In my day …

It is a truism that time goes faster the older you get. This past year has been the quickest so far. Days cascade through time like a waterfall in full spate. Tomorrow is almost upon us. Next week is closer than we think. Unless of course you’re 12. In which case today will be longer than you need and sitting at the dinner table eating your vegetables will last forever.

I am 56. Soon to be 57. C is older than me. We are both tending to geriatric. Joints and hips and knees don’t do what you ask them to do without shouting, and we both feel an overall malaise which comes from trying to do what we did yesterday in the same amount of time and with the same vigour. It is true to say that you never think you’re old; you just feel it. As a young man anyone over 50 was past it. Sixty? Come on, have they got their own teeth? Those people would be in their allotments, preparing the onions for pickling.


we’re so embarrassed by our old skis, this year we’re going to wax and edge our own

But, I don’t know about you, but my brain, whilst always over-tired, feels about 35. It has young thoughts – relevant and contemporary thoughts. I don’t look at today’s generation as a race of aliens. Doing things, listening to things and reading things that are beyond my comprehension. They don’t surprise me with their actions. Their view of life isn’t neo-post-modernism – whatever that is – a vision so unnatural to me that I see it as a tragedy. I’m not a post-war austerity bloke who can’t get his head round free-love; a rock-and-roller struggling to cope with the advent of punk. I’m not even a five-channel TV watcher that disdains on-demand video, the 24-hour news cycle and the shoutiness of Twitter. I, which I guess is like you, feel very much at home in today’s world. I’ve lived a life with open eyes. I have seen so much, nothing surprises me.

I am not Victor Meldrew. I don’t think any of us are. I don’t think I would ever say, ‘In my day …’. Today is my day. It’s just a shame that my body keeps reminding me that it’s somebody else’s.

So. 2019. What do I know about it? The truth is, anything could happen. The only certainty is that it will go quickly and my body will not be able to keep up.

Finally, for the record. I have finished the prologue of Book 5. I had to extract it with a doctor’s implement, but I got it out. Phew. Next is the much more enjoyable task of editing. I’m looking forward to that. And I fixed Doris’s two small areas of damp behind the rear wheels. I cut out most of the rotten wood, sealed it with wood hardner, filled the holes with very tough wood filler and then wax-oiled the finish product. Oh, and I’ve put some sealant down to deflect the rain. I’m hoping that’s going to be enough. And her alarm is working. I just undid all of the sensors and put them back together again. That seems t have done the trick.

And today Bex and I are going climbing. Our local leisure centre has a very sexy climbing area. I’m a fabulous climber. It’s all to do with my long limbs and huge upper-body strength. We’re going to be in the pit with a bunch of 8-year olds. I am going to look like Big Bird. They’re going to laugh at me. I hate them already.

Oh, and I’m still press-upping and sit-upping. That’s helping the aching joints…

Merry Chrimbo!

Sorry. Lost the days of the week. C and I have just had a chat about that. She was lost too. But, do you know what? We are so lucky. It doesn’t matter to us. Whilst we have things in the programme (Bex and Steven left us today, she’s back in a couple of days; Mary’s popping along tomorrow and staying overnight; Bex and Steven are both back before NY and then we take them to Heathrow on the 2nd; back to work at Jen’s on the 3rd; Skiing in Chatel between the 11th and the 21st), if we wanted to push off into the sunset we could. How lucky are we?


We’ve had a fab Christmas. Stockings with Bex and Steven first thing, then off to Jen and James’s for lunch and some games, and then back to finish off unpacking pressies here. I have to say I have been royally awarded for moaning like a trooper for the last 15 Chritsmases about how rubbish my presents have been. C got me a Chromecast for the TV and one of them Google speaker things. The latter is the epitome of idleness. I come downstairs to make tea and say ‘OK, Google, play BBC radio 4.’ Next thing that’s what’s happening. It’s pretty strange. Does it record everything we say? If I’m plotting to bring down His Trumpkiness by tanking the world stock markets, does it know? Is he listening? Are Delta Force currently assembling outside of the house, magazines primed and bayonets shining? Or have I been reading too many thriller stories?


Ok, Google …

Talking of which. Books continue to sell at about one a day (5 on Christmas Eve) still without advertising. I did look the other day to do some marketing on Facebook, but I just didn’t have the energy. I’ve also not finished the prologue of Book 5 (now, On The Back Seat To Hell; or, On The Last Train To Hell? – let me know), but I intend to get that done by the end of the weekend. And then edit one … which I’m hoping to have finished by the time we go to Chatel. And then C and I can do edit 2 whilst we’re in the mountains. How good does that sound?

