Living the Dream -61. Aluminium Tubes

I came home in an aluminium tube emblazoned with the bright orange logos of EasyJet. It is a no-frills airline. In my recent experience, flag carrier airlines are now no frills airlines, but with much higher prices. I stubbornly carried on using British Airways, until even I could no longer claim that the flight experience was appreciably better and worth the money.

Change

Overall, no-frills aluminium tubes have had a massive impact on the world. More travel is accessible to more people, which is good, until you start thinking about carbon emissions and the like. However, for me, the biggest impact has been on expectations. As a younger man, airline travel was exotic and exciting. Liveried personnel served me “free” drinks and called me “Sir”. Now, air travel is on an aluminium tube with wings. A very full bus. In terms of service, I expect nothing and usually get less than that. I eat and drink before I fly, board, sit and put on headphones.

Expectations

In the past, pre-flight, I fervently hoped for an empty seat next to me. I wondered what new release would be on the in-flight entertainment system. Previously, I planned for a G&T and a glass of wine. I made judgments on the airline based upon the service that I received. Now? I expect not to eat or drink anything, although I might buy a cup of tea. I’m certain that there will be sharp-elbowed individual in the middle seat, next to me. There will be one bathroom for the entire passenger load and the whole experience will inspire novels written from the point of view of a farm animal going to slaughter.

No crash gets 9 out of 10, no crash and being on time-ish gets 10.

Stress

All this has made the experience of flying much worse, but the stress much less. As my expectation has changed, there is less unexpected. I used to be annoyed when the airport and airline attempted to herd me from wait to wait. Now, I shrug. I was mystified how airlines could bring me food at 12, but not offer me wine to accompany it until 12:30. Now, I expect no food and no drink.

Follow up on last week.

1. Car Hire. I paid £99 for the manual, and asked about upgrading to an automatic. An additional £140. I demurred, and by the time the trip finished, I was mostly remembering to change gears.
2. Weather. Mostly moist.
3. People. Exhausting, as expected.

Overall, it was a good trip both professionally and personally.

I really could do without the cold that I picked up, presumably on one of the aluminium tubes.

At the end of the day, there’s a lot to be said for staying home.

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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 -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.

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.

Spring is here!

A whole month has passed. My second month at the helm of Pocket Notebooks

Writing has taken a backseat as I revel in the ups and downs of a new business. Nip over to the blog page on that site for news.

The business has meant the Lennon household rediscovering old rhythms, as I head off to the office each morning. Nero the schnauzer is loving being my 2ic. As an employee, he is wonderfully low maintenance, requiring only the odd walk and constant company.

I am learning photography. Partly because I have always wanted to, and partly because it is really handy for the business. I am suddenly more conscious of light and its importance. The photo above was taken in the sunlight that streamed into the dining room yesterday morning.

The changing of the clocks and the longer days lift my spirits. We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful, vibrant spot.

This morning, Nero and I took our morning stroll in the company of joyous songbirds chirping away. Within five minutes, we had seen a pair of cows, several pheasants, rabbits and a deer. Woodpeckers tapped away, invisible in the tops of the trees. Perhaps I’m getting old, but I truly feel privileged to enjoy such a morning walk.

My day looked set for perfection as I chipped in for a birdie on the first hole of the monthly medal, but as it often does, the game of golf soon reminded me that the only time I’m consistent is when I’m crap. I came off the course with three birdies, but enough big numbers to ensure no chance of winning anything.

Now, my gorgeous wife is cooking me supper, while I contemplate a glass of wine…

Spring is here and all is right in my world. I hope it is in yours too.