Living the Dream – 53. Liquid Gold

Liquid Gold is what they used to call olive oil in these parts.

When I was a boy in England, oil was what you fried chips in. There was another type that you put in your car. Taste-wise, they were pretty similar.

As people traveled more, so did food. Olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, and with good reason. It’s medicinal powers are legend, and it’s taste unbeatable.

Before continuing, I should make the point that the majority of olive oil in shops in the UK (and probably elsewhere too) is a very poor imitation of the real thing. Some of it is a very well-marketed, premium-priced, imitation, but imitation it is.

To be honest, the majority of the stuff in shops here is pretty ordinary too. An Italian friend pointed me towards a place called Oleastro, in Anogyra where he felt the oil was good. Not as good as Italy, but good. (Italy – Greece – Cyprus. It’s complicated.)

Taste Test

Margaret and I went, and sampled some oil. Margaret gave a slight grimace, a partial shrug and pronounced, “it’s alright.” Higher praise from a Sicilian about oil, not from Sicily, does not exist. We took a litre for more extensive home-testing.

Ultimately, we agreed that though not Sicilian, it was the best we were likely to find on the island. We called up and ordered twenty litres. As expected, the oil came in a plastic jerry can, with strict instructions to get it decanted soonest.

Stocking up

Pouring liquid gold through a funnel into simple glass bottles is a ritual we intend to repeat. As the sun caught on the bubbles, the bottles sparkled. The oil reminded me of the golden syrup that I lusted after as a child. Rich, unctuous and well…golden.

That which remained, was left in a jug. Margaret urged me to dip my finger and taste it.

“This is better than the one litre we bought,” she confirmed. I knew better than to shrug and nodded my assent. The taste is extraordinary. A simple salad with a healthy pour of oil is a revelation here in Cyprus. It tastes divine.

Multi-purpose

As well as food, liquid gold serves as a cure-all. Actually, not a cure-all. Whatever ails you in Cyprus can be relieved by one of three things: Liquid Gold (Olive oil), Black Gold (Carob Syrup), or Fire Water (Zivania) but that’s for another post.

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Going Solo. 2. What’s the start point?

Start Point

You think you want to go solo. That’s great. I’ve worked for myself since 2003 and I wouldn’t ever want to work for anyone else, ever again. Let’s work out your start point.

You can do it. Everyone can do it. But being able to do it does not mean that you should do it.

If there is one thread that runs through everything involved in being your own boss, is that the buck stops with you. There’s no one to bail you out. The first maxim is “be honest with yourself”.

Notebook

I’m an analogue sort of guy, as will become increasingly obvious. Grab yourself a notebook. I’ll happily sell you one, but any book will do. This book will record your thoughts and chart your progress.

Leave the first few pages blank (we’ll put an index in here). At the top of say, page 5 write,

“Going Solo”.

Then beneath it, write the following

  1. What you are now. Employee? Student? Unemployed?
  2. How you fund your life. Salary? Savings? Partner? Any way you can?
  3. What responsibilities you have. Parent? Carer?
  4. What’s your personal situation? Do you live alone or with others? Do you fund just yourself or others?

Write as little or as much as you want. The important thing is to be honest. This book is for you. It’s your business partner. Don’t tell lies to your business partner.

Leave a line, and write down what you want to be; You Tube Superstar, Management Consultant, Landscape Gardener, Author, Model, Gravedigger, Personal Trainer – whatever it is that you want to be. What’s the dream? What are you aiming for?

Analysis

Don’t look now, but you’ve just documented a start point and an end point. If you were working for a big company, then you have completed a “situational assessment” (or any other of a thousand buzz phrases) and set a goal.

We are just going to call it the journey. We have identified where we are starting (Point A) and where we want to get (Point M). Now, all we have to work out is how to get from point A to M.

Now, go back to page 1 and write Index at the top of the page. Then write – “The Journey” on the left side of the page and “5” in the middle.

Wow. Look at you. You have instigated project “Going Solo”, completed a Situational Analysis, established a goal and documented and indexed the project. In an office, you should probably take a break here. Lunch maybe. It’s been a productive day.