That’s it from me. We watched, with Bex’s recommendation, The Big Short last night. Watch it. It is fab.

Anyhow, of you’ve still got holidays, I hope you’re having a good time.

Till the weekend.

Of course it is …

We’re at M&D’s, a sort of early Christmas Day for them – not that Dad remembers the notion of Christmas, nor, actually me. Or my brother Kevin. I might add a post-note to this after today as my brother, his kids and Jen and James are coming down. C and I prepared all the food yesterday so when the family battles begin at least there will be plenty of food available to chuck at each other. I (sort of) joke, but there is something about the lot of us, Christmas and ignitable alcohol which seems to create an explosive mix. Ready … get set … [Actually all was well.]

My next post will be post-Christmas. We have a lovely time planned with our girls and their spouses. Hopefully they’re looking forward to it as much as we are. Doubtless, when I’m wandering round the house not quite remembering where ‘up’ is, they’ll try and be kind to me (and C), although the two of us do have a pact to launch ourselves off Beachy Head when the time seems right. Let’s hope that’s not for a while …

… because we live in interesting times!


mmmm, sausage rolls

His Orangeness is in a bit of a pickle. His foundation has been closed down by a NY judge, who reckoned that ‘Individual 1’ (that’s the name Mueller uses for His Donaldness) and his family used the family charitable foundation to launder money – and not actually do anything charitable. His Secretary of Defense (sic), General Mattis, has resigned quoting irreconcilable differences about the way Trumpkins treats his allies, smiles at dictators and is now unilaterally and without discussion pulling out of Syria and par-pulling out of Afghanistan.

Let’s just dwell on Syria for a second. Allegedly Trump pulled the plug having had a conversation with Turkey’s president, Erdogan, who is a staunch Islamist (in a previously secular country) who locks up everyone and anyone who opposes him – a dictator by any other name. Erdogan reckons the US can leave because ‘they’re’ (whoever they’re are) on top of the problem with ISIS (Turkey has an important, east border with Syria). Leaving aside Erdogan’s dictatorial approach to democracy, the biggest issue here is the Kurds. They are a religious grouping without a state. They have been niggling the Turks in the east of their country for sometime, hoping for some form of autonomy. They occupy the top-left of Iraq and swathes of Syria. And they are, without doubt, allies of the West … including the US. Erdogan has incurred into Syria to deal with ‘terrorists’ (read Kurds) and intends to stretch further into Syria to deal with … whatever anyone says … the Kurds. The US was preventing that. Not any more. With no US in Syria, leaving aside the ability of Russia to fill the vacuum, the Kurds are toast.

So. Let’s. Recap. Trump speaks to a dictator who has problems with a religious minority in his country. Dictator says, ‘don’t worry, it’ll be fine’. Trump agrees, pulls out the thin blue line opening the west of Syria to major incursion by the dictator … history will complete the rest.

And now Trumpkinton has closed down the US government because nobody other than him wants to build a wall (now a series of tall steel spike [Making American Grates Again], although having been in procurement I know that you can’t specify the finished product, just the requirement ) that’s going to cost $5bn. But at least Congress has got away for Christmas and both houses will get a pay cheque at the end of the month, unlike the 350,000 workers who won’t. And we thought we’re rubbish at governing?

Which we are. Come on. On Thursday (was it Thursday? It seems like a long time ago) parliament staged pantomime: Jeremy and the non-talk. You’ll have heard that JC (not, in anyway to be confused to the babe in the manger who, even at today’s tender age would have set fire to the place and formed a government in a pub somewhere) called Maggie May ‘stupid woman’ under his breath. Although he denies it – in parliament, hundreds of expert lip-readers said that he did. I’m not sure what’s worse: calling the PM a misogynistic name or lying in the chamber.

Of course … it’s lying in the chamber. Of course it is. Whilst we really shouldn’t be calling each other names, we shouldn’t lie about it afterwards. But, that’s not my point. My point is that this was early doors on Thursday when there was a lot to do. Like, ehh, sort out Brexit. But, no. The Torys decided that this was such a heinous crime they would spend all day – all day – talking about this.

