A bit flat…

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It’s been a complicated time. The weather, until today (Saturday), has continued to be rubbish – I can count on one hand the good days since we got back to the UK in early December. And we have continued to travel to see people – which always takes a toll (the travelling, not the seeing people). Finally, ending up at my Mum and Dad’s where things have continued to decline, also wears.

The good news is we have Doris Too to look forward to – we pick her up in Wednesday – and I have my first day of paid work on Thursday. It’s school staff mentoring and, against the context of not wanting to work full time, I’m really looking forward to it. I have done some pre-work and I hope that I can make a difference. We’ll see. Doris Too can’t come quick enough. C has not been well – a cold which has gone onto her chest – and with the effort we need to help M&D we need a tonic to help take us forward. So Doris Too it is then!

M&D’s disposition has deteriorated. Dad is declining – he struggles to use a telephone as finding and pressing the numbers is tricky – and, as is often the case with dementia, he’s depressed. He went to bed this evening just after six, tired and miserable. Most of the day is sat in front of the TV. It’s a sorry tale. Mum, still fragile, is now struggling with stuff. She’s trying her best to make the house work, but it won’t be long before that becomes unworkable. It’s a shame, but I guess it’s life.

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me fixing the roof light

On a much brighter note we popped to see our friends Phil and Denise. They’re the couple we went to see in the US in September. They’ve moved into a house in Suffolk and it was good to catch up with their news. Phil, who’s just left the Army as a v senior bloke, is looking for a job – he won’t have difficulty finding one. In the meantime he’s enjoying temporary retirement, cutting the lawn on his new sit-on mower and, with Denise, sorting out the house. The sit-on mower even has a cup holder! It was great to see them both.

I’m still working away on the books, plus an article on leadership in education which I’m hoping to get published somewhere. UH is in its final read before update and republishing. FtF is with Annie W for proof read – and then I shall read it through once more. I’ve had one rejection from an agent and am waiting for four more. Then it’ll be on Amazon for all of you to have a read of. Can’t wait.

Finally, for the record, I’ve finally fixed the Remis roof light. They are notorious for having gears that break, gears which are no longer in stock. I did eventually find one (£68) and whilst cleaning Doris’ roof fitted it. It now works perfectly, which is great. And the final photo is C with a bird of prey. M and D’s neighbour’s son borrows one – something to do with pigeons which I didn’t get. It was fantastic to see up close.

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Have a good week. Let’s hope we are all blessed with some good weather.

Stand by…

Have I got a lot to tell you. Wow.

First, and for the record, let’s do some geography. I’d liked to note that last Thursday I did cycle from Jen’s to meet my mate Kenn at McD’s at Abbeywood for an early morning coffee and chat about life. We’ve not used the bikes for a while and that showed: I forgot to put the battery on. Doh! And, what with the British weather just being on the wrong side of rubbish, it chucked it down on the way back. Three miles later I was a drowned rat with tired legs.

Monday we had a day in Wells. I had a doctors appointment and whilst there I also secured a small piece of work along under my ‘Compassionate Leadership’ banner. I’m looking forward to it – it’s mentoring type stuff – and maybe the start of something. First real day of work is week after next; just a couple of hours, but it should lead to some more. On the same day we popped to see a pal of mine, JP, who, at my age took the brave decision to leave work and set up his own small business. Not itinerant, but still v different. It was good to catch up with him – and his lovely wife. We hope to see more of them.

Yesterday was painting and cleaning at Jen’s place. For all sorts of reasons the house is damp so we bought an industrial sized dehumidifier which sounds like a jet engine, but seems to be doing the trick. We both ran in the rain – that’s three out of four days. It’s not quite running along the beach in the sunshine, but that will come again.

Oh and I had my first rejection from an agent who are ‘looking for guaranteed commercially successful novels’. Well that tells me then. The good news is that UH is v close to the end of its final major edit (thanks Annie W) and I hope to republish it in the next two weeks. FtF has been edited by C’s sister (thanks Annie B) and will now go for final edit to Annie W. I’m going to wait for a couple more rejections before I think about Amazon – and I do need to produce a front cover! So books are ongoing.

