Living the Dream – 59. Sabbatical

“A sabbatical. We’ll try it for nine months.”

That was the original agreement. Margaret’s employer had a policy allowing her to take up to 9 months as a career break. Putting an end date on our adventure made it much easier for Margaret to acquiesce.

Sabbatical

Then, her employer made her redundant, and the artificial time limit was no longer there. Nevertheless, we both understood that we were burning no bridges and that the move to Cyprus was not definitive. It was a sabbatical.

Evolution

Margaret’s position then became, “we’ll stay awhile, until we can sell the house.” More recently, it has become, “we won’t grow old here. We won’t stay for ever.” Subtle changes; evolution not revolution, as it were. My position, much to many people’s frustration, is, and always was, “I dunno. Let’s see.”

In theory, we would have headed home last month, before the summer really hit. I’m delighted that we’re still here. Particularly after the start that we had, when I genuinely feared that we would choose to return to England sooner even than nine months.

Signals

We’re discussing whether to take the next Greek language course in the autumn and we have made plans for New Year. There has been no specific discussion, we’ve simply moved on.

Is this home now?

Posed as a simple question, the answer is more complex. What is home?

Home

Increasingly, soppy though it may sound, home, for me, is where Margaret is. I’m happy here, I was happy in England. In the Members posts of this site, I am writing about my time in Central Europe. I was happy there too.

Statistically, two thirds of British people who retire abroad, return to the UK. Grandchildren and health care being the two elements most often cited as reasons to return.

Mags and I have no kids and touch wood, are in good health for the time being. Part of the rationale of moving here was to do so while relatively young, and enjoy a new life.

The Future

Might we move back to the UK? Or move to another “foreign” country? Might we stay here?

Yes, to all of the above.

We are lucky enough to be able to keep our options open, and that’s what we will do.

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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.

My writing is supported by people like you.  The Going Solo series is free to all, but there are other series, limited to members only. 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.

Living the Dream – 23. Bad luck comes in threes

Living the Dream – 23. Bad luck comes in threes

The Three

First, we got burgled. Then came the horrific attack on Margaret and Nero. Now, somebody has gone after the car.

Generally, I try to be a positive person. I see the glass half-full, and look to see the good in every situation. I don’t mind telling you, it has not been easy to keep that going this month.

The Third

On Saturday we went for dinner at one of our favourite restaurants in a nearby village. I parked correctly, on the street, careful not to block anyone or any access. At some point, somebody carved to large scratches into the bonnet and one long scratch all the way from nose to tail on the passenger side.

Gee thanks.

I know that there are many terrible things going on in the world, and worse things could happen, but we really could have done without this right now. As Margaret said, every time that we wake up, determined to rally, we seem to get another punch in the gut.

Hopefully, this will be a straightforward repair job, paid by the insurance company, but I’m wary of assuming anything at the moment.

We console ourselves with the cliche in the title, that bad luck comes in threes and that we’re done now.

Moving Forward

As I type, new fencing is being finished around the house, securing the garden from dogs and, I think, enhancing the look of the place, and we are going to pick out some new external lighting, which will be fitted before the weekend.

I have secured a new client for my consultancy business and Nero’s Notes is ramping up for the holiday season. The trees are bearing fruit, so tomorrow’s breakfast will be a grapefruit from the front yard, followed by a round of golf. Now; that’s #livingthedream

View of the green
It’s not all bad!

Living the Dream – 21. Moving On

Moving on from Nero

In my last post, I compressed ten days into a few paragraphs. For Margaret and I, those ten days felt like ten months. We are both still sad. We both miss Nero and we will never forget him. That, is as it should be.
Every night, we listen to Nero’s assailant barking.
That, is not, as it should be.
I’m not going into the action that we are taking – but we have spent time with the police, the local authority and retained legal counsel.

Bureaucracy

In between vet visits, we got the ball rolling on a variety of ‘immigration admin’. The car is now registered – she got her Cypriot paperwork faster than we did. As an only slightly political aside – we had to pay duty. Bringing in our personal, duty paid, vehicle from an EU country, to another EU country, we had to pay duty. Frictionless eh?
We started the process of getting our residence permit. Yes, we are EU citizens and therefore can exercise the right of freedom of movement etc…but actually, we can’t. For example, we need to take private health insurance, and we need to demonstrate that we won’t be a drain on the Cypriot state. Cypriot citizens don’t have to do that. We need to jump through several hoops to be permanent residents here. #justsayin

Winter is coming

The evenings are chilly up in the village now. In comparison with the UK, that’s nonsense. I’m sitting outside in the dark, typing away. It’s 16 degrees centigrade, so 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but it feels cold to us now. I’m still swimming every day, but long-term residents think I’m certifiable.

