Home, And Away

Kvarner Bay Kvarner Bay

The timing couldn’t possibly be more awkward.

I’ve just about arrived, unpacked, got my IKEA table, started battling the bureaucracy required to open a bank account and get a phone number here. And in a few short weeks I’ll already be gone again.

Not for good, of course! It’s just that I decided to spend a few months a year in Vienna around a year ago, and then I booked my upcoming stay from early February to early May when I still thought I’d be living in Ireland in my own house the rest of the time. It’s all good, though – a little weird, but good – I’m looking forward to Vienna and seeing my lovely friends for my 50th birthday, which means absolutely the world to me. It’ll be sooooooo much fun!

Of course, people will always be welcome to visit wherever I am. I do need to qualify my invation to my new home in Croatia a little, though, mostly because my flat is absolutely tiny: I don’t have any space to put up visitors in my home. Sorry! Then again, accommodation is very affordable around here in any case, and of course I’ll meet you and hug you. I obviously work here as well – so far I’ve been in Rijeka for two weeks and haven’t done any sightseeing here, because you know what, I’m self-employed! But my friends get this, and those who want to see me, are coming to my birthday anyway. I’ll take the full four days in Vienna, promise. Those will be my days off work in 2020.

sunset in Rijeka My first sunset in Rijeka

But I’m telling the story backwards. I’ll start at the beginning.

My journey through Europe was a huge adventure, as predicted. From the very rough sea crossing to France, to driving across impossibly high, arced, vertigo-causing bridges, to having to get out of the car every time to run to the left side because all the stupid toll payment stations are of course made for cars with a steering wheel on the left, France was… interesting! Then I drove through the South of Germany the next day, and once I got past Munich, the scenery became majestically beautiful.

I went into Austria, and it just continued. Gorgeous alpine landscapes and a motorway that snakes its way across tall viaducts and through narrow passes, as well as many many tunnels. Slovenia brought more mountains and forests and valleys, and I had to remind myself to keep my eyes on the road. I met Helena and we had a great evening in a restaurant whose food and wine I still dream of. I slept in a house in the woods in complete silence. Amazing.

But the most unforgettable moment came after crossing into Croatia the next morning (31st of December), when I crested the last of the alpine passes and suddenly saw the 180-degree panorama of Kvarner Bay in front of me, far ahead and very low down. Mountains on two sides, the sea on the other two. Islands ahead. The morning sun glittering on the blue water, Rijeka and Opatija nestling along the shore, not a cloud in the sky. It was breathtaking.

I realised I was looking at my new home.

That was the moment I lost it and dissolved in tears. It was just lucky there was zero traffic that morning, because I couldn’t see for a good few minutes! I continued down the mountain and eventually into the city, and the magic never stopped. The place I was staying in these first few nights is lovely (in fact, that’s where I’d recommend you stay if you come visiting), affordable, central, and run by the best people you could wish for. I spent New Year’s Eve in town with random strangers, one of whom turned out to have lived in Dublin for some years.

The next day I went on a drive around Istria – I knew it’d be my only day off and I wanted to get the lay of the land. It was another glorious, sunny day, and I had to keep pinching myself to believe that I actually live here now.

Poreč In Poreč

The next day I moved into my little cabin, which is tiny but perfect, pretty, and functional. I never want to leave! My piano got delivered a few days later, and now my life is complete. It seems stupid to leave it all behind again for three months, but then again, it’ll still be here when I get back and then I’ll have late spring, all of summer and the rest of the year here.

In short: I’m settling in, doing my work, living my life, making friends, and spending a lot more time outside the house than I used to. Yes, I do miss Ireland. When I see pictures of Massbrook, I choke up, and I haven’t found any cafe even remotely as amazing as McHugh’s. But this is my life now, and at the same time I’m self-employed and it feels like I’m waking up from a long dream, to a reality that’s impossibly beautiful.

I’ll see ye in Vienna!

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Towards Dreams


Stormy Mayo coast

I’m quite literally on the eve of my dream life.

Sure, I thought that I would have my main base in Ireland, and that didn’t happen. I will, however, live in a beautiful place, radically be non-busy and focus on the things that light me up – my businesses and my other passions:

  • Coaching (which will be my main income).
  • Languages (freelancing as proofreader and translator, also continuing to study Croatian).
  • Piano (more about that below).
  • Music in general (regular concerts, recitals, opera, whenever I get the chance. So many planned already for 2020).
  • Archery (haven’t found a club in my new home yet, but I’ll ask around once I arrive).
  • Nature and wildlife (plenty of that in Croatia).

I’ll also spend several months a year in Vienna. Come to think of it, every last thing I dreamt of is coming true, which is almost a little scary. No, not just almost. It’s actually not all that easy – people sabotage themselves all the time because they suddenly panic when things get “too good”. It’s what Gay Hendricks wrote about it The Big Leap. I’m already working on expanding my capacity for happiness, and I suspect this will be an ongoing process for a good while yet.

