and a 10-second timeout, which actually worked, lol. But then I realised I'd not know if the vpn has disconnected.
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Found the VPN-Look-Out applet, installed (there was a warning message, but decided it's worth a try). The applet says it's connected via tun0, and a tun0 connection (labelled 'unknown') shows up in network settings (showing local secure IP), but am very new to vpn, so not 100% sure if the link was established that I need. (I'd removed the OpenVPN connection I'd set up, before doing all this.)
EDIT: a reboot answered whether the applet is seeing the connection. 10 seconds in the applet changed from red to green. Checked in terminal, and the vpn is active. As this is now an info post, rather than a question, just incase anybody else is wondering about the applet, there's the option to attempt to reconnect if it shuts down. Rarely happens with ExpressVPN, but it seems a good applet, and it will be interesting to see the reconnect.