This is the last Ladley’s post as ‘fulltimers’, or ‘vanlifers’. We, pretty much, move into the house tomorrow. We then dash around for Christmas and New Year, head off skiing in early January and then (gulp) I’m back to work. Well, 3.5 days a week teaching maths – which, I have to say, I am really looking forward to.
early doors Somerset Levels
It could so easily be the end of an era, albeit an epoch of only just over three years. Three and a bit years of travel, of sites, of small spaces and, for me, of writing. In many ways it does feel like the end. We have a house. I am going back to work. For Good Men To Do Nothing is finished and waiting (from me) for further instructions. The other three books have all but stopped selling, and whilst I am still waiting for five replies, Unsuspecting Hero’s screenplay hasn’t registered on anyone’s radar. On the face of it, it’s ‘all change’ at the Ladley ranch. Sorry for the interruption. Normal service has now been resumed.
Except, that’s not really the case. Not really.
For a start, our two-up, two-down is just a bolt hole. It’s not a house in the country. Nor is it somewhere we would expect to entertain our grandchildren. My part-time job is only until July. Whilst, assuming I don’t break any children, I might be offered a job into the second half of the year, I have no idea if that’s what I want – nor what we need. And, and this is a big and, I’m already plotting book 5. ‘Why?’, you ask, ‘if you’re not selling books hand over fist?’ Because, among other things, I’ve just got this Facebook message from someone I don’t know: read your first book after seeing a comment you made on a Motorhome group ( can’t remember which one ) and thoroughly enjoyed it, now halfway through Fuelling the Fire and it’s ‘brilliant’ having trouble putting it down. I’ve read all Stella Rimmington’s books and others of a similar ilk and this one of yours is way better. Well done and looking fwd to your next one.
So we’re still taking this journey in small chunks. My view is that we will love having the house and will always want a bolthole from here on in. I think we will continue to travel and I will continue to write. How much I write and how much I work will be balanced by the number of people who want to read my stuff. And, with short-term contracts we can and will continue to pick and chose our own future.
And, just in case you’re interested, I though I’d share with you the Ladley’s cat’s letter for 2017. She’s been penning one for 11 years, even though she’s been dead for quite a while. She’s clever like that. Here it is:
They wish you a merryish Christmas…
Now we weren’t expecting that, were we? After another year of unnecessary gallivanting around the world, the senior Ladleys have decided to rest Doris’s tyres and move into a two-up, two-down in Bristol. For now. It all came about when Jen and James bought a house in Gloucester, and Mum and Dad decided to move into the house they were vacating. It all happened in a flourish, and the ramifications of their impetuosity remain to be seen. Personally I think it will end in tears. We’ll see.
And, yes, Jen and James are moving to Gloucester into their very own house. It’s closer to James’ work and, for the money, they get a much better house than if they stayed in Bristol. Jen’s Doggie Den has had a really great year, but is now closed as the removal lorry farts some unburnt diesel down the road. Jen has managed her dogs with love and care, so it’s no wonder her customers are sad to see her move on. In parallel, she has set up a dog accessory business – Cubbly’s. It’s in its early days, but Jen’s eye for detail and artistic flair look set to make it a success. Me, I’m old school: leather collar and a bell to scare the birds – not that I ever got near to one. Frankly you can keep all this unicorn, Scooby Doo and Batman paraphernalia. We have a herd of the former up here, and let me tell you that whilst they can do some magic, they poo just like the rest of us. For the record, after a monumental few years, Jen has finished the therapy sessions related to her mental illness. She has emerged, almost Phoenix-like, from the ashes of this unfortunate tale – it’s been a monumental effort, and inevitably the journey ahead will not be without speed bumps. Well done her.
