What could possibly go wrong? 

Well, I don’t know about you lot, but we’ve had a super weekend. On Friday night we went out for supper with Annie and Al. He and I joined the same battalion on the same day in 1982. Since then we have been best of friends, our families holidaying together, kids went to the same schools and generally been best of mates. He stayed the course in the Army and was v senior before leaving to work in the Middle East – where he is now. He doesn’t come back that often, so we grab him (and Annie) when we can. It was funny. We’re all approaching 60 (60!? Whatever next? Ehh … nb. C’s a little older than us.) and inevitably we spent most of our time talking about our ailments and the state of politics. We could have pre-written the script. Fab to see them, though.

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Dartmoor doing its thing

Yesterday we drove down to darkest Devon (not a bad alliteration) and spent the weekend with James and Sheron. James and I went to the Army sixth form college together (that was some time ago now) and, after a bit, he joined the same battalion as well. Anyhow, they have a Grade 2 Devon long house which they have extended (James does the work himself, clever and industrious chap) and renovated. Across a little used country lane, he’s put up a bar and summer house. What with Mrs Sun being out and bragging about how hot she can make it even in late October (‘n all), we had supper outside, and then came in and watch Killing Eve, which is still better than The Bodyguard.

And with the weather still forgetting its place, today we drove to Dartmoor (20 minutes) and walked in Spring sunshine over the moor for a couple of hours. It was fab, and no sign of any werewolves. We had a drink at a pub and headed back to their place for some homemade parsnip and roasted onion soup (thanks Sheron). How lucky are we?

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Indeed, how lucky are we. Leaving aside the life of Riley we lead, with our extended travels, my interesting work, which isn’t really doesn’t seem like work, Doris, our two-up, two-down in Bradley Stoke, our health (which, so far, is still holding), our kids, etc, etc … we then go and have some fab friends, and A+A and J+S are just two of a number we would call close.

Hang on a second whilst I count our lucky stars.

Feeling great and moving on …

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I have finished Chapter 13, which puts me back on schedule for a chapter a week. At this rate I would hope to have book 5 finished by the end of November – which would be great timing.

And, this week there are two aims. First to get back to Jen’s and produce some top-quality leads and collars. And, second, to fit the hall, stairs, landing carpet and do the gloss. That’s the ambition, noting that I have never fitted a carpet in my life before. But I have watched a YouTube video.

What could possibly go wrong?

Sorry, we can only take your money

We decided to reconcile our telephone accounts. We don’t have a landline (does anyone?), we a mobile each, we still pay for Jen’s mobile and we have a mifi (mobile data using a tiny box – we pay £13 a month and get 5GB of data to which we can tether anything). The mifi was helpful when we spent a lot of time abroad because Three allowed you to use 2 month’s worth of data abroad – for free. Then the whole EU market opened up and we could all use our monthly allowances … so it became superfluous to requirement. [After Brexit, who knows what will happen to that facility. I guess we will end up with roaming charges again, unless the companies can sort something out. That’s an altogether different gripe, but at least the Brexitiers will be happy with their mauve passports. Oh, and an NHS without any nurses.]

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a framed oil painting of C, framed by this morning’s sun

I popped into the Three store yesterday where I set up the contract. ‘Sorry – we only take your money here; as a result we can’t cancel your contract, You’ll have to phone someone, press lots of buttons (during which time you’ll get lost amongst the options), wait endlessly for a person to answer, during which we will bombard you with music that keeps distorting (why does that happen?), and then that person from a foreign land will not necessarily be understandable, so you’ll give up and we’ll keep taking your money.’

How does that work? You know. There, in a communications shop with ultra-broad broadband. More phones than a … phone shop. And a warm-blooded person to talk to. How? Please tell me.

Hurrumph. Actually, in the end Three redeemed themselves. I quickly got onto a live chat on my phone, a nice man was quick to type his responses, and we cancelled the contract – without a month’s wait – within 10 minutes. I wish I’d done that to begin with. It would have saved me scrambling around the floor of the Three store looking for my ears which had blown off in a mad moment of rage/desperation.

I also managed to change my Virgin plan. I was originally on £18 all-inclusive … which sounded good until you breached 5GB of data. At that point ‘normal usage’ was exceeded and the speed of my data was cut, so it was pretty hopeless. In the meantime Virgin had increased the plan costs to £23 a month (SIM only). Anyhow, after a quick phone conversation they’ve put me on a £10 a month plan for which I get 6 GB data, 2400 minutes and as many texts as I can eat. That should do.

