Nicola and Sarah talk about why they’ve decided to move to Stoupa in Greece for 6 months in this video recorded live on their Facebook page. Like the Swagger And Soul Facebook page to be notified when they’re next on air!
Here’s the transcription:
Nicola: Hi everybody it’s Nicola Cairncross here and
Sarah: Sarah Cairncross (I am allowed to say my name!)
Nicola: You are indeed yes, you are indeed. What we’d like to do today is just explain what’s happening to us and how it’s come to be in the form of an introduction to Swagger and Soul which is a website, a podcast and it’s going to be a book one day. So Sarah, do you want to take over from here and just start talking about how it all came to be?
Sarah: I just want to explain we are in fact sisters
Nicola: Yeah, if you hadn’t guessed just in case you wondered. I’m the older one, you wouldn’t have known that though would you.
Sarah: Basically I’ve been house and pet sitting for the past.. what is it now? Since 2012 actually and I was on a sit locally and I just thought, do you know what, I’d really quite like to go somewhere for like six months or so and settle in one place for a while so I started looking at house sits for six months or longer and quite a few were coming up in the south of France they were beautiful I must say, and I was chatting to Nicola about it and you said well you might be
up for an adventure too, didn’t you?
Nicola: Yes because I live in Shoreham-by-Sea at the moment and you come and stay with me and we’re renting off our other sister and I’ve lost a friend called Steve just recently and I think I need a change of scene because it’s been six months now and I’m getting…
It’s been a summer in the UK and the summer has definitely helped a bit – being able to come out and sit in the garden under the olive tree but winter is coming now and I know that it’s going to get more and more challenging to be on my own in the house in the rain because I work from home as well, so I don’t see many people during the week and I just thought, yeah I really need a change of scene.
I don’t know how I’m going to put my life together now after Steve’s gone and the kids are all grown up so they’re off doing their own thing so it’s really a big turning point in my life. And so when Sarah said do you want to come and stay somewhere in the South of France with me I thought, well that sounds good and we sort of looked at a few places didn’t we?
Nicola: So what were we looking at? There was that one where they wanted you to shoot rodents [laughing]
Sarah: I did laugh because Nicola went on a road trip across America.
Nicola: That’s right.
Sarah: And you got to practice
your firearm skills didn’t you.
Nicola: Well I’d only ever shot a gun once before but I went to a range with a bunch of my mates who I was driving across across America with. I turned out to be a crack shot. So when this is house sit came up in the South France and one of the requirements was you have to be willing to learn to use a shotgun to shoot these big river rodents… So yes I quite liked the sound of that one.
But then we sort of thought about it in a bit more detail and yeah you know while France is nice, in the summer particularly, unless you go to the south of France it’s not much sunnier than being in the UK so if I’m going to uproot myself and and pack the house up and you know, just generally change my life, I don’t want to go somewhere where it’s just as miserable and rainy and horrible as England but with nobody around that you know. It just seems like, seems completely pointless.
So then we started thinking about where else and my friend Yvonne, who actually is my cleaning lady, she bought a house in a place called Stoupa in the Peloponnese which we love. I love that place, I’ve been going there for years it was me that told her about Stoupa and she actually ended up buying property there with her friend Noreen and I was thinking, I wonder if they’ll be using it much over the winter and it turned out they weren’t planning to, they were planning to just close it up for six months. So then we had the idea to talk to Yvonne. Yvonne talked to Noreen…
Sarah: No, Nicola. Nicola says ‘we’ a lot – it’s a bit like the Royal ‘we’. Yes Nicola took it on herself to…
Sarah: You got all excited without me even knowing anything yet really.
Nicola: Well I didn’t really because I wasn’t.. excited is not the right word because it’s a big step. It’s a huge step. And I’m actually a bit.. you know at that stage I was a bit worried about it and afraid, generally. So you know I’m just.. I’m a great believer in feel the fear and do it anyway and just see what happens.
So what I did was I emailed a friend who lives in the village and she works with a guy called Elias who owns Pefko Taverna – anyone who has been to Stoupa will know Elias and Pefko – and he’s got lots of properties but the problem with his properties are they’re very much geared towards summer lets and I have stayed in one of his houses before, and out season and it’s quite bare only because you know in the summer, when everything’s hot, you don’t need as much stuff. But Yvonne’s house is furnished as a home which will be a lot cozier for a longer term stay.
