That wasn’t so bad?

So, Roland, how did it go? Well, it was great, actually. Clearly I’m in no position to comment on how brilliant I was – there is an after-conference questionnaire, so somebody is going to tell me at some point. But I think I hit the right spot, give or take. It was fun to be at work in a way, and a privilege to be put up in a swanky hotel and fed royally. And being in Stratford allowed me to pop into Oxford to meet another new client – which also seemed to go well. So, small steps. Oh – and I really enjoyed the presenting. I’ve done a lot of it over the years, and recently as eight years as a teacher, I’m happy on my feet. Actually, I think that’s an under exaggeration. There is no better place than the classroom. All those innocents hung on every syllable….bless them.

The thing is, of course, is how big do I want this to be? The answer is I don’t know. We are still itinerant and will remain that way for the foreseeable future. Apart from a booze cruise on Friday, our next trip abroad is for 4-6 weeks mid-summer, and we sincerely hope to be somewhere hot in Doris this Christmas. But I guess this is all part of the process of establishing what we want to do with Stage 3 of our lives, before Stage 4, the dribbling phase, hits us. The great thing is that this is all completely under my control. If I want to take on a piece of work, I will. If not…

And then there’s the book. More about that when I blog on Sunday I think.

How can people load a normal life and have two strapping dogs? It has taken C and I nearly all of our effort to walk the pair of them into the ground every day. Then there’s the feeding and the other paraphernalia that accompanies owning some hounds. Don’t get me wrong, they are lovely and v loving. But, come on, once you’ve walked them twice a day over considerable distances, is there any time for a cuppa? Thankfully we’re handing over the baton to R’s mum who’s coming down tomorrow. I hope she’s fit and got some decent boots…

Don’t be fooled by sunny disposition photos.  For those of you not of this country it’s blooming freezing her at the moment.  When will we get some decent, warm weather?

That’s all from me. All’s well here!

Call this Spring?

A big week this week. We are still at R&C’s looking after Burgundy and Tizla, their two wonderful Hungarian Vizlas (I’ve probably not spelt that right). But today I’m driving to Mary’s for an overnight stop on the way to Stratford where, tomorrow, I’m presenting my version of leadership, ‘Compassionate Leadership’, to a group of thirty school middle-leaders. I’m then meeting up with a new coach/mentor client in Abingdon and home on Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday I’m connecting with the administration of one of the groups of headteachers that exist out there to discuss my school leadership paper – which he seemed to like – and possibly for some more opportunities for presenting. It all sounds like the little business is building into something, but I can assure you that it’s much smaller than it sounds. But there is momentum.

On Thursday I’m having a second chat to a woman who runs a firm which support self-publishers. With the rise of e-books there are plenty of these around. For a fee they smarten up your book (you pay extra for proof reading) and distribute and market the whole thing, as well as printing to order. I’m not sure, you know? In the old days it was called vanity publishing where, to all intents and purposes, you are the agent, editor and publisher – you chose whether or not your book is good enough for full-blown publication, without it ever passing a professional eye. It used to be frowned upon.

But, with Fuelling the Fire, I do think I have a reasonable product, although you wouldn’t know as you’ve not had chance to read it yet, have you? So, apart from probably getting the novel professionally proof-read, I think I’m going to opt for trying out Kindle Scout, where you lot decided if the book should be published or not…well, you and a small team at Kindle. It’s no cost to me and, if selected, I would get the weight of Amazon’s marketing expertise behind me. If selected…

That’s for the end of the week then.

It’s been a real break here. We’ve walked and run and walked some more. One of the photos is C dressed up against a biting wind walking across Romney Marsh. The one of me and Steven (Bex’s boyfriend), is a hangover from Scotland. He is the reluctant rambler…

Doris has been cleaned to an inch if her life. Lifting the mattresses on our bed revealed some really bad mould created by some non-Hymer insulation put under the bed by the previous owners. We have sorted that. So that’s all taken its time. And on Thursday we drove up to Colchester to see Mum and Dad. No change there.

And we’re now halfway through House of Cards. It’s still darker than the place where Schrondingers’s cat lives, and as intense as a double espresso, but great TV.

Have a great week.

