Prologue – tick

Just filling the gaps. Gaps, I have to say, that have been warmed and lightened by some fabulous late-September sunshine.

Deer Leap - our favourite

Deer Leap – our favourite

I guess the big thing for me has been getting down and writing the prologue of my second Sam Green novel. I’ve no idea where it’s going, although I have established the main conspiracy. I’m determined to make this the best it could possible be, having learnt so much from writing the first one. But I also need to ensure I don’t change the overall approach as, so far, those of you who have read UH seem to really like it. It’s going to be an interesting balance.

I have been trying to get the paperback available on Amazon.co.uk; it is clearly there for everyone on the US site. It seems to come and go and the little people at Amazon tell me it should be ready for tomorrow. At which point I’m going to try for a Facebook advertising campaign. More about that later when I get it going.

looking across to Exmouth

looking across to Exmouth

C now has two medical appointments. One next Monday and one the Monday after that, both down here in Taunton (we’re parked up on a hill at Dawlish with lovely views over the River Exe). That should get this throat thing sorted and, you never know, we might have time to pop over to the continent for a month or so before Christmas sets in. But, with my Mum and Dad not at their best, it may be we hold off on a trip abroad and wait to January and then head off to Spain. We’ll see.

For the record Doris, who has been the only constant in all of this, had her front disks replaced by a garage local to Jen’s, on Monday (£200). Note to self: we do need to replace the rear tyres. Monday night we stopped over at Deer Leap, above Wells, and whilst the CL at Dawlish is untidy, it does have v good views and is a short walk from the beach road. In still good weather we’re off on our bikes today down to the local nature reserve. It will be good to get out on them. And then back to work – more writing.

And finally our great pals Alasdair and Annie phoned from Saudi last night. Like Phil he’s due out of the Army at the end of this year and they are moving back to the UK. They’re not sure what’s happening next (too busy to think it all through) but the great news is that they will be seeable. And for the first time for a long time the Jones, Wilds, Clements and Ladleys will all be in the same country at the same time. We must get on and buy that property abroad… No seriously, that will be just great.

So that’s us then. Have a great rest of your week.

A mighty fine weekend

It’s amazing what a decent spell of weather can do for one’s morale. We learnt on Friday that C has to pop into hospital for a check up in the next couple of weeks which has meant that we are having to delay our dispatch into Europe (and likely Croatia) for a while.

my four girls (if you include Doris)

my four girls (if you include Doris)

Ordinarily this would have been a disappointment and in some way that is the case. But, the outbreak of an Indian summer and a weekend with our two girls and their men has lifted the spirits.

I forgot to add that we to a train to London on Thursday to see Eva...

I forgot to add that we to a train to London on Thursday to see Eva…

Yesterday Bex and Steven arrived and we all traipsed into Bristol for a bite of lunch at the ‘hip’ market with outdoor food stalls. And then a wander around the harbour. Mrs Sun was out in all her finery and lit up what is an already fabulous city – it has everything you need and, at every turn, is being nicely gentrified. Then we all descended on James’ flat with fish and chips to watch England get beat by the Welsh, see. C and I walked back from James as our runs were curtailed and we both slept well.

lunch, mmm....

lunch, mmm….

Today we all walked round to the Bradley Stole car boot thingy. Bacon sandwiches and a poke round the tat filled our morning along with a degorge of the garage to get the keyboard out so Bex could take it back to Penkridge. It was during this spell that ‘what we are doing’ was wholly reaffirmed as a v sensible approach to late middle-age. Yes, with Phil and Denise last week we saw the other benefits of working: living in interesting places and having the cash to enjoy them. But for us this weekend demonstrated how close we had become to our children. And, together, how much fun we could have. If I were working there is no way I would be able to give up as much emotional energy as I am now to time with our kids. (And I know C feels the same way.) It just wouldn’t be the same. It’s as simple as that.

Cassie...a bit like Lassie

Cassie…a bit like Lassie

Oh, and after Bex and Steven had left to go back to Birmingham for school tomorrow, Jen, me and C walked along the Seven estuary for five miles with Cassie accompanied by fabulous post-summer sunshine.

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Finally UH is now available as a paperback (well Amazon have shown it as available a couple of times over the past two days, but it does seem to come and go). The lowest price I can offer it for is £5.99. Sorry, but Amazon take nearly all of that in production costs. I have a copy and already I want to change the cover, the colour of the inside pages and the size of the text, which seems to be set for someone with v poor eyesight. But – I do now have a book in print. Hurrah!

