Be quiet!

Blooming hell that was a tough day. For the record I taught for 8 years at a private school in Somerset. There were tough days there, but mostly it was management issues. Here, it’s class behavioural management that’s the issue. I’m tall, confident and I can be stern. Do my classes wholly respond to that? Eh, no. In every class there’s a couple of kids who I cannot coerce to behave. And that has never happened before. My ‘disappointed face’ has always worked before.

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Not now. Those of you who are Harry Enfield fans have come across ‘am I boverred?’ and it is absolutely true to say that there’s a bit of that about. Sure, there are plenty of kids who want to learn, but it only takes one or two to send the class into a spin. Shouting at them doesn’t work – I’m not a shouter, but I tried it once, and it had the opposite effect. So, as sad as it is to say, I’m going to have to try sanctions. Phoning home. Detention. Etc. I didn’t stick a single kid in detention in my previous 8 years, but it’s the only avenue I have left. And everyone I talk to is strongly suggest that I use the process. Ok. So that’s the plan tomorrow. I’ll keep you in the picture.
Apart from that, I’ve not got much to add. We’ve done a little bit more work in the house and had a trip up to Jen and James’ on Monday. They’re in good form. When C and Jen went out shopping I stayed in with Cassie and watched a couple of episodes of The Grand Tour. Which is ok. Actually, it’s sort of morphed back into Top Gear. Which is no bad thing.
Finally, can I please recommend to you Van Life Magazine. We appeared in the e-magazine a couple of months ago. The link to that article is here: http://vanlifemagazine.co/ . And whilst we are no longer (technically) van lifers, or full timers, we will inevitably head back in that direction. If I can’t get a grip of my classes, that might be sooner rather than later…
That’s enough from me. I’m exhausted and have some students to berate tomorrow.

Real life 1, Roland 1

So, that makes me a state school teacher. Who would have thought it? It is certainly a different environment and the classes all have a couple of students who really don’t want to be there. The trick, which I haven’t yet mastered, is balancing that element control with the need to teach everyone else. It’s a fine line. I’m working a number of strategies, all slightly different for each class. I’ll keep you in the picture as things move on.

Nothing to add on the books. They continue to sell, mostly now in the UK. I’ve had no more rejections from screenwriting agents or from the independent publishers I’ve sent submissions to. If I decide to work next academic year, then I’m going to have to work hard to do the teaching and the writing book 5 at the same time. I’m not sure how I’d manage it. We’ll see.

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The old rabbit hutch had to go

And the house is coming together. Thankfully it’s small, so there isn’t acres of stuff to sort, but it’s still a full time job until we get it where we want it. One of the beauties of the van is that you don’t have any of stuff to worry about. It takes 10 minutes to clean, and there’s no garden to fret over. You can’t really improve the van, you can’t paint it, you can’t add double glazing. In that way it is tremendously liberating. Instead of doing stuff in the house, you do stuff outside.

So, it’s going to be interesting to do that equation when the house is sorted.

Apart from all that I think we’re both well. It is comfortable living in a house. No, convenient is better. We can have a bath. Cooking is easier. And you can spread out. And working, so far, isn’t such a horror. I have no problems getting up at 6.30 four days a week. Although, it is fair to say, I am shattered by the time I come home. Cycling wakes me up, and, even in the rain, is not such a bad way to travel.

Let’s have a chat about this, this time next week. Maybe things will have moved in by then?

Where’s my bed?

Phew. I’m alive, but only just. Two days of teaching in a (good) state school. It looks like  I’m on a 3.5 day week, which the school has beautifully manicured to give me Friday afternoon and all Mondays off. I have to say that they come across as very accommodating.

