Living the Dream 32. Travel

As this post publishes, I’ll be setting out on a trip back to the UK. Travel was always going to figure in Living the Dream. I have two businesses based in the UK and though much can be done remotely, sometimes, boots on the ground are required.

The attack on Margaret and Nero led to a reschedule of plans, but as February begins, it’s time to get on the road. Or at least on the plane. I’m visiting my Mum, then off to a pen show to sell notebooks, before coming over all-corporate cobra and meeting some clients for my consultancy business. The trip is as short as I can make it; Margaret remains nervous and even though her sister is here, she will feel better when I’m back home.

Throughout the nineties and the noughties, I travelled extensively for work and developed a love/hate relationship with it. Mostly, I love a little travel, am comfortable with more travel and hate lots of travel. As with so many things, it’s about balance. It has been four months since I boarded a plane, so I am looking forward to this trip.

Cyprus to London is a five hour flight or thereabouts. Add on check-in times, transfers then the whole exercise takes nine hours. I’m flying in the evening and will either catch up with some work or some reading. I’m hand luggage only, so that cuts out some of the inevitable hassle of checking in, waiting for bags etc. Living from a small case, is, I discovered, liberating. I have made the decisions ahead of time, when packing. I’ll know what I’m wearing each day, weather and changes of plan be damned.

My last meeting is on Monday afternoon in London and I’m not flying until Tuesday morning. It may be that I catch up with some people, or perhaps not. A quiet evening in London might be just the ticket. If the weather is fine, I’ll walk around town, enjoying the shops, the wine bars and some food. If it’s wet, I’ll nest in the corner of a warm restaurant with a bottle of wine and a good book. As a young man, I loathed eating alone in a restaurant. Now, firmly middle-aged, I rather enjoy it.

Short trips focus the mind too. Having invested time and money to be somewhere, there is a natural inclination to want to make the most of the opportunity. I find myself more determined, persistent and absolute when travelling. There is a certainty about need to make a deal there and then. One thing that I have learned and integrated into my approach, is that I endeavour to complete all trip follow-up before I disembark the return flight. I compose E-mails, formulate offers, ready to send once I have had a chance to review them the next day. This contributes to maximising value from the trip.

Once off the plane, I’ll soon be back at home, playing with Spice and relishing the warmer temperatures.

Living the Dream – 31. BREXIT

The clock is ticking toward the end of March, which at the time of writing is B-day. Brexit. That said, fear not, tempting though it is to embark on a rant as to the principle or the process, I find there are enough people out there blessing us with their wisdom.

Assuming that the exit occurs to schedule, what will it mean for us? Who knows? I am not surprised that little is fixed. I never believed that there was any real prospect of the politicians agreeing a comprehensive in advance. The EU (UK included) has a long history of struggling to reach agreement on anything meaningful without a host of carve-outs and caveats. I never saw any incentive for the body of the EU to make any sort of realistic treaty in advance.

Real work will begin post-exit.

Residence

Therefore, on April the first, (insert April Fool’s day joke of choice here) Mags and I will wake up as non-EU citizens living the EU. At the risk of offending those on both sides of the argument that see this as a watershed moment, I doubt either of us will notice. As EU citizens we applied for our beautifully named Alien Registration Certificate, which is indistinguishable from the one that non-EU nationals apply for too. Our European registered car had to be re-registered (and a hefty additional tax paid). On a specific local level, the ARC is the key to accessing services, irrespective of nationality.

Work

Work-wise, there is little clarity either. Nero’s Notes purchases some stock from the EU and has customers in the EU. It may be that the EU or the UK applies tariffs and customs checks. Honestly, I doubt it. The default setting for a bureaucracy is ‘status quo’. Politics apart, I cannot see any customs agency ramping itself up for a battle over notebooks or anything else. I anticipate that behind the scenes, civil servants will put measures in place to change as little as possible on a practical level, while politicians, functionaries and Twitter continue to boil and rage at each other for effect.

Some tell me that I am an ostrich and that Brexit marks a nadir in international cooperation. Perhaps they are right. We will all know soon enough.

In the mean time, I’m going to have a cup of tea.

Living the Dream – 30. Harvest

My mum always jokes that if you throw a rotten tomato into the garden in Cyprus, months later, you would have a tomato plant. The soil here is incredibly fertile. Fruit and vegetables grow in abundance and taste divine.

Winter is citrus season and we are fortunate to have some trees in the garden.

The harvest is grapefruit, clementine, mandarin, orange, lime and pomelo.

I was looking forward to a little fruit. A little fruit? I’m fond of understatement, but holy moly…what a harvest!

Mandarin Harvest
Masses of fruit

So much fruit, I’ve never seen. There is something very special about walking down the garden in the morning and picking breakfast from the tree.

