• 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.

  • Living the Dream – 13. Farewell

    Farewell!

    I’m all out of weekends. Not that I have cancelled them, but I have no more weekends in England. As I write this, I am preparing for my walking trip in Spain, which runs from next Saturday morning until the following Saturday night, and the one after that is departure day for the big adventure.

    A few people have asked us when our farewell party is happening. I laugh. Margaret is, overall, much nicer than me and frets over whether we should have one. Inevitably, time is accelerating, and neither of us has a free day or evening between now and departure.

    I handed in my locker key at the golf club last weekend. I’m not going to get another round in before we leave. Sad though I am to no longer be a member of Tidworth Garrison Golf Club, I’m excited to be a member at Secret Valley Golf Club. This mirrors how Margaret and I feel about the whole move. There is much here in England that we will muss, but there is more in Cyprus to look forward to.

    I paid the moving company today.

    I needed a sit down afterwards.

    Even the insurance bill made me catch my breath. Door to door, our chattels will be in transit for two weeks or so. To insure them for that time will cost us 1.5% of the declared value. An annualised cost of nearly 40%.

    Now, I’m no mariner, but as far as I’m aware, my furniture is unlikely to come up against Somali pirates as it hugs France’s Atlantic coast before turning left into the Mediterranean Sea; which is usually about as tempestuous as a puddle. As with all insurance, if we don’t need it, it’s incredibly expensive – if we do need it, it will be very cheap.

    The picture is taken on my morning commute – which is one thing that I will miss, although I daresay a swim in the pool will be just as much fun.

  • Living the Dream -12. Four Weeks

    I write this exactly four weeks before we fly to Cyprus.

    We are a tiny bit disappointed, knowing that we will be inspecting damage done by last week’s uninvited guests. (Robbed!)

    Friends secured the house for us immediately after the robbery, but the repairs are temporary and we will need to deal with the internal damage. So, along with sourcing a home security system, sorting these things out will be the first order of business.

    Admin

    Now that the move is four weeks away, I’m able to pull the trigger on several decisions that I had deferred; insurance policies and the like. Forms to fill in. What fun! Said nobody ever about filling in forms.

    Even more amusing, I have to make several very chunky payments. I’ll be glad when this part of the process is done with – nobody likes handing over lots of money. Hopefully though, this will soon pass. I will have made, or set up,  the payments, the to-do list will be shorter – and I’ll disappear off for a week’s walking in Spain with my best mate; leaving Mags in the eye of the storm. (Yes, I do know that I am a very, very lucky guy to have such an awesome, understanding and generous woman as my wife.)

    Stationery

    More fun has been picking out stationery supplies for my new home office. Regular readers will know that I love my paper products and analogue tools, and that I own a webshop, Nero’s Notes. The picture is one box of notebooks that should get me started. (I know – it’s an addiction!)

    We are still stressed, still wrangling to-do lists, but we’re getting excited too.

    Tools

    I spoke today with the man who has maintained the swimming pool and the garden for us. He revealed that the thieves had thrown my power tools into the swimming pool.

    Charming. Criminals these days, no class.

    In fairness, my lack of proficiency with power tools is legendary, but I do find myself affronted that the thieves threw them into the pool, nevertheless.

    Swine.

  • Living the Dream – 11. Robbed!

    Ouch. The unexpected ring of the phone startled me. I spilled coffee onto my hand.

    It was before six. Who called a mobile before six in the morning? The ring had come from Margaret’s phone. I let it ring and dealt with the spill.

    Mags called Antonia back. Antonia keeps an eye on the house in Cyprus for us and gets it ready whenever we visit.  When there had been no answer, she had also sent an email, one that encapsulates the situation rather nicely;

    “Good day. I have bad news. Somebody stole your home.”

    I imagine it reads a bit better in Greek; still Google Translate got the message across. We had been robbed.

    Not the start to the day that we hoped for.

    Every room had been ransacked.

    I imagine that the thieves were looking for a store of value. A safe or similar. They even emptied the washing conditioner bottle. The utility room is now very fragrant.

    There is no good time to be robbed, but there might be many worse times than when we were not in residence and the house was sparsely furnished.

    We’re far from happy, but I can’t help but smile when I picture some dope tearing around the house trying to find something more valuable than the router.

    An empty house is always a target, I guess, but first order of business in October will be a home security review.

