This is fun!

So far so good. Four days, two lectures and one seminar, and a day-trip to Blenheim Palace. Seven lectures/seminars to go. It’s been great fun and has meant that I have had to think v hard about a wide range of leadership issues which I have taken for granted for ever – but now need to explain. The age range is interesting (17-23), all from overseas (US to Mauritius, including Ghana and Madagascar) but with English really well spoken. As always, I have treated them like little soldiers – as I used to my school classes – and they seem to have responded.

If you’ve never taught or lectured then I can tell you it is one of the most rewarding things to do. I’m guessing everyone remembers being taught or lectured at, so you know what works for you and what doesn’t. And how easy it is to be put off by the idiot at the front. I try v hard to be both an idiot and not be an idiot if you know what I mean. And so far I think it’s working. It certainly means I have a two-week course up my sleeve which I could adapt for adults if I needed. We’ll see how the book goes.

Of which there is still no sign! Sorry. I don’t want to press them as I’m sure they know what they are doing. But hopefully it will come together soon enough.

who's the idiot?

who’s the idiot?

C is with Bex and Steven in Wolverhampton as they prepare for the off to the Bahamas the week after next. She’s pootling too and fro. I’m back in this evening for a picnic in the park (I get paid a small stipend, but accommodation and feeding is free). And that’s working well. Indeed, having seen this summer school at first hand (the director is an ex-pupil of C’s and mine, which is a bit wired but works well), I think they’re doing a first-class job. The small group of students really appear to be engaged and enjoying every bit of the experience. It feels good to be involved with something that appears to be working well.

Anyhow, got to go. Hopefully the next time I write the book with be out there. Fingers crossed!

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Now in Oxford…

You’ll be pleased to hear that I’m staying off politics today. Although, having spent this afternoon with the international students for who I’m providing the leadership slice of their Oxford summer school, where we discussed nothing but politics, I’m tempted to give you a more global overview.

Alas, time is not on my side. It’s late, I’m in the National Socialist Campsite in Oxford (miserable, unhelpful staff and a rule book you could weigh down a marquee with (C is still with Mary)), and I’ve got some prep to do for tomorrow – my first lecture. Having been through the old leadership training thing many times in my career, and having employed someone to do the same when I was a teacher at Wells, I’m going to be v interested in the looks on the faces of the students tomorrow when I engage them. It is all my own work – which is both worrying and exciting. I’ve always felt that these sessions never give enough hands-on advice, and I’m dishing it out in ladle fulls. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Other than that, all’s well. No news from Amazon ref FtF. I did check the whole Kindle Scout list the other day. One book that was picked put the day before me has been published, so I’m hoping that it will be with all you Scouts very soon. Then, that’s when the real marketing starts!

Got to go. I’ll try and give a fuller update on Wednesday. Have a great week.

Slow news day?

Not a great deal to report I’m afraid. We’re now at Mum and Dad’s having left Doris at Mary’s basking in this remarkable weather. Of course, when I say there’s not a lot to report, I could just expose my views on the huge number of major news stories that are out there in this extraordinary time.

A day doesn’t seem to go by at the moment without some monumental event shaking our world. I love the Melania Trump plagiarism story. It seems English teachers across the world, generationally stumped for a good example of how ‘5 consecutive words’ shows unabridged plagiarism, are now cockahoop that they have a high-profile example of what not to do. Me, I’d vote for DT just to see more of the lovely Melania. For a late middle-aged man she is perfect eye-candy which is probably why Trumpy married her. She, of course, married him for his wit, kindness and sincerity. But she needs to be careful. He’s been through a few, and careless words by her (OK, her speechwriter) might cost her. And, she mustn’t forget that she’s not getting any younger. Seriously though, I think I can just about tolerate divorce -once – and later remarriage. But three times, as Oscar Wilde might pen, is a little careless. So, leaving aside everything that comes out of his mouth, would you trust a man with the nuclear codes who has given up twice on marriage? Mmmm, not sure.

And, just to finish on Trump. I’ve not picked over every word of the current Republican convention, but it appears to me that – and isn’t this just typical of today’s politics, Brexit a case in point – nearly all the speakers are slinging mud at Bill’s wife rather than talking up Trump and his policies. Apparently, yesterday, the key-note speaker, an erstwhile judge, played out a mock trial on Hilary to which, have a guess what, the verdict was guilty. I’m not sure what of? (Maybe being married to a man who sullied the Oval Office, literally, in such a way that you can’t look at a picture of the room now without thinking ‘so Monica did that to him where?’). Anyhow the convention hall reverberated with screams of ‘lock her up!’ Whatever next.

