Living the Dream – 83. Lockdown

Cyprus has laid out a blueprint for exiting lockdown.

Is it right? Is it wrong? I don’t know.

However, I’m most interested in whether it’s relevant. At various dates, we will be allowed to start doing things that we haven’t done for months. Will we though?

For example, on May 21st, we will be allowed to get our hair cut, and to eat at a restaurant (only at its outdoor tables). Mrs L has unilaterally declared that she’ll be doing neither. I haven’t asked, but I’m guessing this means that I won’t be getting a haircut either.

Fear

People are scared. The virus persists and governments are quick to claim that the measures they implemented have contained the pandemic and saved many lives. They may be right, I don’t know. The numbers and statistics are an overwhelming avalanche of public relations. It will be many, many months until there is some perspective on the numbers and the efficacy of the various measures. How did country A achieve “x” while country B got “y”?

Change

If the virus persists, and lockdown and social distancing are the measures that contain the virus, then Mrs L has a point. Why go out?

I’m fascinated to see how our habits have changed. Will we all demand our hairdressers wear gowns, gloves and masks? Will restaurants with small isolated tables fare better than those that offer benches at communal tables? Is the Maitre D’s first duty to take your temperature as you approach the bar?

Concerts

Last year, we enjoyed UB40, Il Divo and Eros Ramazotti gigs in Limassol. What about this summer?

Conferences

I attend trade shows in the stationery world, and conferences in financial services. Not this year, I guess.

Tourism

The Cyprus economy relies heavily on tourism and hospitality. The lockdown is severely damaging the economy. Both short term and long term, the challenge is going to be persuading people to be social again. I have read that experts in the airline industry expect flights to be very cheap this summer, as carriers like Ryanair and Whizz attempt to kickstart travel and take market-share. Perhaps, they’re right, but what about two years from now? I think that airline industry will bear no resemblance to the one of 2019.

In the meantime, can I get my hair back to 1990 length?

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Members 69. Half a century

Try to shake the wrong hand or hug the wrong person, you might get shot. Get too close to somebody in a queue, and you’ll get side-eye. Take a moment right now. How will you feel about getting on a bus, or a train, or a plane? What about sitting in a cinema for a couple of hours with a hundred other people?

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Working Tools 32. Time Tracking

Time tracking is an absolute essential for the modern entrepreneur.

Actually, no, it isn’t. You have stuff to do, do it. When you have finished, stop. Simples.

If you bill by the hour or by the minute even, then keeping track of your time is a requirement. You need to be able to demonstrate to a client the origin of their bill. In the past I used Day-Timer, an analogue planner with pages segmented into time slots. I graduated to Harvest, which I found an excellent tool. I wasn’t wild about the IOS app, but the web service is great. There is a free tier – that gives a good taste of how the service works – but to be practical for me, I needed to upgrade to the first paid tier – $12 a month.

The key attraction of Harvest is the interoperability. It can be combined with book keeping software and many, many other services. With some thought, I could set some really smart automations and integrations.

But I don’t use it.

I don’t bill by time any more. I bill on a retainer or by project. Detailed time tracking is therefore less important, and that $12 a month is better spent elsewhere.

That said, I do believe in time-tracking.

Year after year, I write somewhere that writing is the thing that I most want to do. Then, during a monthly review, I observe that I have done no writing. It’s infuriating.

I’m using Toggl, a time-tracking service, and Timery, a separate app developed to work with it. I’m on the free tier of Toggl – which is sufficient for my purposes, and I have paid the $10 annual subscription for Timery. The IOS app on Timery is lovely. Easy and idiot-proof. Most importantly for me, it’s easy to correct the entries when I’ve forgotten to change or stop timers. (Currently, a daily occurrence.)

Initial findings are that nursing takes a LOT of time and that simply keeping up with email and slack is a job on its own.

Early days, but my first conclusion has been to go easy on myself. Right now, looking after Mags is my number one priority, and given that it takes from 5-8 hours from my day, it’s unrealistic of me to expect to get everything else done. That helps me manage frustration.

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Members 68. Beware Day Three

On the first day, we had crossed the Pyrenees. Day two was finished by midday, and we took a leisurely lunch, afternoon, and dinner in the sun-beaten Plaza Mayor. Enough cold beer was drunk to make the wine drinkable. Just.

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Living the Dream 82. – Health Insurance

“No health insurance?” A shake of the head.

The pedant in me wanted to point out that we had chosen to self-insure rather than buy the health insurance policy offered to us. However, I felt it best to nod.

Alien Registration

In order to live in Cyprus, it’s a legal requirement to obtain a Certificate of Registration, and to get one of those, one needs, amongst other requirements, health insurance.

We were asked to undergo a medical examination, where we both discovered that our heart rates were low. A surprise, since we had both been having regular medicals in the UK, and I wear an Apple Watch and therefore have a lot of heart data to hand. We had been sent to a specific Doctor by the insurance company, and it was clear to me that his role was to generate exclusions – improving the risk profile. He did a great job, excluding multiple conditions, and a weighting factor was going to be applied to the price. The Premium for the two of us was going to be, shall we say, “x”. We are in Year 2, so would have paid “2x” to date. We did not take the policy, rather taking the “immigrant policy” which only covers emergency treatment.

Back Troubles

Margaret is being treated for a problematic back. As I type, she is in bed, recovering from a complicated four hour operation on her spine, at a private hospital. The operation was a success, and fingers crossed, her recovery will, in 6 weeks or so, be complete. The total cost is expected to be “4x”. As per the picture, she is being nursed by Spice.

Of course, this is an over-simplification. The insurance premiums would have increased one year to the next. Certain treatments or tests may have been excluded. Mags had experience mild back pain in the past, so who knows what the underwriter would have made of that.

