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.

My writing is supported by people like you. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

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.

My writing is supported by people like you. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

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.

My writing is supported by people like you. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

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.)

My writing is supported by people like you. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

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.

My writing is supported by people like you. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Living the Dream – 46. The Trouble with Trees

The trouble with trees is that they keep growing.

“Sorry. We can’t stay long, we have to get home to meet our tree surgeon.”

Not words that I had ever imagined saying. My parents built the house nearly thirty years ago, and planted several trees then. One or two pre-date the house.

Carob, fig, pomelo, lime, mandarin and orange are the ones that I recognise and that produce fruit. There are several flowering trees too, that burst into colour at various points through the year. Some provide welcome shade in the summer.

The Plan

As the title suggests, the trouble with trees is that they grow. Pretty big as it happens. Some of them were touching the house, even towering above it. As I sipped a cold beer, I decided that a few hours with a wood saw would sort everything out.

Hmmm…

Several people have snipped at, and trimmed branches over time. A couple of them have cut back growth severely.

However, some of the larger trees remain pristine. As I stood at the base of one, craning my neck to see the top, it was clear that one man and his saw was not going to be sufficient.

Nor could I overlook the facts of the matter.

  1. I have not the faintest idea about how one properly reduces the size of a tree.
  2. There is a documented and demonstrated lack of competence with any and all tools.
  3. I respect hard, manual, work and if at all possible, avoid it.

Faced with these truths, I repaired to the terrace and opened a bottle of wine. (Playing to my strengths.)

Plan B

I spoke to the guys that put up the fence, and they put me onto Daniel, of High Access Point, and so it was, that yesterday, I met with him.

It is little known that “Daniel”, in Bulgarian, means “little tree squirrel”. As I write, Daniel is sucking his pencil somewhere, preparing me a quote to makeover all of the trees, with judicious use of ladders, ropes and power tools.

I am resigned to the prospect of a big, scary number.

This is made less painful by the realisation that I will, on a regular, if infrequent, basis be able to say,

“Sorry, must dash. Doesn’t do to keep one’s tree surgeon waiting.”

My writing is supported by people like you. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to additional, subscriber-only, posts; direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Living the Dream – 45. Coptic Gales

The Khamsheen Winds, the last of the Coptic Gales are here. The air is thick and heavy. Everybody has a sore throat and irritated eyes.

Sounds like the opening of a Wilbur Smith novel. But it isn’t.

Coptic Gales

There are fourteen Coptic or Phoenician gales, between the end of September and the beginning of May, each named by Arabic fishermen. The gales come each year at broadly the same times. I am no meteorologist, and I can’t comment on the science, but there’s definitely something to these romantically named phenomena.

The storms often bring sand from the Middle East and Africa, of various hues. It can settle like snow. The red stuff is the worst. It’s a swine to get off garden furniture and cars, particularly if it comes down with rain. If there is no rain, then the dust simply constantly appears and reappears, silently settling on every surface. Many visitors feel that they must have brought a cold with them, that manifests as a scratchy throat and sore eyes.

When the gale comes as a real storm, it’s very identifiable. The sky is dark, the temperature changes (up or down) and winds and rain turn everything red or yellow. Then the skies clear, everyone cleans up and gets on with their lives.

Limbo

However, things are not always as straightforward. The Khamsheen Winds are due on the 29th of April, and since around that time, (it’s now May 3rd) there has been dust in the air. Some days have been unusually cool, some unusually clammy, and we have had winds; but a storm, per-say, has not quite happened. We’re in limbo, on the cusp of Summer, but not quite free of the last Spring storm. Some years, the dust just stops coming and one morning all is clear. I look forward to breathing easier soon.

Grumbling

Our weather remains cooler than normal. It’s actually pleasant, mid 20s centigrade (mid 70s to 80s Fahrenheit) during the day. Ideal for pottering around in the garden and playing golf. In true British fashion, everyone is so busy lamenting the wet winter just passed and predicting a long, too hot summer, that they are forgetting to enjoy the perfect temperatures of today.

Right, I’m putting my shemagh on, and gazing into the sky, with a faraway look. I might even play the soundtrack of Lawrence of Arabia for effect…

Living the Dream – 44. Contrarian

Contrarian

Winetasting. Supper. Up early for golf, back home for a swim, record a podcast, then out for grilled meat.

That’s more like it, truly living the dream. Nothing contrarian about that.

I wrote last week about expats and the collective consciousness. Often this group-think leads to the tiniest bit of hysteria.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you will have heard about Brexit: The process by which the UK is (maybe) leaving the EU. Fear not, I’m not going to get into the politics of Brexit, only the local logistics.

Drivers Licences

All EU countries issue a European driving licence. A licence from one member state is valid in all member states. The current practice for expats in Cyprus, is to drive on the UK licence until it expires. When it does, there are two options. If maintaining a UK address, then simply apply for a new licence at that address through the UK system. If you are not, then hand in your UK licence to the Cypriot authorities, who will issue you with the Cypriot flavour of the EU licence. No worries, no stress.

In a post-Brexit world, UK licences will no longer be valid in the EU. We are advised that we have a short window before the exit process completes, and we should hand in our UK licences for Cypriot ones.

Response

Several expats of my acquaintance have bristled at this:

“I’m not giving up my UK licence! They’ll make me redo a test to get one back.”

