An irregular diary of life in a lovely Covid bubble – part 9

I know, I know, I know. What a pity to start back on alcohol after a whole January-free month, but sadly that is what I did, albeit only for a couple of days. Tuesday (1st) I left it until late in the evening to give a glass of wine a try, and I have to say I didn’t really like it so I pretty much decided that February would be alcohol-free too. But then we were out for dinner with friends a few days later, and even though I started off drinking sparkling water (which really isn’t very exciting) within an hour the red wine opened and off I went (although, in my defence, I can now say that I have been safely back on the wagon ever since).

The consequence of the early February mishap was that I didn’t sleep at all well that night and I was awake feeling extremely shabby early the next morning. I decided that the best thing to do was to take myself off to the beach for a bit of a run, and really there are not many better ways of getting rid of a hangover. A beautiful morning, the sea completely still, the sun coming up over the horizon, Gibraltar so clear just across the water that I could almost see the monkeys, and the coastline of Africa just a short swim away (or so it appeared).

I don’t often say ‘that was a lovely run’ – generally I just suffer it (unlike Jan who prances along chatting to anyone that catches his eye and generally enjoying every minute) – but that really was a lovely run. Made all the better by being overtaken by Marko Djokovic (Nole’s younger brother) out for his own early morning jog, and whilst I only managed to keep up for a while, it was a nice view for the time that I was following him!

I pondered whilst running how difficult it must be to be Nole’s younger brother – not because of Nole being a dick (sorry) but having started his life as, apparently, the son with the most natural talent, poor old Marko never really made it and he is now a coach at the tennis centre down the road from us (and not a very good one, if the coaches at my own club are to be believed!). I remember following my own sister to school a few years after she was the ‘star pupil’, and being told, if I did well, that it was only to be expected (due to my being the younger sister) and when I did less well (most of the time!), that I should try to work as hard as her, blah, blah, blah…. multiply that feeling a few million times over and I suppose that is how it is for Marko…

When I started back on the blog again after a few months away, I had planned that it should be reasonably regular, but honestly, at the moment, it is difficult to write. By now, we all thought, Covid would be well and truly over (hahaha – apparently it is, if you believe what the UK government have to say), that BJ and his merry men would all have been chucked out and locked up (also hahaha, and you wonder if they ever will be), and then that we would all be able to talk about more interesting things. I do try. But whilst I can bang on indefinitely (as you have noticed) about tennis, and also about horse-racing (but I don’t), plus, of course, about business (such as it is!), life is still very much a more slightly more interesting version of Groundhog Day – just as it was in the early lockdown days of 2020. Even in the CR, which can usually be depended on to throw up a few weird and wonderful things to laugh or cry about, things are relatively quiet, whilst in Spain everything has been so normal for so long now that we almost want another strict lockdown to liven things up a bit (I am joking, if anyone in the Spanish government is reading this.. .British humour!!).

One thing that I have, though, been very excited about, is that I am shortly going to be granted citizenship of Austria. Maybe I have mentioned it before in this blog, but my late Dad came to the UK as a young child on one of the ‘kinder trains’ just before his family were taken off to Auschwitz, and, to cut a very long story short he took British citizenship in the 50s, at the same time anglicising the family name to Weaver. It always upset me when the kids at my school never believed my stories (my Mum’s being even more ‘exotic’ than his), but bearing in mind that I grew up in posh and very countrified Tunbridge Wells (Royal), where many of the locals have rarely if ever come across a foreigner, nor would they understand the difference between German and Austrian (hence the change of name), it is not that surprising.

Anyway, the idea of applying for Austrian citizenship came about due to Brexit, of course, and whilst it was difficult, if not impossible, when the whole Brexit mess started, somewhere along the line the Austrian government decided to allow ‘children of parents or grandparents that had been displaced due to the Holocaust’ to retain the citizenship of the country that they pitched up in, AND apply for Austrian citizenship too. So that meant me, and next week I will be turning up at the Austrian Embassy in Prague to be properly ‘inaugurated’. I’m not quite sure what that means – presumably a new outfit is necessary, and possibly I will need to show proficiency in yodelling or something similar. But by the end of next week I will no longer be known as plain old Jo Weaver, but will take back my original name of Baroness Joanna von Weber. Or madam if that is easier.

As you might have gathered, in our household there is always an element of competitiveness in whatever we might be doing, so Jan, feeling slightly irked that I will now have citizenship or residency in three different countries, has decided that it is time for him to do something about his own roots (he is Czech with a British passport), which means that he has now decided to start the ball rolling and investigate the possibilities of applying for citizenship from his grandfather’s country which, you will not be surprised to learn if you have read this blog for a while, is Serbia… I will leave it at that.

An irregular diary of life in a Covid bubble – Part 8

As is now becoming a habit, I started this blog whilst being a ‘guest’ on Eurowings, flying back from Prague to Malaga.   I mentioned what a great experience that was last time, and this flight was no different.   However, I have to say that arriving at Prague Airport on Saturday morning was pretty damn depressing as there was absolutely no-one there – as can be seen from the photos here.  Even the customs officials were chatty as they were so bored, whilst the few shops that were open were desperate; most with up to 70% discount on all products, and all with just one person standing around wondering what to do.    Our boarding gate was positively buzzing compared to all the others, with about 20 people preparing to get onto our flight – which begs the question, how much longer are these planes going to keep flying (again).  

Whilst we experienced deserted airports when we first started flying after our 100 days of lockdown in March-June 2020, I don’t really understand it now.   Is it because people are still worried about catching Covid on the plane (in which case, as I have said before, don’t be!) At the moment, airports and planes are probably the safest places to be, since no-one can venture near them without being vaccinated and tested up to the eyeballs).  Or, in the case of the Czech Republic in particular, because it seemed to us that just about everyone has Covid?!   I say that as our stay in Prague was a bit of a waste of time with so many of our meetings and other activities cancelled due to people being either sick or in quarantine, so in the end we didn’t achieve too much (added to which I refused to even go out if I didn’t have to as it was just so cold – nice to see the snow, of course, but so much nicer to return to the sun!)