The huge yellow things in the title picture are Pomelos. I now know,(thank you, Google), that the Pomelo pre-dates the Grapefruit, which is a hybrid of it and the orange. It’s a curious fruit. The bright yellow skin promises a super-grapefruit. Cut open, the fruit presents as a pale grapefruit wrapped in papier-mâché and a yellow leather jacket. The size comes from the protection that the fruit wears.

The papier-mâché, more properly called pith, is tough and as well as encasing the fruit, it acts as a skeleton. The flesh, which is the fruit, is lovely and sweet.

That said, its best not to be too hungry when choosing a pomelo for breakfast. Getting to that sweet flesh is hard work and the rewards seems scant in proportion to the effort.

Marmalade

However, it is alleged that one can make marmalade from pomelo, so even as I type, Mrs L is doing battle with pomelos.

Meanwhile, I’m having a grapefruit every morning and as many mandarins and clementines as I can. Visit the house in winter and you get force-fed citrus fruit.

In between writing and editing this post, Mags presented us with an honest to goodness, absolutely authentic, damn tasty, pomelo marmalade. My type of harvest.

The harvest, bottled
Pomelo Marmalade

Fame and fortune awaits!

Living the Dream – 29. Winter

Winter

Winter is here. Cyprus has one. No, I didn’t know either.

Many rejoice.

“The dams need filling.”

Recent arrivals look at each other, glum. Doubt wafts about. Nobody came for this.

Winter has got out of the blocks early, and with alacrity. The news reports that yesterday, we had a mini-hurricane. I doubt meteorologists would use such a term, but I find it accurate.

Soaked

We are house-training our puppy, and her bathroom is on the terrace outside the kitchen. The floor is lined with “puppy pads” and we have a fence around it. At relevant moments, we lift her into place. Though open on three sides, the terrace does have a roof.

So it is, that several times, both day and night, we can be heard exhorting and encouraging a bemused canine:

“Go pee-pee. Good girl. Good pee-pee.”

Early in the morning, I stood in my dressing-gown sleepily observing that the post-dawn air was on the decidedly fresh side, that the last brandy of the previous evening may have been a tad unnecessary.

The sky darkened. Both Spice and I looked up, puzzled.  From bone dry to sopping wet, in half a heartbeat. Rain hit from two sides. No. Three sides. On reflection, from four sides. Dog and human were unanimous in utter mystification.

“What the …. was that?” I queried, not unreasonably.

Spice perceived the rhetorical nature of the question and intensified her stare.

With the benefit of hindsight, I suspect that she may have been hoping to communicate that we might more comfortably speculate upon the nature of the weather from the warm, dry kitchen, not two feet away, rather than in the midst of the spray.

Keep Calm and Carry On

The squall, or whatever it was, passed in ten minutes or less and no more than thirty minutes later, the sky was a dappled blue and the sun shone.

Either this is an unusual winter, or our luck continues to be poor. Wave upon wave of storm has rolled over the house. Thunder, lightning, hail and now, it would seem, a mini-hurricane. Weather is extremely localised on the island, but this wet, stormy spell appears more a general theme.

I have spent enough time in this part of the world to know that soon enough, we will miss the rain, and will be referring to the sun as relentless, rather than the storms.

Victim

However, I do feel for my sister-in-law. She is here for an extended break, hoping for warm, dry weather. Every morning, she comes into the kitchen where she is enthusiastically greeted by her new best friend, Spice, and looks through the window at the back-end of the latest storm system heading out to sea.

I’m not sure she believes me any more when I say,

“It’s usually much nicer.”

I’m not sure I believe me either.

Living the Dream – 28. Perspective

Perspective

December has been about recovery and perspective for us. After the horror of October, and intense sorrow of November, we just kept going. We were feeling sorry for ourselves, bruised and battered. Still do. Mid-month, I read this.

Kim and I have worked together and got on famously. Take a few minutes to read her blog and I’m sure that you will see why. I was delighted that all ended well. This year just-gone, we have a friend who lost her husband to a chronic disease. Sometimes, we need to be hit hard by a bit of perspective.

In difficult times, my tried and tested coping strategy is to fall back on pop psychology.

“Bad things happen to good people.”
“It’s not what happens that matters, it’s how you react.”

Cliché or not, there is truth in these statements. Hell, there are times that Margaret and I want to scream and shout at the injustice of what happened to Nero and the indifference of the law. However, we can’t change that. We persist in pursuing all legal avenues, but we may be stymied. We can only do what we can do.

