Yo-ho-ho

Yo-ho-ho. Don’t you hate chest infections? I’m coughing up all manner of green stuff that should, frankly, be in a horror movie. I’ve had it for a week and whilst it’s not tying me to our new bed (in our new house), it’s taken the wind out of my sails – which isn’t great for Christmas. C, bless her, is full of the joys of Spring and looking after me better than I deserve.

We have decided that the house is going to be small, but fine. It has, as most houses do, everything we need. Any more space would do two things: incline us to fill it with stuff we don’t need; ensure that we have have to clean and maintain it. That’s what happens. There must be a law named after it, I dunno, the ‘law of expanding rooms, stuff and responsibility’. Or similar. Of course, in an ideal world you would have your big house when you were young and needed to lose the children in a wing for an afternoon – and then downsize to a shoe box, so you can worry less about maintenance and get out more. Unfortunately, life’s not like that…

Well, I must go and cough some more. Hopefully I’ll get rid of this blooming thing before we hit the slopes.

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The slopes. Mmmmm – there’s a thought.

Happy Christmas to all of you.

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End of an era?

This is the last Ladley’s post as ‘fulltimers’, or ‘vanlifers’. We, pretty much, move into the house tomorrow. We then dash around for Christmas and New Year, head off skiing in early January and then (gulp) I’m back to work. Well, 3.5 days a week teaching maths – which, I have to say, I am really looking forward to.

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early doors Somerset Levels

It could so easily be the end of an era, albeit an epoch of only just over three years. Three and a bit years of travel, of sites, of small spaces and, for me, of writing. In many ways it does feel like the end. We have a house. I am going back to work. For Good Men To Do Nothing is finished and waiting (from me) for further instructions. The other three books have all but stopped selling, and whilst I am still waiting for five replies, Unsuspecting Hero’s  screenplay hasn’t registered on anyone’s radar. On the face of it, it’s ‘all change’ at the Ladley ranch. Sorry for the interruption. Normal service has now been resumed.

Except, that’s not really the case. Not really.

For a start, our two-up, two-down is just a bolt hole. It’s not a house in the country. Nor is it somewhere we would expect to entertain our grandchildren. My part-time job is only until July. Whilst, assuming I don’t break any children, I might be offered a job into the second half of the year, I have no idea if that’s what I want – nor what we need. And, and this is a big and, I’m already plotting book 5. ‘Why?’, you ask, ‘if you’re not selling books hand over fist?’ Because, among other things, I’ve just got this Facebook message from someone I don’t know: read your first book after seeing a comment you made on a Motorhome group ( can’t remember which one ) and thoroughly enjoyed it, now halfway through Fuelling the Fire and it’s ‘brilliant’ having trouble putting it down. I’ve read all Stella Rimmington’s books and others of a similar ilk and this one of yours is way better. Well done and looking fwd to your next one.

So we’re still taking this journey in small chunks. My view is that we will love having the house and will always want a bolthole from here on in. I think we will continue to travel and I will continue to write. How much I write and how much I work will be balanced by the number of people who want to read my stuff. And, with short-term contracts we can and will continue to pick and chose our own future.

Hurrah!

And, just in case you’re interested, I though I’d share with you the Ladley’s cat’s letter for 2017. She’s been penning one for 11 years, even though she’s been dead for quite a while. She’s clever like that. Here it is:

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They wish you a merryish Christmas

Now we weren’t expecting that, were we? After another year of unnecessary gallivanting around the world, the senior Ladleys have decided to rest Doris’s tyres and move into a two-up, two-down in Bristol. For now. It all came about when Jen and James bought a house in Gloucester, and Mum and Dad decided to move into the house they were vacating. It all happened in a flourish, and the ramifications of their impetuosity remain to be seen. Personally I think it will end in tears. We’ll see.

And, yes, Jen and James are moving to Gloucester into their very own house. It’s closer to James’ work and, for the money, they get a much better house than if they stayed in Bristol. Jen’s Doggie Den has had a really great year, but is now closed as the removal lorry farts some unburnt diesel down the road. Jen has managed her dogs with love and care, so it’s no wonder her customers are sad to see her move on. In parallel, she has set up a dog accessory business – Cubbly’s. It’s in its early days, but Jen’s eye for detail and artistic flair look set to make it a success. Me, I’m old school: leather collar and a bell to scare the birds – not that I ever got near to one. Frankly you can keep all this unicorn, Scooby Doo and Batman paraphernalia. We have a herd of the former up here, and let me tell you that whilst they can do some magic, they poo just like the rest of us. For the record, after a monumental few years, Jen has finished the therapy sessions related to her mental illness. She has emerged, almost Phoenix-like, from the ashes of this unfortunate tale – it’s been a monumental effort, and inevitably the journey ahead will not be without speed bumps. Well done her.

