I’m better … it’s the law

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skiing today. Just fab

So, we’re now arguing as to who is the better skier. C thinks she’s more refined and in control. Me, I’m just better. You know. It’s a man thing. C is definitely a better knitter than me, and I can run faster than her. And for longer. Ergo I am a better skier. It’s the natural order of things.

We had a fab day today. Neither of us felt completely well when we took the chair up the mountain but, by the end of the day we were taking on little short cut routes we had not found before and zooming down long reds to the bottom of the mountain. For me, for the first time since we got here. I do feel as though I have improved. So much so, and still with the outstanding question ‘who is the better skier’, we are going back up the mountain tomorrow. The answer, of course, is immutable …

Mrs Sun continues to shine. There was an edgy wind today, but the conditions were pretty perfect. We stayed high so we weren’t bothered by ice, but they are going to need some new snow soon. There is some predicted for the end of the week. Good news for the new arrivals.

Yesterday we walked high into the hills. It was a route we’d done before, from a gorgeous lake up into a very high pasture with a series of chalets and barns for summer use. We did ask that question: what do we prefer, skiing or walking?, and it was a close run thing. Clearly walking is cheaper – and quieter. A real mind-opening exercise. Skiing, on the other hand, is more cluttering; more furious. Both are knackering, what with the cold and the hills. I’d say it was fifty-fifty. Skiing wins for tomorrow. Especially as I intend to get C to eat my snow … so to speak.

And, soon it will all be over. We travel on Sunday. What with the snow forecast, I think tomorrow will be our last day on our planks. We’ll have a couple of days of admin and coffee drinking (I’d hope to go for a run) before the big push home. Then it’s Jen’s op and I now have quite a slice of work planned. Over the past couple of days I’ve agreed to conduct 12 (yes, 12) 360 reports for a school. That’s going to take some doing, but I will get it done. In addition I’m due with the MoD once a week between now and the end of February. I’m not sure whether there’s going to be enough work for me whilst I’m there, so I will cut cloth etc. All-in-all, it looks like a busy time.

That’s all for now. If you have Netflix, do watch The Messiah. We’ve binged-watched it over the past five days. I can’t put it in a genre other than to say that the CIA are in it, and some terrorists. But it’s not like that at all. Maybe the best TV I’ve seen for a while. Anyhow, dig it out and let us know how it goes.

Still sunny here …

I had a fall today. My ski fell off as I was going down a red at a bit of speed and I hit the floor with my shoulder. Nothing broken, just a bang with associated pain. But it knocked me sideways for a bit. And that, of course, is the issue with getting older. You just don’t bounce as well as you used to. I fell yesterday as well; caught an edge on a blue run and smacked my bum. Ho-hum. You would have thought I might be getting better at this?

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looking a bit sheepish having our picnic (having had a bit of a fall)

And both of us are still not feeling 100%. The weather has been outstanding and although the slopes are now more ice and fake snow than the original stuff we have skied well. C has come on leaps and bounds and is easily as competent a skier as I am now. I am quicker, but that’s more about lack of control rather than anything else, and it’s great to ski behind her and watch her control. Without sounding patronising, I am v proud of her.

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C heading up a drag …

Interestingly here at Chatel you can get a weekend pass – all day for Saturday and Sunday – for just 61 Euros. That’s 30.5 per day against 38 for a five hour pass (44 for a full day), which is what we have been using. That makes a full day’s skiing cost under £27, which makes it much more affordable. They don’t advertise it and I guess it’s for locals to come at the weekend. And this was so. After a Monday to Friday of empty pistes, both yesterday and today the crowds have been bigger … although we have still not had to wait for a lift unlike over the New Year period. I also think this week is University ski week as we’ve seen a lot of young men zooming down the slope, some without a good deal of control. I know, I know, I was a bit like that once.

Other than that there’s some book stuff going on that I won’t yet bore you with and we have made it through BBC’s Dracula, which was really good. We’re now on Netflix’s The Messiah, which is looking like a lot of good telly. Other than that it’s been sleep, activity/skiing, binge watch and eat/sleep.  Pretty perfect. I guess we’d both like to feel on top form, but maybe again that’s an age thing.

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running when not skiing

This time next week we’ll be back in the UK. I’ve got some work that week and the week after Jen’s having her operation, so we’ll be tied into that. And then more work and start to think about taking Doris to Spain. (eh, yippee?!) What a life.