Are they crackers? Is there anyone in that building who knows their arses from the elbows? Is it so close to the end of term that, breaking away from playing Monopoly and watching Toy Story in the tea rooms, they couldn’t stop themselves?

Maybe Erdogan has a point about democracy. I know some people. And those people have a few tanks. And they know how to run a whelk stand. And have the necessary weapons to shoot down a drone …

Got to go. I’ve got a few calls to make.

Poor old Doris

Poor old Doris. We have a problem with the alarm. It went off on Sunday morning – which I assumed was its irregular ‘just reminding you that I’m here’ noise – but then went off four times in succession on Sunday afternoon when we were at the airport picking up Bex and Steven (great to see them, BTW). I know this because the alarm is linked to a tracking system via a GSM (mobile phone), so it talks to me. It’s all v top-end. I can turn the system off remotely, ask it where it is and other intrusive questions. I’m surprised it hasn’t filed for a divorce.


lunch in Brissol with a couple of Bex’s friends

Anyhow, Jen and I took Monday and Tuesday off (although she put all of our Christmas stock on sale and got rid of most of it) and tried to understand why the alarm was pinging. In the end, after an email exchange and a chat with VanBitz, the alarm installers, I managed to track the fault down to one of the cargo doors – not the main doors. I’ve yet to fix it – I’ve been sewing – but that’s a job for the next couple of weeks.

Whilst I was under Doris looking for alarm wires, I found a damp patch. After initial thoughts of horror – that the shower tray was leaking, I realised the problem was rain coming down a trap and spreading out onto the wooden floor from underneath, It’s a small patch behind the rear wheels on both sides … a design fault. The good thing about Hymers is that there is no wood in the ceiling or walls, just the floor (which is double-thickness). Anyhow I checked with Mr Google and at least one other person has the same issue, although their’s looks much worse than ours. I will hack out the wet bit (about the size of a small hand on both sides), damp proof it and then fill it. Another job for the next couple of weeks.

And then I checked the driver’s front side window which has leaked forever, even before we owned her, which I sealed from the outside last Easter when we were heading for Jen’s wedding in rubbish weather. Sure enough it had started to leak again. This time with stepladders (last time I was on tippie-toes) I have resealed the gap and all seems to be well. Phew. Poor old Doris. What is interesting is that I am much more sanguine about it all – she’s ours now forever, so I’ll just keep patching her up when things start to go wrong.

Last day at work tomorrow with Jen. We sorted out the ‘sweat shop’ today. We need a new table and then we should be all set for the New Year. The three of us are having a ‘business lunch’ tomorrow to talk through our strategy for the New Year. Not wanting to give away our plans to our competitors, we have two projects: dog coats and shock absorbing dog leads. Jen’s onto the first one; me the second. I’m v excited  by it. And tomorrow we have one of our potential ’employees’ coming in for an hour’s worth of instruction. It’s all go.

The family are meeting at Mum and Dad’s on Sunday for an early Christmas lunch. C and I are taking the food. Things don’t sound good there … so I’m not sure how the day’s going to go. We’ll see.

I hope you’ve all got your shopping done?

Top tip: buy shares in NCP

Let’s talk parking, shall we? Jen and I went to the NEC on Saturday for the Ladies Kennel Association dog show – in this day and age you would have thought some gentleman would have complained about that title. It’s been an OK weekend for Cubbly’s (James was with Jen today as I was with C picking up Bex and Steven from Birmingham airport, having driven back from the NEC – Birmingham, yesterday … there’s a pattern there somewhere), but the sales weren’t that great and the business just about managed to wipe its face. But, comments were good and at one point today Jen tells me that we were close to an ‘8 leads and collars order’, which would have been a nice boost; alas it wasn’t to be.

Where was I? Oh, yes, parking. Jen stayed in Birmingham last night and booked into the Travelodge by the NEC/airport. James joined her and, like a pair of criminals handing over a package (made more realistic by sheeting rain), James handed Cassie over to me in the hotel car park. Anyhow, by then we’d been told that there was no free parking with the hotel, but they had to book into an NCP one (they’re all NCP close to the airport) which would be £33. Yes … £33. Which didn’t make any sense as C and I had long-stayed in an NCP car park at the airport in November which was just £37 for 7 days. And, as I were over 15 minutes ahead of James who was arriving in his car, I had to pay £6 for the first hour outside the hotel … which would eventually go up to £33 if I stayed for 24 hours. At that point we saw any profit we were making evaporating in car park charges.