It feels surreal to write this on my last evening in Ireland. The last time I left this country, I cried the whole time and later fell into a clinical depression. That’s not going to happen this time; I’m ready to go, and the world is very different from the way it was then. One thing I’ve learned is that it’s not possible to go back. Nostalgia is the false promise of a lost paradise, when actually the only time to be happy is the present, and the only true promise is the future.

I said good-bye to friends over the last weeks; watched a last solstice sunrise, or rather, watched the clouds changing colour once again, because in all the last 14 years since I returned to Ireland, I’ve never managed to see an actual sunrise on the winter solstice. But it was beautiful. I then spent a wonderful morning in my favourite place in the world with my friends from the Mayo Archery Club, having great food, tea, a good chat and a laugh, and of course shooting the course in Massbrook. Without question, this is what – and who – I’ll miss most.

Mayo Archery Club, Winter Solstice 2019

Last week, I went on a drive through Mayo to say good-bye to my county. It was a miserable day and therefore perfect: Storm and rain and that particular greyness which brings out the incredible colours of the landscape. Brown-red contrasting with the silver-grey of the rocks, the green of the grass, and the dark grey of the sea. It was beautiful.

I’ll miss the fresh, salty air the most. But I suspect I’m going to love the mild mediterranean climate, the beautiful nature, the food and the lovely people in my new home. It’s been quite an experience to prepare the move, sell off my things here and throw out others. I’ve never been a hoarder, but nothing forces you to clear out junk like an international move. It’s a relief to let go of things.


Winter Solstice between two lakes (Mt. Nephin in the distance)

The hardest part was letting go of my piano. After my solstice celebrations, I’ve had the first few days off in a long time over Christmas, and I would have loved to spend hours practising. I do not know how I ever managed to live without a piano. They were desperate times, and I hope I’ll never be in such a dire situation again.

But really it’s not all that sad because I’ve fulfilled another dream – one I’ve had for over 20 years. You see, before the little Laniem I bought last year (and now sold again), I’d never really owned a piano. My parents always stressed that the piano I practised on at home as a child, belonged to the whole family. Later I rented pianos wherever I lived at the time.

It was in a piano store in Vienna some time in the 90s that I sat down at an August Förster upright and felt like I’d died and gone to heaven. An attack like silk and velvet, and a full, bell-like sound made my chin drop. I fell in love then and there and have been dreaming of my own Förster since.

By now, I’ve saved about half the 13k Euro for the smallest August Förster model (how they manage to keep them so affordable, I do not know – remember a piano has more parts than a car and lasts many decades longer than a car, if looked after properly!). I had the choice of either buying another cheap compromise that I’ll sell at a loss when I have the money for my Förster saved, or being bold. And I made a decision, took the other half out of my savings (which I’ll have replenished in about three years), and ordered a Förster from a piano store in Austria.

I have told very few people about this. Mostly because I wasn’t coherent for the first weeks afterwards. I’m still tingly and can’t believe it’s actually happening! I’m getting my own August Förster piano!!

The best part? When I ordered it, they started building it, and I kept getting updates. If you’d like to know what this process involves, here’s a short video – Förster are the only traditional piano manufactory that still builds their pianos in Germany from A to Z. After some weeks, the update was that they were doing the final voicing and tuning, and a little later my piano arrived at the store in Austria. From which it’ll be delivered to me in early January, once I’ve moved into the kućica!

How gorgeous is this?? And trust me, it sounds even better.

The next time you’ll hear from me, I’ll be in my new home. Please understand that I’ll not be able to reply to messages or emails in the next week; I’ll have limited access to internet and stay in guest houses and similar. I’ll probably still see your message, but please don’t expect to hear back before the 3rd of January or so. Until then, a very happy New Year to you!

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Strangest Things

How cute is this??

Gods, there is just so much to do!!

(…she cried, as she was enjoying the shit out of all the insecurity, chaos, and rapid change)

But seriously, it’s getting a little scary. I’m currently on a weekend shift, and come Monday, I’ll have all of two more weeks left at my job. I’m still madly organising the move and all the bits and pieces connected with it, and juggling this with friends who are coming to see me because, well, they won’t see me again in a while. Obviously, I’m making time for that, but it’s not easy alongside working my hagish backside off for my two businesses, which will have to carry me financially a few short weeks from now.

Before I continue with the interesting stuff, here’s a few practical announcements, to anyone here in Ireland: I’m selling off some of my stuff! As in:

  • 3 tall bookcases, black
  • 1 chest of drawers, black
  • 2 more chests of drawers, pine and a darker wood
  • 1 IKEA double bed in pine with hardly-used mattress
  • 1 IKEA wardrobe

Anyone who’s interested, and able to pick up what they wish to buy here in Mayo, they’re yours at a nominal price. And the piano – in excellent condition and only a few years old – is 2,000 EUR and will be transported professionally to wherever you live. Get in touch, shoot me an email or a Facebook message, and we’ll sort something out.

