Bedding in…

We picked Doris up from P&K’s on Friday and made our way to our fave campsite (CL) just by the M48 bridge. It’s now £12 a night, but still in easy reach of Jen’s and best placed for me to work in Cheltenham and Wells (which I am doing the week after next).

As we started to unpack the car – full from all the stuff we took to Chatel –  I discovered a gas leak. After some investigations it became clear that the feed connection/gauge’s nut that joins the two Gaslow cylinders to the main entry pipe had split and gas was pouring out.  I have no idea how long it’s been like that, but I was able to disconnect everything and just attach one cylinder. Thankfully Doris is going in for a service on Wednesday (still under warranty) and Chelstons will fix it for us.

img_20170129_134856758

You may have noticed that it has been raining a lot. This hasn’t stopped us getting ourselves bedded back in to Doris, being taken out for supper by Jen and James, buying C a Fitbit exercise band, ordering me a Garmin equivalent (down to just £54), and looking after Cassie today, taking her for a long walk to make sure C completes her 10,000 steps – now at 13,000 today. Hurrah!

And, by way of prep before I start the screenplay for Unsuspecting Hero (I got my ‘director’ friend to send me through a copy of an original screenplay so I can see what one looks like), we watched Endeavour tonight – which has got to be some of the best filmed TV in the business. It certainly gave me a lot to think about as I start to pen a fairly dark spy thriller…I’m so excited by the whole process.

img_20170128_121301763

The rest of the week is sorted. We have 2 nights in Chelstons so they can give Doris the once over, and I have 3 days work the following next week, including a 2-hour leadership session with a bunch of houseparents. Should be fun!

Donald…

I’m trying desperately hard not to write something about Donald, but it’s impossible not to. As I start to pen this he’s just announced he’s going to complete ‘the wall’, between the southern US states and Mexico. There is already a 700 mile section of wall – which was started in the Bush presidency and finished under Obama (yes, it takes that long). It doesn’t work, mostly because those who really want to come, come – including drug smugglers digging tunnels. The wall isn’t going to be 2,000 miles long, but just over half that, the rest covered by other natural obstacles, which do a much better job than any man-made structure. And it’s not going to cost $8bn, which Donald says it’s going to. Estimates vary between $15 and 25bn. And that doesn’t include the $700m-a-year it will cost to keep the wall in shape.

And the Mexicans – all of them (which is something as they never agree on anything), say they’re not going to pay for it. Currently Donald hasn’t made it clear how he’s going to recoup what is likely to be about 3% of Mexico’s GDP – generally countries have about 8-10% of their GDP available for public spending, so they’ll have to close a few schools and hospitals to make it work. Or sell a lot more drugs.

Then there’s the ‘alternative facts’. Apparently, now that all members of the press are liars and cheats (including the Washington Post who brought down a previous president), the White House now has ‘alternative facts’. These facts are different versions of the same facts (blue isn’t blue, it’s mauve), which the press used to report and we used to believe. It’s a clever strategy from Donald and his team. If everyone hates you, then surely they’re going to write bad things about you. Always. Every time. And that can’t be the way, surely – we can’t be wrong about everything? So, you can’t trust them. Any of them. About anything. On the other hand we can present the public with ‘alternative facts’, which, among many other things, say that more people attended the inauguration than 4 years previously, and that 3 million dead people and unregistered voters, voted for Hillary. (Dead people, it seems, are not allowed to vote.) Donald really did win the popular vote – although, he’s happy to accept that dead people don’t like him (and they’ll be more of those when the CIA start waterboarding again…)

And if painting all journalists as liars and offering alternative versions of the truth doesn’t work, then it doesn’t matter because Donald has Twitter. Which, as we know, is bombproof to fake news. The future of the world abbreviate to 140 characters; unless you tweet twice on the same subject one after immediately after the other – which, if you ask me, misses the original point of Twitter.

And then there’s the two new oil pipelines – one of them straight through an Indian funeral site. Of course, Donald is a self-proclaimed environmentalist (‘I’m a big man for the environment’). But, with China cancelling 104 coal-fired power plants this month, and with a massive stretch targets for new sustainable power sources, Donald may be backing the wrong horse.

And it’s only Wednesday.

I could go on. I won’t, but I will make a prediction. He will not get re-elected. He’s a child, and not a very bright one. In the meantime he will disappoint his supporters, weaken the US in the eyes of everyone else, and create a power vacuum that sees both the Russian and Chinese premiers rubbing their hands so hard, they’re likely to spontaneously combust. It’s such a shame.