To ensure that the Ladley’s flux is family wide, Bex and Steven are on the move in 2018. Their Caribbean adventure has been a blast, but there is something about the island mentality (and the exorbitant cost of living) that has seen their sun setting in the west and rising, much brighter, in the east – so to speak. They’ve accepted teaching posts in Seoul, starting in September: Dulwich College, no less. Bex will be head of the humanities facility, which will mean that she will be in charge of Steven, as well as a number of other teachers. Do I need to write that again? In – charge – of – Steven. Good luck with that Bex, that’s all I can say. Of course, we’re ignoring the ostrich in the room. Seoul is in South Korea. Which, if I remember rightly, is quite close to North Korea. They both take a sanguine view of being within a few hundred miles of an almost nuclear power led by a despotic, narcissistic madman, who is being goaded into war by a much larger nuclear power led by a despotic, narcissistic madman. ‘If they haven’t bombed each other in the next nine months, then we’ll be fine….’ Mmmm. OK, then. I’ll not be visiting. They’ve made the most of their Bahamas posting. As well as numerous visitors (I didn’t get an invite), they’ve skied in The Rockies, done New York and Miami, and are now Christmasing in Los Angeles. Fabulous. And, of course, they got married. A day none of us will ever forget.
Dad has continued to write like his future depended on it – which, thankfully, it doesn’t. His third Sam Green novel, The Innocence of Trust, has attracted very positive reviews, but sold few books. The first two haven’t done badly over the year, but, as you may have noticed, he’s hardly a household name. The fourth in the Sam Green series, For Good Men To Do Nothing, is ready to go and a couple of pre-readers have loved it. But – and I hope he’s reading this – it’s not going to sell in numbers. Not without a proper publisher. To broaden his appeal he has written a screenplay of Unsuspecting Hero having been asked to produce one by Frank Harper, a British actor/director. Between them they have touted it about, but no sniffs. Oh well. You can’t say he hasn’t tried. And then, something strange happened. Knowing that they were hanging up their travelling trousers for at least half a year he was offered a part-time teaching post at Bristol Free School. Which he has taken! Back into the classroom. All those equations, graphs and snotty children – stuff of which I know nothing, and care even less about. It will likely be the death of him; but at least that will mean I’ll get some company up here.
Mum, I think, is happy to be moving into a house, albeit one not much larger than Doris. It’s been three and a half years since she’s been able to swing a cat (did I just say that?) and she already has expansionist plans that would suit a fledgling dictator. As she sizes up the kitchen drawers for Pyrex, it is worth noting that her year has been a succession of extravagant travel and the odd wedding. Skiing in Chatel, Croatia for six weeks (which I can report was their favourite trip), The Wedding of the year (Bex and Steven – hurrah!), taking the newlyweds on honeymoon to Germany in Doris, New York and The Bahamas, and then the south of France to finish and edit book 4. Along with that she has looked after relatives, kept an eye on the kids and darned dad’s socks. Not really. Not the socks. It was a metaphor. You know. Anyway. Moving out of Doris will elicit mixed emotions for both of them, I’m sure. And Mum’s already talking about when they take Doris away for the weekend.
So, 2018 looks like ‘end of the line, all change!’ for all of them. Jen and James, of course, are getting married in March, up in Skye – none of you are invited, but don’t take it personally. Dad will lose what’s left of his hair as he tries to get kids to get stuff. Bex and Steven will move halfway round the world again (assuming acceptable levels of radiation). And Mum will be the light around which the moths flutter.
And me? Well, having voted for Trump via a Russian ISP for the fun of it, I’m no longer so sure. Yes, it’s been fun to watch the soap opera from up here. But, and I hate to get all serious on you, it might have all the drama of East Enders, but it isn’t actually a TV show, is it? Both Bex and Steven and Jen and James are talking about starting a family. If Donald and his acolytes continue to unpick the fabric of decency and sew it back together with bigotry and hate, then my boss might have to wield the odd thunderbolt. And, let me tell you, you don’t want to be around when that happens.
In the meantime – Happy Christmas from all of us. Both natural and supernatural!