Back on track… If using a major convention speech to try, convict and then hang an opponent isn’t popularist politics at its basest level, then I’m not sure there’s much further down the road toward Hell we can go.

Istanbul? I’m sad for the Turks that we met whilst we were there last month. I’d say that 50% of the men and 98% of the women in Turkey now fear for their future. The beacon for Islamic countries, insofar as how to balance the needs for some people to be fervently religious and yet run a fair and balanced society, has just gone down the pan. It is heartbreakingly sad. Erdogan now has a free hand, in the view of his supporters, to lock up who he wants. The latest purge of 1000s teachers (can you imagine?) leaves room for – well, until they train some more, and we know how difficult that is, empty classrooms – more militant ‘instructors’. I may be wrong, and it might all end up swimmingly, but I really fear for Turkey. And do you know what? This isn’t about security and it’s certainly not about upholding democracy. It’s about one man’s passion to further his own future and legacy. It’s about that man using Religion to underpin his own ambitions. It’s cynical abuse and manipulation of the fears and anxieties of millions to generate a powerbase to allow him to climb a pedestal and then stay there. (Goodness, I’ve just made the connection to DT and the previous paragraph!). Devious and insecure men use religion to further their own desires, not to be seen as ‘good and respectful’ in the eyes of their God. It has always been the case and always will.

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Finally, and I could go on and on dissecting this crazy world we currently live in, don’t underestimate the impact on Putin’s Russia and the Olympic drug scandal. The moderates over there are, I believe, necessarily quiet at moment. On the other hand the ‘nationalistas’ are up for a fight. Whilst they couldn’t blame the West for their team’s performance in Euro 2016 – I wish we had an excuse – they certainly can perversely blame us for undermining their participation at Rio. ‘One man’s word’ is how Putin has described their whistleblower’s claims that the Russian team at Sochi had their urine samples cleaned by a process that is so arcane that I’m going to include it in the third Sam Green book. Putin, other than invading the odd satellite country, loves sport more than anything else. Unlike Erdogan he doesn’t have religion as a power base to generate fervour among his poverty stricken masses. He generates support by being what Russians all see themselves as (men and women): survivors, fighters against the odds. No flab here. A sportsman battling the elite, overpaid, overfunded West with determination, hard work, blood, sweat and tears. Calling the strong men (and women) ‘cheats’ is akin to drawing a irreverent cartoon of Mohammed and then blowing a raspberry. So stand by…

You’ll be pleased to hear that that’s all I’m going to say on the matter.

Big book week coming up!

So, FtF is with Amazon. It went there Friday morning. I also sent a copy to my print on demand publishers. The cover is finished and the video trailer has been uploaded onto YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uzpw9WLn7qE. I am looking at getting my own print run done of 500 or so – not quite sure what I’m going to with them. Everything is set. I have rehearsed the plot for book three and on Wednesday I’m off to London to see someone who can help me visualise what it’s like to be an SIS agent working out of Moscow (book three). I can’t tell you any more than that otherwise I’d have to kill you. So, book three is on the chocks.

We had a lovely evening with P&K – he had some good news about a business venture if his, which was great. I flirted with the thought of working full time again, but broke out into a rash. On Thursday we ended back up in Bristol with Jen just as Pokemon Go! hit the streets. I kid you not, on a two mile walk we came across two pairs of grown men wandering around the nature reserve looking for the imaginary creatures. I quizzed both pairs and they were all v excited by the search. At the point of find, whether or not they’re pushing young children over to get to the Pokemon, I didn’t press. But at least they’re out on their feet.

engagement party…

Friday night Bex and Steven came down and we all went to the pub for a celebratory meal for their engagement. And then yesterday we drove to A&A’s new place (with Bex and Steven) to catch them before he disappears to Qatar on his post-Army job. It was great to catch them – as always – and lovely to see them settling into their own place. As ever, it sent C and I into that thought process of settling down – twice in one week! – and we did discuss with Bex and Steven maybe buying a run-down place in France and turning it into a self-sufficient commune of sorts. This would be post-their 2 years in the Bahamas. It’s a thought and aren’t we lucky to be able to consider it?

rubbish selfie at A&A’s…

Back home now at our fave Bristol CL. Off to Mary’s tomorrow then up to Mum and Dad’s. I start working for two-weeks (running a leadership course within a summer course for Oxford Future Leaders) on Saturday, something I’m really looking forward to. It’s not much money, but it’s on my own terms. Directly after that, you’ll all be pleased to hear, having waved Rebecca and Steven off to the Caribbean, where heading across the Channel and taking Doris back to her birth place. Over four weeks we hope to see friends in Denmark and southern Germany. Goodness we’re looking forward to the break and getting our knees brown.

