We’re walking on sunshine, ohh oh!

Well at least the weather has improved. It is fair to report that the last four days have been okay. Not late summer weather; more early autumn. But enough to get C and I on our feet walking down canals and running around the countryside.

Hi Onn with Bex and Steven

Hi Onn with Bex and Steven

After a night’s stop in the rain on Wenlock Edge we parked up for two nights at the Caravan Club £12.50 site at High Onn. It’s a lovely site close enough to the M6 that you should be able hear it, but far enough away to be subsumed in countryside and smothered with soundless nights. We both ran a four-miler, walked the same distance in reasonably sunny weather, cleaned Doris and did other admin. Watching the World Championship athletics has been a real boon and I have now completed my work for the pal of mine – we meet in a couple of weeks to discuss the outcome.

we're walking in sunshine, ohh, oh!

we’re walking in sunshine, ohh, oh!

We’re close to Penkridge where Bex and Steven live, so we saw them and then parked for two nights on their (his Dad’s) drive. Before that we had another altercation with a elderly couple in Aldi’s carpark. They approached Doris and looked to get in their new Golf when the woman said ‘I hope you haven’t scratched our new car’. Flabbergasted we then joined an unnecessary conversation that was more suited to EastEnders than some civilised people. For us it was another nail in the coffin for this country.

On the plus side we did pop into a local motorhome dealer where they specialise in Carthago motorhomes. For the non-experts among you Cathargo are the Mercedes of motorhomes and we did pick out one we really liked. At £66k it seemed worth every penny, but then you have to live with a mobile palace and look after it with real care. It’s not that we don’t look after Doris, it’s just that we’re now much more relaxed about where we take her. Certainly if we parked up in a supermarket carpark (actually we wouldn’t be able to fit), we’d be asking anyone and everyone if they had scratched our new motorhome.

picnic lunch stop

picnic lunch stop

Last night we went out to supper in Penkridge with Steven and Bex and his Mum. A very convivial evening it was too. Next we’re off back down south to Bristol to see Jen, popping into Gloucester to see ex-school parent friends of C’s. And then? Mary’s followed by Mum and Dad’s for the big bash. Hurrah!

Oh, and finally, at the Hi Onn campsite we met an ex-DI policeman who had taken early retirement at 48 and had now, at 58, stopped work altogether. He kept himself busy cycling all over the UK and Europe. We got to know him because he wanted to look round Doris as he was thinking about upgrading from a caravan. I asked him if he was worried about not working, not using his talent. Ehh, no. He thought he’d done enough and was enjoying life for what it was. Well there you go…

Have a great week.

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And the best news of all

It’s official – this country is rubbish. Since we ran away from the Pembrokeshire coast, other than one day, the weather has been foul. Last night, the 25th of August, we had to put the heating on in Doris. We have managed a short walk and a run in the last couple of days, but other than that we’ve been kept indoors by weather designed for a different season.

much wetter than it looks

much wetter than it looks

I don’t want to go on about it but even in the back of beyond in wet Wales it’s still a busy island we live on. People are still moving about at a pace quicker than their counterparts on the continent. Roads are full and fast and people seem to live with the nerves at the tips of their fingers exposed – it doesn’t take much for a man in McDonalds to give C an unnecessary piece of his mind. That happened the other day. And, to cap it all, I got another parking ticket. Let me tell you…

…we got a delayed ticket from one of these supermarket car parks which are owned by car parked companies, the ones that don’t take any money for you parking on their tarmac provided you park within the lines, display a ticket (which you get reimbursed at Asda/Tescos etc) and do not outstay your welcome. We were fined £70 for parking too long in Norwich about eighteen months ago. At that point we were oblivious to the signs and the preponderance of cameras. The next thing we know we got a v sharp legal letter through the post with ‘debt agencies’ mentioned if we didn’t pay. I did some research and it seemed the jury was out on whether or not they could legally fine us as you had not signed a contract with them. We paid up, not wanting the jury to be in for our particular case.