Dover’s not so bad…

The four of us made it to R&Cs just outside Dover on Sunday. For the four of us, read C, me, Doris and the black Focus. We need the car because I’m off to Stratford early next week for a bit of lecturing (just about ready for that) and after dinner speaking. I’ve done plenty of the former and am really looking forward to it. I have done so much ‘on my feet’ talking, a number if which were after dinner. But for those I knew the audiences – for this group of middle-leaders I guess they’re expecting me to be both thought-provoking and funny. That’s an interesting combination. I’ll let you know how it goes.

We’re down here until late next week – next Friday we hope to pop over to Calais for the day on a booze-cruise; another reason to bring the Focus. Already we have done a lot of work on Doris. I have removed all of the small flecks of tar, and cleaned all sorts of stuff inside Doris. C has tackled a mountain of washing (thanks Caroline!), but we’ve still got more to do. One of the issues is the poor reception on the radio, which, I understand, is common for Hymer B-class vans. We’re off to see M&D in Colchester tomorrow, so that’s a job for Friday.

The weather has been fab, although today as we wandered around the RSPB at Romney Marsh (not far from the nuclear power station, I now feel nicely irradiated), we did have to fight a biting easterly which took the edge off what would have been a lovely walk. The wind was so strong that the poor birds were hiding and those in the air were blown to Somerset whilst all they were trying to do was just hop for one pond to another. For the record we have also ran a lot and yesterday we walked the two lovely dogs to the bluebell wood, a couple of photos of which below.

I’ve still not heard anything from my friendly agent. An email response to my two emails would be a nice start – even a refusal. However, via another friend tomorrow I’m on my second phone call with a publisher. I’m not sure how that’s going to go, but at least I’m now talking to someone in the industry. Hurrah to that!

And we’re making inroads into House of Cards, one of my Christmas presents (thanks Bex). For those of you not in the know, it’s based in Washington and focuses on devious, underhand and illegal politics. Whilst shot in colour, it’s is completely devoid of colour, both from a cinematographic point of view, and by way of plot. Dark. V dark. But fun! I’m not going to recommend if you’re prone to mood swings…

Anyhow. That’s all from us.

Global warming?

Id like to start by confirming that C and I are true environmentalists. We recycle everything, use v little water and, living in a cream metal box, (other than diesel, and I try to make that to as far as possible – sorry ensuing convoy), have a small an environmental footprint as we can achieve. You wait until we build our completely off-grid 24v house. That’s the ultimate plan.

Why do I say this? Well, because whilst we’re currently shivering in our socks, I have fond memories to exactly nine years ago when C took over as a Houseparent at Wells Cathedral School (best kept secret in the southwest). As we moved our unnecessarily large number of possessions into our new home, the weather browned our knees, and with all the associated effort of lugging furniture about, poured sweat into our eyes. The temperature difference between now and then must be at least ten degrees. Global warming? You tell me…

This post is about our first trip back into the Army establishment. We’re both Army brats and, having joined the Army at 16 (via their sixth form college), I met C – an Army nurse – six years later. After 27 years I left and, apart from keeping in touch with close friends, have not touched a Regimental reunion, nor been to any military event. My stock phrase when asked was always “I loved every moment, but I don’t miss it for a moment…” And that is true. (The same could be said for the eight years I worked at Wells as a teacher.). So last Friday as we boarded the train from Godalming to head off to the 3rd Battalion cocktail party, it was with slight trepidation that we might be shunned for not keeping in touch.


Well, what a night! It’s true to say that that particular event is full of the old and bold and C and I knew pretty much everyone of the attendees – and I think it’s fair we could call most of them old friends. But it was like nothing had changed. The do started at an hotel near Tower Bridge and ended up in the Tower where we had one of the brilliant Yeoman show us round before we had a fish and chip supper in their mess. The tour was fab, but what was brilliant was meeting up with all of the people we hadn’t seen in literally years. Too many to mention, although it was a huge surprise and a wonderful fillip to see that Seymour had made it. It was like nothing had changed.

We leave Mary’s today and make our way to Dover to dog-sit for R&C as they swan off to Botswana for three weeks (we’re only there for two). We have a number of things to fill our time whilst we are there, including, for me, two days at a school leadership conference where I am one of the presenters and after-dinner speaker! Yippee! I am really looking forward to that, although I really should do some prep between now and then.

Have a great week…

Down south now…

We’ve left Scotland. And immediately I had somebody stick their middle finger up in among a jam sandwich of juggernauts, enlivened by plenty of rain. But, you have to give the south some credit: it’s much warmer down here. So much so, I put my Empire building shorts on earlier today. Hurrah! Shorts and short tempers. They shouldn’t really go together.

