Going Solo. 1. So, you want to go solo?

Readers have asked me how I got to go solo. Hence, this new category of posts. Over twenty weeks, I will spell out, step by step, how to go solo. Posts will go up each Wednesday. While comments are not enabled on the blog, I’m always happy to answer questions. Grab me on Twitter @stulennon

On Fridays, I post about #livingthedream. Margaret and I have upped sticks from the UK and now live on the Mediterranean island, Cyprus. Mostly, it has been fantastic, although there have been so real lows too. You can catch up by clicking on the category “Living the Dream” in the main menu.

Going Solo

A key element of crafting our dream life is the ability to work for ourselves. I choose when and where I work. If I want to go to the beach, I go to the beach. I am master of my own time.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? It is.

Commuting

I work from home. I have a ground floor office that looks out onto my garden. It has a daybed, a couple of desks and a host of my favourite things. I work here, I read here, sometimes I nap here. In the past, I enjoyed listening to podcasts on my long walk to the office. Now, I take a swim before I come to the office, and can listen to podcasts all day, if I choose.

Working Hours

I play golf. Not everybody’s thing, I know, but I love it. Three times a week, I’m at the club. I play, drink a beer with my friends, maybe have a meal. It’s a lot of fun.

Cyprus is hot. In summer, it’s really hot. There is air conditioning in the office, but I don’t use it. When it gets unbearably hot, I go for a swim, then take a nap.

It’s tough to fit golf and naps into a traditional “employed”, working week. Certainly, everywhere that I’ve worked took a dim view of me going to sleep in the afternoons.

The Beach

Honestly, I’m not much of a beach-bum. That said, a lounger in the shade, The Mediterranean at my feet and a frozen cocktail at my side is not the worst way to spend an afternoon. I can do that and call it work. Technology enables us to work from anywhere. Sometimes, I swing by the beach to do some work, just to remind myself that I can.

The Boss

I’m accountable only to myself. There is nobody pushing me to do things that I don’t enjoy, or that add no value to my day. I decide what needs to be done, by when. It’s liberating.

Lucky me, huh?

Make your own luck.

There are no guarantees in life. Nor do many get everything that they dream. However – we can be pretty sure that doing nothing, leads to nothing.

Life is for living. I didn’t wake up one morning and find myself working for myself. A series of decisions have got me here.

I’ll lead you through those decisions, week by week.

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Through Gritted Teeth

Through gritted teeth, I’m saying out loud, “the funk is finished.”
I have been flying through task lists and dealing with all sorts of domestic drama, promising myself that I will find the time to get editing again.

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Living the Dream – 51. Back on Track

Everything is back on track.

Returned

Margaret has returned, bringing the elves with her. The house looks tidier, smells nicer and everything is where it should be. Both Spice and I have a spring in our step.

Temporary?

But for how long? One of Margaret’s closest friends is at the bedside of her mother, who will pass away today after a sudden illness. That’s a punch of perspective in the face. Mags is considering whether she should be getting back on a plane. Spice and I have both declared that we’ll manage; with practice, we’re improving.

Review

My ten days of golf, (which was actually eight days, one hiking day and one rest day) were lots of fun. I am fitter, striking the ball better and even managed to avoid rehydrating with beer. Whilst I feel spritely, my trousers are still tighter than I would like; having dealt with the ‘move more’ part of the equation, I now need to face the ‘eat less’ part. Boo.

Time

I love playing golf, and it is a great way of getting exercise that is appropriate for a round middle-aged man. But, my, it takes a long time. Let me explain.

  1. Commute. The course is 25 minutes drive away. So, if I’m due on the tee at 0800, I leave the house at 0700. This will require me to getup at 0530 / 0600 to get Spice exercised and fed.
  2. A round takes anything between 3.5 and 5 hours. Usually 4 to 4.5. So, I’m coming off the course around 1230.
  3. It’s traditional to raise a glass with your flight, and I’ll take the opportunity to order some lunch too. That’ll take me to 1330 / 1400.
  4. Half an hour home. 1430 / 1500.
  5. Play with Spice, get a wash on and have a swim and shower. Hang the washing out to dry. 1530 / 1600.

