Tell me everything’s going to be ok?

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must be skiing soon … C’s trying on her boots

I know this is going against the grain, but if I could vote for Nicola Sturgeon, I would. She has consistently come across as the only adult in the room. I know, I know, none of you want Scotland to leave the union and dislike her because that’s what she stands for. And some of you snigger when you think that Scotland couldn’t survive financially without Westminster throwing money over the border. And you may have a point there.

But, what are the alternatives? Boris Johnson is hopeless. Worse than hopeless. And he stands for Brexit, which you know I’m not a fan of. And I’m not keen on the Tory policies, not that their manifesto gave us anything other than potholes and child care to write home about. It will take forever to sort out Brexit, and a US trade deal will take an age and we, of course, will be negotiating from a position of weakness. It’s going to be horrible.

Jeremy Corbyn has principles, most of which I can’t agree with. And Jo Swinton has – come on, let’s face it – blown a hole through the Lib Dems chances by guaranteeing that she will revoke Brexit, rather than hold a second referendum. Which I cannot support. She’s also quite screechy, whereas Sturgeon is much more measured.

All-in-all it’s a dog’s breakfast. And with Labour and Lib Dems nowhere near cooperating to oust the Tories, December 12th is going to be a very interesting day.

It is hardly a prime time in British politics, is it? Which is such a shame when what the world needs now, more than anything else, is grounded and effective leadership. The latest UN report says the last time CO2 levels were this high, the earth was 3 degrees warmer and the water levels between 30 and 60 metres higher. If that were the case London would have to move. All of it.

I don’t know. Somebody tell me things are not as bleak as they seem. That Johnson will get a majority and he’s actually an honest and OK chap. We, the British, will rise beyond Brexit and be a beacon for other countries to follow. That Scotland (and Northern Ireland) will stay in the union and we will all plough forward together. That my children’s future is secure. Somebody … please.

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call in the painters and decorators

Talking of children … we’re at Jen’s at the mo – they’re down at Centre Parcs. We’re painting and decorating, which isn’t my favourite pastime, but I tackle it willingly, if patchily. (Not really, we are a fairly safe pair of hands.)  Home at the weekend. And then working all next week – hurrah?

Scotland here we come …

So. I had a really good day yesterday at a prep school in Wiltshire. I was asked to run an activity afternoon for the governors and senior leadership team. I did this (having attended the main governors’ meeting in the morning) by looking at the capability gap

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I like pictograms …

between their, good, school and what they might consider a ‘great’ school. In two teams we then identified actions required to make that happen … and colour coded those by way of how much they thought each action might cost. And then we put those actions onto a time/effectiveness chart. To finish we identified 10 actions the school could be getting on with, noting time and cost constraints.

Phew … that was three hours. Which I really enjoyed. The feedback was good and, on the back of it, I’ve been asked back to do some mentoring.

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if the weather gets any worse, I’m emigrating

Next is my team 360 with the small civil service group the week after next. And, of course, the ongoing work I’ve been doing with the school in Farnham. I had a full day with them on Thursday and I’m going back before Christmas. It is, as they say, all go.

Is this what I want?

Maybe. Maybe for the next couple of years. It’s more than possible this will fizzle out … and the choice will be made for me. Who knows. And, as long as we can get skiing and pop Doris over to Spain to warm her tyres, then it might just be a good balance. We’ll see.

Other than that I have tried to write. I missed Thursday and Saturday because I was out all day. And, whilst I have completed 1,500 words today, I will miss tomorrow as I’m driving up to Mum’s. C will be at Jen’s place … we’re looking after the menagerie, whilst her and James have a week in Longleat, Centre Parcs. So that’s one dog, two cats and a rabbit to look after. Hopefully they’ll all still be with us when Jen and James come back on Friday (she did lose a rabbit the other day, so the plan’s not necessarily foolproof).

And politics? Well, come on. If, after everything we know, this country is still keen to give the Tories a majority and we crash out of Europe, who am I to complain?

Scotland here we come …

Des

I just popped into Doris to check on something and got that wonderful feeling of ‘awayness’. We are following various pairs of people who are off in their vans/caravans at the mo … and I do envy them. Mrs Sun has been with us, though, even if the wind doth blow cold. Apparently it’s going to rain for ten days from tomorrow, so the respite has been short lived. Ho hum. I haven’t checked today, but I bet it’s warm in southern Spain.

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Bristol was looking fab

It’s been an adminy couple of days. We popped out to Cribbs on Monday and yesterday we both took the Focus in for an MoT … and then walked into the city. Which was lovely. Our plan for the car is, as you’ve heard, get her through to the end of next year and then think about buying an equivalent, possibly a five-year-old Astra (which sell at about 15% cheaper than the equivalent Focus. Don’t know why.). Deep down C wants something more classy, but we both know that within a month one of us with scratch it … we are both half decent-drivers, but it always happens.  We’ve had smart cars in the past, but I can’t get my head round spending more than we need. Our Focus cost us £2,200 almost five years ago. And she has not let us down … yesterday’s MoT and oil and filter service was less than £200.