However, in broad terms, if Mags and I do not require any further private treatment over the next two years, then we will have broken even or be marginally better off than had we taken out the insurance.

Does this mean that self-insurance is better value than commercial insurance? Not necessarily. None of us has a crystal ball. I don’t rule out us taking out a policy in future. However, self-insured, we had no excess and no exclusions. Obviously – we only spent money when we needed to, rather than annually.

Almost heretical to say so – but some times it makes sense to self-insure. If funds are available, then self-insuring is a realistic option.

Whatever the choice, it’s always a gamble.

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Members 67. The Hero’s Journey

This morning began my 97th day on the One Year No Beer (OYNB) challenge, and is my 99th consecutive day drinking no alcohol. My exercise for the day is to write my “Hero’s Journey”, drawing on the contention of Joseph Campbell’s famous work “Hero of a Thousand Faces”:

“A hero ventures forth from the world of the common day into a region of supernatural wonder: Fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: The Hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

You will note that OYNB could never be accused of not thinking big.

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Working Tools 31. The Internet

Yes. I’ve discovered the internet.

Over the last several years, the commentary has all been about the internet as a cesspit of fake news, data harvesting and trolling.

Over the last several weeks, we have been reminded of all the reasons that we love the internet. A Dutch woman began a hashtag and now every Thursday evening the UK population emerges blinking on its doorstep to applaud the National Health Service.
Social networks have taken on a more loving, supportive aspect that was feared lost forever.

Webpages

I read many webpages, and I use Really Simple Syndication, also known as Rich Site Summary, (RSS) to do it. Essentially, RSS allows me to collect together in one place all the updates on websites that I follow. RSS has been around for a long time. It powers podcast distribution too.

One of the neatest ways to do this is through a news aggregator. I use one called Feedly, which collects together all the updates. It has an app that lives on all my devices. However – while Feedly is a brilliant aggregator, I don’t find it the cosiest place to spend time reading.

Applications

Over the last year or two, I have been trying out several RSS Readers. Feedly, Unread, Reeder, and NetNewsWire. I love the reading experience on Unread, but was seduced by NetNewsWire (a rebooted service) which worked both on Mac and IOS.

Now – I’m an IOS puritan, which, in a way, liberates me. A key feature for me used to be cross-platform support. Vanessa suggested in the 1857 Slack that I should try Fiery Feeds. This is a neat app, with lots of scope for personalisation. I can add feeds directly in-app, and fine-tune every aspect of the display and the settings.

Fiery Feeds

Fiery Feeds is, as I type, favourite. I will experiment for a day or two more and then settle. Once decided on an app, the real work begins, curating the content. A comprehensive RSS feed can reduce e-mails (I unsubscribe from e-mail lists that duplicate my RSS feeds) and creates distinct “safe spaces” for my interests. Stationery features heavily, as does Apple News.

For me, the iPad is never more magical than when I’m sprawled on the couch, reading through my favourite websites.

Members 66. Ninety Days

Our private drama apart, Covid 19 and the measures to contain and repress it are wreaking havoc on society. In the UK, off-licences (alcohol shops) have been added to the list of retailers permitted to stay open through the lockdown. Initially, I smiled. Then, I received an email from the team at One Year No Beer, and excerpt of which I quote below;

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Living the Dream – 81. A month in bed

Our personal lockdown has now been a full month.

On March 3rd, Mags went to bed, still in agony with a bad back. On the 4th, she couldn’t get up.

Since then she’s been to a couple of hospitals, had three rides in an ambulance and almost had an operation several times. The surgeons were resolved to operate on Friday the 13th until a possible throat infection intervened. With Covid 19 sweeping across the world, they discharged her on the 14th, no better than when she had gone in, a week before.

There was vague talk of an operation in a week, but we knew that was unlikely.

Discharged

Put starkly, Mags was safer bedridden at home with only me to care for her than she was in a private hospital with an excellent rota of medical professionals.

It seems odd in retrospect, but before we got Mags admitted, she was in bed, while our bathrooms were being refurbished. I made coffees for the patient and the builder. Once admitted, I spent the day at the hospital before coming home to sleep. Then, visitors were prohibited for Covid concerns and I had a day or two to bring some order to the house.

Progress

We were able to be more organised for Mag’s return, and set up our ward in the spare room. Here I monitor blood pressure, blood sugar and try to make her as comfortable as possible. On the 18th, her fifth day back home, she sat. Then, on the 19th, she walked a pace or two. On the 20th, she managed a lap of the house with a walker. The 26th, she took a shower!

Mags has to balance pain with movement. She wants to move more and more, but the pain roars back with rapidity and ferocity. She still cannot sit or stand for extended periods – but we’ll get there. Mags has spent a full month in bed.

Perspective

This private drama of a month in bed has overridden the worldwide one, for us. Were Covid not tearing across the planet, I’d still be effectively locked down. I guess I might shop more frequently, but Mags needs a hand around the clock, so not much would be different.

Mags believes that everything happens for a reason. Was that possible throat infection a sign? I don’t know.

From my side, I’m thankful that I stopped drinking this year. Old me would be draining a bottle of wine a night on top of a couple of cold beers in the afternoon, all the while claiming that the drink was getting me through the crisis. By now, I’d be on my knees, beaten down by a persistent hangover.

I might have an alcolohol free beer to celebrate.

Cheers!

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Giveaway Winners

Last week, I ran a giveaway for subscribers – and the winners were…

Martin Seddon and Sarah Cundy.

Sarah – let me have a mailing address, and I’ll get your copy of Aegyir Rises into the post for you.

Giveaway

Amanda’s website