What changes when you retire? I finished as British ambassador to Vienna twelve months ago, 42 years after starting work. What have I done since then?
Retired diplomats have terrible life expectancy. Alarming numbers of ex-ambassadors and former first secretaries die within a year or two of retirement.
What kills them? Some say the diplomatic lifestyle is unhealthy – tough climates, frequent moves, stress, unhealthy diet and too much booze. According to this theory, the one thing keeping diplomats alive is the adrenalin – take it away and you’re a goner. Others say it’s the loss of status, from being someone who people respect simply because of your job (no matter how daft you may actually be) to being just another pensioner.
The good news is that many ex-diplomats survive the first year. I am among their number. What have I been up to in the last 12 months?
Still moving after all these years
Many people move house when they retire. I have actually moved house twice since retiring. I don’t recommend this. On the other hand, the place where I am now living is splendid, so I am not complaining. Visitors welcome! I do not plan to move again for at least a couple of years, but you never know.
A new thriller published
In May 2022 US publishing house “Immortal Works” published my Istanbul thriller, Palladium (you can read the first chapter at the link). To say I was thrilled by this – my first book released by a recognised publisher – would be British understatement. If you’ve read it, please write a review on Amazon today!
A new book written
In late 2021 Austrian publisher Czernin Verlag asked if I would like to write a book about diplomacy. I agreed, and started writing in December. I finished a first draft of the book, entitled The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Diplomacy, on the 6th of June 2022. This was a big job (more British understatement). Did I spend too much of those six months researching and writing the new book, and too little time doing wild and crazy retired person-type things?
No. I loved writing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Diplomacy, and can’t wait to see it appear in print. It is due to be published – initially in German – in spring 2023. Follow this blog for details, including of a potential English version!
A new book started
Earlier this year I made some new friends in the publishing world. They urged me to write a new thriller.
I started that thriller in June, during a writing course in the Greek village of Loutro, in Crete. Are the stakes high in my new plot? God, yes. I’m hoping it will be immense fun to write, and to read. I’ve written around 10,000 words. My plan is to complete a first draft over the next six months.
Commenting on a war
On 24 February 2022, President Putin ordered Russian troops to invade Ukraine. This horrific and unprovoked act started the largest conflict in Europe since the Second World War.
Because I have worked as a diplomat in both Russia (First Secretary Economic in Moscow, 1992-95) and Ukraine (British ambassador in Kyiv 2008-2012) and have some background in the region, news outlets from the BBC to the Australian Broadcasting Company, the Canadian Broadcasting Company, Sky News and Al Jazeera have asked me to discuss the latest developments. In all, I’ve done around 45 interviews for radio and TV.
Most of the interviews are short – from five to 20 minutes. But because I like to prepare as well as possible, each one involves several hours of work. I have also written several blog posts about the war.
A bit more travel
I had imagined when I retired that I would start doing an immense amount of travel, sweeping through Central America, exploring South East Asia and so on. In fact a combination of COVID, other commitments (see above) and inertia has limited my mobility somewhat. But I have enjoyed some travel – including visiting my family in Manchester quite a bit, lots of time in Amsterdam and London and wonderful trips to Cannes, Wales, Crete and Paros.
I hope to do more in future.
My new hashtag on twitter, #leighinmotion, highlights stuff about travel, past and present. I hope to use it more in future. I also use it on Instagram, if you prefer that.
What changes when you retire?
So, what changes when you retire? My main impression so far has been that I continue to live a life influenced by my decades as a diplomat. I probably spend more time at my desk writing than I used to, and less time out and about meeting people. But I hope to change that balance over the next twelve months. Can’t wait.
Perhaps most important, I have a lot of projects on the go, from writing the new thriller to publishing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Diplomacy to promoting my existing four books. On balance, this feels good.
I’d welcome others’ comments on what changed when they retired – and any tips they have that may help others.