Living the Dream – 67. Permanent Holiday

“A permanent holiday, isn’t it? Living in Cyprus?”

That would be nice. Really nice. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy holidays. I eat too well, drink too much, exercise less, but have a terrific time.

Of course, this might explain why I put on 35lbs in weight in the year since moving here. Turns out, a low exercise, high-kebab, high-beer diet is a great way to expand the waistline.

Guests

I have written before about the privilege, and the challenge of having guests. As I write now, our two friends are beside the pool, soaking up the sun.

I must commend these guests, who like those before them, are understanding of the fact that I need to do some work, and are happy pleasing themselves.

The problem is not them, it’s us; or more specifically me. I want to show people #livingthedream. I want to open a bottle of wine and sit on the terrace watching the sun go down. I want to take guests to my favourite restaurant to eat amazing food, served by charming, happy hosts. Right now, I want to be up at the pool, discussing with my guests where we should eat tonight.

Discipline

I’m getting better at it. This morning, I walked the dog early, and was ensconced in my office before anybody else was up. Out of sight, out of mind. I joined them for lunch, and have returned here to my keyboard and my bullet journal. Once hidden down here, I find it easy to get myself into work.

I’m working very hard at moderating my eating and drinking, just having one meal a day and cutting down my alcohol intake, but I’m sure that I am not going to be able to be very strict on myself until we are guest-free.

It’s not a permanent holiday, but I realise how lucky I am – these are hardly tough problems are they?

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Living the Dream – 66. 12 months

12 months (and two days) ago, Mags and I arrived in Cyprus, to make a new life for ourselves. We were excited and full of optimism.

Tragedy

In October, our hearts were ripped to pieces, when our beloved and much-missed pet Nero was savaged and killed by a village dog, that habitually chained up, had been let loose, and snatched Nero from Margaret’s arms.

Nero chillin'

The fact that Nero’s killer remains in the village haunts me still. However, led by Margaret’s bravery, we persist. The winter was wet (the wettest in over a hundred years) and seemed to go on forever.

Recovery

Gradually, though, we settled into life. We have taken Greek classes, and it’s back to school next month for level 2. Spice, the smartest dog that I have ever met, has joined the household, bringing joy and enthusiasm to every day.

Award-winning pooch
The summer has been hot, but not too hot and we look at each other wondering where it went. It seems only a few weeks ago that were welcoming the sun, and now the nights are drawing in and dawn is getting later and later.
As I type, we are entertaining guests and preparing to head back to the UK. I have some work to do there, and Margaret is seeing friends, family and completing some hassle/admin stuff.

Future

Can we see our future here? Yes, and No. Mags is firm that she wouldn’t want to stay here ‘forever’ but is happy to stay a while. We have 12 months under our belt and it looks like we’ll go for another 12 months. We are making the house our own, making friends and getting on with our businesses.

Brexit looms over us – mostly because of the seemingly endless prevarication of the politicians. It will be much easier when the guesswork stops and everybody just gets on with it.

The Last word

I’m loving the sun, the beer and the golf. Working from my own dedicated space is a true privilege – and as the clock ticks towards midday, I’m delighted to be able to type; I’m off for a swim.

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Living the Dream – 65. Autumn

Autumn is here. Meteorologists are in Autumn from September 1st. Some people look for the leaves to change colour on the trees. My Autumn begins when I return from the camino.

September is often still hot, but gets cooler as the month goes on. October is still dry and warm, and makes for a good time to visit the island, as it is not too sweaty.

Late September will also mark the anniversary of our arrival here and the inevitable review that this will prompt.

Changes

I’m determined to get back into exercise. Some pounds came off walking in Spain, and there’s plenty of room for more to come off. With the heat abated, I’ll walk around the golf course, go hiking at the weekend, and hopefully introduce a daily walk to my routine. Swimming will be more focused and deliberate, rather than a strategy to cool off.

A year of BBQ and Keo beer has been fun, and I carry the weighty evidence around my waist. Time to swap (some) beer for water and (some) BBQ for salad.

We have friends coming for a fortnight in September, and another set in October. In between, I’m back in the UK for both my consulting business and the notebook one. I will need to balance having fun with them and getting all my work done.

Projects

The tree surgeon is coming back to tame our fig tree. It’s enormous! During August, it produced thousands of sweet succulent figs, feeding lots of people and even Spice, who is quite partial to a fig or two for breakfast. Once the fruit is gone, he’ll cut it back to keep it manageable.

If summer is somnolent, Autumn is awakening. The weather is less oppressive, so it’s the time to get stuff done around the house and in the garden. Mrs L and I have a list of projects to get done.

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Living the Dream – 64. Camino IV Part II

Camino IV Part II is brought to you by the magic of the internet. This post, and every post this week, has published while I am walking in Northern Spain.

Last Walking Day

Today, Friday, is our last walking day on this trip. If everything has gone to plan, then we awoke this morning in Herreriás, our last stop in the Province of Castille y Léon. Dinner was at 2,100 feet above sea-level. Desayuno Dos (Breakfast 2, taken after a couple of hours walking) will be at close to 4,000 ft above sea-level. Not our highest ascent on this trip, but probably the steepest climb.

As we lean into the hill and trudge up, we will cross into Galicia, the last province of Spain on the Camino. Galicia is fertile and verdant. Put another way, it is the wettest place in Europe. Must be a reasonable chance it will rain on us. Breakfast 2 will be taken at O’Cebreiro, from where Triacastela, our end point for this year, is a gentle 4 or 5 hours away.

Mechanised Again

At Triacastela, we’ll get a bus or a cab to Sarria, where we have a hotel booked. Sarria has direct transport links to Santiago, from whence we fly home. So, getting there at the end of Friday makes for a much less stressful Saturday, when we can get a morning train to Santiago and spend a couple of hours in the city before heading to the airport.

Santiago de Compostella

I suspect those few hours in Santiago will be odd. All the other pilgrims will be elated – they have finished. Stu and I will undoubtedly feel slightly fraudulent, being 83 miles short. Still, I’m sure we will identify where we might have our celebratory dinner next year.

Camino V

2020, we will resume our pilgrimage from Triacastela, and complete the 500 miles from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela.

The days after a camino are a bit sad. I feel tired, and in my case, want sleep and carbohydrates in equal part. The mind feels refreshed from the meditative nature of the endeavour but simultaneously shocked by the re-immersion into the modern world. I’m glad to be back at home with Margaret and Spice, but a pert of me  A part of me wants to go to bed early, rise early, and lace up my shoes for another long walk.

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Living the Dream – 63. Camino IV

Camino IV begins the day after this post publishes. I’m off to Northern Spain again.

Route

Over six days, I will walk 109.5 miles (176.2 Km). This is Camino IV of V, and next year we have 83 miles left of the 500 mile pilgrimage that we began in Southern France at St Jean Pied de Port.

I wrote last week about the complexity of getting to this year’s start point, but once there, things get really simple, really fast.

Simplicity

The Camino Francés is marked out by scallop shells and yellow arrows. Sometimes on the street, some times on signs or even just painted onto trees. It’s perfectly possible to complete the camino without ever looking at a map. You just follow the yellow arrows.

Pilgrims stay in Albergués (hostels) or hotels. There are thousands of them along the route. Many pilgrims walk until they are tired, stop and rest for the night. Others, all buy the same guide book, and replicate the walks and stops made in the book (this leads to bottlenecks in the featured stops and empty beds in all the other possiblities). Now, as seasoned pilgrims, we know our distances and we pre-book rooms, off the featured list.

Most of Saturday will be spent getting to our hotel. Stu, my friend, and I will have supper and catch up over too much wine. The night will end early though, the threat of a 20 mile walk in the morning sending us to bed. On Sunday we rise, pack leave the hotel and follow the yellow arrows.

Daily Routine

If things go as they usually do, then Sunday will work as follows.

Leave the hotel around 7am after a coffee and croissant. We will walk from the centre of the city to the outskirts as the sun rises. It’s early Sunday in Spain, there will be nobody but pilgrims up and about. Around 9, we will reach La Virgen del Camino (Pop. 3,100) where Stu will have Desayuno Dos (Breakfast #2). We will strike on, having naturally moved from warm-up speed to cruising-speed. 3 hours or so will take us to Villadangos del Paramo. This is a “stop” in the most popular guidebook, so many pilgrims will be rushing here to try to get a bed in the “best” hostel. We will stop for lunch – probably a sandwich and a cold beer with our shoes and socks off.

Rested, we will set off for a destination, Hospital de Orbigo, which is another couple of hours up the road. All things being equal, we will arrive at our hotel at 3, 4 o’clock. We’ll check in, shower, change and get our dirty clothes washed and dried (or hung up). Then, to a bar with a decent terrace, phone home, write our journals and reflect on a good day. We’ll find dinner, laugh and joke with some fellow pilgrims and then hit the sack.

The next five days will follow the same pattern. Simple.

Packing

Now that we have settled into this routine, packing is easy for Camino IV. In the morning, I am wearing boxers, socks, shorts and a t shirt. I have a warm layer and a waterproof if I need them. In my bag, there’s another set of boxers and socks, some lightweight jogging pants, and another t shirt. Flip flops, some wash kit, first aid kit, charging leads for watch and phone, journal kit and guide book. That’s pretty much it.

The joy of the camino is its simplicity.

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Living the Dream -62. Connectivity

Broadband

I quickly took connectivity for granted. I was frustrated how long it took to get fibre internet in our village, seventy five miles from London. However, once it arrived; bliss.

Airports

Southampton, Bournemouth, Heathrow and Gatwick are all less than ninety minutes drive from that same village. Four more airports could easily be reached in an additional half an hour. Traffic was a pain, but hey, that’s life.

Internet connectivity at the mountain hideaway is not too bad. We have two lines fused together (apparently), and usually, things work. Now and again the TV buffers or the connection drops, but hey, that’s life. Right?

Camino

8 days from now, I’m off to Spain to walk a section of theCamino de Santiago, the same as I have for the last three years. This year, we’re starting from Léon, which is a bit awkwardly placed for flights.

My friend, conveniently also named Stu, is coming from Dublin.

He is getting a flight at 0615 BST which will arrive at Madrid 0850 BST. It’s then a 3.5 hour bus ride to Léon. Poor chap.

Journey

Now. My little journey.

I’m getting a flight at 0310 BST, which means leaving the house at 0010. The flight is to Athens. At 0710 BST, I’m getting another flight, arriving at Madrid at 1100 BST. Then the joys of a 3.5 hour bus.

As it’s a Saturday, the bus leaves at 14:45, so we’ll be arriving in Léon at 18:15. That’s an 18 hour trip.

All being well, we will walk about 19 miles a day for 6 days and end up in Sarria. I’m willing to wager that supper will be long, and liquid.

On Saturday, we will catch a train to Santiago. (2 and a half hours.) Stu’s flight is at 1700. He’ll be at home in time for dinner with his family.

My flight is at 1705. To Frankfurt. I’m due to land in Cyprus at 0215 on Sunday morning. I’ll creep into the kitchen about 0430.

Suddenly, I miss connectivity.

Aluminium tubes apart, the camino is a fantastic experience and one that I recommend to everybody. I’ll happily pay a small fortune to hang about in airports to get there. 🙂

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Living the Dream -61. Aluminium Tubes

I came home in an aluminium tube emblazoned with the bright orange logos of EasyJet. It is a no-frills airline. In my recent experience, flag carrier airlines are now no frills airlines, but with much higher prices. I stubbornly carried on using British Airways, until even I could no longer claim that the flight experience was appreciably better and worth the money.

Change

Overall, no-frills aluminium tubes have had a massive impact on the world. More travel is accessible to more people, which is good, until you start thinking about carbon emissions and the like. However, for me, the biggest impact has been on expectations. As a younger man, airline travel was exotic and exciting. Liveried personnel served me “free” drinks and called me “Sir”. Now, air travel is on an aluminium tube with wings. A very full bus. In terms of service, I expect nothing and usually get less than that. I eat and drink before I fly, board, sit and put on headphones.

Expectations

In the past, pre-flight, I fervently hoped for an empty seat next to me. I wondered what new release would be on the in-flight entertainment system. Previously, I planned for a G&T and a glass of wine. I made judgments on the airline based upon the service that I received. Now? I expect not to eat or drink anything, although I might buy a cup of tea. I’m certain that there will be sharp-elbowed individual in the middle seat, next to me. There will be one bathroom for the entire passenger load and the whole experience will inspire novels written from the point of view of a farm animal going to slaughter.

No crash gets 9 out of 10, no crash and being on time-ish gets 10.

Stress

All this has made the experience of flying much worse, but the stress much less. As my expectation has changed, there is less unexpected. I used to be annoyed when the airport and airline attempted to herd me from wait to wait. Now, I shrug. I was mystified how airlines could bring me food at 12, but not offer me wine to accompany it until 12:30. Now, I expect no food and no drink.

Follow up on last week.

1. Car Hire. I paid £99 for the manual, and asked about upgrading to an automatic. An additional £140. I demurred, and by the time the trip finished, I was mostly remembering to change gears.
2. Weather. Mostly moist.
3. People. Exhausting, as expected.

Overall, it was a good trip both professionally and personally.

I really could do without the cold that I picked up, presumably on one of the aluminium tubes.

At the end of the day, there’s a lot to be said for staying home.

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Living the Dream -60. A glimpse of England

As this post publishes, I’ll have had a glimpse of England for five days. I’ll be spending the day in Southern England, before flying home on Saturday.

As I write this, in Cyprus, it’s 30+ degrees, with the sun cracking the flags. On Sunday night, there will be rain on my hotel window, which will be firmly closed against the chilly night air. I’m curious how I’ll feel.

Itinerary

The trip is part business, part pleasure. I’m starting in the north of England, doing anti-money laundering work, before heading down to Nero’s Notes HQ and visiting my Mum. Nero’s is in a new office, that I have never seen, so I’m looking forward to that. As ever, I hope to squeeze in a round of golf back at my previous club with old friends.

Packing

What to pack? I’m challenged. Business wear? Layers? Problems that I do not face here. Trying to account for the vagaries of English weather, for a week, with only a carry-on is a forgotten art for me.

Worries

Assuming that I manage to pack and board the flight, what am I worried about?

1. Driving. I’ve hired a manual car, despite having driven an automatic for years. I must have been being thrifty when I booked it. Transmissions apart, I’m nervous of driving in the rain, in the traffic. I haven’t forgotten the nightmare of UK travel. After a five hour flight, I have a four hour drive to a place I have never been. Joy.
2. People. On trips, I find myself in constant demand. From first thing in the morning, until I head for bed, I’m with other people. That’s great, but its exhausting. I miss “quiet time”. When did I get so old?
3. Home. While I’m swanning about England, Margaret will be juggling working and looking after Spice, on her own. Doubtless me being around will mean the place stays much cleaner, but where I enjoy solitude, Mags thrives in company.

Difference

I daresay that all will be well, and I may even find cooler temperatures and a bit of rain refreshing.

I’m looking forward to seeing everybody, and to, “difference”. They say that a change is as good as a rest, so I’m looking forward to a glimpse of England.

