Living the Dream – 51. Back on Track

Everything is back on track.

Returned

Margaret has returned, bringing the elves with her. The house looks tidier, smells nicer and everything is where it should be. Both Spice and I have a spring in our step.

Temporary?

But for how long? One of Margaret’s closest friends is at the bedside of her mother, who will pass away today after a sudden illness. That’s a punch of perspective in the face. Mags is considering whether she should be getting back on a plane. Spice and I have both declared that we’ll manage; with practice, we’re improving.

Review

My ten days of golf, (which was actually eight days, one hiking day and one rest day) were lots of fun. I am fitter, striking the ball better and even managed to avoid rehydrating with beer. Whilst I feel spritely, my trousers are still tighter than I would like; having dealt with the ‘move more’ part of the equation, I now need to face the ‘eat less’ part. Boo.

Time

I love playing golf, and it is a great way of getting exercise that is appropriate for a round middle-aged man. But, my, it takes a long time. Let me explain.

  1. Commute. The course is 25 minutes drive away. So, if I’m due on the tee at 0800, I leave the house at 0700. This will require me to getup at 0530 / 0600 to get Spice exercised and fed.
  2. A round takes anything between 3.5 and 5 hours. Usually 4 to 4.5. So, I’m coming off the course around 1230.
  3. It’s traditional to raise a glass with your flight, and I’ll take the opportunity to order some lunch too. That’ll take me to 1330 / 1400.
  4. Half an hour home. 1430 / 1500.
  5. Play with Spice, get a wash on and have a swim and shower. Hang the washing out to dry. 1530 / 1600.

At this point, I’m ten hours into my day and pretty tired. A nap looks much more attractive than any work.

Add in dinner and some TV, my day is done. I need to get back on track with work.

Balance

So – much though I love playing golf, there is no way in the world that I can sustain playing every day or close to it. “Poor you”, I hear you think. You’re right, this is not a first world problem, it’s a privileged, entitled, complete non-problem.

It has taught me that a “leisure-only” lifestyle does not appeal to me. I missed working, I missed “margin”, by which I mean, time that is not assigned to anything specific.

There we are. Pushing fifty, and I’ve worked out that life requires balance. Better late than never, I suppose. Time to get back on track.

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Writer’s Block

The Situation

Whether writer’s block is a thing or not, is beyond my pay grade. I do know that I haven’t done any writing for a week or more.

Why not?

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Book? What book?

Book

It’s been quiet on the book front this week. By quiet, I mean that I have been writing for the blog, for Nero’s Notes and for the jobby-job. Not one word has been written on Sean.

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Done not perfect

I’m on a roll with golf. So, I’m going to draw another parallel.

The first time I played a whole round of golf, I was not very good. I had fun, hit a decent shot or two, but the round was a long way from a masterpiece. Why would it be for heaven’s sake? It was my first attempt. However, I had proved that I could complete a round, and even keep score. I had shown signs of potential.

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Living the Dream – 42. Golf in the sun

Golf in the sun

Both Mrs L and I play golf. Annoyingly, her swing is much better than mine, but I don’t tell her that and I don’t think that she reads the blog, so keep it to yourself. The opportunity to play a lot of golf in the sun was a definite incentive to make a life here in Cyprus.

Choice

There are four golf courses easily accessible to us and we tried all of them before settling on Secret Valley Golf Club as our choice. We can walk the course, which is important to us. Contrary to some people’s belief, golf is exercise; it’s essentially a long walk, punctuated by swings of a club. You can remove much of the walking by hiring a buggy that you drive around the course, but neither of us enjoys that mode of play.

Membership

Of all the courses, this one felt the most like a members club, one where we might make friends. A golf club is as much a social hub as a sporting one and we are drawing on the collective experience of our fellow members. I’m getting a great deal of advice where to buy a lemon tree, for example. Best Doctor? Dentist? Hairdresser? Information like this is invaluable and readily available in the bar. Despite feeling like a members club, Secret Valley is not. It’s a proprietary club. It was built as the anchor for a development of villas, targeted at retirees and holiday makers. When the financial crisis hit, most of the development was postponed indefinitely, and the property now belongs to a Bank, presumably repossessed. From time to time, buggy convoys of suits are toured around the course; potential buyers, I suspect.

United Nations

We have been surprised by the breadth of nationalities represented in the membership. In a recent competition, I found myself playing alongside a Swede. A Russian and a Cypriot. It sounds like the start of a joke, doesn’t it? The United Nations of Golf.

Living the Dream

Of all of the aspects of #livingthedream, golf is one element that has gone superbly. Mrs L’s handicap is tumbling, she is part of two fun groups and enjoying herself immensely. I’m getting to play both with her for fun and in competitions alone and feel comfortable with the majority of the members. I have even represented the club in a match.

Happy Days.

Golfing Gods

Regular readers know that I play golf. Living here, it’s a great excuse to be out in the sun, breathing fresh air and burning some calories.

Of late, I have not been striking the ball well, nor putting well. The strongest part of my game has definitely been the drinking of beer in the club house.

Background

At Secret Valley Golf Resort, where I play, there are regular competitions, and these competitions are drawn – that is to say, you don’t get to pick with whom you play. Such is the traditional way. As a new member, this helps me meet new people. Five hours on the course provides plenty of opportunity to get to know someone. On the flip side, I am inevitably more nervous playing with people I don’t know. Still, I have entered a few competitions now, and know a few more faces. Most members know me by sight, (Plus-twos and bright stockings probably help with that), and as a result, I’m more comfortable.

