Time on your hands? Create your life book with these 10 easy steps.

Are you old enough to be isolated by the coronavirus for some months? Then you’re old enough to have memories to enrich the lives of your children and their children and their children.

And, due to the ban on movement, you now have the time to capture it all.

Perhaps you’ve had the experience of sharing the odd anecdote from your past with a young family member. And seen their interest and even amazement. Now is the time to put it into one volume – with no need to pay to have it published.

Today’s youngsters – and those that follow – will love to know what you did at school, the games you played and the home you lived in. How you got your first job. What life was like before computers and when television had three channels in black and white.

That’s what I’ve just done. And here are the 10 easy steps for you to do the same.

1. Get an expanding file organiser – available online for about £12.

2. Identify the various chapters of your book – which may change as things progress. Perhaps start with ‘The early years’ – identifying your first memories and experiences. Move on to ‘schooldays. And my first job.’ From then on treat each decade as a chapter, unless you have an idea of what will work better.

3. Then enter the chapter title on each of the pockets of your folder. You could end up with a couple of dozen sections – perhaps more.

4. From then on it is just remembering – which doesn’t have to be in chronological order. Just jot down – ideally type up – your memories as they come flooding back, including your faith journey. And then put the sheet each is written on into the appropriate section of your file.

5. Eventually you’ll have a file packed with memories and all in the right order. If working on a computer make the pages A5 and copy and paste the contents of each document to make a continuous story with the chapters easily identified.

If you prefer to work on paper then merely collate them in order at this stage.

6. When you have them all together, read them through making notes of sections needing a little more attention.

7. Working on these sections, adding more details and instances from your life. Remember that stories are always more interesting than facts. And short sentences and short paragraphs are much easier to read.

If you are up to it you could also add pictures. But as you do so, try to put a caption on each one.

8. Create a cover based on what you decide to call it. I’ve called mine ‘A Hack’s Life’ because local journalists were called ‘hacks’ and I was that for many years. You may even want to add an index.

9. When you complete the contents, make sure the font is something like Calibri – and definitely not Comic Sans – and in 12 point for easy reading. And add numbers at the bottom of the pages.

10. Save the document as a pdf. To do that, click on ‘File’ at the top left of your screen, click on ‘Export’ and click on ‘Create PDF/XPS.

Now you have something that just like a book on Kindle or any of the other e-books. And all ready to be passed on to relatives, or even printed should you feel able.

The finished product will be treasured by your children and grandchildren and other generations for years to come. The impetus given by isolation will be a blessing to them and have provided an extra personal interest for you during a difficult time.

Have you taken steps to capture your past for the next generations to enjoy? Please share your insights here or on our Facebook Group.

David Hall

David Hall’s life as a journalist covered local newspapers, Christian magazines and being a press officer. Married with two adult children – one in Spain and the other close to his home near Burnley. In normal times Dave preaches and helps at Little Stars, the mums’ and toddlers’ group, and Messy Church at his village church.

Ever wondered who may be hiding in the branches of your family tree? Here’s 8 top tips to find out.

I’ve found out that Formula One driver and former world champion Jenson Button is my second-cousin on my mother’s side. Of course, he doesn’t know it. And may not be very excited if he did.

However, the discovery made my day – as have many other others – when searching the depths of my family history. It’s an activity I enthusiastically recommend – especially for those no longer working full time and, supposedly, with time for new interests.

You may be surprised as to how easy it is to learn more about your roots and, in doing so, leave a legacy for those following on. And what a way to have conversations with grandchildren about where they have come from.

Fancy giving it a go? Then, based on my experience, here come my top 8 tips.

Perhaps you’ll find past relatives to match another of my own – Sir Philip Randle, internationally honoured for advancing scientific understanding of the causes of diabetes and who founded departments of biochemistry at Oxford and Bristol Universities.

Want to find your own ‘Sir Philip’? Then here we go –

  1. Get clued up on the subject
  2. To get you going, read a book or two on researching your genecology. Or have a good Google. Just put ‘all you need to know about researching ancestors’ into a search engine and you are on your way.

  3. First dip into the memories of older relatives
  4. This is the ideal way to get things rolling and establish a launch pad. You may be amazed at what they know about their own forebears.

    I discovered my mother was the one who knew everyone, had facts at her fingertips, and could recall things with great clarity – making it an ideal way to start.

  5. Use the internet
  6. The internet has pushed this type of research to new levels – delivering you from endless visits to trawl through parish records and survey gravestones.

    Specialist genealogy services like Ancestry, Find My Past, and The Genealogist now offer access to billions of records – and not just in the UK. They will absorb your time and are not cheap.

    However, all include a free trial. So you could work flat out for a short period of time. Or try your local library which may have one or more of them to access without charge.

  7. Use a genealogy programme on your computer
  8. This is a way to save hours of work. It completes all the links for you, draws a tree, and include pictures if you wish.

    The most widely used is Free Family Tree Builder from MyHeritage. Also recommended by the experts, and also free, is Legacy Family Tree Genealogy Standard.

