• Living the Dream. 22- Mind your language

    Language Class. I sat on a chair designed for somebody a fifth of my age and weight. My knees let me know that they were not enjoying this unaccustomed position.

    We were waiting for Stavros, who was to be our tutor. Margaret and I had come with our neighbour Nicky, who, to our ears at least, already spoke Greek. Nevertheless, she was adamant that the beginner class was right for her.

    Scanning the room, I guessed that Brits were the majority, but there were East Asians, Middle Eastern people, Russians and Eastern Europeans too. Some had come alone, some with partners of friends.

    “Beginner’s Greek?” Asked a woman at the door.

    “I hope so,” I replied.

    The woman nodded, came in followed a young man. They walked to the front of the class.

    Adults in a children's classroom

    Tiny chairs and furrowed brows

    Greek Level 1

    “Hello. My name is Angela and I will be your tutor.”

    There followed some approximate introductions and a confusion of administration. Satisfied that Angela was in charge, the young man left. Turns out he was Stavros and he had passed us off to Angela for reasons unknown.

    I was reminded of the 1970s UK TV comedy “Mind Your Language”, as the class interacted. I daresay we will be a more politically correct crowd, but the potential for humour is obvious as we all struggle to bend our minds to a new tongue.

    Once it was agreed that bureaucracy and registration would be sorted remotely next week, we moved onto the serious, and surprisingly taxing, task of the alphabet.

    Learning

    There are some letters in Greek that look and sound identical to their English counterparts. A, Alpha. “Got it,” I thought.

    However, the plot thickened. Some letters look like their English counterparts, but have a completely different pronunciation. “Oh good.” I muttered sourly.

    “And finally, we have letters that bear no resemblance to English, in appearance or sound.” Angela beamed.

    I have a feeling that I might be a little long in the tooth for a new language.

    It’s all Greek to me.

  • Working Tools – 1. Digital Hardware

    Working Tools

    I love the analogue. That doesn’t mean that I don’t love digital too. People ask me about both my digital and analogue setups. This then, is the first post in a series called #workingtools.

    Apple makes great kit.

    First, I bought the 3G iPhone, then the 4, the 5, the 6S and the X. I have had iPads, iPad mini and iPad Pro. I adored my MacBook Air, MacBook and several MacBook Pros. I’m on my second iMac. Naturally, I have a Homepod and an Apple Watch. No wonder Apple is the biggest company in the world.

    My Setup

    At my desk

    Here in Cyprus, I have a MacBook Pro from 2017, that works effectively as a desktop. I never found the Touch Bar useful, and now that my Apple Watch will unlock it, I don’t miss Touch ID either. The machine sits in a TwelveSouth stand, under my desk, and is connected to a LG 4K 21.5inch display. I use the Apple Extended keyboard and Magic Trackpad. The LG display gives me a few more ports, and my backup drives are taped to the back of it. I tie the cables together, and run them down the back of the monitor, giving me a nice clean look. Beneath the desk sits a printer and a document scanner. The podcast mic is a Blue Yeti, mounted on a Roder swivel mount.

    A tidy desk!

    Standing Desk

    On the terrace

    Increasingly, I find myself working on my iPad Pro. I have the 10.5 inch 2017 model. I use it several ways. In a shameless copy of Matt Gemmel’s setup, (buy his books by the way, they are great.) I sit it on a Lamicall stand, pair it with an Apple keyboard and use it as a mini-desktop. To store the Apple Pencil, I have a dock from Samdi. I keep the keyboard in the excellent Canopy, by Studio Neat.

    Ipad on a stand

    iPad Pro 10.5

    In the comfy seats

    Sometimes though, I want to work in an easy chair, and then, I slip the iPad Pro into the Smart Cover. I sit with my feet up, and the setup is steady enough for me to type away on my lap with no problems. I love that if I’m just consuming, I can fold the cover back (or take it off) and use the iPad with no keyboard too.

    Easy chair and footstool

    Where I read, work with my iPad, and…snooze

    On the road

    Usually, I travel with the Smart Keyboard. If I’m on a long trip, where I feel I have time for some extended work, then I might take the canopy and Apple keyboard too. While the Smart Keyboard is absolutely fine, I still prefer the ‘proper’ keyboard. I can’t imagine ever taking the laptop.

    Ever-present

    iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods. To have a powerful computer in the my pocket still thrills me. There are many aspects of my business that I can run entirely from this tiny device, as well as listen to music, podcasts, hell, even make phone calls.

    Next in #workingtools, software.

  • Living the Dream – 21. Moving On

    Moving on from Nero

    In my last post, I compressed ten days into a few paragraphs. For Margaret and I, those ten days felt like ten months. We are both still sad. We both miss Nero and we will never forget him. That, is as it should be.
    Every night, we listen to Nero’s assailant barking.
    That, is not, as it should be.
    I’m not going into the action that we are taking – but we have spent time with the police, the local authority and retained legal counsel.