Last month we stopped at Peterborough to do some shopping. Peterborough is rubbish for motorhomes – every carpark had a height barrier, except Asda. Noting that we were under surveillance with cameras and unpleasant signs, we were diligent about buying a ticket, leaving before we ran out of time and using the ticket in Asda – although we did pop into town. This apparently wasn’t enough for the carpark owners who obviously only make money by fining people. £70 please.

What to do? Well without a full time job we can’t afford for our credit rating to be hit by some non-payment, so I will pay the bill

grrrr

grrrr

whilst protesting our innocence. I’ll let you know how it goes. But to add to the overall gloom when we parked in some Welsh town by the border where we were met with the picture here. C made sure she took a photo of our ticket just in case we get summoned again. The same thing happened again today in Telford, so we didn’t bother parking and moved onto the a retail area where Big Brother’s stretch was not quite long enough.

Having said all of that, the best news of all – and by far outweighing all of this rubbish – is our Jen and James have gone and gotten themselves engaged. Hurrah! We are both over the moon and can’t wait to see them on Sunday after they get back from Skye where the deed was done. Well done them.

well done them!

well done them!

Finally, for the record, the weather has kept me indoors and allowed me to do some more work for my friend. And whilst stopped at a Caravan and Camping Club CL (no EHU) somewhere in wet Wales, the fridge wouldn’t light on gas – just like a couple of years ago. This time it didn’t take me too long to find a wire on the gas pump at the back of the fridge which was a little faulty. A quick wiggle and hey-presto, am fridge repair man again.

Finally and serendipitously we bumped into three Wells Cathedral School minibuses at Buith Wells (DofE Gold exped) and had a lovely catch up with people we know. So, it’s not been all gloom and doom.

It’s raining…rain

We made it as far as Brecon to a small Caravan Club site at Aberbran. It’s an old railway station, tidily well looked after by the CC and at £12.50 for a pitch and electric, not a bad place to park up.

the site, not the station...

the site, not the station…

We were expecting heavy rain for ever, but Saturday gave us some lovely sunshine and we managed a cycle into Brecon for a coffee, and then a v long run up into the hills and back. I was out for 44 minutes and C for over an hour. Fabulous.

post 6-miler...

post 6-miler…

local cattle bridge almost overcome with the deluge

local cattle bridge almost overcome with the deluge

And then the rain came and it’s been heaping it down ever since. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I was able to complete the work on the model that Mr Google so cruelly lost for me between my Chromebook and the Cloud. Clearly Klars and Wolfgang in their air conditioned warehouse near The Hague were having a day off. Whatever I tried to do it wouldn’t update the Cloud from my Chromebook, and then wouldn’t let me open my titanic of a spreadsheet which was in its up to date form on my machine. So I had to revert to an older version and spent a good chunk of yesterday redoing the work. This time, thankfully, it has updated to the Cloud. I hope it’s raining so much in Holland a dam bursts.

That’s the danger with Cloud computing. First you have to have the confidence when you go to an international meeting that they’re going to have reliable wifi and the Cloud is going to release what you want to your machine. And, more seriously, that neither Klars nor Wolfgang decide to let anyone else have a play. It’s a worry. Thankfully I’m no longer anywhere near being important enough to fret about my work, but I have to say the air was blue yesterday for a bit.

our pitch

our pitch

I also relaunched e-advertising for Unsuspecting Hero. I didn’t realise that the advertising I do with Amazon only hits the U.S. market, so any books sold in the UK (now at 80…I so want to get to 100 by the end of the month) have been either by paper flyers or word of mouth. I have widened the U.S. campaign to include young adults – I think that makes sense as I’ve had a fourteen year old lad tell me he enjoyed the book – so we’ll see what happens now.

