Living the Dream – 49. Award-winning pooch

Spice is an award-winning pooch. On Saturday, “Rescue and Rehome Cyprus” ran a fair at our local taverna, Lenia’s. Margaret had a table for her Grief Recovery Method site, not because she saw it as an opportunity to grow the business, but as a chance to support RnR.

The Down

As is the way with this type of event, timings ran askew, and I arrived just as the “Best Rescue dog” category was being judged. Disaster. I felt sure that Spice would have become our award-winning pooch in this category, but I was too late. Crestfallen, Spice and I retired to the bar. The least I could do was buy her a beer, I thought. Spice took the setback well. This was her first time in a crowd of humans, tiny humans and dogs and the whole experience was captivating for her. She was particularly taken with the tiny humans.

The Up

Spice was now entered in the “Best in Show” category. The major leagues! Nervous, I handed the lead to Margaret, who had, over the last six weeks, worked with Spice in obedience classes.
Well. Ladies and Gentlemen, my nerves were unnecessary. Spice was born to the catwalk. Rather than wag her tail, Spice wags her bum, walking with her head held high. She made eye contact with every tiny human that she had charmed earlier. As she approached the children, she laid on her back, allowing them to tickle her tummy and coo. Within seconds, she had the tiny humans chanting “This is the Winner!” at the vet tasked with judging the show. Resistance was futile in the face of the little people’s vote and it was only a matter of time before the judge declared Spice the winner, making her an award-winning pooch.


We rescued Spice at 8 weeks old, 6 months ago, in the aftermath of losing our beloved Nero. She is as sharp as a tack, playful and affectionate. She launches herself into every moment with complete commitment, enthusiasm and joy. It’s impossible to feel down in her presence.
As I sat with a celebratory beer, I could not have been prouder, of Spice, yes; but more of Margaret, who has battled back from an horrific experience with courage and fortitude. Living the Dream got off to the worst possible start for her, but she’s still here, making it happen.

Nero’s NotesNero’s Notes supports Rescue and Rehome Cyprus with a £1 from every subscription sold. They are a wonderful charity, doing a difficult and important job.

My writing is supported by people like you. 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 – 48. Roundup

Time for a roundup.


I wrote last week that things were hotting up. Haven’t they just. Temperatures hit 42 degrees Celsius (107 Fahrenheit) on the golf course this week. I prefer to walk a course, eschewing both a buggy and a trolley. I find it easier to have the clubs on my back. That preference has a cost when it gets this hot.
The Coptic storms have passed, without clearing out the dust, so a layer of dessert remains suspended in the air, and will do for the rest of the month, we’re told. A fair amount of it seems to end up in my nostrils.


Brexit and its possible impact on us out here remains unclear. As I write, Teresa May has resigned, or as is now the fashion, “set a timetable for resigning”. We’re sticking to our strategy as outlined in “Contrarian”.


Daniel, the tree man, came, and has done a grand job, bringing our lovely trees under control. He has restored my faith in contractors. On time, worked hard, tidied up and did what he said he would do. If only it was always this way.
The trees done, I’m able to move to the next phase of my garden plan, which is to update and upgrade the irrigation system. I expect no rain over the next 6 months, so this needs doing now.



We have invested heavily in making the garden more secure and more attractive. I’m far from green-fingered, or DIY-focused, but there are many things that need doing, and I’m looking forward to learning by doing. Everybody has to start somewhere, right?

Typically, my drive to clear out various hidden corners coincides with the Mukhtar deciding that garden waste collections would be suspended. Presumably for financial reasons. I look forward to finding out his logic and then shredding it to his face.
Spice has not managed to escape the garden, and enjoys exploring her fiefdom. Our hearts are always in mouth when she is nosing about. She is inquisitive and fearless. Taking on small lizards is one thing, I hope that her self-preservation instinct will kick in when she comes across a snake.


The roundup. We’re getting there. Things take a little longer here, and at times it has felt like a struggle, but progress has been made, and the weather is hot enough to get Mrs L in the pool (which means its really hot.)

My writing is supported by people like you. 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 – 38. Six Months

Six months? You’re kidding.

As I write this, we are a few days short of six months #livingthedream. I wrote last week about how I had become distracted. Before I could address that though, I had a Pen Show to do. London was great fun, and travel went well until the final leg. The airport is forty minutes from the mountain-hideaway. Usually. On Monday, it was one hundred and fifty minutes away. Ho-hum. I also brought home a gift, a sniffle. (The sniffle has become a full-blown head-cold now.)


