Living the Dream – 36. Flashbacks

Flashbacks

We weren’t around, but Hamlet, the dog that attacked Margaret and killed Nero, got loose again. Neighbours found him at their gate snarling at their dogs and nearby cats.

Vet

The next day, we were due at the Vet. Ordinarily, Spice would be spayed after her first season, but given the number of uncontrolled dogs in Cyprus, a bitch in season in the garden would be asking for trouble. Tempting though it is to buy a rifle, let Spice run free in the garden and wait for Hamlet to show up, the grown up thing to do is neuter Spice.

Scent Memory

Entering the “business-end” of the vet’s surgery, we were both instantly transported back to the last days of Nero. Collecting Spice, a plastic cone around her collar, her eyes unfocused by the anaesthesia was difficult. The most striking flashbacks were the smells. The mix of animals and antiseptic is, I discover, seared into my memory.

Effervescence

Spice, now 5 months old, is oblivious to these references. All she knows is that she was at the vet, then woke up, feeling fuzzy, with an itchy scar and a plastic cone preventing her getting to it. She has every right to look askance at us.

Of course, she doesn’t. As she does with every situation, she attempts to overcome it with full pelt sprinting, jumping and licking. However hard we try to keep her calm and relaxed, she is a puppy. As I type, 60 hours or so after we collected her, Spice considers herself cured. If only she could convince us to remove the awkward cone, then she could get back to jumping up on the couch, sprinting round the garden and as a bonus, she would quickly remove the troublesome stitches. That she can’t convince us, frustrates her. When frustrated, Spice likes to let us know. Day and night.

She’s quite a handful.

Lessons

Both Margaret and I are bags of nerves. Margaret’s heart stops every time Spice tries to stand on her back legs, or spins around, hoping that velocity alone will somehow dislodge the cone.

I’m not sure we will ever be over Nero’s end, but what I learned this week, is that the trauma is still raw.

However, I can’t help but admire Spice’s zest for life and enthusiasm. Despite being in pain, she wags her tail and wants to play. More flashbacks to Nero.

Working Tools 11. – Twitter

Twitter. It’s a dumpster fire!

This has become a cliché. Facebook is, in my opinion, corrupt to its core. It’s mission, honestly expressed, would repulse its users, so it publicly  espouses a different mission, while quietly pursuing the first. It may be that Twitter is the same, but my personal experience of it is different. I have never shared much personal information in the same way as I did with Facebook.

Where Twitter gets ugly is in the arena. A new user might not realise that they are entering a Coliseum, but they surely are. Try tweeting “I think Donald Trump is an honest, straightforward man, much maligned.” Or “Brexit. Seems OK to me.” Go on. I’ll wait.

Welcome back. How did that go? It’s war out there, isn’t it? I wasn’t an early adopter of Twitter, but I’m told that it was not always like this. There were, and I would argue still are, pockets of Twitter that are fun, supportive and useful. I met my writing buddy there for example. However, these pockets are hard to find.

Twitter has started to monetise; to make lots of money. To do so, as an early step, it is exerting control over the timeline. (Facebook did this too). So, rather than only seeing Tweets from people that I have chosen to follow in chronological order, I have to see what the service has curated for me. To this end, Twitter is removing support for third party clients, whom I could pay to avoid advertising, making it harder and harder for me to exert control over my own timeline. The risk is that more and more entities will pay to use the platform to try to influence and manipulate me – although that’s not my greatest fear. I have learned to avoid that risk, I don’t regard tweets as a news source.

Twitter reminds me of a Terminator from the eponymous movie. It’s relentless. Merciless. I can mindlessly scroll on and on through Twitter, and it will keep serving me more and more tweets, retweets and ads. Minutes can become hours. Sometimes, I can actually feel my time and my energy slipping away in the endless scroll. I’m schooling myself to focus on the good and ignore the bad.

I have adopted a similar approach as with Facebook. I ignore the metrics and don’t advertise. When “fires erupt”, I simply scroll on through. Unlike Facebook, I do still visit Twitter, but only for short durations at the beginning or the end of the day.