To ensure that the Ladley’s flux is family wide, Bex and Steven are on the move in 2018. Their Caribbean adventure has been a blast, but there is something about the island mentality (and the exorbitant cost of living) that has seen their sun setting in the west and rising, much brighter, in the east – so to speak. They’ve accepted teaching posts in Seoul, starting in September: Dulwich College, no less. Bex will be head of the humanities facility, which will mean that she will be in charge of Steven, as well as a number of other teachers. Do I need to write that again? In – charge – of – Steven. Good luck with that Bex, that’s all I can say. Of course, we’re ignoring the ostrich in the room. Seoul is in South Korea. Which, if I remember rightly, is quite close to North Korea. They both take a sanguine view of being within a few hundred miles of an almost nuclear power led by a despotic, narcissistic madman, who is being goaded into war by a much larger nuclear power led by a despotic, narcissistic madman. ‘If they haven’t bombed each other in the next nine months, then we’ll be fine….’ Mmmm. OK, then. I’ll not be visiting. They’ve made the most of their Bahamas posting. As well as numerous visitors (I didn’t get an invite), they’ve skied in The Rockies, done New York and Miami, and are now Christmasing in Los Angeles. Fabulous. And, of course, they got married. A day none of us will ever forget.

Dad has continued to write like his future depended on it – which, thankfully, it doesn’t. His third Sam Green novel, The Innocence of Trust, has attracted very positive reviews, but sold few books. The first two haven’t done badly over the year, but, as you may have noticed, he’s hardly a household name. The fourth in the Sam Green series, For Good Men To Do Nothing, is ready to go and a couple of pre-readers have loved it. But – and I hope he’s reading this – it’s not going to sell in numbers. Not without a proper publisher. To broaden his appeal he has written a screenplay of Unsuspecting Hero having been asked to produce one by Frank Harper, a British actor/director. Between them they have touted it about, but no sniffs. Oh well. You can’t say he hasn’t tried. And then, something strange happened. Knowing that they were hanging up their travelling trousers for at least half a year he was offered a part-time teaching post at Bristol Free School. Which he has taken! Back into the classroom. All those equations, graphs and snotty children – stuff of which I know nothing, and care even less about. It will likely be the death of him; but at least that will mean I’ll get some company up here.

Mum, I think, is happy to be moving into a house, albeit one not much larger than Doris. It’s been three and a half years since she’s been able to swing a cat (did I just say that?) and she already has expansionist plans that would suit a fledgling dictator.  As she sizes up the kitchen drawers for Pyrex, it is worth noting that her year has been a succession of extravagant travel and the odd wedding. Skiing in Chatel, Croatia for six weeks (which I can report was their favourite trip), The Wedding of the year (Bex and Steven – hurrah!), taking the newlyweds on honeymoon to Germany in Doris, New York and The Bahamas, and then the south of France to finish and edit book 4. Along with that she has looked after relatives, kept an eye on the kids and darned dad’s socks. Not really. Not the socks. It was a metaphor. You know. Anyway. Moving out of Doris will elicit mixed emotions for both of them, I’m sure. And Mum’s already talking about when they take Doris away for the weekend.

So, 2018 looks like ‘end of the line, all change!’ for all of them. Jen and James, of course, are getting married in March, up in Skye – none of you are invited, but don’t take it personally. Dad will lose what’s left of his hair as he tries to get kids to get stuff. Bex and Steven will move halfway round the world again (assuming acceptable levels of radiation). And Mum will be the light around which the moths flutter.

And me? Well, having voted for Trump via a Russian ISP for the fun of it, I’m no longer so sure. Yes, it’s been fun to watch the soap opera from up here. But, and I hate to get all serious on you, it might have all the drama of East Enders, but it isn’t actually a TV show, is it? Both Bex and Steven and Jen and James are talking about starting a family. If Donald and his acolytes continue to unpick the fabric of decency and sew it back together with bigotry and hate, then my boss might have to wield the odd thunderbolt. And, let me tell you, you don’t want to be around when that happens.

In the meantime – Happy Christmas from all of us. Both natural and supernatural!

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s going to be YUGE!

