You have to wonder…

IMG_20180927_071014048

I got to the school v early on Thursday. Mmmm, Mrs Sun!

You wouldn’t think it was the weekend, honestly; we’ve been busy! First, come on, let’s talk US politics. Please. Just for a bit.

Have you been following the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the US) vote in the US? It’s a key decision as that’s the organisation that ratifies the major domestic policy decisions, normally after there’s been a court objection. Anyone selected for the court has a post form life. That’s it – for life. Anyhow, it has always been politically balanced – up to a point. And the latest Trumpkiness choice is a guy called Brett Kavanaugh. He’s well qualified, young and staunchly conservative. You know, pro-life; anti-anything on the left. He’s Yale etc and, if selected, would cement the balance of power in the conservatives’ favour. That would mean, for example, if you’re a woman who doesn’t believe that every sperm is sacred, then you’re likely be living in a country where abortion is, for whatever reason, illegal. No – sorry, even if you’re raped. No abortion. And we’ll enforce the law. That’s after we’ve murdered this inmate for killing a couple of people. We’re just deciding whether to use the electric chair or give them an injection. Or, maybe, we’ll hang them. But no abortion. Because we’re pro-life.

I digress. Kavanagh’s record was not fully disclosed to the Senate, but as the conservative/Republicans control the house, that’s turned out not to be an issue … until, a female professor from California came right out and said that ‘bless-him Brett’ had tried to rape her in a drunken stupour when they were in their teens. Sorry, him and a friend. Kavanaugh allegedly held his hand over the professor’s mouth, ’cause you wouldn’t want her screaming, would you?

Now, as this hasn’t gone to court it’s all alleged (there are now two other complainants). And, sure, she could be lying – or have forgotten who the man was on top of her. And, in any case, she was allowed to present her ‘case’ to a senate committee. That was on Thursday. I listened to some of both sides of the testimony. And, if you stripped back the emotion (more of which in a second), you might say that – in a court of law – you’d struggle to get a ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ conviction. But that’s the point. It’s not a court of law. It’s a job interview. And I don’t know about you, but, sorry, I wouldn’t employ someone who was facing potentially three counts of sexual assault. I just wouldn’t. But even that’s not my point. This is. Brett Kavanaugh’s responses to the questions from the committee were awful. He lied – really – at least twice. He shouted. And cried. And shouted some more. He took the p**s out of the Democrat questioners. He said he drunk a lot of beer. Even now. A lot of beer, He was clearly partisan. And, not once, did he show any sensibility for the professor. And … to remind you, he’s being interviewed for a position on the highest court of the land. For life. A judge. Calm. sensible. Non-partisan. A man to join a group of eight other highly respected justices who shape the lives of 250 million people. Would. You. Employ. Him?

Such is the state of US politics. And, sorry to say, it’s all his Donaldness’s fault. The man who the UN laughed at last week. What a mess.

Whatever.

IMG_20180930_160426237

Doris looking all sparkly…

A busy week. Thursday at the school in Hampshire was great fun. Eight x one-hour slots. All of the staff I sat with were different. It is exhausting, but I do feel a real sense of achievement.

Friday was at Jen’s. Lots of sewing. Some great ideas from Jen and C. That all looks like it’s coming along nicely.

IMG_20180930_083407_285

come on, you’ve got to love this …

And writing. Well, leaving aside the sporadic nature of my current writing – writes something … a couple of days’ gap … write something more, I’m still ahead of myself. I wanted to get Chapter 9 finished by the end of the weekend. As at 5pm Sunday I’m 3,300 words into Chapter 10. I hope it’s OK. I don’t have that same sense of coherence that I normally get when we’re heading off to the south of France and I write day after day. It will, I’m sure, come good in the edit. I must finish it first.

I spent a short while trying to re-energise myself by looking through past reviews. I came across this one on Goodreads which I’m sure I haven’t shared with you before. It was penned by a lady called Sam, from Japan:

This is the third Sam Green book I have read. I came to the series through the Kindle Scout Program in the UK, and after reading and really enjoying book 2 for free, I decided to purchase the rest of the books (and am looking forward to the newly released fourth book).

