I’m an author?

It’s been a quiet couple of days where, apart from walking, cycling, running, writing and knitting, we’ve not done a lot. We’ve based ourselves at the ACSI site at Vendres-Plage throughout. It’s one of about ten sites in a row that back onto a long, brown sandy beach. The site has about one hundred pitches and about one hundred holiday homes. It is soulless, but functional. And there three of us on the site. It must be the end of the season…


It’s French half term (we think) but the town three miles down the road lacks that holiday feel, but that could be because Mrs Sun is still with you lot and not bothered with us Ladleys. However there are still plenty of MHs and campervans skitting about the place. It is a French obsession and seems to becoming more so every time we cross the channel. There is the odd non-French van (we have a Swiss here), but mostly it’s La Belle France that take to the highways – in their country.

And why not? I don’t think I need to rehearse the benefits of what we do here. Do I?

the baguette lady

the baguette lady

Last night I had a Skype call from the Riyadh readers (thanks Annie). It was fun. They’d all read UH and the views were positive. What was different for me was the unsaid prefix ‘so you’re an author…why did you do this, or that?’ I’m an author? Well I guess I am. And the questions they asked weren’t questions like ‘why did you bother to write such a rubbish book.’ It was more, ‘why did you make the protagonists do that?’ Gave me a warm feeling, it really did.

Best of all, from an American lady: ‘why are the baddies from the States?’ It was half in jest, but I still had to be explain myself.

And the writing continues. I’m starting chapter eight today and, after 36,000 words I reckon I’m about a third of the way through. Still loving it!


Moving on today further east. The weather already looks like it’s perked up a bit which can only add to our general sense of ‘ahhhhhh, that’s good.’ Doing this is like having an all-over body massage. I won’t mention who, in my dreams, the hands might belong to. (C’s of course!)

Have a great rest of week.

A shawl the size of Portsmouth

colder than it looks

colder than it looks

Morning. Sandra and Iain from Baxterbus have just finished their one-year European tour. We met them in Sicily and then again in Greece. They were moving at a rate that was slower than a drunken slug and in January we told them there was no way they would make it round Europe in a year. Well, they have and if you are in any way interested in taking a year off and driving round Europe in a MH – then their blog is a must to get a feel of how to do it right.

Actually I mention them mainly because we continue to be plagued with poor weather – or should I say unseasonable weather. We did share the wonderful Indian Summer in the UK just now, but to be fair we hadn’t planned to be at your place over that period. We had


planned to be in Croatia – where they’ve just had four weeks of violent storms. We stayed behind for doctoral reasons, and Mrs Sun shone.

Now, right on the south coast of France (currently at a €16 a night ACSI site at Vendres-Plage, which is nice enough) it’s either been blowing with wind, overcast and dank or, hang on whilst I look out the window this Sunday morning, oh…some sunshine. Hurrah!

our current beach

our current beach

Baxterbus had fabulous weather wherever they went, except for the two times they met up with us. So wait for them to go again (and they will) and then tag on with them.

To complete our itinerary thus far, up until here we did stop over at an Aire-car park affair at Port-Nouvelles, which was where we were forced inside by monumental northerly winds which, even though Mrs Sun was out, meant we cowered inside Doris.

What have we been doing? I’ve been writing and writing and writing. Now over 30,000 words and so caught up in the story I can’t get them down quick enough. Don’t misunderstand me, it is terrifically hard work. A page of A4 can take an hour and a half. I’ll write a paragraph and then chop it to pieces and write it again. Mikki, who’s looking over the first three chapters at the moment, then hacks it about again. And I reread and rewrite all the time. It’s a tough life being an author.

our Jen with her new dress bought to attend the Sandhurst Christmas ball

our Jen with her new dress bought to attend the Sandhurst Christmas ball

On the plus side I have republished UH in paperback form – smaller and with numerous errors removed. And, surprisingly, it’s still selling in e-book form at about one a day. I have no idea who’s buying them now. I intend to put it out there free next weekend, and that should mean another big slab flies off the metaphorical shelf. I reckon 300 people now have a copy on their kindle.

Riyadh Readers by Skype on Tuesday evening. Annie tells me that she’s spoke to two of her group and they ‘loved it.’ I’m still v nervous though.

That’s that from us… Oh, forgot to mention! C’s still with me! Currently knitting a shawl the size of Portsmouth for a friend of Jen’s soon to be born baby. Couldn’t do this without her!

The Canal du Midi

Ahh, the Canal du Midi. It has taken us four days of reasonably snail-like driving, but we are now officially in the south of France. The big question is, what’s the weather like? Well we have been blessed with Mrs Sun for company for the last two days and, as I look through the condensation on Doris’s front windows this

one of the free Aires we have stayed on on our route south

one of the free Aires we have stayed on on our route south

morning, she’s out there just now. It is, however, not warm. Not in a ‘take all your clothes off and brown your bum’ sort of way, but you feel that may be starting to change.

