Living the Dream – 56. Kyproulla

Kyproulla is my new car. When I say new, she is actually 15 years old.

Kyproulla is a small Japanese hatchback with a tiny engine and a lovely personality. She has taken us into town for a gig (more on that later), and along the highway to the golf course. Economical and a dream to park, we’re off to a good start. Of course, that could all change in a smokey, breaking down heartbeat.

Why a second car?

The mountain hideaway is isolated. Nothing is within walking distance. Therefore, if one of us is playing golf, then the other is either playing too, or staying in the house. That’s doable, but Margaret is improving rapidly as a golfer and sometimes (always) would like to play with people other than me.

Additionally, Margaret has taken employment. She helps out at a kitchen store in the mall. Already, a week in and her Greek is accelerating away from mine. So, several times a week, she takes the car to work.

I feel that Kyproulla would enjoy a little customisation, so I’m seeking an evil eye and some worry beads to hang from the rearview mirror. She is helping me find my inner Cypriot.

Gigging

UB40. They were great. Everything was incredibly well-organised, the weather was kind and the band were brilliant. We were both nervous that the event would be hot, chaotic and unpleasant, and so were surprised and delighted. A cracking time was had by all.

Last night, she took us to Il Divo, the “Popera quartet”. Mags and I are both big fans so were really looking forward to it.

Meh.

The danger of expectations. UB40, we expected little, and they delighted us. Il Divo, we expected a lot and they disappointed us.

They were OK. Personally, I expected better voices. Between songs, the four attempt a little Rat Pack-esque banter. Cringe!

Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed the evening, and will continue to listen to the music – perhaps with a renewed appreciation for the production team.

Transport

Kyproulla behaved impeccably, and I managed to squeeze her onto a pavement, between two trees. Dainty little thing.

Living the Dream – 55. Rock ‘n’ Roll

“Oh. A George Michael tribute. The same guy that was Freddie Mercury last month. Shall we go?”

Experience prompted me to take a moment before answering. I elected for “hmmm…”

Proof that I can be diplomatic.

Tribute Bands

Let me unpack this for you.

  1. “A George Michael tribute.” A person who may or may not look or sound like George Michael singing his songs. I want to know why the person isn’t singing their own songs. Is this a glorified karaoke, just without audience participation?
  2. “The same guy that was Freddie Mercury last month.” What? This person is essentially an impressionist, presumably without the humour.
  3. “Shall we go?” No. Let’s not. Please, God. Let’s really not. Let’s poke our own eyes out, it will be more fun.

As you may gather, I’m not terribly keen on the idea of tribute bands. I’m sure that they are brilliant and it’s a great night out, but I just cannot muster any enthusiasm for them. That’s not Rock ‘n’ Roll.

However, I am keen that we “live”, that we take as many opportunities as we can to have a good time, to live the dream as it were.

Rock ‘n’ Roll (and opera)

The Cyprus Mail came to my rescue. “UB40 and Remos.” I have no idea who Remos is, but UB40, English band of the 1980s? Them, I knew. I booked us tickets. A stadium gig, no less.

A page later, Il Divo. Pop/Opera crossover, and more importantly one of Mrs L’s favourites. Playing the week after UB40 at the Limassol Garden Theatre. Where UB40 was cheerfully good value for money, Il Divo made my eyes water and my wallet cringe.

Both concerts begin at 2100, meaning we won’t be home till gone midnight. Will we turn into pumpkins? Both are outdoor venues, and both are at sea level. Temperatures are likely to be high 80s, low 90s with high humidity to boot. Doing the concert any earlier would be even hotter.

Scorecard

Our “cultural” tally For Cyprus thus far then, will be:

  • The Central Band of the Royal Air Force in a modern amphitheatre
  • Wine Tasting in a winery
  • A street art festival in Limassol
  • A tour of the Olive Park
  • A book launch in Limassol
  • Hamlet in an ancient amphitheatre
  • UB40 & Remos in a football stadium
  • Il Divo in the Limassol Garden Theatre

Not a bad start, I think.

Amusingly, the promoter suggests ‘formal wear’ for Il Divo. Good luck with that.

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Living the Dream – 54. Smash

Smash. The smaller car lost all forward momentum and flew sideways off the road.

A normal day

We had been down the mountain to get some cash from the bank. Our shiny new tyres had emptied the wallet and our local taverna doesn’t take plastic. We were following a Japanese hatchback up the mountain road. Margaret was driving and we were discussing a potential vacation.

An abnormal sight

An oncoming car suddenly turned hard right into the oncoming traffic (We drive on the lefthand side of the road in Cyprus). Time slowed to a weird film-effect, like it was running under water.

We both felt we were watching a movie stunt as the larger car hit the hatchback on the front headlight. Smash. Both bonnets crumpled, airbags deployed and the hatchback jumped left onto the scrubland. The saloon stopped dead, a few metres ahead of us, on our side of the carriageway, spewing oil and water onto the tarmac. Margaret is a good driver and had left plenty of distance between us and the hatchback, allowing her to avoid us becoming part of the drama. I hit the hazard lights, jumped out of the car to make sure everyone was alright.