Piano in excellent condition – 2,000 EUR!

To those of my friends who usually send me seasonal cards: I’ve moved from the place I was in last year, and while I’m happy to give you my current (temporary) address, please do keep in mind that I’ll leave right after Christmas. So either send your cards really early, or consider waiting and sending me a different greeting to my new home in Croatia a few weeks later! I’m happy to give you that address as well.

Because yes, I’ve found a kućica, a little house to rent. It’s lovely, perfect for me, just outside of Rijeka and in the garden of my landlady’s house, as you can see above. The interior is just as pretty! Cue happy hag.

So now this headache is dealt with, I’m finding pockets of time to contemplate the huge shift in my life. Anyone who reads this blog, will hardly be surprised to learn that while I’m a fairly rational person who likes factual evidence and all that, I’m also up to my neck in the woo-woo – magic, intuition, the spiritual world, and the classic elements of earth, fire, air, and water are a hag’s natural habitat. And thinking of the latest developments and my upcoming move, I can’t help but wonder how it all came together and fell into place.

There are little things I never mentioned before, because they either seemed insignificant or just me being a little silly as usual. In hindsight, they make me go “hmmmmm!” For example, when I first decided to learn Croatian in March/April this year, I passed the weeks until the sign-up to the beginner’s course opened (in May) by reading up and watching every documentary I could get my hagish claws on, about Croatian nature, people, geography, history, politics… I’ve always loved maps, and so I also spent hours on Google Maps.

But I didn’t just look at places, I found myself looking up towns and districts and contemplating which would be the best place for me to settle down in. Then I’d pull myself up and think, ‘what am I doing, I’m only ever going to spend a holiday in Croatia. It’s not like I’m moving there.’ Little did I know! And this is just one example out of about a dozen things that were not-at-all-subtly nudging me. It wasn’t just a once-off either, I found myself obsessively coming back to the map, and Wikipedia, and looking up places for rent (yes, really) all over the place.

In hindsight, it was perfectly obvious. But my stubborn head was so intent on buying a house here come hell or high water, I didn’t even see it.

When the house in Kilmaine fell through near the end of August, my first thought was: “Fine, I’ll move to Croatia then.” This is the first time I remember thinking it in this clarity. I still dismissed it as a slightly crazy Sibylle-plan and only told very few people I was even considering it. But I found myself getting unreasonably excited at the prospect. Eventually, I strictly told myself that it was time to act like an adult and be a homeowner, and then I jumped right into the attempted purchase of the house near Kilkelly. It was only when that became impossible despite me allowing no doubt and thinking of it as “my house” and fighting tooth and nail, that I remembered that “other option”.

You may make of this what you will, but I believe some things happen for a reason, and this is clearly my path. I’m very, very curious what it’ll bring.

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Fun Facts

Look what I found! This is just one of many tourism videos about my soon-to-be town. Be sure to set the resolution to the highest value possible (by clicking on the little cog wheel), and you’ll get a slideshow of the town, historical buildings, market, harbour… It’ll give you a bit of an impression.

As for me, I’m caught up in a whirlwind of preparations. There’s so much to do, and time seems to fly and crawl at the same time. I’ll spare you the details of all the things I’m organising right now and instead entertain you with a few fun facts:

  • I’m about to move just over 1,900 km South-East, as the crow flies. Holy shit!
  • Because roads aren’t straight, I’ll actually be driving closer to 2,500 km.
  • Exactly seven weeks from now I’ll spend my last night in Ireland. Early on the 28th, I’ll drive to Dublin port and board the ferry to France.
  • Within three days, I’ll cross five international borders, driving through Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, and finally Croatia.
  • My new home is eight degrees further South than my old one, and six degrees further East.
  • This means that on the day of the Winter Solstice each year, Rijeka gets a full 1 hour and 20 minutes more daylight than my little village here in County Mayo.

Apologies to those who aren’t as fascinated by numbers and facts as I am. I’ve been known to pour over maps and globes endlessly and read up on places I’m interested in. Geography Now! is my favourite YouTube channel bar none.

In the meantime, I fluctuate between ecstatic happiness and fits of being “scared of my own courage”, as the Germans put it. What if I can’t live off my businesses? What if I never ever ever ever find a place to rent in Rijeka? What if they don’t like hags in Croatia? What if I never find any friends ever again??

Don’t worry; after being me for 49 years, I know not to take these phases too seriously. They are few and far between, and they’re simply a result of being highly sensitive and highly emotional. In fact, this meme I found on Facebook a while ago, perfectly describes me to a T:

I’ve never felt so understood in my life! LOL.

