You’ve gotta come …

If you’ve never been to the mountains in winter then I strongly suggest you put it on your bucket list. C and I stood outside the apartments yesterday morning, all togged up to go skiing. Mrs Sun was out in her dungarees, the sky was that mid-blue you can only get from an elevated position (or looking out of a plane’s window at 32,000 feet), the air molecules had been slowed by the freezing temperatures and felt as unpolluted as if they had been bottled in the Himalayas and shipped in for the occasion, and every colour had been through the ‘enhance’ icon on you mobile phone.

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Mt Blanc in the distance

We have been so lucky. We have travelled a great deal and seen some fabulous sights: sunsets, valleys, beaches, cathedrals, rock formations, wine cheaper than petrol. But we are always beside ourselves when we ski … and when the accompanying weather is straight from a postcard. There is nothing like. Everything feels as clean and as crisp as an Andrex advert.

Of course, what you want to know is how did the waxing and edging of the skis go? Well, there’s a story.

Yesterday morning we got to out of the top of the La Linga bubble and dropped our skis on the snow, knelt down to sort out our boots and pull up our tights. I was ready first and put my skis on … and didn’t go anywhere. I pushed with my poles and promptly fell over. I wasn’t moving. At all. This, BTW, has never happened before.

Oh dear. C was all for taking off her skis, getting back in the bubble, down to the ski shop and getting them to rewax our planks. Hang-on, says I. I get up, put on the ski that has come off, and have another go. Mmm. Still quite a lot of friction. I try again, this time travelling about 25 metres (C is still standing by the bubble looking indignant). That was a bit better. Anyhow, the long and the short was that by the time we’d travelled 100 metres the skis were slipping along as those they’d been waxed by professionals. And now, two ski days later, they’re pretty perfect.  Job done, although I have no idea why they were buggers in the first place. Anyone?

The skiing has been fab. The conditions as good as they get. The weather unbeatable (did anyone know the January sun could be quite so warm?). It’s going to be overcast with some snow tomorrow, but clear on Friday and Saturday, when we will ski again. And that’s all fabulous.

Finally, two things. First … anyone got any idea what the shambles of our parliament is going to do about Brexit? Anyone who thinks we should dither about a people’s vote because it might enrage the extreme left has obviously forgotten that we, of all countries, do not negotiate with terrorists. Come on. Let’s get it done.

And Trump and his ‘hambergers’? Did you see that? Leaving aside the government partial shutdown which is his doing – HE SAID SO! – if any other president had served a mixture of burgers and pizzas to a football team because the White House staff are all waiting in line at food banks because they haven’t been paid, it might have been a touch endearing. But, no. Trump: makes a publicity event out of it; misspells hamburger in a tweet; and, and this is what gets my goat, boasts to the media that ‘he paid for the spread’. Why would you say that? Why? Yes, if it got leaked, then maybe you wouldn’t deny it. But his tweet made it clear … ‘which I paid for’. That’s v big of you Mr Billionaire.

Idiot.

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Looking for a second-hand car?

We made it. Although, not without incident. And all the thanks has got to go to our gritty car – a 2006 Ford Focus 1.4 litre. When I bought it from a guy three years ago (£2200 – and for exactly this purpose – to go skiing as we didn’t want to take Doris 1 down to E&A’s apartment in Chatel) he said … ‘Mmm, not sure the 1.4 is going to be much good on long motorway journeys’. Well, he was wrong. This is our third trip and over 40,000 miles later (now at 69,000), the old bird hasn’t let us down.

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our gritty Ford Focus has never let us down

Mind you … We got to R&C’s on Thursday night and, just as we turned into their drive, the right-hand indicator stopped working. Thanks to Rich and his arc light, we fixed that (and a headlamp which had also gone). Then, half way down France we heard a strange flapping noise. On inspection we’d lost the radiator grill. This is a cosmetic issue, and had come about because, if you remember, the bonnet lock had previously failed and the only way I could get under the bonnet was by taking off the grill and fiddling about. Anyhow, we’ve lost that to the French autoroute system. It’s only a piece of plastic and the Focus now looks much meatier without a grill. I will replace it when we get home.