The route south has given us further time for reflection. And that’s the beauty of driving in France. In the UK you need your wits about and within you, and there isn’t much time for discussion other than ‘watch that low-flying cow’. Or trying to decipher the latest hand single from an irate driver as he flashes passed you on a blind corner on a journey to a hernia. Here all of the roads are well behaved. There is so little traffic and long stretches of nothingness that you get the chance to converse as well as curse.

ahh, the Canal du Midi

ahh, the Canal du Midi

I’m not going to disclose ‘what next’, other than to say that between now and the summer we’re on course for our current plan – but I do have a couple of irons in the fire which I will disclose as time goes on. The good news is that the plan really strives to balance our current freedom with some useful stuff. It might just be perfect for a while.

We’ve stayed exclusively at free Aires on the route down (night before last we had free electricity, although this did blow later in the evening). I so desperately wanted last night to stay in a place called Grenade, just north of Toulouse. The infanteer in me thought that would be fun. Instead we stopped by the Canal at a village called Grisolles, which sounds like something else hilarious if, like me, you have a boyish sense of humour.

Today we will move on, but slow down. We’re heading for the French/Spanish border and hopefully an ACSI site or similar where we can bed down for a bit. Half way though Chapter 5, by the way, and still loving it. That’s about 24,000 words, so almost a third of the way through the old Unsuspecting Hero. This book, I feel, will be longer!

Anyhow. That’s us. Have a great rest of week.

We made it

We made it. I’m writing this about a hundred clicks south of Calais and on our way. Next stop The Med. I think Mrs Sun has finished with the good old UK and has migrated like a swallow downwards. We are doing the same – for a bit.

We were busy until we got on the ferry. We had a lovely evening with Peter and Karen, just going over our respective summers and then we drove to Oxford to meet up with Johanna, an old student of imageours, to discuss some work I’m going to be doing for her next summer. In short, she and a friend are running a two week summer course called Oxford for Leaders. My job is to run the leadership slice, whilst those much more intellectual than I will give the students the benefit of their wisdom on politics, theology etc. I’m really looking forward to it, although I will have to work hard to formulate my thoughts, turn them into lesson plans and then deliver. Should be fun!

For the record we stayed at the Oxford C&CC site which, for £14, gave us a piece of grass and some drafty showers (electricity was extra). But it’s close enough to walk in for the evening session, and we both managed runs down the Thames. I’m not sure we could do much better for the price, although they could smarten the place up a bit.

Friday was a trip to see Mary and then along to Richard and Caroline’s in Dover (really nice to see them) for a cup of tea before a late night ferry and a stay on the wonderful Calais Aire which, for €8, you get a sea view.

I suppose the big thing is that we are abroad again, and, importantly, on our own. We have no reason to be, but we both feel shattered. Living in Doris, driving about the place all the time, is not without anxiety and I guess with C’s hospital trips and my Mum and Dad still not right, we are a bit drained. But, even after just twenty-four hours abroad (a quick run and watching Strictly – middle class pornography), we a already feeling more relaxed. Ànd that should only get better the further south we head. Hurrah!

shouldn't this be flying south with us?

shouldn’t this be flying south with us?

We are heading south for the sun. I reckon we have over six weeks, which is nothing in comparison to when we left last year (on exactly the same day, would you believe), where we had eight months ahead of us. But in comparison to our old school summer holidays, it’s v long and, for those of you working, I know it’s an age. So we are heading in the right direction. Our only call is for me to continue writing (Chapter 4 finished) and for C to knit a rug, or something.

So, how lucky are we? Have a great week.

Good news!

Good news! C has been given the all clear from the quacks and we are now ready, almost, to head south and find some warmth. I almost said ‘sun’, but you know we’ve had lots of that. It’s just we really need the big ball of hot gases to be a bit hotter than it is now.

when autumn leaves begin to fall

when autumn leaves begin to fall


We finished off at Mary’s, the party being a great success and then drove down to our new favourite CL on the Levels for a quick overnighter before taking to Doris to the doctors (new rear tyres, tick) and C having her throat looked at by a camera which is really

time to head south?

time to head south?

too big to pass by your tonsils. Tick. Jen’s for an evening, with more dogs than Battersea (she’s still doing that so well), and then a slow potter north to see Bex and Steven.

I pen this on Steven’s Dad’s drive, our usual resting place, after a night which included a pop to the local pub for a beer and, inevitably, a late evening of games including a sort of dominos does world geography which, even though I know where Iran is, I couldn’t get me head round. Never mind.