Sorry, I’m being flippant (partially). We will revisit the journey and will write more pages on it. When we do – be sure to add the page number next to the 5. That way, whenever you want to reference the journey, you’ll know where to look.

OK. Lunch break over.

Take a look at the four questions and their answers. If you are unemployed, independently wealthy with no responsibilities, then what are you doing here? Go surfing. Immediately.

Conclusion

If you are not that person, then the chances are that your start point is, to some extent at least, going to guide your approach to going solo. That, my friends, is effectively the beginning of a feasibility study.

Next post – what to do about money?

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27. Summertime

…and the living is easy.

What a song.

At the risk of annoying those people still wondering where summer is and whether it will ever be summertime;

“Phew! It’s hot.”

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Living The Dream – 52. Snakey McSnake Face

Snakey McSnake Face is probably not her real name. I didn’t ask.

On Sunday I had walked to two famous Venetian footbridges up in the Troodos mountains. It was a lovely hike of eight miles or so. I was even presented with my “50 mile badge”. Cracking day.

Venetian Bridge

Tyre Trouble

Things took a turn for the worse once I was back in the car, heading home. A natty electronic display informed me that my back right tyre was losing pressure and that I should deal with it as soon as practicable. As Monday was a public holiday, Tuesday was going to be the first opportunity to get professional help.

Margaret and I sat on the terrace making gloomy estimates of how much money was going to be required to be invested in new rubber, when Spice exploded into a frenzy of alarm-barking. When it became apparent that she was not joking, I walked around the back of the house to investigate.

Discovery

She stood before an open cupboard door (it had been windy), her eyes fixed on the darkness within, barking incessantly. The hairs on my arm stood to attention. “Snake.” I thought.

Captain Courage that I am, I immediately picked up a broom, put Spice inside the house and began banging about the cupboard. Something moved. Something heavy. My heart-rate spiked, and I beat a retreat. I grabbed a 4 iron. I’m very good with a four iron. The club was small enough to go into the dark gap where I believed Snakey McSnake Face was curled up. I prodded and felt something firm, but yielding. She hissed, and probably marvelled at the speed with which a big man could jump up and vault a fence. With a 4 iron in his hand.

Snakey McSnake Face

Negotiation

Dusk was approaching and there was only one thing for it. I had stern words (from a safe distance) with Snakey McSnake Face, and repaired to the terrace for a medicinal barrel of wine.

Sleep was fitful. Crushed to death, fatally poisoned, beaten at match play, all by an angry snake, figured in my fevered dreams.

Next morning

Next morning, Spice, the 4 iron, and I all crept toward the cupboard. Spice was hesitant, but not alarmed. The 4 iron found nothing where Snakey McSnake Face had been. I passed a happy couple of hours banging 137 nails into the cupboard door.

What did I say to her?

That’s between Snakey and me.

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Going Solo. 1. So, you want to go solo?

Readers have asked me how I got to go solo. Hence, this new category of posts. Over twenty weeks, I will spell out, step by step, how to go solo. Posts will go up each Wednesday. While comments are not enabled on the blog, I’m always happy to answer questions. Grab me on Twitter @stulennon

On Fridays, I post about #livingthedream. Margaret and I have upped sticks from the UK and now live on the Mediterranean island, Cyprus. Mostly, it has been fantastic, although there have been so real lows too. You can catch up by clicking on the category “Living the Dream” in the main menu.

Going Solo

A key element of crafting our dream life is the ability to work for ourselves. I choose when and where I work. If I want to go to the beach, I go to the beach. I am master of my own time.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? It is.

Commuting

I work from home. I have a ground floor office that looks out onto my garden. It has a daybed, a couple of desks and a host of my favourite things. I work here, I read here, sometimes I nap here. In the past, I enjoyed listening to podcasts on my long walk to the office. Now, I take a swim before I come to the office, and can listen to podcasts all day, if I choose.

