Trick or treat?

Something happened the other day, I was filling up with fuel on the way to the party in London and spotted 10 battery-powered LED-pumpkins. I bought them. Which surprised the hell out of me, and shocked C. And, tonight, as I pen this, we have a bucket of lollipops and a set of lights hanging on our front door proclaiming we are open for business. You see we’re not miserable old so-and-sos, are we? And, power to the kids and parents who have been round, they’ve all been scarily dressed = and they’ve all said ‘thanks’, nicely.


trick or treat…

The US take Halloween much more seriously than we do, although Sainsbury’s are trying their best to help us catch up. The US take a lot of things more seriously than we do. Like allowing any Tom, Dick or Dirty Harry to own a gun. And, of course, they have their very own bogeyman, his Donaldness, who continues to run the country as though it is his own reality TV show. Of course he’s not had a great couple of days. The pipe bomber worked out of the back of a van that was plastered with pro-Trump stickers, including a photo of Hilary C in the cross hairs. Then there’s the awful shooting in the Pittsburgh synagogue, to which Trump’s first media response was. ‘it wouldn’t have been so bad if there had been someone in the congregation who was armed’. All right then, off to church. Oh, and don’t forget the AK47. What he didn’t point out was that four armed policemen were shot by the perp on the scene. So more guns may not be the answer. And he went to Pittsburgh yesterday, when the mayor asked him not to come – and none of the senior politicians he asked to come with him attended. The man has the emotional intelligence of an alligator.

And there’s the caravan of 5,000 migrants heading through Mexico – on foot, they won’t be at the border for a couple of weeks – which Trump is declaring (almost) a national emergency. So much so, he’s sent a load of US troops to bolster the border. Frankly, as most of those trudging away from persecution and economic hardship are without shoes, I’d just rent a helicopter and buy a million drawing pins and drop them at likely crossing points. Trump reckons the caravan’s full of ‘bad hombres’ and disease. Actually they’re heading for the border to apply for asylum, something people have been doing for as long as there’s been a border. The US is, after all, a nation of immigrants. Donald should know – all of his closest family, including two wives, come from that stock. The hypocrisy is unfathomable.

Move on, Roland!

Finished the upstairs carpets – and they’re great. OK, I wouldn’t be invited into the carpet layers’ guild, but they’ll do. And we now have the heating on, so you’re more than welcome to pop round – and there’s no need to bring a beanie.


our bedroom carpet now …

Jen’s tomorrow for some more sewing, and then three days off, where I aim to finish Chapter 15 and maybe start 16. It’s all fits and starts, but you can’t edit what you haven’t written.

That’s it from us!

It’ll be an absolute disaster, darling

I’m sorry, but I’m putting it out there. I don’t do clothes. I’m not saying I’m a naturist, I’m just saying that clothes are not important to me. I wear what’s comfortable and, if given the choice, would wear the same thing day in, day out. I do know where the shower is, and, thankfully, I’m not a smelly person, but I have been known to wear the same clothes for a season. It drives my kids mad. And C’s not always happy wandering around with a hobo.


from C’s photostock. Straight from Beauty and the Beast

I went straight from school (where we wore uniform – no choice necessary) to Sandhurst where we were told what to wear. The stuff the quartermaster chose was, by and large, comfortable and practical. Twenty five years in the Army followed the same pattern. When they updated the uniform, they gave us new stuff. When the formal wear didn’t change, I just got into my old stuff – and having not changed shape, I think I wore my best (mess) kit without it ever going into the dry cleaners. I’m sure C would say that’s not right, but I never missed it long enough to think that it might have disappeared for a bath.

And, out of uniform, I wore, well, uniform. You know. Chinos and polo shirts. Boat shoes and flip flops. Checked jackets and the odd pair of jeans. But, down time was such a precious resource in those days, what I wore remains a blur.


more from C. A brilliant cake for the party

School. Simple. Chinos and a jacket. The same pair of shoes until they fell apart and then I went to TK Maxx and bought another pair. It was uniform, plain and simple.