Anyhow, they booked themselves into a local NCP multi-story a short distance from the Travelodge for a discount, on-line rate of £10. Only to find this morning they had a £100 ticket for not booking the Sunday (they’re fighting that). That’s no profit for Cubbly’s.

Not finished yet. C and I parked in the airport short stay this afternoon for Bex and Jen and because we were 5 minutes over 2 hours the cost of the ticket was £15.50. That’s a lot of pounds. And the car parks were heaving. And it’s all automated – so no staff bills. NCP must be making a fortune from punters like us. So and sos.

Ho hum.


Just two minutes on dog shows, as I am now an expert. 10,000 dogs are paraded at the NEC. I chose my words carefully. Because ‘paraded’ is what happens; mostly by reasonably stern looking women. (The sporadically-placed men are all immaculately dressed; some in suits.) And that’s the thing. It’s not about the dogs. I’m not convinced they get any pleasure out of the process. Nearly all arrive in a sheet-covered, metal crate/cage, on four wheels. Then they go into a tiny pen where they are subjected to more grooming than is strictly necessary. And then they ‘get on parade’ – following very strict orders in a very strict sequence. And then it’s back in the crate, out into the car park and off to the next show.

It’s not natural. And I tell you why I know this. Dogs are very particular about where they poo. They’re obsessive. Cassie only poos in one place on her walk. Every time. Not so for a good number of dogs at the NEC. There was a lot of nervous poo about. Here and there. In the middle of walkways, with people standing in it. And wee … that was everywhere. Nervous wee. And nervous poo. You see Cassie doesn’t like other dogs (she wasn’t with us BTW), and I’m pretty confident that most dogs don’t like other dogs, unless one of them is in season. Or there’s plenty of room for rough and tumble, and ball chasing. But that’s not allowed at a dog show (nor are mongrels; if you think Brexiteers are xenophobic, check out the breed owners at a dog show … no mixed race here!). And so the poor, nervous things poo and wee indiscriminately.

So it’s about the owners: stern looking women and immaculately dressed men. It’s about them. The strutting about is for them. The rosettes are for them – and, yes, they do wear them on their checked gillets. The camera is on them: look at me!

Whilst their poor old, over-shampooed dogs poo and wee everywhere.

Two days off now. Doris’s alarm has been playing up, so I need to look at that. And, of course, spend some quality time with Bex.

Then back to the sewing machine on Wednesday. There are plenty of orders to put together and Jen and I need to talk strategy. It’s going to be a fun 2019 in the sweatshop!





‘It’s all crazy now!’

Leaving aside the President of the United States instructing his lawyer to break the law (for which Cohen has just received a 3-year custodial sentence), would you ever trust The Conservative party again? Just when we, the people, needed some sort of certainty so the politicians could have a go at sorting out the mess that is Brexit, the Tories go and throw the apples off the cart and have a go at their boss. And then, those pointing the finger (who are only interested in a shot at the title) will not offer an alternative to May’s plan that doesn’t upset the Ulster Unionists – who constitute under 0.5% of the British population. Because they know that if the Conservatives loose the UUP’s support, there’ll be a vote of no confidence, a general election and they will all be out of a job. And that’s not because Labour know their backsides from their elbows, it’s just because if we were all given the chance nobody would vote for a party that behaves like a soap opera.

Nigel Farage is right – for once in his life. He should form a new party with the 50 or so fringe Tory politicians, including Jacob RM and Boris J (who Ken Clarke today said ‘couldn’t run a whelk stall’), and let them attract olde-England and other not-quite Fascist loons. And the rest of us can find a country-wide compromise and start to do what’s best for all of us, not just those of us with egos the size of Battersea powerstation.

We are a joke. And, I don’t know about you, but I’m not used to that. Grrrrrr.


same job, different location (Mary’s)

Ho-hum. We’ve been busy. C and I do travel a lot. And that was fine when we were ‘travellers’, and the destinations were far-off shores with twinkling seas and relaxing cafes. Now we gallivant around the country with our pants on fire – all for the right reasons, including Jen’s business. But, when I popped onto Doris this evening to use her as an extended wardrobe, I couldn’t stop myself from saying ‘I love you, Doris’, out loud. And that’s a good thing. Because if this all gets too much we can fill her full of water, two pairs of shorts, some sunglasses and a gallon of red wine and point the compass south. Life is, after all, too short not to say ‘bugger it’ and go and brown our knees.