One thing that does make me sad is that I won’t be able to take my piano. Now, this is still the cheap-ish model I bought last year, but it’s actually really decent for its price, and it’s the piano that helped me begin to regain some of my former skill. Well, very little of it, actually, but that’s down to my lack of time for practice. This will change next year, and ironically that’s when I won’t have my piano anymore. So fingers crossed that I’ll find an affordable and decent one somewhere around Rijeka.

And if you know someone who’d like to buy a piano that’s easily worth 3 grand (ca. 5 years old and played for only 1) for 2,000 EUR, let me know. It’s a steal.

What’s absolutely typical of me is that I’m far more worried about finding a good piano than I am about finding a house, haha! Maybe, just maybe I should put my efforts into getting a place to stay first, or I’ll end up with a piano and no house to put it in. That’s hagish priorities for you.

I’m enjoying the excitement so much, but it can make it a little difficult to concentrate on work and do things like, you know, get enough sleep. The best way of grounding myself at the moment is to remember that I’m still here right now, and Mayo is as beautiful as it’s always been. And nowhere am I more grounded that when I’m in Massbrook, shooting.

In the kill!

Two announcements before I close:

  1. If you’re in Ireland and would like to see me before I leave, please get in touch now. It’s slightly frightening how little time I’ll have between now and the holidays, I’m going to have to plan for it if I want to see you (and if you read this, rest assured that I do want to see you!).
  2. If you’re going to come to my 50th in Vienna, keep an eye on the Facebook event tomorrow – I’m going to post a few things we could go to around my birthday, some of which I’ll order tickets for within the next few days.
This is one view I’ll definitely miss

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Preselim Se U Rijeku

Lough Conn, Co Mayo

I once swore to myself that I’d never move away from Ireland again.

From the first time I set foot on this island, it’s been my home. I still can’t explain why. For years, I cried every time I left. It’s why I usually got a window seat on the plane: I could turn my face away and look outside while tears were streaming down my face. I don’t remember when exactly this changed, but it must have been around 10 years ago, when I finally believed I was really, truly at home here now and would be coming back.

When I had to return to Germany in 1992 after being here for a couple years as a student, I fell into a clinical depression. That was when I made myself the above promise, a promise I’m about to break. But after the initial sadness, I’m actually happy about it. I know I’ll miss this place and its beauty and its people, and my favourite cafe, and the lakes and the hills and the storms and the rainbows. But people have always been forced to leave this island, and I’m so much better off than the millions who went before me. I’ll stay in Europe. I’ll be able to fly back and visit at any time. And I might even return; the jury’s still out on that.

So here’s what happened: My bank pulled the plug on the mortgage. It’s a long story I won’t bother you with. Disgusted, and not one to give up easily, I offered the sellers a rent-to-own deal, which they considered but then declined.

Did I really really want to buy a house here? Yes. But I’ve tried for 10 months, had three deals fall through, I fought for each of them tooth and nail, and you see, I have this pact with life: I trust and in return it guides me. I made this pact long ago and it’s never failed me. Fight for something, yes, but if you keep getting hit over the head, there’s a message there: This isn’t for you at this time.

I’m not sad about it. Or angry. I mean, the mortgage system in this country is ridiculous and rigged against anyone who doesn’t have parents who give them a piece of land, or 50 grand to pay down. But I’m not adding my energy to it by ranting about it. I might still get a house at some point. For now, I’m investing the little money I’ve got and saving some more. I’m actually grateful, because as I said in my previous entry, I’m giddy with excitement about my next adventure.

Here’s the plan.

Actually, I’ll start with what prompted me to come up with this particular plan: I realised that if I was going to keep renting, it couldn’t be in Ireland, where the countrywide average for a 1-bedroom apartment is now 1,300 EUR a month. Excluding bills. So I began to ponder a few things. If I had to move away, I reasoned, then at least I’d escape the terrible weather. Heck, why not go somewhere with really nice weather. And a coast, because I can’t be without a big water near me (I mean, I can, I have been for decades, but it’s miserable).

Have you put the title of this post into a translator yet? It means: “I’m moving to Rijeka.”

There it is! Click for a larger version.

I swear that’s not what I was planning to do when I decided to learn Croatian earlier this year! In fact, my idea was to study for a few years and then reward myself with regular holidays in Croatia, so I could practice. I’m nowhere near a level where I could actually have a conversation with native speakers yet.

But now that I’m in this situation, I realise that it’s a perfect fit. It’s a EU country, beautiful, with lovely people and reasonable prices – at least for someone who works internationally and location-independently the way I will once I’ve given up my job.

Rijeka is the third largest city in Croatia, it’s all of two hours away from Zagreb on the motorway, and it’s on the coast of Istria, not far from Slovenia and Italy. It’s got a university and quite an international community, but it’s not one of the main centres of tourism (thank the gods). And it’s got a harbour, and I’ve always loved ships and boats. It’s also a three hours’ drive from Venice!

