucky, some might not. It was strange, having worked full-time since I was 16, and it was a strange thing not having a timetable to work to. Many retirees say, "I don't know how I found the time to work." The truth is, because we have no time constraints, we tell ourselves, "I don't want to do that today...I will think about doing it tomorrow." We have the leisure to take things at our own pace.
What I have learnt since stopping work is that there are two things that motivate me: learning and creating. I cannot sit in front of the TV without some form of needle craft on the go; knitting, embroidery, sewing or crochet.
I left school just before my 16th birthday, and life consequences also dictated that I would not attain any O or A levels. At that time, it didn't prevent me from getting a job, however I knew I wasn't stupid. In my thirties, I picked up the studying bug. I started by qualifying in embroidery and did a two-year City and Guilds course in Creative Embroidery. At the same time, I also did my English GCSE and attained an A*. My first academic success. Then I did an A level in literature. Both of these were through distance learning with the Rapid Results College.
This, and the fact that several of my colleagues were studying with the Open University (OU), spurred me to embark on another journey. The OU was like a sweet shop. I was able to pick and choose the subjects I fancied studying - I generally chose history or literature - and after six years I had attained my BA(Honours) and my Diploma in European Humanities.
What I have learnt since stopping work is that there are two things that motivate me: learning and creating.
The next year, I learnt how to scuba dive. I'd always been intrigued by the idea since I was in junior school - what a wonderful way to explore the world! I took the PADI learning courses and advanced from Open Water through to Advanced Open Water and then onto Rescue Diver.
At this time, I also realised that computers were not going away, so back to the OU I went. I signed up for their Living with Technology course. The big bonus in doing this course was that I met and married my husband. We both completed the course and have embraced technology fully ever since. Many people are wary of technology, but I just consider it a tool that enhances my life.
My next step was to help my colleagues with their computer skills. On leaving work, I sought out volunteer work where I could tutor others in all things computing. It is a great buzz being able to take away someone's anxieties. I currently tutor as part of the national scheme ITJunction, sponsored by my local authority. They use the website Learn My Way, which covers every aspect of computing in our lives.
Now that I don't need qualifications for my profession, I looked around and was pleased to find several local fabric shops nearby who run courses on patchwork and quilting. That has opened a whole new world for me. I'd done some patchwork in the past, including English Paper Piecing (EPP) as a time filler after a broken romance. I became so enthralled with this hobby that I again took myself down the learning road and signed up for a Level Three City and Guilds course in Textiles, Patchwork and Quilting. It took two years and I completed the course this June. I learnt a great deal and made some wonderful friends.
I belong to some Facebook groups specific to quilting and also make quilts with a group known as Project Linus. We get together once a month to make quilts for children who go into hospital.
My need to learn and to create knows no bounds. I'm currently watching an English history programme, love reading historical fiction, listen to Radio Four for its vast range of information and have a new embroidery sewing machine that I'm practicing with. Learning is said to be wasted on the young. I don't agree, but I do believe that learning should never stop.
Esther Hardie served for 30 years as a police officer and later worked for the NHS. She currently lives in Worthing.