Back at Jen’s tomorrow and Friday, and then off the NEC on Saturday. Bex and Steven are home on Sunday and that will be both fab … and tiring. Bex has an energy of her own, which I remember having when I was younger and had more hair. The good thing as a typical millennial and v interested in politics, she will be more upset about Trump and Brexit than me, so I’ll be able to share my spittings with a fellow dissenter.

And I’m very pleased about all that.



It’s that time of year again

It’s time for the cat to write its Ladley Christmas circular. And this year, as per last year (and maybe the year before?) I’ll be publishing the letter – normally destined for tired and weary friends and family – on the blog. It’s at the end of this short update. And, if you’re offended in any way, then … well, go read someone else’s blog.


that’s me in a tie (oh, yes). I did some work at a school on Friday

Two things from me. First we’re at Mary’s to help with a birthday party until Tuesday. And I want to update you on Book 5, To Hell In A Handbasket.

Leaving C here, I popped up to see M&D yesterday and stayed overnight. Dad didn’t recognise me; he had no idea who I was. He eventually either remembered, or re-learnt who I was, although he couldn’t remember my brother, his son, Kevin when I spoke about him. He is in the latter stages of dementia, wandering around the house in his adult nappies, unable to find the bedroom. Mum, bless her, fragile herself, is managing. The carers who come in are brilliant and we want them to come in some more, but Mum won’t hear of it. It is, as my pal always said, waiting for the catastrophe. Whatever that is and whenever that is are unknowns. It maybe tomorrow. Maybe next year. All we can do is keep in touch and keep visiting. Ho hum.


my poor old Dad

Second, last night I finished the epilogue of book 5. She sits at 137,000 and is my second longest novel after Fuelling the Fire. Unlike the other four it has been written in fits and starts. Normally we’re on the continent and I have an uninterrupted period to write and write … which also allows me to find consistency and accuracy. I have no idea if I’ve managed it this time round. But, I am really excited by it. It is different – not substantially, but in its feel. I absolutely love the ending, which C suggested.

I just hope you do too.

Next week is all about preparing Cubbly’s for the NEC dog show (Saturday/Sunday) and Bex and Steven flying back from South Korea. It’s all go.

And now over to Tidge, our erstwhile cat …


Christmas. Do you all deserve it?

You are hopeless. We leave you to your own devices for a year and look what you’ve done. The planet’s temperature continues to rise – even with the yelling of (soon-to-be-with-us and beatified) Sir David A ringing in your ears. The orange cardboard cut-out of a president is still trolling about, creating disasters, half-fixing them and then tweeting that he’s gone and sorted it out all by himself. And Brexit. Come on. You’re kidding me? ‘Nough said.

The Ladleys have hardly been virtuous, although it is fair to say that they have been busy, if not in a wholly productive way. The biggest news was Jen (and James’s) small but perfectly-formed Easter wedding in Skye. That went well, although as Bex’s husband, Steven, was reported to have said when they got to Gretna Green … ‘This is Scotland. Why couldn’t they have held the wedding here?’ Steven’s a geography teacher so he knows his Lowlands from his Great Glens. He was also the principal driver for his team, and knew before they set off that Iceland was more accessible than Skye.

That brings me neatly onto Bex and Steven. They saw The Bahamas out without being either murdered or burgled (again … no, not murdered, just burgled) and it’s safe to say they weren’t sad to say good-bye to the island(s). After a whistle stop, ehh, stop in the UK, next, ehh, stop, was Seoul. Which they are loving. Really. If I can speak on behalf of them, it’s about the quality of education they are now able to give to their students (The Bahamas had a very Caribbean attitude to teaching and learning; more reggae than rigour). And that they now live in a country with a working infrastructure, affordable shops, and very little murdering or robbing – and not a banana republic. The school is fab, the opportunities endless (Bex is a faculty head and is technically Steven’s boss, although that’s like saying the Tory government is currently running the country) with both of them having had a trip to Japan, taking Year 8s trekking. And Steven coaches a school footy team which, or course, had to enter a competition in Phuket. It’s alright for some. And, most important, the travel links are varied and inexpensive, and the money very good. They’ve skied in the Rockies again this year, had a long weekend in Hong Kong already and, big sigh and huge smiles, are home for Christmas. Mum has plumped some turkeys and force fed a field of geese in preparation.  

