I am not big on birthdays and I never have been, but I have just had a big birthday. A landmark birthday. The biggest since I was 21. I had planned to spend the day hot footing it down to the town hall to collect my bus pass. However, back in June I had decided to investigate what would be necessary by looking at the local council's website. I suppose that I was only mildly surprised to find that the goal posts had been moved by the previous government, in April 2010, just before the election and conveniently swept under the carpet. I do not now become eligible for a bus pass until I qualify for the state pension which is 19 months away. Some councils have chosen not to implement this change and have decided to absorb the cost. I know why our local council has implemented it. The chief executive is paid more than the prime minister plus five figure bonuses for poor performance. That is where my bus pass has gone! Discovering that I would not collect my state pension when I expected to was, again, something that I found out by lucky accident when shortly before husband hit 60 I decided to investigate my state pension situation. I do remember murmurings, by the previous government, about changes to the pension age but they kept quiet about the decisions that they made. At the very least they could have written to those affected by the change. The Cameron government are being open and honest about the changes that they are making. So hopefully there should be no more nasty surprises.
I am not really in any hurry for my bus pass and state pension. I do not feel old and I do not think that I look old. Although the last time that I visited my mother in the nursing home one of the residents asked me if I was the new lady, meaning a new resident. 'No' I quickly replied 'I'm a visitor'. I thought 'do I look like I belong here?' Most of the residents look as if the got dressed in the dark, in crumpled unco-ordinating clothes. I was wearing a white blouse, blue striped cardigan and denims. (Note to self - wear a mini skirt for next visit to the nursing home).Sadly there is a lady in the nursing home who does not look much older than me.
Some perks have been left unchanged. Eye tests and prescriptions are now free. However, I am hoping not to be ill. Then there is the B&Q Diamond card that offers discount on Wednesdays and Boots health club which offers discount on their own products and I'll get myself a Senior Railcard if I am allowed. There are probably some other schemes that I am not currently aware of. I am not looking for something for nothing, but it is sheer stupidity not to claim your entitlement. I have worked hard for the last forty years. I know that I have not had forty years of paid employment. It was forty years last month since I started university. For those who think that university is a skive and a doddle, the life of an applied science undergraduate is a hard one. We had a 9.15 am lecture Monday to Friday three terms a year for three years and some evenings we did not finish our practical session until after 6.00 pm. Then the practical had to be written up. During the three day week of the winter of 1973-4 the university buildings were unheated and we regularly spent four hours sitting in an unheated lecture theatre. In those days students lived on the breadline in grotty flats which were nothing like the luxury that the students of today expect. We had no central heating, fridge, telephone, television or stereo. I had a battery operated radio and contact with home was via a weekly letter and a weekly phone call from a phone box. We were happy. We considered ourselves to be in a privileged position. I would not have missed it for the world. It is undoubtedly the one of the best things that I have ever done. After graduation I did one year's pre-registration training and for most of the last 36 years I have worked as a pharmacist, initially in hospital, then the pharmaceutical industry and now in retail.
Recently husband and I have spent some time reinvesting and deferring my pensions in the hope that they maybe worth more when I do decide to take them. Yes, pensions not pension. I know it sounds as if I am rolling in it, but nothing could be further from the truth. As a result of being badly advised and poor investments by the pension providers they are worth very little. However, it is not all doom and gloom as I shall be entitled to a full state pension when the fateful day arrives and the first nine and a half years of my working life was spent in the employment of the NHS then the Civil Service which has rewarded me with a small but bullet proof pension.