Living The Dream 77. The Haunted Pump of Doom


I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the pending bathroom refurbishments.

We were in a second bathroom store, looking at shower units.

“Pump or gravity?” The salesman quizzed Margaret. She turned to me.

“Pump or gravity?”. I turned to the paint pots.

“Pump or gravity?”

Damned paint pots were silent.

“I’m not sure. We’ll check.”

I believed we had a pump, but being sensibly averse to ladders, I hadn’t actually checked the roof myself. I checked with the previous owners.

“Mum. Is there a water pump on the system?”

“No. Definitely not.”

The answer

Several hours later, I received an e-mail from Mum. Memory had returned, there was definitely a pump up on the roof.

This talk of the pump had unsettled it. Within days, the pressure dropped in the bathrooms. The haunted pump of doom was on strike. The following day, water damage was noted the ceiling beneath the water tanks. Had we offended the God of Pumps?

Yianni, our contractor, scampered up a ladder, accompanied by Andreas, a plumber and heating engineer. Together we chatted in a bizarre combination of English, Greek, Russian and sign language.

The haunted pump of doom was a thing of the past.

And the leak?

“That’s nothing to do with the pump. That’s the rain.”

Mags and I looked at each other. Neither believes that the pump is innocent. The timing was just too close.


It seems that our tanks are designed to be pump-less. Our options therefore, are:

1. Use the tanks as intended (as they currently work). More trickle-shower than monsoon-shower.
2. Replace the haunted pump of doom with a similar model. Better, but not ideal.
3. Replace the hot tank with a new one, designed to work with a pump and have whatever showers we want. Likely to make the credit card squeak.

A series of quotes are inbound, and frankly, I can’t wait to get that belligerent pump off the roof.

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Living the Dream – 76. Property Repairs

Property repairs, not my thing.

We are fortunate to live in a villa with a pool, set on a substantial plot in a beautiful spot. My Mum and Dad bought the land, commissioned architects and builders to create it. That was more than a quarter of a century ago, and the house has been permanently occupied for most of that time. Discounting decoration, the house is unchanged. We have done some work outside – recommissioning the pool, and having a fence built around the property.


Now, our attention has turned to the inside. First order of business, bathrooms. We are renovating the guest bathroom and our own, main bathroom. We have a quote from our favoured contractor, and are now investigating materials.

There’s a bathroom store, quite local to us. A charming salesman swooped upon us before I had even closed the door. He toured us around the store, furiously taking notes. So far, so good. We’ve done renovations in the UK, and it worked much the same way.

“How much are those tiles?” I asked.

Antonis, our salesman squinted at the fading sticker on the corner.

“22€ per square metre. I’ll do it for 13.”

I nodded, feigning disinterest. Inside, my mind was whirring. 22-13 is 9. 9 over 22 is, give or take, 30%. Blimey.

In the UK, we had been given a price and then, at the end attempted to get a discount. Usually we had got some, but 30%? Never. As we toured the store, I kept stealing glances at Antonis’ notes. Some items we were getting 50% discount. Awesome.

Two days later, we received an itemised quote, covering everything we need for the two bathrooms, from tiles to toilet roll holders. Instinctively, some of the prices look really good, while others look expensive.

Project Management

Here comes my masterstroke. I have put Mags in charge. She is Project Manager. We’ve agreed a provisional budget, and I have declared myself entirely comfortable with whatever decisions she makes. She is drilling down into each cost, and sourcing alternate suppliers, including recycling some of the existing items. Mags possesses a ruthless, investigative streak that I lack. I’m confident we will know what prices we should be paying.

Most importantly, Mags has “an eye” for things. I’ll be honest, once the bathroom has changed, I’ll instantly stop noticing it. I’ll struggle to tell anyone what colour it is, without going to check. Mags sees detail. Constantly. She is a perfectionist. This is, in equal measure, a superpower and a curse. Inspecting work, she misses nothing, meaning that any and all contractors get away with no corner-cutting. On the other hand, once she has spotted something, she can’t un-see it. It’s really, really difficult for her to be accepting of imperfection.

Property Repairs

For example, the floors throughout the house are concrete, and in places are showing their age. Replacing them however, is a big, disruptive and expensive job. One that we have decided not worth doing, at this point. That decision doesn’t stop Margaret noticing every blemish, every day.


I predict that we are going to end up with two sparkling bathrooms at a reasonable cost. Whether the contractor will survive the process remains to be seen. My role? Possibly peacemaking from time to time, but mostly, it’ll be the paying thing.

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Living the Dream – 75. Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you!


How were the holidays for you? We’ve had a cracking time.

Christmas was at the mountain hideaway, just Mags, Spice and I. The weather was boisterous, but we managed to get Spice out for a windswept walk on Christmas morning.


On the 28th, we loaded up the car and headed off for a week in Turkey. Now, Turkey is less than 300 miles from Cyprus, but it’s complicated.

Since 1974, Cyprus has been effectively partitioned. I live in the Republic of Cyprus, which is the officially recognised country. The Northern part of Cyprus is termed the “Illegally Occupied Territories.” In those territories, and in Turkey, the area is known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. In recent years, relations have thawed a little – and people are permitted to cross from one side to the other through a series of border posts.