After their wedding, which was really lovely, Jen and James headed off to the west coast of Canada to be attacked by bears. They left with more gear than an Everest expedition, and came back with fabulous memories and lots of piccies. Both sadly and thankfully, they were not ‘attacked’ by bears, but did see them … and more wildlife than a Playmobil zoo set. Including bears. Did I mention that? Since then James has been back at work and Jen, well, she’s laid down the foundation for the Gucci version of the dog accessories business: Cubbly’s (not that I have any interest in things dog, you understand). But, for the record … Cubbly’s is doing well. So much so that both Mum and Dad are now ‘employees’. Mum makes bandanas, and Dad is, wait for it, chief sewer – more of which in a second. But it’s undoubtedly Jen who is the glue that makes this thing the success that it is. She’s constantly taking orders, talking to punters and checking the quality from the sweatshop. I have to say that it surprises me that she is more than capable of giving Dad a hard time and often passes work back ‘for improvement’. Thankfully, for both of their sanities, this is happening less and less. But mark these words. The next twelve months could well see the rise of a canine fashion empire. That’s certainly the ambition. Well done, Jen!

Dad. Well, all I can say is that he’s aged more than the rest of them. For the first half of the year he stupidly took a teaching job at an inner-city school in Bristol. It was hardly teaching, and was almost the death of him. Through no real fault of their own, many of the kids in his classes were little buggers and, having no adults to respect, respected no adults. Including, and especially, Dad, who sauntered into the school halfway through the year, all ex-military and polished public-school ‘beak’, to be met by a barrage of ‘am I boverred?’ and (seriously) ‘are you disrespecting my family?’ Seven months later, and with bruises that will never heal, he swore never to teach (in a state school) again. Good news for him, but less so for us, he published the fourth book in the Sam Green thriller series, For Good Men To Do Nothing. Yes, that’s a link. And, if you have nothing else better to read this Christmas …  With deaf ears to all of our, ‘please, no more!’, he has just finished the first draft of book 5 which, of course, you are all looking forward to. Oh, and sewing. When he eventually sorted his bobbins from his backstitch, he can now sew in a straight line and has committed to Cubbly’s for a year, working longer hours than he did at the school – but for much less money, and only limited abuse from Jen. Bargain.   

It’s fair to say that Mum is finishing the year on a bit of a high. As well as lots of ‘oh, really dear?’ to Dad when he threw his bike in the garage after another tumultuous day at school, she has sorted out the house – which now looks like the inside of a cramped, but tasteful, Laura Ashley magazine. She would say that the house has one of everything they need, although I’m not convinced their friends necessarily agree when they’re queuing up to use the loo.  She is also ‘sewing’, but her learning curve was a much more gradual affair. She is, afterall, the maker of the Ladley curtains, ball gowns and sewer of name tags into teenage bras. And, she has organised hers and Dad’s downtime, including skiing in Chatel, four weeks in Doris in Brittany (which they loved), a weekend in Paris, and a week ‘all-inclusive’ in Tunisia, where they saw lots of Roman ruins and avoided most of the terrorists. Now, of course, it’s all about Christmas. And with a house to decorate for the first time in four years, all of the decorations are out so the place looks like a stand at the Dusseldorf Christmas market. No gluhwein before 6 pm, though. Spoilsports.

Of course they all recognise how lucky they are, and they’re all piling round Jen and James’ house for Christmas Day, where a bird-within-a-bird-within-a-bird will be served with lashings of sprouts and cranberry jelly. They will, I’m sure, raise a glass to absent friends whilst naively thinking you will all be doing the same?

Bless them.

To finish, having given you all a good telling off at the beginning, I’d like to congratulate you all that at last you’ve begun to treat the fairer sex more than just desirables in the bedroom and the kitchen. Good effort there, and not before time. Up here we’re a few months behind you. Ours is not about the need to level the playing field and break the glass ceiling (and other assorted cliches) for women, but more about appreciating the feline members of the community more, rather than doting on those stupid, bigger furry creatures. Our hashtag, should you wish to follow it, is #meiowtoo.

Have a great Christmas. And for goodness sake, wake up on Boxing Day and sort out the mess you made of the world. Otherwise, mark my words, He’ll do it for you, like turning up the thermostat quicker than you’re expecting.          