A funny thing happened

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yesterday. Clouds cleared ten minutes later. Perfect

A funny thing happened on Monday. Well, actually, two funny things happened. We went skiing. The conditions were fab and there was no one on the slopes. Mrs Sun was with us – as she has since we arrived and looks set to stay with us until we leave – and was waving away. And all was well.

Until. I was on a long drag (for non-skiers, you put a large button seat between your legs and a wire drags you up a mountain) when I noticed that I was light on my feet. As though the drag was working harder than normal. And then the gradient flattened and I was in the air. Like a foot off the ground. Facing backwards. At that point I knew it wasn’t going to end well. I fell off the button, lost a ski, managed to scramble off the drag and into the non-pisted snow. Clearly the drag wire, which works on a spring and has an eventual full extension, had become stuck. A flying Roland was the result. Mmmm.

So, still in perfect weather and perfect conditions, we gathered ourselves together and skied away.

Then, half way down an easy blue on the way for a cup of coffee, my ski came off on a turn. This is unusual, and not what skis are designed for. They’re designed to come off if you fall so your legs don’t contort and snap. Not when you’re on your feet skiing. I ploughed in. Thankfully it was a simple slope, not a tricky red, and I wasn’t motoring, so no harm done. I dusted myself off (again) and put my ski on. Skied five metres and it came off again. I fell over – now on the tired side of eating snow. Bugger. I tightened the bindings, just in case over the many years I’ve owned the equipment (boots = 25; skis = 10) they had loosened. Put my boot back on … and it popped out. Tried again. The same.

My boot had broken. The plastic lip that sticks out the front of the boot that clips under the binding had snapped off. There was no way I was skiing in that boot ever again.

But we were a good walk from a lift that could take us down the hill. Bugger. Again. Anyhow, coffee called. I walked and skidded, carrying skis and poles, down to the cafe and we sat down and discussed what to do next. A waiter came over and took our order. ‘Anything else?’ he asked. ‘Do you have a size 46 ski boot. This one’s broken.’ ‘I’ll ask.’ In a small isolated cafe in the back end of the ski area, closer to Switzerland than France. There were seven people in the cafe.

A new guy came out with a pair of Scarpa mountaineering boots. Bless him. I took a boot, squeezed my foot it (just), he showed me how the boot bindings worked, and asked for

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mmmm. New fashion …

nothing other than I return the boot. Bingo. We skied for the rest of the day and I bought some new boots in the resort when we got off the mountain.

Key lessons? Europeans are not all bad people. Many are hugely generous. I have to say it, but it’s true. You know we have never thought so … but just in case you needed an example. Second, don’t buy boots in the UK. Under any circumstances. I was for hiring a pair and buying from Decathlon when we got home. But I paid £200 for a sensible pair of Atomics – which are fab. If you remember C paid £240 for her Rossignol at Atwools and that was with a Black Friday reduction. I paid £200 in Chatel. Down in the valley I could have a got a pair for much less than that. And the range was fab.

So … we skied yesterday, all day. Took the boot back with a bottle of wine. And we’re resting today. We’re both still a little bit snotty and, after non-stop skiing yesterday, a break probably isn’t a bad idea.

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don’t, whatever you do, buy your boots in the UK. Top-resort price: Atomics for £200

Almost finished the overview of On The Back Foot To Hell and should get a clip of Unsuspecting Hero from my narrator by the weekend to check over. It’s all happening here …

Sniff, sniff …

I’m writing this sneezing away and with every hole on the front of my face leaking moisture and my nose feels as though it has a feather duster stuck up both nostrils. It was like it all day yesterday, although better when I’m out in the fresh air. Honestly – I’m struggling to write this through a wall of tears. Bizarre. I don’t feel too bad, but my head is like an allergy-ridden monster. If I were a superhero I’d be called Headcold Man. Thankfully my chest, which often welcomes infections, has remained shtum. Long that may continue.

It does mean we’ve not been on the slopes – yesterday and we won’t go out today. But we walked on Wednesday, skied a full day on Thursday, I ran up into the hills on Friday and yesterday we decided to drive out in the mountains and see what’s what. Well we found a beautiful high col, with it own little ski area and then down into a valley and, by chance, discovered a damned lake and a major attraction: Gorge Dupont du Diable, a deep limestone gorge with a walkway stapled to the side of the mountain. Ordinarily it costs to go in, but we were the only ones there and whilst the main entrance was firmly shut, the return route was open. So we managed to do the trip the wrong way round. It was fabulous. We finished off with a picnic at the head of the dam. A great day.

