Is it all coming to a head?

I’m not going to bang the political drum, but it’s worth noting that with His Orangeness struggling with upcoming impeachment hearings over Ukrainegate and Boris Johnson in the mire with a likely vote of no confidence this week, further compounded by his relationship with Jennifer Arcuri (who, her friends have now said, has admitted that she was sleeping with BJ), the tide might be turning in the direction of integrity and other things good.

Now, I don’t know about you but whilst I don’t wholly care who my politicians sleep with (actually, you know, I do. I don’t want my leaders to have affairs … because if they’re willing to cheat on their other halves, then they won’t think twice about cheating on me), but I do smart when those that they sleep with somehow (miraculously) get public money. The whole thing is sticking in my throat.

But, I hear some people say on both sides of The Pond, it’s political mischief! The other side looking for dirt in order to … blah, blah.

Yes, that may be true (may be). But, nonetheless, if there is truth in both Ukraine (the facts are out) and Arcuri (we will find out), I’m uninterested in how these managed to become discoverable. I’m just glad that they did.

It does seem that both Johnson and Trump are both unpalatable characters. So let’s find some decent people with some political nous and some energy and give them a chance. Please.

Oh, and as for the ‘Get Ready For Brexit’ Ads. Are they actually helping in any way? Really? For me they seem to be going out of their way to make me anxious: Brexit is coming, get ready … or else. Yes, but, exactly how do you want me to get ready, other than visit your vacuous website where my details will be logged and maybe used against me? £100m well spent … ? I’m not convinced.

IMG_20190415_084734472

my old dad looking gorgeous. It’s funny, but he’s cropping up in my dreams now, which he has never done before …

Moving on. The weather isn’t helping, is it? But it is forcing me to stay in doors and get on with writing. I have put a piece together for a writing blogger’s website, which should appear in November. I’ve done Dad’s obituary for the Regimental magazine and, best of all, I have printed off Unsuspecting Hero. It is now with Rosie, my proofreader. Yesterday I spent some time topping and tailing the manuscript so, when I get it back, it will be a quick turn around – although it will take me a week to incorporate Rosie’s comments and have a final read through.

We’re to see C’s middle sister tomorrow for the day and then, from Tuesday, I’m starting book 6. It will be in SE Asia and is based around a global political conspiracy – no surprises there. I’m particularly excited by the Prologue, which I’m hoping will start with a twist. For those of you who have read On The Back Foot To Hell, I can assure you that Sam is back. But I don’t think things will ever be the same again? We’ll see.

And, finally, a favour. Please. If you have read any of the Sam Green books and haven’t posted a review on Amazon (and/or Goodreads) please do. You can do so anonymously and needn’t actually write any words. But all reviews are really helpful. Link to my author page is here (in the UK): review Roland’s books here!

Screenshot_20190922-191531_2

Thank you!

Excited by the books!

I think the thing that gets me about the government’s unlawful action to prorogue parliament, isn’t that they did it – with the clear intent (and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise) to prevent parliament from scrutinising a potential no-deal Brexit, but it’s that BJ has said publicly that ‘profoundly disagrees’ with the judgement. Leaving aside the obvious irony that one of the reasons people voted for Brexit was ‘to take back control of our own laws’ – clearly only ones that Brexiteers like – it’s the inciteful ‘disagreement’ by senior politicians that is wholly irresponsible. We’ve already had previously, I think it was a Daily Mail headline, that the judiciary were the ‘Enemy of the People’. Profoundly disagreeing with a unanimous decision by the highest court in the land can only reinforce that view. And that is dangerous – and mindfully so.

Gove, the AJ and Boris could easily have said ‘fair enough, now let’s move on’, and they would have lost nothing. By publicly disagreeing with the courts they do not strengthen their politics, they just unnecessarily enrage an already angry base. For what reason? Civil war? Insurrection? Intimidation? Have they really thought this through? The Tory Party have completely lost its way, I’m afraid. And whilst they may be winning the battleground for popularist politics, Maggie Thatcher (and clearly John Major) would not, I’m sure, subscribe to their approach. It is all very sad. And, as I’ve said already, very dangerous. We live in fearful times.

IMG_20190925_100919393

printing off Unsuspecting Hero (Edition 2) for Rosie (the proofreader)

Oh well. At least I’ve finished Unsuspecting Hero including a read out loud to C. It’s now in the post to Rosie the proofer and I am hopeful it will be on the shelves in its new and much better form in early November. I am, just now, more excited by the whole book thing than I have ever been. Sales are good (not strong), still without marketing, and with messages coming  through that people continue to love the series I’m v hopeful that this may just get somewhere.

And you wait for book 6! The Prologue is going to be v special and have a twist in it! How exciting is that?