    Bureaucracy

    In between vet visits, we got the ball rolling on a variety of ‘immigration admin’. The car is now registered – she got her Cypriot paperwork faster than we did. As an only slightly political aside – we had to pay duty. Bringing in our personal, duty paid, vehicle from an EU country, to another EU country, we had to pay duty. Frictionless eh?
    We started the process of getting our residence permit. Yes, we are EU citizens and therefore can exercise the right of freedom of movement etc…but actually, we can’t. For example, we need to take private health insurance, and we need to demonstrate that we won’t be a drain on the Cypriot state. Cypriot citizens don’t have to do that. We need to jump through several hoops to be permanent residents here. #justsayin

    Winter is coming

    The evenings are chilly up in the village now. In comparison with the UK, that’s nonsense. I’m sitting outside in the dark, typing away. It’s 16 degrees centigrade, so 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but it feels cold to us now. I’m still swimming every day, but long-term residents think I’m certifiable.

    Settling In

    Mags has done amazing work getting the house setup. Our furniture is in place, our clothes in the right wardrobes and the house feels more like a home every day – with one obvious exception.

    We both know there will be more dogs in our lives, but how and when – we don’t know that yet.

    Time to get on with #livingthedream

  • Living the Dream – 20. Nightmare

    London

    Mine is the easy nightmare. I had got to the airport, and killed time in departures. As the aircraft took off, I was waiting for a message indicating whether Nero had survived emergency surgery.
    We had adopted Nero at 12 weeks old, and shared our lives with him for 11 years.
    I lost signal before a message came.
    That felt a long, long flight.

    Cyprus

    On landing, I learned that he had survived, but was on the critical list, kept in a medical coma.
    Once home, Margaret relived her terrifying day. It was surreal. Hers was the real nightmare, one that she still relives regularly. Our dog lay dying in a country that suddenly felt entirely alien. Snatched from Margaret’s arms by a huge, snarling dog, at least part Staffordshire Bull Terrier. The attack was prolonged and ferocious. It had bitten and shaken Nero multiple times.
    The vet had operated to rescue his ruptured intestine. He told us to expect the worst. Day by day, Nero improved. The operation had been a success, and a powerful cocktail of antibiotics kept infection at bay. I spoke about it on 1857.

    Operation 2

    Then, things got worse. The antibiotics were, in fact, masking the progress of a voracious infection that was eating Nero up. There are photos, but ones that I cannot bring myself to post here.
    A second emergency operation was undertaken. Large chunks of infected flesh were cut away. Antibiotics were changed – it was decided that a simple protocol would be used – preventing any masking. Again, our boy was on the critical list. Again, each morning, he would stagger to his feet and wag his tail at the sound of our voices. The team at the vets marvelled at his strength and spirit.
    Nevertheless, the infection was unstoppable. Nero was being consumed bit by bit.

    The End

    On the tenth day after the attack, the team rolled the dice one last time. More flesh was going to be removed and an attempt made to graft muscle and flesh tissue around the dog. Nobody could give up while Nero fought on.
    However – the grafts proved impossible. It was clear to the vet that Nero could not survive. So, the decision was made not to wake him from this third operation and he slipped away an hour later.

    We had been crying for ten days, and we’re still crying now. Crying with grief. Crying with fury. A ten day nightmare.

    “#Livingthedream” had become one of the worst times of our lives.

     

  • Living the Dream – 19. Shattered

    It’s shattered. I finished the last post with the following reference to leaving Margaret alone just after our container arrived:

    “Predictably – the day after its arrival, I’m back to London for a brief business trip. Mags will face the mountain of boxes alone, at least for a couple of days. Unfortunate timing? Or excellent planning? Again. I’ll let you know next week.”

    I flew to London Thursday afternoon for a Friday conference. I was giving the last presentation. It went well. There followed an awards dinner, complete with cheerleaders and a stand-up comic. All great fun.

    On Saturday morning, I awoke early and through some sort of instinct checked my phone.

    “#livingthedream” shattered there and then.

    Mags was in the village square, screaming and sobbing, our beloved miniature schnauzer, Nero, bleeding at her feet.

    A dog, habitually chained up, had somehow been freed. It saw Mags and Nero and charged them. Instinctively, Mags scooped Nero up and tried to shield him from the attack. The aggressor snatched Nero from her arms and savaged him.

    Mags’ screams of terror had roused the village and the dog was pulled off. I called at this point. Mags called some local friends who whipped Nero to the vet and my wife home.

    I was due to leave from Heathrow at lunchtime and arrive home in the evening. Mags and I talked on the phone, exchanged messages. Physically, she was relatively unhurt, but I could hear the trauma in every word, sob and tear. Never have I felt so useless and so remote.