That’s the thing about Chatel. The scenery encourages you outside. We have done something everyday, and will do something (not yet known) today, even though the apartment is perfectly placed to sit and gaze at the view. And my head is shouting ‘stay indoors and get some rest’.

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Lidl’s carpark, Evian, overlooking Lake Geneva

Oh, and we popped out for some shopping to the new Super U in Vinzier and into Evian to the best Lidl’s car park in Europe.

Other stuff? Well we’re binge watching Sense8 on Netflix, which is a bit like Orphan Black – in some ways better acted and more cinematic. I’m loving it. And I’ve finished the reread of Unsuspecting Hero and I am now halfway through On The Back Foot To Hell. I have also started up a conversation with an ex-pupil from Wells (where we used to work). She’s an actress and we’re having a discussion about her being the narrator for Unsuspecting Hero so I can stick it on Amazon’s Audible, which appears to be the future. We’ll see how that goes.

So, we’ve been busy. Now all I need to do is get rid of this cold and get my planks on. Let’s hope that happens soon.

One million words

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just fabulous

First, a very very happy New Year to you all. It’s been a pleasure keeping you all up to date via my missives. Well, not always a complete pleasure. Sometimes … and we’ll come onto the title in a second … it just another thing I have to do. But I made myself a promise that once we’d finished our first major trip abroad (Oct 14 to Apr 15), where I penned every day, I would post biweekly. And I have done that religiously. Much to, I guess, a considerable degree of boredom on you part. Thanks for bearing with me.

The title is true. As at today, since I first started penning the blog I have written/published over 1,000,000 words and when I publish book 6 (still no title, grrr) I will be getting close to 1.5 million. It works like this: one year posting the blog every day – average of 750 words = 270,000 words. Then twice a week for the next four and a half years (at least 500 words per post = 234,000 words). Five books at an average of 120,000 words each = 600,000. If you ignore the latest, book 6, which sits at 127,000 words, the grand total still stands at 1,100,000 words.

I think that’s a lot of words. Breathes in. And out again.

So what? 2020 is the year that I either break into something bigger – and for those of you who follow me know that’s 10 books a day, 3,500 books a year. Or I accept the fact that I’m writing for a small cliche of people who like my stuff, but clearly don’t tell their friends. And I’m happy with that. As a result the first half of 2020 looks like this: reread Unsuspecting Hero and On The Back Foot To Hell (I’m half way through UH). Why? Because they were the last two books I’ve penned – UH, of course, was a rewrite. And I want them to be as good as they can be. I will have finished this by the time we leave Chatel in a couple of weeks. Then three things are going to happen simultaneously. First I start the edit cycle of book 6, ready for a July launch. Second I have consultancy work to do, which I intend to keep going. Third, I’m going to market the series. Exactly how, I’m not yet sure. But if I look at it as though it’s work and put some money to one side (in my head that = £1000, not a great deal but I’m not Barnes and Noble), then I will do something. The ambition is to make as much money in book sales as I spend on marketing.

Come July we’ll know whether or not the plan works. And I’ll also know if book 6 is the same calibre of the other 5. I will, of course, keep you posted.

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walking in the hills

Finally. We have had a fabulous first three days here in Chatel. we’ve walked up a blooming big hill using the snow shoes we bought with Mum’s Christmas money (thanks Mum). And today we’ve skied. Well, we bought a ‘Happy Ski’, which is an hour and a half’s skiing from 3pm. Each card cost 18 Euros (about £15). The alternative is a 5-hour pass (our usual) which is 38 Euros (about £35). All day passes for the Chatel area are 44 Euros (about £40). As you can see, it’s an expensive business.

We’ve started slow because, first, we can. And second we’re still in the midst of the Christmas holidays and it’s blooming busy. It will get less so from Saturday. That still gives us two weeks on the slopes (hurrah!).

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late afternoon skiing – mmmmm

Anyhow, must get back to my reading. Again, thanks for sticking with me. I hope we all keep in touch in 2020 – the year of the book marketing project!

We’re here

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the view from the patio on arrival in Chatel

We made it. That is we got through four nights at Mum’s without collateral damage and, after a brief stop at R&C’s for tea (thanks! – we didn’t stay overnight because Caroline has the same throat that C had) and I drove to Chatel overnight.