Screenshot_20190922-191531_2

for The Innocence of Trust

I’m off to Farnham tomorrow to run a leadership clinic and session one of my middle leaders course. That’s all set fair and I am also excited by that …

… but it’s the books that are my main drive now. I am really hopeful! Hurrah!

And so it comes to an end

We took Cassie for a walk. To begin with we thought we’d walk to a waterfall, but in the end we trekked 5 miles up and up to a v tight saddle between two big mountains. And the views onto the other side, down and across to a lake and more mountains with no roads or tracks, was fab. And, after three weeks of v patchy weather we hit the hills for our longest trek with wall-to-wall Mrs Sun. By the time we got close to getting back to the Morvich campsite Cassie was ready to be picked up, but she survived … as did we both. Although, C did fall flat on her face early on when he shoelaces got all tied up. Exhausted, but happy, we washed Cassie down and both took the rest of the year off [noting we’d both run 5 klicks the day before].

IMG_20190922_094411115

thanks to Gary and Ruth …

Last night we stayed with old work friends of C’s in Arisaig. Gary and Ruth (thanks for having us) moved up here about a decade ago and have built this lovely house with views over the harbour and onto Rum and Eigg. They looked after us royally, we spent a lot of time talking about Scottish politics and the possibility of IndyRef2 and generally chewed a bit of the cud. This morning, after a walk around the harbour with the dogs (they have a small horse masquerading as a Bernese Mountain dog) we took off and have made it as far as Rannock Moor for the night. We intend to assault England tomorrow, where we shall not be taking any prisoners.

IMG_20190921_184027276_HDR

the view from Gary and Ruth’s balcony

And what of Scotland? It’s busy up here at the moment, and that really surprised us. There are hundreds of motorhomes and just as many buses of tourists. It got better the further north we went, but it’s still busier than we’ve ever seen it. We really loved the east coast, loved the northwest and are now definitely a bit underwhelmed by anywhere near a major conurbation. I guess we come here for the solitude. And to be fair we have always had decent weather. This time, it’s been busy and the weather has let us down a touch. However, to be fair the last two days have been glorious and some of the colour

IMG_20190922_104308962_HDR

a photo from this morning’s run

has returned to our pallet. But we will certainly pick and choose our timings next time – either early Easter or maybe as late as mid-October. By then we should hope to have the place more to ourselves.

Anyhow. From a writing perspective it has served a purpose. I have finished the rewrite and am now halfway through the reading out loud of Unsuspecting Hero to C. We might not make the end of the book by the time we get home on Tuesday, but we shall be close. 

All-in-all, then, a great break. Next? Certainly in the Doris our ambition is Spain and Portugal for the Spring. But there’s a lot of water to flow under a number of bridges before we go firm on that.

I’ll let you know. 

Wild camping or campsite?

Wild camping or campsite? The beauty about Scotland is that you can (pretty much) wild camp anywhere, even where it says ‘no overnight camping’, which isn’t that often. We won’t park where there’s a sign that tells you you can’t, but apparently the police will not move you on. It’s all to do with the ‘right to roam’ part of the Scottish constitution which allows you to (pretty much) walk anywhere you like. 

IMG_20190915_121717822

if you look really hard you can spot Doris in the distance

As a result Scotland is, like France which has the same sort of approach, a boon for wild camping. And, as there are plenty of gravelly parking places with some fab views, you sort of want to wild camp. The views are enticing you to. And we have … and we do. And when you find yourself on your own, with nights as black as pitch, with deer wandering around where you are, it is a difficult draw to ignore. 

 

So why don’t we do it all the time up here? Two reasons. First we have to fill with water and empty our loo. Unlike France where there are aires (purpose built motorhome stops most with facilities) in almost every village, there is nothing similar here. Yes, you could use the odd public convenience, and we have on one or two occasions (not this time), but it is frowned upon as you can’t help not making a bit of a mess and it is always difficult to clear up afterwards. And it’s not a mess you want to leave lying around. Also, public loos do not generally have drinking water that’s easy to get at, and, again, taking it is frowned upon.

We can survive a week with a full tank of water (110 litres) but only 3 nights, maybe 4 max, with our loo. I am going to get a spare ‘cassette’ for our loo and this should allow us to roam free for a week. But, up here we would still need to stay in a campsite one day in seven. [Insofar as charging batteries, etc, our system is so efficient now that I have everything sorted, we have been ‘off grid’ for 4 weeks in late autumn in France without a worry, so it’s not a problem for us … but it might be for you.]IMG_20190916_112312842_HDR

Which is fine, because, whilst I don’t like spending the money (you’re working on between £17 and £30 a night here in Scotland – our three pitches have cost us £23; £25 and £18) staying on a campsite does give you that sense of freedom to open your doors and just let everything hang out. There is always something a little bit edgy about wild camping – not so on a campsite. And, whilst our shower is perfectly adequate, we always restrict the amount of water we use. On a campsite, that is not an issue. 

