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!

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.