We did, though, get our booster (to which I , ‘Mrs Allergy’, managed to have a nasty allergic reaction – a sore rash (which I believe is called ‘coming out in hives’ but that sounds hideous) all over my neck and ‘decollage’ – also to have our boiler repaired (unbelievable that it packed up the day after we arrived), order new glasses (also unbelievable that I broke them on the plane coming in), see a few of our friends and attend a couple of business meetings.  And, of course, watch a lot of the Australian Open (in my case, mostly whilst pedalling away on my very uncomfortable exercise bike) and haven’t we all (except Jan of course) forgotten about Novax, sorry Novak, now!   As expected.   (Incidentally, I wrote this bit before I saw on the news this morning that it looks as if Novax’s Covid test WAS doctored – I was going to say ‘incredible’ but of course it is what some of us kind of expected).

Anyway, we have watched some fantastic matches and, as usual (in the men’s draw anyway) the very best players in the world came through to the semis (and would Novax have beaten all of those in his draw… personally I think not). I wonder what will happen next on the whole Novax front – we saw another bit of news over the weekend that Serbia had revoked the license for Rio Tinto (an Australian company) to continue lithium mining in their country.  Hmmm.  I can’t help feeling that that is going to turn out to be a bit of a shot in their own foot (apologies to any Serbs reading this, but I just don’t see Australia being too economically hurt from falling out with Serbia, but the reverse might apply…).

Still on tennis, sorry – watching the guys now (and girls for that matter) we always wonder how they would get on against the stars from previous generations. In the ladies’ game, in particular, things have improved so much that you can’t imagine someone like Chrissy Evert in her prime winning even a point against the girls now. Will we say the same in 20 or 30 years time? Hard to imagine. Pondering that reminded me of a bit of Czech news that I saw earlier this week – a well-known Czech businessman was fined for driving at 411 kmph on a German motorway. My first question on reading that was ‘who caught him?!’, but then I read that he had proudly posted a video of himself driving at that speed (surely the scariest bit of all is that he was actually videoing himself at the same time?), which the Germans then jumped on.

Bluebird

It is not so long ago that a British nutcase driving a car called, I think, Bluebird, regularly tried and sometimes did beat the land-speed record for a car (admittedly on a beach), but he still didn’t reach a speed of more than 400 kmph. And yet you can now buy a ‘regular’ car that can do better than that. Whether that is an improvement or not remains to be seen – which is what could be said about many things if you think about it.

Czech and Spanish news, apart from talking about Covid and arguing about politics, is mostly focused on the Ukrainian/Russian situation just now, understandably. Meantime in the UK the news veers from talking about the Ukraine, to not talking about the still awful Covid situation (which, according to BJ, is all sorted and finished), to trying not to talk about his endless partying during Covid. No doubt there will be more exposes over the next few weeks, but honestly I depress myself even writing about him (and Covid) anymore (which I am sure anyone that has read my previous blogs will be pleased to hear).

There was, though, one snippet in the UK papers that caught my eye, and that was the news that ‘young people’ nowadays do not know some of the English phrases that my generation grew up with, and that they are in danger of being lost from the language. Not on my watch, I say! As regular readers of my blog will know, I love to use some of these phrases (and actually did, above!), even though they can cause some confusion for non-native-English speakers (even Jan, who calls himself (and is, also,) British, and does speak, admittedly, perfect English, can be surprised sometimes!).

I have mentioned before about my assistant being concerned about her boyfriend’s ex-wife ‘taking him for a ride’ (something that seems to happen on a regular basis in the CR… sorry if I ‘have dropped a clanger’), and I regularly ‘go pear-shaped’ and get ‘my knickers in a twist’, plus I do need to ‘spend a penny’ from time to time. You ‘get my drift’ – and if you don’t, Google ’50 popular English phrases and you will find the explanations. For now, anyway, I will leave it at that as even here in Marbella the evenings are a bit chilly, and I am at risk of becoming as ‘cold as a witch’s’ tit’.

An Irregular diary of life in a lovely Covid bubble – Part 7

Prague in winter

Yesterday morning we set off back to Prague for a few days, leaving our house just after the announcement was made that Nole (i.e. Novak Djokovic) was finally being sent back home from Australia.  In my case, that was good news since it means that all of us tennis fans can now concentrate on the tournament itself (and, contrary to what the non-tennis pundits think, it was and is wide open this year – Nole was by no means a certainty) – but my travelling partner, one of his biggest fans as previously mentioned, spent most of the journey muttering rude words in various different languages under his breath, and generally being very unpleasant to everyone that spoke to him, especially me.

For sure this is not going to be the end of the Djokovic story – we will see how that pans out over the coming days – but personally (me being a Roger fan of course), and apart from everything else, I am cross that if Nole never wins another grand slam (and that may well be the case) we will always hear that ‘had he been allowed to play in Australia, he might have gained another one and beaten Roger/Rafa’s record’ and that will be really annoying for us fans. Let’s hope Roger or Rafa win one instead, since surely being the ‘GOAT’ (‘Greatest of All Time’) also includes behaviour off the court, and on that they win hands down, even without this latest Nole story (his fans already talk about what a shame it was that he hit the line judge with a ball at the 2019 US Open and got disqualified, as he could have won that one too – but didn’t).  

Anyway, we may well forget about all three of the GOATs soon, as my personal feeling on the men’s tennis front is that one of the Russians will win most things for the next few years, and if it is not them, then it will probably be Zverev (who, whilst being German is, of course, Russian too) or Tsitsipas (who is… ah yes, at least half Russian). But there are always the other youngsters (and even ‘youngersters’) and, in the case of the Grand Slams in particular, outsiders too….

Our trip to Prague has been brought about partly due to Jan’s need to be in court this week (for work, not for anything that he has done) and partly in order to have our ‘booster’ – and, thankfully, that passed without incident this morning, when, for a change, we allowed plenty of time to find the place, swept in and out at speed, and were back home within an hour, which was a very good thing as it was absolutely freezing….

I have mentioned before how we have turned into wimps from spending so much time in the warmth of Marbella over the past two years. As usual nowadays, the shock to our systems when we arrived in minus whatever last night was huge, and that will, for sure, stop us from doing as much as we might have liked whilst we are here.  With tennis and running outside out of the question, I have dusted off both of the apps that I used in the deepest darkest days of our Spanish lockdown in March 2020 and will be belly-dancing and ‘7-Apping’ every day that we are here, plus I am now through to my Day 17 of alcohol-free January, which I am presently planning to continue into February, so I am feeling almost saintly. 