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Living the Dream – 59. Sabbatical

“A sabbatical. We’ll try it for nine months.”

That was the original agreement. Margaret’s employer had a policy allowing her to take up to 9 months as a career break. Putting an end date on our adventure made it much easier for Margaret to acquiesce.

Sabbatical

Then, her employer made her redundant, and the artificial time limit was no longer there. Nevertheless, we both understood that we were burning no bridges and that the move to Cyprus was not definitive. It was a sabbatical.

Evolution

Margaret’s position then became, “we’ll stay awhile, until we can sell the house.” More recently, it has become, “we won’t grow old here. We won’t stay for ever.” Subtle changes; evolution not revolution, as it were. My position, much to many people’s frustration, is, and always was, “I dunno. Let’s see.”

In theory, we would have headed home last month, before the summer really hit. I’m delighted that we’re still here. Particularly after the start that we had, when I genuinely feared that we would choose to return to England sooner even than nine months.

Signals

We’re discussing whether to take the next Greek language course in the autumn and we have made plans for New Year. There has been no specific discussion, we’ve simply moved on.

Is this home now?

Posed as a simple question, the answer is more complex. What is home?

Home

Increasingly, soppy though it may sound, home, for me, is where Margaret is. I’m happy here, I was happy in England. In the Members posts of this site, I am writing about my time in Central Europe. I was happy there too.

Statistically, two thirds of British people who retire abroad, return to the UK. Grandchildren and health care being the two elements most often cited as reasons to return.

Mags and I have no kids and touch wood, are in good health for the time being. Part of the rationale of moving here was to do so while relatively young, and enjoy a new life.

The Future

Might we move back to the UK? Or move to another “foreign” country? Might we stay here?

Yes, to all of the above.

We are lucky enough to be able to keep our options open, and that’s what we will do.

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Living the Dream – 58. Summer Living

Summer living is what we came to Cyprus for. Almost endless sunshine, blue skies and warm weather.

Heat

Having lived here before, I had warned Mags that the height of summer can be uncomfortable. Therefore, we both awaited July and August with a degree of trepidation. The season, has thus far, been mild. There have been some blazing hot, humid days, but not as many as we might expect.

When the heat is on, we have adapted our routines. We rise early, and retire late. We either work or golf in the morning and then rest in the heat of the afternoon. That’s fine, until I look at the impact on my productivity.

Golf

We return from the course between 2 and 3 in the afternoon. I restock the water bottles, get the washing machine working and then collapse, either on a chair or in bed. By the time that I’m functioning again, its dinner and/or social time.

I have found myself playing “social” golf, three times a week – with some competitions on top. That means three or four days per seven, I’m not getting to my businesses or my other projects. That’s too much. I either have to find a way for golf not to wipe out an entire day, or play less. Dang it.

Working

If I am not off to the golf course, then after a swim, I get down to the office bright and early to get some work done. The mornings are highly productive. My energy levels have always been best at the start of the day, and the availability of a home-office means that I can get going very quickly and go straight through to around 1pm. I have another swim, a bite to eat and then a nap.

Epiphany

Writing this post, my inner-voice (Siegfried) has been screaming, “play golf in the afternoon, muppet!” Siegfried has a point.

Most of our playing partners are retired, and play in the mornings. Afternoon golf will likely be just the two of us – from a buggy, but even if I reclaimed one weekday morning, that’s a 50% increase of prime productivity time.

There – even if nobody reads this post, the writing of it has helped me make an improvement to summer living.

Appetite

A welcome impact of the heat is that I am rarely hungry during daylight hours. That’s good for calorie control. Unfortunately, there are few pleasures better than a cold beer on a warm night, and that is definitely not good for calorie control!

Conclusion

Summer living is awesome. I know that any challenges are ones that I am very lucky to have – and now, if I start moving some golf into the afternoon, then I can claim a huge positive impact of writing this blog.

Thank you.

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