Up for air

I’m up for air. If you could see me, you’d be worried. I seem confused, lost. My hair is a mess and my clothes could do with a wash. The look in my eyes belongs in a spaghetti western, and my beard is unkempt. I have been so deep into writing that my surroundings, back here, in the real world, are unfamiliar.

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Living the Dream -35. Guest Management

Guest Management is hard. We have had 3 sets now and are still learning. Don’t get me wrong, we see having people come to stay as a privilege, but there is no doubt, guests in the house changes how life works. Guest Management is a thing.

Examples

  1. Eating. Some people eat breakfast. Others don’t. Some eat early, others late. Some break their fast in two minutes flat, others want to spend two hours doing it.
  2. Showers. For many people, showers are an essential ritual of the beginning of the day, others shower before lunch, dinner and bed.
  3. Some folk leave every door and window open, and others, the opposite.
  4. Some people like to plan, some people like to freewheel and improvise.

Such is life. When at a hotel, we all get on with what suits us. However, being a house guest is a different dynamic. Guests want to fit in, to go with the flow. They “don’t want to be any trouble.” Often, this means that the hosts are doing, not what they want to do, but what they feel the guests want to do. The guests are doing what they feel the hosts want to do. The result is that nobody is doing what they want to do. Out of a wish to be polite and accommodating, everyone is feeling a bit out of rhythm. “Awks.”

Communication

The key, of course, is communication. The trouble is, that everyone is being so nice and diplomatic, that seldom do people speak the truth.

Of course, I’m perfectly able to avoid all these issues. My default setting is to rise early, drink coffee and work. I can easily absent myself entirely from the morning routine, by having coffee early and going down to the office. This, of course, resolves nothing, placing the entire burden on Margaret. Tempting though.

I’m seriously considering a questionnaire, to be completed by all guests. It will need to be carefully designed, with multiple choice questions, designed to winkle out the truth, defeating attempts to answer every question “oh, I don’t mind”. I might need to get Belbin to design it.

This questionnaire, along with a detailed set of house rules will seem way over the top, but will make everyone’s life (well, mine at least) so much easier.

Rules

In the absence of the questionnaire, here are some sample rules, just around breakfast, if I was writing them.

  • Breakfast is from 7 till 9. There’s coffee, tea, cereal and toast. If in season, there’s fruit too.  Scrambled eggs or devilled kidneys? See *.  Breakfast at ten? See *.

  • We use a Nespresso machine for coffee. We have a kettle. Need a latte or a teapot? See *.

  • When I say, give me a shout if you need tea or coffee, what I actually mean is “between 7 and 9, I’ll make you a coffee. If you need one at 0930, see *, if you decide to help yourself, rooting through my cupboards, I’ll shoot you with a crossbow.”

*: A mere 12 minutes drive away is a beach, with not one, not two, but three restaurants catering to every taste and budget.

Conclusion

I think that my rules will soon have breakfast tamed, leaving only, off the top of my head,

  1. Water management
  2. Doors and nets management
  3. Lunches
  4. Dinners
  5. Pool use
  6. Bill splitting
  7. Car usage
  8. Car parking
  9. Shopping kitty
  10. TV use
  11. Toilet use
  12. Meal planning
  13. Event planning
  14. Leaving and arriving

Blimey. Guest management is complicated.

Working Tools 10 – Facebook

Facebook (FB). By any objective measure, it should be dead now. It lies, it steals, it believes itself to be above moral, legal and contractual considerations.

Increasingly, consumers are aware of this. There is vocal disgust. There are movements urging us to quit Facebook. And yet, the company appears impervious to scandal. We’re told that numbers remain robust.

Frankly, I wouldn’t put too much faith in that, I have no doubt that Facebook has no compunction in lying about numbers. They lie about everything else.

Why stay?

Actually, on a personal level, I am disengaged from Facebook. I have tied down the privacy settings as much as I can, and I no longer post there directly. I stay for two reasons;

  1. Nero’s Notes. To have a company page, I need a personal profile.
  2. As a signpost. When I post articles like this one, some people find out via FB.