So, you see. I’ve never had much interest in clothes, because I have never needed to. And I am hardly a clothes horse. I’m 18 feet tall with a pigeon chest and, as my Saville Row tailor told me once (we had no choice … M&S suits weren’t acceptable in my Regiment), ‘You have very big thighs. Suits you, sir!’, his head at crotch height, his tape measure in his mouth and his hands too close for comfort.

Today we left Bristol for Mary’s. Normally that’s easy from a wardrobe perspective. Walking trouser (or Empire-building shorts), t-shirt and a fleece. Easy. Two days? I might need a second pair of pants. But the same socks will be fine.

But, no. We are going to a lunch party on tomorrow, with a pile of gay men who talk about their shoes a lot. What am I going to wear? Oh, God. Look at my wardrobe! I’ll be ridiculed. What about my white jeans? No, they have a mark on the pocket. What about some school chinos? Are you kidding me? Normal jeans? You know, the ones you’ve not been seen in this century because, as you say, ‘Old men don’t wear jeans.’

I think I broke down at one point. It was a disaster, darling.

Anyway. I’ll let you know how it goes in my jeans, lumberjack shirt and Weird Fish fleece. It’ll be sooooo 2000s, darling. And don’t even ask about my shoes…


h/s/l carpet fitted. Not a bad effort

Well, this week I finished the hall/stairs/landing carpet and it looks OK, I think. I finished Chapter 14 (87k words), which is a pivotal chapter as it introduces the main villain, which will be a shock to most of you. The problem is, whilst I know the conspiracy, I have absolutely no idea what happens now. Really. I have 50k words to scribe and no plot, other than Sam gets beaten up a bit, and finally gets her man. I think.

Oh, and book sales have dropped off the cliff. And I had my very worst review on Thursday. A 1-star horrible thing, written by someone who thought I was both an amateur and an impostor. Horrible … followed by two lovely, 5-star reviews. It was as though they were both reading a different series. Whatever, it’s fair to say that it’s not been a good book week. But I am still writing, grinding out some good stuff I feel. And even better after an edit.

Anyhow. Must go and polish my Doc Martins…


I am an expert

Yesterday we left a well known carpet suppliers with three rolls of really quite decent carpet. We bought an end of roll brownish carpet for our bedroom, a lighter brown off cut (4 x 2.2m) for the spare bedroom and another greyish off cut for the hall/stairs/landing. Total cost = £277 (the 2 off cuts were about to go to the skip and we paid £49 for each one of them). The man who sold us the carpets was clearly thrilled to be getting rid of them, and very dubious that I had anywhere near the wherewithal to lay them.


What he didn’t know was that I had ordered a ‘kneekicker’ from Amazon for £27 [put it on the carpet, kick the pad with your knee, it the grips on the kicker and pushes the carpet away from you] and I had watched a YouTube video on how to lay a carpet.

We had taken up the h/s/l carpet (leaving spiky things and underlay in place) so we could sand down the gloss and repaint the woodwork. We had done the walls a couple of weeks ago. This did leave us with the obstacle course of getting up and down the stairs without puncturing our toes (on the way up) and heels (on the way down). I’ve only got a couple of scars. After the paint had dried I decided to replace the landing carpet, which is shaped like the net of a cube (a cube that has been dismantled, but is still joined at some egdes). In my book that easily makes it the most difficult to lay.


the net of a cube..

I put the new carpet on the floor and laid the old one on top of it. I then drew round the outside with a felt tip and cut off the spare bits with a Stanley knife. Ten minutes later it was down. I used a metal wedge and a hammer to knock in the edges, and secure it into those funny metal things that join two rooms (there must be a name for those). It was done. And, even if I say so myself, it looks like carpet … and it feels like carpet! Tomorrow I have to lay the stairs, but that does look like a more straightforward job, and next week we’ll do the two bedrooms. A slightly bigger problem, I hear you say. But, hang on, the YouTube vid I watched showed an Aussie fitting out a room as big as out house, ergo, I have done the course and am set to carpet any room you like.

[For the record, Jen’s on Monday and again today. Carpet laying for the rest of the week. And Mary’s and London for Saturday/Sunday. It’s all go….]

