• Living the Dream – 3. Making a Budget

    Making a budget

    Regrettably, life in the sun still has pretty much the same bills as life in the rain.

    In ‘Living the Dream – 2. Paying the Bills‘, I explained that we were assuming zero revenue to start. Hopefully, we will both be generating something, but budgets are all about worse-case scenarios.

    How much will life cost us?

    There are no shortcuts here. It was time to break out a spreadsheet, cold towels and start entering in numbers.

    What are the major costs? Accommodation, transport, subsistence etc. Much the same as living anywhere. As we have holidayed here regularly over the last couple of years, we already have some experience of local prices. Unsurprisingly, we are unlikely to spend as much on heating as we do in England, but anyone who owns an air-conditioner knows how easy it is to run up a massive electricity bill.

    Major Expenditure

    One of our key decisions was around transport. With an absence of ferries, the only way to bring a car onto the island is as freight. On top of that not inconsiderable cost, there is a compulsory re-registration fee to pay too. Initially, we planned to mothball our car in the UK and buy a run-around in Cyprus. However, a little research goes a long way. Cars do not depreciate as quickly in Cyprus, so a run-around was going to be a significant investment, particularly if there were certain features that we wanted to ensure were included. Even paying registration and transport costs, it’s better to bring our car over from the UK, so that’s what we will do.

    Output

    I have never known a budget that turns out to be perfect in every detail. There will be overshoots and undershoots, but at least we have a starting point. The budget allows us to plan cash flow and expenditure, and also focuses the mind on targets for revenue. Just because we are assuming zero revenue, that doesn’t mean we’re not aiming to generate some.

    Putting a spreadsheet together is a great way to focus the mind…

     

  • Living the Dream – 2. Paying the Bills

    Paying the bills

    Like it or lump it, paying the bills is fundamental. If you want to build a new life, it is one of the first things to address.

    In my last post, I promised to give an insight into the decision-making process that led to us choosing to emigrate, at least for a while. The first thing that we looked at was paying the bills.

    Since selling a business in the summer of 2014, I have looked at a number of projects. None of them is lucrative enough on its own to pay the bills. Mags was working part-time at UK retailer Marks and Spencer.

    Projects

    I do some work as an anti money laundering consultant, I write here and at Nero’s Notes and I record a weekly podcast. Most of what I do can be done remotely, or with some travel. My priority is to grow these projects so that individually, or together, they make enough to fund the life that I want.

    On the other hand, Mag’s position was different. She really enjoyed her work, and by its nature, she needed to show up in a specific place. However, her employer provides for a ‘career break’. Essentially, Mags could take up to nine months off to go do something different, and then come back to her job.

    This created a timeframe for us. We could look at a suck it and see approach, moving to Cyprus for up to nine months. Nine months is doable. It’s a decent period of time, without being forever. Emotionally, it was easier to commit to. Additionally, a determined period provides parameters for the finance. I was looking at paying the bills for nine months.

    My first assumption was, no income. If neither Mags or I made any income for nine months, was paying the bills from savings going to be possible? Now, we both hope to be generating revenue, but worst-case, could we survive without any?

    We have some savings, so that was going to work, but to answer the question fully – we needed to do some research. How much did we need?

    It was time to do a budget…

  • Living the Dream – 1. Can we do it?

    Living the Dream

    Three hundred and twenty six days of sunshine per year, a laid-back lifestyle and some decent golf courses. That’s living the dream.

    My wife, Margaret (Mags) and I are going to test that statement. Thirteen weeks from now, we are upping sticks, leaving the UK and moving to the Island of Aphrodite, Cyprus.

    Exciting? You bet.

    The really lucky people might be able to jump on their private jet, check into a five star hotel for a year and start having grapes dropped into their mouth by willing servants. For most of us however, it’s not quite as simple as that. It takes planning.

    Mags and I are designing a life. We are putting together an action plan for living the dream.

    My my. There’s a lot to this emigrating malarkey.

    Some decisions have made themselves. My Mum and Dad retired to Cyprus and built a wonderful home. They enjoyed several happy years there together and after my Dad passed away, my Mum stayed on another fifteen years before returning to England.

    Nevertheless, Cyprus isn’t terribly handy for a weekend bolt-hole. Depending on the wind direction, the flight is between four and a half and five hours from England. Add in the land transfers and the mandatory waiting around of modern air travel, and you are pretty much writing off a full day each way.

    To really live the dream in Cyprus – we need to move there.

    Questions

    Did we want to? Could we? How would we make it work? What are the pros and cons?

    On this blog, I’ll log how we arrived at the decision to move and how we went about turning that decision into a plan.