That notwithstanding, I have managed to play two rounds of golf, been wine-tasting and eaten some tasty suppers out. As promised, I had a word with myself, and am back on track, or at least moving closer to the track.

I am hitting my move goals on my Apple Watch, which are 30 minutes exercise and 850 calories per day. I’m doing that through my static bike and walking with Spice in the garden. Beer consumption is down, although I remain far from abstemious. My trousers remain VERY tight, so there is plenty of work to do on the diet and exercise front, but I am confident that being more aware of the calories that I am putting in, and making more effort to burn them will quickly have me heading the right direction.

I suspect that the above might be over-sharing, but hey, I’m nothing, if not honest.


Margaret is beginning to feel a little better. What she went through is not something that anyone should ever go through, but she is much stronger than she believes. We’re both ready for the wet winter to evolve into a warm Spring and we are making a real effort to go to new places and do new things. She has some travel booked, and we have a slew of visitors coming.


Spice is alternately infuriating and endearing. A proper tomboy, she is a digger and an eater. She likes nothing more than snuffling around in the garden and bringing in all sort of bugs, pieces of wood and assorted junk. Then, she curls up to sleep and is a canine angel. She sleeps through the night and is pretty much house-trained.

The next six months

We are beginning to see how our year is going to shape up and although the weather remains a mite unreliable, we do now get the odd glimpse of the spring and summer to come.

First sun in six months?

We are very lucky to have this opportunity, and we are both looking forward to the next six months.

My writing is supported by people like you. 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. If you are able to support me, I’m very grateful. Become a member.

Living the Dream – 36. Flashbacks


We weren’t around, but Hamlet, the dog that attacked Margaret and killed Nero, got loose again. Neighbours found him at their gate snarling at their dogs and nearby cats.


The next day, we were due at the Vet. Ordinarily, Spice would be spayed after her first season, but given the number of uncontrolled dogs in Cyprus, a bitch in season in the garden would be asking for trouble. Tempting though it is to buy a rifle, let Spice run free in the garden and wait for Hamlet to show up, the grown up thing to do is neuter Spice.

Scent Memory

Entering the “business-end” of the vet’s surgery, we were both instantly transported back to the last days of Nero. Collecting Spice, a plastic cone around her collar, her eyes unfocused by the anaesthesia was difficult. The most striking flashbacks were the smells. The mix of animals and antiseptic is, I discover, seared into my memory.


Spice, now 5 months old, is oblivious to these references. All she knows is that she was at the vet, then woke up, feeling fuzzy, with an itchy scar and a plastic cone preventing her getting to it. She has every right to look askance at us.

Of course, she doesn’t. As she does with every situation, she attempts to overcome it with full pelt sprinting, jumping and licking. However hard we try to keep her calm and relaxed, she is a puppy. As I type, 60 hours or so after we collected her, Spice considers herself cured. If only she could convince us to remove the awkward cone, then she could get back to jumping up on the couch, sprinting round the garden and as a bonus, she would quickly remove the troublesome stitches. That she can’t convince us, frustrates her. When frustrated, Spice likes to let us know. Day and night.

She’s quite a handful.


Both Margaret and I are bags of nerves. Margaret’s heart stops every time Spice tries to stand on her back legs, or spins around, hoping that velocity alone will somehow dislodge the cone.

I’m not sure we will ever be over Nero’s end, but what I learned this week, is that the trauma is still raw.

However, I can’t help but admire Spice’s zest for life and enthusiasm. Despite being in pain, she wags her tail and wants to play. More flashbacks to Nero.

Living the Dream – 29. Winter


Winter is here. Cyprus has one. No, I didn’t know either.

Many rejoice.

“The dams need filling.”

Recent arrivals look at each other, glum. Doubt wafts about. Nobody came for this.

Winter has got out of the blocks early, and with alacrity. The news reports that yesterday, we had a mini-hurricane. I doubt meteorologists would use such a term, but I find it accurate.


We are house-training our puppy, and her bathroom is on the terrace outside the kitchen. The floor is lined with “puppy pads” and we have a fence around it. At relevant moments, we lift her into place. Though open on three sides, the terrace does have a roof.

