Hold onto your hats, it’s the End Of The Year Post

Yes, once again we come around to the annual grayblog end-of-the-year introspection. I know you’ve been looking forward to this for at least, oooo, twelve months?

Firstly, let’s look back and get the resolutions thing out of the way. At the end of 2006 (the archives are over there, on the right), I said I’d carry on improving the things that I had starting improving in 2006. But who has time for that? The garden isn’t finished, I haven’t done enough exercise and the writings here have become ever more sparse as the year has gone on.

So, do resolutions have any value if they are so easily broken/ignored? Comments welcome on that subject. And, given my obvious feelings on the value of resolutions, you can set as much store as you feel is appropriate in the following:

  • to write here more frequently (not too hard)
  • to take more exercise (we now have bikes which spend far too much time locked away)
  • to keep my office in a more tidy condition (also not hard)

What else can be said about 2007? Well, at a professional level, things have generally improved through the year. I don’t think it’s a huge secret that I wasn’t terribly optimistic about the prospects for my business late in 2006 and was feeling pretty demoralized. Things have improved markedly since then and whilst it is still tough going, the light is clearly visible at the end of the tunnel and, if all goes to plan in 2008, I might be able to talk about my business and the “P-word”* in the same sentence without laughter. To a large degree, I’ve been carried along by the faith shown in me and my business by others around me – my backers and my clients. Even my bank has been supportive (although I’ve yet to ask them to dip their corporate hand into their corporate pockets for me, and hopefully won’t need to). The one person who keeps me from believing too much of what they say has been Hels, who frequently questions me and challenges me to test what I’m doing and show that things truly are going the right way. That is a good thing and has encouraged me to look hard at the business and the direction that it is going in. And I’m happy with it right now.

2007 has also seen us seriously (VERY seriously) looking at emigration to the Netherlands (or possibly just inside the Belgian border). Ultimately this plan has been shelved – we have decided to stay close to friends and family. We also can’t really afford it at this stage – if my business was making more money and we hadn’t been so crippled by not selling Hels’s flat for so long, then maybe it would have been different. Note that I say that the plan is shelved, not abandoned. It’s something that we will keep at the back of our minds and may return to in the future. And our love for Maastricht is undimmed, as you might have guessed from the number of Dutch-related del.icio.us links that I post.

The year has seen its usual bunch of travelling, this time including trips to the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy and Poland. I didn’t get to a few destinations that I had in mind for lack of time and resources, but the opportunity is not lost, merely deferred. I do promise to stick some photos on here somewhen of some of the places that I/we have been to this year – feel free to nag me to keep to that promise. Highlights of this year’s travel for me included:

  • San Pellegrino in Alpe, Italy – breath-takingly beautiful and wonderfully peaceful (although I suspect it might be busier in high season)
  • Hamburg, Germany – drinking cocktails whilst standing in the rain on the morning of my birthday
  • Warnemünde, Germany – bobbing about in a launch on the Warnow river with Hels and Tom
  • Kanne, Belgium – getting the “I could live here – this just might work” feeling
  • A12, Netherlands – driving from Gouda towards Zoetermeer and marvelling at the sodium-lamp orange mist with enormous wind turbines looming darkly out of the gloaming and wishing my camera was handy
  • Tiercé, France – having possibly the best cheese board I’ve ever had or am ever likely to have in “Sarkozy’s restaurant”
  • Przydworzyce, Poland – driving through the woods and seeing locals who had gathered mushrooms offering them for sale at the roadside, often only a single punnet-full

Travel plans for 2008 are subject to change, but look likely to include Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands (no surprise there), Switzerland (2008’s first for me – 2007’s was Poland) and Italy. Maybe Spain. And maybe Ireland and Poland. Too many places to go to, for both business and pleasure, and too little time and money to do them all.

Of course, the true highlight of 2007 has been watching Tom growing up. He is fantastic, a life-changing element of existence. He continually amazes and surprises us. It’s impossible to feel down when he’s around. I’m looking forward to more in 2008. And more of married life with Hels, but I’m going to stop on the emotional family gushing now before your keyboard gets covered in vomit.