Finally, and majorly, we have taken the plunge and bought a new Doris. I know, I know. How could we? She has been fabulous. We will have lived in her for 18 months when we swap vans next week. She hasn’t let us down in any major way, and where she has burped, it’s been eminently fixable. Her durability is extraordinary – buy a Dethleffs! Or at least German.

Which is what we have done. Goodness have I had sleepless nights since Sunday. Doris Too is a 7.4metre Hymer B694. She breaks all of my previous rules about size and weight (4.2t), but as we have made the decision to remain itinerant for a good while longer, we really need something which allows the two of us to move around the place at the same time. To be fair, in Doris, in the UK, in winter, it’s just not a wholly enjoyable experience. Doris Too is beautiful, in a brick-shaped way. We have joined the motorhoming aristocracy – people I used to look down upon. She’s going to be difficult to park, and we are going to have to run our lives in a different way. But we now have a car and will just have to plan ahead a little more. And do you know what? Neither of us can wait. The luxury is going to be, well, fab. Separate shower, huge garage, a proper lounge, a proper fridge and freezer. Three leisure batteries. The list is endless and goes on and on.

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Oh. And she’s left hand drive. Interesting choice!

We’re picking her up next Wednesday – and even that requires extra planning!

Off to Bex and Steven today to hand over ski kit and then a very necessary trip to my Mum and Dads for an extended weekend. So all’s good!

Settling into a routine

We’ve had a good couple of days, thank you. It’s mostly been about getting back into routine (routine? That’d be a laugh). No, seriously, back into Doris. No Christmas paraphernalia, no trips skiing, just living again. We’ve been in Bristol, mostly outside Jen’s, but also with another evening seeing our pals Annie and Al. Annie’s proofreading – not before time – UH, as she will FtF. And doing a grand job. Al, having just finished a long, tough tour as DA in Riyadh, is looking for post-Army employment; we’re all at that age. Good luck to him.

The photo is all of us having finished running yesterday morning. Al and I go back almost 40 years. We joined the same battalion together and have been running pals ever since. Leopards and spots and all that. Anyhow, it was great to see them and now they’re back in the UK for a while, we shall see a lot more of them. Especially when we have washing to do!

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Now we’re at a local to Jen Caravan Club listed site. It’s v close to Bristol and a bit industrial (and at £14 for parking and electricity not cheap), but there’s v little around here and convenience is good.

What else have we been doing? I’ve finished major edit of FtF and it will now go to final proofing. Next I’m going to work on some leadership stuff – a book which I’d like to have a go at. Tomorrow we are down in Wells where I might have a bit of consultancy work coming together and then I’m going to write an article on school leadership as part of my portfolio under the banner ‘compassionate leadership’. So I’m keeping myself busy.

Today, don’t hate us for it, but we’re going to look at bigger motorhomes. We’ve decided that if we’re going to stay itinerant for at least the next year or so, we might need to be a little bit more grown up about our house. Doris is fab. Better than fab. But the living area is small and there is no separate shower – two things we are now keen to sort. Knowing us it will come to nought, and that won’t be a bad thing. But we’re going to have a look today.

Rest of week? Heading to my parents for next weekend, probably via Bex to drop off some ski kit – they’re going at half term with friends of theirs. And then – well that depends on how my work goes. I’ll keep in touch…

Heading for a conclusion?

Well it’s continued to be quite a journey. Back in the UK and, to some extent, met by good weather. Don’t mind the cold…provided it comes with some of Mrs Sun’s best. Which down in the West Country, it does. So hurrah to that. We spent yesterday decluttering Doris having agreed with each other that for the foreseeable future she would continue to be our home. (Or something a bit bigger – but that’s unlikely, Doris is so good if a bit cramped.)

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Jen’s latest client. A lovely cockapoo called Popcorn on our walk this morning. Business is burgeoning.

But I do feel the need to engage with humanity in some way or other. A long term project with a pal of mine will not come off, and, as I said last time, I am going full-steam ahead with both books. So, what else? I have been pondering doing some educational leadership consultancy work. That seems like an awfully grand title, but with 25 years leadership experience in the Army and 8 years as a teacher (4 of those on the management team) I really feel that I have something to offer? So I have pressed a couple of buttons and it seems likely that I might have some work.