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How’s it been? Well I’m cycling in every day which is a 12 mile round trip. I know, I know, it’s an electric bike. But it’s still not without effort. And of course you have to cope with the elements. Four trips, three drenching ones so far. It’s not funny. I can manage most of the route not on roads, and it takes me about half an hour whatever the traffic.
My timetable is all lower school (11-14 year olds) and, bless them, nearly all are bottom set, and there are many behavioural problems. As a result every class runs close to catastrophe – but every class has a silver lining; kids who really want to learn. I’m working on one class a day – and it won’t always be the same class – where at the end I’m pretty much hanging from the rafters. It’s wearing, but already I’m seeing some small successes. And I have been royally welcomed. So, so far, just about so good.
The house is coming together slowly. We have pretty much decided to keep ‘the cottage’, even if we were to head off into the sunset for months at a time. As a result were sorting out storage and making it as comfortable as we can.
I think, as my eyelids droop, that’s all for now. Signing off…

A new chapter

I’ve had my first rejection from a independent publisher for For Good Men To Do Nothing. Seven more to go! The plan will be to self-publish later Spring, early summer if nothing comes my way.

We’re in the house – just. We had a couple of days with Mary, we stopped at a school in Hampshire so I could mentor a Deputy Head for an hour and a half, and we eventually made it to ‘The Cottage’ late Friday night.

There’s a lot to do. Having emptied the attic I relaid the floor and fitted a ladder and a new light. And then we repacked everything we had – and some more which poured out of Doris, and stacked it v neatly in plastic boxes in the roof. And there’s much more room for other stuff up there which we will eventually take out of the garage. Doris has been emptied. And I have sorted her for an MoT tomorrow. Tomorrow is ‘Blue Week’ at school, which means I am not working on Monday – but I’m going to pop in and sort out some admin. I am going to cycle (everyday), which, with an electric bike, shouldn’t be an issue. I think it’s about 6 miles. If that doesn’t work I’ll get a moped. But I think the bike will be fine.

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I miss this. Really. I do. Bigly.

And I’ve just finished ‘lesson planning’ for Tuesday.  I use the term v loosely. I won’t get into a deep discussion about the pros and cons of lesson planning. With 8 year’s experience I’m pretty confident that I can teach the students what they need to know without extensive planning. The problem with having a set menu is that it doesn’t easily allow you to drift when the class needs to go in a new direction. We’ll see.

Anyhow, that’s enough from me. A new chapter. C’s v excited. Me? Well, when I was in Doris this afternoon sorting her for her MoT I got a real pang of excitement from when we were in Croatia for a month in June. The original plan, before I decided to become a teacher, was that about now we were going to be heading off to Spain until the summer. Mmmmm. I’m not sure what I prefer. But, with my contract only short term (till the summer) we could be off on a ‘bigly’ trip in the autumn.

Hurrah!

I’m fixated

So, US politics. Where do you start? The theatre is extraordinary. The depravity is deep. The (alleged) criminality extraordinary. The partisanship is beyond belief. When Hollywood make a film of this, the ain’t ever going to do it justice. There’s too much. It’s too big and too wide. I suppose Netflix could make a mini-series along the lines of the West Wing, but somehow adapt the script so that it’s more like House of Cards.

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I haven’t the energy to mention it all, but let me give you what I’ve got. Leave aside the fact that Puerto Rico still doesn’t have decent power (they can’t vote, so why bother), Trump has failed to tweet about the deathly mudslides in California and couldn’t reach into his golf bag to find his phone to tweet about the extraordinary missile alert in Hawaii. People were sat in cellars sending final messages to their loved ones as they waited for the blast wave to blow away their house, so that the radiation had an easier job of destroying their soft tissue. Of course California is a Red state and Hawaiians are not the same colour as the rest if us, and also mostly vote for the Dems.

How about the sh**hole outburst? This is his trumpness showing off in front of a small gallery, but what the….? Come on. Even if in the deepest recesses of your mind you thought that countries like Sierra Leone were, well, what he called them, why would you? Of course certain Republican members of the audience selectively forgot what Trump had said, and then he denies saying it, even though the WH do not. Me, say that? With my reputation? And, by some stroke of irony, on Martin Luther King Day which followed on when Donald suggested all Americans go out and do good in the community, he played golf.

Then there’s the (alleged) two prostitutes who spent time with Donny after Melania had given birth to his son. Powerful men and their egos, hey?

