Living the Dream – 72. Plotting and Planning

Autumn is for plotting and planning. Ideally, the New Year is when new chapters begin, and to make that happen, I need to get going in November.

Seasons

This is the perfect time to lock myself into the office/cave. The days are getting shorter, the evenings cooler, it’s the perfect time to bury myself in my notebooks. Except, Cyprus weather hasn’t read the script. Having had a try at autumnal, the days have decided to revert to summer. There’s not a cloud in the sky, the temperatures are soaring and the beaches are busy again. This is a problem that I am delighted to have, particularly after the trials of last winter.

Scope

In terms of plotting and planning, I look at several areas. The consulting business, the notebook business, the podcast, this site, the home and myself.

Method

Without getting formal, I put aside time to review the year in each area. What went well, what didn’t. I identify objectives for the next year. Once we get to that funny week between Christmas and New Year, I document all this, but for the moment, I just make notes.

stuartlennon.com

During 2019, I have posted three times a week on the site. Each post being 300-700 words. So, one or two thousand words a week. Work on the novel has been sporadic, to say the least. Hmmm…that needs looking at.

As it happens, my Wednesday posts have just reached the end of a series, “Going Solo”. I’m fairly certain that I am not going to leap straight into another series there – hell, perhaps I could edit 500 words of the novel instead? Now, there’s a revolutionary concept.

The Friday posts, of which this is one, will continue, but perhaps with a wider scope. On Monday’s, I post for Members, and I will continue to do that, perhaps tightening the focus there, moving back towards the novel.

Balance

I love this planning and plotting process. I do have to be careful though, as I have a tendency to forget things. Like the fact that I am married. I recently produced myself a week schedule, that managed to incorporate everything that I wanted to get done on an ongoing basis. It was a seven day schedule, including evenings. I think Mags and I got to spend a couple of waking hours a week together, during a quiz. Whoops.

The schedule

How will my schedule settle? Too early to say. That’s why I start the process in November. One thing for sure, I need to put aside time for writing. If I don’t, then not enough gets written.

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Living the Dream – 71. Spitting at the screen

I’m regularly spitting at the screen. My favourite comedian, Billy Connolly referred to his “muesli-covered Radio”, involuntarily pebbledashed each morning, by the outrage he felt at the nonsense being spoken.

I’m doing the same, but at various digital screens.

Politics

Obviously, I don’t live in the UK anymore. However, I’m still British and therefore interested in events there.

Brexit, or rather non-Brexit has gone beyond farce. This isn’t a piece supporting one side of the argument or the other, but whatever side one is, the school playground antics of the last few months have been maddening. Now, an election has been called, with each side certain that they will triumph and be able to force through their own agenda.

I can’t be the only person who has worked out that the campaign will be all about Brexit. Putting aside the blind optimism of zealots on either side, a single issue campaign might result, again, in a split roughly down the middle. Poor old British tax payers will spend millions on an election to get us back to the exact same spot in which we currently languish.

IT

Exhausted with the lunacy of politics, I retreat to work. I sit, surrounded by my beautiful designed, recently updated Apple hardware. Over recent years, Apple has been telling us that the future is in the cloud. Everything that we value, photos, media, and data will live in the loving care of Apple who will protect and cherish it. We will access these treasured resources through any and all of our sleek, expensive devices.

Sign me up!

They did, and I pay them each month for all manner of things. Yet, my data is not syncing. My photos are different on different devices. Applications that used to work, don’t work any more. Apple maintains a dignified silence on these things. All its utterances are passed through a “liability” filter, so at no point will they acknowledge specific issues. Mostly, they tell me to “turn it off and turn it on again”. Again, I find myself spitting at the screen.

The specific issues are not the point. I can cope that my Mac and my iPad have different versions of a note. I can copy them both elsewhere to ensure that I don’t lose anything. However, what else is Apple looking after for me? Oh. Wait. A lot. Really a lot. Copies of important documents, photos, scans, passwords…Apple has a hand in all of them.