    I’ll post weekly; covering both the logistical challenges of living the dream and how we intend to craft and finance the lifestyle. Look for the category, ‘Living the Dream’.

    Follow along. 😁

     

  • Hang on a minute lads, I’ve got a great idea…

    So ends ‘The Italian Job’, the iconic 1969 movie starring Michael Caine, as the cast hang precariously over an alpine precipice. We never learn the nature of the idea, or whether it works.

    Paramount Pictures Image of the Italian Job

    Mrs L was serious, and knows exactly how her idea will progress.

    The idea

    “I am going to train in Grief Recovery”.

    With that, a new business was born. Over the next few months, a new avenue will be explored, as Mrs L comes back into the world of Learning and Development, having spent a few years kicking back in retail.

    I’m delighted.

    Mrs L is enormously talented, has incredible empathy and communication skills. I can only imagine that helping people deal with grief is tough but rewarding. Mrs L will be brilliant at it.

    She completed a grief recovery programme herself, as a delegate, and found it incredibly helpful. I believe that starting a business started from a passion already has an advantage. It’s a great idea, and every business needs a great idea, but it’s passion that will carry the project through the inevitable challenges that will come.

    I’ll post details of her blog once it is up and running.

    What will I be contributing to this new venture?

    Previously, I posted here, I’m getting the hang of wearing a range of different business hats.

    Given that I am as sensitive as a toilet seat, I will be no use at the sharp end of the business, but I do have a little experience in some of the back office function and the process of going from ‘great idea’ to ‘detailed plan’ to ‘functioning business’. I will be trying to help with some this ‘nuts and bolts’ work.

    Next Steps

    Right now we’re putting together a business plan.

    I’ll keep you posted.

  • 21st Century Entrepreneur

    I’m collecting business cards. Not other peoples’, just my own. I’m a 21st Century Entrepreneur.

    There’s a buttoned-up corporate card for my work in anti money laundering. I have an awesome one for Nero’s Notes, featuring a cartoon of the little man himself. Finally, there is even a cool card that accompanies this site.

    Stuart Lennon, business card

    Inky!

    In reality, a case could be made for a few more cards: I co-host a podcast, 1857, with TJ Cosgrove of Wood & Graphite. Additionally, I record my day on Anchor, making another podcast. I’m experimenting with video, largely for Nero’s Notes, and looking at several other projects.

    21st Century Entrepreneur

    Apart from being great news for business card printers, this proliferation of roles is increasingly widespread. Everyone has a ‘passion project’, a ‘side-gig’. It’s entirely possible to work for the council by day and be an entrepreneur by night. It has always been possible. Increasingly though, it’s the norm.

    This is brilliant. I love the fact that people are finding outlets for their entrepreneurial creativity and making it available for others.

    Technology makes this possible and it’s a great way to find balance in life.

    Taking on Pocket Notebooks (now Nero’s Notes) has introduced me to a whole new range of activities which intrigue me. I’m learning about digital media, analogue tools, social networks and IT. Customers continue to surprise and delight me, and business partners both drive me mad and make me laugh.

    The Novel

    There remains, of course, the novel. Two manuscripts have be resting in a drawer for a year now, but they have increasingly been whispering to me as I pass by. I feel certain that I will pull them out for a read some time soon. Does an entrepreneur write, edit and publish a novel? I don’t see why not.

  • Rioja – T minus 2

    It’s Sunday night. God and BA-willing, in 48 hours I’ll be in Bilbao, dragging the tight-head out of a bar and looking for the bus to Logrono.

    The plan is that we hook up with the ? in Logrono for tapas and perhaps a medicinal glass of Rioja. On Wednesday morning, we’ll jump on the early bus to Los Arcos, the village where we finished our walk last year. From there, we will walk back to Logrono, quite possibly for more tapas and Rioja. This first day will have the advantage of being pack-free as we are pre-booked into the same hotel for Wednesday night.

    Thence we will meander through the entire province of Rioja, finishing our six days at Burgos in Castilla y Leon. The plan this year is 150.7 km (93 miles), so a shade over 25km a day (15.5 miles).

    Backpack

    Charity. I don’t know about you, but I have some charity fatigue. Everyday, somebody is doing something for a worthy cause. This year, we are not tapping you up for anything. Personally, I think that a reunion is the time to raise some cash. For example, where young and stupid men fined each other with alcohol, wise (and infinitely better looking) middle-aged men might be better putting some cash in a pot. Just sayin’ (I am now known as “The voice of reason”).

    I’m looking forward to our second trip immensely. I have a few more miles in the legs this year, largely because I have been walking to and from the office. I’m not taking tech with me – just a compact camera. I will feel isolated for a while, but then the lack of ‘notifications’ will become a real pleasure.