The wet weather plan included listening to the cricket (yah-boo-sucks), hearing of Bournemouth’s fab win yesterday (Mary and I are now both Cherries supporters), watching Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah be just fabulous (hurrah) and, I have to say a highlight of this year’s summer sport, watching Usain Bolt beat Gatlin over 100 metres. And a special well done to Seb Coe who has picked up the most difficult job in the world. As an ex-800 metre athlete of no renown whatsoever, I have the greatest respect for all athletes: little skill, just persistent hard graft. Lord Coe needs to re-elevate the purist of sports back up onto its pedestal. Good luck to him.

We’re probably moving on tomorrow. The weather looks set to remain grumbly and a fleeting thought of trekking up Pen-y-Fan looks set to be unaccomplished. Oh well, we’ll be back…

Have a great week.

Extreme sewing…

So that’s the summer gone then. We had two v nice days down on St Anne’s head with Mrs Sun (accompanied by her boisterous cousin Mr Wind) encouraging us to walk, cycle and run up and down the Pembrokeshire coastal path. When it’s like that it is glorious – a faint blue sky, inky blue sea, dark grey and red cliffs and the piercing white froth where sea meets land (there is no other white like it on earth). I’ll let the pictures here paint the view.

image

image

image

Our two days on our feet included a picnic on the headland and a cycle down to a small port called Dale where we had a coffee at a v upmarket yacht club cum cafe, sat on the beachside admiring boats ‘n everything else.

On Wednesday we woke to predicted poor weather and decided to move off of our little farm site (with no EHU) to another farm site on the St David’s side of pointy bit of Pembrokeshire, this time with EHU – probably a must if the rain was coming. Which it did. We’re now on our second day of low mist, a canter of a wind and wet rain. It’s been fine for me because I’ve been working for my pal, which has taken a good deal of my attention. It would be wrong to say it’s been all work and no play as we did manage a cycle into St David’s and C, outcast to under the awning, attempted some extreme sewing whilst I toiled away on my Chromebook.

extreme sewing

extreme sewing

You have to feel for those down here on their two week annual holiday – especially those who come in a tent. The air is continuously damp, which is fine in Doris, but if you venture outside at all your extremities will be damp in no time at all. The question is, should we move? C’s checking the weather as I type this….so who knows.

So that’s us for now. We don’t have to be anywhere until a week on Tuesday when we’re with Mary for a couple of days before Mum and Dad’s big bash. Let’s hope it’s not ten days of rain.

Baa!

Ahh, the sound of sheeps. I can’t really remember when C and I were last alone with little company other than sheeps. Truly alone, that is. It is fair to say that for most of our European tour we were on our own. Eight months: just the pair of us and Doris. Ok, we did come across a few people and a both our girls and their boyfriends came out to see us, as well as Mary and Annie. But we were pretty much on our tod as they say. Since we’ve been back in the UK we have, as often happens, been with other people.

all alone

all alone

Now this is a good thing. We are, and I can safely say this because they don’t read the blog, closer to our two girls than we ever have been. I have seen more of my parents in the last year than the previous five, and C has got closer to her sister Annie, and me to my brother Kevin (yes it was him who said ‘I love you’ on his comment yesterday. Bless). And we have seen a lot of Mary – which we really enjoy. But, when time is not exclusively your own, you tend to behave in a different way and there are different stresses and strains that come about by being with folk.

As I write this, in the cooling evening cloud of mid-Pembrokeshire, with the sheeps baaing away in the background (and with no additional background hum, although the sheeps are collectively louder than the M4) and with C out on the road going for a run, I feel that relaxed uncomplicated feeling, the one where your brain is free to float about like a Simpson’s cloud against a cartoon-blue sky. Yes I have some stuff to do and that will require application. We aim to be in Pembrokeshire for probably about ten days and then we have the prep for Mum and Dad’s sixtieth wedding bash (champagne – tick; cake – tick; letter from Queen- tick) and subsequently we fly off to the U.S. to stay with Phil and Denise for a week. But I still have a good slab of work to do for my friend (I met one or two of the deliverables last week), and I do want to focus on e-advertising UH by way of a Facebook page and some emails to friends. But, apart from that, there’s not much happening upstairs at the moment. And all of it is uncomplicated as we don’t have to meet the aspirations of people we meet. Fab.