An overall saving of £26 a month … hurrah for that.

Monday and yesterday was spent at Jen’s. There’s been a lot to do and she is tough (but good) to work for. I am making most of the leads and collars. C has been making poppies and bandanas. C’s work is pretty much done, but my list continues to be added to – which is good. For Jen and I it’s about quality. And she’s, rightly, a stickler. And has no problems telling me … which is a neat trick. She hums and ahhs, and we then have a discussion and I end up remaking the lead/collar. She’s right, BTW. I just need to do better. Anyhow, we are still stacking up orders and the stuff continues to be stuck in envelopes and posted. Business is, as they say, good. Oh, and a pet shop in Scotland wants to stock Jen’s stuff. And they intend to buy the stock outright (less 15%) and sell it on; they’ve seen some samples and liked what they’ve seen. So that’s more good news. We will need to think about employing people (gig economy stuff) in the near future.

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taking any opportunity to write

Book 5 is coming along. I missed my deadline of completing chapter 12 by the end of Sunday – I finished it yesterday and started chapter 13. I’m finding ‘finding time’ really tough, but until I finish it it’s not going to go away. So last night I lay in bed tapping on the keyboard. I must take any chance I get, and hope that it all irons out in the edit. We’ll see.

We’re not back at Jen’s until Monday. Today and tomorrow I shall try and complete chapter 13. C is making the last of the curtains. We need to get on with a couple of other jobs, like replacing the stairs carper, sorting out the lawn and I need to change the oil on both the car and Doris – which I intend to do myself. I’ve done it before, a long time ago, so I should be able to manage it. We’ll see.

Oh, and we booked an all-inclusive (never done that before) week in Tunisia for November. Our target was £500 (+) for both of us and ended up with Tui for £710, including baggage and flight transfers. We then checked the hotel details on Trip Advisor and the first two could not have been worse. But there were some good ones. Our expectations are low, but at least it will be hotter than here, by the beach, with some interesting things to see … and we will not have to lift a hand to do anything for a week. Should be fab. We’ll let you know!

Goodness it’s warm

I don’t know about you but I don’t remember October being a particularly pleasant month? You know, it’s normally bleak, wndy, rain and all. Sat here at M&D’s after a week of summer weather with Mrs Sun doing her thing, you would have struggled to guess which month we were in. I know Wales (and our house) has just seen apocalyptic rain (and we have friends who live in Majorca – they’re ok after the floods – and I’m following a blog of a couple in a MoHo in Portugal who were hit by the remnants of Storm Whoever yesterday), but we, the Ladleys, have unusually been in the ‘calm’. Before the storm, which might get here today. Which is not a problem as we’re heading back to Bristol where it’s calmer..

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is this normal?

That neatly brings me on to the latest Climate Change report which says we’ll easily breach 1.5 degrees increase in temp by 2030. As a result of which hundreds of thousands of us will be peril. Now I intend to be alive in 2030. Indeed, I’m looking forward to seeing in 2040. That means that Climate Change is not something that is only going to impact upon our children’s children – which, in itself, was always a damn good reason to be doing something. It’s actually going to impact on us. And yet we are not doing a great deal about it.

This is an emergency. Like a real emergency. If someone said we were going to be hit by a life-altering asteroid in 2030 which would devastate parts of the planet, submerge huge swathes of land, bring on weather the like of which we don’t understand, creates droughts and rising sea levels causing mass refugee exodus which would put the recent European influx in dark shade and … and it’s a big and … this is happening in your backyard (the Thames Barrier wouldn’t hold back the floods and Great Yarmouth will be a tourist destination for scuba divers), you’d think that now might be the time to invest in an asteroid destroyer. Or even two, just in case the first one breaks.

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we’ve blagged my mum’s sewing machine for Cubbly’s

But that’s going to cost you $4.2 trillion. Duh! So? Get out there governments and spend the money. Remember that last time you told me the asteroid wasn’t coming until 2050, by which time we’d have colonised Mars and the rest of us would be living outside our bodies in a VR world – so sod the asteroid? In any case, I’d be long gone and the Millenials could sort it out.

Now you tell me you’ve misjudged your timeline by 20 years … what are you waiting for? Where’s my electric car? Why aren’t you banning fossil fuels, like, now? Why aren’t you turning off the lights at 10pm and telling us all to go to bed? Why aren’t you turning the Sahara Desert into a massive solar farm?

Why aren’t you doing something?

