Why did I decide to retire and move to live in North Bohemia?

My home in Stará Oleška as it looks today © Ricky Yates

This is a question, sometimes with slight variations, that I’ve been asked time and again this past year. So as this is my four hundredth blog post 🙂 🙂 🙂 , I thought I would put into written form, the answers I’ve been giving to all those who have enquired. I’ve broken the question down into two parts, with four reasons under each heading. If you have further questions, please leave them in a comment and I promise to respond.

Why did I decide to retire?

1. Because I could

On 26th February 2017, I celebrated my sixty-fifth birthday. Although, because of increasing longevity and consequent increased costs, both the Church of England and the British government are raising the age of retirement for younger people, these changes have had very little effect on me. I remained entitled to retire at age sixty-five and claim both my Church and state pensions.

When I left the UK and moved to Prague in September 2008, I knew that in the previous financial year, I had completed paying sufficient National Insurance contributions, to be entitled to receive the minimum state pension at age sixty-five. Continuing working past my sixty-fifth birthday in the Czech Republic, was not going to increase my UK state pension 🙂 I did work on for two more months, retiring on 30th April 2017, but all that did was to slightly increase my Church of England pension.

2. It is what I always envisaged

When I was offered and accepted the position as Anglican Chaplain in Prague, I always envisaged being in post for the following eight and a half years and then retiring. My predecessor as Chaplain, John Philpott, had done exactly the same, except that when appointed, he was one year older than me and therefore served for seven and a half years before retiring at age sixty-five. As I pointed out to the Prague congregation at my final Annual Church Meeting on 9th April, compared to many other European Anglican Chaplaincies, Prague had enjoyed a long period of stability with only two chaplains in nearly seventeen years.

3. Repeating myself

Over my final two or three years at St Clement’s, Prague, I increasingly felt I was saying the same things over and over again in my preaching. Because of the relatively high turnover of congregational membership, with people only being in Prague for relatively short periods of time, this might not seem to be a problem. But I felt sorry for the long-standing members of the congregation who might well have heard me say something at least once too often 😉

4. My health

In August 2015, I had a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in my lung, which nearly killed me. As a consequence, I have to permanently take the blood-thinning drug Warfarin, (aka ‘rat poison’), and wear a compression stocking on the lower half of my left leg.

The cause of my pulmonary embolism was a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) that formed in my left calf, then escaped from there and travelled to my lung. Despite wearing a compression stocking, I continue to have problems with my left calf and foot. Sometimes they become swollen with areas of bleeding through the skin, which in turn is difficult to stop, because of taking Warfarin 🙁 Currently the calf and skin are as good as can be expected but I had a serious flare up this summer, not helped by being stuck in cattle class for two hours on a Wizz Air flight to the UK.

Why did I retire to North Bohemia and not back in the UK?

1. Affordability

In simple terms, I can afford to retire here in North Bohemia and live fairly comfortably, but in no way could I do so in the UK.

For the nearly twenty-eight years I was in full-time ordained ministry, I was always housed as part of my job. But I do not own a house in the UK and with the absurd price of property, there is no way I could now afford to buy one. The Church of England does have various schemes to help retired clergy with housing. But they would all eat into my pension giving me much less income to live on.

In contrast, using just over half the lump sum from my Church pension, I have been able to purchase outright, my new home in Stará Oleška, and still have funds left over to make improvements to it – five new uPVC double-glazed window units were fitted last week 🙂 Major work to completely refit the kitchen, is due to commence on 8th January 2018.

2. Frauenkirche, Dresden

Although I have retired from full-time ministry, as I have previously explained, I have been granted Permission to Officiate (PTO) by my bishop, in order that I may continue as the Coordinator of Anglican worship in Dresden. This currently means officiating at the monthly English-language Anglican service of Evening Prayer, hosted by the Frauenkirche, but will hopefully lead to a second monthly service, starting in the new year.

Stará Oleška is only a twelve kilometre drive from the main railway station in Decín from where it is just forty-five minutes by train to Dresden. Therefore by living here, I can now return home following the evening service, rather than staying overnight and returning on Monday as I was doing whilst living Prague. To answer the question as to why I didn’t then choose to set up home in Germany, the answer is simple – cost! Housing, and so many other things, are considerably cheaper on this side of the border, as explained in this recent post.

