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.

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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.

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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 …

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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.          

 

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