  9. Access the census records
  10. Census forms list everyone in a house on a particular day, their ages, relationships, and their work. With there having been a census every ten years since 1801, other than 1941, you have access to great insight into the past.

    It was a special experience for me when examining the 1911 census – the first in which residents had to fill in the form themselves and the last released for public consumption. I was moved to see to see my grandfather’s writing, knowing he had actually penned the entry.

    However, it has not all been joy. I’ve discovered some of my relatives ended up in the poor house, and many worked down the mines in the Midland’s coal field.

    One of these, Albert Wilkinson, was a Main Checkweighman at Elsecar Main Colliery – chosen by workmates for his integrity because he checked the weight of the coal brought to the surface and, thus, the amount their earned.

  11. See what churches have to offer
  12. Churches have lists of their weddings and baptisms going back many years. Lancashire, for example, has many of the churches’ listings, including even including burials, at the Online Parish Clerks site – http://www.lan-opc.org.uk Other regions may have the same.

    This has made it possible for me follow my Hall tree back to 1808, when my great-great-great grandfather was born.

  13. Check and double check everything
  14. I’ve discovered it’s wise never to assume dates and places as being accurate. Wherever possible cross reference and check again to save you barking up the wrong tree (see what I did there!)

  15. Find others on the same quest
  16. Most areas have a group dedicated to family history and provide a meeting point to learn new tricks or make friends who can help guide your research. Often a local library runs sessions to introduce newcomers to such research.

There you go and who knows who or what you will find to delight you in the way that I have been delighted to discover –

  • My grandfather, Elijah Hall, was a local preacher in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, – and a miner under contract to deliver an agreed tonnage of coal to the pithead, hiring and paying his own labour.
  • An uncle who lost a leg in a mining accident when quite young and became a cobbler.
  • An uncle who became a county councillor on the West Riding of Yorkshire and was made an Alderman.

It is an enthralling and rewarding hobby which uncovers the past and opens up many avenues to discover your roots, skeletons in the cupboard, famous relatives, or even those who have emigrated and made it overseas.

So go get hunting. You won’t regret it.

For other ways to discover new challenges and activities in your after-work years see the AfterWorkNet pages on New Opportunities.

Have you made discoveries about your ancestors? Or have insights on how to find them? Please comment here or on our Facebook Group. 

David Hall

Dave Hall working life was as a journalist on local newspapers, Christian magazines, and as a press officer. Married with two adult children – one in Spain and the other close to his home near Burnley. Dave preaches and helps at Little Stars, the mums’ and toddlers’ group, and Messy Church at his village church.

Want to add years to your life while having fun and making friends? Here’s 6 great choices. Go for it.

The news is out. Taking regular exercise in later years can add years to your life. Indeed, the benefits of regular physical activity are remarkable.

Physically it helps maintain or lose weight. It improves the immune system, reduces the impact of illness and chronic disease. It enhances mobility, flexibility, and balance.

Regular activity can also help you fall asleep more quickly, sleep more deeply, and wake feeling more energetic and refreshed and even improves brain function.

Do we all want that? Of course. But does such exercise have to be as unstimulating as taking a walk or a swim? What about adding a competitive dimension? And then adding the benefit of comradeship and human interaction?

The good news is there are some great ways to keep fit while also having fun and engaging with others of the human race. And here come my top 6 – with a heavy bias to my favourite.

  1. Walking Football:
    This is about taking part in the beautiful game but at a slower pace. Though mostly for men, it’s not exclusively so.

    My introduction to Walking Football came two years ago as I hit my 77 year marker. I plucked up the courage to show my face, along with a friend, at the Elite centre of Premiership club Burnley.

    Wisely, they asked me to fill in a form with a lot of medical details. Then I was off – to discover a sport well within my capabilities, despite my years. And happy I needed no more kit than an old pair of trainers and a track suit, or shorts and a T-shirt.

    A 15-minute warm up with a crowd of guys and two women stretched muscles that hadn’t been used for some years. Then the rules were explained – no running, physical contact, no kicking the ball above head height.

    Divided into three teams of five to seven depending on how many turned up, we played a series of games. It might have only been at walking pace but it seemed fast and furious. It seems some people appear to walk faster than others.

    The next hour was exhilarating, wonderfully enjoyable and now part of my regular keep fit and live longer routine.

    But I was also to discover my Burnley colleagues and I were far from alone.

    From a standing start less than ten years ago, as an initiative to encourage more exercise among the over 50s, Walking Football has blossomed to where the UK as about 450 clubs – and rising. There are even teams across Europe and in America, Columbia and Mexico.

    To check it out and get even more of the flavour see the website of Walking Football.
  2. Walking Netball.
    This has done for netball what Walking Football has done for soccer. The original has been adapted and designed so anyone can play regardless of age or fitness level.

    One of its strengths is the memories that come flooding back for those who have played the active version in their younger years. And, of course, when a group of girls of any age get together there’s always some fun and laughter.

