Linda Cowan 69, stands….. all 157 cm (five foot 2 inches)and 51 kgs …. next to her bike, Scarlett, a 750cc Motor Guzzi.
She has very kindly agreed to talk to me about her life in retirement.
Why the bike I ask?
“ I grew up with motor bikes. My brother had bikes, and my Dad had a motorbike and sidecar, mainly because we couldn’t afford a car. I grew up on a housing estate in England and bikes were always part of my childhood and my youth “ I got a bike licence when I lived in Coffs Harbour in the 1970s and I had a little 125cc putt putt, basically to get to work and back. However, I never really had a serious road bike.”
“I’m not sure why the idea came, but I decided that “when I turn 50, I’m going to get a motor bike”, which also meant leathers. Actually I was thinking ‘pearl earings or a bike’ and I actually ended up getting both.”
“So I started out with a little 250cc which I didn’t really know how to ride, but I got my head around it and then progressed from the 250cc to the 750cc that I’m riding now.”
Tell me about that bike holiday in Italy…
“ That was interesting. I went with some women friends to a ‘show and tell’ where a woman was talking about walking tours of Italy, around some beautiful gardens. I wasn’t all that interested, but as I was leaving there was a brochure on the table ..Come bike riding in Italy.. (that was more me!) and the woman said ‘that’s my husband, he takes these tours, call him’ So I did. He had a 10 day riding tour through the Italian Alps leaving a few months later. It was fantastic, riding through mountain passes, and at one stage we were above the snow line, it was a real challenge riding wise, it was great”
What does the bike do for you?
“It’s an amazing feeling. Just being at one with the machine, just two wheels, you’re totally in control of this roaring machine and engine under you….. a complete sense of freedom and very exhilarating, . You can smell the country, the farm the bush, and just being able to do it feels like an achievement.”
“ Well I was in Industrial Relations for 25 years or more. I was first an elected union official, and then, in my mid-forties, I decided to go and work at Sydney University in the Workplace Research Centre, staying in Industrial Relations and using my background as a union official to conduct training courses. I was sixty when I retired.
Did you have a Strategy for your retirement?
“I was fortunate because I was able to transition to retirement by working three days a week for 18 months, which was fantastic, rather than going from full time to nothing.”
“I love to travel and I anticipated I would do a lot more. But as I was retiring I was given some really good advise. There are three areas to address: your physical life, your social life and your intellectual life.”
“My physical was OK because I had always been a gym person, so I just continued on and went a lot more. I realised that my social and intellectual life had been very much caught up in work, certainly my intellectual life.”
“ I decided to totally leave work life behind, and I don’t regret that, and so I needed to look at my social and intellectual life post work. I joined the Community Garden ( “which is where I met Linda “) and I’ve made lovely friends there. I had lived in Newtown for nearly thirty years and really didn’t know that many local people.”
“I also sold my car when I retired and for six months I felt like I’d cut off my right arm, but now I would not own a car. I found I met more local people walking and taking public transport. I started to connect with friends I hadn’t had time to see when I working and I did a lot more riding.”
“For the intellectual, I got more serious about learning Italian…..I love Italy, Italian clothes, shoes, food, motor bikes and have made many visits to Italy. I have made a wonderful group of women friends through Italian.”
“The other thing that I did, as my sense of Social Justice has always stayed with me from my union days, I became involved with a service called The Intellectual Disability Rights Service.
The organisation supports people with intellectual disabilities through the judicial system, ie at the police station, in court, or from a gaol if they are appearing in court by video link. I realised the skills I had from my Union days would stand me in good stead. I’m not intimidated by courts, lawyers or solicitors. You are not there as an advocate but you are there to make sure that clients understand what is happening and that they are OK about what is going on. One of the more important things is to slow the solicitors down and making sure their language is accessible. I’ve been doing it for 9 years now, pretty well since I retired.
“ I also became involved in local campaigns, like the Anti WestCONnex campaign where I have met lovely like-minded people.”
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