It is not a pre-requisite of being a pre-tiree or indeed a full-time retiree to be a member of the National Trust but if our jaunts to the stately piles around southern England are anything to go by, a large proportion of the visitors and, by inference, members fall into one of these two categories. It is as though once liberation from the five-day a week work culture has been achieved active membership of the Trust is the product of some form of Benthamite hedonic calculus. Our focus is on doing something that promotes happiness rather than the reverse, a statement which put as baldly as this sounds very selfish. But the conduct of the true ultilitarian is focused on not just providing happiness to themselves but also, through their actions, to others
My thoughts travelled down this route as I was tramping around a Trust property the other week and engaging in polite and vaguely interested conversation with the volunteers posted at each of the rooms. It was clear they had a love for and a deep knowledge of the history of the place and the provenance of the artefacts on display and that they were overjoyed to be able to share it. Their pleasure was my pleasure and vice versa.
In idle moments the thought of being a National Trust volunteer has had some appeal but the rub has always been that it would involve a significant time commitment and there aren’t really any properties on the immediate doorstep. It seems, though, that there has never been a more opportune moment to put oneself forward as a volunteer. You see, the Trust is undergoing a bit of a staffing crisis.
Heavily reliant upon volunteers – the ratio of volunteers to paid staff is around 10:1 – they are finding that fewer older people are willing to put their hand up to assist. In a society where we are told there is a growing elderly population this seems somewhat counter-intuitive but according to the Trust’s Director General, the older generation has a wider range of choices. Many are travelling the world on a sort of silver gap decade but more still are stuck in the bind of caring for elderly relatives or acting as unpaid child carers for their grandchildren – a trend as alternative care disappears or the cost becomes increasingly prohibitive that is only likely to increase. The upshot for the Trust is that if this dearth of volunteers isn’t plugged they are going to have to reduce the number of rooms which are manned, reduce the number of guided tours around the sites and withdraw the more valuable artefacts from unmanned rooms. And the result will be a less fulfilling experience for the visitor.
My collection of botanicals aka premium gins has grown. My favourite to date is Sipsmiths with its dry and slightly lemony after-taste but it is run a pretty close second by Portobello Road No 171 which has quite a subtle mix of flavours and is supposed to be akin to the gins of yesteryear. While Asda’s own, Portland Premium Gin, is acceptable it is not a patch on the other three I’ve tried. Yes – I did succumb to buying Fever-Tree Premium tonic – that P word again – but I haven’t succumbed to organic lemons and mineral water – yet! I’m looking forward to expanding my collection.
My pride and joy!