Oh … Tunisia

Ok, Tunisia (sorry about yesterday).

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Think southern Italy (same latitude), but poorer still, and without the piles of unharvested rubbish and no roadside prostitutes. It’s all two storey high, block built houses, but (mostly) with ornate doorways, painted white. Tiles are big here and they cover everything with them.

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Outside of the tourist areas things are pretty run down and very north African. Sheep with attending shepherds graze the side of the roads, shops spill onto the streets and on vast tracks of land the only crop we could see was olives. It is said (probably by a Tunisian) that Tunisian olive oil is the best in the world. Most of the country is uninhabited, and most of it is steppe-like. The south tends to the Sahara desert.

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The coastline is one long beach: lovely sand and, after a period of calm, crystal clear water. However, away from the hotel fronts the beach v quickly becomes plastic central. They are a mess. There are a number of things to see. The markets are typical souks (one Dinar, best price for you …), there are a lot of Roman remains (did a huge collusium today), mosques, forts and Berber villages. But it is not culture heavy.

The people (99% Muslim) are mostly lovely. The woman always engage and always smile. Half of the men are charming, the other half are stern and, if you’re of a nervous disposition (hardly surprising after 38 tourists were murdered in 2015), clearly terrorists; which they are not. We found the Turkish men the same, but I can tell you that I’ve felt much more at ease here than I did in Istanbul just a year ago.

All-inclusive? Well it’s a first for us. On chatting to our fellow guests, people come here because it’s cheap. We paid £750 all-in (we know of one couple who paid £600). Whatever, we thought that good value … until I checked our hotel on TripAdvisor and read the recent reviews. After that we came with v low expectations. The reviews were wrong. The hotel (4-star) has been built with grand intentions. And it almost meets them. Our rooms are huge, the two outdoor pools are massive and wonderfully clean, the indoor pool is good, there’s a gym, a spar and access straight onto the beach. It’s clean and only one or two of the staff are grumpy. The food is good (no hamburgers, it’s Tunisian and better for it) and plentiful. The beer (which is free) is perfectly quaffable and the red wine is on tap in the restaurant. Ok, so we’re not all-inclusive aficionados, but it ticks all our boxes (apparently you do get better, but you do pay more).

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Our hotel has a number of local guests (it’s about 25% full) and they clearly love all-inclusive. Watching how they like to pile their plates … many plates …is a sight to behold. I guess the Brits make up for it at the bar. So, all-inclusive gets our vote. It is so good to not to have to think about how much things cost.

More on our itinerary later, but in a nutshell: day one was a 6-mile beach walk to Hammamet, and a bus back; day two was a taxi to the next but one coastal village, and a bus back; day three was an organised trip inland to a big mosque and a huge collusium, which is where they filmed Life of Brian (love it).

Oh, and I lost my glasses somewhere on day one’s 6-mile walk. I was wearing my prescription sunglasses at the time. Bugger. I fumbled about for a bit and then, yesterday, I found a street vendor selling glasses and he had a pair (short-sighted) half the strength I need … for £6. They’ll do! C reckons I look like Himmler or some other pervy chap. Oh well

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More later!

We will remember them?

If you don’t want the usual Ladley lecture, then skip the next couple of paragraphs and go on to the bits about Tunisia.

I’m not anti-Brexit because I think the UK will lose loads of cash if we pull out of the economic union. Whatever form it takes, I think it’s clear that it might be fiscally close to catastrophic in the short term, but who can tell in the mid-to-long term? It might just work … we might be better off. I’m not anti-Brexit because I’m for open borders. No, with a small, busy, already over-populated country I can see that we need to look closely at how we manage immigration; at how we deal with asylum. For the record I am a multiculturalist. I couldn’t care less what colour, creed, sexual persuasion, religion etc you are. Having travelled a lot and lived and worked with all manner of people the ratio of good people to bad people is the same whatever they call themselves, whoever they worship and wherever they live. And I’m not anti-Brexit because I think the EU is a well-oiled machine which we shouldn’t abandon. No. It’s rubbish in parts and needs a good overhaul, especially in light of where the world finds itself today.

And I’m not particularly anti-Trump because I can’t find a single redeemable feature about him; which I can’t. I’m not particularly anti-Trump because he’s a racist and a misogynist – which I think the record shows that he is. I’m not anti-Trump because every policy decision he has made is wrong. NATO allies should pay more for their collective defence. And, although I’m no expert, China is almost certainly stealing US industrial secrets and fixing its currency. And I’m not anti-Trump because he’s wholly partisan, when he should be trying to bring the country together … that’s what leaders do.

No.

I’m anti-Brexit and anti-Trump because history tells us that nationalism and isolationism breed mistrust and fear. They sew arrogance and xenophobia. They hand power to individuals and wrestle it from the rest of us.

