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.

 

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Working Tools 19. – The Pocket Notebook

The Pocket Notebook

The original personal data assistant.

I use a combination of digital and analogue tools, which is not a policy decision, rather it depends which tool is right for the job. I wrote about my range of notebooks back in January. The primary function of the pocket notebook for me is data capture, and for that, I consider it unbeatable. I’m very seldom without a notebook and pen.

I’m aware that I could take a note on my phone, but I rarely do.

Why not?

  1. Process versus outcome. Field Notes have a tag line: “I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.” It’s the act of making the note that is important for me. It cements that otherwise fleeting thought. Often, I don’t need to refer back to my notebook, I automatically recall what I wrote. This is less true of things I have typed.
  2. Efficiency. I hand write much faster than I can type on a phone. I could dictate I suppose, but people think I’m weird enough without me wandering around mumbling into my phone all the time.
  3. Presence. I do not buy into the idea that screens are destroying the world, but I absolutely know that a smart phone can undermine and divert human attention. In the pocket is better than on the table, I find.
  4. Musing. Doodling. I draw very poorly, but from time to time, I get something from making marks on paper. It soothes me. (Told you I was weird.)
  5. Availability. My notebook is always on, and never loses power. Should my pen or pencil disappear or fail, it’s usually quite easy to replace. A phone, less so.
  6. Archive. I’m old enough to have learned that digital data is transient and impermanent. How many people had their lives backed up and preserved on floppy disks, video cassettes, and CDs? How many dissertations survive only in digital formats that can no longer be easily read? Sure, we can migrate data to newer formats every few years, but who does? I could lose my notebooks, or they could be destroyed, but a disaster apart, they will be just as legible in twenty years as they are now.
  7. Hashtag. Pick your favourite. #amwriting, #hipster, #analog. It was pocket notebooks that got me back into stationery – so much in fact, that I bought a notebook business. There are some really cool notebooks out there. (Most of them @NerosNotes)

Membership

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Deadline Incoming

“Should I share this timetable? Why not? After all recruiting members was, at least in part, about commitment and accountability. So – potentially to my eternal regret…

  • Act I – Draft 2 – End April
  • Act 2 – Draft 2 – End May
  • Act 3 – Draft 2 – End June
  • Out to Beta Readers
  • Draft 3 – End August
  • Pro Edit & Proof – End Oct
  • Final Draft  – End Nov
  • Publish”

On the plus side, I was right. I do regret it.

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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.

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Working Tools 18. – Bullet Journal Update

Working Tools 18. – Bullet Journal Update

At the end of this month (April), I will finish my third consecutive bullet journal. I started here. Six contiguous months, planned, noted, bulleted, journaled. Six months counts as a consistent practice and I feel qualified to write a review.

Bullet Journal Update

What works?

By far the biggest win for me, is how the practice fits into a morning routine. The morning routine is beloved of productivity gurus and enthusiasts. I once bought access to a course on the morning routine, and when we got to the section on “go to the bathroom”, I realised that I may, with no formal tutoring, be a guru myself. I have been regularly going to the bathroom for years. That aside, getting the day started right certainly beats getting the day started wrong.

Morning routine

Leaving out the bathroom, my days starts with an espresso (or more likely two) and my journal. I write the date and then my first note of the day, which is always a gratitude note. I simply write one thing for which I am grateful. Isn’t that nice? Try it. You might be surprised. It does make you feel good.
From there, I’m automatically jotting “To Dos”, reviewing calendar events, just getting an idea of how my day is going to unfold. Once I am down in the office, I will more formally review the previous days – and check if there is anything that I want to migrate forward; either an uncompleted task, or a note that I took. At this point, I will decide which of my tasks are priorities, my “must-dos”. These, I mark with an asterisk.

At that point, the journal gets closed. I don’t constantly refer to it during the day. In many ways, it is the act of the practice that is important, rather than the output. An analogy might be that the journal is an old-fashioned road map rather than a satellite navigation system. I look at the map before I set off.