    To explore and find a team near you see the website of Walking Netball.
  3. Squash.
    Squash and old age are not necessarily mutually exclusive – as the fact that the National Squash Championships include an Over 80s category. It just means the emphasis moves from speed and power to placement and accuracy.

    This indoor racket sport gives the whole body a workout. Even those no longer in their prime can burn off an average of 500 calories within half an hour of playing.
  4. Golf.
    It’s probably true that golf caters for seniors more than any other sport – with the handicap system serving to keep a level playing field.

    On offer is a good walk in the fresh air – and the greater novice you are the further you walk. A muscle work out, thanks to carrying the clubs. And the need to think through ‘what next’ sharpens the mind.

    Then comes all the banter and friendship built round the 19th hole.
  5. Bowling.
    Bowling comes in a variety of guises – ten-pin, lawn and carpet for starters.

    All may look sedate but there’s great health benefits here. The heavy ball helps with improving balance and strength. And the activity increases balance and coordination.

    With a little Googling you should easily find a club with a seniors section.
  6. Pickleball
    You may never have heard of it but this racquet sport that manages to combine badminton, tennis and table tennis, is growing in popularity with those in later life.

    It’s played at a slower place, on a smaller court than tennis, and is easy to pick up.

    To know more see the website of Pickeball.

Take your pick from these 6 choices for fitness and fun or find an alternative of your own. But do get out there for a healthier and longer life.

And for more on health, fitness and managing your weight do see the wisdom from health and fitness guru Rosemary Conley on the AfterWorkNet website.

David Hall

Dave Hall spent his working life as a journalist on local newspapers, Christian magazines, and as a press officer. Married with two adult children – one living in Spain and the other close to his home near Burnley. At his village church Dave preaches and helps at Little Stars, the mums’ and toddlers’ group, and Messy Church.

What have you found as a way to keep fit and actually enjoy the experience? Please share here or with our Facebook Group.

After a life of deadlines how is a retired journalist still making headlines? Here’s how.

When my retirement came – after a lifetime as a journalist working on newspapers, magazines and public relations – it was something of a shock to wake each morning without any pressing deadlines.

Yet now, 14 years after hanging up my green-eyeshade and editorial responsibilities, I seem busier than ever. And, like many retirees I guess, happier for it.

My transition to life in my afterwork world revealed there are some things that just have to be done. For me this included a move to be near a daughter and her family – from Oxfordshire to Lancashire. This also involved changing churches.

But then there are the choices and mine was not to vegetate either in mind or body.

As a result, my writing skills, allied to an interest in photography, led to gaining space in local newspapers to make our new church more visible. On one occasion this led to worldwide publicity for the local Street Pastors.

This came after I wrote an article on an 87-year-old member of our church who was still out on the streets in the early hours of Friday night and Saturday mornings. Her picture graced most national newspapers. And she was later a recipient of the Queen’s Maundy money in nearby Blackburn Cathedral, and appeared on the New Years Honours list.

To extend my social circle I joined a weekly writer’s group meeting in a local pub. One member came when I was invited to speak at a local Baptist Church – and the following week entertained the group with a potted review of the sermon in glowing terms.

I also knew I needed to do something to retain some semblance of fitness. Though our move had taken us to walking country I’m not a keen walker. So I joined the walking football sessions run by Burnley in the Community, the charitable arm of the football club.

It has proved to be great fun – despite most of the guys having lots of football experience and me having little. This being despite covering most of the London Clubs as a journalist for a Sports Agency and getting to know legends like Bobby Moore and Glenn Hoddle.

At 79 I am the second oldest on our team and can still manage one hour sessions on Mondays and Fridays each week.

My eyes have also been open to new opportunities. For example, having enjoyed the full colour magazine – Northern Life – covering life in Yorkshire and Lancashire I now write a couple of features in most editions and do the book reviews.

This is a great way to be involved with local people, including some of whom come to our small church.

More recently I have had the great pleasure of joining forces with a former magazine colleague, Steve Goddard. Steve had been press officer for the Christian Resources Exhibition for many years and when it was about to close he and his wife bought it up.

I was persuaded to become the press officer and it has been great fun – meeting many faces from the Christian past and being able to publicise many Christian organisations doing a valuable work for God.

I can look back at a life that has included shaking hands with a Pope, having an audience with another, spending time with the late Billy Graham, and interviewing many sporting, political and literary personalities. I have even been sworn at by the Duke of Edinburgh

Yet what has been an exciting life has continued in my new phase of active retirement. Each day I wonder what God has in store and there is always something worthwhile.

And to think that I could have settled for just pruning the roses.

Dave Hall

Dave Hall spent his working life as a journalist on local newspapers, Christian magazines, and was the press officer who helped launch the Good News Bible. Married with two adult children – one living in Spain and the other close to his home near Burnley. At his village church Dave preaches and helps at Little Stars, the mums’ and toddlers’ group, and Messy Church.

The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years"

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife