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!

Living the Dream. 22- Mind your language

Language Class. I sat on a chair designed for somebody a fifth of my age and weight. My knees let me know that they were not enjoying this unaccustomed position.

We were waiting for Stavros, who was to be our tutor. Margaret and I had come with our neighbour Nicky, who, to our ears at least, already spoke Greek. Nevertheless, she was adamant that the beginner class was right for her.

Scanning the room, I guessed that Brits were the majority, but there were East Asians, Middle Eastern people, Russians and Eastern Europeans too. Some had come alone, some with partners of friends.

“Beginner’s Greek?” Asked a woman at the door.

“I hope so,” I replied.

The woman nodded, came in followed a young man. They walked to the front of the class.

Adults in a children's classroom
Tiny chairs and furrowed brows

Greek Level 1

“Hello. My name is Angela and I will be your tutor.”

There followed some approximate introductions and a confusion of administration. Satisfied that Angela was in charge, the young man left. Turns out he was Stavros and he had passed us off to Angela for reasons unknown.

I was reminded of the 1970s UK TV comedy “Mind Your Language”, as the class interacted. I daresay we will be a more politically correct crowd, but the potential for humour is obvious as we all struggle to bend our minds to a new tongue.

Once it was agreed that bureaucracy and registration would be sorted remotely next week, we moved onto the serious, and surprisingly taxing, task of the alphabet.

Learning

There are some letters in Greek that look and sound identical to their English counterparts. A, Alpha. “Got it,” I thought.

However, the plot thickened. Some letters look like their English counterparts, but have a completely different pronunciation. “Oh good.” I muttered sourly.

“And finally, we have letters that bear no resemblance to English, in appearance or sound.” Angela beamed.

I have a feeling that I might be a little long in the tooth for a new language.

It’s all Greek to me.

Living the Dream – 21. Moving On

Moving on from Nero

In my last post, I compressed ten days into a few paragraphs. For Margaret and I, those ten days felt like ten months. We are both still sad. We both miss Nero and we will never forget him. That, is as it should be.
Every night, we listen to Nero’s assailant barking.
That, is not, as it should be.
I’m not going into the action that we are taking – but we have spent time with the police, the local authority and retained legal counsel.

Bureaucracy

In between vet visits, we got the ball rolling on a variety of ‘immigration admin’. The car is now registered – she got her Cypriot paperwork faster than we did. As an only slightly political aside – we had to pay duty. Bringing in our personal, duty paid, vehicle from an EU country, to another EU country, we had to pay duty. Frictionless eh?
We started the process of getting our residence permit. Yes, we are EU citizens and therefore can exercise the right of freedom of movement etc…but actually, we can’t. For example, we need to take private health insurance, and we need to demonstrate that we won’t be a drain on the Cypriot state. Cypriot citizens don’t have to do that. We need to jump through several hoops to be permanent residents here. #justsayin

Winter is coming

The evenings are chilly up in the village now. In comparison with the UK, that’s nonsense. I’m sitting outside in the dark, typing away. It’s 16 degrees centigrade, so 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but it feels cold to us now. I’m still swimming every day, but long-term residents think I’m certifiable.

Settling In

Mags has done amazing work getting the house setup. Our furniture is in place, our clothes in the right wardrobes and the house feels more like a home every day – with one obvious exception.

We both know there will be more dogs in our lives, but how and when – we don’t know that yet.

Time to get on with #livingthedream

Living the Dream – 20. Nightmare

London

Mine is the easy nightmare. I had got to the airport, and killed time in departures. As the aircraft took off, I was waiting for a message indicating whether Nero had survived emergency surgery.
We had adopted Nero at 12 weeks old, and shared our lives with him for 11 years.
I lost signal before a message came.
That felt a long, long flight.

Cyprus

On landing, I learned that he had survived, but was on the critical list, kept in a medical coma.
Once home, Margaret relived her terrifying day. It was surreal. Hers was the real nightmare, one that she still relives regularly. Our dog lay dying in a country that suddenly felt entirely alien. Snatched from Margaret’s arms by a huge, snarling dog, at least part Staffordshire Bull Terrier. The attack was prolonged and ferocious. It had bitten and shaken Nero multiple times.
The vet had operated to rescue his ruptured intestine. He told us to expect the worst. Day by day, Nero improved. The operation had been a success, and a powerful cocktail of antibiotics kept infection at bay. I spoke about it on 1857.

Operation 2

Then, things got worse. The antibiotics were, in fact, masking the progress of a voracious infection that was eating Nero up. There are photos, but ones that I cannot bring myself to post here.
A second emergency operation was undertaken. Large chunks of infected flesh were cut away. Antibiotics were changed – it was decided that a simple protocol would be used – preventing any masking. Again, our boy was on the critical list. Again, each morning, he would stagger to his feet and wag his tail at the sound of our voices. The team at the vets marvelled at his strength and spirit.
Nevertheless, the infection was unstoppable. Nero was being consumed bit by bit.

The End

On the tenth day after the attack, the team rolled the dice one last time. More flesh was going to be removed and an attempt made to graft muscle and flesh tissue around the dog. Nobody could give up while Nero fought on.
However – the grafts proved impossible. It was clear to the vet that Nero could not survive. So, the decision was made not to wake him from this third operation and he slipped away an hour later.

We had been crying for ten days, and we’re still crying now. Crying with grief. Crying with fury. A ten day nightmare.

“#Livingthedream” had become one of the worst times of our lives.

 

Living the Dream – 19. Shattered

It’s shattered. I finished the last post with the following reference to leaving Margaret alone just after our container arrived:

“Predictably – the day after its arrival, I’m back to London for a brief business trip. Mags will face the mountain of boxes alone, at least for a couple of days. Unfortunate timing? Or excellent planning? Again. I’ll let you know next week.”

I flew to London Thursday afternoon for a Friday conference. I was giving the last presentation. It went well. There followed an awards dinner, complete with cheerleaders and a stand-up comic. All great fun.

On Saturday morning, I awoke early and through some sort of instinct checked my phone.

“#livingthedream” shattered there and then.

Mags was in the village square, screaming and sobbing, our beloved miniature schnauzer, Nero, bleeding at her feet.

A dog, habitually chained up, had somehow been freed. It saw Mags and Nero and charged them. Instinctively, Mags scooped Nero up and tried to shield him from the attack. The aggressor snatched Nero from her arms and savaged him.

Mags’ screams of terror had roused the village and the dog was pulled off. I called at this point. Mags called some local friends who whipped Nero to the vet and my wife home.

I was due to leave from Heathrow at lunchtime and arrive home in the evening. Mags and I talked on the phone, exchanged messages. Physically, she was relatively unhurt, but I could hear the trauma in every word, sob and tear. Never have I felt so useless and so remote.

The 12 hours between the voice mail (which you can listen to here – although it’s a very hard listen) and finally getting home are the longest that I have endured.

So – to answer the question that I posed at the end of the last post – “unfortunate timing?”

Definitely.

Timing that will haunt me forever.

Living the Dream – 18. Wins and Losses

Wins and Losses. I shelved this post – after the dramatic events described in the next post. I thought I’d publish it anyway. You will not miss the irony.

Telecoms

I left you last week lamenting that I would be without broadband for the weekend.
Good news. They fixed it. Sort of.

On Monday morning, I went to the Police station to finalise my statement with regards to the burglary. Upon my return, two technicians arrived from Cyta (Cyprus Telecoms) to ‘bond’ two lines; the only way to get a decent upload speed, or at least a better upload speed.
With dizzying alacrity, they climbed a ladder, dropped a CAT5 cable, mounted a new faceplate put on the phone point and installed a shiny new modem. Fantastic!

Only, it didn’t work. There followed two intense hours of frowning, constant phone calls and replacing of cables. As all hope seeped away, the lights turned green. Huge thumbs up all round and off they shot. I ran some speed tests. The results bore a striking resemblance to the speeds achieved before the drama. Hmmm…

My Mum texted – “Phone still not fixed?”. I tested. I could call out on the phone, but if I called to it – I got the unobtainable tone. So – I’m worse off than when I started, but better off than I was at the weekend.

Customs

On the other hand, our visit to customs was astonishingly brief and easy. We found our contact, handed over our log book, signed some papers and everything was done. Delivery of our car and furniture is pencilled in for Wednesday. Or – I just gave our car away.

I’ll let you know which, next week.

Insurance

Insurance was easy. I thought it might be. Somehow, paying over large amounts is always easily done. Still – we have insurance for the car and for the house.
The arrival of the container will be a big deal. first, it will be a huge pain – but as the house starts to take shape, and the hire car is replaced by our own vehicle, life will feel much more familiar.

Business Trip

Predictably – the day after its arrival, I’m back to London for a brief business trip. Mags will face the mountain of boxes alone, at least for a couple of days.
Unfortunate timing? Or excellent planning?
Again. I’ll let you know next week.

Living the Dream-17. What’s the hurry?

What’s the hurry?

Last week, we celebrated the arrival of a somewhat shaken, but not stirred, Nero; the real ruler of our household.
This week, all three of us have been getting more settled and focused on designing our new lives.

Windows

A Cypriot friend organised for the ‘window man’ to come. He arrived, quoted, and promised to fit new locks to all of our windows on Tuesday evening.

We gave our apologies to the quiz team and settled in to await his arrival. On Wednesday, we learned that regrettably, the required locks were not in stock, and would only be available in two weeks. I felt that this information would have been useful to us on the Tuesday evening…but hey.

Doors

Our bedroom door needs replacing. It’s a bespoke size. Fortunately, it was made by a fellow from the village. So I called around. Literally, I called. His ferocious hound threw itself at the gate repeatedly as, in the deepest voice I could muster, I called for its master. No response. However, his neighbour, a village elder, promised to let the ‘door-man’ know of our problem. It seems he’s retired from doors, but his son keeps his hand in on a part-time basis. We’re to await contact.

Phones

I recorded a podcast episode. It took around 18 hours to upload. I spoke to the Telecom people. They assured me, that on Tuesday or Wednesday, I would get a call, telling me that my broadband was now the best it could be. On Thursday, my phone rang as I walked to the first tee. In our pidgin English and Greek we thanked each other. In an hour, all would be done.
The phone rang again on the 4th.
“You are in the house?”
“No. Should I be? I’ll be there this afternoon.”
“We can’t do afternoon.”
“Ah. Well, I’m at Customs at the Port tomorrow morning…”
“Ok. We come Monday morning.”
“Ah. Right. Thank you.”
“Now. Your line no work. Ok. Bye”
“But! But…” I was talking to myself.

No phone, no broadband for a whole weekend!

Hence, I find myself drafting this post on my phone, and uploading through my UK mobile account. So please excuse any typos and formatting errors. Fat finger syndrome.😁

Friday, we’re off to customs and the insurance broker.

Bet that’ll be fun…

Still, I sunk a monster putt on the second.

What’s the hurry?

Living the Dream – 16. Landed

Yasu! We’ve landed.

First Days

On Saturday the 22nd of September 2018, we left home at 4 am and by a pleasingly symmetrical 4 pm we were at the house in Cyprus, our home for the foreseeable future.
We are settling in; assessing the losses from the burglary, working out where our furniture is going be placed when it arrives and generally feeling our way in to the new life.
Exciting isn’t it?
Erm…well, hmmm…

Feelings

Curiously, neither of us knows quite how to feel. Margaret desperately wants to organise stuff, but is a bit snookered until our belongings arrive. We are beefing up home security and taking stock of all the things that need to be done around and about the house.

Nero

The arrival of Nero, who landed a couple of days ago, has impacted us both. Airlines regard pets as freight. If that’s the starting point, things are unlikely to go well. Two employees at Larnaca airport probably have no idea how close they were to very sudden blunt trauma injuries as they faffed about being bureaucratic halfwits. Fortunately, I resisted the temptation to punch anyone through a wall, and Mags, Nero and I are together at last. All of us needed a stiff drink.
The stress of his arrival apart, Nero has given me a bit of rhythm. My day starts with his walk, as does my evening, when we meander around the village, greeting all and sundry. Thus far, our favourite restaurants have been welcoming of him, (on the terrace) bar one, who has had a customer go nuts at the sight of a dog. Neither Mags and I has been willing to leave him alone – not until he is a bit more settled. As I type this, on the terrace, he is dozing at my feet, looking for all the world, master of his territory.

Perhaps, I’m settling in more than I think.

Living the Dream – 15. Packed

Packed

Packed. Our entire house has been packed. As this post is published, the container is on the truck, on its way to the ship.

Late Saturday night, I returned from the Camino , having walked 130 miles in 6 days, tired but happy.

On Tuesday morning, three cheery guys, well, two cheery guys and a moody, quiet one, turned up ready to get the house packed. The challenge is to stop them packing stuff. Let your attention drift for a second and your hand luggage is beautifully encased in cardboard and packing-tape.
They have accounted for two short packing days and then to load the container itself on the third. This includes the car, which needs to be valeted before it goes into the container. Well, you wouldn’t want any English dirt getting into Cyprus, would you?

If anything, it’s surprising how quickly the house is broken down into cardboard boxes and furniture components.

Powerless

Margaret and I are alternately excited and growling at each other. So much to do and yet such a feeling of redundancy. Things are happening around us. Tenants move into the house next week.
Nero, the beloved miniature schnauzer, begins his journey on Friday, when he goes to spend a few days with the agency that are shipping him to Cyprus. We have a car booked for 4am on Saturday. We will arrive on Saturday afternoon, with plenty of time for some sunbathing and a dip in the pool before dinner. Nero arrives on Tuesday lunchtime, completing the family again.

Holiday

Margaret has declared us ‘on holiday’ until the container arrives a couple of weeks later. Time to recharge before taking on the task of unpacking and rearranging everything. There will be some admin to get started – applying for residence permits and the like, as well as dealing with the aftermath of the burglary.
That said, I’m looking forward to some swimming, some golf and frankly, some rest.