At this point, I’m ten hours into my day and pretty tired. A nap looks much more attractive than any work.

Add in dinner and some TV, my day is done. I need to get back on track with work.

Balance

So – much though I love playing golf, there is no way in the world that I can sustain playing every day or close to it. “Poor you”, I hear you think. You’re right, this is not a first world problem, it’s a privileged, entitled, complete non-problem.

It has taught me that a “leisure-only” lifestyle does not appeal to me. I missed working, I missed “margin”, by which I mean, time that is not assigned to anything specific.

There we are. Pushing fifty, and I’ve worked out that life requires balance. Better late than never, I suppose. Time to get back on track.

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Working Tools 25. – The Mac Pro

The Mac Pro

The Mac Pro is on its way.

For years, hardcore Mac aficionados have been railing, whining and whingeing about the lack of a successor to the Mac Pro, less than affectionately known as the “Trash can.” Why had Apple abandoned the top end of the market? When had mediocrity become the target segment?

No! Not good enough. Not modular enough, not high-end enough.

The Kit

Somebody, deep in the Apple-core, rolled up their sleeves and swore fluently and silently, flint in their eyes.

The Mac Pro was previewed at the worldwide developers conference (WWDC) last week.

Boom.

I understand little of these things, but by all accounts, this thing is a monster. Massive processing power. The ability to ramp up the specifications to levels never hitherto considered.

There were gasps and rapturous applause.

Cost

The machine will start at $5,000. Should you want a matching screen, you can have one of those for $5,000 too.

So, everybody’s happy now.

Ah. No.

Not exactly.

It appears that the quoted prices are a mite misleading. The base machine has a 256 GB SSD, which is way too small for most purposes. Apple are renowned for high prices on SSD upgrades. The monitor price is a starter too. Should you wish to have the monitor on a stand, then you need to pay another $1,000. Or, you could plump for a bracket to attach to a monitor arm, yours for $200. I suppose you could lean it against the wall.

I was just listening to two avid apple watchers agree that they expect to be able to configure a single workstation up to $50,000.

Outrage

Twitter is alight. How dare Apple produce a machine so good, so modular, so high-end that it’s so unaffordable!

Apple of course is laughing all the way to the bank. I have no idea how many units will be sold to people that make full use of their capability. I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of sales will be to people who have generated elaborate justifications for why they need the machine. (Look out for key phrases “Spare capacity”, “future-proofing” and the like.) I write as one who has a strong line in elaborate justifications.

Additionally, the iMac Pro has gone from “top end” to “sensible option for pros.” Folk that were hanging on for the Mac Pro will either buy one, or pull the trigger on buying the iMac Pro.

Clever people at Apple. I believe that one day, they’ll be the biggest company in…Oh. Wait.

Other announcements

There were lots of positive announcements on the future of software in the Apple world – and plenty of encouraging words around my favoured device the iPad.

As previously posited, I see no reason currently to upgrade my hardware. Apple is relaxed with that, and has adjusted its pricing accordingly. People are upgrading less frequently, but when they do, oh boy, brace yourself.

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Writer’s Block

The Situation

Whether writer’s block is a thing or not, is beyond my pay grade. I do know that I haven’t done any writing for a week or more.

Why not?

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Living the Dream – 50. Home Alone

Parteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

I’m home alone for ten days. Mrs L is in Sicily, visiting the ancestral village and a friend or two.
As an introverted extrovert, or extroverted introvert, or something like that, I am happy in my own company. While I’m relaxed about being home alone, Mrs L is a bag of nerves.
She fears what she’ll come home to…

“Pah! What could possibly go wrong?”