Aftermath

The saloon driver was out of his car, dazed, but upright, and on the phone. To the emergency services, I hoped. I asked if he was OK, and after initial language confusion, he nodded. I kept going to the hatchback. The front of the car looked as though it had been driven into a wall. The windscreen was gone, as was the side window. The young woman driver was vocal, which I took to be a good sign. She was talking and moaning, clearly in shock. I told her that she was OK, as I tried to open the door.

I remember her repeating, in English, that she couldn’t breathe. Judging by the way she was chatting away, there was no shortage of air getting to her, and there appeared to be no damage to her chest – and I surmised that it was the smell of smoke from the engine that was alarming her. (It was scaring the crap out of me.)

Resolution

Other road users joined me at the car, and we got the woman out from the passenger side. The drivers side was stuck solid. We got her away from the car. The emergency services arrived very quickly, whether by chance or in response to a phone call, I don’t know. I left everybody rattling away at each other in Greek way beyond my elementary level.

Analysis

The crash shook Margaret up. So I drove on to the taverna where we were meeting friends. Inevitably, we speculated as to what had caused the smash.

The roads are very lightly used here, and perhaps a consequence, people tend to drive too fast. (Myself included.) There remains a culture of using the phone while driving too. Sometimes, it seems that more people are on the phone while driving than not. Whether this was the case here, only the driver will know. The theory, that distracted, the driver thought he was going off the road, panicked and over-corrected, would fit the sudden lurch across the carriageway.

Thankfully, both drivers seemed OK, with no major injuries.

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Living the Dream – 53. Liquid Gold

Liquid Gold is what they used to call olive oil in these parts.

When I was a boy in England, oil was what you fried chips in. There was another type that you put in your car. Taste-wise, they were pretty similar.

As people traveled more, so did food. Olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, and with good reason. It’s medicinal powers are legend, and it’s taste unbeatable.

Before continuing, I should make the point that the majority of olive oil in shops in the UK (and probably elsewhere too) is a very poor imitation of the real thing. Some of it is a very well-marketed, premium-priced, imitation, but imitation it is.

To be honest, the majority of the stuff in shops here is pretty ordinary too. An Italian friend pointed me towards a place called Oleastro, in Anogyra where he felt the oil was good. Not as good as Italy, but good. (Italy – Greece – Cyprus. It’s complicated.)

Taste Test

Margaret and I went, and sampled some oil. Margaret gave a slight grimace, a partial shrug and pronounced, “it’s alright.” Higher praise from a Sicilian about oil, not from Sicily, does not exist. We took a litre for more extensive home-testing.

Ultimately, we agreed that though not Sicilian, it was the best we were likely to find on the island. We called up and ordered twenty litres. As expected, the oil came in a plastic jerry can, with strict instructions to get it decanted soonest.

Stocking up

Pouring liquid gold through a funnel into simple glass bottles is a ritual we intend to repeat. As the sun caught on the bubbles, the bottles sparkled. The oil reminded me of the golden syrup that I lusted after as a child. Rich, unctuous and well…golden.

That which remained, was left in a jug. Margaret urged me to dip my finger and taste it.

“This is better than the one litre we bought,” she confirmed. I knew better than to shrug and nodded my assent. The taste is extraordinary. A simple salad with a healthy pour of oil is a revelation here in Cyprus. It tastes divine.

Multi-purpose

As well as food, liquid gold serves as a cure-all. Actually, not a cure-all. Whatever ails you in Cyprus can be relieved by one of three things: Liquid Gold (Olive oil), Black Gold (Carob Syrup), or Fire Water (Zivania) but that’s for another post.

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Living The Dream – 52. Snakey McSnake Face

Snakey McSnake Face is probably not her real name. I didn’t ask.

On Sunday I had walked to two famous Venetian footbridges up in the Troodos mountains. It was a lovely hike of eight miles or so. I was even presented with my “50 mile badge”. Cracking day.

Venetian Bridge

Tyre Trouble

Things took a turn for the worse once I was back in the car, heading home. A natty electronic display informed me that my back right tyre was losing pressure and that I should deal with it as soon as practicable. As Monday was a public holiday, Tuesday was going to be the first opportunity to get professional help.

Margaret and I sat on the terrace making gloomy estimates of how much money was going to be required to be invested in new rubber, when Spice exploded into a frenzy of alarm-barking. When it became apparent that she was not joking, I walked around the back of the house to investigate.

Discovery

She stood before an open cupboard door (it had been windy), her eyes fixed on the darkness within, barking incessantly. The hairs on my arm stood to attention. “Snake.” I thought.