There’s another, more serious issue I haven’t really spoken about yet. For the past several months, something weird has been happening to my lungs. Basically, every time I breathe, there’s a rattling and a feeling like my lungs are coated with something. I also cough at times, but not in the way of an infectious cough. Now, my entire breathing tract has always been the weakest part of my body health-wise, and Ireland is incredibly damp and has one of the highest incidences of asthma. It’s quite possible that life really is watching out for me here – general wisdom has always been to recommend a mediterranean climate for such matters…

Rijeka waterfront

So in December, I’ll put my books and most of my stuff into storage here in Ireland (in a year or so, I’ll either come back or bring it over, depending on where I decide to settle down), and then after Christmas, I’ll load my clothes, computer, and sheet music into my car and take the ferry to France. Then I’ll spend two days driving through France, Germany, Austria and Slovenia – visiting Helena along the way – before crossing the Croatian border and arriving in Rijeka on the 31st, in time for New Year’s Eve fireworks!

There’s tons to prepare and arrange of course, but the most important stuff is done. I’ve got my ticket and my overnight stays booked, as well as a hostel called “Music House” (!) in Rijeka for the first week. After that, I’ll either have a flat or I’ll find another temporary place – early January is hardly the height of the tourist season.

I’ve reached out to a few archery clubs, researched banks, and am keeping an eye on property to rent. The best part is that all the people I know from that part of the world, are really excited and happy for me (and my Croatian teacher pointed out that I’ll have to actually speak Croatian every day then! Haha). Yes, I’ll miss my soul’s home, but this is an adventure and it’ll be fabulous. And just think: You’ll all have a place to stay if you ever decide to holiday in Croatia! Otherwise, if you want to see me, you’ll just have to come to my 50th in Vienna.

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Falling Together Or Falling Apart?

Schönbrunn Castle in Vienna (more pictures of Vienna in the FB event for my 50th birthday – remember, you’re invited!)

Holy cannoli, the amount of things that have happened!

To spoil the ending: The insecurity isn’t altogether gone, but the future is taking shape. Some things can still go wrong, but it’s beginning to come together.

The less cryptic version follows in the next paragraphs.

The house I was going to buy in Kilmaine fell through at the end of August. Funnily enough, I wasn’t too upset. It all happened in the most amicable way between the sellers and myself, and the short version of a long boring story is that in order to sell it, they would have had to make an upgrade that was so expensive, it wasn’t worth selling any longer, at least for the price.

I would have loved to live there, but I knew that something better must be around the corner. Around the same time, my landlord told me I had to move out at the end of September when my contract ended – up to then, he’d said I could stay for as long as I needed. Argh! I had a few days to my trip to Germany, then another week before leaving for Vienna, and then I had to move out a day after my return.

Bob Proctor once said that stress only happens when a time factor is added to a situation. And that’s so fucking true! I decided not to panic. I was outrageously happy in those days, I wasn’t going to let anything spoil it. So off I went to Germany.

I still can’t tell you what I’m bursting to say, but the trip to Germany and most of all, the recital in Hamburg, were worth all the expense and the effort. It was incredible! There I was in the beautiful Elbphilharmonie, and I arguably had the best seat in the entire hall. You can see me at the back of the stage, third seat from the left, in the lavender dress. I was really close and had a direct view of his hands – perfection!

Ivo Pogorelich, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, 27.08.2019 (picture found here)

The recital was incredible. He played a long program, and yet it seemed to fly past. It blew me away and made me think, smile, catch my breath, cry… I should be used to it by now, but in truth, I probably never will be. Thankfully, I didn’t fall down a rabbit hole of blackness afterwards, partly because I actually went and got his autograph this time – after 31 years it was about time, don’t you think? – on the new album, no less, which I bought on CD for this particular purpose (I usually buy only digital these days).

I returned home on a high and spent a week frantically working, packing my belongings, organising for my piano to be moved, and packing for Vienna, and then I went to my magic city for an amazing three weeks. I saw old friends, met new ones, went dancing, did some sightseeing, and most of all, studied my hagish ass off, because Croatian is difficult!! It’s also a gorgeous language I completely fell in love with. We were a nice little group, and our teacher is amazing.

Ready for some serious 70s and 80s dancing

To learn the equivalent of a semester’s course – the entire A 1.1 level – in just over two weeks for the test brought me to the limit of my mental capacity. I loved it, but gods, there was just so much to remember! I spent the last four days before the test hardly leaving the house and studying pretty much all the time. But it was worth it. I officially completed the level, and my teacher agreed to lessons through Skype, so now I’m doing A 1.2! I only wish I had more time to study. Did I mention I’m in love with this language?