What do I think 2008 will bring? Goodness knows. If there is one thing that I’ve learnt, it is that you can never tell what the future will bring. I think politics and the economy will both be fascinating in 2008 (and might finally push crappy nonsense “entertainment” out of the headlines a little) although the ride might be a bit bumpy. My business will increase in strength and stature. Family life should continue to be splendid, particularly as we have settled on our home here for the time-being and should have fewer disturbances to routine (famous last words). And I might knock-up a decent duck à l’orange or two.

Thanks to the regular readers who keep coming back here – I know there must be at least half a dozen of you still braving the digital elements to come here. Happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year to you all.

* profit hahahaha!!

9 Replies to “Hold onto your hats, it’s the End Of The Year Post”

  1. A year ago while googling I found your blog and have checked in every month or two since then. We’re in the US, kids are in college, so “watching” Tom grow has been fun. And we too know the moving and remodeling phases though just across state lines. But does moving across country lines require much more red tape?
    Happy New Year
    Cindy and Eddie

  2. Hi Cindy: Moving within the EU, for EU citizens, doesn’t involve a huge amount of red tape. The rules are supposed to be universal, but actually there is a small amount of variation from nation to nation. Theoretically, EU law enshrines the rights of freedom of movement of people and goods (and, soon, services) within the EU, although it has some imperfections.
    For us to move to the Netherlands, we would have to register with the Dutch authorities to pay taxes and to have access to their healthcare system. There would be paperwork involved in moving my business (although there are complicated ways of dealing with that – I could set up a Dutch business that would be wholly owned by my English business which would be wholly owned by me as a Dutch-resident British citizen – my accountant liked that idea as he could see a good opportunity to earn lots of money from me!). There are little things like re-registering our cars with the Dutch authorities and getting Dutch identity cards (which are a legal requirement if you’re resident for (I think) more than 12 months).
    Of course, if we decided to become Dutch citizens, then there is a citizenship test to go through and a requirement to learn the language (and it isn’t called “the Chinese of the West” for nothing!), but there would be no *requirement* for us to become Dutch citizens – we could live there permanently as British citizens. There might be advantages in changing citizenship though, particularly when it comes to things like getting state benefits and pension, as the Dutch generally don’t give the same benefits to non-citizens and the British don’t treat ex-pats that same as UK-residents.
    There are also differences in the laws – the tax and benefit systems are quite different to the UK in many ways and the systems for buying and selling property are also different. But the Dutch are very good at making information available online, often in English, so it’s generally easy to find out what you need to know.
    The main thing would be the cost. Physically moving everything would be quite expensive (I’m sure it is just the same moving state to state in the US). And for us, there was the risk factor. It would be a very expensive undertaking if we found after, say, a year that we didn’t like the reality and wanted to come back to the UK. Our finances aren’t quite robust enough to stand that sort of level of risk – perhaps in a year or three, things will be different.
    Strangely, moving away from family and friends is a factor, but the Netherlands are not really that far away. Friends of ours have moved to Staffordshire and it only takes us a couple of hours longer to get to Maastricht from here as it takes us to visit their home. I can leave home at 7.30am and be drinking coffee in a café in the Vrijthof (Maastricht’s main square) by 2.30pm (UK time) – and that would be a fairly leisurely journey (down to Dover, a two-hour ferry crossing with lunch and then down the motorway past Brugge, Gent, Bruxelles and Leuven).

    So, we shall see what the future brings. The time we spent researching the idea (including a trip to Maastricht to look at properties) hasn’t been a waste by any means – all the information is in a file in my office and can soon be dusted off!

  3. holy toledo! that was enough content for a separate post. my wife and i are trying to get eu citizenship so we can float around the eu at will – no luck yet though

  4. see, there you guy being all nice and stuff, thinking i might have actual skills. actually, we are trying to get italian citizenship through my grandfather – jure sanguinis – but getting his birth certificate from italy is proving difficult.

    but thanks for the heads up about the blue card, another option is always good to have.

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