The business title is: Compassionate Leadership – helping school leaders get the best from their people. Catchy? I hope so. I have a book in me on the subject already which I had started working on with my mate Richard, so hopefully the whole thing might grow into something part-time which allows me to feel as though I am contributing, bring in a bit of cash and enable me to continue to write and for C and I to enjoy the itinerant lifestyle – which we do!

And, to cap some good news, Bex and Steven have been offered jobs at a school in the Bahamas! Isn’t that fab news? They were going to go travelling for a year having run out of steam at their inner city school; and then who knows what next. But having applied for overseas jobs last year, their credentials were still in the system and the Bahamas got in touch with them! Fabulous news for the pair of them. They so much deserve it.

So that’s us. We’re pottering around (with Bex and Steven tonight to congratulate them), have a full diary for the next week or so. And with other potential visits and stays coming up, a bit of work and hopefully longer days it should see us through to the Spring. Both of us went for our first run in three weeks today, so hopefully more of that.

All looking good!

We’re back!

I’m sitting on the Pride of Budapest writing this week. We’ve made it as far as the ferry and a hearty thanks to Richard and Andrea for having the three of to stay last night. The journey was long – ten hours, complicated by a shed full of snow which fell in Chatel and meant we kept our chains on until we got off the mountain. And it’s a long way from the ports to the Alps. You really do forget how big France is. The car behaved impeccably, even during a freak snowstorm a few kilometres out from R&As.

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So has it been fun? I was rightly accused of being miserable for the first part of the week. I guess it was a combination of working out what next, the rubbish weather – rain and no real snow – and, well just me being me. But by the end of the week with some fabulous skiing (Friday was possibly the best day’s skiing we’ve ever had) and a real rejuvenated interest in both UH and FtF, I do feel that we have a plan. I have made some tentative enquiries about doing some educational leadership consultancy and with the writing, that might be enough to make me feel that I am actually contributing.

I looked up Lee Child’s agent the other day. I forget his name, but he only takes manuscript submissions, and is looking for a strong character set in far off places. Another Jack Reacher, I suppose. Well Sam Green isn’t Jack Reacher who, having read a couple of his books is more cartoon character where Sam is a psychiatric patient, but I think she’s strong enough. So whilst I wait for the five agents to come back to me with a rejection, I’m going to walk a copy of FtF to Lee Child’s agent in London and stick it in his hands. You can only try.

This next week will see us settling back into Doris. We’ve made plans to see Annie (C’s sister) and help her with her garden and we’re looking at house sitting to see us through the dark English Spring. Perhaps bizarrely we will probably go to Scotland for three weeks over Easter, which we have done on three previous occasions in a van. We’ve always been met with good weather and no midges. So it’s a thought.

So that’s skiing over with for another year? Well, probably. Although we could pop across later in the Spring, but the journey is an expense. Fuel, ferry and tolls come to £500, so it’s best probably to go just once. Is it worth it? Absolutely! If you never been to the top of an alpine mountain in the snow and stared open-mouthed across at the roof of Europe, I can only suggest that you do. For me it beats any beach scene anywhere in Europe.

Anyhow. We’re back. And apparently it’s snowing where you are? Hurrah!

The question is still ‘what next’?

imageIt’s been a bit of a traumatic couple of days. Well, not really. Not in a global sense, but certainly for us. Skiing has been more like walking (which is good), although we did get four hours in today with some of the best snow conditions I’ve ever skied in – hard but not ice base and four inches of fresh snow on top – perfect. The weather was still flat, although we did have Mrs Sun, but only briefly. It was great to be out. We might well go tomorrow – our last day.

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Why traumatic? Well for those of you with absolutely nothing better to do than follow this rubbish, you know that we’ve been considering what we do. Whether or not to go firm in the UK and maybe even get a job? Well, there was a possibility of that via a v good friend of mine – indeed there is still a very small opening – but, do you know what? I’m not sure that going back to work is what I want to do. Indeed, being able to spend 10 days in Chatel without any particular ties has reinforced that notion. The freedom this life brings only comes into focus when you think about taking it away. Who knows?