I’ve enjoyed all of these books appreciating the detail, as well as the thick plotting. This being the first book, it perhaps unsurprisingly had weaker writing than the second and third books, but the story, set in Liberia and later Sierra Leone was very enjoyable and as fast paced as any thriller you’ll find in books or on TV.

It might have been said by some of the other reviewers here, but my feeling throughout reading this series has always been that the author punches above his weight. What I mean by this is that these books are as well written and plotted as any thriller that I have read by traditional professional authors over the past few years. Having read his blog, I know the author has not been picked up by a traditional publisher yet, but I do hope he gets a lucky break soon, and that he continues to write for a long time to come.

Which all did me good. And, on the back of this, I dispatched Unsuspecting Hero’s screenplay to four random people in showbiz. You never know…

Got to go …

A short update from me (you’ve already switched off, I know). Back from Paris – which was fab – and now off to Jen’s to do some seamstressness. Tomorrow I’ve a really early start to get to the school in Surrey where I help out on leadership mentoring … for 8.30. All day there, then back, then another full day at Jen’s on Friday.

For the record we had a fab day on Monday walking up and down Paris, which I liked much more than I had ever done previously. I guess it was because we weren’t in so much of a rush. And C and I had decided that we wouldn’t cut corners as we normally do when we’re away: we ate and drank what we wanted. The hotel was special, both in location and luxury, and Eurostar is a decent way to get about the place at 200 mph. All-in-all a great break and thanks to Mary to being such good company. (The photos are all of Paris … I was particularly taken by Jardin du Luxembourg. It’s not on the tourist trail, but it is beautiful.)

IMG_20180925_104703539

IMG_20180925_103006811

IMG_20180925_094336836

I was up early today, woken by Mrs Sun who joined me for my run first thing. And that’s going well. Over the break in Brittany I had a shoulder that insisted on telling me that it wasn’t happy. That cleared up and then just before we got on the train to Paris, the small of my back decided to shout a bit. But, none of it stopped us from doing what we do, and I guess it’s just a sign that we’re getting older. But the running’s good.

So, all’s OK with us. I’m now well into Chapter 9, with some fun stuff happening. I hope you like it!

Bonjour tout-le-monde

Ahh, gay Paris. So let’s talk about the French. I love them. With the same passion that I love the Germans, the Dutch, the Greeks, the Poles etc. I am, after all, a European. We are all different – and we are very much the same. The French, by mass (use in both senses) are a good four kilograms lighter than we are. They do like to look after themselves. I know we are a nation of joggers and cyclists, but walking out down the Seine this Sunday morning, you would have thought that there wasn’t a single Parisian anywhere sat drinking coffee and eating croissants – they were all out with their kit on. The men, in particular, are stylish. They don’t do beer bellies and synthetic jogging pants, with trainers. They do thin jeans, smart shirts and a decent jacket – sometimes leather (think of the Fonz in Happy Days and you won’t be far off). And they wear shoes made out of cow rather than lino. And, yes, they are nationalistic, in a big flag sort of way – in a ‘we really love our country’ fashion. But they’re not overly anti-immigrant. And they’re confident enough with who they are not to hate everyone else. We (me, C and Mary) got off Eurostar at Gare du Nord, dropped into the metro and we might as well have been displaced 3,000 miles and ended up in Abidjan. But nobody cared. Everyone was French. I knocked into a big guy, expecting to be chastised, and he apologised.

IMG_20180923_080810_617

So, what is it with us and our jingoism? Why, oh why, do we have to be so narrow-minded? We are all immigrants to some degree. And if we were to be OK with that, maybe we could reverse this Brexit nonsense, which will do for our country in a way that none of us yet fully understand. You try getting decent nursing care in 8 months time. Or a plumber. Or your vegetables picked. Most of our young won’t want to do those things. Their too busy trying to be a celebrity …

… get me out of here.