Good effort, Jen

We’ve just got back from the Cubbly’s Christmas party. And that’s a much bigger thing than it sounds. OK, so it was only Jen, me, C and James, but it was an official ‘do’ with the company paying. Think about that for a second. Our daughter has produced a business where she employs me (and C to a lesser extent) and the business has made enough cash to take us all out to the pub. I think that’s pretty special.


and we got the Christmas decorations down from the attic…

And it was after a really long day. C finished off about 30 bandanas (bravo) and I slogged through close to the same number of leads and collars. And still the orders keep coming in. OK,  we’re not completely swamped but we always have things to make, and with a trip to the NEC next weekend for the big dog show we are now getting a whole load of stock ready for that.

That’s been, pretty much, my life. Four days last week, three this week – and I have bought stuff back with me tonight so I can make some more things tomorrow. I thought at one point that it wasn’t going to work. As you know Jen has had mental health issues and early on I thought I might be the only one making things … but her mood and energy has improved dramatically with the business. Yesterday, for example, with just me and her in her house, she was Mrs Morale. ‘Suck it up, Dad!’ was a call from across the room when I was swearing at the machine that was chewing my latest work.

Today I made a bespoke harness. It was multi-piece and a combination of ribbon and fabric, tri-glides and rings. And, even if I say so myself, it looked really good. For those of you who know me, you know that I like making things. Art has always been something for me, and I guess writing books is all part of that ‘doing something with your hands’. As I get quicker and much more proficient at the leads and collars I don’t find it dull … it is often a challenge and I do find myself taking some pride in the outcome.

Anyhow, well done Jen. We are both v proud of you.

For the record, I have still not got to the end of book 5. I have managed a chapter a week and when I got to the end of Chapter 20 on Sunday (131,000 words) I found that I still had stuff to write. I’m pretty certain the story will be done by this weekend. We’ll see.

I’m off to the school I work with on Friday, then to Mum and Dad’s on Saturday (leaving C with Mary in Godalming) and then back for a few days with Mary before work (work, work) at Jen’s next week preparing for the NEC. It’s all go … !

We need a bit of love

Christmas is coming. Oh dear.

I feel like stopping there and publishing.

In a world which is coming off its rails what we all need now is a bit of love. We need to remind ourselves (that is most of us) how lucky we are. That we (most of us) have our health, a roof over our heads, food in the fridge, a car in the drive and clothes on our backs. We (most of us) are not sleeping in the streets, are not living in a country ravaged by war, are not abused by loved ones and do not have brains that struggle every day to get out of bed, or work tirelessly to stop ourselves from self-harming – or we’re not suffering under huge debt and worry about every penny when our innate reaction is to say ‘sod it’ and borrow some more.

We (most of us) can afford to think about which presents to buy the ones we love. We can arrange Christmas parties, go out and stock up on the nice things that make Christmas special and even think about phoning the local theatre and booking tickets for the panto. We have rooms to sit down and enjoy a Christmas lunch, and kitchens with electricity to cook it. We have cutlery and crockery, and glassware and a lovely hand-made Christmas decoration.

We (most of us) have people we love and who love us. We have friends, and relatives. We have neighbours and colleagues. We are not alone, and will not be alone at Christmas.

We do not live in a country with a repressive regime, one that governs by diktat, gags the press and arrests our brothers and sisters … some never to be seen again. The women among us are not obliged by our religion to dress a certain way, to miss out on an education or not drive a car. We have voices which can sing and shout and talk – about anything. We can gather in places with placards and demand our rights when we believe those who govern us are not treating us fairly. We have the rule of law, which stops people from doing bad things, and when they’re a genuine threat locks them away so they can’t do those bad things anymore.

We have so much to be thankful for.

And yet some of us are still not satisfied. We still want more. We are still unnecessarily angry … and drive our cars as though we’re late for a live-saving operation and treat those in our way with contempt, mouthing obscenities at them … sticking up a finger. We expect great service and complain at the fallibility of those who serve us. We ignore people in the street, pushing past them as though they are invisible. We don’t treat other people, and even animals, as we would like to be treated.

Some of us are unchristian, in the broadest, non-religious sense of the word. And yet most of us have most things. Most of us have enough.


We went shopping in Cribbs Causeway yesterday. The photo sums up my Christmas shopping experience. It was a blur.

And to cheer you up a genuine conversation I overheard in T K Maxx yesterday:

Woman: What do you think of these? (Does twirl)

Man: Yes, they’re jeans. Are they comfortable?

Woman: ?