Christmas

Christmas would have been degrees harder if not for the arrival of Spice, part cute-puppy and part Gremlin post-shower, and the presence of an angel.
Margaret’s sister Adele arrived with us on the 8th of December. She and Spice immediately became besties, and Adele (to her own great surprise) has become an expert puppy trainer. The sisters have talked, and talked and talked. Adele offers enormous strength where I am weakest. She listens. And Margaret needs, now, more than ever, to talk.

Back to work

My office has come together, and gradually I am re-establishing a work routine. I’m excited that I am writing again, and through the generosity of readers of this blog, getting paid for it.

January is about new beginnings, and for us, this is especially true this year.

Living the Dream – 27. No Quarter given.

No quarter given

A quarter. We have been here a quarter of a year. We arrived in Cyprus on the 21st of September, so today, the 22nd of December marks three months of #livingthedream.

Challenges

There have been moments, far too many moments, of despair and pain. None of us, most of all Nero, deserved his end. Our house has been empty for three years, and this contributed to burglars targeting it and the elements wearing it down.

Progress

Hopefully, we’ve fixed the roof. We have a bedroom door again, a fence encircles us and we have greatly enhanced home security. It’s too early to declare victory over our septic tank, but we do seem to be winning.

Mags and I are now “registered aliens” with certificates to prove it. We’re attending weekly “Greek school.” Our car sports a local number plate and the scar of some nasty vandalism.

Margaret’s sister, Adele is with us for an extended stay, including Christmas. She is a wonderful guest and we are having a lot of fun.

The youngest member of the family is a Shitzu-Poodle cross-breed (we think), Spice. She is settling in, and is as bright as a button. Spice too, is celebrating a quarter, as best we can guess, she is 12 weeks old. Perhaps it’s fate that she came to us.

Spice, 11 week old Shitzu-Poodle cross puppy.
So cute!

This first quarter has not been all rainbows and unicorns. However, we keep on keeping on. Sipping coffee at the beach, in December gives us hope. Likewise, golfing in the sunshine is exactly what we had envisaged.

The Future

The New Year begins with two more months of winter, until the rain departs and the temperatures creep up. We will be focusing on our businesses, and building our new life in the sun.

Living the Dream – 26. Rain? Where did that come from?

Rain? Where did that come from?

The sky, obviously.

Winter

My memory of rain here was of spectacular electrical storms, followed by beautiful clear days, the air feels thin and crisp, where before the storm it was soggy and heavy. Cypriot rain is mostly polite, falling predominantly at night.

It doesn’t rain often in Cyprus, but when it does, it makes a real effort. These last two weeks have been punctuated by violent, percussive storms.

We’ve had some of that, but we’ve also had prolonged spells of persistent, soaking precipitation. Heck, it has even been a mite parky.

Rain in Cyprus
Winter is here

Already feeling that Aphrodite’s Isle has been less than welcoming to us, Mags has been put out by the rain. Plans for beaching, golfing, even washing have been, …well, washed out.

Respite

All that said, on Saturday, I played Golf in the sunshine. On Sunday, I roasted a chicken on the BBQ. The latest bout of weather arrived during the night, and I fully expect to be back on the golf course on Wednesday, in bright sunshine and 20 degrees. The same day in the UK, the forecast shows ‘wintry showers’ and a temperature of 7 degrees.

On the golf course
It’s not all rain.

What interests me, is how quickly our expectations have changed. Living in the UK, every plan included the very real possibility of pretty much every type of weather. Certainly, year-round, my golf bag included warm layers, waterproof layers and sun cream.

I was scheduled to play golf today, and though it is raining, in the UK, I would not have hesitated to go out. “Skin is waterproof.” I would say. Here – one look at the grey skies, and I’m reaching for the pullover and a good book.

“Shall we put the heating on for a bit?”

Experience warns me that in August, I will be yearning for rain and cool air.

Never satisfied, are we?

Living the Dream – 25. Sugar & Spice

Spice Girls in the cage

Sugar & Spice, and all things nice, that’s what little girls are made of…

Quite apart from being a gender stereotype, our “Working Titles” for the newest additions to the Lennon household are quickly turning out to be misnomers.

Background

Some monster abandoned the litter of eight at the gates of the pound. Two didn’t make it, and a UK-based family has adopted the boy. Mags met the remaining five girls. (I avoid dog rescue centres, as I am a sucker for sad eyes. We would end up with ALL the dogs at home.) Four were black and white and one was brown and white. The brown one had a twinkle in her eye and a nose for mischief. One of her sisters had a speckled snout, a piercing stare and a fondness for kisses. Sugar & Spice fits the bill.