What gets me spitting though, is that while users complain of errors in Catalina and IOS, Apple is reporting huge revenues, and launching new and exciting headphones. The CEO is almost certainly spouting some sanctimonious crap about privacy somewhere.

When did mediocrity become OK for Apple?

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Living the Dream – 70. Water, water, everywhere.

Winter 2019-2020:

“So – last winter was the worst in 109 years? Hold my beer.”

Storms

The sky shook, sheets of lightning lit the room again and again. Mediterranean storms are quite the show. Spice’s formative months were during the long, wet, nights of last year, and I think we both have fond memories of house training by storm-light. Storms don’t bother us.

Mags, on the other hand, is unnerved by electrical storms. Once, in Sicily, she saw lightning flash through the window, striking the light fitting in the dining room. Experience is a great tutor and she has a perfectly rational preference to stay well away from storms.

Limassol, our nearest big city, took a hammering. The castle square flash flooded, temporarily closing several of our favourite restaurants.

Everybody is remembering last year and the endless-feeling rains. Surely it can’t happen again? Can it?

Swimming

Contrarian that I am, I am determined not to let the weather affect me and have been swimming in the rain. Last year, when Nero was attacked, I stopped using the pool. My heart wasn’t in it. This year, I’m still swimming most days. My fellow residents consider me a lunatic for this. The pool isn’t heated, but even in the depth of winter, it stays comfortably in double figures centigrade. I have watched hardy Irish women bathe in the Irish Sea off Dublin in January. They’d probably regard our pool as a hot bath.

Golf

This week, we got caught in the rain on the golf course. For twenty minutes or so, it was decidedly unpleasant. Then, the sun came out, and by the end, I was dry and warm. Interestingly, of the 24 of us that started, only we 4 finished. Expats from the UK, Italy and Sweden felt the first rain drops and packed up and went home. Strange isn’t it? Mostly, people who have moved here say things like “I didn’t move here to play golf in the rain”. Presumably, they leave the golf course and drive home saying this to each other.

I’ve never understood that. Once I’m out, I’m out. If I get rained on, then, I’m wet. Wet is an absolute isn’t it? One is either wet or not wet. As a wet thing, more wet doesn’t make any difference. We played on and declared ourselves the winners by default.

Greek

As winter settles in, we are debating whether to pick up our learning-Greek careers. First, we were told that lessons would be on Friday from 1930 to 2100. I texted back that there was no way that I would be at night school on a Friday night. Lessons were moved back to Wednesday nights. Still, 1930 to 2100. I record 1857 on a Wednesday night, and frankly, I’m not overly enthusiastic about Greek level 2. Margaret is considering how much she wants to go – if she signs up, then I will. If she decides she has better things to do on a Wednesday evening, then our Greek will remain stubbornly level 1.

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Living the Dream – 69. Winter is coming

Our second winter is coming. As a special treat, our first winter in Cyprus was the wettest since records began over a hundred years previously.

Winter Chores

Like many expats before us, we discovered that it doesn’t need to get too wet or too cold to feel unpleasant in Cyprus. House-building here focuses on keeping properties cool, not on keeping them warm. There is no damp course on our house, and one side gets wet. Last year, it got so wet, that our main guest bedroom developed a very mouldy damp smell and some crumbling plaster.

Upon returning from our UK trip, we will address this with the help of a neighbour who is far more competent than I in this type of thing. My strength is probably in fetching and carrying and making coffee.

When not raining, (winter is coming) I plan to get some work done in the garden. The first stage of fence-painting, some burying of cables, and taking some electricity to the back garden, allowing us to add some lights and appliances to the pool area.

Back in Blighty

I wrote last week, that I was intrigued to see how Margaret found going back to the UK for a week. Overall, she had a great time, but within that, there was a lot to unpack.

We took a cab to the hotel (pen show) on landing, and once checked-in, we crossed the street to a busy pub. Bloomsbury is not Leicester Square, but it is central London on a Saturday night. The pub was packed – but we found a table. Mags was a rabbit in the headlights. There’s no noise like a busy London pub. You feel it as much as hear it. A cacophony of conversation in multiple languages, on top of music.