So that’s us. Big book week this week. If you do get you’re copy, I really hope you enjoy it and please pen a review on Amazon. You can do it anonymously and needn’t write anything, just five-stars will do! Thanks, and have a great week.

Sorry it’s late…just got wifi

Two days, two great things to look at and ten chapters away from publication. Hurrah!

we stayed on the black and white trail – it’s all like this…

We spent a lovely two days (save the weather which was best described as intermittent) at a CCC CS on Leen Farm, near Pembrdige – somewhere in the bowels of Herefordshire and as close to Wales as you can get without being called Taffy. It was a lovely spot right by the bend in the River Arrow and only £10 with EHU. We have marked it down as one of the best spots in the UK we have ever stayed and with good cycling, running and walking (we did all three) it looks like a perfect spot to park up for a couple of weeks and escape the world.

We came here for two reasons. First to visit Westonmill Water Gardens (you have to be a Gardener’s World watcher to know it exists) which is a quite brilliant small garden built around a couple of ponds and a watermill, with the owner putting together a delightful collection of follies including a water powered cuckoo-clock that tells its own time. Second, on the way out to Peter and Karen’s today, we stopped at Croft Castle, a stately pile disguised as a castle, with far reaching views across to the Black Mountains and with an in-place orienteering course which we both ran. It’s a long time since I’ve been on my pegs in that way and whilst I was exhausted at the end, I really loved it. Note to self: must do more.

Finally, having checked every one of 14,391 edits on FtF (70% were changing speech marks to doubles, an American thing – but for the rest, my editor had done a fabulous job) I am now half way through rereading the manuscript for the last time before publication. I reckon I’ll have it back with Amazon by the weekend and I can’t see why it won’t be with the ‘Scouts’ by the end of next week. They all get a free copy and have a further week to read it and write up a review (please, please do – there’s nothing more helpful than a fist full of reviews on Amazon). Then it goes properly live. I am so excited by this…

our fave new camping spot

In parallel with others I’m working up a print-version cover and, as you have seen, there’s a video trailer and I’m getting some professional advice on Facebook advertising next week. So, it all go again. But, and I hope you don’t mind this being about me, I am so proud of FtF. Reading it now, I constantly keep asking myself: did I really write that line; that paragraph? I sincerely hope you like it.

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And then book three! Anyhow, got to go. Much to do… Have a great rest of week.

Some good news!

Things eventually (eventually) picked up. We’ve ended up near Worcester on Bromyard Down next to Lower Brockhampton NT property. That’s after we spent two days at a CL near Nutsford – the only town in the UK I think with its own Bentley and Tesla garage. It’s just south of Manchester so we guessed it’s where a good number of the footballers live. Of course, just now, they’re keeping their heads down for fear of being accused of being rubbish.

NT doing what they do well…

We’ve run hard and walked, cycled and eaten well. We’ve also steered clear of alcohol, other than just the odd glass, and do feel better for it. Yesterday we both had long runs and today we walked into the NT property which required a big hike up a hill on the way back. All good. And, whilst it’s hardly been summer, Mrs Sun has been out a bit and it’s warm enough

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So, what’s the good news? First Rebecca and Steven (our eldest) have got engaged. Fab. That’s both of them off our hands. Now we can get onto the serious business of spending the inheritance. Seriously though, it’s great news. They’re off to the Bahamas to work as teachers in the summer so that’s a great engagement present for them.