While in Vienna, I found a house to move into back home, and movers to help me get there. Yes, really. I’ve moved to the East of Mayo, where I’ve also found another house to buy, or rather, a lovely little cottage in the countryside a few miles outside Kilkelly. But the house needs some work – insulation mainly – and so the auctioneer who handles the sale has offered me to rent a house in Kilkelly in the meantime, for three months until the end of the year. It has perfect internet, which is great for my work, and although it’s in the middle of the village, it’s surprisingly quiet. The people here are lovely!! I’ve really fallen on my feet.

Finding someone to insulate and damp-proof my cottage for a price I can afford proved to be difficult, so there were times when I thought I might not be able to buy it after all. And since my mortgage approval is about to expire, that would have been it – my plan B was to move out of the country. I love it here, it’s my soul’s home, but I simply cannot afford the hobby “renting in Ireland” any longer. If I’m going to be renting, it’ll be somewhere else.

Now that I’ve found a builder I can almost afford (well, I can’t, but I should be able to earn the extra cash), it’s beginning to look good. And if not, well, then I’m, in Bilbo’s words, “quite ready for another adventure”. It’s like I said in my last entry: Whatever happens, I’m excited about it. Life is pretty amazing when all your options are equally appealing. This is no accident, by the way. I’ve consciously built my life this way and sacrificed a lot else for it. And was it ever worth it!

The little cottage I’m buying

So now I’m going back and forth between my solicitor, my builder, the house, and the auctioneer, all whilst working full time, working in two businesses to make enough money to pay for it all, studying Croatian, practicing the piano, going for archery, and even trying to find time for the gym in between. Who needs sleep, eh?

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Insecurity + Transition = Joy

Sibylle on a hillside
Hag on a Hillside II

I haven’t updated this blog in such a long time, not because I didn’t have anything to write about, but because I kept hoping I’d have something final to say about the house! Unfortunately, it keeps dragging on. I’ll spare you the boring details; to be honest, it’s nothing unusual here in Ireland. Almost everyone buying a house goes through some major delays.

The problem with all this is that I’ll of course be in Vienna next month and by the end of September I need to move out of my current place, so it’ll be inconvenient at best – I’ll have to move in without painting first, what a pain in the arse – and at worst, the purchase will fall through because I’m running out of time. With my job, I can’t just sleep on someone’s couch for a few weeks, I need an office with a tested internet connection and give advance notice of the move.

I’m not actually looking for comments or even sympathy on this bit, just wanted to keep you up to date. I’ve been through some emotional storms about it, but by now I’ve regained not just my balance, but my exuberant joy, because I just know something absolutely amazing will come out of this. Either my own house, or a new adventure! At times I can’t tell which one I’m hoping for most. The possibilities are sheer endless, and life has got my back.

So many great things have happened, some of which I can’t talk about just yet. But I’m really, really looking forward to the next few months in general. Vienna and the language course will be amazing, I’ve scheduled meet-ups with friends and can’t wait to be back in the most magical city in the world. I’ve got opera, concert, and theatre tickets and so much studying to do, apart from my own business work, of course. It’s going to be amazing.

But first comes the evening I’ve been counting down to for over five months. In two weeks’ time I’ll be in Hamburg; actually, as I write this, in exactly two weeks’ time I’ll still be sitting in the Elbphilharmonie and, judging by the program, Ivo Pogorelich will probably be playing Gaspard de la Nuit. It’ll be the highlight in an amazing – and long! – program. I’m too excited for words and just wish I could speed up time and then put that one evening on repeat for a while.

It’s such a high-vibrations time. Filled with love and wonderful friends, and music, and the sheer magic of life unfolding its abundance. I’m so very ready for the next steps! This includes my transition to a life of freedom, which at this point looks like it’s actually going to happen as planned, at the end of this year. I’m working insane hours right now, but it’s so joyful, I hardly mind at all – oh, it does get too much sometimes, but my friends are there to catch me, they come up for an evening or meet me for a tea somewhere nearby because they know I can’t travel much right now.

I believe transition is the word that applies to pretty much all my life right now. And I’ve always loved these times of insecurity and change. They’re sometimes exhausting, but nothing makes me feel more alive.

Lough Mask
Lough Mask

Yes, the house purchase is stalling and may fall through. Yes, my osteoarthritis has become so bad I can’t shoot a bow with my hand anymore and had to get a wrist-release which is awkward and means I have to almost learn how to shoot from scratch again. Yes, I’m in front of a computer up to 16 hours a day. But I’m so very, very happy! I go to the forest (or somewhere green) once a week. I get to hug lovely people on occasion. And then there’s the music, having a piano to practise on, listening to my favourite recordings, and did I mention it’s only two weeks to go to the recital?? I may just burst with anticipation.

Of course, there’s also a full moon coming up in three days, which makes the whole thing even more intense right now. Lughnasad is over, the days are getting noticeably shorter, the luminous weeks are done, but for once I don’t dread the rest of the year. I have so much to look forward to in the coming months.