Working Hours

I play golf. Not everybody’s thing, I know, but I love it. Three times a week, I’m at the club. I play, drink a beer with my friends, maybe have a meal. It’s a lot of fun.

Cyprus is hot. In summer, it’s really hot. There is air conditioning in the office, but I don’t use it. When it gets unbearably hot, I go for a swim, then take a nap.

It’s tough to fit golf and naps into a traditional “employed”, working week. Certainly, everywhere that I’ve worked took a dim view of me going to sleep in the afternoons.

The Beach

Honestly, I’m not much of a beach-bum. That said, a lounger in the shade, The Mediterranean at my feet and a frozen cocktail at my side is not the worst way to spend an afternoon. I can do that and call it work. Technology enables us to work from anywhere. Sometimes, I swing by the beach to do some work, just to remind myself that I can.

The Boss

I’m accountable only to myself. There is nobody pushing me to do things that I don’t enjoy, or that add no value to my day. I decide what needs to be done, by when. It’s liberating.

Lucky me, huh?

Make your own luck.

There are no guarantees in life. Nor do many get everything that they dream. However – we can be pretty sure that doing nothing, leads to nothing.

Life is for living. I didn’t wake up one morning and find myself working for myself. A series of decisions have got me here.

I’ll lead you through those decisions, week by week.

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Through Gritted Teeth

Through gritted teeth, I’m saying out loud, “the funk is finished.”
I have been flying through task lists and dealing with all sorts of domestic drama, promising myself that I will find the time to get editing again.

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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.

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Working Tools 25. – The Mac Pro

The Mac Pro

The Mac Pro is on its way.

For years, hardcore Mac aficionados have been railing, whining and whingeing about the lack of a successor to the Mac Pro, less than affectionately known as the “Trash can.” Why had Apple abandoned the top end of the market? When had mediocrity become the target segment?

No! Not good enough. Not modular enough, not high-end enough.

The Kit

Somebody, deep in the Apple-core, rolled up their sleeves and swore fluently and silently, flint in their eyes.

The Mac Pro was previewed at the worldwide developers conference (WWDC) last week.

Boom.

I understand little of these things, but by all accounts, this thing is a monster. Massive processing power. The ability to ramp up the specifications to levels never hitherto considered.

There were gasps and rapturous applause.

Cost

The machine will start at $5,000. Should you want a matching screen, you can have one of those for $5,000 too.

So, everybody’s happy now.

Ah. No.

Not exactly.

It appears that the quoted prices are a mite misleading. The base machine has a 256 GB SSD, which is way too small for most purposes. Apple are renowned for high prices on SSD upgrades. The monitor price is a starter too. Should you wish to have the monitor on a stand, then you need to pay another $1,000. Or, you could plump for a bracket to attach to a monitor arm, yours for $200. I suppose you could lean it against the wall.

I was just listening to two avid apple watchers agree that they expect to be able to configure a single workstation up to $50,000.

Outrage

Twitter is alight. How dare Apple produce a machine so good, so modular, so high-end that it’s so unaffordable!

Apple of course is laughing all the way to the bank. I have no idea how many units will be sold to people that make full use of their capability. I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of sales will be to people who have generated elaborate justifications for why they need the machine. (Look out for key phrases “Spare capacity”, “future-proofing” and the like.) I write as one who has a strong line in elaborate justifications.

Additionally, the iMac Pro has gone from “top end” to “sensible option for pros.” Folk that were hanging on for the Mac Pro will either buy one, or pull the trigger on buying the iMac Pro.

Clever people at Apple. I believe that one day, they’ll be the biggest company in…Oh. Wait.

Other announcements

There were lots of positive announcements on the future of software in the Apple world – and plenty of encouraging words around my favoured device the iPad.

As previously posited, I see no reason currently to upgrade my hardware. Apple is relaxed with that, and has adjusted its pricing accordingly. People are upgrading less frequently, but when they do, oh boy, brace yourself.

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Writer’s Block

The Situation

Whether writer’s block is a thing or not, is beyond my pay grade. I do know that I haven’t done any writing for a week or more.

Why not?

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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.

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