I WAS INTERESTED IN THE RECENT ARTICLE (September issue) on top tips for new graduates entering clinical practice and thought it was excellent. So I prepared these 10 tips for old curmudgeons like me who are retiring after 50 years of practice, all of which I have enjoyed enormously.
Obviously they are very biased as they are based on my own experience, being a long-divorced male farm and equine practitioner, who is a party of one with two great 20-year-old offspring, one of whom is a veterinary practitioner.
- Keep in touch with your old friends, particularly those who are not in the veterinary profession. Remember to ask questions of your old friends about their families, their worries and problems. Remember to ask them their solutions as these may well help youTry to avoid burdening them with your problems, particularly if you are yet to find a solution to them. E-mail is marvellous as they have plenty of time to reply to you. Texts are useful if you are going to be in their area and there is a chance of a meeting.
I actually avoid phone calls as it makes it difficult for them to say, “Graham, I know we were friends in the past but you are such a miserable old b….r. We now have little in common and I don’t really want to waste my time!”
- Always try to be a bearer of good news. I always remember Swahili. When you greet a friend you say jambo (hello). Their reply is jambo. Then you say habari (How are you?). Their reply is habari. Your reply must be mzuri (good). You are not allowed to say mbaya (bad)! You may if things are really bad, like a crocodile is biting your leg, say lakini (but).
- Remember you choose your friends but not your relations. If you have relatives who drive you up the shutter, avoid them. Life is too short to drink bad wine. Your life is too short to bother with people you either don’t like or have nothing in common with.I wonder how many of the readers of Veterinary Practice will have to put up with boring old Uncle Fergus on Christmas Day. I know I would rather go and do two cow caesarean sections back to back!
- Remember to make a big effort to be helpful with your children. You have now more time than they have. Do not burden them with tasks to help you. Obviously, if they offer, accept their help gratefully but do not expect it as a right.They are their own people. They have busy lives to run. Anything they do for you should be a bonus. It is like when a young person offers you a seat on a train: either accept it with thanks or decline it graciously saying their need may well be greater than yours.
- If you are like me and have had a great time in your professional life, remember the rest of your professional colleagues, particularly the younger members. If they contact you for help, always volunteer your services. I would like to list all colleagues who have helped me but that would be totally impossible and being an old fool I would be bound to forget someone.Instead, I will tell you a story about my old senior partner, Alec Dawson. I had recently joined the practice as an assistant having being working for eight years since qualifying as a vet in Kenya. I had done some diving, cleaning ships’ bottoms in Mombasa Harbour, to supplement my income.
I had brought home my aqualung, so as the practice was in the middle of the Norfolk Broads I decided to advertise my services to holiday-makers in boats who got into difficulties, to supplement my income. I put postcards giving my telephone number in all the post offices near to the Broads.
I went away for my weekend off after I had been working for a month. When I came into the practice on Monday morning, the receptionist, who wasn’t smiling, told me to go in immediately to the partner’s office.
When I had shut the door, Mr Dawson said, “This has got to stop!” I stammered, “What has got to stop?” He handed me one of my postcards. Apparently, because I had left a message on my answerphone that I was away for the weekend, a chap who had got rope stuck round his propeller had rung Mr Dawson and got very irate when Mr Dawson, aged 67, had refused to come out and help him.
It was the only time that Mr Dawson refused to help me. He did, however, increase my annual salary by £300 to compensate me.
- Now that you are retired you have got more time on your hands so remember to talk to people you meet. It is always uplifting to have a chat and you never know what that might lead to.
- Do something for charity. Only this morning I had a word with a young lady at the checkout at the Co-op. She was surprised to see me and asked how my trip, bicycling to Cape Town, was getting on. I told her I had got as far as Athens and was back in the UK to do a bit of teaching before heading off to Africa. When I went on the internet, there was an e-mail from my “Just Giving account” to say she had donated £10.
- Be more active than you were before you retired. Any sort of exercise makes you feel better. I enjoy riding a bicycle and walking. Obviously, if you want to spoil a good walk, you can play golf!
- Go on an adventure. Keep updating your wish list. Make sure you do them. I’m really enjoying writing novels. My third one will be published on Kindle and in paperback by Amazon before Christmas. You can always give boring Uncle Fergus a copy. Then you can enjoy watching him go a bright beetroot colour when he starts to read it!
- Last of all you can do what a senior official suggested I could do when he heard that I was bicycling to Cape Town. He said, “You know, Graham, we would be able to raise a lot more money if you could die on the trip! With a bit of spin we could make your death under a truck in Africa into a great story. We would not need to mention that you were inebriated at the time!”