Reference

Generally, I start the day with creative tasks. I stay away from e-mail and social media, lest my day start by other people prioritising my day for me. As I go through the day, I do sometimes refer back to the journal, either to check completed tasks off or to make a note. At some point, I will review “inbound”, where there will undoubtedly be tasks for me to deal with, note or ignore.

Evening routine

In theory, I review the day and make the odd note. Often, I don’t get to it. It is a lovely way to close the day out, if I can be disciplined enough to do it, but sometimes, well, life happens.

What doesn’t work?

Collections

I have some that I setup at the beginning of each journal, but adding to them does not come naturally to me, I’ll concede. I also create some on the fly, when I have need. At a conference that I recently attended, rather than using the pad provided for notes, I created a collection in the journal. Similarly, I have drafted blog posts in the journal – rather than carry around another notebook.

Bullet Journal Update

Conclusions

Ryder Carroll, the guy behind #bujo gets a bit of stick. Some suggest that his book on the subject goes OTT on what the system can do for you: “Bullet Journal to the rescue!” One can see where people are coming from, but I get the impression that Ryder is self-aware and maintains a balance between promoting the system and staying humble. I find my bullet journal practice helpful and will continue it. I will customise it and evolve it, which is exactly what Ryder suggests you do.

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Done not perfect

I’m on a roll with golf. So, I’m going to draw another parallel.

The first time I played a whole round of golf, I was not very good. I had fun, hit a decent shot or two, but the round was a long way from a masterpiece. Why would it be for heaven’s sake? It was my first attempt. However, I had proved that I could complete a round, and even keep score. I had shown signs of potential.

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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.

Working Tools 17. – Podcast Setup

Every Monday evening, I come down to the the office to record an episode of 1857. “Make the past, the present in the future.” If you haven’t already, have a listen. TJ Cosgrove and I chat through our week and talk around a subject that has captured the attention of one of us. As I write, we have just recorded episode 64.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that two years ago, I had only the faintest concept of what a podcast was. I’d certainly never listened to one. I am sure that you, dear reader, are completely au fait with the concept, but lest someone like me has stumbled upon this post, permit me to supply a definition:

“A podcast or generically netcast, is an episodic series of digital audio or video files which a user can download in order to listen to. It is often available for subscription, so that new episodes are automatically downloaded via web syndication to the user’s own local computer, mobile application, or portable media player.“(From Wikipedia)

There is a huge choice of podcasts out there – and I have become a voracious consumer of them. From time to time, I publish lists my current favourites. Here and here for example.

How to listen.

Listening is easy.

Personally, I live in a Mac world, and in my opinion Overcast leads the market. So easy, even I can use it.

Sometimes overlooked – the good old BBC produces some superb podcasts

How to record.

It never occurred to me that I could record a podcast. Then along came Anchor FM, where I was able to mumble into my phone on the way to work and call it a podcast. Anchor is a fantastic way to get started, and is adding functionality all the time. Anyone can become a podcaster in moments.

TJ has been knocking around the analogue world for a while, producing logos, and particularly, great video content. He had shot some video for me at Nero’s Notes. TJ and I got talking. We had never met, but what the hell? We decided to record. I looked around at outsourcing editing services, until we settled on TJ. We looked around at sponsors, until we settled on Nero’s Notes.

It’s that simple.

Podcast Setup

Not as complex as you might think. In a nutshell, we talk on the phone and each of us records our own voice. We usually talk through What’s App, but Skype works too. You could even just talk on the phone – subject to your call plan! We’re talking though our headphones. I use these. In order to record my end of the conversation, I use this, the Blue Yeti. (As does TJ.) It plugs into a USB in the back of my monitor. It has a little furry hat on (or a pop filter, as techie folk call it) to stop my plosives popping on the audio. Recently, I bought a boom arm, to reduce the clutter on my desk.