However, even these prompts to post are diminishing. Dealing with FB as a small business is almost impossible. To inform:

  1. The FB page points to http://nerosnotes.co.uk but is called pocketnotebooks (the original name of the site). Changing the FB page name to nerosnotes would be confusing. Apparently.
  2. Many products are not available on the FB page as they breach FBs rules. “#DigitalDetox” for example is disallowed for making false health claims…(by nature of its name.) Bots, it turns out, love a rule, dislike an appeal.

Ethical Use

I wrote before about ethical use of social media. I stopped using FB’s advertising tools,  and ads.

Consequently, I have mimimised the data that I give out and I make no use of the data that FB offers me. Nor will I give it any money. I daresay that a combination of those things will mean that my pages appear less often in other’s timelines and the utility of the profile and pages will gradually decrease, dying of natural causes, as it were.

I’m comfortable with that.

Instagram

On the other hand, there’s Instagram (IG). That’s a much different place. It’s lovely. Rainbows and Unicorns. Isn’t it?

It’s true that there is a nicer feel about IG. However, it was bought by FB. There is no indication that there will be any difference in the business model. My response therefore is the same. I’ll keep posting, but I won’t buy advertising, I won’t buy data, and I’ll be very careful about what data I give them.

Conclusion

I’m sure that people working at FB are lovely. However, the single-minded pursuit of capturing personal data for corporate profit means that as an entity, it’s poisonous.

Bottom line for me – people are on these platforms, so I have a presence, but I’m being very intentional about how I use and/or support Facebook Inc.

Going Deep

Nearly there. We enjoyed hosting our friends from Denmark last week. The “Beast”, our car, has new tyres, new brakes and had a full service. Annoyingly, the work on the house drags on into another week, but the end is surely in sight. The corporate stuff is…well, corporate.

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Living the Dream – 34. Renovations

The first round of renovations is now done. (I hope.) The house is pushing 30, and spent a few years unoccupied, and there are some parts of it that are showing their age. Such is the nature of houses. We will have plenty of projects to keep us going. Our first priority was around security, for reasons documented here and here.

Fencing

We have fenced the garden. Don’t get me wrong, we are not living in Colditz Castle, but bad people, or dogs, will have to make an effort to gain entry, rather than step across a low wall. We have added various degrees of electronic security too, the details of which, will, of course, remain confidential. Winter has been unusually wet, and much of the wetness has been violent, so we have had to make several repairs to a flat roof, which the rain overwhelms when the rain is heavy.

Renovations

As ever, the work took longer than expected, cost more than budgeted and bred more things as it proceeded. At times, we have been focusing on the imperfections that catch the eye, rather than the overall impression, which is overwhelmingly positive. However, I have growled. I’m generally an amenable sort of customer, but once disappointed, I get very vocal, very quickly. As I type, on a Sunday afternoon, I have crossed the line between upset to furious. I hope, that with the magic of the internet, by the time that you read this, the contractor will have resolved all outstanding concerns and a smile will be back on my face.

Spice up your life

Two days before my trip to the UK, my office wifi was finally full power. I ran a cable directly from a router down here up to the modem, creating my own private network. It was glorious, until Spice decided it that the cable needed trimming and bit straight through it. While I was away, the builders replaced the cable and I’m back online. First world problems!

Renovations II

We now have an electric gate and video doorbell. The bell rings to a video screen in my office and in the kitchen, so an unexpected bonus is that we now have an intercom.This is proving surprisingly useful.

Working Tools 9 – Social Media

Using social media: A hot-button subject right now. One upon which, I am no expert.

Usage

As an individual, I have accounts at Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Micro.blog. I have had, and probably still do own accounts at Google+, Pinterest and Vero. Nero’s Notes posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Lime Training and Consultancy posts to LinkedIn and Twitter.

This post will be be advertised on several of the above feeds. It is very possible that you, much treasured reader, came here via one of these channels. Neither of my businesses have actual shopfronts, they exist online. Whilst not the only channel available to me, online presence is important. It’s worrying therefore, that so many folk appear anti-social media at the moment.