Actually that last question was focused on you … and me. Because we could easily cut our own electricity usage by half. And our water usage. I don’t mean to brag but since we’ve moved into our small house we’ve managed to drop the cost of our monthly fuel and light bill from £73 a month to £56 a month. And we are £170 in credit. We’ve not checked the water, but we’re pretty convinced that that’s the same. We do not flush the loos until we need to. We shower (OK, occasionally we have a bath, but we share the water) and we never leave water running. C uses the washing machine sparingly and has only used the integral tumble dryer once. All our light bulbs are LED, we turn everything off at night and C has just finished lining every curtain so the house should retain its heat overnight. We recycle everything we can. And we try to drive carefully, although we do drive far too much … we have a lot of people to see who live a long way away.

I would argue that we’re not yet close to cutting our energy usage by 50%, but we’ve made a dent in it. If everyone did the same, not only would you save some cash you might also help the rest of the world.

It’s just a thought.   

(He says all of this whilst planning a week’s break to Tunisia, which will involve flying there … I guess the only answer to that is that the seats would otherwise have been empty. I know, I know, we must try harder still.)

Yesterday was … Wednesday

 

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Wells was looking fab

Well that’s me spent, noting that I have a full day at a school tomorrow with 8 one-hour sessions with middle-management. Then a weekend with Mum and Dad. Then back to Jen’s on Monday …

… which has been uber-busy. C and I got to Gloucester at 9.30 on Wednesday and I stitched my final stitch on 21.50. Between us we prepared a lot of stuff. And, whilst I left with about 10 orders to finish (and there have been some more arrive since we finished yesterday), it did feel as though we had broken the back of the current batch.  We’re back on Monday. And, as we left, I gave Jen some v clear instructions: 50 orders over the weekend! She’s v good at that. And 50 orders is at least £750 turnover … which would be a neat trick. I’ll let you know.

Driving. Who would, in this country? Come on. Today (we’re at Mary’s tonight as she’s closer to M&D than Bristol, and only 30 minutes from the school) a two and a half hour journey took four and a half. It’s the third time I’ve been on the M4 in as many weeks. On every occasion a section of it has been blocked. Thankfully we’ve only been involved in the aftermath, but the impact has been v frustrating. And we don’t commute – in fact I have never really commuted (how lucky am I?). Could you imagine facing that every day? And, for the record, I only had one person make a rude gesture at me today – and we weren’t in Doris. So much anger. No wonder they voted for Brexit. They had to vent their frustration somewhere, and that, I guess, seemed like a decent opportunity.

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It looks better than this now … but it is still a sweat shop

And the writing? Still working hard. Finding an hour here and an hour there. My ambition is to be at the end of Chapter 12 (75k words) by the end of the weekend. I do worry about consistency, but now that I have my short term memory back (yesterday was definitely Wednesday) it all seems to fit into place.  I am excited by it … and, in an ideal world would love to be writing it day-after-day. But as writing doesn’t pay, sometimes you have to work at other things. In terms of sales, I’m still running above a book a day, nowhere near the central ambition of 10 in a day. But, it may still come. Who knows.

Finally, C had her hair done in Wells on Tuesday (she looks fab). It gave me the chance to catch up with whole load of old pals, which was a lovely respite.

That’s it from me. Catch up over the weekend.

Watch it!

I could, as you know, spend the next twenty minutes ranting about the election to the Supreme Court of Mr Angry (Brett Kavanaugh). You would, of course, be right in saying that it’s not my Supreme Court, less so my country. And you’d be right. So I won’t. I won’t. Promise. (But I soooo want to…)

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this piece of driftwood is our new hall coat hanger

Instead I’m going to be your favourite TV critic.

First, Strictly. It’s fabulous again this year from both a dancing and top-totti (on both sides; C loves Aljaz) perspective. I know it’s not the done thing to say ‘well, she/he’s a bit of all right’, as they’re writhing about on the dance floor in a sultry way, but that is one of the reasons why we love it: it’s v pleasing on the eye. And the dancing is great. Even the poor ones. My benchmark is always ‘are they better than me?’ The answer to that question is unquestionable ‘yes’, and as a result I give them a 10. C always shouts ‘shoulders’ at the TV, like the drunk priest in Father Ted who wakes irregularly and screams ‘Feck!’. Between us we are experts. Well you would be after 16 series.