So I put the word out to Stella. Yvonne was actually at her house in Stoupa at the time, so Stella walked down the road and said to Yvonne, “Did you know that Nicola is thinking of coming and staying here for the winter?”. And I’d only not said anything to Yvonne at that stage because I’d texted her and the text didn’t go through for some reason, I don’t know why not. And so anyway, now she knows. She came back, she came to do my cleaning and she said, “Are you thinking of going to Stoupa? Why don’t you stay in our house?”.
So then we went to see Yvonne and Noreen didn’t we
Sarah: Mmhmm we did. Noreen wanted to see the whites of our eyes.
Nicola: Yeah. See the shady characters that we are. Yeah. But you’ve been police checked and everything so you’re not as shady as me [laughing]. So yeah we all got on and at the end of it we sort of walked out of the house and said it sounds like we ought to do this. And I was still , still trying to prevaricate but at that point it started to feel a bit more real, doable, achievable, whatever. So..
Sarah: So what was the fear? Main fear for you?
Nicola: Well there’s about a hundred of them Sarah, where do I start?
Sarah: The main…
Nicola: Well giving up the house and not having anything, anywhere to come back to. But that’s weird because the whole reason I want to go is to change things around anyway… and force myself, if you like, into a situation where I have to change things. So yeah lots of fears around insects, scorpions, spiders sleeping with the doors open at night, because that’s what they do in Greece when it’s hot. They don’t have little windows, they have doors.
Lots of things, I’m scared of lots of things. I’m not a very brave person although a lot of people think I am.
It’s really quite interesting. I’ll do anything; I’ll stand on stage, I’ll do Facebook Live quite happily but you know I’m scared of lots of things.
So how did you feel about it at that stage?
Sarah: Umm my main worry about it.. I mean, the south of France felt comfortable to me. It is easy to get to and from the UK. Now, I’ve got a 19 and 22 year old and you’ve got a 19 and 21..
Nicola: He’s 18, and 21
Sarah: Yeah so we’ve got kids similar ages and to be honest, you know they don’t really need us at all anymore which was…
Nicola: Well that’s not true, they do need us psychologically but they don’t need us to be there all the time do they
Sarah: No, but I sort of like was thinking was Stoupa is, it can be a real pig to get to and from the UK if necessary
Nicola: Yeah it’s not easy out of season, the planes run until November [to Kalamata] and then start again in April so for a lot of the time we’re there, the nearest way of getting in and out of Stoupa is a 45-minute drive to Kalamata and then a coach or drive from Kalamata to Athens and then a plane from Athens so it’s a two-day trip to get there really, because…
Sarah: Don’t say that or they’ll never come visit us
Nicola: It’s not.. you know you can you can get an Easyjet crack of dawn from Gatwick or somewhere, Stanstead to Athens and then you can get on a coach to come down and you get, by the time you get to Kalamata, it’s sort of early evening and then…
Sarah: How long does it take – do you know?
Nicola: Four hours
Sarah: Oh right, they way you were talking I thought it was going to be more…
Nicola: No, but but going back it’s more tricky. It’s alright, you can do it in a whole day coming down to Stoupa but going back is more tricky because if you go to Kalamata to get the very early coach you’re quite likely not to have a flight waiting for you at the other end because all the cheap flights go in the morning so you’re probably gonna have to stay overnight in Athens just to be able to go back. I have done it in one day but it was really really really tight and stressful. So I think, you know, most of the expats that live out there generally do it in two days going back.
Sarah: Yeah, yeah just cause it’s easier
Nicola: So that was your worries, the fact that you can’t just drive across the channel?
Nicola: And drive back again and that’s the other thing is we are going to have to give up our cars which you know the only other option was to drive down to Greece and that apparently takes five days and costs a thousand euros what with the stopovers and then everything… although Google maps does say it can be done in 36 hours non-stop.
Sarah: Yeah but we would kill each other [laughter]
Nicola: So yes, so the other thing that made me just stop a bit and think about it a bit was the broadband situation because I work online, you work online, we’ve got to have good broadband and there isn’t any at the house at the moment. And although I took my dongle out there last time I went, it only works in the village it doesn’t work up on the hill. So Yvonne and Noreen are going to put in broadband. They wanted to anyway but they were only going to do it for the six months next year but are now going to have to do it for a year because they want a smart TV there because they go out for long periods of time, they want to watch TV. So that’s sort of that out of the way.