Saturday last was the monthly medal. I was scheduled to play with three gentlemen, only one of whom I had played with before.

For context, my handicap is 13. So, par for the course is 71, add the 13 and on a good day, I should complete the course in 84 shots.

Golfing Gods

Something happened. I hit a good drive on the first hole, pitched close, and holed a putt for a birdie three. Starting with a birdie usual foreshadows disaster, but hey, anything is possible. The Golfing Gods were smiling upon me. As I stood on the 8th tee, I was one over gross par, so several shots better than my handicap.

Disaster struck. I pulled my drive, and watched as it crossed the boundary of the penalty area and disappeared under a bush.

I took a penalty drop at the point the ball crossed the line. The ball was quite severely above the level of my feet (which promotes a hook), and the flag is 152 yards away. This hole had the potential to be a disaster and to sink the round. I have, in the past, from a similar lie, hooked the shot, losing a second ball, having to take an additional penalty and running up a big number. Still, I know what the risk is, so I adjust my grip, my aim, and focus on hitting a smooth 7 iron.

I hit a good one. Smooth, the right shape and in the right direction. A playing partner, from a good vantage point called out:

“Shot! Oh. That’s close… Wait! …It’s in!”

When it’s your day, it’s your day. A potential disaster had become a birdie 3. Moving my score to gross par. For good measure, I added a birdie on the 9th meaning that at the turn, I was under the card. By some measure, the best scoring nine holes I have ever played.

On the back nine, I was nervous, and however hard I tried to play one shot at a time, the score kept echoing in my mind. I was dropping shots thorough a lack of commitment. Ultimately, I did pull myself together and finished the round on 77 shots. 7 shots better than a good day.

Result

April Medal winner. A tumbler, a voucher for a meal for two in a local restaurant and a whole 6 euro for my 2 on the 4th. My handicap index is cut from 14.7 to 12.6, meaning next medal I’ll be getting 11 shots rather than 13.

Most important of all, a rekindled belief that I can play golf, that I can become a single figure handicapper. This belief buoys me along, puts a smile on my face and will almost certainly last only until the next time I play.

Every golfer knows, the game will reassert its dominance over me at the very next opportunity. Whatever happened, will un-happen.

The beer game will stay strong though.

Writing Secret

I wrote last week about the depths I plumb to avoid actually moving the book forward. I immediately set to work rectifying that, and edited the first couple of scenes of the novel.

Hurrah!

 

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Living the Dream -37. Distraction

If you have been following along, then you know that the dream did not begin as we had hoped. There has been a period of recovery and re-thinking, for both of us. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, life happens. However, distraction becomes a habit, and like most habits, it can be tough to break.

Distraction

I have allowed myself to become victim to distraction. Don’t get me wrong, I have been busy, too busy in fact. I have been focused on the wrong things. Let me explain.

We are building a new life, in a new country. We are in the extremely privileged position of being able to choose this course. Mags and I were not forced to come here, nor are we forced to stay. It’s our choice.

Distraction made me forget that. The most important thing that I need to be doing is focusing on “why” we are here, rather than “how’ we are here. We came here for the amazing climate (and one wet winter is weather, not climate) and the opportunity to craft a lifestyle that was healthy and relaxed. Let me use health as an example.

Healthy Living

  1. Fruit and vegetables are incredible here. I love them. Yet I seem to be eating more chips (French fries) and biscuits (cookies).
  2. Beer here is frankly, not great. Gassy and tasteless. Water is lovely. Yet I’m drinking more beer, and less water.
  3. I love to walk. Cyprus winter is perfect walking weather. Yet I have barely walked at all.
  4. Swimming. Sure, the pool is cold, (comparatively) but once I stopped my morning swim, in October, I have stopped entirely.
  5. An office downstairs meant that I could corral work into intentional time slots and close the day down, yet I find myself working in the kitchen, in the living room, everywhere.
  6. Golf. I have a membership that allows me to play as often as I wish. A beautiful course, and wonderful conditions. Yet I play less than I did in the UK.

Lesson

First conclusion is that I need to have a serious word with myself. However, what’s interesting is how easy it was to lose sight of why I’m here, what I’m trying to achieve. Yes, we have been presented with more challenges than we envisaged. Yes, I have achieved some good things, but what I haven’t been doing is focusing on building the life that we want.

A lesson learned.

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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

Distraction

Don’t get me wrong. I am extremely lucky to have so many distractions.

I write this post from a beautiful spot in Cyprus, where I have been swimming every day and playing golf, watching my wife get better and better at the game. It’s only a matter of time until she beats me.

unnamed

This photo was taken on a rare dry moment in a practice walk around Howth, near Dublin.

At stuartlennon.comI have been posting about another distraction. I’m looking forward to a week walking in some gorgeous countryside with friends old and new. We are hoping to raise some money for a hospice. If you can spare a couple of euro, then please donatePlaces like Our Lady’s Hospice are very special. As my friend and co-walker, Stuart Smith (in the featured photo) wrote “he passed away in a loving, caring, pain-free environment.” Read the rest of his post here.

In order to bring some sort of order to my days, I am experimenting with both the Best Self Journal and Bullet Journal, two systems that I will write posts on soon.

Writing is getting done around all these brilliant distractions. It’s all about editing at the moment, getting feedback from my writing buddy and tightening the prose. Methodical, detailed work…all the things that do not come naturally to me. So, short concentrated bursts work well.

My long-suffering Writing Buddy is doing her level-best to keep me on task, but frankly, it’s a bit like herding cats.

Nevertheless – I’m confident that a book will get published.