But only almost. I have read a lot about the benefits of doing these alcohol-free months (like I needed to – let’s face it, it’s not rocket science!), but I must say that, aside from all the obviously good things that going without alcohol brings about, such as sleeping better and having a clearer head in the morning, there IS a downside, and that is that I keep thinking that I have loads of calories in hand (from the lack of booze) so can eat more… and being stuck indoors with not too much to do means that I spend most of the time thinking about food. And God, sometimes the temptation to say ‘stuff it’ (literally), ‘I’m just going to eat and drink whatever I like and go into old age as a great fat cow’ is hard to resist. (English friends may recognise the style of the attached image by the late and great Beryl Cook, whose paintings I was obsessed with years ago, even managing to buy a limited print before they got way too expensive! Nowadays, I am thinking to model myself on her images rather than buy them…!).

You will have noticed that I have not yet mentioned the UK government.  For some reason, when I am in Prague I seem to take less notice of what is happening there, but of course my Twitter monitoring each morning is keeping me up to date. Actually there is nothing too new – only more revelations about parties in Downing Street (honestly, it seems that life for BJ and his merry-men is just one big party), court decisions confirming that it was corrupt of the government to hand over yet another contract to one of the relevant Minister’s buddies (in this case Hand-on-cock’s) without a proper tender, BJ apparently ‘sheltering’ due to a ‘family member’ having Covid (probably a great aunt who lives in Cornwall or something, but a risk nonetheless), in other words hiding from the cameras until this latest round of scandals dies down – like I say, nothing too new. But at least we can look forward to the report from the ‘independent’ investigator, Sue Gray – who, if nothing else, will be able to tell Boris whether he attended any of these parties or not. And, as the jokes that have been doing the rounds recently have said, they must have been very good parties if he needs an independent investigator to tell him that.

Apparently today, the 17th of January, is the ‘most depressing day’ of the year in the UK (and blimey, it has had a lot of competition over the past few years!) I wonder if it is the same here in the Czech Republic – looking out at the dark grey sky and the rain/sleet that is pouring down I think it could be. Hey ho. Where’s that bloody chocolate cake?

An irregular diary of life in a lovely Covid bubble – Part 6

Rain clouds over Marbella

Anyone that has been reading my blog over the last couple of years will know that two of the things that I am most interested in are politics and tennis, so you can imagine how weirdly exciting all of the news is at the moment! Despite my New Year’s resolution to keep away from ranting about Boris Johnson and his merry men, and another to not spend as much time on Twitter, I have broken them both big time in the last few days, and I am afraid that there is no hope of my restoring them any time soon.

As far as BJ is concerned, it does seem that he has spent the last two years partying and making babies (perish the thought), and it looks as if the partying may well be what will finally bring him down (which to anyone that doesn’t follow the UK news in the same way as I do might seem strange in view of his complete uselessness in handling Covid, his ridiculous support of Brexit and pushing through his oven-ready deal, and all of his other demeanours). By the time I send this blog out, it may be that he has done the right thing and stepped down (although God knows who will then replace him) but it does seem to me that whatever he does, he gets away with it… so I suspect that nothing much will happen. We will know soon.

In the case of Djokovic, well, I am not a great supporter of him, as you probably know (although one of the other things that I am most interested in is my partner Jan, and he is one of ‘Nole’s’ biggest (and possibly, now, only) fans, so you can imagine the atmosphere in our house at the moment), mainly as I don’t much like his style of tennis and I have supported Roger (Federer) for the last hundred years. But this latest story is really incredible. An ardent anti-vaxxer (and that, in my view, is a good enough reason to dislike him) he has obviously spent a good part of the last few months figuring out a way to get into Australia to play in the Australian Open next month, since it has always been clear that only vaccinated players can take part. For ‘some reason’, he applied for an Australian visa at the beginning of December (just in case??), then on the 16th he had a positive Covid test (just by chance?), and then he was seen out in public on the 16th, 17th and 18th (unmasked and untroubled). But the positive test in the past six months meant that, in theory, he could now play in Australia.

What it didn’t mean is that he could fly to Spain (we saw him in Marbella on 2nd January but not sure when he arrived.. and we know that if you come in by private plane, the customs don’t take much notice of you…!) and then he turned up in Australia with a locator form that failed to mention that he had been anywhere except Belgrade in the past fourteen days…. hmmm. Which he blamed on his agent (haha – wouldn’t like to be in his shoes if that was true, but since his agent was probably here too, you would think that one or other of them would realise that they had both been in Spain?). Knowing how things can be in the former Eastern Europe, my money is on a fake test certificate (which, at this point, would probably get him into less trouble than being seen out and about Covid positive!).

Shocking as it might sound, I hear on good authority that it is possible to get a fake vaccination certificate in the CR for about Euro 500, and I myself was offered blank antigen papers to fill in by a doctor (I joke not)… so it doesn’t really stretch the imagination to think that Nole, in Belgrade, couldn’t get anything he wanted within a very short amount of time. Just saying. My money, at the moment, is on him being deported soon. But, again, we will see. And, by the way, how much would I love to be his PR just now (or Johnson’s for that matter – shallow? I know!).

Still on the subject of tennis, I note that the BBC Sportsperson of the Year and now OBE, Emma Raducanu, was knocked out in the first round of her warm-up tournament yesterday (0:6, 1:6) – sorry, I am not a bitch, and I don’t have anything against her personally, but I just find it so ridiculous that she was given all of these awards for winning one tournament, when there are so many other great sportspeople (and people generally) out there that get no support at all. Hey ho. Life is not fair, as we all know.

I learned about life not being fair when I was very young and we always had it drummed into us that whatever you think you have, you have nothing if you don’t have your health. I had a very good girlfriend when I was a teenager who was waiting for a kidney transplant and that was very gruelling, and we all carried ‘kidney donor’ cards because of it (something specific to the UK). I was reminded of that when I saw a piece of news on Twitter yesterday that I found rather fascinating. For the first time (and apparently they have been trying for a long time), surgeons in the US were able to transplant a heart from a pig (albeit genetically modified) into a human being (a man who would have died that day so this was a ‘last resort’ type of thing) and at this point it seems to have been a success. That seemed to me to be an incredible piece of news that should have been given a lot more coverage, since if it continues to be a success we might get to a point when there is an indefinite supply of hearts available for those that need it (and people will become, according to Jan, ‘pig-hearted rather than pig-headed….sorry). But then I read a tweet by my favourite ‘dragon’ from Dragons Den, Deborah Meaden, who said she was appalled about this news as it raises all sorts of ethical issues and reminds of her of Frankenstein. Which I suppose it does. I will be interested to hear what other people think.