  • Living the Dream – 10. Reality Bites

    Reality has crept up. For months, emigrating has been exciting, distant and most importantly, theoretical. Something to talk about, plan for, even blog about.

    Then, all of a sudden, reality sidles in unseen, and chomps hard into my backside.

    By the time this post publishes, I’ll have twenty one more days in the UK, along with eight walking in Spain. Less than a month.

    Friends are anxious to get together, wanting to wish us ‘Bon Voyage’. Last chances are mounting up; the last chance to go this shop or that restaurant.

    Mags and I find ourselves tired, and tetchy. Inexorably, stress levels have crept up. We’re both developing little health niggles. Regardless of lists, the volume of tasks is overwhelming. If we can’t find anything to stress about, then we invent some.

    “What if…what about…?”

    We devise endless potential problems and issues, rather than deal with the reality:

    We’re scared.

    What if we hate it? What if we’re bored? What if we can’t stand the relentless weather?

    Still – I think this stage is passing. I’m through it. If I’m with Margaret, I’ll be OK (Not sure she feels the same!)

    We’re starting a new, exciting chapter – and most importantly, we’re starting it together.

    I’ll take that reality.

  • Living the Dream – 9. Nero

    Nero. The Easiest Decision.

    I wrote last week about the Hassle Hurricane and my coping strategy. The to-do lists are still growing but light is discernible at the end of the tunnel. One of our first decisions, which I have not covered in an earlier post, was our easiest. What to do with Nero.

    Nero is our miniature schnauzer, and there was absolutely no way that Mags and I were going anywhere without him.

    As there are no longer ferries to Cyprus, like us Nero need to travel to by air. Technically, he is cargo, but we don’t say that when he’s within earshot. Cargo costs are remarkably reasonable, however when the cargo is a beloved family pet, the ‘extras’ come thick and fast. Overall, Nero’s one-way travel will cost considerably more than two human return tickets.

    The little guy won’t be flying with us. In part, this is because we are flying at a weekend, and in part because I would rather not deal with lots of luggage and him at the same time. Wrangling the luggage to the car hire desk, and then to the hire car is bothersome enough, with a disoriented dog desperate to mark his territory, explore every nook and cranny of the airport and make everyone aware of his presence with a persistent bark.

    Reservation

    So he will spend a few days in kennels in England, where he will undergo his pre-flight medical checks and will fly to us on the Tuesday. (We fly the previous Saturday.)

    In my experience, dogs are sanguine creatures, and Nero will adapt easily to the flight, first enjoying the new sounds and smells, then opting for his usual coping mechanisms of a hearty bark, and then a good snooze. That knowledge won’t stop Mags and I worrying about him. If you have a dog – you know.

    Nero, always a puppy to us, is a senior citizen now. The vet predicts that the warmer weather will do his arthritis the world of good. Quite what he’ll make of the wildlife, I’ve no idea. Small lizards and snakes will be entirely new to him, I imagine.

    For Mags and I, the sight of Nero in the house will be significant, I think.

    Where Nero is, is home.

     

  • Living the Dream – 8. Hassle Hurricane

    In six weeks or so, we will be waking up in Cyprus. As my home. Oh, how I anticipate that day! Right now however, we are in the midst of a hassle hurricane.

    Hassle

    Each day, I wake to long to-do lists, endless dependencies and unforeseen complications. There’s a skip on the drive, bundles of paperwork to complete and the small matter of valuing every single thing that we own still outstanding. The garage needs partitioning, the fridge ‘un-plumbing’, the list goes on.

    There are plenty of people who offer to take away this hassle. At a price. More than once, my legendary patience and laid-back approach to life has been tested by ambitious quotes.

    “How much?!” I have spluttered.

    Fortunately, I married a very smart woman, who has calmly sourced alternative solutions, leaving me snorting and shouting ineffectively into the wind.

    Ultimately, the sheer volume of tasks can be stress-inducing and overwhelming. Often, changing one arrangement has a knock-on effect requiring several other things to be adjusted.

    Solution

    Staying on top of these hassles requires a notebook. That might sound silly, but it isn’t: Writing lists asserts control over the tasks, ticking them off creates a feeling of progress. Referring to the book calms any mounting nerves and anxieties.