First Days

Sugar & Spice are cute, loving, and stink. Kennel life is not the Ritz and the vet gave us strict instructions not to give the girls a bath until they get their second jabs. They fight as only siblings do, but will not sleep unless they are touching each other. I can sit for hours watching them sleep; in fact I do. Winter storms are crashing across the island, but the girls are only mildly curious. Mostly, they sleep through them. House training is ongoing and both dogs are as smart as tacks. I daresay we will have our hands full. Seconds ago, we discovered that one or other of them , or possibly both, possess weapon-grade flatulence.

Litter-Mate Syndrome

Who knew? LMS is a thing.

It seems that litter-mates homed together can form an unnatural relationship. Mutually dependent, yet overly aggressive. Sugar & Spice go at it, hammer and tongs, with a ferocity that belies their stature. Mags and I were on tenterhooks, desperately keeping the combatants apart. Research and advice from friends was unanimous. The best thing for the girls and for us was to split them up. The risk is that the dogs will become an unhappy, aggressive double-act.

Therefore, it was, with regret, and a dusty eye, that Sugar returned to her sisters in the kennel, waiting for a new home. While Mags and I steeled ourselves to be strong and stoic, Sugar ran into the kennel, delighted to be back in her pack. Without a second look, she dropped back into routine.

Our Spice Girl

Conversely, Spice is proving to be a bit of a Princess. As the only canine in the house, she is agitating for her own spot on the couch, and is less than impressed with puppy kibble. Tinned tuna or freshly roasted chicken on the other hand, she is eager to consume. House training is going OK, I didn’t really like sleeping anyway…

Job Role

As with all canines at Nero’s Notes, Spice will, in the fullness of time, be expected to pull her weight, work-wise. Just as with her name, the role will evolve as her character is revealed. For the moment though, she will be featuring heavily in social media. Thankfully, nobody can smell her across the internet…

Living the Dream – 24. First Guests

Our first guests have been and gone.

Of late, Cyprus was anything but #livingthedream. I had postponed planned travel until the New Year.

Consequently, I spoke with Clare @ Nero’s Notes and floated the idea that as I wasn’t travelling, she might come here. It was a long shot. After all, it’s a long way to come for a meeting.

However, before becoming the lynchpin of Nero’s Notes, Clare was a friend to Margaret. She found a way.

So it was, that Mags and I parked at Paphos airport last Friday evening. Clare, Andy and Molly waited, bags at their feet, outside the main door. We were zipping jackets against the chill, as they took theirs off. It seems we have acclimatised to the temperature already.

Revelation

Seeing our new lives through the eyes of visitors was powerful.

We ate, drank and laughed our way through the weekend. The gang visited a couple of beaches, swam in the Mediterranean and perused souvenir shops. We ate “Meze” with musicians from Crete playing bouzouki beside us.

Not bad for November!
Lady’s Mile Beach

Just for a couple of days, Mags and I saw how others see our new lives. The house is gorgeous, the weather beautiful and the beach ten minutes away. Staff greet us as friends in some restaurants and bars.

Yes, we talked about the difficult events of the couple of months, and there are plenty of issues and difficulties that we need to work through, but actually, much of what we came for is still here.

Gratitude

Finally, I have with an urgent need to work off all the calories that I ate and drank, a growing addiction to a word game on my phone, and a great deal of gratitude toward the Wellers, who managed to make Mags laugh and smile and get us to the beach. I am amazed by how help and support can come from the most unexpected of sources.

Living the Dream – 23. Bad luck comes in threes

Living the Dream – 23. Bad luck comes in threes

The Three

First, we got burgled. Then came the horrific attack on Margaret and Nero. Now, somebody has gone after the car.

Generally, I try to be a positive person. I see the glass half-full, and look to see the good in every situation. I don’t mind telling you, it has not been easy to keep that going this month.

The Third

On Saturday we went for dinner at one of our favourite restaurants in a nearby village. I parked correctly, on the street, careful not to block anyone or any access. At some point, somebody carved to large scratches into the bonnet and one long scratch all the way from nose to tail on the passenger side.

Gee thanks.

I know that there are many terrible things going on in the world, and worse things could happen, but we really could have done without this right now. As Margaret said, every time that we wake up, determined to rally, we seem to get another punch in the gut.

Hopefully, this will be a straightforward repair job, paid by the insurance company, but I’m wary of assuming anything at the moment.

We console ourselves with the cliche in the title, that bad luck comes in threes and that we’re done now.

Moving Forward

As I type, new fencing is being finished around the house, securing the garden from dogs and, I think, enhancing the look of the place, and we are going to pick out some new external lighting, which will be fitted before the weekend.

I have secured a new client for my consultancy business and Nero’s Notes is ramping up for the holiday season. The trees are bearing fruit, so tomorrow’s breakfast will be a grapefruit from the front yard, followed by a round of golf. Now; that’s #livingthedream

View of the green
It’s not all bad!