“I’m going to report my UK licence as lost and have a replacement issued. Then, I’ll hand in the old one in return for a Cypriot licence. That way, I’ll have both.”

Reality

Now, call me an old cynic if you will, but some observations.

  1. The Cypriot authorities have no desire to manage a rush of driving licence applications. Frankly, they would rather go to lunch. The obvious thing to do would be for the EU and the UK agree to honour each other’s licences (as they currently do), but politically, this may be troublesome as the EU may want to demonstrate how difficult life can be outside the family. A believable response to this is “do nothing.”
  2. I find it difficult to imagine that Senior Cypriot law enforcers are going to brief their colleagues: “Right you lot. Enough of this catching criminals nonsense. I want you to get out there and stop every car that is being driven by what looks like a UK citizen. Those UK licence-carrying individuals are Public Enemy #1.”
  3. One way to rile bureaucrats is to actively undermine their beloved systems. The replacement licence ruse looks doomed to me, the Cypriot licence will be issued on the back of an invalid UK one, and that’s not going to end well.

Solution

With regards to the driving licence, I’m adopting a contrarian approach. I’m doing nothing. I suspect that my licence will go from perfectly valid, to invalid, to illegal and back to legal again. It might not, of course, but I suspect I may avoid jail time, in any event.

If age brings experience, and then wisdom, then it has taught me that sometimes, the best course is to do nothing.

 

My writing is supported by people like you. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Living the Dream – 43. Expat

Expat

If you choose to live the dream, to move to a new country, you will become an expatriate, an expat. I have been one, on and off, for most of my life.

I left school and went to live in France and was away for seventeen years. After thirteen years back in the UK, Cyprus beckoned.

Advice

Living abroad presents challenges. Everything works differently, often in a foreign language. Seeing a Doctor becomes a major project of its own, riven with anxiety. Fellow expats, those here longer, become your guides. They tell you where to go, who speaks your language, what to expect, how much it costs, and how to best go about it. In my experience, a large percentage of the advice received is selective and flawed, but it is almost always firm and definite.

If you are not careful, the self-appointed experts can end up curating your life. “Don’t eat there, so and so got food poisoning. She was in hospital for months.” Or “George’s? Don’t buy a car there. He’s a bandit.” Before you know it, you find yourself parroting this advice to the new person you meet in the “expat-approved bar”, without ever having had any dealings with George at all. An entire world is built by these interactions; you become assimilated into a collective consciousness. Everyone shops in the same places. Eats and drinks in the same bars and restaurants, uses the same banks, medical services and contractors. Wherever you go, you meet people you know, reassuring yourself that you are in the right place.

Transience

By its nature, expat-life is transient. People come and go for work, or return home, or even decide to go be expat somewhere else. Sometimes, this can be tough, and quickly expats become inured to goodbyes. This promotes self-reliance, but can make us seem cold and uncaring. I have forged deep relationships as an expat, but I have forged many, many more temporary ones, that were close, intense even, but always temporary.

My Advice

There is a joy in being an expat. A feeling of kindred spirits, but it is artificial too. If I were to give advice…

Be curious. Make friends of every nationality, listen to their advice but test it for yourself. Be on the edge of expat circles, not in the heart of them. I know of some people whose life is so expat, that they effectively live in Britain but with better weather. Hey, I’m not judging, each to their own, but for me, one of the joys of being somewhere different is that, well, it’s different.

My writing is supported by people like you. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Living the Dream – 42. Golf in the sun

Golf in the sun

Both Mrs L and I play golf. Annoyingly, her swing is much better than mine, but I don’t tell her that and I don’t think that she reads the blog, so keep it to yourself. The opportunity to play a lot of golf in the sun was a definite incentive to make a life here in Cyprus.

Choice

There are four golf courses easily accessible to us and we tried all of them before settling on Secret Valley Golf Club as our choice. We can walk the course, which is important to us. Contrary to some people’s belief, golf is exercise; it’s essentially a long walk, punctuated by swings of a club. You can remove much of the walking by hiring a buggy that you drive around the course, but neither of us enjoys that mode of play.

Membership

Of all the courses, this one felt the most like a members club, one where we might make friends. A golf club is as much a social hub as a sporting one and we are drawing on the collective experience of our fellow members. I’m getting a great deal of advice where to buy a lemon tree, for example. Best Doctor? Dentist? Hairdresser? Information like this is invaluable and readily available in the bar. Despite feeling like a members club, Secret Valley is not. It’s a proprietary club. It was built as the anchor for a development of villas, targeted at retirees and holiday makers. When the financial crisis hit, most of the development was postponed indefinitely, and the property now belongs to a Bank, presumably repossessed. From time to time, buggy convoys of suits are toured around the course; potential buyers, I suspect.

United Nations

We have been surprised by the breadth of nationalities represented in the membership. In a recent competition, I found myself playing alongside a Swede. A Russian and a Cypriot. It sounds like the start of a joke, doesn’t it? The United Nations of Golf.

Living the Dream

Of all of the aspects of #livingthedream, golf is one element that has gone superbly. Mrs L’s handicap is tumbling, she is part of two fun groups and enjoying herself immensely. I’m getting to play both with her for fun and in competitions alone and feel comfortable with the majority of the members. I have even represented the club in a match.

Happy Days.