We finished off at the Eilean Donan campsite for two nights and cycled 30 miles up the Glen Elchaig valley, during which Mrs Sun battled with the elements – and just about won. It was one of our best cycle rides, half Tarmac, half farm track. Not a soul in sight, except some Highland cattle and herds of deer. We stopped at the head of the valley and lunched in the lea of a small farmhouse before heading down again. Fabulous.

We overnighted off the M74 on the side of a road down one of the many Argyl valleys, and eventually made Penkridge (Bex and Steven’s) place. We both ran down the canal and had a lovely evening of Spag Bol and Man City beating PSG. Then, today, down to Jen’s putting our bum down at our usual Hortham Farm campsite. Jen and I took her dogs for a walk and both C and I went for a run after we had popped to B&Q to get some bits for Doris.

Walking Jen’s dogs with her, and reminding myself of last night’s evening with Bex, reminded me how proud both C and I are of the two girls. Neither have had an easy time. Bex hardly gets through a day without being sworn at, or threatened by a student. It has taken its toll. I must admit in 8 years of teaching I don’t think I was ever threatened by a child, although it was tempting to do likewise – no, sorry, that was with the parents. Thankfully Bex is off to the Bahamas in the summer where both the weather and the teaching will be much more benign.

Jen is out of therapy and has, even if I say so myself, the best dog boarding business in Bristol. She is continuously turning away clients – and no longer advertises. She’s the first to admit that she has wobbles, but she’s learnt how to cope with them. And, we often hear her say: I have the best job in the world. She’s v v good with the dogs.

So, all’s well here. Off to Mary’s tomorrow, London for a Regimental cocktail party on Friday night in the Tower of London (oooh! Look at you….), and then down to Richard and Caroline’s on Sunday for two weeks of house sitting. It’s all good.

Nothing from my potential agent, although a good friend of mine has offered his cousin to look over the book (or someone she knows). She works for a publishing house – so there’s an opportunity there. Fingers crossed…

Gravity doesn’t apply

Morning. It’s official and Newton will not be impressed. There is no gravity in Scotland. Newton’s law does not apply. Here’s the proof. We’ve done a lot of walking over the past two weeks. A lot. Most of it has been relatively straightforward – we’re not busting the Monroes – but we do venture off tracks and head up steep hills. Well, the other day we climbed a hill by the sea (the lovely Mellon Udrigal campsite – no facilities but only £7 a night) and, wherever we walked it was wet. That is, uphill. Not like a stream, just standing water. Uphill. Madness.


The weather has been cruel and kind. It’s still much colder than we remember and, thankfully, when we’ve been out on our feet the rain has kept away. And Mrs Sun has gone out of her way to say hello here and there. When she’s with us it can get garment-strippingly warm. But those affairs are few and far between. Mostly it’s been overcast and rainy.

It’s has, however, been a great tonic. And a bit of a detox. We don’t stop drinking, but we do slow everything down. When we’re on our own C knocks up food that is more vegetables and salad than meat. And porridge is the breakfast of choice. So we’re both feeling better. And with all the walking and running, certainly fitter. That’s all good.

Just finished GoT. If you’ve not seen it and don’t mind gratuitous violence and sex, then it is the best thing that’s been on telly since the West Wing. We’ve just finished Season Five box set. Wow. The last forty minutes is torture, but brilliant TV. You may be aware that Season Six is just about to kick off on Sky. We will wait for the DVD… Along with that, I’m fascinated by this year’s US Masters. Compulsive watching this evening, I think.

So, all’s well. Nothing from the agent ref FtF. I shall press towards the end of the week. And then if that doesn’t come off, it’s Plan B. Which I’m still not clear on. Oh well. Sorry if you’re waiting for the words to dry on the paper.

Have a great week.

Still, still here…

It’s great to find this sort of space. The northwest coast of Scotland is a vast expanse of nothing but hills, lochs, sea and sheep. Yes, there are crofts and hamlets and the odd village which calls itself a town. There are people and tourists, walkers and twitchers. But not so you’d notice. There is no internet, very little phone signal (sorry for the folks who’ve been trying to get in touch with us) and when you do get it, it has enough data to let you know that it has data – but can’t actually transmit and receive any.