The UK is known and respected for the rule of law. It gets things right – with hundreds of years of stability we are a beacon for trust and fair play. People regard us highly. And yet. Just when Europe needs stability, with the far-right emerging in countries nowhere near as temporally stable as ours, we walk away from the table with a message that says, ‘we don’t want to belong to your rubbish club anymore’. Just when solidarity is needed, we, the centre of right and wrong, set an example for others to follow. If you don’t like it – leave.

And they will.

And Trump is doing the same thing on a global scale. His disdain for international treaties, his disrespect for allies and his ignorance of what is the right thing to do when everyone looks to the US for ‘the normal’, is telling crackpots and dictators that ‘that’s ok’.

One hundred years ago … no let’s reflect on all of the conflicts over the past one hundred years. People gave their lives to create a world where the world found a balance. The big players, the large alliances co-existed. Global warming was recognised as a big thing. Treaties were put in place to keep a lid on nuclear disarmament. Europe, the centre of all things war-like, had become so close it was impossible to see how friends could become enemies. Yes, there were tiffs. But a common good was recognised.

Now, with Trump and Brexit, the stable platform that we have enjoyed is crumbling. Our children will inherit a world-order that is disintegrating. Friends are already becoming foes. Bullies are rising. Fear and hatred is among us.

And we are to blame. Our generation. For ignoring the poor. For giving up on the dispossessed. For looking out for number one. For being so short-sighted that we ignore history and dismiss the future. Yes, we’re going to be OK. I will not get called up to serve. I am too old. But my kids might. I will not drown in rising sea-levels, but my grandchildren will need to invest in a boat.

we should remember them

Oh, and what about Tunisia?

We’re having a fab time. And I will post again soon cos I’ve got a lot to tell you! So, sorry if you skipped to the end only to find that I’m still droning on. And on.

Sorry.

Harrumph

I don’t want to talk about the ‘blue ripple’, that is that His Donaldness didn’t quite get the smashing he deserved in the US mid-terms. I don’t want to talk about the fact that he’s since fired his AG, Sessions, and will now look at closing down the Mueller probe into his relationship with Russia and Russian businesses. And I don’t want to talk about how he’s barred Jim Acosta, the CNN White House correspondent, from the WH for asking difficult questions.

But, as ex-Army and having served in a few interesting places in my 25 years, I want to make a single point (which might go on for two or three). His Orangeness has never visited a member of the military serving overseas, anywhere. He’s not been to Iraq, nor Afghanistan. He has, of course, been golfing. A lot. And he has used Air Force 1 to transport himself to 72 political rallies since he won the election; in the last one he used AF1 as a backdrop for his rally … both of those things are unethical; I think the last one may be illegal. He is, after all, the president of the whole of the US, and not just 37% of it. Seventy-two rallies. That’s about one every ten days since his election. One day in every ten he’s doing the ‘look at me’ thing, whilst not running the country. Sorry, but what does that tell you?

And he’s never been to an operational theatre. Where he might have to put on a flak jacket. And eat food with some sand in it.

Final thing. I bet there’s no more fuss about the thousand-odd shoeless immigrants who are heading to the US border. I’m guessing the soldiers with their guns (more nights out of bed for the poor blokes and girls who should be home with their families, resting between overseas tours – will they still be there for Christmas?) will not get much of a mention either. No? That’s because it was a political stunt, backed up by vile and untrue propaganda, and the odd baseless campaign add.

As an ex-soldier, and in the run up to November 11th, I am appalled (and intrigued, I have to say) by state of US politics and what it says about half of the US folk who voted on Tuesday. He cares not for you. Really. He only cares about himself, and how you lot see him. He’s not a great politician, nor is he, by record, a great businessman. And, for me … and I would say a lot of my country … he is no longer the leader of the free world.

The good news is we’re off to Tunisia for a week tomorrow. Hurrah!

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lots of collars and leads to finish

And, for the record, it’s been a busy first half of the week for us. For me, three days at Jen’s sewing lots of stuff.

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cheers! We’re escaping the madness and heading off to Tunisia!

Good Saturday

We have been busy, in a social sort of sense.

First books. Well, having said sales had dropped off a cliff last time I wrote, I went and sold a few books and made it to the end of October having sold over one a day – which is my baseline. And I’ve sold 7 books this month already. And ‘Pennant’, the Services’ pension society, have told me that whilst an article I wrote for them didn’t make the November issue, there was a new editor and maybe they’d publish it next time. In the mean time would I send them my latest book; they would review it for me. The Pennant must have close to 100,000 readers, so fingers crossed.

And I should be finished chapter 15 by the end of the day. That’s 5 chapters short of 130,000 words, which should be enough. So it’s writing for me this afternoon.