Of course I’ve not mentioned the Russian dossier thingy, where, apparently, there is no collusion. And then there’s the fact that he hasn’t released his tax return and he’s making money from all sorts of people for using property with his name on it. And there’s a money laundering thing that I haven’t got to the bottom of. And, and…

Any one of the above would have brought down any mortal president, so you do have to have your hat off to the man. He has moved the goalposts of acceptability so far to the right that nothing can shock anymore. Amazing.

Finally, for the record, we made it Mum and Dad’s, and have since moved onto Mary’s. We’re really looking forward to settling into our new place and I’m really excited by the thought of going back into the classroom next week. Fabulous

Home again

We’ve decided to come home a couple of days early. My Mum has an emergency cataract operation on Tuesday, and what with Dad having dementia, we thought it best to be with them whilst this happens. It means we’re losing two days, but it’s for the best.

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It has been a real tonic – it always is here in Chatel (thanks E&A). Apart from C’s sporadic sleep pattern which has tired her a little, we’ve skied, walked, ran, watched more episodes of Lost than is good for us (loved it – still don’t understand it), eaten healthily (thanks to C), drank sensibly and really do feel as though the excesses of Christmas have been purged.

I’ve dispatched the manuscript of For Good Men To Do Nothing to eight independent publishers and the first three books continue to sell. December was my worst month so far, with, if I remember rightly, 7 ‘no-book’ sale days. This month I’ve sold books everyday – eg: 4 on Friday, 3 yesterday and 2 already, today; sales are on both sides of The Pond. All of this without any advertising. I cannot get my head round how that works, especially as I dropped out of social media (save this blog) for 5 weeks. Oh well, I’m not complaining. But I am still short of my 10 books a day target which I’ve had in my mind since the autumn. It will happen!

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We intend to drive all day tomorrow and be with M&D by the evening. Then we’re off to Mary for a couple of days, I have a mentoring meeting on Friday in Fleet and then back to the house. Work, for me, starts the following week. I still don’t have a timetable and I don’t know if I’m working 3 or 3.5 days a week. I hope the school tells me soon.

So that’s that. The end of another brief chapter in the Ladley’s lives. Hurrah!

The future

It’s interesting. I’ve been following Ju and Jay at Our Tour for over 4 years. These pair have spent most of the last 4 years travelling in a Hymer 544 named Dave (although, like us, they upgraded to a newer version half way through). Unlike us they now have celebrity status. Their blog/website is fabulous – so much better than this drivel – and they often get appearances on radio shows and similar about how they manage to do what they do. Their last appearance was on the BBC in the New Year, along the lines of ‘Our 30 Year Retirement’. They have built their life (and worked hard) setting themselves up so they never have to work again. It’s all mightily impressive stuff. And, just to reiterate, their travel blog is a fabulous repository for all sorts of full-timing info. A bible, if you like. I’d go there before anywhere else to learn about motorhome travel.

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And yet, having got home last autumn, moved back into their house and with Jay doing some contract work – because he can and because he missed a bit of normality – they are unsure as to what to do next. They did think they were going to go away again in the New Year. And then not. Maybe Norway for the summer? But, and this is the point of today’s post, they’re rather enjoying being normal – and being part of a community. Going down the pub. Etc.

That’s interesting, because that’s exactly where we find ourselves. The last 3 years have been a blast. And Doris, the fabulous Doris, has become a central part of our lives. But we’re going firm – for a while. And I’m going back to part-time work. We’re really looking forward to being static – and part of a community. It’s also going to be good to be earning some cash. We can afford to fulltime indefinitely – it’s much cheaper on the road than in a house (we lose rental income for a start), but earning a few bob here and there will make a difference. And travelling is tiring. No, not tiring. It requires effort. It fills your day. You can’t (easily) do both. There’s a choice: sit still and be part of a community; travel. Currently we’re plumping for option one – for a bit.

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That doesn’t mean we won’t push off into the sunset again. Pack everything up and relive that wonderful 8 months we had in 14/15 where we wintered in Sicily and Greece. And we will keep Doris and use her often. Indeed, I don’t know what I’m going to do from July when my school contract runs out. I could (likely) extend it for another year. Or look for another teaching job elsewhere. We just don’t know yet. Or I could be a rich and famous author by then. Who knows? And how lucky are we to be able to even have that conversation?