    Most of all – I’m looking forward to seeing my walking-buddies again.

    Buen Camino

  • Therapy

    This post is my form of therapy.

    It’s been a while. I’m having a whale of a time building pocketnotebooks.

    The Front Row have scheduled phase 2 of the Camino de Santiago over at Sensible Shoes Camino.

    Backpack

    Full Back pack for Camino II

    I have called this post Therapy, because I’m aiming to get this off my chest, and thereby stop shouting at the TV and radio.

    Rant Therapy

    Brexit. Hard. Soft. Medium rare. With or without frites. I have just deleted a full page of ranting. Instead, I’ll be concise.

    It will be OK.

    Humble Pie

    Update: I wanted to admit to a certain Mr Thomas that he was absolutely right. I wrote a post on how I was forsaking Apple for Google. Ed predicted I would be back. I am.

    To run Pocket Notebooks, I need hardware that can run bonafide programs and apps. So, I work now on a Mac, supported by an iPad Pro and and an iPhone. In a week or two, I’ll almost be certainly handing over a wedge of cash for a new IPhone. I am well and truly back in the world of fruit-based electronics.

    I don’t expect to be writing much this year. Business is full pelt. However, as it grows, it will become easier for me to carve out time – and I can feel Sean calling me from his archive file in Scrivener.

    Recently, one of fruit-based devices flipped during a power cut. This was a timely reminder of the importance of backing up. Fortunately, I have developed a middle-aged man approach and have more backups than most major insurance companies.

    In case you are looking for a setup, read on.

    Backup

    1. Put your file system on Dropbox. Just doing this means that you will have a copy of everything in the cloud. It’s free for the first chunk and then, if you need to, you can by more storage.

    2. Use the ‘standard’ backup. In the fruit world, this means use Time Machine. I have a a drive attached to my Mac where a ‘constant’ back up is made. These backups are not necessarily the best, but they are easy to set up and don’t cost anything beyond the price of the disk.

    3. Use a proper, bespoke Backup service. I recommend Backblaze. Easy to setup, not expensive and very high quality. Again, this maintains a constant backup in the cloud.

    4. Super-Duper. This is a program that makes a clone of my disk. I have two disks. One attached to the computer, one in my bag. Every morning, I switch disks. If the office burned down over night, I could be up and running again as quickly as I could get hold of another computer. The super duper clone would instantly reboot the new machine and then one of my online backups would update anything from the previous day.

    Get on top of your backup. Just imagine you lost all your photos?

  • Camino 2: Rioja

    What Ho!

    It’s on. Later this year, the Front Row will pick up where it left off and walk another week of the camino.

    Dates have been agreed, flights have been purchased. The Belligerent Basque is primed and ready to go. (Isn’t he always?)

    Both Props were delighted to hear that the first camino marked an upturn in the Duck’s health; so much of an upturn that he is now permitted adult beverages. “Oh good!” We cried in unison.

    Last year, we managed to get to 2,700 Euros for the hospice on the Just Giving page, and we would like to push that beyond 5,000 this year.

    Last year, and more recently, various Barbarians have mused how much fun it would be to join us on our pilgrimage. After discussion, we would make the following observations.

    1. What? You must have forgotten how truly unpleasant we are, individually and as a group.
    2. With much love and respect, we suggest you all fornicate elsewhere. Each of us would heartily recommend that you undertake the camino. All of it or part of it. But do it alone, or in a small group, three maximum. At the risk of sounding trite, the passages of solitude are an important part of the experience – and those would disappear, if the walk became a tour.
    3. The tighthead is putting together a reunion in Bayonne next year. That’s the time to meet up.

    This year, we start at Los Arcos, a wee town on the river Odron. At the end of Day 1, we will pass from Navarra into Rioja until we reach Castilla and Leon a few days later. The tighthead will, undoubtedly, in between moaning about how cold he is, give us full background on each vineyard as we pass through it. Probably very interesting the first couple of times. Assuming he lives through a full day, then I imagine he might not bother on Day 2. Poor love will be hungry though, I’m sure.

    Los Arcos is at 450m above sea-level, and we finish in Burgos at 850m. In between, there are a few bumps (ees not a mountain, ees an ‘ill), the highest at 1,150m. The camino wanders from medieval village to medieval village, and in those days, you built your village where you could best defend it. Almost invariably, on a hill. Therefore, most camino days end with a steep climb.

    Fortunately, we always have the benefit of a jaunty stream of expletives in a panoply of languages from the Duck to help us along.