We were with Jen on Thursday – and that went well. I can’t for the life of me remember what we did on Friday. C did lots of cooking. I did some writing, and I’m sure we did some other stuff.

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Elizabeth and Andrew outside of their mansion

Yesterday was a great day. First we took the trike (Scarlet) into Bristol to have lunch with school (work school, not school school) friends of ours. It was fab to see them (picked up some tips for our trip to Tunisia on Friday) in their new home. Elizabeth has just retired and they’ve moved into a beautiful, colossal, old (1700s) merchant’s house on the waterfront just down from the suspension bridge. It took us about an hour to do the tour (vaulted cellar – fab) and then lunch. Back home on Scarlet. And that was great. For the first time I felt really confident with C on the back, nipping in and out of traffic.

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C ready to get on the trike…

Last night Peter and Karen came round. They own half of the Cotswolds and were close to being persuaded to come in their Aston Martin. So would our two-up, two-down in Bradley Stoke work its magic? Well C made some great grub and the old girl (the house, not C) delivered. We had a fab time … and it has encouraged us to invite everyone and their wives round. Well done the house and please invite yourselves!

Finally, for the record, I’m running daily at the moment. It’s about to clear what I think is a long-term virus which has been dragging me down a bit. So far that’s been going well. I’ll keep you in the loop.

Trick or treat?

Something happened the other day, I was filling up with fuel on the way to the party in London and spotted 10 battery-powered LED-pumpkins. I bought them. Which surprised the hell out of me, and shocked C. And, tonight, as I pen this, we have a bucket of lollipops and a set of lights hanging on our front door proclaiming we are open for business. You see we’re not miserable old so-and-sos, are we? And, power to the kids and parents who have been round, they’ve all been scarily dressed = and they’ve all said ‘thanks’, nicely.

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trick or treat…

The US take Halloween much more seriously than we do, although Sainsbury’s are trying their best to help us catch up. The US take a lot of things more seriously than we do. Like allowing any Tom, Dick or Dirty Harry to own a gun. And, of course, they have their very own bogeyman, his Donaldness, who continues to run the country as though it is his own reality TV show. Of course he’s not had a great couple of days. The pipe bomber worked out of the back of a van that was plastered with pro-Trump stickers, including a photo of Hilary C in the cross hairs. Then there’s the awful shooting in the Pittsburgh synagogue, to which Trump’s first media response was. ‘it wouldn’t have been so bad if there had been someone in the congregation who was armed’. All right then, off to church. Oh, and don’t forget the AK47. What he didn’t point out was that four armed policemen were shot by the perp on the scene. So more guns may not be the answer. And he went to Pittsburgh yesterday, when the mayor asked him not to come – and none of the senior politicians he asked to come with him attended. The man has the emotional intelligence of an alligator.

And there’s the caravan of 5,000 migrants heading through Mexico – on foot, they won’t be at the border for a couple of weeks – which Trump is declaring (almost) a national emergency. So much so, he’s sent a load of US troops to bolster the border. Frankly, as most of those trudging away from persecution and economic hardship are without shoes, I’d just rent a helicopter and buy a million drawing pins and drop them at likely crossing points. Trump reckons the caravan’s full of ‘bad hombres’ and disease. Actually they’re heading for the border to apply for asylum, something people have been doing for as long as there’s been a border. The US is, after all, a nation of immigrants. Donald should know – all of his closest family, including two wives, come from that stock. The hypocrisy is unfathomable.

Move on, Roland!

Finished the upstairs carpets – and they’re great. OK, I wouldn’t be invited into the carpet layers’ guild, but they’ll do. And we now have the heating on, so you’re more than welcome to pop round – and there’s no need to bring a beanie.

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our bedroom carpet now …

Jen’s tomorrow for some more sewing, and then three days off, where I aim to finish Chapter 15 and maybe start 16. It’s all fits and starts, but you can’t edit what you haven’t written.

That’s it from us!

It’ll be an absolute disaster, darling

I’m sorry, but I’m putting it out there. I don’t do clothes. I’m not saying I’m a naturist, I’m just saying that clothes are not important to me. I wear what’s comfortable and, if given the choice, would wear the same thing day in, day out. I do know where the shower is, and, thankfully, I’m not a smelly person, but I have been known to wear the same clothes for a season. It drives my kids mad. And C’s not always happy wandering around with a hobo.

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from C’s photostock. Straight from Beauty and the Beast

I went straight from school (where we wore uniform – no choice necessary) to Sandhurst where we were told what to wear. The stuff the quartermaster chose was, by and large, comfortable and practical. Twenty five years in the Army followed the same pattern. When they updated the uniform, they gave us new stuff. When the formal wear didn’t change, I just got into my old stuff – and having not changed shape, I think I wore my best (mess) kit without it ever going into the dry cleaners. I’m sure C would say that’s not right, but I never missed it long enough to think that it might have disappeared for a bath.