Finally, if you have two minutes, have a look at this: Netherlands Second

For the record, two days with Mum and Dad (depressing) and now with Mary before heading off to Bristol on  Friday.

img_20170124_130702

Have a nice day…     

Home soon

Tomorrow (Sunday) is our last day here at the apartment in Chatel. We leave v early Monday morning, hoping to catch a late pm ferry and be with Mum and Dad before we fall asleep at the wheel. That’s the plan.

img_20170120_134504193

Since I last posted we have ski-walked-had a day out-skied. Tomorrow we are walking for the last time. Our last two days skiing have been the best ever; both of us have got our confidence and now a little bit more style. We tackle anything and, the first of those two days we skied all day, finding some fab new runs up into Switzerland. Today, we skied down at Abondance (£9 for a day pass on a term-time Saturday against £31 for Chatel). It’s a lovely little area with a long blue through the trees back down to the bubble. The weather, again, was fab – and warmer now, but still below freezing. We have had the best of it. The snow has warn away in some areas and with non due anytime soon, they will have to start closing slopes again before long.

Our walk day was into the hills, up to a lake. In bitter sunshine – the car’s temperature read -17 degrees. It certainly was. But what a walk, with a picnic sat with Mrs Sun trying her best to warm our knees. Just fab.

img_20170120_110732065

And what a respite! It has been our best ever break. No outside influences, nothing to get us up for and nothing to force us to bed – although we’ve always been out of the house by 10.30. We have reaffirmed our desire to buy a chalet at some point (the grandkids have got to ski), and I have started to give Unsuspecting Hero’s screenplay some thought. It’s not going to be that easy, in that with a novel you can explain what’s happening inside someone’s head – with a film, you can’t do that so easily. I’m already adding scenes in my head. Next, though, is to get a half-decent laptop (second hand) as Final Draft (industry standard screenplay programme) doesn’t work on a chromebook – my fave. And then set the scenes out on bits of card (advice from the director who wants to make the film) and move the cards around until it flows.

Also, I have some more leadership work. I’m running a session for a group of houseparents (‘running a team’) at the beginning of Feb and doing a 360 for a deputy head in March + my usual one-to-ones.

img_20170119_104812849

All’s good then – and certainly v excited by the screenplay. It will be finished (by my hand) on 31 March!

I am a screenwriter…

Something interesting happened yesterday and today. It’s a medium length story, so I’ll leave out some of the details (actually, C thinks I shouldn’t mention it – it’s a superstition thing).

My brother lives in the same village as an actor/director chap. I’m not prepared to mention his name. He’s English, been in a couple of films and wrote the screenplay for, directed and starred in a British movie which was successful, but not a blockbuster. Anyhow, Kevin met the chap in the street and said I was a novelist and thought he might be interested in my books – and he lent him copies of both UH and FtF.

That was months ago. Anyhow, I got a call from this chap today who says he really likes UH and thinks it would be a fab movie – or mini-series. ‘A sort of UK Homeland?’ was his take on it. Anyhow, the long and the short of it was that he’d be prepared to tout the book and try to raise the cash if it were in screenplay format. He said he wanted to direct it. As the author, would I be prepared to give it a go?

Why not? I mean I know the book backwards and it’s about adaptation; no original thought. Except, don’t forget Roland, I know nothing about films and less about screenwriting. So, without commitment, I said I’d think about it. Which I am. So there (and sorry to C that I’ve given away that little secret).

img_20170116_082522019

Much more importantly, we skied in the small ski area in Abondance today (not connected to Chatel – so passes are 2/3 the price). And loved it. A chalet in Abondance then – that’s the plan.

I just need to write 4 more books and pen a screenplay…

Time to reflect

What has been brilliant about our first 5 days in Chatel is that, without any outside interference, we’ve been able to reflect on everything. And, after a season of no snow, they’ve had more snow over the past 5 days than the previous 5 weeks. As a result it’s been ski-walk-walk-walk-walk for us, with every walk being different and worth it. Today, from the back of the apartment, we climbed and climbed to Col de Saix, using snowshoe routes in snow deep enough to lose a bear. Thankfully the route had been used by people with the proper equipment (there were 4 couples heading up the path) so we only sunk in 30 cm, rather than a metre. But the weather was fab: really cold, but v sunny. Exhausted, we returned to the apartment for tea and medals.

img_20170115_120007

I’m half-way through major edit two of The Innocence of Trust. By the time I’ve finished it will have been through 11 sets of eyes, six of them mine. The good news is that all my pals who have read it (all looking at different angles) have all loved it: a proper thriller. So I’m really excited by it, even if I have had my second (2/11) rejection. And a v nice rejection it was too. Still, I’m v positive about the whole thing. And FtF continues to sell in the US, as part of their ‘thriller January’, and also being lent as part of the Prime Lending programme. (I have to say I will be disappointed if Kindle Press come back and say they’re not interested in e-publishing TIOT.) So, again, all’s well there.