P.S. Sorry for some rather cryptic bits in this post: I will disclose more when I can, but I didn’t want to delay writing an update any longer, and now you at least know some of the news!

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With A Little Help From My Friends

It’s my favourite time of the year, but since I write about this every single danged year, I think I’m going to spare you this time and just, well, mention it. The light. Oh the beautiful, endless luminosity, the nights full of blossom scents and pleasure. It’s so bloody sensual and sexy.

I guess I should give you all an update on the house. In short, it’s going well and ticking along, and looking more and more like I’ll be moved in before August. In the meantime, I’m doing unsibylle-ish things such as picking out colours to paint the rooms and buying a sofa. It’s going to be so pretty!

I could also use some help. I’ll probably start on the last weekend in June or the first in July, and spend Friday evenings and Sundays during the day painting. I love painting, but it’s more fun in company! So if any of my Irish friends could spare me a few hours some day, please send me a text or email, or a PM on Facebook and we’ll sort something out.

Apart from all that, I’m working. And while I still enjoy my job and love, love my business(es) work, there’s just so much of it. Way too much, to be honest, and it still isn’t enough and will have to increase before I can leave the job. I tell myself it’s only going to be till the end of the year (hopefully), but gods, am I tired.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you, in fact, everything is going according to plan. It’s just, the plan was to work like a maniac, and I’m beginning to realise that five months without time off is a lot less fun than it sounds.

What keeps up my spirits, apart from my lovely friends (who visit me and keep me from becoming isolated – truly don’t know what I’d do without them!) and thinking of my house, is that I’m counting down the weeks to the Pogorelich recital in Hamburg in August and my three weeks in Vienna in September (I’ll be studying my hagish ass off, but I’ll be outrageously happy doing it). Today it’s exactly 13 weeks to go to the recital, in case anyone’s interested. Yes, I’m counting.

I’m also stubbornly insisting on one day off per week, and while I usually cheat and sneak in a few hours of work in the morning, I do go to Mayo almost every single Saturday to wander around Ballinrobe and then do a round of archery in Massbrook. It’s even more ridiculously beautiful there at this time of the year, with the rhododenron blossoming all over the place.


I don’t nearly practice the piano as much as I’d like to, and I skip more of my morning workouts than I’m comfortable with. Something’s gotta give, and while I don’t like it, I try to just go with it and repeat “only until the end of the year” in my head.

This sounds a lot more grim than I feel. It’s not easy, but it’s joyful, and the overload is temporary. When all else fails, there’s always Chopin. I recently read Alan Walker’s biography of him, and I didn’t think I could love Chopin any more, but I do. Here’s the waltz I’ve been practising, played to perfection by Kissin:

And now I’ll go to bed. It’s ten, but still light. By the time I wake up, it’ll be light again. Bliss.

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In Which I Get Scared

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Photo by Milada Vigerova

Nah, not really.

Maybe a little. When things are amazing, and everything keeps happening, I sometimes feel a little queasy, like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. And right now the good news keep on coming (more about this a few paragraphs further down).

I just wrote about it on my Facebook page: It’s the “Upper Limit” Gay Hendricks talks about in The Big Leap (highly recommended). Basically, we tend to sabotage ourselves when things feel too good, because we subconsciously want to get back to the level of happiness we’re used to. And in order to prevent this, you have to train yourself to raise your happiness baseline, so to speak.

This is at the core of my work as a Coach. I call it “increasing one’s capacity for happiness”. It’s not something you suddenly get and then know once and for all, it’s more of an ongoing thing. I’m pleased to announce that I am getting better at it!

And boy, do I get a lot of practice these days. So which news do you want first, the crazy shit or the really crazy shit? Let’s start with the crazy.

In September, I’ll spend three weeks in Vienna to do an intensive course in Croatian for beginners. Yay! People keep asking: “Why Croatian?” and I keep asking back: “Why not?” If you’re one of those who insist on a proper reasoning, here it is:

  • I love learning things.
  • I love languages.
  • I’ve never studied any Slavic language, ever.
  • I tend to learn “niche” languages (Norwegian, anyone?).
  • I live in a wet, windy country, so it makes sense that I’d pick the language of a warm, sunny place. And a gorgeous one with incredible nature (see above) and rich history.
  • Helena tells me that Croatian is a great way to get by in the entire region, not just Croatia itself. Win!
  • I keep reading about new Croatian writers who produce these amazing books that are never translated into any other language.

Are these enough reasons for you? There are more, of course, but my most to-the-point answer to the question “Why learn Croatian?” is: Because I can. To me, there’s nothing more exciting than learning something new. I’ll do it for the sheer, wild joy of it.

As a bonus, I’ll be in Vienna! Woohoo! I’ve already booked a temporary flat with a piano in it, and I’ve also paid for it. It’s all in the budget, and yes, that scares me too at times, but right now everything, including the solicitor handling the mortgage and house stuff, is budgeted and paid for.