I marvelled at payments. I bought a few rounds and at no point, not once, did I see anyone use cash. Contactless via card or phone or even watch was de rigeur.

On the way to bed – Margaret stopped for a cigarette at the hotel entrance and watched a group of girls stumble out of a nearby mall, and one threw up colourfully on the street. Charming.

Mags and I met up again on the last night before returning here to Cyprus. We strolled through central London, stopped for a drink in the Crusting Pipe at Covent Garden, ate amazing food at Barrafina and watched the splendid “School of Rock” on Drury Lane. All the best of London. Wonderful architecture, a busy cafe with superb street entertainers, international food of the highest order and a West End show that left us excited and buzzing.

We spoke. Margaret loved London. She was delighted to be returning to Cyprus. When she was in Hampshire, from whence we came to Cyprus, she did not feel anything. Food for thought.

Living the Dream – 68. Back on the Road

I’m back on the road, this time with Margaret. In between guests, we are back in the UK for a week.

Spice is off to Camp Bow-wow, and we’re off to good old Blighty. It may be the last time that we pass through an EU passport holder’s queue. Or it may not.

Itinerary

I have a complicated trip, going from one profession to another and traversing the country East to West and back again. Margaret too is doing a fair amount of internal travel catching up with friends, family and bits and pieces. She is helping out with the pen show, and then we will probably meet up again at the airport in London.

This journey was booked a while back, before I switched across to EasyJet, so this will be the last British Airways flight for a while. We can enjoy free food and a glass of wine. We will be getting a tube to our hotel, which is the venue for the pen show on the following day.

Luggage

I will be on the road with my Away Carry-on and some form of laptop bag. For a 7 day trip, that’s quite a stretch. However, all the internal travel means that I’m going to be on and off trains, in and out of hotels and the idea of fighting with multiple suitcases is too much to bear. The weather forecast suggests that I’m going to need warm clothes that are not averse to getting wet, placing more strain on the packing. My week is business – so I’ll be living in a suit and dress shoes for the week.

Impact

I’m fascinated to see how Mags enjoys the trip. This will be the first time that she has been back to the UK since we move here to Cyprus. Will she board the flight back to Cyprus full of joy and anticipation? Or will she be sad to be leaving the UK behind again? I’m sure that we will have much to discuss on the flight home

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Living the Dream – 67. Permanent Holiday

“A permanent holiday, isn’t it? Living in Cyprus?”

That would be nice. Really nice. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy holidays. I eat too well, drink too much, exercise less, but have a terrific time.

Of course, this might explain why I put on 35lbs in weight in the year since moving here. Turns out, a low exercise, high-kebab, high-beer diet is a great way to expand the waistline.

Guests

I have written before about the privilege, and the challenge of having guests. As I write now, our two friends are beside the pool, soaking up the sun.

I must commend these guests, who like those before them, are understanding of the fact that I need to do some work, and are happy pleasing themselves.

The problem is not them, it’s us; or more specifically me. I want to show people #livingthedream. I want to open a bottle of wine and sit on the terrace watching the sun go down. I want to take guests to my favourite restaurant to eat amazing food, served by charming, happy hosts. Right now, I want to be up at the pool, discussing with my guests where we should eat tonight.

Discipline

I’m getting better at it. This morning, I walked the dog early, and was ensconced in my office before anybody else was up. Out of sight, out of mind. I joined them for lunch, and have returned here to my keyboard and my bullet journal. Once hidden down here, I find it easy to get myself into work.

I’m working very hard at moderating my eating and drinking, just having one meal a day and cutting down my alcohol intake, but I’m sure that I am not going to be able to be very strict on myself until we are guest-free.

It’s not a permanent holiday, but I realise how lucky I am – these are hardly tough problems are they?