Our journey therefore to drive to one of these crossing points, park on the Republic side and be collected by a Taxi from the Turkish side. The taxi took us to the airport, and we made the short hop to Antalya, on the southern coast of Turkey. I’ll talk about the holiday in another post.

Once across the internal border, our cell phones lose signal, and will not connect to local services. Likewise, there is no roaming agreement between Cyprus and Turkey. Wifi gets us round this, but it is extraordinary that such a thing should persist in the 21st century.

World Events

While in Turkey, the USA killed General Qassim Suleimani. Iran, and to a lesser extent Iraq, where the killing took place, are, if not disgruntled, certainly less than gruntled. The region is in flames. War, of one form or another, rages across Iran, Iraq and Syria. Not to mention Yemen.

One of our party commented,

“It’s all a long way from us though…”

Another replied

“Absolutely, after all, Syria is a full 50 miles from Cyprus.”

Happy New Year, eh?

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Living the Dream – 74. All rise

All rise

As predicted, we turned up at 9am and were directed to a courtroom. (If you need to know why, start here.)

We were told to return at 1030 and went for a coffee.

As I carried our purchases towards the terrace, I was nearly knocked over by Margaret coming the other way.

“He’s here.” She trembled.

I guided her to an internal table, and tried to find something reassuring to say. Our question as to whether the defendant would attend had been answered.

We sat through a case, a sentencing, we think, ending with the defendant leaving with two policemen. One of those policemen had through gestures, advised me that I should not be leaving my reading spectacles on top of my head. Margaret had recovered from the shock and was convinced that the defendant in our case had not recognised her.

Eventually, a prosecutor checked that Margaret was, in fact, Margaret. This established, she spoke with the opposing counsel, before returning to us.

“The defence will ask for an adjournment.”


“I will write for you the new date.”

The Process

It turned out that after a recess, we had to wait for this arrangement to be confirmed by the judge. As the judge came in, everybody stood, reminding me of UK court dramas, were the clerk always intoned “All rise” as the judge entered and left the court.

We watched as our nemesis was led to the dock. Call me nasty, but I delighted in his discomfort. I caught one in ten words from the judge, I think he was summarising the charge. The prosecutor rose, and replied in quick fire Greek. The words that I caught, were Margaret’s name and the name and rank of the investigating police officer.

Margaret was asked to stand, immediately drawing the attention of the man in the dock.

Having established that she spoke no Greek, the judge swore in an interpreter to translate his explanation to her. He explained that due to the weight of ongoing cases and because the defence wanted more time, he was adjourning until the 7th of April and that there would be no further summons.

Gratefully, we left. Seconds ahead of the person being prosecuted.

Next Stage

I guess that’s how it works. This is a criminal prosecution, not a civil one. Margaret is a witness not a plaintiff. No justice system anywhere could afford to keep everybody apart, I suppose. Still, it felt a little awkward.

As for your brave correspondent, I worked very hard to avoid eye contact. My focus is Margaret and I’m not sure that macho posturing would be much help to her.

So, as I wrote, the wheels of justice turn slowly and the next instalment will come in April 2020, when again, we will “all rise”.

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Living the Dream – 73. The wheels of justice

The wheels of justice turn slowly.

Margaret took a call in the car. Someone was hoping to serve court papers on her. She explained that we were on our way home and would be there in five minutes. The server elected to post the papers at the gate and continue on with his day.


We felt certain that this related to the nightmare that Margaret endured around a year ago, when an uncontrolled dog attacked her: But what was her role at court? On the advice of lawyers, we had chosen not to pursue a civil case against the owners of the dog. The Police were prosecuting under the criminal code.


The papers turned out to be an un-enveloped docket, half printed and half hand-written. Quite reasonably, it was all Greek to us.

However, we are advised that we are to attend the courts at 9am on the allotted date, with our piece of paper. Somebody will direct us towards a courtroom waiting-area, and at some point, the prosecutor will wish to hear what happened. Then, a date for a hearing will be set and we will be sent home.

I’m planning on taking a book and a packed lunch. The lawyer tells us that the defendant will have been instructed to be there too.


Frankly, I’m mystified as to the purpose of this. The lawyer said that we have been asked to attend because the defendant has not accepted the charges. I assume means that he has denied that he broke any laws. Were we not to turn up, then the case would be dropped.

Waiting room

If I were a cynical man, I might think that obstacles are setup in the hope that the whole thing will simply go away. I daresay it might all go away in the end – but it won’t be because Margaret and I didn’t do our part.

In the year that has passed, the owner of the dog, still living two minutes from our front gate, has made no effort to communicate with us at all. The day that my wife stood screaming and trembling, Nero, our cherished pet of 11 years, dying at her feet, a few scant yards from this man’s front door; he came out, mumbled something about a vet, put a phone to his ear and that was the last that we have seen or heard from him.

Certainly, that failure to engage will make our time on the waiting room a little tense.

The wheels of justice is a paraphrase, thought to originate from Greek philosopher Sextus Empiricus.

“The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind small.”

I hope so.

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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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.”


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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