Facebook

Honestly, I’m conflicted. Facebook, which also owns Instagram and What’s App, an app that I use for Messaging, is attracting all sorts of headlines for the wrong reasons. I’m sure that the vast majority of people at Facebook are lovely human beings, but from the outside, the company is an underhand, toxic, scary nasty thing. It lies, dissembles and ruthlessly exploits consumer ignorance or apathy to trade in private data and manipulate people for profit.

Part of me wants to publicly blow up my Facebook profile and urge everyone I know to do the same. As it’s the company that irks me, rather than the product, that means Instagram and What’s App need to go too. Just as I resolve to leave, my business voice pipes up. “What about customers?” People come to the web shop from Facebook. And from Instagram. Would those people come if there was no presence of these channels?

Twitter

Hmmmm…Twitter. Twitter is a polarised place. Frankly, often, it’s a horrible place. Navigating Twitter requires a calm mindset and an ability to ‘walk away’. I do participate in some #chats that are positive, fun and useful, but general scrolling on this platform can be fraught. Again, on a personal level, I wouldn’t miss it. I know many people see Twitter as a place that allows the far right too much platform and freedom; my own view is that none of these platforms give a hoot about one side or the other, they are purely focused on engagement – and hate, engages.

Any that follow me might be sceptical of my claims above. For someone who doesn’t like social media, I sure do post a lot on social media. That conundrum is easy, I use an app called Buffer. I will write a separate post on how I do that.

I have been trying to reconcile a position where I don’t want to be wasting time on social media, but I do want to be posting on social media. Such a position feels hypocritical.

Conclusion

Social media is neither good nor bad. It’s both. Rather than feeling that I must walk away from certain platforms, I have been working on designing an ethical use policy. I’ll post about that here too.

Crunch

I wrote last week about pace. Well, strictly speaking, I wrote it the week before last. Days later, I boarded a plane and flew to the UK for a long weekend. Back in Cyprus, I attended a Symposium on financial crime.

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Living the Dream – 33. Settled

My trip to the UK presented an unexpected challenge. Snow had settled. The aircraft landed on time, I switched on my phone and it burst into song. Multiple message notifications flooded in.

Settled
Localised settled snow

Snowmageddon

Landing late at night rules out public transport as a realistic option, although I usually permit myself a private transfer at any time of day. However, my driver couldn’t get to me. Paul has never let me down and is a straightforward man. If he said he couldn’t get through, then I was happy that it was impossible. Heading to passport control, I called a hotel or two. No room at the inn.

Eventually, I found a room and headed to the shuttle bus-stop. Cold though it was, there was a distinct lack of snow. Not a flake of it had settled, in fact. The snowfall was unusually localised. The real problem, for me, at least, was around Basingstoke, with the M3, A303 and A34 all being closed. Lorries had jack-knifed.

Fortunately, I had no commitments for Saturday morning and was able to get down to Mum early the next morning, before hooking up with some friends to catch up, drink beer and watch rugby.

Work

The business elements of the trip went well, (you can read about the pen show [here](https://www.nerosnotes.co.uk/blogs/news/south-west-pen-show)) and I was soon back in to the swing of being on the road. Tuesday night, I slept in my own bed back in Cyprus and prepared for Thursday, where I was scheduled to attend a Symposium on Financial Crime.

After a couple of months working remotely, I was suddenly back into face to face mode, from a pen show, through client meetings, to full-blown conference mode, all in the space of a few days.

It strikes me how easy it is to switch mode. The trick, I suspect, is going to be maintaining a balance between my various incarnations. After a few days talking financial services and compliance, I see plenty of opportunities for both business and travel. However – I didn’t come to live here so that I would never be here.

Work on the house has dragged on. Errors and wet weather each playing their part. The garden is completely fenced now, with an electric gate at the bottom. My office is hardwired through to the modem upstairs, and we have a range of electronic security measures in place. Next week, we will be hooked up to TV services.

Settled

I finally feel settled to get on with my writing, my consulting and my ‘notebooking’ from my new home. This feeling will, of course, be immediately tested by warming weather, and inviting golf courses…