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Living the Dream – 66. 12 months

12 months (and two days) ago, Mags and I arrived in Cyprus, to make a new life for ourselves. We were excited and full of optimism.

Tragedy

In October, our hearts were ripped to pieces, when our beloved and much-missed pet Nero was savaged and killed by a village dog, that habitually chained up, had been let loose, and snatched Nero from Margaret’s arms.

Nero chillin'

The fact that Nero’s killer remains in the village haunts me still. However, led by Margaret’s bravery, we persist. The winter was wet (the wettest in over a hundred years) and seemed to go on forever.

Recovery

Gradually, though, we settled into life. We have taken Greek classes, and it’s back to school next month for level 2. Spice, the smartest dog that I have ever met, has joined the household, bringing joy and enthusiasm to every day.

Award-winning pooch
The summer has been hot, but not too hot and we look at each other wondering where it went. It seems only a few weeks ago that were welcoming the sun, and now the nights are drawing in and dawn is getting later and later.
As I type, we are entertaining guests and preparing to head back to the UK. I have some work to do there, and Margaret is seeing friends, family and completing some hassle/admin stuff.

Future

Can we see our future here? Yes, and No. Mags is firm that she wouldn’t want to stay here ‘forever’ but is happy to stay a while. We have 12 months under our belt and it looks like we’ll go for another 12 months. We are making the house our own, making friends and getting on with our businesses.

Brexit looms over us – mostly because of the seemingly endless prevarication of the politicians. It will be much easier when the guesswork stops and everybody just gets on with it.

The Last word

I’m loving the sun, the beer and the golf. Working from my own dedicated space is a true privilege – and as the clock ticks towards midday, I’m delighted to be able to type; I’m off for a swim.

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Living the Dream – 65. Autumn

Autumn is here. Meteorologists are in Autumn from September 1st. Some people look for the leaves to change colour on the trees. My Autumn begins when I return from the camino.

September is often still hot, but gets cooler as the month goes on. October is still dry and warm, and makes for a good time to visit the island, as it is not too sweaty.

Late September will also mark the anniversary of our arrival here and the inevitable review that this will prompt.

Changes

I’m determined to get back into exercise. Some pounds came off walking in Spain, and there’s plenty of room for more to come off. With the heat abated, I’ll walk around the golf course, go hiking at the weekend, and hopefully introduce a daily walk to my routine. Swimming will be more focused and deliberate, rather than a strategy to cool off.

A year of BBQ and Keo beer has been fun, and I carry the weighty evidence around my waist. Time to swap (some) beer for water and (some) BBQ for salad.

We have friends coming for a fortnight in September, and another set in October. In between, I’m back in the UK for both my consulting business and the notebook one. I will need to balance having fun with them and getting all my work done.

Projects

The tree surgeon is coming back to tame our fig tree. It’s enormous! During August, it produced thousands of sweet succulent figs, feeding lots of people and even Spice, who is quite partial to a fig or two for breakfast. Once the fruit is gone, he’ll cut it back to keep it manageable.

If summer is somnolent, Autumn is awakening. The weather is less oppressive, so it’s the time to get stuff done around the house and in the garden. Mrs L and I have a list of projects to get done.

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Living the Dream – 64. Camino IV Part II

Camino IV Part II is brought to you by the magic of the internet. This post, and every post this week, has published while I am walking in Northern Spain.

Last Walking Day

Today, Friday, is our last walking day on this trip. If everything has gone to plan, then we awoke this morning in Herreriás, our last stop in the Province of Castille y Léon. Dinner was at 2,100 feet above sea-level. Desayuno Dos (Breakfast 2, taken after a couple of hours walking) will be at close to 4,000 ft above sea-level. Not our highest ascent on this trip, but probably the steepest climb.

As we lean into the hill and trudge up, we will cross into Galicia, the last province of Spain on the Camino. Galicia is fertile and verdant. Put another way, it is the wettest place in Europe. Must be a reasonable chance it will rain on us. Breakfast 2 will be taken at O’Cebreiro, from where Triacastela, our end point for this year, is a gentle 4 or 5 hours away.