Settling In

Mags has done amazing work getting the house setup. Our furniture is in place, our clothes in the right wardrobes and the house feels more like a home every day – with one obvious exception.

We both know there will be more dogs in our lives, but how and when – we don’t know that yet.

Time to get on with #livingthedream

Living the Dream – 16. Landed

Yasu! We’ve landed.

First Days

On Saturday the 22nd of September 2018, we left home at 4 am and by a pleasingly symmetrical 4 pm we were at the house in Cyprus, our home for the foreseeable future.
We are settling in; assessing the losses from the burglary, working out where our furniture is going be placed when it arrives and generally feeling our way in to the new life.
Exciting isn’t it?
Erm…well, hmmm…

Feelings

Curiously, neither of us knows quite how to feel. Margaret desperately wants to organise stuff, but is a bit snookered until our belongings arrive. We are beefing up home security and taking stock of all the things that need to be done around and about the house.

Nero

The arrival of Nero, who landed a couple of days ago, has impacted us both. Airlines regard pets as freight. If that’s the starting point, things are unlikely to go well. Two employees at Larnaca airport probably have no idea how close they were to very sudden blunt trauma injuries as they faffed about being bureaucratic halfwits. Fortunately, I resisted the temptation to punch anyone through a wall, and Mags, Nero and I are together at last. All of us needed a stiff drink.
The stress of his arrival apart, Nero has given me a bit of rhythm. My day starts with his walk, as does my evening, when we meander around the village, greeting all and sundry. Thus far, our favourite restaurants have been welcoming of him, (on the terrace) bar one, who has had a customer go nuts at the sight of a dog. Neither Mags and I has been willing to leave him alone – not until he is a bit more settled. As I type this, on the terrace, he is dozing at my feet, looking for all the world, master of his territory.

Perhaps, I’m settling in more than I think.

Living the Dream – 15. Packed

Packed

Packed. Our entire house has been packed. As this post is published, the container is on the truck, on its way to the ship.

Late Saturday night, I returned from the Camino , having walked 130 miles in 6 days, tired but happy.

On Tuesday morning, three cheery guys, well, two cheery guys and a moody, quiet one, turned up ready to get the house packed. The challenge is to stop them packing stuff. Let your attention drift for a second and your hand luggage is beautifully encased in cardboard and packing-tape.
They have accounted for two short packing days and then to load the container itself on the third. This includes the car, which needs to be valeted before it goes into the container. Well, you wouldn’t want any English dirt getting into Cyprus, would you?

If anything, it’s surprising how quickly the house is broken down into cardboard boxes and furniture components.

Powerless

Margaret and I are alternately excited and growling at each other. So much to do and yet such a feeling of redundancy. Things are happening around us. Tenants move into the house next week.
Nero, the beloved miniature schnauzer, begins his journey on Friday, when he goes to spend a few days with the agency that are shipping him to Cyprus. We have a car booked for 4am on Saturday. We will arrive on Saturday afternoon, with plenty of time for some sunbathing and a dip in the pool before dinner. Nero arrives on Tuesday lunchtime, completing the family again.

Holiday

Margaret has declared us ‘on holiday’ until the container arrives a couple of weeks later. Time to recharge before taking on the task of unpacking and rearranging everything. There will be some admin to get started – applying for residence permits and the like, as well as dealing with the aftermath of the burglary.
That said, I’m looking forward to some swimming, some golf and frankly, some rest.

Living the Dream – 13. Farewell

Farewell!

I’m all out of weekends. Not that I have cancelled them, but I have no more weekends in England. As I write this, I am preparing for my walking trip in Spain, which runs from next Saturday morning until the following Saturday night, and the one after that is departure day for the big adventure.

A few people have asked us when our farewell party is happening. I laugh. Margaret is, overall, much nicer than me and frets over whether we should have one. Inevitably, time is accelerating, and neither of us has a free day or evening between now and departure.

I handed in my locker key at the golf club last weekend. I’m not going to get another round in before we leave. Sad though I am to no longer be a member of Tidworth Garrison Golf Club, I’m excited to be a member at Secret Valley Golf Club. This mirrors how Margaret and I feel about the whole move. There is much here in England that we will muss, but there is more in Cyprus to look forward to.

I paid the moving company today.