3. ‘Location, location, location’

‘The three most important things to consider when buying a property are location, location, and location’. A quick check on the internet reveals that no one can be sure who first said this but it is a mantra that is often repeated. As well as proximity to Dresden, I love the surrounding environment of the CHKO Labské Pískovce, the landscape protected area in which Stará Oleška is situated. As I have already explained and illustrated in this post and this post, it offers wonderful opportunities for walks out in ‘the nature’ as English-speaking Czech people often say.

4. Xenophobia in the UK

Besides cost, the other main reason for not retiring back in the UK is the rise of xenophobia, at times bordering on racism, which is now being freely voiced in parts of British society as a result of David Cameron’s ill-thought out EU referendum. Each time I visit the UK, the more I feel like a stranger in a strange land. I visit in order to spend time with my two adult children, their spouses and my two grandchildren. But even if I could afford to do so, I’m not at all sure that at the present time, I would want to make the UK my home once again.

Not that the Czech Republic doesn’t also have a vocal right-wing, recently winning electoral support by voicing anti-refugee, anti-Islam, anti-Roma propaganda. It is a politics of fear, bearing mind that very few refugees have come here, there are extremely few Muslims, and the country has had no experience at all of so-called Islamic terrorism.

However, as an ‘immigrant’ myself, I have been made very welcome in the community where I have now chosen to live in my retirement, smiling and waving helping to overcome the language barrier.

Czech bureaucracy – yet again!

Temporary Residence – forever!

A few months after arriving in the Czech Republic, Sybille and I, aided by an agency, successfully registered with the Czech Foreign Police. Our respective passports were stamped granting us ‘Temporary residence’ that was ‘neomezený‘ – ‘unlimited’ or ‘forever’. As I have pointed out many times since, temporary residence that is unlimited, is a contradiction in terms!

We were also issued with flimsy paper certificates of temporary residence, which most importantly, also showed our official registered address as being the Chaplaincy Flat in Prague 6. Shortly afterwards, we were also each issued with a ‘Rodné císlo‘, social security number. You can read about how we managed to achieve this in two early posts on this blog, here and here.

Fast . . . → Read More: Czech bureaucracy – yet again!

Language and visitors

Stará Oleška from the hills above Huntírov © Ricky Yates

There are two questions I am regularly asked in comments on this blog, by email, or on Facebook. One is, ‘Are there many English-speakers where you’re now living?’ The other is, ‘Does the area get many visitors?’ This post is my attempt to answer both these questions.

Stará Oleška has had many visitors over the five months I’ve now lived here. This is because the village is home to three camping & caravan sites – Autokempink Ceská Brána, Autokemp Aljaška and Camp Pod lesem; and two pensions – Pension Vyhlídka and Penzion Rosalka. Many of those who come are Czech, from right across the country. But there are also many foreign . . . → Read More: Language and visitors

Kostel sv Martina/St Martin’s Church, Markvartice

Kostel sv Martina/St Martin’s Church, Markvartice © Ricky Yates

Today saw the reconsecration of Kostel sv Martina/St Martin’s Church in the nearby village of Markvartice. For the somewhat irreligious Czech Republic, renovating an abandoned Church building and bringing it back into liturgical use, is quite an event.

Whilst there has been a Church on the current site since the thirteenth century, the building in its present baroque appearance, dates from a rebuilding between 1701-04. It started falling into disrepair following the end of the Second World War, a result of the expulsion of the majority Sudetendeutsche population in 1945-6 and the communist takeover of power in Czechoslovakia, shortly afterwards.

The Church was last used for liturgical worship in 1966. By the late 1980s, all that was left standing were the . . . → Read More: Kostel sv Martina/St Martin’s Church, Markvartice

Making progress

Yesterday, I made major progress in bringing order to the garden and outbuildings of my new home. In less than an hour, Jan with his van, assisted by a friend, removed a whole load of items left behind by the previous elderly owners, all of which were of no use to me. I hope the ‘before and after’ photographs which follow, will illustrate the progress that has been made.

Circular saw with ‘rain cover’ © Ricky Yates

Just under two weeks after moving to my new home in Stará Oleška, I wrote a post entitled, ‘Plenty to keep me occupied‘. In that post, I pointed out this ancient electrically driven circular saw for cutting logs, sitting in the middle of the back garden and wondered how on earth I would get it removed. . . . → Read More: Making progress