Mechanised Again

At Triacastela, we’ll get a bus or a cab to Sarria, where we have a hotel booked. Sarria has direct transport links to Santiago, from whence we fly home. So, getting there at the end of Friday makes for a much less stressful Saturday, when we can get a morning train to Santiago and spend a couple of hours in the city before heading to the airport.

Santiago de Compostella

I suspect those few hours in Santiago will be odd. All the other pilgrims will be elated – they have finished. Stu and I will undoubtedly feel slightly fraudulent, being 83 miles short. Still, I’m sure we will identify where we might have our celebratory dinner next year.

Camino V

2020, we will resume our pilgrimage from Triacastela, and complete the 500 miles from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela.

The days after a camino are a bit sad. I feel tired, and in my case, want sleep and carbohydrates in equal part. The mind feels refreshed from the meditative nature of the endeavour but simultaneously shocked by the re-immersion into the modern world. I’m glad to be back at home with Margaret and Spice, but a pert of me  A part of me wants to go to bed early, rise early, and lace up my shoes for another long walk.

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Living the Dream – 63. Camino IV

Camino IV begins the day after this post publishes. I’m off to Northern Spain again.

Route

Over six days, I will walk 109.5 miles (176.2 Km). This is Camino IV of V, and next year we have 83 miles left of the 500 mile pilgrimage that we began in Southern France at St Jean Pied de Port.

I wrote last week about the complexity of getting to this year’s start point, but once there, things get really simple, really fast.

Simplicity

The Camino Francés is marked out by scallop shells and yellow arrows. Sometimes on the street, some times on signs or even just painted onto trees. It’s perfectly possible to complete the camino without ever looking at a map. You just follow the yellow arrows.

Pilgrims stay in Albergués (hostels) or hotels. There are thousands of them along the route. Many pilgrims walk until they are tired, stop and rest for the night. Others, all buy the same guide book, and replicate the walks and stops made in the book (this leads to bottlenecks in the featured stops and empty beds in all the other possiblities). Now, as seasoned pilgrims, we know our distances and we pre-book rooms, off the featured list.

Most of Saturday will be spent getting to our hotel. Stu, my friend, and I will have supper and catch up over too much wine. The night will end early though, the threat of a 20 mile walk in the morning sending us to bed. On Sunday we rise, pack leave the hotel and follow the yellow arrows.

Daily Routine

If things go as they usually do, then Sunday will work as follows.

Leave the hotel around 7am after a coffee and croissant. We will walk from the centre of the city to the outskirts as the sun rises. It’s early Sunday in Spain, there will be nobody but pilgrims up and about. Around 9, we will reach La Virgen del Camino (Pop. 3,100) where Stu will have Desayuno Dos (Breakfast #2). We will strike on, having naturally moved from warm-up speed to cruising-speed. 3 hours or so will take us to Villadangos del Paramo. This is a “stop” in the most popular guidebook, so many pilgrims will be rushing here to try to get a bed in the “best” hostel. We will stop for lunch – probably a sandwich and a cold beer with our shoes and socks off.

Rested, we will set off for a destination, Hospital de Orbigo, which is another couple of hours up the road. All things being equal, we will arrive at our hotel at 3, 4 o’clock. We’ll check in, shower, change and get our dirty clothes washed and dried (or hung up). Then, to a bar with a decent terrace, phone home, write our journals and reflect on a good day. We’ll find dinner, laugh and joke with some fellow pilgrims and then hit the sack.

The next five days will follow the same pattern. Simple.

Packing

Now that we have settled into this routine, packing is easy for Camino IV. In the morning, I am wearing boxers, socks, shorts and a t shirt. I have a warm layer and a waterproof if I need them. In my bag, there’s another set of boxers and socks, some lightweight jogging pants, and another t shirt. Flip flops, some wash kit, first aid kit, charging leads for watch and phone, journal kit and guide book. That’s pretty much it.

The joy of the camino is its simplicity.

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