A New Age:Leaving

The rising sun was turning the sky the deepest reddish pink as it edged towards the horizon to the east. I watched it for almost the entire journey and wondered how long it might be before I travel this road again and witness the dawn.There was no other traffic at this  early hour, so I was able to drive reasonably slowly to savour the journey in the quiet of this cold, clear  spring morning.


The River Maigue and Castle Desmond in September

Crossing the bridge on the River Maigue has been a highlight of my life on each  morning that I have commuted across here for the past 20 years. Sometimes it is mysteriously misty, sometimes it is golden and lit by the rising sun, sometimes it is moonlit, most times it is just ordinarily beautiful.


River Maigue and Desmond Castle in August

I  arrived very early to the office as there were things I needed to do before the buzz of new arrivals – drawers to be emptied, confidential papers to be shredded, files to be organized and a day’s  work to be done.  I (exceptionally!) walked up the 8 flights of stairs to  take a look again at the streetscape below. I continued on to the top floor  to get a cup of coffee and to look east wards again at the rose coloured  sky forming a beautiful canvas for the tall spire of St John’s Cathedral and the tops of the city buildings.


The River Shannon on a beautiful misty morning

I have had an extraordinary bonus of enjoying some of the most beautiful scenery in Ireland every time  I looked up from my desk to see the River Shannon coursing below.


The moody and ever-changing River Shannon flows by my office

I had developed a habit in recent times of taking photographs, as the River looks different almost every time you look at it.


The Shannon is a very fast flowing river. The Abbey River flows into it on the lower right.

Being tidal, the river is constantly changing, rising and falling some 18 feet twice a day. In winter when there is heavy rain we may not see the stony river bed for months on end.


Morning light on the Shannon

Colleagues arrived. There was debate about the news items of the day that impinge on everyone, including the new property tax – the pincers tightening yet again! Morale was not high on that particular day, but after some light-hearted banter we ‘got on with it’. I was surprisingly busy with phone calls to make, notes to write up.


View from my desk. (Copyright A .Gallagher)

View from my desk.

So this was it! One of my lunch group reminded me that it was time for lunch and I said that I had to pop out and that  I might be a while. (I was doing some research on Antarctic Explorers then , and ‘borrowed’ the quote!).

At about 1.45 pm I logged out of my computer, gathered up my security passes, placed them in an envelope, put on  my coat and walked away from my good friends, and hundreds of colleagues (most great, many very good and a small forgettable  few).  I was  walking away from a job that I loved, with tons of mental stimulation, camaraderie and social interaction as well as  wonderful scenery and the daily joyrides that were my commute to and from work. I had already hinted to close friends that they would not be given advance notice of my exact day of departure, and I was grateful that my managers respected my need for privacy. So I was able to ‘exit’ quietly.

Mandatory retirement is no longer allowed in many countries, including Ireland. Most people can now work for as long as they want, without fear of discrimination but here in Ireland it is ‘statutory’ for  some employees who commenced employment prior to 2004 to retire at age 65.  It seems extraordinary that a person can go to bed at age 64 as an asset to the workforce, doing a good job efficiently and well for a number of years, yet wake up on their 65th birthday as unemployable. This is of particular significance in a country that is in the throes of an economic depression with huge numbers of people seeking non-existent jobs. Of course my ‘mandatory’ departure date did not come as any surprise. Long term contingencies were very quickly rendered useless however by the rapidly changing  social and economic conditions in Ireland in recent years – not least of which has been that my once geographically  closest family members have relocated to a place 10,000 miles away.

Officially ‘on holiday’ for another week, I plan on spending that time lamenting the loss of the social interaction of a large office and delighting in the friendships I made there. It is too early to reinvent – time enough for that in the weeks and months ahead.

For now, I will relish the light-hearted moments and laughter that were bound to come along every day, as well as the quippy and often black humour that abounded in the place.

I will  recall the always cheerful early morning  greeting of the delightful woman in the canteen, for whom nothing was too much trouble!

I will delight in the memory of companionship at early coffee, when you would not know who might happen along on an early break, and I will still ‘hear’ the very familiar footsteps of a special friend coming along the corridor, always looking beautiful and armed with her designer shopping bag and with her lively daily greeting of ‘Bonj’ before she rushed away to her ‘career’.

At lunch, we had time to bond – shepherded along by our ever precise and delightful clock-watcher, always in good humour and who managed to organize us all in the most charming way. Bringing up the rear was  our ‘Drama Queen’ who regaled us with stories ranging from her amateur drama society escapades to a too-close ‘encounter’ with shampoo on a shop floor, to the hazards of Roman toe ( or was it Greek?). These two, together with the above mentioned career girl and myself made up the hardcore lunch table.