Plans

I decided that I would use this period to kick start my weight-loss. Play a bit more golf, eat salad and stay away from “liquid calories”, as it were. I elected to sign up for some golf events, and accept any invitation for a bit of exercise.
Golf again on Saturday and I grabbed a nap before dropping Margaret to the airport in the early hours of the morning. Back home in time for another nap before joining the rambling club for eight miles up in the hills. Up being the operative word.

Home Alone

Shock

Not only am I home alone, but Mags has taken the elves with her. I returned from the hike, slightly grilled, a hot and sweaty mess. I peeled off my walking clothes and dumped them in the usual spot before taking a well-earned leisurely swim. Imagine my shock to discover my clothes unwashed, in the same spot as I dropped them. I can’t believe the washing elf has gone with Margaret to Sicily. Undeterred, I put a wash on, had a shower and took a seat on the terrace. After half an hour or so, it occurred to me that the cooking elf was gone too. I had to make my own salad. The deprivation. I collapsed into bed.

Into the Swing

Monday morning, I have played golf again, and am now drafting some posts before cooking supper.
For the record, I am scheduled to play Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. Given that I walk the course, and the weather has gone to “Phew, bit warm out there”, which is English understatement for when the concrete is too hot to walk on and you can’t see a thing for the sweat pouring into your eyes; I will certainly lose fluids.

Home alone - on the golf course
Now – will I be able to resist replacing those fluids with hop-enhanced water?

I’ll let you know.

Postscripts

PS. I decided that my beanbag cover could do with a wash. I undid the zip cautiously. Hmmm…no lining. I decided to wrestle a bin bag over the opening. Or, as it happens, partially over the opening. The ensuing snow storm on the balcony perplexed the dog, but was very pretty. Momentarily, Spice retreated to the garden in the face of the explosive, Anglo-Saxon language that I employed to cajole 4 gazillion tiny white balls into a bin-liner.

Tomorrow is the rematch, when I try to get the balls back into the cover.

Home alone, a litany of unforeseen challenges.

PPS. – It’s Friday. I’m still alive, as is the dog. Monday – not long after drafting this post, I recorded 1857, my podcast with T J Cosgrove, where I decided to have a medicinal brandy. Or two. Or more. Judging by the ferocity of my hangover, “more” seems most probable. Since then, I’ve been dry, played some decent golf and got the 4 gazillion tiny white balls back in the cover. Well, some of them at least.

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Working Tools 24. – I Like a Good Watch

I like a good watch. Actually, I like several good watches.

Genesis

Back in 1993, I left University and took a full time role in the foreign exchange industry. Not in a London trading room, but in Budapest. I boarded the plane with only an approximate idea of where Budapest was and what it would be like.
On Vaci Utca, I passed a Tag Heuer store every day. Within weeks, I had decided that as an “expat professional” I needed a good watch. When my first pay check arrived, I bought one.

My Tag, a good watch

Over the next twenty five years or so, I picked up several more watches, either on impulse, as a gift or through inheritance. I even have a pocket watch. Part utility item, part jewellery, I like a good watch.

Digital

Then along came Apple. Having established themselves as ever-present on my desk, in my briefcase and in my pocket, the fruit-folk were after my wrist. I resisted. Why on earth would I need a notification on my wrist when I’m forever switching them off on all my other devices, one of which is already on my person? However, I did find myself wearing a Fitbit. I was trying to lose weight and was on the 10,000 step wave. It was only a matter of time before I was seduced by Apple Watch, if only for its fitness tracking.

I like a watch and the Apple Watch is that, and much more. I’ll be honest, I don’t know how to use much of the functionality.

What do I use Apple Watch for:

  1. The time.
  2. My steps, my “standing hours” and my “active minutes” and “active calories”.
  3. Calorie burn during workouts.
  4. It keeps me available (if I want to be) when swimming.
  5. As a quick notification centre; a triage, if you like.
  6. The weather forecast.
  7. My calendar

Hang on. I use this thing a lot.

Surprise

Often, I ache for the analogue. I switch to a dumb phone, and wear a “Slo-Jo Watch”.

When I do, I miss the watch more than the phone, which surprises me every time.