I think I told you our neighbour has a Tesla 3. It is beautiful and does 130 mpg. But it costs him £399 a month for two years, plus an initial deposit. Our budget will be £5k … the amount of money it will cost him to rent the Tesla for just a year. Ours should last five. Don’t misunderstand me. I love cars and, as I’ve said, we’ve had our fair share of beauties. And I applaud anyone who goes out of their way to love them as well. But our Focus is comfortable, reliable and parkable. The Astra will be similar.

Today I took the bike down town and found ‘Des’. He’s an ex-Royal Anglian soldier living on the streets. Our school friend, Elizabeth, who tours the homeless weekly with the church, had told me about him. I have tried three times to find him, and today we managed it.

It’s an interesting story. He’s a couple of years older than me and spent the early part of his life in the Army. Subsequent jobs, a failed marriage and drugs put him on the streets of Bristol. He told me he is now clean, and that seemed to be the case. He was sleeping in the outside lobby of the Hippodrome, with his dog, diesel – a sort of black cockapoo. I bought him a cuppa and we chatted for half an hour. He seemed fit, on the face of it. But, on interrogation, he’s had multiple bouts of chest infections, two heart attacks and a bad back. Surprisingly, therefore, he was charming and good company. I’ve emailed the Regiment and will keep an eye on him. He did say that he didn’t need anything, and Elizabeth – much more an expert than me – told me that was often the case. We’ll see.

And the book? This session has looked like this: 5,000 words on Monday; 1,500 yesterday

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still typing away …

and 1,500 today. I am motoring. I will not be able to write tomorrow (a full day at the school in Farnham), Saturday (a full day at a school in Salisbury) and possibly Monday (travelling to Mum’s overnight). But, at 81,000 words I am well ahead of the game.

What is fascinating is that, because I am not ‘on it’ all the time, I have no real sense if it is any good. So today, as I was writing a ‘bring you all back up to speed’ scene, I thought it best … without any plan of doing so … of crying havoc and letting slip the dogs of war. Just to spice thing up a bit.

Why not?

All I have to do now is work out how that fits in with anything …

All’s just about ok, thanks

Thanks for all your concerns ref Jen. Friday was not a bad day, in that it could have been a lot worse. In short, bless her, she has a precancerous cyst the size of a tangerine and it has to come out. It is not in a bad place. But, because it is close to the spleen, that has to come out as well. The surgeon hopes to carry out the operation in late January and Jen’s expected to make a full recovery, although not having a spleen means she has to have a number of inoculations as it’s a bit of vital organ insofar as the immune system is concerned.

And they were lucky to pick it up during a more routine MRI of her heart a couple of months ago. If they hadn’t, who knows. You don’t want pancreatic cancer.

So we’re ok with that. For Jen, she will go under the knife and we will be there with her. For us, we can continue to plan wild and mad escapes knowing that our younger is not in mortal danger.

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our post hospital celebratory lunch …

Those plans are still: skiing, now over New Year and into January. If we can make three weeks, that will be fab. Then around six weeks in Spain/Morocco in Doris, early Spring. And a late summer drive to Baku. Hurrah!

(I know … how lucky are we?)

And, other than fret about Jen, what have we been up to?

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C made this hat for Richard’s birthday. What a clever girl!

Last night we went to our mate Richard’s 60th birthday party in a country house, south of Bristol. We knew over half the people there – mostly ex-military, and it was great to catch up with them all. Rich is a proper explorer (South Georgia and Antarctica, among many others) and a good number of his pals were similar, some of whom we have met before. One I hadn’t introduced himself … ‘Hello, I’m Bill. I’m the King of the north Tajikistan/Chinese border. I’ve been working there for 15 years. Oh, and I have three motorbikes …’

On further enquiry, Bill actually is a ‘king’, in the same way that in many sub-Saharan countries, non-natives can be crowned ‘Chief’ if they do massive good in an area. So, that was an interesting conversation. Richard, who looked to be having a fab time, told me that Bill had recently decided, on a whim, to visit a girlfriend in Ukraine. By motorcycle. He did so, but went via Jordan. Look at the map … it’s not a straightforward diversion.

And C sat next door to Tim, who had recently returned from taking photos of the protesters in Hong Kong. We do, it’s sad to say, live very ordinary lives.

Back to reality, today C and I popped out to Weston-Super-Mare for a bit of Christmas shopping and a lovely long walk down the beach. And, just now, I finished another 1,000 words. I’m 70,000 words in.