So it is, that several times, both day and night, we can be heard exhorting and encouraging a bemused canine:

“Go pee-pee. Good girl. Good pee-pee.”

Early in the morning, I stood in my dressing-gown sleepily observing that the post-dawn air was on the decidedly fresh side, that the last brandy of the previous evening may have been a tad unnecessary.

The sky darkened. Both Spice and I looked up, puzzled.  From bone dry to sopping wet, in half a heartbeat. Rain hit from two sides. No. Three sides. On reflection, from four sides. Dog and human were unanimous in utter mystification.

“What the …. was that?” I queried, not unreasonably.

Spice perceived the rhetorical nature of the question and intensified her stare.

With the benefit of hindsight, I suspect that she may have been hoping to communicate that we might more comfortably speculate upon the nature of the weather from the warm, dry kitchen, not two feet away, rather than in the midst of the spray.

Keep Calm and Carry On

The squall, or whatever it was, passed in ten minutes or less and no more than thirty minutes later, the sky was a dappled blue and the sun shone.

Either this is an unusual winter, or our luck continues to be poor. Wave upon wave of storm has rolled over the house. Thunder, lightning, hail and now, it would seem, a mini-hurricane. Weather is extremely localised on the island, but this wet, stormy spell appears more a general theme.

I have spent enough time in this part of the world to know that soon enough, we will miss the rain, and will be referring to the sun as relentless, rather than the storms.


However, I do feel for my sister-in-law. She is here for an extended break, hoping for warm, dry weather. Every morning, she comes into the kitchen where she is enthusiastically greeted by her new best friend, Spice, and looks through the window at the back-end of the latest storm system heading out to sea.

I’m not sure she believes me any more when I say,

“It’s usually much nicer.”

I’m not sure I believe me either.

Living the Dream – 25. Sugar & Spice

Spice Girls in the cage

Sugar & Spice, and all things nice, that’s what little girls are made of…

Quite apart from being a gender stereotype, our “Working Titles” for the newest additions to the Lennon household are quickly turning out to be misnomers.


Some monster abandoned the litter of eight at the gates of the pound. Two didn’t make it, and a UK-based family has adopted the boy. Mags met the remaining five girls. (I avoid dog rescue centres, as I am a sucker for sad eyes. We would end up with ALL the dogs at home.) Four were black and white and one was brown and white. The brown one had a twinkle in her eye and a nose for mischief. One of her sisters had a speckled snout, a piercing stare and a fondness for kisses. Sugar & Spice fits the bill.

First Days

Sugar & Spice are cute, loving, and stink. Kennel life is not the Ritz and the vet gave us strict instructions not to give the girls a bath until they get their second jabs. They fight as only siblings do, but will not sleep unless they are touching each other. I can sit for hours watching them sleep; in fact I do. Winter storms are crashing across the island, but the girls are only mildly curious. Mostly, they sleep through them. House training is ongoing and both dogs are as smart as tacks. I daresay we will have our hands full. Seconds ago, we discovered that one or other of them , or possibly both, possess weapon-grade flatulence.

Litter-Mate Syndrome

Who knew? LMS is a thing.

It seems that litter-mates homed together can form an unnatural relationship. Mutually dependent, yet overly aggressive. Sugar & Spice go at it, hammer and tongs, with a ferocity that belies their stature. Mags and I were on tenterhooks, desperately keeping the combatants apart. Research and advice from friends was unanimous. The best thing for the girls and for us was to split them up. The risk is that the dogs will become an unhappy, aggressive double-act.

Therefore, it was, with regret, and a dusty eye, that Sugar returned to her sisters in the kennel, waiting for a new home. While Mags and I steeled ourselves to be strong and stoic, Sugar ran into the kennel, delighted to be back in her pack. Without a second look, she dropped back into routine.

Our Spice Girl

Conversely, Spice is proving to be a bit of a Princess. As the only canine in the house, she is agitating for her own spot on the couch, and is less than impressed with puppy kibble. Tinned tuna or freshly roasted chicken on the other hand, she is eager to consume. House training is going OK, I didn’t really like sleeping anyway…

Job Role

As with all canines at Nero’s Notes, Spice will, in the fullness of time, be expected to pull her weight, work-wise. Just as with her name, the role will evolve as her character is revealed. For the moment though, she will be featuring heavily in social media. Thankfully, nobody can smell her across the internet…