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Second I got my manuscript back from my Amazon editor in Seattle. This is the first time (other than the selection on Kindle Scout) that anyone has ever professionally marked my work. It was with trepidation that I opened the covering letter this morning, expecting a D minus. I need not have worried. It’s an intense three-page document, but I thought I’d share a couple of comments:

Your manuscript is in excellent shape, from the intricate plotting to the realistic dialogue. Therefore, in my editing I focused on small details….Structure and plot flow are excellent. Action drives the plot, with limited narrator explanation/backstory and just a touch of romance and history as well. Switching among locations is an effective way to build suspense (such as when we don’t know what’s become of the original Yemen team after the first encounter, or where Sam and Wolfgang are being held in the church compound). All of the seemingly insignificant plot threads, and the major ones of course, are expertly brought together, with nothing left hanging (assuming Herbert and Ralph Bell are threads to be taken up in the next instalment). Structure and plot flow are major strengths of your manuscript. Sam Green is wonderfully developed and extremely likeable; her weaknesses balance her extreme talents, so that she is human and relatable rather than superhuman and infallible. Wolfgang is also thoughtfully crafted, with the details from his past (e.g., the interest in flight, high school bullying incidents, his violin playing, his relationship with Tomas) adding depth so he is not a stereotype of royalty or eliteness but rather comes off as quirky and intriguing.

This is just a slice of what I got. Fab.

I now need to proof the edits, get it back to Amazon and then market like fury. But, I am very happy with where we are right now. All things being equal it should be with those of you who voted for the book in the next couple of weeks, and then out to the public a week after that. And then who knows? Well, what I do know is that it has inspired me even more to write book three.

And I also got my advance from Amazon today. Okay, we’re not talking a great deal of money, but it’s nice to be paid as an author.

Tomorrow we’re off again heading further into Wales to look at a garden somewhere and then to Peter and Karen’s for supper on Wednesday night as we pick up the car and head to Bristol for the weekend. So, it’s all good! Have a great week.

Sca Fell – tick

Highs and lows. Getting to the top of Sca Fell, a two mile hike straight up, was a definite high. Not being able to get out of the CL (4.5 tonnes meets wet grass and a slight dip with resultant = not going anywhere) with the owners out for the day is a bit of a low. The temporary lull has allowed me to write this, which is a positive.

We’d already cycled to Seascale (don’t bother – unpretty seaside town next to nuclear power station) and then onto Ravensglass (do bother – pretty village on an inlet next to calm waters where we had stopped for a cafe lunch). Typically for us it rained on the way back to the van and we got wet, but we’re used to the weather now.

Ravensglass – good

Then Sca Fell. It is not a small mountain. Okay, lower than Ben Nevis and Snowdon, although the climb is higher than Snowdon if you tackle that mountain via the Miner’s track, but straight up with no breaks. We had already cycled ten miles to get to the base (the NT car park) and then, and well done to C, we just climbed. It is an unforgiving mountain in that it’s all rocks. There are no sandy, pebbly paths. It’s rocks or more rocks. On the way down I fell twice, once lucky not to break anything, which tells the story. But, as we got to the summit (accompanied by a load of other walkers) the cloud cleared and we had fabulous views north all the way to Scotland and west out into the Irish Sea. It was the first time I’ve enjoyed Sca Fell, even if we were accompanied by a good number of other tourists.

Sca Fell – tick

On the way down, apart from falling over, we did see the unfortunate incident of a woman who lost her dog (it was on a lead) as it chased two sheep for literally miles. The sheep I guess will be none the better for the experience, if indeed they survived, and the dog will have run until it dropped, or the lead got caught in something. The hapless owner walked after the dog (a spaniel) but it was round the other side of the mountain and gone. To where? Who knows.

Supper out by way of congrats to both of us and then this morning we’re stuck. The owner has a big 4×4 and, as an ex farmer, will know someone with a tractor. We have tried everything including some digging, but best left now to the tow truck. We might be here another night…oh well. There’s always the footy and the tennis.

We also had a long chat about ‘what next’? It does come round. I should get the book back from the editors mid-next week and that will give us something to focus on. I’m working in Oxford for Oxford Future Leaders then for a couple of weeks and we’ve got four weeks planned in Germany and Denmark straight after that. But what next?

The Big Vote has undermined our casual thoughts that we might buy somewhere abroad (like a house with a couple of Gites) and we had a quick look at similar options here in the UK. But nothing has yet grabbed us. We don’t need to do anything now and I have made the decision that this Autumn I will write book three and then suck it and see. So we have the medium term sorted, but still no clue about beyond that. My Compassionate Leadership business is pottering along and I am not pressing for new business. If the book goes well I might drop it completely. Or…?

So, still confused here. But lucky enough not to have to worry about the lack of clarity. We are clear that if we were static somewhere, knowing us we would unlikely be climbing Sca Fell and cycling here and there. We would be house improving, shopping and generally filling the day with not climbing Sca Fell and cycling here and there. If you look at it that way, what we’re doing is a no-brainer.

We think…

Have a good rest of week. And hopefully next time I write we will have made it out of this CL!