Stand by for an assault on the American constitution … apparently. The word on the street is that Trump will fire Muller (lawyer, ex-director of the FBI and Vietnam vet) this week for spurious reasons, probably to do with 1,000s of emails Mueller has got from Trump associate accounts. Mueller is a Trump appointee (he’s running the Russia investigation). At that point nobody has any idea whether there will be sufficient of an uproar from both Democrats and Republicans to bring the president down. Even if they try to impeach him, he could pardon himself and there is a core of supporters – and, of course, Fox News, who would rally behind him.

I can tell you that I have never been so interested in politics. It is like a massive soap opera written by Aaron Sorkin and played by a top cast. It if wasn’t so scary it would be brilliant.

So stand by. It’s going to be, as Trump would say, YUGE!

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What have wee been up to? I worked Thursday and then Friday/Saturday has mostly been about helping Jen and James pack their house up for the big move. We’ve started looking at paint – that’s what you do when you move into a house. And other stuff. I’m not sure how I feel about that, especially as Doris requires no painting – indeed, little or no work. We all know the equation: have house = spend time and money on its upkeep. Mmmm, we’ll see.

Finally I have submitted Unsuspecting Hero’s screenplay to BBC’s writers room. The Beeb take submission from any old idiot, provided you meet certain criteria and submit in the appropriate window. It just so happens that now is for drama … so Sam has gone to meet some nice person in the BBC.

Books are not selling – sorry. And I’m not advertising, which probably tells the story. Book 4, now pretty definitely For Good Men To Do Nothing, is ready to go to some smaller publishers. That’s my ambition for this week. I’ll keep you in the picture.

Have a great week!

 

 

 

I wasn’t expecting that…

Madness, just madness.

I could harp on and on about the Alabama Senate result (hurrah!); thank goodness for a huge slap of common decency in that very conservative of US states. But I won’t, although I really could. Or I could go on about the current state of play in the Ashes, and how England look like they may be making a fist of the third test.

Or…I could talk about how I found myself with a job.

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baby it’s cold outside…

What!? How did that happen? Good question. I told you that I as trying to get some supply teaching to fill the gap between now and the summer. Well, cutting a long story short, as I was supply teaching at a state school on Tuesday, I was approached and offered a part time job. Actually I was offered any employment I wanted, really. I could have taken a full time post. And, at the same time, a posh school in Bristol offered me a part time post. In fact, both roles and the classes they were offering were pretty similar.

Of course, I could have turned them all down. And, as a full time writer with a book in the offing, that would have been a sensible option. But, as I always said to C, if we moved into a house, unless the books were bringing in a living wage, I would look to go to work. And, do you know what? The classroom has always been my favourite place (other than the ski slopes and a decent beach). And, whilst some of the kids are a real challenge and by 3 pm this week I have been on my knees, it’s great to be trying to get kids to enjoy and get something out of my subject.

I start on a 3.5 day week after skiing on 20th January. And the contract runs through to the summer, which gives me a break before I start to write book 5 in August. I am teaching Key Stage 3 (years 7, 8 and 9), the little ones, and I am really looking forward to it.

So Christmas, New Year, skiing and then back into the fray.

Hurrah?

Work? Me?

Well, that’s gone and done it. I think by the end of next week I will have either secured some work – or actually done some. And, do you know what? In a strange way I’m sort of looking forward to it.

I maintained all along that if we went firm – that is lived in a house – I would have to find work. This was for two reasons. One, it would mean we wouldn’t be renting the property and would need/like to find that income from somewhere to rebalance that. Two, if we were static, other than write (and the Spring is my thinking time), what would I do with myself?

So, on that basis mid-last week I applied to two private schools and four state schools – all of them in the closest proximity to Bradley Stoke. I asked for ‘maths supply teaching’; and I reminded the state schools that I wasn’t a formally qualified teacher. For non-UK readers it may seem strange that some schools in the UK let ‘unqualified’ adults loose on children. It’s true. Private schools look for older, experienced adults (with appropriate degrees and only after rigorous interview) to fill some of their teaching gaps. And state academies and free schools have dispensation to employ idiots like me. I think that’s mostly to do with numbers – but it’s also about getting the right people in.

Anyhow, I have 8 years teaching experience. And whilst I was rubbish at the beginning, I think I was really OK by the end.

Two schools came straight back to me. A very posh private school who offered to interview me for a part-time timetable (Years 7 and 8 – bless) until the Spring and then maybe a bigger timetable for the summer term to cover a maternity gap. And a state school asked me to complete an interview form, send in my CV and then I would be called in to meet the team. Excellent. Except, the private school wanted to see me the Thursday/Friday just gone (not available – nor Monday as I’m in London hoping to become a trustee of an army education charity). Then they went quiet on me. One problem may be that I can’t start with them until week 3 of next term because we are skiing. And then, at 3.30 on Friday the state school emailed someone like me (not my complete email address) and asked me to come and supply on Tuesday – ie teach all day. Thankfully the man who received the email – he could have been anywhere in the world on any time zone – recognised the importance of the message and forwarded it to me. I got back to them, but by the time I did that it was closing time at the school.