Mum’s was as best as might be expected. We didn’t do a great deal – she was more than happy not to leave the house, although I did walk her to the local shop on Christmas Eve – and so it was three whole days of TV, light chat and food. Christmas Day was quiet; C

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everyone should have one of these … and a mother

knocked up a fab lunch and then we settled in for Paddington 2. We stayed Boxing Day, which we weren’t expecting, and headed off on the 27th. There were a few harsh words here and there, which we all must take some responsibility for, but overall with rubbish weather and locked in the same four walls, we managed it. At 86 and frail it may well, of course, be her last. I asked her about that. She was not in anyway worried; not necessarily looking forward to joining Dad, but not afraid of it. She is an amazing woman in so many ways.

The journey to Chatel was different from anything I’ve experienced before. C had made it clear that she wasn’t feeling up to driving and I’d made the choice that we’d drive through the night, rather than catch an early ferry and get to Chatel in the evening. I never relish heading up the valley when it’s dark. Last year, you may remember, we drove up in snow and I hit the curb and got a flat. I was determined not to do that again. We have 4-season tyres and chains, but even so.

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at Dover. Yes, burger and chips …

On the other hand the last time we travelled overnight I promised myself I would never do it again. It can be extraordinarily tiring (obviously). But it does mean you arrive at the resort in daylight – if you haven’t driven into a ditch by then. This year, and clearly without thinking, we had decided to travel down on a Saturday … which is handover day, on the biggest changeover of the year, Christmas to New Year. I checked the traffic and the view was that it would be horrible. So we needed to get there early.

In the end it was easy. I stopped for two 30 minute naps and only felt tired once. We think the reason was because we had an audio book playing (a Jack Reacher), or maybe I was feeling well? I dunno … but we hit Chatel at 11.00 am without seeing any traffic of note. We were unloaded an hour and a half later (if we get snowed in, C has ensured we have enough provisions for two weeks, which is always fun when the apartment is down three flights of stairs.) and I sat on the patio in fabulous sunshine and got a half-hour tan.

And hats off to the Focus. Yet again the old girl didn’t miss a beat (14 years old). I averaged 60-65 mph all the way and she just pottered along. Fab.

We will be out of here three weeks today. That is the longest we’ve ever stayed in a ski resort (thank you so much E&A!). It doesn’t quite tick the box of spending a season in the snow, but it’s a good chunk. And the snow is OK, the weather set fair for the next week at least – we couldn’t be luckier.

Will let you know how it goes!

Merry Christmas everyone

Merry Christmas everyone. From both me and C. It has been a bit of a year, n’est pas? But we’ve made it this far and not much longer before we get on with a new decade.

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merry Christmas from Mum and me (and C)

We’re with Mum and she’s holding up OK. We’re lucky in some ways in that her stroke (2012) has made her a slightly more simple person – and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, just that she has easy needs which her home, a weekly trip to Morrisons, carers a couple of days a week, simple food and ITV3 meet. She has enough money and her health is not bad for an 86 year old. We’re here until tomorrow, so she won’t have had Christmas on her own.

Below is the cat’s letter. It’s in its 12 year, a now family tradition. For those of you who are not with the programme, Tidge, our erstwhile cat, got so fed up with Christmas circulars from everyone telling us all how fabulous everyone was and how much their families had given to charity (etc) she decided to write a slightly more honest appraisal of what we’d been up to. Unfortunately, Tidge is no longer with us so she pens her note from beyond.

Enjoy … and, again, have a relaxing Christmas. Be kind to whoever you are with and remember to eat your sprouts …

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driving home for Christmas …

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Yo – blooming – ho!

It’s all kicking off up here. His Nibs has his hand on the rheostat and is nudging it northward. ‘If they can’t behave then don’t say I didn’t warn them,’ and I’ve toned that down a touch. Then off he goes and sulks, muttering something along the lines of, ‘I was pretty sure Greta would have found a nerve to touch. Bloody idiots.’

And whilst Rome burns the Ladleys have had another unremarkable year. Where were they during the Fridays for Future marches, and why isn’t Dad supergluing himself to an Easyjet flight to Tenerife? It’s all well and good turning the tap off when they clean their teeth, walking rather than driving to Tescos carrying a bag for life, and recycling plastic that will end up in Indonesian landfills – but it’s hardly Extinction Rebellion. That’s the problem with them. They talk a good talk, but when it comes to actually making a difference, they’re on a plane to Seoul when they should’ve stayed at home, selling their diesel-guzzling campervan and using the proceeds to plant a 1000 trees. I disown them.