Podcast Setup - Desk
Podcast Desk

The recording is done though a piece of software called Audacity, where I press a button to start recording (the red one), and another to stop it (the yellow one). Then I export the audio to my dropbox and send TJ a link to the file. He then imports my file into his Audacity, and mixes and edits the two tracks together. There is undoubtedly some work in that editing phase, and I have no doubt that TJ’s experience in editing video has helped him master it quickly, but I am told that it is learnable, with great instruction available online.

Our recordings are hosted at SimpleCast, for a low monthly fee, and people subscribe to us through a wide variety of channels.

Why do we do it?

That’s really simple. We enjoy it. We take pleasure in our conversations, and our listeners do too. The podcast has spawned a Slack channel, 1857ers chew the fat, and that’s great fun too. If you would like to join – get in touch and I’ll send you an invite.

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Golfing Gods

Regular readers know that I play golf. Living here, it’s a great excuse to be out in the sun, breathing fresh air and burning some calories.

Of late, I have not been striking the ball well, nor putting well. The strongest part of my game has definitely been the drinking of beer in the club house.

Background

At Secret Valley Golf Resort, where I play, there are regular competitions, and these competitions are drawn – that is to say, you don’t get to pick with whom you play. Such is the traditional way. As a new member, this helps me meet new people. Five hours on the course provides plenty of opportunity to get to know someone. On the flip side, I am inevitably more nervous playing with people I don’t know. Still, I have entered a few competitions now, and know a few more faces. Most members know me by sight, (Plus-twos and bright stockings probably help with that), and as a result, I’m more comfortable.

Saturday last was the monthly medal. I was scheduled to play with three gentlemen, only one of whom I had played with before.

For context, my handicap is 13. So, par for the course is 71, add the 13 and on a good day, I should complete the course in 84 shots.

Golfing Gods

Something happened. I hit a good drive on the first hole, pitched close, and holed a putt for a birdie three. Starting with a birdie usual foreshadows disaster, but hey, anything is possible. The Golfing Gods were smiling upon me. As I stood on the 8th tee, I was one over gross par, so several shots better than my handicap.

Disaster struck. I pulled my drive, and watched as it crossed the boundary of the penalty area and disappeared under a bush.

I took a penalty drop at the point the ball crossed the line. The ball was quite severely above the level of my feet (which promotes a hook), and the flag is 152 yards away. This hole had the potential to be a disaster and to sink the round. I have, in the past, from a similar lie, hooked the shot, losing a second ball, having to take an additional penalty and running up a big number. Still, I know what the risk is, so I adjust my grip, my aim, and focus on hitting a smooth 7 iron.

I hit a good one. Smooth, the right shape and in the right direction. A playing partner, from a good vantage point called out:

“Shot! Oh. That’s close… Wait! …It’s in!”

When it’s your day, it’s your day. A potential disaster had become a birdie 3. Moving my score to gross par. For good measure, I added a birdie on the 9th meaning that at the turn, I was under the card. By some measure, the best scoring nine holes I have ever played.

On the back nine, I was nervous, and however hard I tried to play one shot at a time, the score kept echoing in my mind. I was dropping shots thorough a lack of commitment. Ultimately, I did pull myself together and finished the round on 77 shots. 7 shots better than a good day.

Result

April Medal winner. A tumbler, a voucher for a meal for two in a local restaurant and a whole 6 euro for my 2 on the 4th. My handicap index is cut from 14.7 to 12.6, meaning next medal I’ll be getting 11 shots rather than 13.

Most important of all, a rekindled belief that I can play golf, that I can become a single figure handicapper. This belief buoys me along, puts a smile on my face and will almost certainly last only until the next time I play.

Every golfer knows, the game will reassert its dominance over me at the very next opportunity. Whatever happened, will un-happen.

The beer game will stay strong though.

Writing Secret

I wrote last week about the depths I plumb to avoid actually moving the book forward. I immediately set to work rectifying that, and edited the first couple of scenes of the novel.

Hurrah!

 

My writing is supported by people like you. The remainder of this post is reserved for Members. 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.