So we’ll see. I’m still not confident the state school realises that I’m not formally qualified, and may stop me from entering the school when they do. Which would be a shame. Because at 55, with 26 years’ Army experience and 8 years as a teacher, I think I could handle a state school classroom really well. And I’d like to give it a try!

What am I after? Well a day or two days a week supply would be good. I’m not sure I’m up for a part-time, but a call on a Tuesday to teach on Thursday would work for me. We’ll see.

It was cold today in Godalming

We’re with Mary at the moment, helping out. Back to Bristol tomorrow. And, who knows, some work next week?

(Oh, and the books have stopped selling. I’ve finished updating the very positive beta feedback – thanks guys – and I’ve just finished the synopsis for For Good Men To Do Nothing. Hurrah!)

Have a great week.

Who’s writing the script?

A shortish post this mid-week. I could (I really could) go all political on you, but I won’t. C and I are West Wing aficionados. We love it. We have just started watching it for the fifth time. The acting, the storyline(s) and the humour make ideal telly. We also watched a couple of series of House of Cards – before #metoo rightly collapsed it in its current form. But gave up as it was just too dark for us.

But now I don’t have to bother with any of that. I just keep an eye on BBC News and Twitter. It’s like watching an unscripted TV reality show, where you know that no producer or director has actually written the next page of the screenplay. Which makes it kinda fascinating, but also scary at the same time. The Jerusalem thing is just off the scale.

So I won’t go all political on you.

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Book sales have dropped right down – that’s a negative. But a positive is that my beta readers have come back with very positive reviews (thanks you lot!) of book 4 – For Good Men To Do Nothing. I have some work to do on a number of areas, but it’s all within my ability. What I will do now is start edit 4 and incorporate those changes. Then I’m going for a new tack – look to some smaller publishers and see if anyone is interested. That’ll be a post-Christmas thing.

And, because we have some time on our hands, I have applied for some supply maths work in Bristol. And two schools have come back to me in a positive way, with maybe an interview early next week. It’ll be just a bit of work, but it will keep my hand in and earn a few pennies. Hurrah!

Anyhow, have a good rest of week. Off to Mary’s tomorrow and back to Bristol on Sunday. I’m in London on Monday for an interview to be a trustee of an Army education charity. Something else which interests me.

 

 

 

 

 

Shopping anyone?

It’s been an odd couple of days. We’ve been living on Jen’s doorstep for a week (which will be our doorstep in a couple of weeks), helping out with dog walking an similar. It’s allowed us to do lots of admin and some prep for the big move in. It’s been ages since we’ve looked round the shops for anything more than a new pair of walking shoes. Our current list includes a washer/dryer, sofa, fridge/freezer and a host of smaller items. Thankfully we’ve managed to save a bit in three years of travelling, so we should just about manage

Our Jen

Shopping when you have a purpose and some money isn’t so bad. It’s the mindless shopping which seems to be this country’s number one pastime which drives me mad. Where do people get the money from? And, and you know this is coming from me, how many things do you actually need? Honestly? Stuff is transient. Experience lives with you forever. That’s why we’re determined to buy only the stuff we actually need. Lecture over with.
Book sales have dropped down to 1/2 a day. I have had a nice rejection from Amazon Studios for Unsuspecting Hero’s screenplay, but nothing back from anyone else. I have an opportunity to send something to the BBC in the middle of this month, so I’ll do that. And book 4, which is looking more and more like ‘For Good Men To Do Nothing’, is with my 4 beta readers. No response from them since I dispatched it on Thursday. It is a fragile time for me…do they like it? Don’t they? Will they tell me?

Beautiful Bristol

We’ll see.
And I have just applied to be a part-time/supply maths tutor at one of those Explore Learning centres in Bristol. My problem is that I am not formally qualified and a lot of State Schools won’t look at people like me. I was on the way to getting qualified when I got a assistant head’s post at Wells. And then I was too busy to pull it off. Never mind.
Back to Jen’s tomorrow. Then down in Wells in Thursday and Mary’s for the weekend. Oh – and there’s snow in Chatel! Hurrah! We’ll be there on 5 January for 12 days. How good does that sound?
Have a great week.