In case you were wondering, the house has been approved by the bank and so it’s only a matter for the solicitors now. If all goes well, I’ll move in late July, only to disappear to Vienna in September to study Croatian! Ha! I think it sounds perfect, and it makes me so happy I feel slightly drunk from it.

The one place in my house that’s never dusty

If that wasn’t crazy enough for you, here comes the really bonkers stuff: I’m looking to transition out of my daytime job. Yes, I know I’ve talked about doing this for years, but I’m actually building multiple streams of income now. Remember The Bilinguist? That’s one of them. And I’m building my Coaching business – my calling, my purpose – more than ever.

It’s not set in stone yet – after going broke once in my life, I’m not going to leave my job unless I’m certain that I’ll earn enough money, reliably, every single month including holidays and Christmas – but if all goes as planned, I’ll no longer be an employee this time next year.

Don’t worry about me saying this in public: My manager knows and is cheering me on, and I’ve also told him that I love the job and wouldn’t consider it hardship to stay on for another while if it turns out I can’t quite live on my business(es) yet. There’s no fixed timeline yet, and I’m welcome to stay or go (there’s a Clash song in there somewhere).

The reason why this is important is that whilst I work from home, I’m only allowed to do my job from Ireland. But with my own business, I can work from wherever I have an internet connection, and that means fulfilling my other crazy dream: that of spending a few months every year in Vienna. If all goes well, I’ll start next year! Then again, it might well take another few years to materialise, and that would be fine, too. I know it’s going to happen eventually.

I’m slightly hyperventilating from all the happiness! I want to include you into this, so please feel me reaching through the computer and hugging you right now. I hope this isn’t weird? I just want to spread my joy, and I hope you’re having a wonderful Bealtaine, the beginning of my favourite time of the year, the “luminous weeks”, and the sexiest, most ecstatic and beautiful month there is.

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Lady Of The Manor


I may have bought a house.

When I say “may”, I mean that I have agreed to buy it, and the seller has agreed to sell. This being Ireland, it’ll be anything from six weeks to six months until the banks and the solicitors have pushed sufficient amounts of paper around, and all sorts of things could still go wrong.

So, I probably shouldn’t be shouting it out to the world just yet. But then again, I think I’m perfectly capable of letting you know if it does fall through, and that everyone who reads this is intelligent enough to get it. This is real life. Shit happens.

Having said that, I have a good feeling about this. I mean, just look at it! Isn’t it so pretty? It’s in perfect condition too, and the sellers are a local family whom I’ve met and instantly clicked with. We liked each other, which is why I immediately offered the maximum of what I could afford, and they agreed to it although it was less than what they had been asking for (and what the house is worth, quite frankly).

In other words, I got a bargain. If and when the sale is done, when I’ve painted the rooms and moved in, I’ll of course provide more pictures. It’s just so lovely, wooden floors everywhere, a woodburning stove in the living room… Also, insulated to the nines, which is important in Ireland where heating fuel costs a fortune. And it has a lovely big garden, too. The best part is, it’s in South Co Mayo, exactly where I wanted to end up but didn’t think I could afford anything! It’s like a dream.

In short, I’m a very happy hag! Any good thought mojo you might be inclined to send for a swift and painless buying process, is now gratefully accepted.

I’ve some more news, though. After spending slightly more on the house than I’d been hoping to spend (much as it’s totally worth it), I realised that I’ll need to earn some extra money, pronto. My Coaching biz is ticking along, but I’ve also been doing additional work in the last year or so, and I’ve decided to take that to the next level and “make it official” as something like a second business.

It’s not new, exactly. In fact, this is what I’ve done since university days, and never really stopped doing because I just love teaching and I love languages.

Meet The Bilinguist!

(that’s me, in case you hadn’t guessed)

I know a lot of talented people who write books – both fictional and non-fictional – or have blogs and websites and whatnot. Well, here I am offering my language services in both English and German. Please spread the word! And let me know if you have any project in mind. Nothing’s too small, I promise, and my prices are very competitive.

Or do you know anyone who’d like to learn German? Here’s your chance, no matter where in the world you’re based. I have over 20 years of experience of teaching German as a foreign language, beginners to advanced, at universities and private language schools.

In Massbrook, with Sandy and Ali

It all feels so right, you know? It’s an insane amount of work, on top of a daytime job, but both my businesses are based on my passions, they’re what I love doing and do really well. It’s “happy work”.

Of course, I do need to get out, too. Thankfully, my friends have got my back; when I put out the word that I’m more or less grounded at home, they rallied and announced visits, and they came. And I jealously guard my Mayo-days which are usually spent alone in the woods but these days sometimes include company – such as Sandy and Ali, as seen in the picture above, and the folks who came to shoot with my club a few weeks ago. I made a short video about it, actually, here it is. Enjoy!


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