Phew. Sorry to go on. I really don’t spend the whole day reading Twitter and watching the news, but with the rain falling in Marbella, I clearly have too much time on my hands! Added to that, I am now up to day 12 of my alcohol-free January which I am finding relatively easy – made all the more so as I was given a bottle of alcohol-free Cava by St Rostya (Ok but not great – the cava not Rostya) and found, having seen an advert for it, a bottle of alcohol-free gin (Tanqueray) which is pretty near to the real thing and which I am now guzzling like a lunatic. Fantastic.

So that’s it for now. I’ll be back when there is something interesting to report – which, the way things are going at the moment, is likely to be soon!

An irregular diary of life in a lovely Covid Bubble – Part 5

New Year’s Eve passed as planned; at 11.30 pm we dragged ourselves down to the beach (I say ‘dragged’ as that is late for me nowadays (again, whatever has happened – I used to be such a raver!!), ready to watch the fireworks that are set off all around the bay as the clock strikes midnight.

I am never overly enthusiastic about fireworks as when I was growing up in the UK, Guy Fawkes Night was almost as big as Easter and Christmas, and we, like everyone around us, had our own bonfire and fireworks (cooking baked potatoes in the fire and admiring a series of rockets, sparklers, ‘catherine wheels’ and so on firing off from our own garden every year until the UK decided to make them illegal, and then we went to the annual ‘firework show’ in the nearby park – by which time, I had been well and truly put off them anyway by hearing of a girl at my school that had been injured by a rocket being fired into her eye. Besides which, I do kind of think that if you have seen one firework show, you have seen them all – but, I have to say, the beach show this year was pretty spectacular, made even more enjoyable by Jan having brought a bottle of champagne with him for us to properly toast the New Year whilst watching….!

Despite the bottle of champagne on the beach, and a bit more when we got back in to ‘warm up’, we actually didn’t feel too shabby on New Year’s Day, so I was off playing tennis quite early whilst Jan was running, and then we spent half of the day doing what those of you that have read this blog before will remember that we enjoy immensely, and that is the cleaning out of the pool in readiness for the New Year. We know how to enjoy ourselves. By about mid afternoon though we had had enough of it, so took ourselves off for a walk, stopping off at my tennis partner’s house on the way home in order for Jan to share in a spot of Cognac with her husband, whilst I sat virtuously sipping a glass of water. Day 1 of ‘dry January’ well and truly underway.

Days 2 and 3 of dry January have continued with my feeling extremely pleased with myself that it is all going so well. It’s a strange thing this ‘no boozing’ – I do it every January, and whilst during the rest of the year, especially when we are in Spain where the wine is so fab, it can be difficult to resist drinking, for some reason January 1st comes along and I find it all relatively easy (OK, it’s still early days…) but I think it is something to do with ‘if not now, when’. With a view to continuing my good habits, I have also purposely avoided watching any news relating to Covid on Twitter and other channels and by doing so, found a couple of interesting pieces that I thought to include here.

One was a project I read about in Turkey (I am always interested in Turkey as many people will know, as I spent a long time there in a previous life), plus it being Christmas (Jan will fall about laughing at this little play on words!) it seemed particularly appropriate. Apparently some mega wealthy Turk got it into his head that people with money like to live in turreted palaces (think Disney), so decided to build a huge great estate full of them in the middle of the Turkish mountainside, on the basis that there would be a huge rush to buy one.. sadly, after spending more than USD 200 million, the houses all stand empty and the whole development is now a tourist attraction…. looks pretty damned creepy if you ask me.

Why am I talking about this? Ah yes. I suppose it is because I have spent the last thirty years watching various of my fellow ‘brat-packers’ from the early days in Prague making a small fortune in real estate development, and always thinking that I went into the wrong business, since it has never seemed to me that there is a great amount of knowledge required – just the ability to persuade banks to lend huge amounts of money (blimey… that’s going to make me popular…!). That also reminds me of a group of us in about 1991 sitting around a table at the inaugural ‘Prague entrepreneurs society’ which I and a few others had rather pompously set up, and one of us, my good friend James, saying that if we all put GBP 10,000 into a pot, he would go and buy a building. Sadly none of us had GBP 10,000 at that time (but he did, and he duly went off and bought several buildings and quite a lot of other stuff too!).

And then there was this story (well article), posted by a friend in Prague. It’s not really Covid, more ‘Brexit-related’. And it’s very depressing, so not a good way to end a light and fluffy New Year’s blog. But it needs reading and, at the very least, sharing…

Sorry to end on such a note, but I did say before that I am aiming for a year of ‘confelicity’ and I have just had that, since I hear that a good friend of mine, who I also sent this article to, is going to push a load of cash their way. Marvellous. More from me soon.

An irregular diary of life in a Covid bubble of loveliness – Part 4

I’m sure I’m not the only one that in the lead-up to Christmas pretends that there is nothing much to get excited about but, actually, I am usually secretly stressing about it all; what to buy the most impossible man in the world, what else I need to get, whom I mustn’t forget, what I need to organise, etc. Which means that I always wake up on Boxing Day with a feeling of relief that it is all over (combined with a hangover and a feeling that I ate way too much and will have to starve for the next few days to make up for it).

AD

Having said that, we had a very nice time this year, despite the fact that it poured with rain more or less continually from early Christmas Day until the morning of the 27th (or, as our adoptive daughter put it, ‘two rainy days of pissing non-stop – nature obviously needed it (I presume she was talking about the weather…!)). I say our ‘adoptive daughter’ (‘AD’) – she is not, of course, our daughter, nor is she adopted by us – she is, in fact, our Czech ‘girlfriend’ down here whom we met not long after she got divorced and whom we have advised on a regular basis as she has wheeled out various unsuitable (and unsavoury) suitors – the result being that she named us her ‘adopted parents’ (or AP) from then on. Personally, I would have preferred to be called her ‘AS’ or similar (adopted sister) since she loves to address us as ‘Mum’ or ‘Dad’, especially in public, and it is always a bit irritating when no-one comments on the fact that I, in particular, am way too young to be her Mum…. At least she is extremely beautiful and no-one comments on that either, so that’s something.

Anyway, Christmas came and went in a blur of food, drink, socialising and exercising – we even dragged ourselves out to run on both Christmas Day and Boxing Day mornings despite the rain – in order to build up a bit of calorie reserve, and even though the rain in Spain is particularly wet, running by the side of the sea, with the waves crashing down and not too many other people to avoid, can be quite invigorating. But for the last few days the sun has been beating down, everything is returning to near normality, and we are now pondering what the New Year will bring.