There’s still a little bit of urgh about that, because they’re Brits through and through and they’re gonna have to go into Kalamata and go in to one of the shops there and get the broadband put on. And when I did it last time, you know we were in the shop and he didn’t speak English. But apparently there are people now in the telephone shops that speak English, so, fingers crossed for Yvonne and Noreen on that one. They’ve got a month to sort it out and even if it doesn’t arrive for a week or two after we get there, I can improvise with my dongle.
Nicola: Yeah, well if it won’t work up the hill, we’ll have to go down to a taverna or something.
Sarah: Oh, what a shame!
Nicola: Yes, so anyway, so there you go, so that’s the adventure starting really, that’s the… Tell, tell them a bit about why you want to go and live somewhere. I mean…
Sarah: What do you mean?
Nicola: So, is there no sort of other reason that you want to go apart from you fancy staying in the same place for six months? Because you’ve been here for six months haven’t you? Coming and going.
Sarah: You know I just want, I want to… I don’t know, I suppose I just want to have an adventure. It’s like you know, do I want to be in the UK?… Dark, cold gray UK for… you know, the next six months, or do I want to go somewhere that’s more pleasant umm… different foods errr, you know.
Nicola: Yeah, the food’s good it’s very simple food out there but it is really good.
Sarah: I just need a change of scene you know
Nicola: Yeah we are so bored with our lives
Sarah: Yes. So bored. Basically it’s a lovely day today as you can see but that’s an Indian summer kind of day. But it’s not even just the weather it’s like just being stuck in a rut. It’s..
I’m coming round to thinking again, what is it I want? What do I want to be experiencing and where do I want to go with my life?
And it was funny because I was on a delayed flight recently and got talking to a lady there and she’s buggering off to Tenerife for three months and she said… “Maybe longer, maybe not”. So it seems to be a bit of a thing for women of our age. Children are old enough to fend for themselves and sort of thinking, Well, what do I want? What do I like? Where am I going with my life? There must be MORE than this, basically, is what sums it up.
Nicola: It is very easy when you’ve got somewhere to live in the UK and you’re in a little town, we’re in Shoreham by Sea, which is lovely.
Sarah: We’re just down the road from Brighton.
Nicola: Yeah so you know it’s very easy to get stuck in a rut isn’t it and it’s like it’s a cross between a midlife crisis. With me it’s the grieving process as well. You know I’ve never lost anyone like this. It’s coming to terms with the grieving process which I’ve never experienced before, and it’s empty nest, it’s stuck in a rut.
The other, of course huge benefit of house-sitting, is that you reduce your overheads to nothing because you house sit in return for living somewhere for free effectively and although we’re going to be paying a little bit of rent, it’s minuscule compared with what we pay here, so that will be a good chance to get a cushion of cash behind us which I’m looking forward to. Yeah.
And just have the freedom for me to choose the clients I want to work with. Do Facebook ads and funnel building for
people. And sometimes you take clients on you shouldn’t because you need to, you know you’ve got overheads and you need to pay the bills so, it’d be really good for me to be able to do a few more experimental projects where perhaps I’m in partnership with someone rather than having to, you know, just take the clients on who’ve got the money to pay you… Perhaps they’re not quite the right kind of client, is the thing. So..
Sarah: That’s a biggie actually.
Nicola: Yeah, it is, it is. So yeah. Lots of positive reasons to do it The only negative reasons not to do it is the wildlife [laughter]. We’ll have to knock our shoes out before we put them on because apparently scorpions are very fond of…
Nicola: Yeah I’ve never actually seen one myself but apparently they are out there and so yeah it’s an adventure and we’ll see what happens and we’re going to be chronicling it along the way on the podcast and on Facebook Live if we can get a connection up the hill.
Sarah: Yeah, real and raw as well it’s going to be what’s really happening.
Nicola: Yeah we’re gonna try and be as honest as possible about it – good stuff and the bad stuff. So join us next time, next episode,we’re going to go for weekly episodes like this. We’re also going to be blogging individually, aren’t we Sarah?
Sarah: Yep, I haven’t done my blog yet, Nicola’s already started.
Nicola: Yeah, I’ve started churning them out and then yes, so, so keep up on the blog SwaggeAndSoul.com and subscribe to the podcast and subscribe to the page on Facebook and we’ll be back next week.. Bye!