    The 12 hours between the voice mail (which you can listen to here – although it’s a very hard listen) and finally getting home are the longest that I have endured.

    So – to answer the question that I posed at the end of the last post – “unfortunate timing?”

    Definitely.

    Timing that will haunt me forever.

  • Living the Dream – 18. Wins and Losses

    Wins and Losses. I shelved this post – after the dramatic events described in the next post. I thought I’d publish it anyway. You will not miss the irony.

    Telecoms

    I left you last week lamenting that I would be without broadband for the weekend.
    Good news. They fixed it. Sort of.

    On Monday morning, I went to the Police station to finalise my statement with regards to the burglary. Upon my return, two technicians arrived from Cyta (Cyprus Telecoms) to ‘bond’ two lines; the only way to get a decent upload speed, or at least a better upload speed.
    With dizzying alacrity, they climbed a ladder, dropped a CAT5 cable, mounted a new faceplate put on the phone point and installed a shiny new modem. Fantastic!

    Only, it didn’t work. There followed two intense hours of frowning, constant phone calls and replacing of cables. As all hope seeped away, the lights turned green. Huge thumbs up all round and off they shot. I ran some speed tests. The results bore a striking resemblance to the speeds achieved before the drama. Hmmm…

    My Mum texted – “Phone still not fixed?”. I tested. I could call out on the phone, but if I called to it – I got the unobtainable tone. So – I’m worse off than when I started, but better off than I was at the weekend.

    Customs

    On the other hand, our visit to customs was astonishingly brief and easy. We found our contact, handed over our log book, signed some papers and everything was done. Delivery of our car and furniture is pencilled in for Wednesday. Or – I just gave our car away.

    I’ll let you know which, next week.

    Insurance

    Insurance was easy. I thought it might be. Somehow, paying over large amounts is always easily done. Still – we have insurance for the car and for the house.
    The arrival of the container will be a big deal. first, it will be a huge pain – but as the house starts to take shape, and the hire car is replaced by our own vehicle, life will feel much more familiar.

    Business Trip

    Predictably – the day after its arrival, I’m back to London for a brief business trip. Mags will face the mountain of boxes alone, at least for a couple of days.
    Unfortunate timing? Or excellent planning?
    Again. I’ll let you know next week.

  • Living the Dream-17. What’s the hurry?

    What’s the hurry?

    Last week, we celebrated the arrival of a somewhat shaken, but not stirred, Nero; the real ruler of our household.
    This week, all three of us have been getting more settled and focused on designing our new lives.

    Windows

    A Cypriot friend organised for the ‘window man’ to come. He arrived, quoted, and promised to fit new locks to all of our windows on Tuesday evening.

    We gave our apologies to the quiz team and settled in to await his arrival. On Wednesday, we learned that regrettably, the required locks were not in stock, and would only be available in two weeks. I felt that this information would have been useful to us on the Tuesday evening…but hey.

    Doors

    Our bedroom door needs replacing. It’s a bespoke size. Fortunately, it was made by a fellow from the village. So I called around. Literally, I called. His ferocious hound threw itself at the gate repeatedly as, in the deepest voice I could muster, I called for its master. No response. However, his neighbour, a village elder, promised to let the ‘door-man’ know of our problem. It seems he’s retired from doors, but his son keeps his hand in on a part-time basis. We’re to await contact.

    Phones

    I recorded a podcast episode. It took around 18 hours to upload. I spoke to the Telecom people. They assured me, that on Tuesday or Wednesday, I would get a call, telling me that my broadband was now the best it could be. On Thursday, my phone rang as I walked to the first tee. In our pidgin English and Greek we thanked each other. In an hour, all would be done.
    The phone rang again on the 4th.
    “You are in the house?”
    “No. Should I be? I’ll be there this afternoon.”
    “We can’t do afternoon.”
    “Ah. Well, I’m at Customs at the Port tomorrow morning…”
    “Ok. We come Monday morning.”
    “Ah. Right. Thank you.”
    “Now. Your line no work. Ok. Bye”
    “But! But…” I was talking to myself.

    No phone, no broadband for a whole weekend!

    Hence, I find myself drafting this post on my phone, and uploading through my UK mobile account. So please excuse any typos and formatting errors. Fat finger syndrome.😁

    Friday, we’re off to customs and the insurance broker.

    Bet that’ll be fun…

    Still, I sunk a monster putt on the second.

    What’s the hurry?

  • Living the Dream – 16. Landed

    Yasu! We’ve landed.

