Living the Dream – 56. Kyproulla

Kyproulla is my new car. When I say new, she is actually 15 years old.

Kyproulla is a small Japanese hatchback with a tiny engine and a lovely personality. She has taken us into town for a gig (more on that later), and along the highway to the golf course. Economical and a dream to park, we’re off to a good start. Of course, that could all change in a smokey, breaking down heartbeat.

Why a second car?

The mountain hideaway is isolated. Nothing is within walking distance. Therefore, if one of us is playing golf, then the other is either playing too, or staying in the house. That’s doable, but Margaret is improving rapidly as a golfer and sometimes (always) would like to play with people other than me.

Additionally, Margaret has taken employment. She helps out at a kitchen store in the mall. Already, a week in and her Greek is accelerating away from mine. So, several times a week, she takes the car to work.

I feel that Kyproulla would enjoy a little customisation, so I’m seeking an evil eye and some worry beads to hang from the rearview mirror. She is helping me find my inner Cypriot.

Gigging

UB40. They were great. Everything was incredibly well-organised, the weather was kind and the band were brilliant. We were both nervous that the event would be hot, chaotic and unpleasant, and so were surprised and delighted. A cracking time was had by all.

Last night, she took us to Il Divo, the “Popera quartet”. Mags and I are both big fans so were really looking forward to it.

Meh.

The danger of expectations. UB40, we expected little, and they delighted us. Il Divo, we expected a lot and they disappointed us.

They were OK. Personally, I expected better voices. Between songs, the four attempt a little Rat Pack-esque banter. Cringe!

Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed the evening, and will continue to listen to the music – perhaps with a renewed appreciation for the production team.

Transport

Kyproulla behaved impeccably, and I managed to squeeze her onto a pavement, between two trees. Dainty little thing.

Living the Dream – 55. Rock ‘n’ Roll

“Oh. A George Michael tribute. The same guy that was Freddie Mercury last month. Shall we go?”

Experience prompted me to take a moment before answering. I elected for “hmmm…”

Proof that I can be diplomatic.

Tribute Bands

Let me unpack this for you.

  1. “A George Michael tribute.” A person who may or may not look or sound like George Michael singing his songs. I want to know why the person isn’t singing their own songs. Is this a glorified karaoke, just without audience participation?
  2. “The same guy that was Freddie Mercury last month.” What? This person is essentially an impressionist, presumably without the humour.
  3. “Shall we go?” No. Let’s not. Please, God. Let’s really not. Let’s poke our own eyes out, it will be more fun.

As you may gather, I’m not terribly keen on the idea of tribute bands. I’m sure that they are brilliant and it’s a great night out, but I just cannot muster any enthusiasm for them. That’s not Rock ‘n’ Roll.

However, I am keen that we “live”, that we take as many opportunities as we can to have a good time, to live the dream as it were.

Rock ‘n’ Roll (and opera)

The Cyprus Mail came to my rescue. “UB40 and Remos.” I have no idea who Remos is, but UB40, English band of the 1980s? Them, I knew. I booked us tickets. A stadium gig, no less.

A page later, Il Divo. Pop/Opera crossover, and more importantly one of Mrs L’s favourites. Playing the week after UB40 at the Limassol Garden Theatre. Where UB40 was cheerfully good value for money, Il Divo made my eyes water and my wallet cringe.

Both concerts begin at 2100, meaning we won’t be home till gone midnight. Will we turn into pumpkins? Both are outdoor venues, and both are at sea level. Temperatures are likely to be high 80s, low 90s with high humidity to boot. Doing the concert any earlier would be even hotter.

Scorecard

Our “cultural” tally For Cyprus thus far then, will be:

  • The Central Band of the Royal Air Force in a modern amphitheatre
  • Wine Tasting in a winery
  • A street art festival in Limassol
  • A tour of the Olive Park
  • A book launch in Limassol
  • Hamlet in an ancient amphitheatre
  • UB40 & Remos in a football stadium
  • Il Divo in the Limassol Garden Theatre

Not a bad start, I think.

Amusingly, the promoter suggests ‘formal wear’ for Il Divo. Good luck with that.

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Living the Dream – 54. Smash

Smash. The smaller car lost all forward momentum and flew sideways off the road.

A normal day

We had been down the mountain to get some cash from the bank. Our shiny new tyres had emptied the wallet and our local taverna doesn’t take plastic. We were following a Japanese hatchback up the mountain road. Margaret was driving and we were discussing a potential vacation.

An abnormal sight

An oncoming car suddenly turned hard right into the oncoming traffic (We drive on the lefthand side of the road in Cyprus). Time slowed to a weird film-effect, like it was running under water.

We both felt we were watching a movie stunt as the larger car hit the hatchback on the front headlight. Smash. Both bonnets crumpled, airbags deployed and the hatchback jumped left onto the scrubland. The saloon stopped dead, a few metres ahead of us, on our side of the carriageway, spewing oil and water onto the tarmac. Margaret is a good driver and had left plenty of distance between us and the hatchback, allowing her to avoid us becoming part of the drama. I hit the hazard lights, jumped out of the car to make sure everyone was alright.

Aftermath

The saloon driver was out of his car, dazed, but upright, and on the phone. To the emergency services, I hoped. I asked if he was OK, and after initial language confusion, he nodded. I kept going to the hatchback. The front of the car looked as though it had been driven into a wall. The windscreen was gone, as was the side window. The young woman driver was vocal, which I took to be a good sign. She was talking and moaning, clearly in shock. I told her that she was OK, as I tried to open the door.