And then the book! Mikki has finished editing it. My two pre-market readers have both loved it…if I can quote one of them:

I feel sorry for my children but they have been waiting for ages for me to cook supper as I kept saying I must just finish this book! Well done Roland it is a great read. I really couldn’t put it down yet again. I did need to concentrate as there were lots of parts to remember names etc but it was great and I really feel that we have got to know and love Sam green more.

And then I got a further unsolicited five-star review for UH on Amazon. So excited. What this has meant is that, with the help of C’s sister Annie – who is an ex-PA, I have just submitted FtF to five agents. My aim is still to publish on Amazon in the early Spring. But you have to try?

So, insofar as the next four months we are definitely staying in the UK, but probably without employment other than some minor stuff and pursuing the whole book thing. I have to say I’m much happier not committing to full-scale work, although we shall see how it all goes living in Doris in the rubbish UK late winter/early spring. We shall see…

Next time you hear from me we should be back in the UK. That’ll be good!

Have a great rest of week.

We skied. Eventually

What is it with us and the weather? You know, come on please. We got to Chatel and it started to snow. Perfect, as the base here is v poor. And then it rained. Okay, so it was probably snowing at the top of the mountain, but in the village it came down like we were in Aberdeenshire. We managed to walk twice (once up the hill through the trees – beautiful) and once along the valley via a waterfall. On both occasions the rain was intermittent, but let’s be clear, we have not seen Mrs Sun other than for twenty minutes the other day.

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Walking, almost there ladies!

As a result C and I have been disinclined to ski. There’s nothing worse than hurtling down the mountainside in a whiteout, where your brain sees a cliff edge and doesn’t have time to react quick enough to prevent an untimely death. No, sorry, I’m wrong. There is something worse than dropping from a cliff edge. And that’s skiing in wet clothes. Yuck. So we didn’t ski…

…until this morning. The snow was falling when we got up, so much so that I went up to the car and put on her chains. The forecast is snow and more snow, and the idea of sticking on chains having first dug the car out of a drift, didn’t fill me with excitement. So we were late, but by 11.30 we were at the La Linga lift. It was snowing/raining.

At the top it was a blizzard.

We are sound skiers. We both been on planks for twenty five years. We are gracious down Green slopes, beautiful down Blues, really quite competent down Reds and blooming careful and slow down Blacks. C doesn’t go off-piste on purpose and, when I go that way, I ski like a water-boatman. So we’re good intermediate skiers.

You would have thought… This morning, coming off the top of the mountain when all I could see was my ski tips, and sometimes I couldn’t see those, I felt like an amateur. The Red from the top was u-shaped, funnelling the wind. The French hadn’t bothered to piste the slope and, at times, it felt much more Black than Red. I was hopeless. C, who initially was all for taking her skis off and walking down, skied better than me. After four days of poor weather where we didn’t ski, this compounded our misery. We gingerly skied badly back to the top of the Gondola and came off the mountain.

In Chatel we stopped for a cup of coffee and ate our sandwich lunch. And still the rain came down. But, us Ladleys are not quitters. We took the Super Chatel up to a different part of the mountain and were greeted with a rising cloud base, some great snow and…at last…some decent skiing. It was a relief to know that everything we’d learnt over the past twenty five years hadn’t deserted us. We could ski. And what fun it was, even if Mrs Sun wasn’t with us and the wind, at times, behaved like an air brake.

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Will we ski again this week. Yes please. Maybe not tomorrow, but certainly three or four more times before we leave on Saturday. If you’ve not been, and you still feel you have the legs for it, there is nothing better. Please go.

Have a great week.

Here at last

We’re here. What a relief. And as we arrived it started to snow. There’s about four inches already hanging about from a recent drop and it’s cold enough, but not perishing, to make some more without it being too uncomfortable outside. C and I will be skiing, but Annie, C’s sister will be watching. We are both fair weather skiers, and the forecast is flat, which might mean we’ll be doing more watching and walking than skiing. But that’s okay for us.