What I am sure will be high on my list is the monitoring of the news and social media again as Covid continues to be the biggest talking point for most of us (even though we try to avoid it as much as possible). This morning I pondered the fact that two of our British friends, both living in or near to London, got cold feet about coming to Spain (and Andalusia, in particular – which has a population of more than 8.5 million and a daily Covid positive number of about 500) – one because he had read in the UK media that people have to wear a mask all the time and the other as she had read that foreigners, even double or treble vaccinated, would not be allowed into the hotels without first showing a test. Both reasons being, of course, being completely daft (and incorrect).

What is incredible is that (a) the media outside of Spain have barely mentioned how amazingly the country has been doing for the past eighteen months (for fear it shows them up I guess) but the minute the numbers started rising, off they went, blowing everything out of proportion, (b) that anyone living on what the ‘Twitterers’ generally call ‘Plague Island’ (the UK) would worry about coming here for whatever reason, since life has been more or less normal for ages now, and (c) why masks, in the UK, are still viewed with such horror. I just don’t get it, especially when you consider that the biggest difference between most of Europe and the UK is that in most parts of Europe, social distancing and mask wearing has continued, even during the summer when the numbers were low, whilst in the UK the government still continues to struggle with both, and in the last week alone it has had nearly a million positive cases (!!!! bloody HELL – I just had to check that, but it’s true!!). I doubt that anyone likes wearing masks – I don’t like them, Jan hates them, but what’s the big deal? I don’t much like wearing shoes, as my feet always hurt, but I do, and Jan would much prefer to go naked at all times (masked or otherwise), but despite that still gets dressed every day. But there we are. Life is not fair…

On the ‘life is not fair’ subject and moving on from Covid for now, I was in the gym the other morning watching highlights of the Paralympics from earlier this year being shown on Spanish TV (diverting my attention from the incredible boredom of being on the cross-trainer). I am ashamed to say that we hadn’t watched any of it before (due, of course, to being burned-out from 24 hours a day watching of the Olympics themselves) but wow! They were repeating various races for blind runners, and aside from marvelling at the ‘blind runners’ themselves, I was struck by how amazing their ‘partners’ are – imagine doing all of that training and competing purely to enable someone else to take part and succeed. How completely selfless and wonderful that is (oh, that reminds me of a word I read on Twitter this morning (but in a different context) – ‘Confelicity’ – taking joy in the happiness of others. Something to think about). But, anyway, watching all those blind-runners was pretty emotional and made me think that if wearing a mask is all we have to complain about, we are pretty damn lucky.

New Year’s Eve in Marbella

So New Year’s Eve is upon us and 2022 looms. We shall be spending some of today on the beach (maybe a spot of sunbathing in the afternoon, definitely watching the fireworks that can be seen right around the bay at midnight), after playing tennis this morning (me) and running (Jan). And then we will be looking ahead to next week when I will be starting my usual ‘dry January’ and, for sure, struggling with it like mad – so expect some grumpiness in the coming weeks. But needs must. We will also be visiting a few lovely houses as our ‘finding a property for friends’ project (www.liveinmarbella.com) is starting to take off, and quite a few people we know are beginning to think seriously about joining us down here. Anyway, I will be back soon. For now, though, I wish everyone a good New Year’s Eve celebration and let’s hope for a lot of confelicity in 2022, along with a bit of joy for ourselves. Happy New Year (Feliz Ano!/Stastny Novy Rok!)!.

An irregular diary of life in a Covid bubble of loveliness – Part 3

Christmas in Marbella
fruit and veg at the local market

As it gradually gets a bit cooler down here in Marbella, and with the numbers, even in Andalusia, rising (as we all expected in the winter), we are making a conscious effort to eat healthily, and (in my case anyway), to cut our drinking down (in order to make way for gallons of the stuff over the next few days!). It is much easier to eat well here, as opposed to Prague, since there are always fresh fish, nice meat and amazing vegetables available, and I have been going a bit crazy about hitting our ‘5 a day’ on fruit and veg, as well, of course, as doing 10,000 steps in addition to our usual training.

The downside of all the fruit and veg, though, especially when combined with beer (in Jan’s case) is that it can sometimes make us a bit ‘anti-social’, and Jan, especially, has been known to ‘let one or two rip’ after eating (obviously not me, since I am a lady). We have actually come up with a new saying, which is ‘social farting’, something that is guaranteed to ensure that people keep their distance, whilst adding a second benefit, which is accurately testing for Covid, since they still say that the first sign of having it is losing the sense of smell, and I, for one, have not had that happen yet.

Sitting here in Marbella, it is hard to believe that it is just a few days until Christmas and then the start of another year. A second Christmas that we will spend in Spain, although this year, thank God, it is not because we don’t want to go back to the Czech Republic (this time last year, the country was having just about the worst Covid time in Europe), but because we actually want to be here. And as the wintry weather sets in, we find ourselves getting back to many of the activities that kept us sane during the early lockdown of 2020 – it is almost nostalgic! That means, of course, all of our usual exercise regimes (but, thankfully, being able to play tennis and go running means that I have parked the Bollywood app for the time-being) as well as, in my case, spending a good part of each morning on social media, in particular ranting on Twitter.

Needless to say, a good part of that ranting is directed at the English government, but for the last week I have also been making myself very unpopular with my thoughts on the result of the BBC’s ‘Sportsman of the Year’ competition (or SPOTY, as it is affectionally called). For those that don’t know, this award is given by the BBC to the British sportsperson that, in the voting public’s view, has been the biggest success/personality/whatever of the year – and since we Brits aren’t good at voting (Brexit anyone?) the result this time was yet another joke.

Mark Cavendish, not Emma Raducanu

Now I know that a lot of my friends were pleased to see Emma Raducanu, the young British tennis player, win the US Open (actually the only competition she won all year), and may well be upset by my views on this. But really? Emma Raducanu ‘Sportsperson of the Year’? Above Lewis Hamilton, Mark Cavendish (hero) Adam Peaty (also hero) and many, many others? And even more embarrassing was that the BBC thought it would be a nice gesture to get two of the biggest superstars of track cycling (with about a million Olympic gold medals between them) to come and hand out the prizes (even though they clearly weren’t worthy of being short-listed themselves). Unbelievable. Emma, of course, is a nice young girl, very pretty, and she even speaks more than one language fluently (unusual for a Brit)! And we Brits do like to have some success at tennis (and the women, especially, have very little, unsurprisingly – I keep ranting to Eurosport that they should send people over to the Czech Republic to see how to train a woman tennis player (or Spain for that matter!)). Plus I do have to wonder if Emma would have got the vote if she was a lesbian, black or, dare I even say it, less pretty? But there we are. For now, I am just putting it out there that I doubt that she will win another tournament, let alone a grand slam, for at least another two years, if at all. And if anyone wants to take me up on that, or remind me when she walks away with everything in 2022, go ahead. I am, though, ready to back this up with money!!