What could possibly go wrong? 

Well, I don’t know about you lot, but we’ve had a super weekend. On Friday night we went out for supper with Annie and Al. He and I joined the same battalion on the same day in 1982. Since then we have been best of friends, our families holidaying together, kids went to the same schools and generally been best of mates. He stayed the course in the Army and was v senior before leaving to work in the Middle East – where he is now. He doesn’t come back that often, so we grab him (and Annie) when we can. It was funny. We’re all approaching 60 (60!? Whatever next? Ehh … nb. C’s a little older than us.) and inevitably we spent most of our time talking about our ailments and the state of politics. We could have pre-written the script. Fab to see them, though.


Dartmoor doing its thing

Yesterday we drove down to darkest Devon (not a bad alliteration) and spent the weekend with James and Sheron. James and I went to the Army sixth form college together (that was some time ago now) and, after a bit, he joined the same battalion as well. Anyhow, they have a Grade 2 Devon long house which they have extended (James does the work himself, clever and industrious chap) and renovated. Across a little used country lane, he’s put up a bar and summer house. What with Mrs Sun being out and bragging about how hot she can make it even in late October (‘n all), we had supper outside, and then came in and watch Killing Eve, which is still better than The Bodyguard.

And with the weather still forgetting its place, today we drove to Dartmoor (20 minutes) and walked in Spring sunshine over the moor for a couple of hours. It was fab, and no sign of any werewolves. We had a drink at a pub and headed back to their place for some homemade parsnip and roasted onion soup (thanks Sheron). How lucky are we?


Indeed, how lucky are we. Leaving aside the life of Riley we lead, with our extended travels, my interesting work, which isn’t really doesn’t seem like work, Doris, our two-up, two-down in Bradley Stoke, our health (which, so far, is still holding), our kids, etc, etc … we then go and have some fab friends, and A+A and J+S are just two of a number we would call close.

Hang on a second whilst I count our lucky stars.

Feeling great and moving on …


I have finished Chapter 13, which puts me back on schedule for a chapter a week. At this rate I would hope to have book 5 finished by the end of November – which would be great timing.

And, this week there are two aims. First to get back to Jen’s and produce some top-quality leads and collars. And, second, to fit the hall, stairs, landing carpet and do the gloss. That’s the ambition, noting that I have never fitted a carpet in my life before. But I have watched a YouTube video.

What could possibly go wrong?

Sorry, we can only take your money

We decided to reconcile our telephone accounts. We don’t have a landline (does anyone?), we a mobile each, we still pay for Jen’s mobile and we have a mifi (mobile data using a tiny box – we pay £13 a month and get 5GB of data to which we can tether anything). The mifi was helpful when we spent a lot of time abroad because Three allowed you to use 2 month’s worth of data abroad – for free. Then the whole EU market opened up and we could all use our monthly allowances … so it became superfluous to requirement. [After Brexit, who knows what will happen to that facility. I guess we will end up with roaming charges again, unless the companies can sort something out. That’s an altogether different gripe, but at least the Brexitiers will be happy with their mauve passports. Oh, and an NHS without any nurses.]


a framed oil painting of C, framed by this morning’s sun

I popped into the Three store yesterday where I set up the contract. ‘Sorry – we only take your money here; as a result we can’t cancel your contract, You’ll have to phone someone, press lots of buttons (during which time you’ll get lost amongst the options), wait endlessly for a person to answer, during which we will bombard you with music that keeps distorting (why does that happen?), and then that person from a foreign land will not necessarily be understandable, so you’ll give up and we’ll keep taking your money.’

How does that work? You know. There, in a communications shop with ultra-broad broadband. More phones than a … phone shop. And a warm-blooded person to talk to. How? Please tell me.

Hurrumph. Actually, in the end Three redeemed themselves. I quickly got onto a live chat on my phone, a nice man was quick to type his responses, and we cancelled the contract – without a month’s wait – within 10 minutes. I wish I’d done that to begin with. It would have saved me scrambling around the floor of the Three store looking for my ears which had blown off in a mad moment of rage/desperation.