Finally, about reflection. Both our girls are getting married in the next 16 months and, God willing, they both intend to have kids. I guess, at that point, we’re going to need to be settled – or at least have a base – somewhere. So the grandkids can come and visit. Brexit notwithstanding, C and I have pretty much made up our minds that we’d like a chalet in the Alps. Nothing too big, but something house-sized – in a resort which has its own ski area, but not one of the big ones. Abondance down the valley here is perfect. It has a small ski area, and a bus to Chatel, and prices are about 75% cheaper than here. This valley is perfect for so many reasons: skiing, summer sports, 20 minute drive to Lake Geneva; an hours drive to the airport, and 10 hours to Calais.

img_20170115_113324

And, let’s face it, wintering in the Alps and then touring/visiting the UK/pals for the rest of the year in Doris, sounds like a plan? Having said that, all four-seasons in the Alps are pretty wonderful (spring flowers, summer meadows …).

Between now and then (I reckon five years max) we need to do the west coast of South America in a 4×4 with a folding tent on top (3/4 months in 2018/9?), and I need to write another 4 books. Is it affordable? Well a decent sized 3 bed chalet in Abondance is cheaper than a 4 bed-detached property in Bristol. And we have one of those.

As is always the case, it’s about being reminded that you’re only on this planet once, and the man with the scythe has a habit of creeping up on you when you’re least expecting him. So, we’ve made ourselves a bit of a plan. Many would say we’ve done that before, but I’ve never felt so committed to something – a place, before. Remind me when we change our minds!

How lucky are we?

A couple of things from me today.

First the perennial issue of what should I be doing – I think it’s a husband thing (for our generation) than a wife thing? Should I be out there earning a decent wage? Surely this writing thing and my dipping a toe into the compassionate leadership pool is not enough. Or, if it is, why aren’t I writing now – penning another book? Or touting for business for my compassionate leadership stuff? I enjoy both, so why I am taking 2 weeks off and skiing (it was fabulous today!).

img_20170110_142257400

These are good questions. And, trust me, they have been on the tip of my head for a good while. Those of you who read this drivel can testify it’s true. Well – I don’t really know. I spoke to C about maybe taking up a maths teacher’s post in September somewhere. I’m pretty sure I could find someone who would have me. So should I?

I have turned down two non-teaching jobs (one v good and right up my street; and one not so good) in the last 12 months. Both frightened me – in that I would be working full time, and, as an example, wouldn’t be able to bugger off to France for two weeks skiing. And I certainly wouldn’t have got The Innocence of Trust written – a book which I am particularly excited by; I hope you love it. And, let’s be honest, Fuelling the Fire and Unsuspecting Hero have done ok, but they’re not paying off the mortgages in any discernible way (although we are still saving, even with two weddings coming up – with our approach to life we just don’t spend). But, we are still saving.

Warning – with a job would bring a house. That is the way it would be. Neither of us are ready for that. Not yet.

So, what to do? My mate Richard, who we stopped with on Monday night to blag supper (thanks), says I enjoy the writing so much (correct) that that’s what I should continue to do. V few people have that luxury; of doing what they enjoy. But, as I only want to write for Sam Green – is more than one book a year too many? Mmmm, not sure.

We are where we are then. Keep at it. Get someone to publish The Innocence of Trust or self-publish, and then write another one. Four books is better than three. Etc etc.

What else? Well for the record we finished with Jen in Bristol on Sunday night, P&K v kindle agreed to look after Doris for us (and provided supper on Sunday – thanks again), and I booked the ferry the wrong way round – Calais to Dover, which P&O couldn’t fix. So we had to buy another ticket. I am an idiot.

img_20170111_110715467

I drove pretty much all the way (600 miles) with a couple of stops, and we got to Chatel mid-afternoon where, even with winter tyres, I put on chains because the snow was coming down quicker than the ploughs could push it to the side. But the outcome was that we skied today in good conditions – when, only yesterday, most of the Alps had no snow. It’s set to snow for the next 3 days and then a week of sunshine. How lucky are we?

Very. It’s as simple as that. Very…

En route…

I haven’t forgotten about you! A quick post en route to France (midnight ferry tonight).

img_20170109_165855116

Photo is a v wet Burgundy, R&C’s dog, having just got back from a filthy walk. Now eating Christmas cake and a warning tea.

Will post fuller on Wednesday, hopefully from Chatel.

All’s well with us.