So that’s good. It slows you down and removes the irritations of the modern world: the need and the draw to shop; cars driven by people who think they’re a weapon; people on pavements who think they’re a weapon; noise – ever present, so much so that you begin not to notice it; did I mention shopping and the desire to buy things? And I guess the Internet, but I’m on its side. I love being able to keep up to date with the news and the blogs that I follow. And C enjoys keeping up to date on Facebook.



And it allows you to think about life – something we’ve not done for a good while. For me it’s always about work, or not work? I keep reminding myself that if we continue to live the way we do (v frugally), then I don’t have to work. But at the same time I’m waiting for my friendly agent to even acknowledge that she’s received my submission of FtF. And, concurrently, I’ve again updated Unsuspecting Hero which is now in so much better a state than it was when it was published. I’m also thinking through my presentations for a middle-managers conference I presenting to in a couple of weeks. As well as gently expanding the whole Compassionate Leadership business. My question remains – how hard should I work at working? Mmmm, not sure…

We’ve had some lovely stops, been for a run and latterly ended up at the Blue Tea Van with Leigh (blue tea van). The route to this remote lighthouse is single track road – which is just about as wide as Doris. But we made it and were greeted by a brilliant bacon and egg roll. If you’re north of the Great Glen, you really should make an effort to go here. We didn’t see any, but Lee often sees Orca, whales and sea eagles. I have to report it was blooming freezing in the northerly wind this morning, but what the heck.

Another seven days here until we have to head off south. It’s colder than it ever has been for us, but we’ll manage. Have a great rest of week.

Still here…

You know, when people say Scotland is so beautiful, you scratch your chin and don’t answer straight away. It’s majestic, rugged, manly, great for sheep, rolling mountains, purple heather, dark blue lochs and colourful tartan. All that is true. Indeed, if you’re the outdoors type, you can quickly run out of appropriate adjectives and associated superlatives. It is all of those things.

Until it rains. And then, when you can’t see your hand in front of your nose and the wind is preventing you from standing upright and the rain reaches those parts that gortex is incapable of protecting, you think: well this is rubbish. Who would want to spend weeks up here when they could have stayed at home and saved the petrol money – which is no small fee when you put out 26mpg?

And then the sun comes out again, like, all of a sudden. The weather goes from the worst that’s ever been recorded and ends up calm and clear. We walk up a hill into a wind farm, dressed to the nines and have to strip off and watch that our noses don’t get burnt. Back at Doris, wild camping with views (when accompanied by Mrs Sun) that are to die for, we sit outside with a cup of tea and wonder what all the fuss was about when the wind was sending wet rain to places it shouldn’t ever reach.

That’s Scotland for you. The best and the worst.

By the way – Bex and Steven caught a bus to Glasgow and are heading home. We’ve been reminded of what it’s like to be on your own up here: nothing but calm. And Doris is fabulous. And Chelstons, where we bought her, have agreed to pay for a new vehicle battery which seems to discharge quicker than it should – so we’re looking out for an appropriate batteries-are-us shop. On the west coast of Scotland. Wish us luck!

Have a great week. We will. Then we won’t. Then we will again. Check the weather for the Ladley’s morale status…

Bonnie Scotland

I hope the photos paint the picture. We have been blessed with great weather. Well, that’s a relative statement. Great in comparison to every previous trip to the West Coast. We’ve walked, run, ooh and ahhed at the fabulous scenery, ate, drank and watched quite a lot of Game of Thrones Series 5.





Under that amount of scrutiny, Doris has held up really well. Driving requires considerably more attention than her predecessor. I don’t know if you’ve driven up Loch Lomond, but the end bit as windy and as narrow as any A road in Europe. Actually, at any point you do have to be on your best behaviour. There’s no time for – oh, look, there’s a sheep! Unless you want to join it in the field.

Other news. Well we sold Doris. Motorhome Depot were as good as their word, actually better than their word. When the new owners drove away from Jen’s place the guy who had been our broker handed over a bottle of champagne and some chocolate – apologising for the inconvenience of sale on Saturday, but no money. If you’re thinking about buying and selling, my advice is get a trade-in quote and then ask Motorhome Depot what they think they could get for it. Take off £2000 and compare. I’m reckoning MD will be the better option.

Fuelling the Fire has gone to my friendly agent. The angst is that, because we are in the back of beyond, we have no phone nor wifi. So I have no idea if anyone has tried to be in contact. I shall endeavour to get a signal today. That’s why, by the way, the blog is very late. Sorry – but that’s Scotland for you.

Walking again today. And some more Game of Thrones. Yippee!