I also managed to change my Virgin plan. I was originally on £18 all-inclusive … which sounded good until you breached 5GB of data. At that point ‘normal usage’ was exceeded and the speed of my data was cut, so it was pretty hopeless. In the meantime Virgin had increased the plan costs to £23 a month (SIM only). Anyhow, after a quick phone conversation they’ve put me on a £10 a month plan for which I get 6 GB data, 2400 minutes and as many texts as I can eat. That should do.

An overall saving of £26 a month … hurrah for that.

Monday and yesterday was spent at Jen’s. There’s been a lot to do and she is tough (but good) to work for. I am making most of the leads and collars. C has been making poppies and bandanas. C’s work is pretty much done, but my list continues to be added to – which is good. For Jen and I it’s about quality. And she’s, rightly, a stickler. And has no problems telling me … which is a neat trick. She hums and ahhs, and we then have a discussion and I end up remaking the lead/collar. She’s right, BTW. I just need to do better. Anyhow, we are still stacking up orders and the stuff continues to be stuck in envelopes and posted. Business is, as they say, good. Oh, and a pet shop in Scotland wants to stock Jen’s stuff. And they intend to buy the stock outright (less 15%) and sell it on; they’ve seen some samples and liked what they’ve seen. So that’s more good news. We will need to think about employing people (gig economy stuff) in the near future.


taking any opportunity to write

Book 5 is coming along. I missed my deadline of completing chapter 12 by the end of Sunday – I finished it yesterday and started chapter 13. I’m finding ‘finding time’ really tough, but until I finish it it’s not going to go away. So last night I lay in bed tapping on the keyboard. I must take any chance I get, and hope that it all irons out in the edit. We’ll see.

We’re not back at Jen’s until Monday. Today and tomorrow I shall try and complete chapter 13. C is making the last of the curtains. We need to get on with a couple of other jobs, like replacing the stairs carper, sorting out the lawn and I need to change the oil on both the car and Doris – which I intend to do myself. I’ve done it before, a long time ago, so I should be able to manage it. We’ll see.

Oh, and we booked an all-inclusive (never done that before) week in Tunisia for November. Our target was £500 (+) for both of us and ended up with Tui for £710, including baggage and flight transfers. We then checked the hotel details on Trip Advisor and the first two could not have been worse. But there were some good ones. Our expectations are low, but at least it will be hotter than here, by the beach, with some interesting things to see … and we will not have to lift a hand to do anything for a week. Should be fab. We’ll let you know!

Goodness it’s warm

I don’t know about you but I don’t remember October being a particularly pleasant month? You know, it’s normally bleak, wndy, rain and all. Sat here at M&D’s after a week of summer weather with Mrs Sun doing her thing, you would have struggled to guess which month we were in. I know Wales (and our house) has just seen apocalyptic rain (and we have friends who live in Majorca – they’re ok after the floods – and I’m following a blog of a couple in a MoHo in Portugal who were hit by the remnants of Storm Whoever yesterday), but we, the Ladleys, have unusually been in the ‘calm’. Before the storm, which might get here today. Which is not a problem as we’re heading back to Bristol where it’s calmer..


is this normal?

That neatly brings me on to the latest Climate Change report which says we’ll easily breach 1.5 degrees increase in temp by 2030. As a result of which hundreds of thousands of us will be peril. Now I intend to be alive in 2030. Indeed, I’m looking forward to seeing in 2040. That means that Climate Change is not something that is only going to impact upon our children’s children – which, in itself, was always a damn good reason to be doing something. It’s actually going to impact on us. And yet we are not doing a great deal about it.