And I guess this is the point. We, and Ju and Jay, are fortunate. We have a rock-solid plan for retirement. Our routes have been different, but the outcome is the same. Likewise it seems we can both easily find work. I don’t think I’ll ever have to panic about getting some teaching somewhere. We have all tried fulltiming and loved it. Significantly we have spent over 3 years in a small white box with our spouses and not resorted to murder – and that is not a given. But, after a period of time we have both found the desire to go static. And we can. We have property and we can work. So, if you don’t mind me patronising you, for those of you out there thinking of fulltiming, C and I can’t recommend it enough. We can’t. It will liberate you like you cannot imagine. And it will fill your experience banks with stuff that will enrich you more than you could know. But, unless there is no other alternative, think through what will need to happen if you decide to stop. Where would you live? And how might you find some extra cash? If you can I’d recommend renting your house out rather than selling it. Or sell it and buy a bolt hole somewhere. If that means buying a second hand van rather than a squeaky new one, then do it. Be careful. Be wise.

Lecture over.

For the record, we walked Monday and Tuesday (saw some mountain goats!) and skied yesterday – fabulous. Today we’re heading down the valley to buy some wine! Bottoms up!

This could be dull…

If you’re not interested in skiing, then I suggest you have a quick look at the photos and stick on Country File.

Skiing. Mmmmm. It’s a Marmite sport.  Unfortunately, answering the question is not as cheap as buying a pot of the black stuff and spreading it on your toast to see if you like it. We’ve skied every year since we can remember. And recently (the last 10 years) we have always tried to go out of season, and for longer than a week. It’s an age thing. Doing the usual Saturday-to-Saturday ski break is fine when you’re young and have more energy than an avalanche full of snow. You’re up early, you sky all day, you drink too much in the evening. And then repeat. It is exhausting; other than doing Everest base camp there is no holiday like it. The need to pack stuff in is mostly about cost. Skiing is expensive. The accommodation is not cheap, and hiring the equipment and the ski-passes would buy you a small car. Therefore, you really don’t want to waste a moment of it.

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If you go for longer, own your equipment and drive to the resort, which is both cheaper and much more convenient for carrying all the gear, then squeezing every last ounce out of the holiday becomes less of an issue. Skis are skis and boots are boots. Our skis are 10 years old and my boots are 25 years old. I did say to C today that maybe now I’m working we should get ourselves some new skis (the newer ones are much fatter at the ends, but otherwise they’re the same) and then an old bloke got on the ski bus with 192 cm straight Blizzards from the early 80s. My skis are older carvers (slightly fatter at both ends) and 165 cm. Respect to the old bloke. By the way, I reckon that against hiring you’d pay for your own skis and boots within three years if you skied for 6 days a year. Then it’s all free.

So, we try and spend 12 days in resort and ski for 6 days. For the rest of the time we walk and potter. We come to Chatel because good friends of ours let us have their apartment (many thanks to E&A) and it is the closest decent resort to Calais. Truth be told, if Austria were closer we’d probably prefer to go there. It’s slightly cheaper, they do look after their slopes better and the resorts are much more chocolate boxy. But we’re v fortunate to be able to ski as we do.

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And today? Well, we always have a pause when we arrive in resort and this time round was no exception. Friday and Saturday we walked (lovely weather yesterday); and today, even though it was overcast and a bit blustery, we skied. It was close to being a disaster. The wind gusted to 50 mph on the top and the conditions weren’t great. But, at £65 a day for both of us to ski for 5 hours, we thankfully didn’t give up. We skied across the mountain, had coffee at the top of Super Chatel and ate our packed lunch at La Linga. We then skied in the far bowl where the skiing is brill – now with Mrs Sun poking her head out. It was fabulous. We gave up at 3.00pm and were back at the apartment in time for tea and medals half an hour later.

Back onto the Marmite question. Skiing is expensive, getting to the resort is not without effort and you have to practice if you don’t want to end up in hospital. And you never seem to just hurt yourself – you break and twist things that shouldn’t be broken or twisted. It’s tiring, your joints ache and you always end up looking like a panda, often with worse sunburn than you’d get after a week at Sharm El Sheikh. It’s often bitterly cold and if you don’t like heights, you’d struggle on the lifts. You fall over and even if that doesn’t hospitalise you, you’re going to have more bruises on your bum than if you’d spent an hour with Miss Whiplash. All-in-all it’s a lot to stomach.