    First Days

    On Saturday the 22nd of September 2018, we left home at 4 am and by a pleasingly symmetrical 4 pm we were at the house in Cyprus, our home for the foreseeable future.
    We are settling in; assessing the losses from the burglary, working out where our furniture is going be placed when it arrives and generally feeling our way in to the new life.
    Exciting isn’t it?
    Erm…well, hmmm…

    Feelings

    Curiously, neither of us knows quite how to feel. Margaret desperately wants to organise stuff, but is a bit snookered until our belongings arrive. We are beefing up home security and taking stock of all the things that need to be done around and about the house.

    Nero

    The arrival of Nero, who landed a couple of days ago, has impacted us both. Airlines regard pets as freight. If that’s the starting point, things are unlikely to go well. Two employees at Larnaca airport probably have no idea how close they were to very sudden blunt trauma injuries as they faffed about being bureaucratic halfwits. Fortunately, I resisted the temptation to punch anyone through a wall, and Mags, Nero and I are together at last. All of us needed a stiff drink.
    The stress of his arrival apart, Nero has given me a bit of rhythm. My day starts with his walk, as does my evening, when we meander around the village, greeting all and sundry. Thus far, our favourite restaurants have been welcoming of him, (on the terrace) bar one, who has had a customer go nuts at the sight of a dog. Neither Mags and I has been willing to leave him alone – not until he is a bit more settled. As I type this, on the terrace, he is dozing at my feet, looking for all the world, master of his territory.

    Perhaps, I’m settling in more than I think.

  • Living the Dream – 15. Packed

    Packed

    Packed. Our entire house has been packed. As this post is published, the container is on the truck, on its way to the ship.

    Late Saturday night, I returned from the Camino , having walked 130 miles in 6 days, tired but happy.

    On Tuesday morning, three cheery guys, well, two cheery guys and a moody, quiet one, turned up ready to get the house packed. The challenge is to stop them packing stuff. Let your attention drift for a second and your hand luggage is beautifully encased in cardboard and packing-tape.
    They have accounted for two short packing days and then to load the container itself on the third. This includes the car, which needs to be valeted before it goes into the container. Well, you wouldn’t want any English dirt getting into Cyprus, would you?

    If anything, it’s surprising how quickly the house is broken down into cardboard boxes and furniture components.

    Powerless

    Margaret and I are alternately excited and growling at each other. So much to do and yet such a feeling of redundancy. Things are happening around us. Tenants move into the house next week.
    Nero, the beloved miniature schnauzer, begins his journey on Friday, when he goes to spend a few days with the agency that are shipping him to Cyprus. We have a car booked for 4am on Saturday. We will arrive on Saturday afternoon, with plenty of time for some sunbathing and a dip in the pool before dinner. Nero arrives on Tuesday lunchtime, completing the family again.

    Holiday

    Margaret has declared us ‘on holiday’ until the container arrives a couple of weeks later. Time to recharge before taking on the task of unpacking and rearranging everything. There will be some admin to get started – applying for residence permits and the like, as well as dealing with the aftermath of the burglary.
    That said, I’m looking forward to some swimming, some golf and frankly, some rest.

  • Living the Dream – 14. On Camino

    The Camino de Santiago. This post will, through the magic of wordpress, go live as I am finishing up a thirty two kilometre walk from Sahagún to Religeos.

    If you want to know more about the Camino, and why I’m walking it, click the ‘Camino’ category on the page and you’ll get a list of relevant posts.

    The photo is by Drew Robinson, whose excellent blog you can find here.

    Given the choice, Margaret preferred to have me disappear for a week before we left, rather than after. Understandably, she’d like to be a little more familiar with Cyprus before holding the fort alone for a week.

    While I’m swanning about in Northern Spain, there will be lots of packing and organising going on in England, so both Mags and I are playing to our strengths.

    This trip, my Camino-buddy, and best friend Stuart (no, really, that’s his name too), and I are planning to cover one hundred and twenty miles over six days. Twenty miles a day is a decent walk. I daresay at the end of it, I’ll be physically exhausted.

    Nevertheless, mentally, I will be completely refreshed. I cannot think of a better antidote to the stress of emigrating. The joy of the Camino is the singularity of it. Each day, we have one aim. To walk to the next stop. When hungry, we will stop and eat. When tired, we will sleep. At times we will talk, at others we may not even walk together. The Camino allows me the chance to be inside my own head. (It’s a weird place to be, trust me!)

    Life has a new rhythm. We arrive to our stop, check in, shower, change and then wash the clothes we just took off. Administration completed, we head out for food and wine. We write our journals, laugh and swap tall tales with fellow pilgrims. Sated, we’ll be early to bed and early to rise. The next day, we’ll do it all again.

    Once I’m back, we’ll be six days from leaving for Cyprus. The movers will be coming, there will be a thousand things that need doing, but I’ll be ready for them. Walking the Camino supercharges the soul and the spirit.

    Tough on the feet though.