Anyhow a day of admin tomorrow here at Jen’s and then back down to Wells hovering about waiting for C’s hospital appointment. The weather looks set fair so we might pop along the Devon coast somewhere. Have a great week.

Ok Google, all is forgiven

It’s been a bit of a post-US lull and I don’t have a great deal to report. Quite a bit of my time has been focussed on getting Mary a new computer. You would have thought this would have been a simple enough affair, but with the introduction of Windows 10 (which we had heard was problematic) it’s no longer a simple case of transferring files and contact lists and plugging it in.

the stork at the bottom of Phil and Denise's garden

the stork at the bottom of Phil and Denise’s garden

Windows 10 has a poor email client and wouldn’t accept Mary’s contact list from her old machine. And it also wouldn’t group email contacts together to allow you to email lots of people at the same time. Mary needs this facility as she’s secretary for a charity and emails groups of people a lot.

The man at the shop couldn’t really help me – we just couldn’t work it out. Eventually I phone Bill Gates himself (actually it was a good friend of his in the Philippines) and he took control of Mary’s computer and we eventually decided that the only way ahead was to buy and download Outlook. He did all of this remotely from Manilla. (The message here is that if a bloke from the Philippines can access and move things around on your computer from 10,000 miles away, then I’m not surprised people can hack into NASA and paint the space shuttle pink.)

Anyhow, after what seemed like a week in front of Mary’s machine it was all sorted. Hurrah! Whilst this was going on C sorted some stuff as, after a quick trip to London tomorrow, we’re winding up for the next stage of our European tour – Croatia next we think, hopefully catching the ferry mid next week.

Finally I am perilously close to getting Unsuspecting Hero available in paperback. Amazon’s sister company, CreateSpace, allow Indie writers like me to upload my novel and cover and then make it available (including an ISBN number) on Amazon. And, should they wish to stock and sell it, any bookshop and all libraries. There is no cost to me, but the cheapest I can dispatch the book is for £5.99 – my royalties are in pennies. I’d like to sell it for less (it’s currently only £0.99 on kindle), but Amazon need to cover their costs so it will be what it will be.

That’s all from me today. Have a good weekend.

Thanks to the Jones’

It’s another photo explosion today, our travel day back to the UK. Two highlights to mention. First the Oceania Air Base air show and then a walk down the beach on Sunday with an unplanned special event.

big aircraft (a C5 Galaxy) sheltering some all-Americans

big aircraft (a C5 Galaxy) sheltering some all-Americans

The air show, a naval affair (so who knows how big it would have been if it had been an air show by the airforce), was huge and with complementary tickets and VIP hosting because of Phil’s job, a camera clicking day. Blue skies helped as well. I guess it was like any other major air show on the UK, but we’ve not been to one, and so noisy aircraft doing things they’re not designed to do right in your face afforded plenty of ‘wow’ moments. The photos below tell much, but certainly not all, of the story.

a Hercule C130, or 'Fat Albert'

a Hercule C130, or ‘Fat Albert’

the Blue Angles

the Blue Angles

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this one stayed on the ground...just

this one stayed on the ground…just

the finale

the finale

Yesterday we went for an early walk along the beach. To put some perspective on life in the States, let’s study the revered osprey. In our country they are protected to an inch of their lives and people travel hundreds of miles to see them. Here they are two a dime. Every time we’ve walked down the beach we’ve seen one or two flying along coast, diving ungraciously into the water, and then hauling away a fish. Ospreys, eagles, pelicans and vultures: scores of them. You often don’t know where to look.

an osprey...

an osprey…

The beach threw up many wow moments but none as big as the pods of dolphins that swam along with us as we walked. I had come prepared and had to go into the warm sea to join them. And, sure enough, I was soon among them. It’s fair to say without my glasses on I couldn’t really get that feeling of being ten feet away from a pod of dolphins, but the photos that Phil took tell the story. Magical.

me and my friends

me and my friends

Off today. It has been a true holiday. Relaxed, indulgent, different, warm, opulent and all shared with our generous dear friends Phil and Denise. Thanks.

thanks...

thanks…

Back home then and just a week before we head off over the channel. Croatia I think until Christmas. The good news is that we will be moving in the opposite direction to most of the current travellers in Europe. We are, in the broadest possible sense, the luckiest people alive. Have a great week.

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The new maid…

More pictures from me I think. I understand the weather’s not been so good in the UK whilst we’ve been over the Pond? That’s because Mrs Sun is on the US’s payroll. It has been just perfect here. Not too hot to make going outside an uncomfortable experience, just warm enough to brown your toes. Perfect.