But you were expecting an update?

Dad still thinks he’s a writer. Book five, On The Back Foot To Hell, was published in the summer and has sold as many copies as the others – that is, a few. You’d think he’d have learnt. With a fixed smile that could have been stolen from Commissioner Dreyfus, he has gleefully wasted much of the autumn penning book six. In between this he continues to dabble as a leadership consultant, boring schools and now the MoD with his pearls of wisdom. Like his friends, age has begun to shrink his cartilage and he’s had a couple of episodes with his heart (he has got one, bless him), but nothing that has made him look my way. And, no change, running continues to define him – those legs waggling about, knocking over small children as he rushes by. He’ll get arrested one day.

Mum had held the ship steady – as always – although I can report she’s taken to running more consistently but without leaving a liturgy of youngsters crying for their mother to pick them up. And – please – don’t ask her about their trip to Asia. Unless you have a week (and run if she gets out her phone to show you the piccies). Six weeks backpacking from Seoul to Singapore then overland to Hanoi: planes, trains and rickshaws. Bex and Steven joined them for the second half and it will always be a mystery how the children have not turned into alcoholics putting up with the wrinklies. But, they survived. Two trips to Scotland in the van and skiing in Chatel topped off a busy travel year (blame them for the Australian bush fires). But that still gave time for Mum to knit a flock-load of hats, shawls, gloves and other assorted gifts. If you see a baby in a white shawl somewhere in the south of England, put money on that Mum knitted it.

Bex and Steven like Korea. Which is bizarre, noting that they weren’t keen on the paradise that was The Bahamas. The school is good, the students are good, their flat is good (and paid for by the school – yippee!), the travel is good (Hong Kong, China, Phuket, the US, Borneo – I’m sure I’ve missed somewhere), their friends are good, and they’re good. They both have responsibility in the school and, let’s face it, when you’re based somewhere where you can ski in the morning and karaoke in Gangnam at tea time, what’s not to like? They are exactly halfway through an initial three year tenure with Dulwich International, and currently have no firm plans as to what to do next. Mum is already saving her housekeeping to fly to Seoul again in the Spring.

Jen, bless her, continues to be beset with health issues. After a bumper year in 2018 making dog accessories, last year has dragged. She has been diagnosed with ME, which is like long term flu but without the antibiotics to shift it. It has meant that she has stopped work – for now. To compound everything, a random MRI scan found a cyst the size of a tangerine on her pancreas. Now, of course, we all knew up here what was going on but, alas, everyone down below had a fingernail-biting couple of weeks whilst they discovered what was what. The good news is that it wasn’t awful news, if you get my drift. She’s due to go under the knife in January to have it taken out, along with her spleen (who needs a spleen, anyway?). We all hope that the cyst is the underlying cause to some of her other aches and pains and she can get back behind the sewing machine as soon as possible. James, the bearded one, has been a star throughout. It would all have been a different story without him. 

Other news? Well Grandad joined us in April. He’s spent his first six months on the golf course with Seve and has won the odd hole. His Nibs will put him to work at some point, but after three years of dementia we all reckon he deserves a bit longer on the greens. 

Mum and Dad are with Grandma for Christmas – just the three of them. If they make it through without someone kicking off, it will be a miracle. (Note to self: have a chat with Gabriel – he’s good at those.) Bex and Steven are travelling through southern Trumpland avoiding anyone who looks as if they might be packing. And Jen and James are having a quiet Chrimbo at home, and then with his parents. Everyone’s happy – well, particularly Mum and Dad as they’re driving to Chatel for three weeks once they leave Mum.

And me? Well, the cream has risen to the top. I’m in charge of top-table puddings this year. I’ve every intention of making far too much crème brûlée and then making myself sick on the leftovers. It’s a tough life; live it for the now I say – especially as His Nibs has cut the holiday short. He’s got some ideas for the impeachment process in January. He seems unsure which way to fall. One would rid us all of this tiresome president. The second would pile on the agony and perhaps make you lot think twice before electing an idiot. Although, let’s face it, you Brits are slow learners.

Merry Christmas. I think …