    The loosehead will, of course be i/c logistics and sore feet. I am particularly looking forward to the end of day 5, where the recommended overnight stop is in a “classic pilgrim village (pop 20)

    Having crested the highest peak on this trip, we will coast into this village, where there must a reasonable chance that one of the twenty inhabitants will say the equivalent of “Sorry chaps, no room at the inn.” I will smile, step aside and ask that the individual repeat this news to the Duck.

    The tighthead and I will probably enjoy a cool glass of something while the hooker beats some sense into, and finalises arrangements with, the poor fellow.

    What, as they say, could possibly go wrong?

     

     

  • Ageing

    Why did nobody tell me about ageing?

    I walked the dog this morning, and on my way back, paused to admire the lawn. Not only to admire it, but to take a photograph of it.

    Why? I have absolutely no idea. Out of nowhere, the state of my lawn has somehow become an issue about which I care. It must be part of the ageing process.

    Another one. This weekend, we had a wonderful blast of weather. You know the type, a gorgeous, sunny couple of days which promises a long glorious summer, only to be followed by a ten degree drop in temperature and sideways rain. Anyway – in an unexpected, and unusual moment of good sense, I liberally applied sun cream before heading off to play golf on Saturday morning. I toyed with the idea of putting on a hat – but look, it’s April.

    I returned home bronzed and revitalised. The vitamin D had not seen off the man-flu, but I certainly felt a bit better.

    “You look a bit crispy.”

    Not quite the adjective I was looking for, but I decided it was a compliment. Sunday brought another day of golf. This time with a hat.

    On Monday, I awoke feeling a little flat. The day was frankly a struggle. Shortly before eight pm, I was being barked at for snoring loudly on the sofa. I muttered something about a shower before creeping up the stairs and under the covers. Where I stayed, unmoving, until gone six this morning.

    Where did that come from? In bed by eight? I am claiming a touch of sun-stroke, but I suspect that actually, I’m just ageing.

    One last one. As you know, I love a bit of golf. This weekend, the Masters was on. Going into the last day, Justin Rose (from a club just up the M3) and Sergio Garcia from Spain were joint leaders. Sergio arrived on the golfing scene in the 90’s. An eager puppy with a winning smile and twinkly eyes. The next big thing. The new ‘Seve’. Talent tumbling out of his ears. For the best part of twenty years he charged about, winning some tournaments, making buckets of money, and gradually earning the tag ‘best-player-not-to-win-a-major”.

    This Masters was his 74th Major. The last day, Sunday, would have been the 60th birthday of the great Seve Ballesteros, Sergio’s golfing hero, hell, the golfing hero of an entire generation of European golfers.

    Could he do it this time? Could he win? Of course he couldn’t. The Masters requires a whole load of things, but it definitely requires nerveless putting. Years of struggles have made Sergio a nervy, fidgety man with the flat-stick. Watching him putt can be painful.

    As the last day unfolded, the challengers fell away. It became simply Justin against Sergio. The Spaniard eased ahead over the front nine. The metronomic Rose kept in touch though, reeling him back in. As they walked off twelve, the momentum was with Englishman. It was clear to me, that the pressure on Sergio would increase shot by shot, until he cracked under the relentless competence of Rose’s game.

    Sergio took on the riskiest line for his tee-shot on 13. He didn’t quite catch it right and the ball settled at the bottom of a bush. Rose was in great shape in the middle of the fairway. Sergio needed to take a penalty drop for an unplayable lie. Wherever he dropped it, he would have an iffy lie, with trees and water between him and the green.

    Time for bed, I thought. Nice work Rosie.

    In fairness to Sergio, he salvaged a par 5, but Rosie was 2 ahead walking onto 14.

    Hang on, look at Sergio. Bouncing along, a smile on his face. Not dropping a shot has given him a little shot of something.

    One more hole, I thought. on 14, Sergio made his putt, Rose’s grazed the hole. Only one in it.

    On 15, under enormous pressure, Sergio hit an 8 iron that will be on highlight reels for years to come. A gem. He eagles the hole. Rose birdies. All square, three to play.

    Lest this become the longest post in history, I’ll spare you the blow by blow account of the remaining three holes. They could not be separated. They moved onto a sudden-death playoff.

    Sergio was left with two putts down a slope to win. He did it in one.

    The partisan American crowd around the 18th green leaped into the air as one. Pretty much every golfer in the world cheered. The Americans began chanting ‘Ser-gi-o’. Me? Inexplicably, I had got dust in both eyes and tears were tumbling onto my cheeks.

    Must be part of the ageing process.

    AUGUSTA, GA – APRIL 09: Sergio Garcia of Spain celebrates after defeating Justin Rose (not pictured) of England on the first playoff hole during the final round of the 2017 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 9, 2017 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 692254095 ORIG FILE ID: 666619486