Then there’s Killing Eve (BBC 1). Well, well. The acting is brilliant (the female murderer is just the best thing I’ve seen on the gogglebox for ages), the plot is fab, the filming unbeatable and the music works to a tee. And there’s that touch of humour – at times it’s almost purposefully comic – which adds another depth to this brilliant programme. Watch it. It is miles better than The Bodyguard.

Oh, and after a long day of sewing at Jen’s on Friday (there are so many orders … which is great), we watched A Quiet Place after C had knocked up a fab roast meal. The film is 90 minutes long and I reckon there are no more than 17 words in the whole film. It’s all about a post-apocalyptic earth where monsters roam, but they are blind. So they prey on noise. Hence … a quiet place. Wow. Emily Blunt is really good and the kids (there are only 5 characters, and the fifth dies within 10 minutes) are excellent. It is grotesque and as tense as a recently strung tennis racket. Another ‘watch it’.

That’s it from your fave critic.

Yesterday it rained – all day. I ended up penning 3,200 words of Chapter 11. I’d really like to get the chapter done by the end of today, but I’m not going to bust a gut. It’s coming along … although, on Thursday, I had a mental blank. Literally. My poor old Dad is really suffering with his dementia at the moment – and Mum is never far from jacking it all in – and on Thursday I thought I was joining him. I was really tired and tried to write. But couldn’t. I looked over stuff I’d recently written and couldn’t remember writing it. It was perplexing. But it’s all OK now.

As for book sales. Back down to just over 1 a day. I really should do some marketing, but I cannot get my head round it. I think everything will have to wait until I’ve finished draft 1 and then I’ll crack on. Promise.

Today? Mrs Sun is with us. I’m about to put my kit on and go for a run. And then we will finish the halls, stairs, landing (the painting’s done, it’s pictures and hooks now). Some writing I think? Next week in order is: Jen’s, Wells (C has a haircut plan), Jen’s, Mary’s, school in Hampshire, and then Mum and Dad’s for the weekend.

And the near future? C is currently poring over books on Tunisia. We can get there in early November for £500 all-inclusive. Sounds like a bargain to me …

Stand by – paint!

Every so often I read a travel blog or, as today, walk out the front door to be greeted by Mrs Sun and a cool, crisp October morning. And I think what the blooming h are we doing in this country, when we could be down south enjoying the autumn sun, sitting by the beach with a decaf coffee and a croissant tempting me/us? It is normally October where we have, for the last three years, headed south for six weeks so I can finish my book. And C knits for all those grandchildren we’re going to have! We know where to park, where to buy coffee, where to eat out and where to run.

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this wasn’t the view from our front door this morning

Has it lost its charm? I think the answer to that question is ‘no’. It’s just that this autumn we have committed to helping Jen’s business  – which, I have to say, we are both enjoying. The division of responsibility is: I sew; C makes poppies (13 on Tuesday); and Jen markets and checks quality and packs and sends. She tells me she’s taken over £1000 in the last 30 days. That makes it a £12k a year business, but it has so much more potential. The good thing is, we are all on the same sheet … and we are all happy to crack on at the moment as is. Fab.

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C’s poppies

And, of course, we have people who sort of rely on us. Mum phones every day, normally after 6 pm, when she has a good moan. Catch her in the morning and generally she’s fine. I’ve still got school leadership work in the diary. And, I’m still writing and sticking to my plan. I’m hoping to have Chapter 11 finished by Sunday evening. That would be about 70,000 words. It’s all going well, although I think I’m going to run out of plot in the next 30k words – so I might have to surprise myself as I want this book to be over 130k words – if possible. We’ll see.

Monday and Tuesday was at Jen’s. Today, in a flurry of activity, we stripped down and did the last painting in the house – hall, stairs and landing. Actually, it looks OK. We’ve got some touching up to do tomorrow, and a trip to Ikea planned. And then Friday at Jen’s.

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stand by … paint!

And the weekend? Not sure. Doris needs some work her insides … so that’s something to look at. Of course the highlight(s) will be Strictly and Killing Eve (if you’re not watching that, get it on catch up … fab). And more running. That’s going well for both of us. Hurrah!

Have a great rest of week … nothing from me on US politics, nor Brexit. Although, goodness, there’s so much happening. You couldn’t write it …

You have to wonder…

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I got to the school v early on Thursday. Mmmm, Mrs Sun!

You wouldn’t think it was the weekend, honestly; we’ve been busy! First, come on, let’s talk US politics. Please. Just for a bit.

