I recently read an account, apocryphal I suspect, about an Airbus 380 on its way across the Atlantic, writes Andy Winter. Flying consistently at 800 km/h and at a steady altitude of 30,000 feet, a Eurofighter, capable of flying at twice the speed of sound, suddenly appeared. The pilot of the fighter jet slowed down and flew alongside the Airbus. The Eurofighter pilot greeted the pilot of the Airbus 380: “Airbus, boring flight isn’t it? Now have a look here!”

He rolled his jet on its back, accelerated, broke through the sound barrier, rose rapidly to a dizzying height, and then swooped down almost to sea level in a breathtaking dive. He looped back next to the Airbus and asked: “Well, how was that?” The Airbus pilot answered: “Very impressive, but watch this!” The jet pilot watched the Airbus, but nothing happened. It continued to fly straight, at the same speed.

After 15 minutes, the Airbus pilot radioed: “Well, how was that?” Confused, the jet pilot asked, “What did you do?” The Airbus pilot laughed and said: “I got up, stretched my legs, walked to the back of the aircraft to use the toilet, then got a cup of coffee and a Danish pastry from the galley.”

The moral of this story, which I lifted from Facebook, is: when you’re young, speed and adrenaline seem to be great. But as you get older and wiser, you learn that comfort and peace are more important.

My last day of employment before I retired was a year ago today. Having worked long hours, including at weekends, for the better part of 40 years, few of my former colleagues at the housing and homeless charity, BHT Sussex, believed that I would simply stop. They thought I might join a board, do some voluntary work or mentoring, or take on some consultancy work. But I had no desire to do anything other than stop. Yes, I have this weekly column and most weeks I visit an old acquaintance who is now in a care home, but I have no other commitments. And it is great.

Over the last 12 months I have read many more books than I have ever read in a year. Molly the dog has been walked to the point of exhaustion, and I have caught up with old friends. I went to South Africa where I spent time with family, walked with penguins around my ankles, and explored deserted beaches up the barren west coast of that beautiful country. I sorted out some long term health issues including having a cataract operation and a hernia repaired. I have stopped eating bread and reduced my carbs intake, meaning my diabetes is better controlled.

My wife can’t believe that there has been so much sport that I really had to watch on television, including South Africa winning the Rugby World Cup for a record fourth time, the Cricket World Cup, and the Lionesses in the Football World Cup. With my friend and former colleague, Kim, I have been to watch the Albion on a few occasions, and with another friend, Robert, I’ve watch the Mighty Rooks, mainly Lewes FC’s women’s team. My leaving present from BHT Sussex was membership of Sussex County Cricket Club, a thoughtful gift which was much appreciated and fully utilised. Only Stoke City’s poor form has been a source of perpetual disappointment.

The contrast between my former life and these last 365 days could not have been greater. I loved almost every day of my 37 years working for BHT Sussex. I was younger, worked at pace, and adrenaline saw me through periods of extreme exhaustion. I was fortunate to have worked with many inspiring, principled colleagues, both on the staff and on the BHT board. Most of all, the work that we did, changing lives for the better, was so rewarding. This work included supporting people to get into recovery from addiction and those with mental health problems to gain greater control over their own lives. Each year we prevented hundreds of households from becoming homeless and helped rough sleepers into accommodation.

While I loved my time at BHT Sussex, I am no longer a “fighter pilot”. I gave it my all and am proud of the contribution I made. Others are continuing the great work of that organisation. I have kept my distance, not wanting to cast a shadow over the work of my successor, David Chaffey. For me the Third Age is full of promise and excitement, with so many things to do and so much to explore.

Andy Winter is a former councillor who worked in social care and homelessness services for 40 years