This is an emergency. Like a real emergency. If someone said we were going to be hit by a life-altering asteroid in 2030 which would devastate parts of the planet, submerge huge swathes of land, bring on weather the like of which we don’t understand, creates droughts and rising sea levels causing mass refugee exodus which would put the recent European influx in dark shade and … and it’s a big and … this is happening in your backyard (the Thames Barrier wouldn’t hold back the floods and Great Yarmouth will be a tourist destination for scuba divers), you’d think that now might be the time to invest in an asteroid destroyer. Or even two, just in case the first one breaks.


we’ve blagged my mum’s sewing machine for Cubbly’s

But that’s going to cost you $4.2 trillion. Duh! So? Get out there governments and spend the money. Remember that last time you told me the asteroid wasn’t coming until 2050, by which time we’d have colonised Mars and the rest of us would be living outside our bodies in a VR world – so sod the asteroid? In any case, I’d be long gone and the Millenials could sort it out.

Now you tell me you’ve misjudged your timeline by 20 years … what are you waiting for? Where’s my electric car? Why aren’t you banning fossil fuels, like, now? Why aren’t you turning off the lights at 10pm and telling us all to go to bed? Why aren’t you turning the Sahara Desert into a massive solar farm?

Why aren’t you doing something?

Actually that last question was focused on you … and me. Because we could easily cut our own electricity usage by half. And our water usage. I don’t mean to brag but since we’ve moved into our small house we’ve managed to drop the cost of our monthly fuel and light bill from £73 a month to £56 a month. And we are £170 in credit. We’ve not checked the water, but we’re pretty convinced that that’s the same. We do not flush the loos until we need to. We shower (OK, occasionally we have a bath, but we share the water) and we never leave water running. C uses the washing machine sparingly and has only used the integral tumble dryer once. All our light bulbs are LED, we turn everything off at night and C has just finished lining every curtain so the house should retain its heat overnight. We recycle everything we can. And we try to drive carefully, although we do drive far too much … we have a lot of people to see who live a long way away.

I would argue that we’re not yet close to cutting our energy usage by 50%, but we’ve made a dent in it. If everyone did the same, not only would you save some cash you might also help the rest of the world.

It’s just a thought.   

(He says all of this whilst planning a week’s break to Tunisia, which will involve flying there … I guess the only answer to that is that the seats would otherwise have been empty. I know, I know, we must try harder still.)

Yesterday was … Wednesday



Wells was looking fab

Well that’s me spent, noting that I have a full day at a school tomorrow with 8 one-hour sessions with middle-management. Then a weekend with Mum and Dad. Then back to Jen’s on Monday …

… which has been uber-busy. C and I got to Gloucester at 9.30 on Wednesday and I stitched my final stitch on 21.50. Between us we prepared a lot of stuff. And, whilst I left with about 10 orders to finish (and there have been some more arrive since we finished yesterday), it did feel as though we had broken the back of the current batch.  We’re back on Monday. And, as we left, I gave Jen some v clear instructions: 50 orders over the weekend! She’s v good at that. And 50 orders is at least £750 turnover … which would be a neat trick. I’ll let you know.

Driving. Who would, in this country? Come on. Today (we’re at Mary’s tonight as she’s closer to M&D than Bristol, and only 30 minutes from the school) a two and a half hour journey took four and a half. It’s the third time I’ve been on the M4 in as many weeks. On every occasion a section of it has been blocked. Thankfully we’ve only been involved in the aftermath, but the impact has been v frustrating. And we don’t commute – in fact I have never really commuted (how lucky am I?). Could you imagine facing that every day? And, for the record, I only had one person make a rude gesture at me today – and we weren’t in Doris. So much anger. No wonder they voted for Brexit. They had to vent their frustration somewhere, and that, I guess, seemed like a decent opportunity.


It looks better than this now … but it is still a sweat shop

And the writing? Still working hard. Finding an hour here and an hour there. My ambition is to be at the end of Chapter 12 (75k words) by the end of the weekend. I do worry about consistency, but now that I have my short term memory back (yesterday was definitely Wednesday) it all seems to fit into place.  I am excited by it … and, in an ideal world would love to be writing it day-after-day. But as writing doesn’t pay, sometimes you have to work at other things. In terms of sales, I’m still running above a book a day, nowhere near the central ambition of 10 in a day. But, it may still come. Who knows.

Finally, C had her hair done in Wells on Tuesday (she looks fab). It gave me the chance to catch up with whole load of old pals, which was a lovely respite.

That’s it from me. Catch up over the weekend.