Norfolk's beautiful botanical gardens

Norfolk’s beautiful botanical gardens

For the record, as well as being royally entertained by the Jones’, we visited the local botanical gardens (an acreage the RHS would be proud of) and yesterday to Williamsburg, one of the three founding settlements. The latter had an authentic feel with the locals dressed accordingly and not a single tricorne hat fridge magnet in sight (but modern enough to make ‘ye olde wifi’ available). A good balance.

five more photos of the garden

five more photos of the garden

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We also did the whole American burger experience at a nice bar a couple of evenings ago and popped out to a diner for a breakfast of meat, eggs, carbohydrate and sugar. You can have your eggs anyway you like provided you’re happy that there’s sugar in your breakfast somewhere.

and Williamsburg. He one on the left is a Leiutenant General!

and Williamsburg. The one on the left is a Lieutenant General!

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Off to an air show today where, as well as an assortment of planes, I think we might be fed hotdogs for lunch. I think we both feel a detox coming on…

the new maid...

the new maid…

What cheese would you like with that sir?

You’ll be pleased to hear that today it’s mostly photos; enough of the political comment for now. We’ve had a lovely couple of days here in Norfolk VA. The house is a typical American lawyer’s house, as seen on TV, with a jetty and a pool. You’d need a lot of cats before you run out of room swinging. And from the luxury of your patio you can pick out bright orange cardinal birds, bald headed eagles, humming birds, vultures, all manner of cranes and storks, huge bright yellow swallow-tailed butterflies, and if you pop down to the beach – diving pelicans and pods of dolphins. Among others. Just magnificent.

on the beach

on the beach

Raleigh House, named after Walter do course...

Raleigh House, named after Walter…

We’ve been to the naval base (the largest in the world, of course), walked through a swamp and pottered around the main city with the highlight being the Chrysler museum, a wonderful small and light museum with fabulous art from every known famous painter (although I didn’t see a Michelangelo, but you can tick off Monet, Turner, Picasso, Warhol, etc) and the best collection of glass we have ever seen. Fabulous.

The Winconsin, the ship where the end of WW2 in the East was signed off

The Winconsin, the ship where the end of WW2 in the East was signed off

wonderful glass at the Chrysler Museum

wonderful glass at the Chrysler Museum

Then there’s the whole American experience. Bright yellow school buses, noisy chrome and red fire tenders, redneck 4x4s with engines designed for cross-channel ferries, sidewalk to sidewalk shopping malls and food portions that Napoleon’s quartermaster would have been proud of.

the swamp

the swamp

And, if you’ll humour me, I’d like to dwell on that for a second. We’ve had a sandwich lunch out two days on the trot. Think Subway, although we ate one in an equivalent of a John Lewis restaurant. Eating out is not cheap here. I’d say about one and a half times as expensive as the equivalent in the UK. But if there are any American restauranteurs reading this, let me give you some advice. You could attract more customers and help reduce their waist lines by managing your portions better – and hence charging less.

Let me give you an example. I asked for a beef sandwich with salad. “So, what cheese do you want on that then?” Ehh, none thanks. “So, you don’t want any cheese on that then?” No, don’t think so. Now picture the sandwich making scene. Think of the biggest joint of beef you’ve ever seen and then double it. Slice it thinly, but be generous and cut off ten slices. Yes, folks, ten. Try manfully to put them in my soggy baguette and heap a whole lettuce on top. “That’ll be $10 please sir.”

I did the same for C, but asked for a cheese sandwich. “No ham on that then sir?” No, just cheese. “Just a vegetarian sandwich?” Yes, but to be clear I do eat meat and , when I’m allowed, sleep with my wife. So please don’t make any further judgements.

early doors on the jetty

early doors on the jetty

Everything is big here. Everything. More of which later.

Have a good end of week, I know we will.

Sorry for the crusade…

How many films can any man watch? We’re still four hours out from Dulles and I’ve already sat through Inside Out and Kingsmen. I was just about to put Mad Max on, but I was worried about the impact more gush (Inside Out was ok – a good ending) and violence (I loved Kingsmen) might have on my fading grey matter. There is only so much media feast that a late middle aged man can take before the top of his head blows off. Sorry, that vision was courtesy of Kingsmen. Seriously though, it did inspire me to get on and write the sequel to UH. My pen will deliver more realism I feel, but that’s not a bad thing.