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But, and it’s a big but, the views are to die for, the exhilaration of the white world zooming past you like you’re in a soft top sportscar is better than sex, and you finish the day with that all over glow that is only rivalled by having played a decent game of hockey,  beating your old university rivals to boot.

It’s a balance, for sure. But we know which side of the equation we sit on. And as long as all our bits work, we shall keep at it.

 

Short and sweet

This is late – and I don’t have much to say. Maybe I’ve been affected by a cease and desist order from on high? It seems that we have spent the last week sat in a car. Left P&D’s for Mum and Dad’s, which was another sorry tale – don’t want to go (me), and don’t want to leave. And then down to Dover amid Storm Eleanor. I can tell you, getting on the ferry was fun and something I wouldn’t have wanted to try in Doris. The boat was rising and falling 4 feet at a time and we were stop/started by a man on the deck who, at times, we couldn’t see, But we made it.

For the first time ever we decided to stop on the drive down to Chatel. We made it to Chalons-du-Champagne and stayed in the ‘Hotel B&B’, which for £55 including breakfast really suited us. And then the back end of Eleanor made yesterday’s drive interesting. Rain, and more rain.

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Thankfully the Alps has already had bucket-loads of snow and the rain hasn’t managed to wash it all away. We will not ski until Sunday, mostly to let the New Year hoards get off the mountain. We don’t leave until a week the following Wednesday, so we will get some in. And thanks to E&A for letting us stay at their place again. Fab.

And what of 2018 so far? Well the White House is in meltdown – I have never been so interested in politics. Everyday produces a new revelation. And every day a tirade of tweets. If it weren’t so scary, it would be funny. Oh well.

That’s me for now. I’ll get back on track for Sunday. Have a good weekend.

The sanctuary of friends

Ahh, the sanctuary of friends. I’m sat in front of a log fire scribing away on the very first day of the new year. 2018. Who would have thought it. That is, we’re now well into the new millennium without noticing. And we managed to get through 2017 without Trump pressing the big red button. Let’s hope I’m penning the same thing this time next year – still with all my hair and without having to charge my laptop via a hamster’s spinner linked, via an inverter to my charging lead. I hope so.

The good news is that I am feeling much better, thank you v much. It has taken 4/7 days into my course of antibiotics, but I really do feel that I could go for a run without the need to have my phone set on 999 in case my heart gives up the ghost and orders my legs into a ditch. But I won’t. I’m going to wait until I have finished the prescription and then run – by which time we’ll be in Chatel where the hills are mountains, and the air colder than a freezer. Doubtless that will make my heart give up the ghost. But at least the ditches will be full of snow.

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After a couple of days of sorting out the house (it will be fab, but it will take us 3 months) we headed off for Phil and Denises’s where we had a fab New Year’s Eve with a bunch of old friends who are just delightful – of course I’m overplaying this as one or two of them will read this drivel and it would be unnecessary to upset them. No, really they are delightful and we have been royally looked after. We all dressed up to the nines (two of the them wore kilts – thankfully one of the games included passing a cold object attached to a piece of string under clothing. That’ll teach them.). The food was fab and there was more vintage champagne, which my pal Simon, who brought it along, tells me is where the three champagne grapes (pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay) are all from the same year, than we probably needed. I provided the party games which seemed to go down OK. I particularly liked ‘crapping the carrot’ (props: carrots; buckets and a bit of room), which I shall leave to your imagination.

Today? We all drove to the local Suffolk pub where we met up with more old Army pals of all of ours, which was great again. And that is the thing about the Services (C and I did 26 years) – you really do find good friends for life.

And my New Year’s resolution? I am going to be nicer to my wife. That, of course, goes without saying? In fact I only mention it because, as an in-joke from last night, I hope it will make her laugh.

Actually, what I really want to do is make her laugh more – which she deserves. There you go. I’ve started already…