afternoon tea chez Julia and Julian

afternoon tea chez Julia and Julian

For the record on Saturday I went for the MRI on my head to look at the continuing blocked ears that I have, we met with Julia and Julian again this time for tea, mainly so C could meet up with Katherine, a Korean girl of hers who left Wells the year before we did and is studying the violin at the Julliard in NY. We’re both v fond of Katherine; and she plays the violin like a maestro. And then on to Pembrokeshire. We chose a farmer’s field because it was inexpensive and a springboard for the coast. We’re not sure if we’re going to stay here a second night, or make our way to the coast. We’ll make that decision tomorrow.

Have a great week.

It’s all about the book…

a couple to nights ago

a couple of  nights ago

Sorry, this is mostly going to be about the book. We did finish off our tour of Wells having supper with Julia and Julian and then overnighting with Jen, with Bex and Steven in attendance heading down to Cornwall. We are now on Day Two at Knights Folly CS just east of Bristol. £15 a day for a small site with sensible facilities, but with a v positive attribute of being right next to the North Somerset steam railway (and bike path – yippee!).

scary train...

scary train…

So, the book. Two things. Until a couple of days ago I had sold one book using the Amazon advertising software. As a reminder you deposit $100 and you pay ever time someone clicks on your advert to go to your page. I was getting a sensible hit rate, but poor

flyer lady

flyer lady

sales. Jen and I discussed this and between us we sharpened up the advertorial, I put some editorial reviews from the UK site (11 five-stars so far) on the U.S. Site, and we both worked on the Prologue which punters can read using the ‘look inside’ tab. Hey presto. I now have a click to impression ratio (visit site against number of times the advert is shown) of 1:100 much better than a forum statement of 1:1,000. And I have now sold 7 books after 171 clicks. This is a return of 1:25 which is not best in class (1:10) but much better than average (1:100). So that additional work, which Mikki is checking, has made a difference. Currently return on investment (ROI) from this approach is $42 spent, $15 generated. Interestingly I think all the sales have been in the U.S. I’m still waiting for my first ‘unknown to me’ review from the U.S. Mmmmm.

Jen and I also distributed about 650 leaflets round Bradley Stoke on Tuesday. It was a lovely hot day and I think I made at least one sale from a man I spoke to on the street, but so far the stats tell me I have sold 2 books. I’m guessing the leaflets have a shelf life in houses of about five days. Currently ROI is much lower, £100 spent and £2.50 generated – yikes. Mikki and Kenn are doing their bit with a slightly different flyer and my brother is also putting flyers up and about. I have about 400 leaflets ready for further distribution, but I’m going to wait a bit before I decide where to target these.

Knights Folly CS

Knights Folly CS

With Jen I have also spent a bit of time working on the new plot and intend to stick to my schedule of Prologue and Three Chapters by end of October. Everyone tells me that whilst Sam will be the main protagonist, Henry has to be in the thick of it at some point, so I’ll see how that goes. I am, even now, really looking forward to writing it.

Finally off for an MRI scan tomorrow on my head – I’m still suffering with my ears and sinuses a bit. And then a couple of week in Pembrokeshire we think. I have done some more work for my friend and have some plans for next week to take that further. It’s all go here I can tell you!

I sincerely hope the weather perks up for you this weekend wherever you are. It’s raining here, so don’t follow us.

Lots of stuff going on

Sorry, it been a few days. What have we been up to?

I suppose there are three strands to what’s been going on. First our stay at Mary’s last weekend was relaxing and fun. She had relatives of hers staying, but we all rubbed along well. A trip to Petworth House on Saturday with coffee and lunch (we do know how to live) accompanied by the last few delightful overs of the winning test match reverberating via my Tune In Radio app, all in fabulous, warm English summer weather was a real tonic after two days of driving.