IMG_20180923_110507166

Our hotel couldn’t be closer to Notre Dame, and yesterday afternoon we wandered about oohing and ahhing at things. Oh, before I forget, one thing you won’t notice about Paris, but you should know as it preserves the city just as it is, is that there is a covenant on building taller than five storeys in the city centre. The only two things which stick out above the green-copper roofs are the Eiffel Tower (which is translucent so doesn’t count) and the big church we’re sleeping next to. As a result, if like us you get onto the fifth floor of the Musee D’Orsay today and look through one of its spectacular round windows, you can see right the way to Sacre-Coeur. Fabulous.

IMG_20180923_094520060

The Musee D’Orsay was voted the number one museum in the world earlier this year, and so it should have. It’s all art from the last 200 years (no madonnas with the big boobies), and so much better for it. It does waste a beautiful train station – which is what it is housed in – but it does it so well. Easily worth the 15 Euros price tag (thank you Mary).

 

Mary and C are on a boat in the river at the mo (in the rain), and I’ve just been for a run to the Eiffel Tower and back – 48 minutes, just under 10 kms. Tomorrow we’re kicking about looking at stuff … and then back on Tuesday. And then Jen – school – Jen, for the rest of the week. It’s going to be interesting to see my relationship with Jen’s business gets on.

 

And now I’m going to start Chapter 9 (45/140k done). I spent an hour last night piecing together the second half of the book. It’s going to be fun!

Social media – whatever

First, for those of you who read my last blog viz Mum and Dad, I guess a lot of you were caught out either by my frankness, or even my seeming lack of empathy for them. All I’d say is that you can’t write everything down – and perhaps there’s a lesson for me there. The bottom line is that I love them very much and C and I are always on standby to rush up there in a moment of crisis. I will not, however, back down from writing what I feel.

Anyhow. Today’s subject is social media, or that is my use of it.

A couple of days ago I deleted 65% of those I follow on Instagram. I was at 450 followers and following 400. Initially the ambition (having read something, somewhere, probably on Instagram) was that if I followed lots of people they would look me up and buy my books. A couple of weeks ago I followed 100 new people who had previously liked authors who write in the thriller genre. Did I sell any more books? No. Nothing.

Frustrated I cut my ‘following’ list down to 160. This much smaller list included all our friends and those I have been following since I joined Instagram three years ago. What’s changed? I now have the time to look at all the photos that are posted, my number of followers has fallen to 430 and I have sold no more books. I think that’s a result.

IMG_20180919_100523_538

Cassie goes home tomorrow. Boo!

The blog. I started this four and a half years ago when we first made the decision to leave the school and push off into the sunset. When we first started travelling I posted every day. Some days it was almost impossible to find internet say, in darkest Greece, but I managed. I wrote travel stuff and I think some of it was interesting. When we stopped travelling I cut posting to twice a week. The posts became author focused and really dull. But, I still get about 150 unique visitors every week. And every so often a number of you are kind enough to comment. Does it help sell books? I’m not convinced. It does, however, provide a diary for C and I. And it will be there forever. We sometimes ask ourselves, what did we do then? The answer is: it’s in the blog. Hurrah!

I’m on Twitter. I post irregularly and commented periodically. I follow 275 people and 330 people follow me. I love it. It keeps me up to date with all manner of gossip, especially US politics. And it’s fun to follow Richard Osman, The Dalai Lama and His Donaldness – among others. Does it help me sell nooks? Mmmmm – no.

IMG_20180918_153335499

Spooky skull collar for Halloween

Finally, I have a Facebook Page. It’s attached the C’s FB site. I come and go insofar as posting, and I should  be much more proactive in joining other pages. Jen uses it all the time for Cubblys and attracts sales all the time. But I’m not there yet. I guess I post every couple of days – but I do need to work harder at spreading the news.

Does any of this help?