Captain Courage that I am, I immediately picked up a broom, put Spice inside the house and began banging about the cupboard. Something moved. Something heavy. My heart-rate spiked, and I beat a retreat. I grabbed a 4 iron. I’m very good with a four iron. The club was small enough to go into the dark gap where I believed Snakey McSnake Face was curled up. I prodded and felt something firm, but yielding. She hissed, and probably marvelled at the speed with which a big man could jump up and vault a fence. With a 4 iron in his hand.

Snakey McSnake Face

Negotiation

Dusk was approaching and there was only one thing for it. I had stern words (from a safe distance) with Snakey McSnake Face, and repaired to the terrace for a medicinal barrel of wine.

Sleep was fitful. Crushed to death, fatally poisoned, beaten at match play, all by an angry snake, figured in my fevered dreams.

Next morning

Next morning, Spice, the 4 iron, and I all crept toward the cupboard. Spice was hesitant, but not alarmed. The 4 iron found nothing where Snakey McSnake Face had been. I passed a happy couple of hours banging 137 nails into the cupboard door.

What did I say to her?

That’s between Snakey and me.

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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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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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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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Living the Dream – 48. Roundup

Time for a roundup.

Weather

I wrote last week that things were hotting up. Haven’t they just. Temperatures hit 42 degrees Celsius (107 Fahrenheit) on the golf course this week. I prefer to walk a course, eschewing both a buggy and a trolley. I find it easier to have the clubs on my back. That preference has a cost when it gets this hot.
The Coptic storms have passed, without clearing out the dust, so a layer of dessert remains suspended in the air, and will do for the rest of the month, we’re told. A fair amount of it seems to end up in my nostrils.

Brexit

Brexit and its possible impact on us out here remains unclear. As I write, Teresa May has resigned, or as is now the fashion, “set a timetable for resigning”. We’re sticking to our strategy as outlined in “Contrarian”.

Trees

Daniel, the tree man, came, and has done a grand job, bringing our lovely trees under control. He has restored my faith in contractors. On time, worked hard, tidied up and did what he said he would do. If only it was always this way.
The trees done, I’m able to move to the next phase of my garden plan, which is to update and upgrade the irrigation system. I expect no rain over the next 6 months, so this needs doing now.

Roundup

Garden

We have invested heavily in making the garden more secure and more attractive. I’m far from green-fingered, or DIY-focused, but there are many things that need doing, and I’m looking forward to learning by doing. Everybody has to start somewhere, right?

Typically, my drive to clear out various hidden corners coincides with the Mukhtar deciding that garden waste collections would be suspended. Presumably for financial reasons. I look forward to finding out his logic and then shredding it to his face.
Spice has not managed to escape the garden, and enjoys exploring her fiefdom. Our hearts are always in mouth when she is nosing about. She is inquisitive and fearless. Taking on small lizards is one thing, I hope that her self-preservation instinct will kick in when she comes across a snake.

Conclusion

The roundup. We’re getting there. Things take a little longer here, and at times it has felt like a struggle, but progress has been made, and the weather is hot enough to get Mrs L in the pool (which means its really hot.)

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Living the Dream – 47. Hotting up

Hotting Up

Cyprus is hotting up. Overnight, summer arrived. In true British style, we had been lamenting how unsettled the weather was and how temperatures were below average. Then, boom. Temperatures leapt from low twenties (70f) centigrade to low thirties (90f). The dog appeared shocked initially, but has quickly dropped into a new routine. It’s taking us longer to adapt.

The upside is that the change in the weather has forced me to deliberately consider my daily routine.

Routine

#livingthedream is intended to chart our efforts to design a new life for ourselves, and we’ve been here nearly eight months now, so this is as good a time as any to look at how we’re doing.

I rise early, usually around 6.30am. I don’t use an alarm, nor have I made a conscious decision to rise at a particular time. It just happens. Once up, Spice, is up and wants out for her morning patrol. I’ll play with her, trying to activate her appetite by throwing a ball. (She has taken to not eating in the morning.)

Margaret and I will have an espresso or two for breakfast in the early sun, and I’ll write a gratitude note in my bullet journal. Then I’ll go swim for half an hour. By 8 / 8.30 I’m heading downstairs to the office as the day is hotting up.

Through till lunch, I am writing, or working on one of my businesses, usually with podcasts in the background. My tiny contribution to running the house is to hang out the laundry whenever the machine beeps insistently at me from the room next to the office. How things get into the machine is a mystery, similar to how the house is always full of food. I’ve asked Margaret, how all these things happen, but she just rolls her eyes…

Lunch is around 1, and we eat together, up on the terrace. Afterwards, I’ve taken to spending some more time in the pool and then having a nap. Traditionally, Cyprus shuts down through the heat of the afternoon, and I’m all for it.

Some time around four, the day restarts. I refresh myself with a shower and will either get back into work, or read a book.

Evenings

Dinner is getting lighter and lighter, and later and later. In the winter we ate around 6, but now don’t feel much like food until 8 or so.

Evenings are delightful at the mountain hideaway. It’s quiet and there is often a breeze. A chilled glass of wine with some olives on the terrace is the perfect evening as far as I’m concerned.

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