    For those of geeky disposition (like me), the notebook is a Great Barrier Reef by Dingbats, from my store, Nero’s Notes. I got the pencil from there too, and it is a Palomino Forest Choice.

    Have no illusion, the notebook completes no tasks and lowers no prices, the hassle hurricane remains. However – using the notebook helps me plan my days and navigate the bureaucratic nonsense, arrangements and dependencies. Suddenly, I can spy glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel. Some lists are completed, some can only be completed nearer to departure date.

  • Living the Dream – 7. Mobile phone

    Mobile Phone

    “It’s time to renew your mobile phone contract.”

    Music to my ears. The mobile contract for Mags and I was expiring a couple of months before we are due to leave. Once or twice in the past I have retained contracts made useless by a change of country.

    Once, it was important. Changing your phone number was a hassle. I went to great lengths to ensure that that everybody knew how to contact me. Partly this was driven by an inflated sense of self-importance, and partly because it was true. A lot of business was done and organised on the phone.

    I have just checked my phone log. Statistics for the last week.

    • 11 calls over 7 days. 1 of which was a missed call
    • 5 were between Mags and I
    • 3 were between my Mum and I
    • 1 was a friend
    • 1 was a company looking to sell me stationery

    The majority of my communication these days is not over the phone. It is on e-mail or other electronic channels. Even when communication is by voice, it is often over the internet (VOIP). Were I in Cyprus, I suspect that the three calls with my Mum would have been over the internet. The stationer wouldn’t call me internationally either. As I’ll be working from home, Mags is likely to put her head around the door rather than call me.

    By any reasonable measure then, I don’t actually need a mobile phone for phone calls.

    Decision

    Great. I won’t get one.

    Oh, but it is handy to have internet access on the road. Social media is after all the shop window for my businesses. Actually, having an incredible camera in the pocket is pretty cool too. What about emergencies? Good point. Looks like I’m stuck with a mobile phone.

    I converted the UK phones to Pay as You Go, mobile phone companies won’t simply extend a contract to a determined date, largely because phone companies are rivalled only by airlines in paucity of service. My intention was to simply let the UK number run until we go, and then simply let people know the new number. There are so many ways to get in touch now, I doubt it would be a problem.

    2FA

    Then, by chance, I discovered a hidden hassle. Over the last year, I have almost drowned in recommendations to implement additional security online. One element of this is two-factor authentication (2FA). There are lots of websites, that when I log on, send a code to my mobile phone, which I need to enter on the website to gain access.

    Ah.

    I’m doing my best to remember which sites I have set this up on, and turning off or changing the method. I wonder how many I will not discover until after the UK number no longer works? What joy that will be.

  • Living the Dream – 6. Clearing Out

    Clearing Out

    I love working out how much golf I will be able to play, (a lot), how often I will be able to swim in my own pool, (whenever I want). I muse on how nice it will be to go to the beach with a notebook and plan a novel. These are the fun, exciting things to think about.

    I am less keen on the more prosaic. The clearing out, packing up and getting things ready for the move. These are the essential things, that need to be done to make the dream a reality.

    It’s only when you actually start thinking packing things up that you realise how much ‘stuff’ there is. It was immediately clear that before packing up, there needed to be a whole lot of clearing out. I stood in the garage the other day, entirely overwhelmed. Quite literally, I could not decide where to start, where to put the ‘to go’ pile and where to put the ‘to stay’ pile.

    Actually, we could simply stand back and watch. I have done some international moves in the past – and removal specialists in full-flow are a sight to behold. In what seems like minutes, they speed through a property, wrapping up and packing as they go. Anything not prominently marked ‘LEAVE’ is gone.

    There’s plenty of room in the container, but I’m determined that we should take this opportunity to work through our possessions and make deliberate decisions as to the future of those things. Should they be gifted? Taken away? Thrown away?

    Consequently, we have a mini-skip outside of our garage, which is getting alarmingly full, surprisingly quickly.

    Essential for clearing out

    A mini-skip

    Liberation

    There is a catharsis in the process. I start with an inclination to perceive things in terms of their monetary value or their past value. Then my inner-declutterer shouts: “It has sat unloved in the garage for five years! How much do you really need it?” Eventually, I settle into a comfortable middle-ground, rediscovering things that I wish to involve more in my life and being honest about things that need to move on.

    Far from being a chore, clearing out has got me more excited, anticipating a new life in the sun.