Insofar as selling books. No. Not yet. But everyone tells me that without a social media presence, I might as well give up. So, as with the writing (loving taking Sam through a couple of issues in Budapest at the mo), I’m just going to persevere.

For the record … Monday and Tuesday was two more days at Jen’s. I’m one collar and lead short of finishing everything. She will come back with an empty order book. We’ve run a hoover round and tidied where we can. And tomorrow we will drop Cassie off and I shall hand the business back over to her – whilst we pop across the channel to Paris for a couple of days. Can’t wait!

Sorry

That was difficult. Two nights at Mum and Dad’s. I know some of you who read this know Eileen and Colin. And they are almost certainly held in high regard. They deserve that – they do. For me, though, now, it’s tough. Dad is suffering badly with dementia. He’s forgetting everything, he walks slowly – tottering, his left hand is hopeless, he can’t feed himself, unless it’s with a spoon and fingers, and he struggles to get himself dressed. I’m sorry to be blunt, but he can’t make it to the loo (he’s in nappies). Yesterday afternoon, when C was cleaning the oven, I was upstairs cleaning and bathing Dad who had had an accident and tried to sort himself out. It was everywhere. I had to use all my ingenuity to get him into and out of the bath. I managed the latter by getting in with him.

IMG_20180915_070910_357

my old Dad…

Yes, we have arranged for a carer to come in twice a day. And that works well. But if Dad has any problems, Mum is not in a fit state to help. She’s had open heart surgery and a massive stroke. She cannot get on her hands and knees and scrub up poo. They have to wait for the carer.

Mum is fine until she has a couple of drinks. Then, when you add in the effects of the stroke, she becomes cantankerous – which is so unlike her. I wanted P&Q for an hour at 9.15 last night to watch a new spy thriller on BBC 1 (Killing Eve – it’s fab). Mum wouldn’t be quiet. It was as though she was talking on purpose just to rile me. I got frustrated, which I shouldn’t have. But, it all ended well enough. Sorry Mum.

So what, Roland? Why don’t we move down there and help out full time? Well … no. Sorry. We are not a nuclear family. My parents were not part of a nuclear family. We just don’t live in each other’s pockets. We have our own children – and I have work of sorts down here. And they get by. Until three years ago they had a fab life, with no chronic illnesses – just lots of golf. And the money to travel, if that’s what they wanted to do. It’s just the last three years …

So, it’s been difficult. Sorry. At least they have carers twice a day. And they’re in their own home. And they’re not poor.

Moving on.

I’ve started Chapter 8 – ahead of this weekend’s schedule. And I’m still loving it. Because I’m not writing it contiguously, it will need a couple of deep edits – and lots of cross-checking. But I’m really happy with the multi-plots. V excited there.

And up to Jen’s tomorrow – and probably Tuesday and Wednesday. They’re back on Thursday. It will be good to hand the reins over. Especially as we’re off to Paris for the weekend with Mary on Saturday (until Tuesday). We’re going by Eurostar. It’ll be fab – and we really can’t wait.

 

More from me on Wednesday. Don’t forget to watch Bodyguard tonight. And catch up with Killing Eve. You won’t be disappointed.  

Silence…

I’m sorry this is late. It has been a whirl. Monday and Tuesday at Jen’s, where we are just about on top of the orders, Tuesday night out to supper with Peter and Karen (with army friends Simon and Rosemary who were there), yesterday travelling to Mary’s via Steven and Hilary’s narrowboat (who are docked at Guildford), and then a full day at a school near here, mentoring. I have written 3,000 words of book 5, but they’re probably written in Swahili. I won’t know until I trash-edit. What was funny was that I couldn’t find a piece I had written last week sometime (I was cross-checking facts) until I realised that I had written two chapter fives. So that makes me half way through Chapter 7 now, and at about 43,000 words. I am getting there.

IMG_20180912_154727967

dogs and narrowboats and Jen’s collars. Hurrah!