I needed a sit down afterwards.

Even the insurance bill made me catch my breath. Door to door, our chattels will be in transit for two weeks or so. To insure them for that time will cost us 1.5% of the declared value. An annualised cost of nearly 40%.

Now, I’m no mariner, but as far as I’m aware, my furniture is unlikely to come up against Somali pirates as it hugs France’s Atlantic coast before turning left into the Mediterranean Sea; which is usually about as tempestuous as a puddle. As with all insurance, if we don’t need it, it’s incredibly expensive – if we do need it, it will be very cheap.

The picture is taken on my morning commute – which is one thing that I will miss, although I daresay a swim in the pool will be just as much fun.

Living the Dream -12. Four Weeks

I write this exactly four weeks before we fly to Cyprus.

We are a tiny bit disappointed, knowing that we will be inspecting damage done by last week’s uninvited guests. (Robbed!)

Friends secured the house for us immediately after the robbery, but the repairs are temporary and we will need to deal with the internal damage. So, along with sourcing a home security system, sorting these things out will be the first order of business.

Admin

Now that the move is four weeks away, I’m able to pull the trigger on several decisions that I had deferred; insurance policies and the like. Forms to fill in. What fun! Said nobody ever about filling in forms.

Even more amusing, I have to make several very chunky payments. I’ll be glad when this part of the process is done with – nobody likes handing over lots of money. Hopefully though, this will soon pass. I will have made, or set up,  the payments, the to-do list will be shorter – and I’ll disappear off for a week’s walking in Spain with my best mate; leaving Mags in the eye of the storm. (Yes, I do know that I am a very, very lucky guy to have such an awesome, understanding and generous woman as my wife.)

Stationery

More fun has been picking out stationery supplies for my new home office. Regular readers will know that I love my paper products and analogue tools, and that I own a webshop, Nero’s Notes. The picture is one box of notebooks that should get me started. (I know – it’s an addiction!)

We are still stressed, still wrangling to-do lists, but we’re getting excited too.

Tools

I spoke today with the man who has maintained the swimming pool and the garden for us. He revealed that the thieves had thrown my power tools into the swimming pool.

Charming. Criminals these days, no class.

In fairness, my lack of proficiency with power tools is legendary, but I do find myself affronted that the thieves threw them into the pool, nevertheless.

Swine.

Living the Dream – 11. Robbed!

Ouch. The unexpected ring of the phone startled me. I spilled coffee onto my hand.

It was before six. Who called a mobile before six in the morning? The ring had come from Margaret’s phone. I let it ring and dealt with the spill.

Mags called Antonia back. Antonia keeps an eye on the house in Cyprus for us and gets it ready whenever we visit.  When there had been no answer, she had also sent an email, one that encapsulates the situation rather nicely;

“Good day. I have bad news. Somebody stole your home.”

I imagine it reads a bit better in Greek; still Google Translate got the message across. We had been robbed.

Not the start to the day that we hoped for.

Every room had been ransacked.

I imagine that the thieves were looking for a store of value. A safe or similar. They even emptied the washing conditioner bottle. The utility room is now very fragrant.

There is no good time to be robbed, but there might be many worse times than when we were not in residence and the house was sparsely furnished.

We’re far from happy, but I can’t help but smile when I picture some dope tearing around the house trying to find something more valuable than the router.

An empty house is always a target, I guess, but first order of business in October will be a home security review.

Living the Dream – 10. Reality Bites

Reality has crept up. For months, emigrating has been exciting, distant and most importantly, theoretical. Something to talk about, plan for, even blog about.

Then, all of a sudden, reality sidles in unseen, and chomps hard into my backside.

By the time this post publishes, I’ll have twenty one more days in the UK, along with eight walking in Spain. Less than a month.

Friends are anxious to get together, wanting to wish us ‘Bon Voyage’. Last chances are mounting up; the last chance to go this shop or that restaurant.

Mags and I find ourselves tired, and tetchy. Inexorably, stress levels have crept up. We’re both developing little health niggles. Regardless of lists, the volume of tasks is overwhelming. If we can’t find anything to stress about, then we invent some.

“What if…what about…?”

We devise endless potential problems and issues, rather than deal with the reality:

We’re scared.

What if we hate it? What if we’re bored? What if we can’t stand the relentless weather?

Still – I think this stage is passing. I’m through it. If I’m with Margaret, I’ll be OK (Not sure she feels the same!)

We’re starting a new, exciting chapter – and most importantly, we’re starting it together.

I’ll take that reality.