As you can see, I have a lot of stored up ranting to get out, but since it is Christmas I am not going to talk about the UK government too much – really, what is the point? It’s just more of the same old thing – Covid chaos (more than 100,000 new cases a day?!), BJ lying through his teeth about just about everything, and the Chief Medical Officer, Chris Twitty (sorry Witty) pleading that he put the country into some form of lockdown but being ignored, as usual (I do find it hard to understand why someone of his stature would continue to be put out there as a sacrificial lamb… but presumably he is looking ahead to writing a book one day or going out on the ‘celebrity speaker’ circuit). Meanwhile in the Czech Republic the new government has already put out a few weird Covid messages (groups must be limited over Christmas but not over New Year??) – I can’t help feeling that all those that voted against the old lot will be disappointed, but we will see.

So what about Christmas. We wont be doing too much that is different to any other day – just less restrictions on food and booze than usual. Highlights will be, for sure, lots of drinks and lunches with friends, lots of walks and runs on the beach, and endless unwrapping of presents (me). Oh, and the Queen’s Speech on Christmas Day, which Jan insists we watch religiously (I don’t mean that we are ‘religious’, it’s what we say)….

So for now, anyway, we wish you a great Christmas and let’s hope that 2022 is a significant improvement on 2021!

Happy Christmas

An irregular diary of life in a Covid bubble of loveliness. Part 2.

Marbella Old Town

So we’re back in Marbs again.   Leaving behind the snow and freezing temperatures of Prague and back to our Covid bubble of loveliness.   I have never really been one for the cold – I’m not particularly into skiing, mountains, winter sports (although I do have a bit of a penchant for ice hockey, but for different reasons 😊) – give me sun, beaches, tennis courts and heat any day.  However, after such a long time living in the Czech Republic, my body had almost got used to ridiculously low temperatures during the winter, where, especially before global-warming kicked in, it wasn’t unusual for it to hit minus 20, especially in the dark days of Jan/Feb. 

Years ago, when we only used to visit Marbella occasionally in the winter (where it averages PLUS 20 degrees!), we would be running along the beach in shorts and vests whilst the Spanish were huddled up in their fur coats and woolly scarves, looking at us as if we had just escaped from somewhere (well, I suppose we had, in a way).  But now, after nearly two years of toing and froing between the two countries, and only really toing to Prague during the summer, our bodies have forgotten what cold feels like, and when mine found out, it didn’t like it at all!

Incidentally, I wrote the first bit of this blog whilst we were flying from Prague past the Swiss mountains (covered in snow and very pretty – best place to view them from if you ask me!) on Eurowings (formerly the notorious German Wings – mention of the mountains reminded me…).  And how very civilised it was too – if you have read my blog before, you will know that I am a huge fan of Ryanair, but I must say Eurowings was a significantly better experience, reminiscent of the old days of ‘scheduled flights’ (although even they didn’t call passengers ‘guests’ as we were referred to throughout the flight!).   Anyway, it looks as if this will be our preferred way of travel for the coming months, assuming they manage to keep flying (not many guests on board on Saturday, sadly.).

Having said that, Jan was back on Ryanair yesterday, taking his first trip to the UK for nearly two years!  Of course, he (we) could have gone there before, but he refused to go if he had to put money into the Government’s coffers by way of endless Covid tests (Jan is not keen on putting money into anyone’s coffers at the best of times, as you may know!) and every time I think about going, something else happens (usually related to BJ and his merry men), that puts me off.   In the end, unfortunately, he had to fork out for a PCR test here in Spain anyway, and then another test on landing in the UK, which reinforces my view that all of the testing, really, is about money and nothing much else.

Actually, at the last minute, Jan almost changed his mind, having watched a manic-looking BJ on TV on Sunday, spouting off about moving England to Phase 4 or whatever he called it – which actually means nothing much, other than requiring the poor National Health workers to give a booster jab to a million people a day, or something ridiculous – and since most doctors and nurses are already completely exhausted, and they now have to spend their day giving boosters to people instead of doing their normal job, all other medical procedures are to be put on hold.   Since, as far as I can tell, everyone that has had two jabs is ready and willing to get a booster as soon as possible, I really cannot see why BJ felt the need to do a Sunday night broadcast to urge them to do just that, when, really, they/we are not the problem.  (Of course, it is possible that some clever PR person suggested that he do that to show (a) how hard he works – it being a Sunday night, (b) how ‘on the case’ he is with this, thereby diverting people’s attention from all of his other sins and (c) how exhausted he is from both (a) above and having yet another new baby, God forbid,… so some of the more pro-government people out there might just feel sorry for him. I don’t. But in my previous life as a clever PR person, I would probably have suggested that he do the same!).

I know I sound like a broken record, but, yet again, I just don’t understand why BJ and his merry men never seem to look at other countries and what they are doing. Instead they spout off their idiotic ideas as if they are the only government that has or is having to deal with Covid… maybe it is because it is a ‘different’ Covid in the UK (in the same way as, as one of our English friends suggested to us earlier in the year, the Pfizer vaccine that we had is a ‘different kind of vaccine’ to the one being used in the UK.  Honestly. It makes me MAAAAADDD.). May I suggest that most of Europe puts a huge amount of faith in wearing a mask, and certainly in Spain everyone wears one as a matter of course and never really complains (but maybe they are a ‘different kind of mask’ to those in the UK…?!) – I know that if and when I eventually head over there, I will be wearing my mask at all times (and, let’s face it, they are a pretty good way to keep your nose warm, as I found out in the CR. I am thinking to invest in a furry one soon.