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WSM – fab, even at low tide

Busy week this week. the Ford goes in for its MoT on Tuesday. Thursday I’m at the school, all day. And, new work on Saturday. I’m at a different school in Hampshire helping out at a governor’s away day. That’ll be fun!

What a choice

IMG_20191112_124851643_BURST001I think this will be a short catch up. We are all a little on tenterhooks over Jen’s hospital appointment on Friday and so our minds have been on other things.

Politics, hey? The choice between bad and badder, if you stick to a two party system. Two recent tweets caught my attention. The first was along the lines: we can cope in a general election when one of the two main parties is in meltdown, but we’ve never had to do this when both are. The second: this may well be the last general election when, due to climate change, we’re not unified in fighting for our lives. Let’s enjoy hating each other whilst we have the chance.

The last was from Danny Boyle.

Is it that bad? I think it is. There are so many reasons for this, many of them decades old – including the Middle Eastern wars and the ensuing migrant crisis, the greed that led to the 2008 crash and austerity that followed. Popularism was the answer, on both sides of the aisle, and you can see why. And we, as a county, are now at the pinnacle of that mountain. We face a decision based on over a decade of stuff that was just rubbish, where the only answer is downhill.

But it’s not the right decision. We shouldn’t have to wait another five years to tackle the greatest challenge to face you and me. A challenge so big it will blight the world for our grandchildren.

And, so, just now, I despair at our political landscape. I really can’t cope with Johnson, Gove, R-M and that group. I can’t hear truth from that corner – anywhere. I don’t like what they stand for and I don’t trust them. And, whilst I do believe Corbyn is an honourable man – a man of principle – I’m not happy with many of those principles and am incredibly wary of the power behind that throne.

That leaves Jo Swinton and Caroline Lucas. Neither of whom have a chance of becoming PM. I am a liberal at heart and I so wish the Lib Dems had chosen a leader I could warm to. Alas, I cannot. Caroline Lucas, or someone like her, will be the person we turn to after it’s too late. That’s a scary thought.

What a choice.

Ho hum.

Thankfully, we have the John Lewis advert: John Lewis Advert

Not such a great week …

It’s been a bit of a week. Our Jen has been through the mill it’s true to say for quite a while. She suffers from mental health issues and at the end of last year was diagnosed with ME. As part of the investigations into her health a CT scan discovered a cyst on her pancreas. Now, I have a cyst on one of my kidneys. That was found almost twenty years ago and I had a number of yearly ultrasounds to check that it wasn’t growing. Apparently it’s ok to have something the size of a golf ball in your abdomen. And I’m happy with that.

Unfortunately for Jen pancreatic cysts are more tricky … and the experts want to see her next Friday. Of course all sorts of scenarios are possible – one or two of them really unpleasant, and we will have to wait and see what they say. We are, needless to say, going up together.

Then, last night, she was involved in a car accident. She was a passenger in a car that flipped, just up from where we live. There were three in the car – other than some bruises, none were hurt – but they couldn’t get out. Anyhow, she phoned me – still stuck in the car, just before five fire engines, two ambulances and four police cars turned up. C and I got in our car and 15 minutes later we were at the scene of a disaster movie. There were more flashing lights than an 80s disco.

The good news is, they’re all ok. We now wait for Friday’s meeting with the medical experts. Thankfully we didn’t fly to Tunisia for the week.

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poor bike …

There’s more. I went into Bristol on Thursday to meet someone about the work I’m doing for the civil service in early December. I went down on the trike and I hit the kerb (which was in the middle of the road – what was it doing there?) and got a flat. Somehow I managed to stay on the bike .The good news is, you can drive a Piaggio MP3 home with a flat front tyre. And, having taken the wheel off, it was only a £60 job to get a new tyre fitted. Ho hum.

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Bradley Stoke non-military, but vaguely military Remembrance parade. Love it!

Other news? We went to Bradley Stoke Remembrance Service today, which is held in the open air in the ‘town square’ (which is more circle, than square). The poster badged the event as ‘non-military’, which made me smile. But there were plenty there, including a really decent brass band, and actually it was quite military with a man with medals (I didn’t wear mine) calling us all to order, last post and bugler.

We love Bradley Stoke!

Writing continues. My pal two doors down has just got himself a Tesla 3, so I spent half an hour today playing with all the gadgets. I’m not envious, though. We always knock our car within a month of buying it, so we’ll stick with second hand for now …

Till mid-week, then.

The weather continues to be …

We did the lunch party with Mary, all the way to a wonderful old farmhouse in East Sussex. And then back here for, well, more writing (now well over 50k words), replacing the pump in Doris and other bits and pieces. Last night we popped out to the local pub (The Three Brooks) for comfort food. And today we popped up to Jen’s.

