I was lucky enough to spend last weekend in Portugal at the in-laws' villa, celebrating Kate's father Andrew's 60th birthday. We flew in to Faro on the Friday, and stayed until the Sunday evening enjoying a few beautiful meals, a party in the villa and a long overdue round of golf at the BoaVista resort in the Algarve.
There were four things that were particularly striking about the weekend.
Firstly, after a four year absence from the golf course, it was a wonder that I could still actually hit a ball, but I did, on several occasions at least. Secondly, my body's complete intolerance to sambuca in the form of several shots I had begrudgingly thrust upon me (yeah I know, man up). Thirdly, the father in law's ability to make a landmark occasion last a substantial amount of time and, lastly, the impressive yet unlikely fact that his circle of friends, people they have known for many years, have all ended up in their retirement owning property on the same complex and the curiosity it stirred in me. Who or what conspired to make this possible?!
Golf and flaming shots aside, the latter points formed an interesting insight, I have been exposed to a fairly strong post-career planning masterclass by Debbie and Andrew, Kate's parents, which has got me wondering, what has this weekend taught me about where my aspirations for the future should lie and how can I possibly make my friends buy into the same vision?
Andrew has had four weeks of 60th birthday celebrations, is that even allowed?! I'm glad he did though because I've had a great time following him around the world in the process.
His month-long party started in Dubai last month, staying at the luxurious Atlantis The Palm Resort for a four day stint. Full of incredible restaurants and activities including the Aquaventure Waterpark - a massive hit with my boys - a fascinating behind the scenes Aquarium tour and much more, it was the perfect start to our trip and kept all the family entertained which is no mean feat with teenagers and in-laws!
Our days were spent relaxing in the sun, playing bat and ball in one of the many hotel pools with the kids and even squeezing in a fun brunch with friends - a must in Dubai. We didn't even have to leave the hotel to eat, with Gordon Ramsay's Bread Street Kitchen, tasty Lebanese spot Ayanma and many other delicious cuisines on our doorstep,
We then flew to the Mala Mala Game reserve near to the Kruger National Park in South Africa where the boys and I marvelled at the unspeakable beauty you can only experience when you join animals in their natural habitat.
So as you already know, the party ended this weekend on the Algarve with 15 or so couples enjoying the occasion. It really made me start wondering which 15 couples I would be spending my 60th with, in 23 years' time? Would they too have a holiday home in the same country? There are so many variables to consider, will everyone be able to afford it? Does it necessarily need to be abroad?
I often remarked to a handful of pals how incredible it would be to live in the same street. Like most of us, my friends are all over the place so I would get to spend so much more time with them. Isn't that what life is about? Creating memories and sharing the journey with people you love and trust? Well here I was playing golf with a group of men and women who hit one another with a constant flow of humorous below the belt banter and it started to occur to me that whilst I don't want to be their age just yet, I really liked being in their company.
They reminded me how much fun the old fashioned art of joke-telling can be, they would heckle one another and take it in turns to entertain whether the joke was funny, or not, as was often the case. I loved the class that was shown with the after dinner speeches, how they had the ability to say nice heartfelt things and then take the piss all in one sentence. I want my group of friends to be just like this when we're older, but how do you make that happen?!
For now I think step one is to introduce the idea at this very early stage; make it attractive, promote the notion that life would be better if we could all take up golf and achieve enough in our careers to be able to afford a holiday home and then, later down the line, be the one that buys a place that paves the way for everyone else to follow.
It's a crazy ambition but one worth dreaming of. I have realised that in retirement having a quality of life is to spend as much time as possible enjoying the company of those who have shared your journey, doing the things you all love.
I'm going to start buying my friends golf lesson vouchers for Christmas every year. They won't understand why brochures for housing developments on the continent keep coming through their door but one day they will realise it was my elaborate plot all along.
Jeff and his family stayed at the iconic, Atlantis, The Palm resort in Dubai - visit www.atlantisthepalm.com for the latest room offers and information on the 23 restaurants and unlimited access to Aquaventure Waterpark