So, it’s a balance, one forced on us by the need to get water and empty tanks. Which works well. Currently, now meandering home having had a fab couple of nights in Scourie campsite … with another 25 mile cycle ride that our thighs have yet to recover from … and then two nights wild camping in the back of beyond, we on Morvic Campsite. I’ve just run five klicks and C is out doing the same. We’ve got Cassie again, as Jen and James are heading home, and we are pushing south via Mallaig to see old work friends of C’s.

Home by Tuesday. Work at the school on Thursday. And then a busy time here and there, including a three-night stay in Paris in mid-October with Mary. I know, it’s a hard life. I should be writing book 6 by then. I’ve finished rewriting Unsuspecting Hero and we are now in the ‘reading out loud to C stage’, which really does help. It is a much better book now, even if I say so myself.

And good news: no politics today! 

[John Redwood tweeted yesterday that it wasn’t the courts’ responsibility to preside on issues like the poroguing of parliament … it was parliament who should be debating the issue. I’m not quite sure he saw the irony of his tweet. Oh well.]

The weather hasn’t defeated us

IMG_20190911_134624326

another fabulous wild camping spot

My anti-Brexit tirades have lost me countless followers and probably a couple of good friends. If the latter is the case, I am genuinely sorry, but in my defence I don’t think I could feel more strongly about it.

Never mind.

So … what have we been up to in the last week?

Skye first. Three nights in Camping Skye, a £25-a-night stop over in Broadford. It’s modern, clean and usefully placed – but no views, and it is pricey – for us. We spent the time with Jen and James and his mum and dad, Bob and Kath – who are lovely. We went pier fishing, had lunch at where Jen and James had married last Easter and generally pottered about. And then we headed off north, along the west coast.

It’s not until you get to Ullapool that you really begin to understand how wild and remote Scotland can be. The roads are all stunning, with lochs and broken castles, and glimpses of the sea and big, foreboding mountains. We wild-camped for three nights, stopping at the lovely Lochinver and cycling a 25-mile round trip to Stoer Lighthouse (visiting Leigh of the lighthouse’s Blue Tea Van) on the way. She moved up from central England a while back and bought a decrofted croft, set up and ran the tea van for seven years and now, with three Spanish-rescue dogs, still considers herself to be ‘living the dream’.

The weather has haunted us, really since we left Suffolk three weeks ago. As always, though, it has never stopped us from doing what we would like. The long cycle was mostly in sunshine, but against ferocious winds (and some pretty big gradients). Battling very. very heavy winds we wild-camped last night up a hill, beside a big rock which protected us a bit; and we managed a walk, almost crawl, from there to catch a lovely view across Loch Chairn Bhain. And today (and tomorrow) we have booked into Scourie campsite (£22 all in), which is as far north as you can go without hitting the north coast. Just now we walked the Scourie pennisular with, without doubt, the best views so far: Cape Wrath to our right, and Suilven and The Old Man of Stoer to our left. Fabulous.

And all this ‘vanning’ continues to remind me how much I miss travelling full time in Doris. That feeling that she’s home, and not our (lovely) little house in Bradley Stoke. Doris continues to please, although I do have to report that the satellite controller has stopped speaking to the automatic dish … which I pretty sure I can sort, once the wind dies down enough so I won’t be blown off the roof. More watching West Wing then …

I am almost at the end of Unsuspecting Hero rewrite. It will be a much more fluent novel than edition one when I get it out there. Once finished (two days?) I’ll read it out loud to C – she has a nose for picking up irregularities – and then print it out for Rosie (proofreader) as soon as I get home. It’s all on track for an end of October publication.

And then book six. Mmmm. Exhausted already.

Those sunlit uplands

Ahh, the sunlit uplands. All the positives. Independence, freedom and the ability to make our own rules. The best trade agreements with the rest of the world – negotiating from a position of strength. A European Singapore (without, of course, the influx of migrant workers living in not much more than shanty towns in the centre of the small, and very expensive island). So much to look forward to. So much progress to make. And, not forgetting the fact that we can again enjoy bendy bananas, we can move our dead fish about without having to refrigerate them … and, bless them, the blue passports. Mmmm. Can’t wait for mine. 

IMG_20190909_105745387

those sunlit uplands

And what about the £350 million a week we have left over? Yes, of course! Think of all the doctors and nurses we can afford with that. And … no Turkish immigrants! Because Turkey is about to join the EU and they will come over here in their floods. No, we’re not getting them. Not now. Let’s face it, there are far too many immigrants in the country already paying taxes, doing many of the jobs we don’t like doing, working for the NHS and contributing to our way of life – we certainly don’t want any more.