If we arrived slightly early we might join our ever thoughtful, ever smiling, quietly spoken elegant and wise friend, who always has time for whoever is in her presence.  From time to time we would be joined by the  ever-cheerful woman of the West  with the hearty laugh and oodles of common sense, or the witty ‘cuttie’ (girl) from further north who always had a sideways but pleasant view on life to make us smile. Sometimes another quiet but stalwart friend might join us – IF she remembered it was lunchtime – but invariably 20 minutes late!

There are several others who fall into the ‘very special’ category and whose company was always well worth seeking out and one or two ‘long distance’ colleagues who had left our particular place. These too are a huge loss to me, and I am forever grateful for all of them.

I will miss all of this. I will miss these very special friends who were part of my days, part of my weeks, part of my joys, part of my tribulations, part of my highs, part of my lows, part of my hoots of laughter!  We have lived through births, marriages, deaths, personal trials and challenges both IN and BECAUSE of  friendship.

I will not ever be able to replace any of this. It  is of its time and of its place.  Now is a time to remember. Now is a time to be glad for all of it. Now is a time to shed a tear or two.  Now is a time to smile at these memories.  Now, and always, I  will lament their passing.



Filed under Family History, Living in Ireland, My Oral History, Retirement Age

23 responses to “A New Age:Leaving

  1. Funny how we can love and hate our working life! When I left the post office I realized that I spent more time and talked with my co-workers sometimes more than my husband and daughter! I thought some of my closer relationships with co-workers would continue but living in a rural area far from the workplace proved that its only a few times a year now that I speak with them and rarely get to see them. All in all though it sounds like you were grateful for the times and people you knew and yes, it will come in time what reinvents you. Happy retirement…enjoy those first lovely days of doing nothing!

    • Kerry.
      Like you, I am in a rural location some distance from work so maintaining links will take some planning – it is easy to be friends when you are bumping into people several times each day! But they are all worth the effort, and hopefully we will sort something out!
      Thank you for your good wishes and many thanks for your comment. Angela

  2. A most poignant piece and all those bridges with water flowing like the years.

    I hope you have a great retirement and that the transition is not too difficult. So looking forward to your writings and have no doubt that you’ll be busier than you ever were!

    Very best wishes.


  3. Nice pics of Limerick town SV. Best wishes on your retirement – I imagine that you’ll find it seamless.

  4. Congratulations and empathy on your retirement Angela. Best wishes for happy times ahead and a new you….your good friends will no doubt remain but the relationships will change with the absence from the workplace.

    When you’ve been in the workplace a long time it seems astounding that it won’t be there anymore 9 to 5, but “a fiver” (ie $5 bet) says you’ll have a new life in no time at all and wondering how you fit all that work into your life 🙂

    It was lovely to read your special memories and see those wonderful views 🙂

    All the best, Pauleen

  5. Pauleen
    As ever, thank you for your comment – nice to have some empathy too. There is a lot to get used to doing without, but I have no doubt but that ‘this too will pass’. A

    • It’s not easy Angela, least of all if you feel you are obliged to leave becaue of a mere birthday (there’s a lot to be said for the old days of a gold watch etc). I imagined that it would be oh so difficult, but it’s been easier than I anticipated. I hope it proves to be so for you too.

      • That is good to hear Pauleen! Thanks for the encouragement – I will move on to the next stage after the offending birthday! I am content to take some time out to ‘grieve’ so that then I can move on.

  6. Leith Landauer

    Dear Angela – this came as a surprise but I know it shouldn’t have! Reading and seeing those lovely scenes I felt I was with you in spirit. Happy birthday and hearty congratulations! Remember spring is for rebirth and a new life. I send very best wishes for the time of transition ahead. You’ll make it!

  7. Oh Angela… I did shed a tear for you. Touched me deeply probably because I too I know the deep grief of being forced from a job I loved, and which was very much a part of my identify, way way before I was ready.
    Thinking of you and sending much healing energy winging your way ❤

    • Cait – Go raibh míle math agat! However, its almost time to get up and go again – I had to acknowledge these wonderful people who lubricated my days! They are a great crowd!
      To quote from a Liam Clancy song – The Parting Glass
      ”But since it falls unto my lot
      that I should rise and you should not
      I’ll gently rise and I’ll softly call
      good night and joy be with you all!.
      If you are not familiar with this beautiful tune- usually sung at the end of gatherings – you can listen here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1se8_-fcxZs.
      Thanks for stopping by! Angela

      • Cead mile failte romhat… Bail o Dhia ort. (apologies but don’t know how to find the inflections on keyboard 🙂
        How beautifiul is “The Parting Glass” Angela… Hope you don’t mind that I used in on my “Musical Monday” post just now. Happens that I was musing over which tune ??? then read your message and there it was. Just meant to be, I reckon… Slan go foill.

  8. Pingback: MUSICAL MONDAY: Ireland calling… | Seeking Susan ~ Meeting Marie ~ Finding Family

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  10. Great post, really good writing. And … the photos have a mix of the mystical and the beautiful. Keep writing.

  11. Pingback: Retirement: A lament | A SILVER VOICE FROM IRELAND

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