Today (Monday) is our 30th wedding anniversary – that’s Pearl for those of you not in the know. We were up early and had the misfortune of being taxied to Terminal 5 by one of those cabbies who

ever the romantic...our anniversary breakfast

ever the romantic…our anniversary breakfast

thinks we might be interested in his life story. At seven o’clock in the morning. When the traffic is bad and C is fretting like terrier with a big bone. We made it, though, and neither of us got round to telling the taxi driver what we really thought. The transition through check in and customs was straightforward and we had an anniversary breakfast of home-made sandwiches and a pork pie. I am, as ever, a romantic. And now, after back-to-back films, I am penning this. I feel some political comment coming on, so skip to the last couple of paragraphs now.

Yesterday we had an extremely civilised lunch with Simon and Rosemary in their London house. We couldn’t stop ourselves from discussing the refugee crisis and Jeremy Corbyn. Not that those two are necessarily related. On the latter my jury is out. Yes he is naive if he thinks we can do away with the nuclear deterrent, not deploy soldiers overseas and leave NATO, and then expect anyone (anywhere) to ever take us seriously again. Unfortunately we are globally recognised as a nation whose history and working liberal democracy allows us to offer a voice of reason, almost of temperance, when others think the answer to the problem is to shoot every terrorist with an M16. We are not Sweden, but nor are we the U.S….

Simon and Rosemary and their lovely Roehampton house

Simon and Rosemary and their lovely Roehampton house

…we are the middle ground, not jingoistic, xenophobic, nor arrogant enough to think we have all the answers. But we are solid, dependable and good at what we do. We have interests abroad, both human and economic, which will survive all of today’s political leaders (at 66, certainly Jeremy’s). And the only way we can protect them and meet our allies’ expectations of us is to be, well, British. Strong, dependable and generous. Leaving NATO, creating a home-based Army and dismantling our nuclear deterrent will remove a key player from the world stage. If that’s what Jeremy wants them he won’t get my vote.

But I do admire home for being, well, himself. Not someone else. And if he can engage the politically disaffected and get them to start taking some responsibility for their own country, bully for him. If he can do something that alleviates poverty, raises educational standards and makes everything a little bit fairer, then that can only be a good thing. First, of course, he has to get Labour, or whatever they’re going to call themselves, back as a coherent whole. Then, with a well painted narrative, he has a chance. Certainly I think David Cameron is more worried about Mr Corbyn than he was about any of the other three. We shall see.

Interesting times then. The refugee crisis is a so-and-so. You’re damned if you do (accept migrants in their thousands and thus encourage and create an autobahn sized conduit for tens of thousands upon tens of thousands more). And damned if you don’t (stop the migration, accept only those in the direst need at the point of exit of their country and support agencies looking after the camps in Jordan, Turkey and elsewhere; then be accused of being fat, uncaring capitalistic westerners who deserve the terrorism that the likes of the IS are chucking our way.)

It is, without doubt, the most challenging political potato Europe has had since, I would say, the Second World War. So who’s right? Merkel or Cameron? Let them all in, or take a tiny minority of the most desperate and hope the remainder will survive longer than the conflicts that plague their countries?

I’m on Angela Merkel’s side for two reasons. First, we are all the same people. The boundaries that divide us are drawn in crayon by men who did the best they could, mostly mopping up after a helluva fight. They are artificial and likely to be drawn again at some point in the future. Humanity is a mass. People may be defined by where they are born, but having met men and women from a wide range of nations my clear view is that we are all the same. And poverty begins at home. It’s just that my definition of home may be larger and wider than yours.

Second we have to agree that the world is a muddle at the moment. Islamic based terrorism is widespread and a danger to every country. As ‘Christian’ nations (and that’s a political statement, not a religious one) if we accept our global responsibilities and offer help to what are predominantly Muslim refugees, we are saying to all Islamic moderates that we are good people. We are prepared to offer solace to ‘their kind’. We are not all George Bush. Nor do we hold them responsible for 9/11, 7/7, Charlie Hebdo and…. I could go on. By opening our doors we are, in some way, combating extremism.

we flew in this big baby...

we flew in this big baby…

So that’s that then. Sorry for the crusade (should that be ‘tirade’?), but every so often if I get the time it’s good to get these things off one’s chest.

At the Jones’ lovely waterfront house now after an informative five-hour drive from Washington. Penning this at 5.30 am as my body clock has lost a couple of springs and is struggling to move the hands round. You would have thought by now I might have gone digital.

Have a good week. We intend to. Oh, and for the record, I watched Mad Max. Wow, what a film.