Manolo Santana and some other bloke

Anyway, enough of that. Sad news on our arrival on Saturday when we learned that Manolo Santana, one of the biggest names in tennis and a legend in Spain (and the owner of the club where I play) had died.   This came as no real surprise to us as he had been very ill for some time now (with Parkinsons and/or Altzheimer’s…not quite sure which as it has been a closely-guarded secret), but judging by all of the outpouring of grief amongst the tennis community on Twitter, and the messages saying ‘how tragic’ his death was, clearly no-one outside of his close circle had a clue what had been going on. Which is strange and sad.  Those of us that have known, know that his death is not tragic.  Sad, yes, but the tragic thing was that he got such a terrible illness in the first place, and it has been awful to watch him fade away, both physically and mentally.   All that can really be said now is that hopefully the great man will be able to ‘rest in peace’, something that he was clearly not able to do for the past few years.

It’s not all doom and gloom. The sun has been shining ever since we got here, and I am gradually getting into the Christmas mood. This morning, after an early tennis training session and some bits of work, I was out hunting for Christmas trees with Saint Rostya (who I talked about a lot in my 100 day diary) who is staying around the corner from us and had asked me if I knew where she could buy one. Jan had suggested that maybe she should do without a Christmas tree and instead dress up some of the palm trees in her lovely garden, but after seeing this photo this morning, I felt that we should at least make an effort to find something more traditional, and thankfully, we found not only some lovely trees, but a lot of lovely things to go with.

More about lovely things in due course.

An irregular diary of life in a Covid bubble of loveliness

It is a while since I stopped my regular daily blog, mostly as life had, for us, gone back to a kind of ‘new normal’ and I didn’t have too much to say (well, I could have written a party-political broadcast about the UK pretty much every day, but that would have been exhausting…. And boring for anyone reading it..!).  

We have been toing and froing between Spain and the CR on a regular basis (yes, we are two of those people that have been flying regularly, and contrary to what so many people have been saying on the various FB pages that Jan still follows (and rants on) regularly, we have found it very easy and safe.  Frankly, the airports and airlines were much quicker to get into ‘Covid-safe mode’ than anywhere else – up until recently, where else could you go where everyone that sets foot inside is wearing a high-quality mask, and has at least been vaccinated or had a test, or, in many cases, had both?!).  I have never understood the paranoia that we have been reading about either flying oneself (I mean in a plane) or the people who DO fly (who many feel are responsible for depositing Covid all over the place).  I beg to differ as neither of those suggestions make sense.

But, anyway, with all of this new variant stuff kicking off, and as we come to the end of our latest visit to Prague before we hunker back down in Spain again, I found myself with so many things that I needed to rant about, that I decided that it is high time I started up a new blog series – maybe not on a daily basis, but as often as I feel the need to get something ‘off my chest’, so to speak (and to those that are not familiar with this expression, it is not what it sounds like).

First of all, one of mine and most people’s favourite subjects; vaccines. We spent the early part of 2021 arguing with each other as to when, where and how to get our vaccines. As soon as it was possible for us to get them in the CR, I wanted to whiz back and grab one, but Jan couldn’t see the point, his view being that whilst we were staying in our ‘Covid bubble of loveliness’ we didn’t need to worry, whilst I DID worry as I thought if we didn’t grab them while we could, we might miss out. However, tying in booking a vaccination with getting a flight was difficult (I leave that bit here as I am boring myself already), and in the end we only flew back to Prague in the middle of the summer for both jabs. And even though it was a performance (which I will describe later), and even though neither of us likes needles, or were worried about catching Covid, or anything else really, we were pleased to be able to announce ourselves duly ‘double-jabbed’ (now, of course, I am stressing that all my friends have had their THIRD jab and I won’t be able to get mine for another month. Just shows how these things can play with your head).  

On my previous visit to Prague I had one of my regular check-ups with my ‘allergy doctor’ (who is the most fantastic doctor EVER…if you think you are getting allergic to ANYTHING, he will sort it), and he asked me if I had had a reaction to the vaccine, since I am generally allergic to just about everything (husbands included) and he had worried that I might – but I had none.  He himself had an interesting opinion on anti-vaxxers in the Czech Republic, saying ‘in a country which has the highest rate of alcoholism per capita, smokes the most cigarettes, and every time I open the door there is someone asking me to give them a pill prescription for this, that and the other, it is hard to imagine quite how stupid these people are who refuse the vaccine.’  And what a very good point he had.   Which reminds me, nicely, of a video I happened upon the other day (click the link at the top):

https://fb.watch/9LhtUClwgx/

Anyway, back to why I do, occasionally, have an allergic reaction to husbands; our vaccination day.  We had arrived in Prague late the night before, and were up early ready to head to Vinohradska nemocnice for our long-awaited first jab (well, long-awaited by me, anyway.).  Mine was at 11.05 and Jan’s at 11.10.  I suggested that we leave at 10.30, just in case (we are pretty near, but I had read that if you didn’t turn up on time, you could miss your slot).  Jan, however, didn’t feel the same sense of urgency, and our departure was therefore ‘delayed’ due to his late arrival home from running.    In the end, we left at 10.40, ‘plenty of time’ he said, since ‘we would find the vaccination site easily once we got to the hospital grounds’. 

Dressed in shorts, T-shirt and flip flops as it was one of the hottest days of the year, we marched in silence to the tram stop, then to the hospital, and then, of course, we couldn’t actually find the vaccination site at all, since, we found out, it was actually about 2 km away and apparently ‘we should go back to the tram stop as it was too far to walk’ – by this time it was 10.55.   Jan, though, felt it would be quicker to walk across the hospital grounds as he now ‘knew’ where to go, so we walked, very fast, until we got to the road where the site was supposedly located.  By this time it was 11.05 and we were in all-out-war mode, not helped when the next person we asked told us that the site was at the end of the road, and the road looked very, very long.  So we started running – in flip flops, shouting at each other all the way – until we arrived at the site, saw a great long queue which we jumped, found an  administrator, Jan turned on the ‘charm’, and we swept in to one of the kiosks ‘just’ fifteen minutes late.   By that time we were soaked in sweat and my heart was racing to the point that I thought I could be the first person to die BEFORE having the vaccine.  But all was OK – the only blip was when Jan stopped the nurse just before his jab in order for him to have his photo taken – she was so irritated that she banged the needle in when he wasn’t looking and then had to act as if she was doing it again for the sake of the camera.  

