Friday, February 14, 2014

High tides


I really do promise to get off of the weather topic – art and philosophy by the weekend…

The Economist published a story about the rising rivers throughout the area: I live in the vicinity of Poole (fortunately on a third-floor apartment) but the whole area up to the Thames has been affected.  Since I’m usually traversing the Bournemouth / Southampton / Reading motorways towards the northeast, I’ve been passing through the teeth of it ever since the holidays.

It’s may be time for the British to take a more Dutch attitude to rising waters (that from the Guardian, not the Dutch…)

DSC03576 (1300x956)A high tide and wind-driven waves brought Poole Harbour up into the Sandbanks Beach community today.  They had to mount sandbags around the local Tesco; a neighbor said that they had knee-deep water in their apartment.  When the sea receded, the pathways had washed out, boats had washed up, and businesses along the spit were digging out.

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It’s been an amazing run of weather – finally starting to get warmer, but not yet drier.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


DSC03467 (1300x960)The week filled up quickly, travels to London and Cambridge, working hard on the business, dodging the lakes and valleys where roads used to be.  A lot of good progress but a lot of work to get there: some pivotal activities are starting and my life will once again fork, right or left, in the coming weeks.

Its also time to shift my UK base, moving residence.  I’ve considered returning to Cambridge, would prefer to stay along the Dorset coast, pragmatically need to be close to the business production or clinicals.  Proximity to the train lines and sea are important, it would be nice to be within a few miles of the Leisure Center, food shopping, and café’s.  Flexibility is important for the next few months, I don’t want to sign a long-term lease or buy furnishings.

DSC03482 (1300x859)I was talking about the prospect and the alternatives with friends, getting my mind around what psychic space I was looking for beyond the physical one.  And that relates back to concepts of expat success and failure (perhaps equally to entrepreneurial traits as well, although I haven’t thought that through yet).

I became an expat seeking new opportunities, shared experiences and a better life.  As much as I dislike moving, it’s an evolutionary step along that same road towards something better. I won’t step down with a promise to climb back up later.  So, its important that the destination be a bit aspirational (while still in reach) to advance my happiness and self-respect.

At the same time, expat failure happens when people don’t recognize the importance keeping some familiar things important to them, not allowing them to be given up in moving.  They are often small things, overlooked: Adapting to the speed of grocery checkout or socializing in line waiting, not talking with friends on skype or being visited by family as often as expected, difficulties being understood in a new language or having a social invitation rejected in a new culture.  So, it’s important that I know how to hold onto foundational things important to my everyday life.

DSC03479 (1300x975)Fortunately, the weather has emptied the market of movers, so there are lots of properties available at reasonable rates.  I’ll take the weekend in London / Cambridge to consider all of the possibilities, but I’d like to be moved by month’s end. 

‘lots of work to be done on top of the all my work to be done, unfortunately.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Rain, wind, rain

DSC03428 (1300x997)It probably sounds like I’m bleating on about the weather this month, all of the past week, but it’s both unusual and dominant. The FT notes that England, and particularly the south-coastal areas and the Thames, haven’t seen this much cumulative rain in 250 years.  My own travels to London, Cambridge, and Munich have been beset with disruptive gale winds, deep pools of standing water on the motorways, and trees fallen across key rail and bus lines.

But, mostly, it’s just been amazing to live near the sea and watch the changing character of the waves and tides.  The waves lapping over the seawalls, the blowing sand, the frothy white chop out to the horizon, the magnificent clouds blowing in from the south, have filled every drive along  Shore Road with memorable scenes.

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The wind brought out wind- and kite-surfers even as it sank several boats in the usually-sheltered harbour.   Storm-watchers gather over coffee and cakes in the Beach Café and huddle in cars near the chain ferry to watch the weather sweep in.   Couples venture out onto rock jetties to show their courage before scampering back ahead of crashing waves.

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Snow pixFriends tell me that Maastricht is dusted with snow; Carnivale is three weeks away and, hopefully, spring is not far beyond.  But there’s a month of winter yet to come.

Exciting times, even without the business adventures.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Dust motes

Petros Watermill

Last summer, I determinedly rearranged my day.  Previously, I leapt from bed to the computer in the morning, back again late at night, pretending that I was building a business and a life.  By late summer, early mornings were reserved for breakfast, cleaning, a walk on weekend; evenings for reading, writing, or talking with friends.  Work fit inside a firm 9-to-6 envelope, properly, very Dutch.

Winter challenged that schedule.  Dark and rainy mornings, frequent trips to London and Cambridge, coastal opportunities around Dorset, pecked away at my container gardens (happy in Maastricht) and cleaning (unnecessary in Sandbanks).  Personal time drifted, but not back to the old ways.

Mornings, while they start early, now begin with quiet reading, coffee at the beach, or writing letters.  Evenings drift towards exercise, Dutch, and long conversations.  Weekends are walks and museums, shared dinners and café conversations.  Work still stays absolutely in-bounds: It gets done, but, as I illustrated for my class last week, it must take its place.

I read the Times and FT, a novel and essays, each morning, clipping thoughts to Pocket and Evernote along the way.  And then I share with friends, write down a few thoughts, work the propositions through:

I used the process of writing to figure out what, precisely, it was that I wanted to say. Writing was not a matter of taking a prefabricated thought and setting it down on paper, but using the act of setting words down on paper to determine just what that thought might be.  Saul Austerlitz

I find this dialectic between quiet reflection and intimate conversation, dialog with myself and with others, to be as vital a part of my day as email or conference calls.  David Brooks meditated on this theme yesterday:

19th-century rugged individualism says we stand strong and self-reliant; 20th-century authenticity holds that we be true to our sincere inner self.  But, we are also wired to connect, to be part of communities… Outside advice is not about approval, it’s about wisdom and about distilling enough of it to have sharpened our inner criteria.

I tend to think in propositions, in ideas collected, saved, and tweeted.  These are dust motes of thought, illuminated and stirred into motion by quiet reflection and trusted conversation, respectively.

And particularly as an expat entrepreneur, living off the land at the frontier as I do, distant from family and familiar community, taking time to read-reflect-discuss-write is as important as any thrashing at a keyboard or telephone.

Probably more.