Jen’s work continues to be taxing, but I’m pretty sure the quality is there. It’s been nice to get responses from people, one just now from Holland, where they message and say ‘got the stuff – love the quality’. That’s me. I’ve done that. Me. You know. The seamstress. Next I’ll be knitting jumpers and crocheting bedspreads. Probably not.

Work today at the school was the best I’ve had. I’m mentoring a Deputy Head and have been for over a year. So this year he asked me if I could run a single day where I saw as many staff who wanted to see me (at an hour a piece), to see if they might benefit from some coaching/mentoring. I had seven one-hour slots. That, let me tell you, requires some real attention.

Mentoring/coaching is a very personal thing. Sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes it doesn’t work well. I know when that happens before the client. Today (and if you don’t mind a bit of a brag) by the time I finished at 4.30 the reports were already back with the Deputy Head. And they want me to come back in two-week’s time. I can clearly add some benefit here … and I do enjoy it. It also requires little preparation. But do I want to fill my days with it? The money would be excellent. But, even though book sales are sluggish, writing is still what I do. So, no, probably not. We’ll see.

And the other thing I picked up today as I wandered around the school … was a reminder of how quiet classrooms can be. Wow. Silence. Mmmmm. That never happened to me before the summer. Never. Even during a test. Silence wasn’t a response I could ever elicit from my classes. It took me back to Wells and reminded me what a pleasure teaching could be.

That’s it from me. Out again tonight for supper to another old army pal, then Mum and Dad’s for the weekend. As I understand it, things aren’t great there. Ho hum.

WSM

Let me tell you about Weston Super Mare, or WSM to those in the know. We took Cassie there today – our one day off. We spent yesterday morning at Jen’s and are back there tomorrow. And Tuesday. On face of it it may seem that we’re making a mess of it, or are particularly inefficient. There’s truth in both those statements, but we are getting better. Me at collars and leads. C at bandanas, bow ties and flowers. Progress is being made, and the quality is there. It’s just there is a lot of it. And there’s more coming.

IMG_20180909_123211077

WSM – not a bad place to walk a dog …

Anyhow, WSM. It’s not a bad seafront. Certainly better than Clacton. A long sandy beach in a wide bay, flanked by rocky promontories with the island of Lundi and Wales across the brown and grey which is the Bristol Channel. The front is typically English. Three-storey Victorian hotels with a sizeable gap between the buildings and the promenade, filled with pleasant grass and the odd palm tree. And the pier. Which is sizeable and in good working order. Again, typically English. And on a warmish September Sunday, not a bad place to take your daughter’s dog for a walk.

You would have thought.

Do you know that if you want to park anywhere near the sea – indeed, you can park on the sand such is the minimal gradient of the beach, the cost is … wait for it … £6 – for up to 4 hours. No, not £1.50 an hour. Even if you just want to park for 20 minutes, it’s £6. A blanket charge. £6. It’s enough to make you drive to Bream Down, or stop short at Portishead. Whatever next?

Anyhow, we parked in a back street and walked to the beach carrying our picnic with us. £6. Come on WSM. £1.50 an hour – charged hourly, yes we can manage that.

IMG_20180908_140729556

our work …

 

Anyway. Two and a half days of cutting and sewing, a day at the beach – and, I have just finished 6,800 words of chapter 6. I think that makes about 40,000 words so far. All good. I do worry that, because I’m writing it in dribs and drabs, the manuscript might lack consistency, but I guess that’s what the editing process is for. Still loving it. I really am.

This week is two more days at Cubbly’s (cutting and sewing) and then driving to Mary’s. I have a full day’s leadership consultancy work on Thursday (close to Mary’s) and then we’re off to Mum and Dad’s for the weekend. Things don’t sound so good there, but at least they have a carer coming in twice a day, seven days a week. We shall test the water at the weekend.

And then another week of work at Jen’s before she and James returns from their honeymoon. Then we shall reconcile where we are – and what our role in Jen’s business is going to be. Which is good – at least I’m not cycling into school every day, donning my riot control kit and then trying to teach something close to maths.

Hurrah!