Petworth - not attractive

Petworth – not attractive

Petworth is an ugly pile, unless you consider its huge size having a beauty of its own. If you approach it from the north you’d be forgiven to think that it stood on its own in a huge estate. It certainly has a large estate but the house is literally blistered onto the town of Petworth. I say town, it’s actually a conglomeration of antique shops glued together with eating houses. It’s all v English and twee, but, for me, lacks soul.

Inside the house is a revelation. You’re only allowed downstairs as

pictures are a revelation

pictures are a revelation

the owners (Lord and Lady Somebodyorother) still live in part of it and, whilst grand, it has the same slightly unkempt feel of the outside. But the pictures…well, all of the walls are covered in great artists’ works. If you’re a Turner fan, you’ll have already been to the House, I’m sure. I think it’s his early stuff, as there are none of the almost surreal later pictures he did with hints of boats and unsuspecting colours, but it’s all good nonetheless. For me, they redeemed what could be a gem of a NT property. But money goes only so far I guess, even for the NT.

Second I popped along to my friend and presented the work I had done whilst in France. This led to some other discussions and I took away some actions which I shall work in in the next couple of weeks. Intellectually it was all v stimulating, but walking into an office environment did nothing for me whatsoever, so I’m no further forward with deciding what to do next…

image

…unless I remind you that I am a published author! Well, published in an electronic sense and with only 75 sales to my name so far. However, believe it or not confidence is still high. I have played with the advertorial on Amazon and the prologue (all punters can look inside the book on Amazon and this is the first thing they read), and Mikki is going to give them both a once over as well. The flyers have arrived. Mikki is going to distribute some around the New Forest, Kenn into my old military workspace of Abbeywood, and C, Jen and I will be walking round Bradley Stoke tomorrow putting them through people’s doors. Between us we have over 1,250 to get rid of.

flyers have arrived

flyers have arrived

Surprisingly whilst in Wells today seeing doctors ‘n all, Waterstones agreed to put a flyer up on their wall. Our local library declined (shame on them!) but the man in the queue behind me when I asked the question took a leaflet and said he would get a copy. Now, if I personally handed out each flyer… There’s a thought.

Jen and I spent some of yesterday (Monday) afternoon talking through the sequel. I am v excited by the whole thing, even if Book 1 has hardly shown a great return on investment (ROI – look at the businessman in me now!). I think the plot for Book 2 will hold together well and as for Sam Green, well she’s going to have some fun.

Thirdly on Monday night we had supper with a school pal of mine. I think I may have described him before. He’s the delightful lunatic who, at just slightly older than me, runs, skis and mountain-bikes as though every day was his last. Not content with breaking his knee skiing at Easter, he broke his back mountain-biking a couple of weeks ago whilst careering round in Germany. Two rods implanted in his spine and he’s back in his feet, raring to go – just over a week later. Amazing. He invited another school friend over for supper and between us all we had a lovely evening.

the remarkable JB, on his feet straight after back surgery

the remarkable JB, on his feet straight after back surgery

What now? Well we’re stuck in the southwest until further doctor’s appointments on Saturday and then two weeks off. I have work to do, but we both want to get away and hibernate in the late English summer, with Mrs Sun for accompaniment, all tanned and whatnot. Between now and Saturday we’re not quite sure. Out to supper tonight with C’s matron, over night with Jen (Bex and Steven coming down) and three days free with no particular plan. It’s a great life, really it is.

Oh and hello to Pete! We met him and his wife in Lidl’s car park. He is, by his own admission, an avid reader of this drivel. And he was one of the first to read the book, following it originally when I posted it chapter by chapter on the blog. He’s a fellow motorhome owner and an old friend from school. That was a coincidence.

Anyhow. Enough from me. You go and have a good week.