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We drove through the night which I know at our age is madness. So why do it? Well, it adds a day to the holidays and it saves a couple of hundred euros. C and I managed it well, with me doing the main driving and her topping up whilst I slept. It’s a 550 mile journey; that’s ten hours. But our new Focus was brill. Even with a miserly 1.4 engine she potters along at 65 and returns 40 mpg, even with three of us and more gear than we need. She does feel and drive like a new car. Fab.

Unlike us, we used the autoroutes. It made the driving easy as pie. Is it worth the €72 cost? Mmmm, I’m not sure. If we do the same on the way back it would have cost over half of the Focus’ yearly car tax. How does that work? No wonder the motorways were empty.

Anyhow we’re here. I spent most of my driving time thinking about our future. The are a couple of things happening which may be good, or may be complicated. It will be interesting. And of course one arrives at Chatel and immediately starts thinking about pulling everything together and buying a place here – so good in both the snow and the sun. So that’s still a possibility.

Oh, and for the record on Monday before we travelled we took a train to London to see C’s cousins Eva and Bridgette and all their children. We do get to see a lot of folk – which is nice.

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Skis are in, snow’s still falling and E&A’s apartment is perfect for what the three of us need. How lucky are we?

Have a great rest of week.

Sprung a leak?

Something, somewhere has sprung a leak. We traveled from Bristol to Godalming (Mary’s) yesterday and it rained. It didn’t stop stop raining whilst we were at Jen’s apart form one sunny day where we managed to get some things done. And today it is raining like someone has forgotten to turn off the shower. I know the people from the North have had it bad, but just now it seems that us wet southerners are, well, wetter than usual. I’m not sure what’s happening and why El Niño is bothering to make herself felt over here, but the outcome is rubbish. Thankfully we hear from E&A that there is now some snow in Chatel (last fall on 21 Nov), so at least it’s leaking in the Alps.

We have friends of ours who live in a yurt. If you read this drivel religiously you will remember that we met them in that wonderful spell we had in southwest France in May. They travelled in a bright yellow campervan. There’s something mystical about living in a yurt. Except you have to feel for them when the weather’s Iike this. And, I think that’s how we feel at the moment. We have made the choice to stay in the UK for the next couple of months. Mostly this is about keeping an eye on my Mum and Dad, but there are other draws. And living in Doris, in such a small space, when the weather is just so dire, does stretch one’s mood a little. It has been great, even for just an evening, to be at Mary’s where we can spread ourselves – last night I cooked supper whilst C knocked up something for tonight and tomorrow night. Living under canvass is miserable when it’s like this. Living in a v small box is less of a struggle. But it’s still a struggle. We are slowly building up our winter clothes stock. That’s not a good feeling either.

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Sunnier times? Our favourite spot on the SW of France. Longing for this place now…

So we are blessed to have somewhere to park up – and are so looking forward to ten days in Chatel, all wood panelling, warmth with fab views, snow and strong coffee. And, for the record, the car which we have yet to name, has been great. It is, to all intents and purposes, brand new. It smells like a new car and with only 23,000 miles on the clock, it drives like a new car. Even though it’s a 57 plate. The 1.4 engine is willing but, fully loaded, she is sluggish. But I don’t care. And, certainly driving to Chatel, it’s a more attractive option than taking Doris.

What next for us? Well I know you meant in the longer term, but tomorrow we’re taking the train to London to meet up with two of C’s cousins. Then Chatel with Annie, C’s sister, and when we get back? I’m not sure. I’m half way through a rewrite of UH which our friend Annie W has agreed to proof read. I will then re-edit FtF which has had its first read by another friend of ours – she ‘loves it’, and has given some v good comment which I shall incorporate. I have to design a front cover and do the other blurb which needs to be done. And then, hopefully, republish UH and publish FtF a few weeks later. That should fill January and maybe some of February. Then what?

If we’re in the UK then I think I’ll have to look to do something. I wouldn’t think about writing a third novel until I get some decent feedback on FtF, and still wouldn’t put pen to paper until September. So what to do? Dunno. I have one iron in the fire, which I will amplify on if it comes to fruition. And maybe another option, but I’m not in a rush to do anything in particular. Maybe we’ll just keep an eye on Mum and Dad and plan a trip to Spain after Easter? Who knows.

How lucky are we?