I suspect that that is just about all that anyone will want to hear about vaccinations, so will leave it at that for now (even though I could keep it going by talking about our second vaccine. I know. You would think that that would have gone smoothly. Haha.)  So here we are, coming to the end of another trip to Prague, and wondering if our double-vaxxed status has been enough to keep us from catching the ‘new variant’.  I say that in inverted commas as (a) all the guff I have been reading (and I have been reading A LOT, since there is not always so much else to do!) has said that all viruses develop new variants all the time, and (b) my friends in South Africa tell me that their information is that this ‘new variant’ has, so far, proved to be very mild and that, in fact, it could be a good thing – in viruses, apparently, one variant kills off another, so this mild one might very well kill off the former less mild one, if you see what I mean. 

And that makes me wonder.  Could this ‘new variant’ have actually been a useful excuse for the snollygosters in the UK (just using the UK as an example, of course…. 😊 – there are others too) to slam all the doors shut again (having told everyone that the UK is managing the virus so much better than everyone else in Europe (very funny, even though the case numbers have been very high for some time now)).  So much easier to say that all the new restrictions are due to ‘the new variant’ than to admit that, yet again, they have ignored all the advice and pretended that everything was back to normal.  When it clearly wasn’t.  A bit like saying that a party wasn’t a party when it clearly was… but I wont start on that….!

I am conscious that this is going on a bit and if you have made it this far you may be losing the will to live. I will just say though that it has been lovely to be back in Prague for a while… but, really, how much more of this can some of these countries take? We had lunch in our favourite restaurant today – the beautiful Zatisi – a couple of weeks before Christmas and empty. We walked across the Old Town Square – gorgeous in the minus five temperature (and blimey, I haven’t been this cold for more than two years now!) – but no Christmas market and no tourists. We bought some trinkets in one of my favourite shops, already giving 70% off as no-one is shopping there. It makes me MADDDDD. So if you are one of the anti-vaxxers and you are reading this (assuming you can read) watch the video again, and go and get a bloody jab. It’s on you.

An informal guide and ten personal tips as to what you should think about when buying a second property in the sun (or the snow!)

Marbella November sunrise

I am sure that most of us have been somewhere on holiday and said ‘wouldn’t it be lovely to have a property here’… but spending holiday time in a place and then actually going to live there (even part-time) can be two very different experiences. In case you are one of those people that is crazy enough to think about doing it, then here are ten personal tips from someone that has done it a few times!!

  1. If you really do want to buy a home in another country, then it makes sense to visit there out of season and see whether it really is as idyllic as you think. Ask the locals (not just the ‘local locals’ but foreigners living there too – in our experience, the locals will tell you how lovely it all is, the foreigners often want to tell you all the problems they have come up against! The reality is probably somewhere between the two!).
  2. Don’t ask the real estate agents (sorry, much as we love some of them!).  Their job is to sell you a property, any property, and they are very skilled in figuring out what it is about a place and/or area that you, in particular, like or dislike, and then give you lots of assurances that it has whatever that is!   If you have seen a property you like, go and snoop about outside on your own – it’s amazing how much you can find out that the agents might not tell you – the road close-by seems very quiet on a Sunday afternoon and is, in fact, a nightmare on a busy weekday morning, the sunshine that apparently is there on an afternoon (when you visited in the morning) or vice versa, the neighbours coming and going, the builders around the corner that weren’t there when you visited on a weekend, the spookiness at night-time, the traffic going up and down to the restaurant at the end of the road – we have seen it all by being nosey!
  3. Don’t appoint lawyers/surveyors/designers/builders just because they speak English – that doesn’t mean that they are good!   Plus they are usually much more expensive than the locals, just because they can be.  
  4. Check the flights/other transport links.  I know it sounds obvious, but that flight you took in the summer during peak holiday season may not go in the winter (let alone during Covid!!!) – in fact, for many destinations, there may not be any flights at all at certain times of the year – and if you want to be able to visit your second home easily and regularly, you really don’t want to be spending all day getting there (Malaga, thankfully, has become a bit of a hub and it is easy to get to and from Marbella nowadays…. It hasn’t always been so, and definitely isn’t the case with other places in Spain).
  5. Think ahead – if you really fall in love with a place (and since you are planning on buying a property there, you must at least like it!) – there may come a time when you want to visit it more often than you are planning at the moment.    For example, whilst you might not be concerned that it is cold in winter when you only plan to be there in the summer, that might not always be the case.   Or what about if you don’t fall in love with it and end up regretting buying – will it be easy to sell the property to someone else if that happens?
  6. Something else that you may not even think about if you have always stayed in hotels or serviced apartments: Creepy crawlies.  You probably wont see them if you have always stayed in a lovely hotel or serviced apartment.  But if you have an aversion to any specific creature, you might want to ask the locals if there are any problems with them!   Our first house in Spain, for example, was in an area that had a problem with cockroaches – not that we knew that when we first moved in.    The first time I found a cockroach in the bedroom it was nearly enough for me to put the house on the market there and then.   Thankfully we don’t see them often nowadays – but we have friends in other countries where snakes can be problematic in the gardens (parts of Cyprus and Greece), mosquito nets throughout the houses are an absolute necessity (Italy and Turkey), and then there are other creatures that I don’t even want to mention….   
  7. The costs of actually buying – I can’t speak for anywhere else, but I know that we were shocked when we started to think about buying in Spain and found out that the actual cost of buying is around 10% more than the actual price you are paying, by the time you cover all the different notary, legal and other local fees.   So be sure to allow for that before you set your maximum budget.
  8. The costs of running your second home – remember that you can’t just switch off all your electricity, water, WIFI etc when you leave your second home (well you could, but would you want to go through the horrible performance of getting them all switched on again?!).  So whilst you wont be using all of these things when you are not there, you still have to pay for them to be connected.  
  9. Then there are other fees – in Spanish urbanisations (even some stand-alone houses are part of some form of urbanisation) – there are monthly fees for the common parts.  Also in Spain annual fees for the rubbish collection (even if you haven’t been there and haven’t made any rubbish), non-resident taxes, in some cases wealth taxes, and then one-offs such as insurance and so on.   I can tell you, it ain’t cheap!
  10. Despite all of the above, it is a truly fantastic thing to be lucky enough to have a second home – somewhere that you can run off to (during Covid, to get some sun, to get some snow, to get some whatever…..) – and, mostly, it will end up being an investment.  Of course, from a cost point of view, and despite the likely increase in value when you come to sell it, it probably makes no sense – we worked out when we bought our first house that we could stay in the penthouse of the nearest 5 star hotel pretty much every month forever, and still have money left over compared to actually buying somewhere – but would we have done that?  Probably not.  And do we regret it?  NEVER! How could we when we can be out looking at views like this in the middle of winter!