RWPMW wrote the following account of his life towards the end of 2001. Towards the end of 2008, as he approached his eighty first birthday, he had another seven years to account for. His notes on this period are appended to the 2001 text which is more or less in its original form.
The full text of Peter’s autiobiography has been broken into several chapters. The flow through the original document is as follows
Now to retirement which as I said started rather unexpectedly early for me. However I was able to work as a consultant for three years and that made the transition much easier. I also gave a lecture course at Turin University one term and made three May-time visits to Florence to work at the Arcetri Observatory. In this I was able to continue a collaboration that I had started earlier. Arcetri is about a mile to the south of the centre of Florence and since there wasn’t any other suitable accommodation I was put up in the guest wing of an old peoples home; the Villa Arigheti which had a lovely garden. It is a villa that Galileo used to visit when he was confined to house arrest in Arcetri. The nuns who looked after the old people fed me very well including providing half a litre of wine every meal. At weekends I was able to walk down into Florence to do a bit of sightseeing and got to know the town very well. Gradually as the years have gone by I have reduced the amount of scientific work that I do so that now (2001 Dec.) after fourteen years I do almost none. Instead I have been studying with the Open University and researching our family history. My father had done a pretty extensive job of the McWhirters so I have turned to Joy’s which turns out to be fascinating — at least to the family. Joy’s family knew nothing about her mother’s background and I have spent a couple of interesting years trying to find out about it. My Open University work has centred on the history of art and history itself. Art of renaissance Italy has been my main interest so my experiences in Florence have been useful. In fact Joy and I have had a couple of visits to Florence and Venice in connection with these courses. I am very impressed with the quality of the course work of the OU and I enjoy these greatly. However I find the exams unpleasant and have developed the practice of resigning from the courses a week or so before they take place. So far I have got away with that but I won’t ever get a degree. I am able to spend some time working in the garden which I have redesigned since I retired. The trouble with gardening is that it demands attention when other things also need doing; like in the spring when I was in Italy. The act of retiring caused me to realise that life will eventually come to an end and that I had better get on and do the things I want to before it is too late. Two of these were to go skiing and to explore France by bicycle. So I took up cross-country skiing and went to Switzerland, Austria and France on separate occasions over six or seven years. This was good fun but I never got very proficient at it and fell over a lot. Having bought a new bicycle a friend and I in the course of three or four years made a number of trips to France and explored the Dordogne, the Lot and the Tarn. We took a flight to Toulouse, the train to the top end of the rivers and cycled down them taking about a week to do so. We found accommodation as we went and had some memorable meals. Life in retirement has been great and I could go on for a long time describing aspects of it. However that is probably enough.
Peter McWhirter, Tuesday, 8 January 2002.
Since the end of 2001 when the above notes were written life has continued along much the same lines as previously. The main change has been a move of house. The main reason for this was to find a place with a smaller garden and to release some capital so that we could do more things. 13 Park Crescent was sold for over a hundred times what we paid for it and the new house has a garden much smaller than the half acre of our old house. The new house was only five years old when we moved in and is located in the village of Radley only half a mile from Abingdon. Thus we are still in touch with our old friends with whom we enjoy a happy social life. Cultural activities in Oxford are only twenty minutes away by public bus and there is a good train service from the village railway station.
Every second summer we have rented a house in Scotland for a couple of weeks for a family holiday when our children and grandchildren join us. This has been a great source of pleasure. On alternate summers we do other things although settling into the new huse took some time out of this. This year (2008) we had a very successful cruise on the western Mediterranean with our friends the Browns. So life continues to be enjoyable with health as good as we can expect at our ages.
Peter McWhirter, 16 November 2008.