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at the pub …

The weather continues to be poor and, when we can, we watch ‘A New Life In The Sun’, and ‘Escape to The Chateau DIY’. I know, I know, it’s all pretty banal and confected TV.  But, for me, it’s a substitute for doing the real thing. The first of the programmes looks at couples or families who have moved to France and Spain with the aim of working – not just retiring. It is something we have spoken about a lot but, now that we can, we are less inclined to for a number of reasons.

I still see myself running a small, seasonal cafe somewhere in SE Spain. Nothing big, nothing grand. Just somewhere where I can be rude to the customers and watch the world go by. C, unsurprisingly, is less interested. We have thought about a place in the French Pyrenees with Gites attached and running some summer lettings (I still like the cafe idea). We wouldn’t go for Chambres D’Hotes (B&B) or a hotel, that’s too much like hard work. It’s all a thought.

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But then again, we don’t need to work. Not really. And so we could just buy a place in either country and do it up. Anything is possible, although there are some constraints. We’ll see. Or, we could just continue to do what we do and take Doris to those places and spend months on end in the winter enjoying Mrs Sun … and writing my books.

Which continues to focus my mind. Proofreader Rosie is rereading Unsuspecting Hero, edition 2. And she’s already spotted a mistake … which we both missed. So, I’ve updated that. Also Kindle (I don’t know how or why) sent me a message that there are some mistakes in For Good Men To Do Nothing. So I have updated those.

And the writing. The 1000 words a day is working – really well. Apart from two days I am writing well over 1000 words – today I polished off 2500. Which means my ambition to finish the book by Christmas might be on the cards … and that would be fab. And I love it. Almost all the time. Almost. Starting off is always a struggle. But, when I’m motoring, I love it. It’s just that initial hump. I guess this is the same for all writers.

No block, though. Which is a bonus.

Anyhow. It seems v unlikely that we will fly anywhere on Friday. More like we might take Doris away. Or nothing … we’ll see.

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Steve and Rebecca in Korea! (Still)

Well done South Africa

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the face of a man who has been for a run and written 1500 words before 10.30

A busy day today. I was up at 7.00, a run around the park and then 1500 words of book 6. I’m now on Chapter 8/22. My new plan is to finish the first draft by Christmas Day – which would be a helluva thing. The problem is we’ve squashed a few things into the diary between now and then. It looks like I’ve got four days additional work coming up – some pretty big stuff, with me presenting or facilitating on those days, one of which is in London. Of course, there things don’t just happen so I’ve probably got to find the same amount of time in preparation.

I also have two more half days at the school, I need to get to Mum’s this month (we’re up with her for Christmas) and we’re with Mary at least one more time – we’re here now. All of this is good stuff, but it does mean I’m squeezing the writing in as and when. But, you know what?, I think the quality is still there – I loved what I have written today. Doubtless you’ll tell me.

We were with C’s sister, Annie, Friday night and yesterday, to watch the rugby. Now, I’m probably in a minority of one when I say that, whilst I would have cheered if we had

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C’s sister, Annie = at least 2 jack russells

won, South Africa definitely need it more than we do. And well done them. They were immense, much as we were against New Zealand last week. It was a great game, a great tournament and now that it’s over, we can focus back on the last races of the Grand Prix, the Premiership, England cricket team in New Zealand and all the other sports that keep us entertained. Hurrah!

We’re fine. Still in two minds over Tunisia for next Friday, although that trip is now unlikely I feel. It’s not for lack of ambition or, indeed, price, it’s about whether or not it’s worth the effort. I think we will not go, which will give me more time to sort out my work. And that’s the thing, isn’t it? Is this what I want? If more work comes from this, do I want it?

The answer to that question is, I don’t know. The three of you who have stayed with me over the past six years know that, insofar as possessions, C and I live modest lives. Yes, Doris is worth a small bomb, but everything else we have – especially where we live – is designed to have a small footprint and provide us with enough spare cash to do our travelling. With the books providing nothing more than enough for a cup of coffee every day, clearly working for a living provides a really nice additional income. It also gives me a little bit of a buzz, a bit like getting a couple of decent book reviews. I don’t advertise for my consultancy work – and yet (a few) people ask for me. And ask again.

I guess we will know more by Christmas when this new patch of work is over. I’m determined not to let the preparation take over our lives, and I am equally determined to enjoy what I do. It will be clear if I’ve managed that by the time we eat our turkey. I’ll let you know.

Anyhow. We’re off to a lunch party in East Grinstead now, so I’d better sign off. I hope you all not too disappointed with the rugby result. In the end, it’s only a game. And, you have to agree that South Africa needed something to rally round. And to be slightly contentious, perhaps the last thing we need just now is a wave of St George’s flags to complement the already over-jingoistic population. Don’t @ me …

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up on the Downs with the dogs after the rugby. Much windier than it looks!