I remember her repeating, in English, that she couldn’t breathe. Judging by the way she was chatting away, there was no shortage of air getting to her, and there appeared to be no damage to her chest – and I surmised that it was the smell of smoke from the engine that was alarming her. (It was scaring the crap out of me.)

Resolution

Other road users joined me at the car, and we got the woman out from the passenger side. The drivers side was stuck solid. We got her away from the car. The emergency services arrived very quickly, whether by chance or in response to a phone call, I don’t know. I left everybody rattling away at each other in Greek way beyond my elementary level.

Analysis

The crash shook Margaret up. So I drove on to the taverna where we were meeting friends. Inevitably, we speculated as to what had caused the smash.

The roads are very lightly used here, and perhaps a consequence, people tend to drive too fast. (Myself included.) There remains a culture of using the phone while driving too. Sometimes, it seems that more people are on the phone while driving than not. Whether this was the case here, only the driver will know. The theory, that distracted, the driver thought he was going off the road, panicked and over-corrected, would fit the sudden lurch across the carriageway.

Thankfully, both drivers seemed OK, with no major injuries.

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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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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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Novel Launch

“How does a novel launch work?”
“Usually, there’s an introduction, then the author reads a passage, perhaps a Q&A and then we buy a copy, get it signed, quick glass of wine and off for supper.”
“It will be in English, won’t it?”
“Of course it will, darling. The novel is in English, the invitation is in English.”

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Living the Dream – 47. Hotting up

Hotting Up

Cyprus is hotting up. Overnight, summer arrived. In true British style, we had been lamenting how unsettled the weather was and how temperatures were below average. Then, boom. Temperatures leapt from low twenties (70f) centigrade to low thirties (90f). The dog appeared shocked initially, but has quickly dropped into a new routine. It’s taking us longer to adapt.

The upside is that the change in the weather has forced me to deliberately consider my daily routine.

Routine

#livingthedream is intended to chart our efforts to design a new life for ourselves, and we’ve been here nearly eight months now, so this is as good a time as any to look at how we’re doing.

I rise early, usually around 6.30am. I don’t use an alarm, nor have I made a conscious decision to rise at a particular time. It just happens. Once up, Spice, is up and wants out for her morning patrol. I’ll play with her, trying to activate her appetite by throwing a ball. (She has taken to not eating in the morning.)

Margaret and I will have an espresso or two for breakfast in the early sun, and I’ll write a gratitude note in my bullet journal. Then I’ll go swim for half an hour. By 8 / 8.30 I’m heading downstairs to the office as the day is hotting up.

Through till lunch, I am writing, or working on one of my businesses, usually with podcasts in the background. My tiny contribution to running the house is to hang out the laundry whenever the machine beeps insistently at me from the room next to the office. How things get into the machine is a mystery, similar to how the house is always full of food. I’ve asked Margaret, how all these things happen, but she just rolls her eyes…

Lunch is around 1, and we eat together, up on the terrace. Afterwards, I’ve taken to spending some more time in the pool and then having a nap. Traditionally, Cyprus shuts down through the heat of the afternoon, and I’m all for it.

Some time around four, the day restarts. I refresh myself with a shower and will either get back into work, or read a book.

Evenings

Dinner is getting lighter and lighter, and later and later. In the winter we ate around 6, but now don’t feel much like food until 8 or so.

Evenings are delightful at the mountain hideaway. It’s quiet and there is often a breeze. A chilled glass of wine with some olives on the terrace is the perfect evening as far as I’m concerned.

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Living the Dream – 46. The Trouble with Trees

The trouble with trees is that they keep growing.

“Sorry. We can’t stay long, we have to get home to meet our tree surgeon.”

Not words that I had ever imagined saying. My parents built the house nearly thirty years ago, and planted several trees then. One or two pre-date the house.

Carob, fig, pomelo, lime, mandarin and orange are the ones that I recognise and that produce fruit. There are several flowering trees too, that burst into colour at various points through the year. Some provide welcome shade in the summer.

The Plan

As the title suggests, the trouble with trees is that they grow. Pretty big as it happens. Some of them were touching the house, even towering above it. As I sipped a cold beer, I decided that a few hours with a wood saw would sort everything out.

Hmmm…

Several people have snipped at, and trimmed branches over time. A couple of them have cut back growth severely.

However, some of the larger trees remain pristine. As I stood at the base of one, craning my neck to see the top, it was clear that one man and his saw was not going to be sufficient.

Nor could I overlook the facts of the matter.

  1. I have not the faintest idea about how one properly reduces the size of a tree.
  2. There is a documented and demonstrated lack of competence with any and all tools.
  3. I respect hard, manual, work and if at all possible, avoid it.

Faced with these truths, I repaired to the terrace and opened a bottle of wine. (Playing to my strengths.)

Plan B

I spoke to the guys that put up the fence, and they put me onto Daniel, of High Access Point, and so it was, that yesterday, I met with him.

It is little known that “Daniel”, in Bulgarian, means “little tree squirrel”. As I write, Daniel is sucking his pencil somewhere, preparing me a quote to makeover all of the trees, with judicious use of ladders, ropes and power tools.

I am resigned to the prospect of a big, scary number.

This is made less painful by the realisation that I will, on a regular, if infrequent, basis be able to say,

“Sorry, must dash. Doesn’t do to keep one’s tree surgeon waiting.”

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