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Novel Launch

“How does a novel launch work?”
“Usually, there’s an introduction, then the author reads a passage, perhaps a Q&A and then we buy a copy, get it signed, quick glass of wine and off for supper.”
“It will be in English, won’t it?”
“Of course it will, darling. The novel is in English, the invitation is in English.”

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Living the Dream – 49. Award-winning pooch

Spice is an award-winning pooch. On Saturday, “Rescue and Rehome Cyprus” ran a fair at our local taverna, Lenia’s. Margaret had a table for her Grief Recovery Method site, not because she saw it as an opportunity to grow the business, but as a chance to support RnR.

The Down

As is the way with this type of event, timings ran askew, and I arrived just as the “Best Rescue dog” category was being judged. Disaster. I felt sure that Spice would have become our award-winning pooch in this category, but I was too late. Crestfallen, Spice and I retired to the bar. The least I could do was buy her a beer, I thought. Spice took the setback well. This was her first time in a crowd of humans, tiny humans and dogs and the whole experience was captivating for her. She was particularly taken with the tiny humans.

The Up

Spice was now entered in the “Best in Show” category. The major leagues! Nervous, I handed the lead to Margaret, who had, over the last six weeks, worked with Spice in obedience classes.
Well. Ladies and Gentlemen, my nerves were unnecessary. Spice was born to the catwalk. Rather than wag her tail, Spice wags her bum, walking with her head held high. She made eye contact with every tiny human that she had charmed earlier. As she approached the children, she laid on her back, allowing them to tickle her tummy and coo. Within seconds, she had the tiny humans chanting “This is the Winner!” at the vet tasked with judging the show. Resistance was futile in the face of the little people’s vote and it was only a matter of time before the judge declared Spice the winner, making her an award-winning pooch.

Strength

We rescued Spice at 8 weeks old, 6 months ago, in the aftermath of losing our beloved Nero. She is as sharp as a tack, playful and affectionate. She launches herself into every moment with complete commitment, enthusiasm and joy. It’s impossible to feel down in her presence.
As I sat with a celebratory beer, I could not have been prouder, of Spice, yes; but more of Margaret, who has battled back from an horrific experience with courage and fortitude. Living the Dream got off to the worst possible start for her, but she’s still here, making it happen.

Nero’s NotesNero’s Notes supports Rescue and Rehome Cyprus with a £1 from every subscription sold. They are a wonderful charity, doing a difficult and important job.

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Working Tools 23. – Time to Upgrade?

Is it time to upgrade my hardware setup?

Hardware

The first post in the #Workingtools series was a description of my hardware setup, and the second was on software. That was in April. All of the hardware is 2016 / 2017, which is unusual for me.

The laptop is of the generation(s) with the fragile keyboard. I’m hoping that it is relatively safe, as I use it in clamshell mode with an external display and keyboard. The iPad Pro is a 10.5 inch and I use it more and more for work.

WWDC

As I write, the Apple WWDC shindig is a week away, and it is widely rumoured that many of the software limitations of the tablet will be removed. This spring event focuses on software, so I expect no new hardware.

Expectations

Realistically, I don’t expect to be closer to an iPad-only workflow. Recording a podcast, importing photos and then editing them, are tasks that I expect to remain easier on machine that allows for some physical connection. However, some of the expected changes will, I suspect, increase the advantage that the tablet has over the laptop for some tasks. I welcome that, but at the time of writing, I’m still happy with the hardware that I have, or rather I cannot justify the cost of any available upgrade.

Presumably, the new software will enable Apple to release exciting shiny things in the autumn, things that will be appreciably more powerful than the things that I’m using now. Perhaps that will be the time to upgrade?

Conclusion

I’m disappointed now. I started this post with a vague idea that WWDC would mark the time that I should upgrade my tablet and pencil. However, as I wrote it, I came to the conclusion that I have no need for any new electronics. I must be getting old.

Still – I may be wrong, Apple may have a surprise in store.

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