And, out of uniform, I wore, well, uniform. You know. Chinos and polo shirts. Boat shoes and flip flops. Checked jackets and the odd pair of jeans. But, down time was such a precious resource in those days, what I wore remains a blur.

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more from C. A brilliant cake for the party

School. Simple. Chinos and a jacket. The same pair of shoes until they fell apart and then I went to TK Maxx and bought another pair. It was uniform, plain and simple.

So, you see. I’ve never had much interest in clothes, because I have never needed to. And I am hardly a clothes horse. I’m 18 feet tall with a pigeon chest and, as my Saville Row tailor told me once (we had no choice … M&S suits weren’t acceptable in my Regiment), ‘You have very big thighs. Suits you, sir!’, his head at crotch height, his tape measure in his mouth and his hands too close for comfort.

Today we left Bristol for Mary’s. Normally that’s easy from a wardrobe perspective. Walking trouser (or Empire-building shorts), t-shirt and a fleece. Easy. Two days? I might need a second pair of pants. But the same socks will be fine.

But, no. We are going to a lunch party on tomorrow, with a pile of gay men who talk about their shoes a lot. What am I going to wear? Oh, God. Look at my wardrobe! I’ll be ridiculed. What about my white jeans? No, they have a mark on the pocket. What about some school chinos? Are you kidding me? Normal jeans? You know, the ones you’ve not been seen in this century because, as you say, ‘Old men don’t wear jeans.’

I think I broke down at one point. It was a disaster, darling.

Anyway. I’ll let you know how it goes in my jeans, lumberjack shirt and Weird Fish fleece. It’ll be sooooo 2000s, darling. And don’t even ask about my shoes…

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h/s/l carpet fitted. Not a bad effort

Well, this week I finished the hall/stairs/landing carpet and it looks OK, I think. I finished Chapter 14 (87k words), which is a pivotal chapter as it introduces the main villain, which will be a shock to most of you. The problem is, whilst I know the conspiracy, I have absolutely no idea what happens now. Really. I have 50k words to scribe and no plot, other than Sam gets beaten up a bit, and finally gets her man. I think.

Oh, and book sales have dropped off the cliff. And I had my very worst review on Thursday. A 1-star horrible thing, written by someone who thought I was both an amateur and an impostor. Horrible … followed by two lovely, 5-star reviews. It was as though they were both reading a different series. Whatever, it’s fair to say that it’s not been a good book week. But I am still writing, grinding out some good stuff I feel. And even better after an edit.

Anyhow. Must go and polish my Doc Martins…

 

I am an expert

Yesterday we left a well known carpet suppliers with three rolls of really quite decent carpet. We bought an end of roll brownish carpet for our bedroom, a lighter brown off cut (4 x 2.2m) for the spare bedroom and another greyish off cut for the hall/stairs/landing. Total cost = £277 (the 2 off cuts were about to go to the skip and we paid £49 for each one of them). The man who sold us the carpets was clearly thrilled to be getting rid of them, and very dubious that I had anywhere near the wherewithal to lay them.

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What he didn’t know was that I had ordered a ‘kneekicker’ from Amazon for £27 [put it on the carpet, kick the pad with your knee, it the grips on the kicker and pushes the carpet away from you] and I had watched a YouTube video on how to lay a carpet.

We had taken up the h/s/l carpet (leaving spiky things and underlay in place) so we could sand down the gloss and repaint the woodwork. We had done the walls a couple of weeks ago. This did leave us with the obstacle course of getting up and down the stairs without puncturing our toes (on the way up) and heels (on the way down). I’ve only got a couple of scars. After the paint had dried I decided to replace the landing carpet, which is shaped like the net of a cube (a cube that has been dismantled, but is still joined at some egdes). In my book that easily makes it the most difficult to lay.

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the net of a cube..

I put the new carpet on the floor and laid the old one on top of it. I then drew round the outside with a felt tip and cut off the spare bits with a Stanley knife. Ten minutes later it was down. I used a metal wedge and a hammer to knock in the edges, and secure it into those funny metal things that join two rooms (there must be a name for those). It was done. And, even if I say so myself, it looks like carpet … and it feels like carpet! Tomorrow I have to lay the stairs, but that does look like a more straightforward job, and next week we’ll do the two bedrooms. A slightly bigger problem, I hear you say. But, hang on, the YouTube vid I watched showed an Aussie fitting out a room as big as out house, ergo, I have done the course and am set to carpet any room you like.

[For the record, Jen’s on Monday and again today. Carpet laying for the rest of the week. And Mary’s and London for Saturday/Sunday. It’s all go….]