They’re at work now and we’re getting up slowly. Peter and Karen’s this evening, then a night in Oxford to meet up with on old student of ours, Johanna, to talk about some work for me next summer (yippee?). And, finally, after a quick pop in to see Mary, a ferry in to the sunset. Interestingly, we should land in Calais on exactly the same day we did last year, so we’re not behind schedule in that regard. Of course last year we were going for eight months…this year, just until December. Our big trip should be post-New Year.

But we’ll see. First three chapters and prologue with Mikki, my editor, and chapter four underway. It’s also true to say that I am still selling about a book a day of UH, with a reading group in Riyadh chomping through it now – I’m on a Skype call at the end of November with the group to talk about it! How exciting is that?

Anyhow, hope you are all well. Next time I write we should be in France!

In the waiting room…

We are still in the waiting room. Three days at Mum and Dad’s sorting out a few things with Kevin (elder brother) coming along on

the Old Man

the Old Man

the last day to tie some knots. He’s so much better with Dad than I am. I guess Dad listens to him more than me. It’s one of the privileges of being the elder, but more likely he has more affinity with Dad and is just, well, better at it than me.

The bottom line is that Dad has dementia although, with that wonderfully tragic, comic irony, he can’t remember that he has dementia. And always denies it. But now we have all agreed that he won’t drive, which is a big blow, but a smaller one than the next time he has an accident on the roads. Mum can’t drive because of her stroke, so they’re left with walking (the village has everything they need), buses, taxis and trains. Like ten of thousands of other pensioners they will have to make do. Let’s hope they manage.

not a great photo of a wonderfully 'wrapped' car

not a great photo of a wonderfully ‘wrapped’ car

Now at Mary’s to help with her big party for Adrian’s friends. They’re a fun crowd so whilst C and I have become caterers for a weekend (we are getting v good at this) the payback is a lovely party. And straight after we have to head off down to the Levels to overnight before C’s second, and hopefully last trip to the hospital. Coincidentally Doris is in the doctors getting two new rear tyres (£150 each – ouch, but that’s the price you pay for camper, not truck, tyres).

Finally, three weeks ahead of schedule, I have completed the Prologue and first Three Chapters of the new book (NB). It’s with Mikki, my editor, now for her perusal. I am so excited by it, which is why I’m cracking on. 15,000 words into a 100,000 word novel. It still doesn’t bear thinking about.

And, hopefully, the group at today’s party might show an interest – I am not beyond a bit of marketing of UH as I wander round with a glass of Blue Nun in my hand. We’ll see.


First many thanks to the bunch of you who, after the previous post, gave encouraging comment like ‘stop moaning and get on with it!’ No, really, thanks for the support along the lines of ‘something will come up as and when’. No job offers though…

I guess much of this questioning is about waiting for C to get through her tests and then we can trundle off into the sunset, or more accurately, race down south to catch the Mediterranean autumn sun. Hopefully that is just over a week or so away.

Not much to report really. We stayed for a final day at the lovely CL in the northern levels (£10 a night, plus the added bonus of BT wifi), wandered around W-S-M (Western…) and had a warm, but overcast walk along the never ending beach at Bream Down. C had her first appointment at Taunton, we stayed over at Deer Leap so that we could pick up some paperwork at Wells and, via Seymour and Debbie’s, made our way to Mum and Dad’s. We’re here for a couple of days.

Bream Down

Bream Down

I know Seymour reads this and I hesitate about writing something, but I feel I must. I have known Seymour for longer than I have known C. We served together in same battalion very early on, and, although there was a slight age difference – and that does define your friendship groups in the Army – we have always got on really well. And we have kept in touch as we both went our separate ways through life. Both happily married; both have two wonderful children; both successful in our own ways.

But I don’t have cancer.

The open way Seymour talks about his illness, and that fabulous smile he has kept (which has always attracted the girls, and I guess at times, the odd man) makes him an inspiration to all of us who will inevitably be very poorly at sometime in our lives. I use his disposition as one of the main reasons that we are doing what we do now – living life as we want to, rather than shackled but the expectations of society. So thanks Seymour. Thanks for the inspiration. And good luck with everything.

We had a very easy journey up to Colchester, Doris loving her new EGR valve and software update. And Mum and Dad are as they were when we last saw them a couple of weeks ago. But, sadly, a couple of weeks older. Dad had another small car accident the other day and has (thankfully) decided not to drive from here on in. Whilst a huge inconvenience, it is the only sensible and safe approach.

some cows...

some cows…

Here for a couple more days and the off to Mary’s for the weekend. Chapter 2 is nearing completion and, I have to say, I’m loving it. Hurrah!