Have you been following the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the US) vote in the US? It’s a key decision as that’s the organisation that ratifies the major domestic policy decisions, normally after there’s been a court objection. Anyone selected for the court has a post form life. That’s it – for life. Anyhow, it has always been politically balanced – up to a point. And the latest Trumpkiness choice is a guy called Brett Kavanaugh. He’s well qualified, young and staunchly conservative. You know, pro-life; anti-anything on the left. He’s Yale etc and, if selected, would cement the balance of power in the conservatives’ favour. That would mean, for example, if you’re a woman who doesn’t believe that every sperm is sacred, then you’re likely be living in a country where abortion is, for whatever reason, illegal. No – sorry, even if you’re raped. No abortion. And we’ll enforce the law. That’s after we’ve murdered this inmate for killing a couple of people. We’re just deciding whether to use the electric chair or give them an injection. Or, maybe, we’ll hang them. But no abortion. Because we’re pro-life.

I digress. Kavanagh’s record was not fully disclosed to the Senate, but as the conservative/Republicans control the house, that’s turned out not to be an issue … until, a female professor from California came right out and said that ‘bless-him Brett’ had tried to rape her in a drunken stupour when they were in their teens. Sorry, him and a friend. Kavanaugh allegedly held his hand over the professor’s mouth, ’cause you wouldn’t want her screaming, would you?

Now, as this hasn’t gone to court it’s all alleged (there are now two other complainants). And, sure, she could be lying – or have forgotten who the man was on top of her. And, in any case, she was allowed to present her ‘case’ to a senate committee. That was on Thursday. I listened to some of both sides of the testimony. And, if you stripped back the emotion (more of which in a second), you might say that – in a court of law – you’d struggle to get a ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ conviction. But that’s the point. It’s not a court of law. It’s a job interview. And I don’t know about you, but, sorry, I wouldn’t employ someone who was facing potentially three counts of sexual assault. I just wouldn’t. But even that’s not my point. This is. Brett Kavanaugh’s responses to the questions from the committee were awful. He lied – really – at least twice. He shouted. And cried. And shouted some more. He took the p**s out of the Democrat questioners. He said he drunk a lot of beer. Even now. A lot of beer, He was clearly partisan. And, not once, did he show any sensibility for the professor. And … to remind you, he’s being interviewed for a position on the highest court of the land. For life. A judge. Calm. sensible. Non-partisan. A man to join a group of eight other highly respected justices who shape the lives of 250 million people. Would. You. Employ. Him?

Such is the state of US politics. And, sorry to say, it’s all his Donaldness’s fault. The man who the UN laughed at last week. What a mess.

Whatever.

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Doris looking all sparkly…

A busy week. Thursday at the school in Hampshire was great fun. Eight x one-hour slots. All of the staff I sat with were different. It is exhausting, but I do feel a real sense of achievement.

Friday was at Jen’s. Lots of sewing. Some great ideas from Jen and C. That all looks like it’s coming along nicely.

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come on, you’ve got to love this …

And writing. Well, leaving aside the sporadic nature of my current writing – writes something … a couple of days’ gap … write something more, I’m still ahead of myself. I wanted to get Chapter 9 finished by the end of the weekend. As at 5pm Sunday I’m 3,300 words into Chapter 10. I hope it’s OK. I don’t have that same sense of coherence that I normally get when we’re heading off to the south of France and I write day after day. It will, I’m sure, come good in the edit. I must finish it first.

I spent a short while trying to re-energise myself by looking through past reviews. I came across this one on Goodreads which I’m sure I haven’t shared with you before. It was penned by a lady called Sam, from Japan:

This is the third Sam Green book I have read. I came to the series through the Kindle Scout Program in the UK, and after reading and really enjoying book 2 for free, I decided to purchase the rest of the books (and am looking forward to the newly released fourth book).

I’ve enjoyed all of these books appreciating the detail, as well as the thick plotting. This being the first book, it perhaps unsurprisingly had weaker writing than the second and third books, but the story, set in Liberia and later Sierra Leone was very enjoyable and as fast paced as any thriller you’ll find in books or on TV.

It might have been said by some of the other reviewers here, but my feeling throughout reading this series has always been that the author punches above his weight. What I mean by this is that these books are as well written and plotted as any thriller that I have read by traditional professional authors over the past few years. Having read his blog, I know the author has not been picked up by a traditional publisher yet, but I do hope he gets a lucky break soon, and that he continues to write for a long time to come.

Which all did me good. And, on the back of this, I dispatched Unsuspecting Hero’s screenplay to four random people in showbiz. You never know…