Unelected bureaucrats! No – damn them and their goggly eyes. No, we will have our politicians voted for democratically – not by a small number of the population, or maybe even a whole party dreamt up and funded by some unknown, offshore account. Just like the good old days, where they served Queen and country, without deceit and lacking self-interest. Not holding onto power for power’s sake. And our laws! Yes, please. No more European nonsense protecting our workers’ rights, our health … and our safety. We have always had the best judges in the world – even the Scottish ones. 

Mmmmm … so much to look forward to.

And damn your Project Fear! The riots, food shortages, lack of medicines, failures in industry, lack of investment, the poor being worse off, and the queues of trucks at Dover. You lied! It was all nonsense and as a result the pound is slumping against the dollar and the Euro. 

But I don’t care, even if there is the odd bump in the road! No, a friend of my grandfather’s was at Dunkirk – and he only lost a leg. And my grandmother’s bridesmaid mother grew her own vegetables in between the rubble of her neighbour’s back garden and her house. We can do it again! We have shown time and again that we have tenacity and guts … although my back is not what it used to be, so don’t necessarily count on me. But, we can win wars and stick two fingers up in victory. 

And, so what if holidays in Spain are now too expensive …

… because I’m off to the sunny uplands with my blue passport. There’s a Wetherspoons there where there’s 20p off a pint and me and my mates can swill it down and remember the good times and celebrate the future. Doubtless Nige, Jake and Boris will be along to prop up the bar.

Can’t wait.  

 

Ah, Doris

A few words about Doris. 

IMG_20190907_150642090

ahh, Doris!

I think we’re coming up to our third year of ownership (don’t ask me why I can’t remember) having lived in a Dethleffs Van II three years before that. In the end we lived in this van for a year and three quarters before moving into a small two-up, two-down in Bristol – just under five years fulltiming in total. The more I think about that, fulltiming in a van for almost half a decade, the more I wonder whether or not we were in a sane place when we made that decision. 

IMG_20190907_124118666

Five years! Three of which we in a much smaller van than we’re in now. Blimey.

 

Part of me does think we were kinda mad. And that same part fully understands why our friends must have thought we were off our heads. But there’s a huge part of me that is massively proud of what we achieved. And I miss it. I really do. There is something about having everything you need, and close to everything you own (all our spare stuff was in a lock up garage) all around you – wherever you are. There is integrity to what you are doing … an honesty about your life. It makes everything much simpler (except when you need to go somewhere without the van, for which we bought a 10-year old Focus which is still going strong), and everything is on a much smaller and manageable scale. There is no room to expand … you can’t buy trinkets and unnecessaries as there is nowhere to keep them. Did I mention that I miss it? I genuinely believe we will do another 8-monther, onto the continent over Christmas which we did for our first year, this time towing the trike. And I can’t wait. It may not be soon, and indeed it might be years away, but we will do it. C always reminisces fondly of the, ‘do you remember when we were on Sicily …’.

And that brings us onto the now. Scotland is big, but the roads are small.We have beenIMG_20190908_091754424 caught in a couple of tricky situations this time where we have needed to breath in … or, as happened the day before yesterday, turn round with no obvious way forward and no easy place to back into. Of course, in that moment you think that it must be fab to be in a panel van: narrower and shorter. And, from an observer’s point of view, less big white block of aluminium and fibreglass.

But, we got out of both those situations without a hitch – I backed up 200 metres, and found a place to turn around. With big mirrors and a reversing camera it was no trickier than driving forward. 

We have done small and smaller vans. We know what it’s like to have to make your bed up every night (not good for days on end). We understand the difference between watching tele in comfort, and watching it with your neck crooked. We know what it’s like to have to watch the electricity and worry about running out of water. And, and this is the biggest and, the moment you go on the continent big vans are everywhere – and accommodated for. 

Doris has everything. Everything. And it’s all beautifully made and eminently practical. Everything works and everything suits us. There is nothing we would want to compromise on. And we have never not done something because of what she is. 

So … we love her and she suits us. She acts as a granny flat outside our house in Bristol and has, like all of our previous vans, delivered some fabulous holidays for us. That’s Doris.

Nothing about politics, Roland? Well this next week is going to be interesting. His Borisness looks set to do everything he can to crash out of Europe on 31 October, legal and illegal. But … let everyone be clear. We may leave on 31 October without a deal. But read that sentence again: without a deal. The EU is our biggest trading partner by far. That means at some point in the future we will have to sort out a deal. So no deal becomes … well, a deal. And we will be negotiating from a position of less strength, whilst our country struggles to make do and mend with all of the predicted Yellowhammer outcomes. Including, dare I say it, some unnecessary deaths of people who cannot find medicine. 

Those pushing for a no deal need to be clear that the rest of us will blame them for all of this. I hope it is worth it.