And then, the damn French closed the main valley route to Chatel. We discovered this at the end of a 10-hour drive. The only way in was over the mountain, which we headed for. It’s now dark and snowing. We have Michelin 4-season tyres, which we’ve not tested before, and I’m wondering if they’re as good as the winter tyres we normally run. And then, snaking around a concrete island, I catch the rear offside tyre. And, yes, you’ve guessed it, we have a flat. The Focus has a ‘get you home’, but that’s under a mountain of beautifully packed gear that C has put in identical Christmas-Tesco carriers. Did I say it was still snowing. And dark? And then, horrors, the wheelnut spanner is spilt. It does one nut and then fails on me. (It’s still dark … and still snowing).

Thankfully there’s a local farm. I’m met by a Frenchman in his underwear (it’s 9pm) and he fishes out an appropriate spanner. Twenty minutes later we’re fixed, spanner returned to the near-naked Frenchman, and we’re off. And it’s still snowing. But, do you know what? The Michelin 4-season tyres (of which I now only have three … on my wagon) behaved beautifully. And 30 minutes later we’re here.

Phew.

So, well done the Focus. We use the autoroutes (an eye-watering 72 euros each way) but we push out over 40 mpg. Fuel over here is exorbitant (£1.35 a litre for both fuels). If I were a resident I’d be out in my yellow vest, for sure. But, notwithstanding the odd hiccup, the old girl did us proud again. And I took the wheel and tyre – the tyre, whilst bent, looks in good nick; it’s the steel wheel that’s got a big dent in it) – to the local garage yesterday, and I’m assured it will be back in a couple of days.

Skiing? Not yet. It has been snowing a lot and we’re fair-weather types. We may not get on our planks (I must let you know how the waxing and edging went) until Mrs Sun joins us on Tuesday, but we’re both OK with that. The conditions look perfect, so when we do ski it should be great. Chatel has never let us down.

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yesterday morning; it’s snowed a lot since then

Finally, over half way through the first edit of book 5. V excited by it all. And, other than that, we’re all good. I hope you are.

Oh, and if you’re looking out for a second-hand car, look no further than a Ford Focus.

 

A new range …

Come on, no matter which way you dissect it a wall between the US and Mexico is xenophobic. Nobody disagrees that people heading north ought to do so legally, either as an asylum seeker or as an immigrant via proper channels. Nobody is suggesting that Mexico ought to become the 51st (or 53rd depending which way you cut it) state of the US – least of all the Mexicans. But building a huge wall, rather than spending more money of border personnel or other technology, is a statement of historical ignorance and says more about the people who want it built that it does about its effectiveness. Just go back 20 years and transport yourself to Berlin … and the wall coming down. A wall that had to be patrolled relentlessly to prevent people crossing east to west, no matter how much of a deterrent. They could have done the same thing with a picket fence – provided they kept the mines and machine guns.

Among everything I find difficult about His Trumpkiness, it’s the wall that disappoints me most. It’s his base’s rallying point – keep out the criminals and drug dealers (for which read any one brown). Aren’t they lucky? Nearly all of them descend from recent immigrants. Just because they’re sitting pretty …

I can’t think about it too much. It makes my stomach turn.

Moving on.

It’s been work, work, work. Jen’s not been at her best, so Cubbly’s has picked up slowly (but we’re still taking orders). We’ve pushed two new lines: a braided/platted collar and a ‘Joseph’ range. The pictures below tell the story. {If you’d like any of these – around £20 each item plus postage to anywhere in the world} then post a comment and I will come straight back to you! You chose the pallet and we’ll surprise you with a collar/lead.

Next is skiing. Whilst I’ve been working, C has been packing like a cowboy. I’m doing half a day at Jen’s tomorrow and then we’re off, via Richard and Caroline’s, to Chatel. I think we’ll probably stay overnight in France somewhere on Friday and turn up in the Alps on Saturday … but we’ll see.

More of all of that later. See yer!

Lactose free …

The good news is that both of us are felling better. I’m pretty certain mine’s all about milk. For those of you with v long memories, I’ve had low-level sinusitis for an eternity. With it comes fatigue. About three years ago, on recommendation from one of C’s girls (from when she was a housemistress) – who was a singer – I gave up milk. Apparently opera singers swear by a lactose-free diet as it reduces inflammation and fluid in their singing bits.

So I tried it and it seemed to work. More significant is that if I binged on milk, my chest seemed to get tighter when I ran and I seemed to feel tireder. Anyhow, since Tunisia (mid-Nov) I’ve been not that bothered by what I’ve eaten and over Christmas I just ate anything … lts of milk chocolate. And on Christmas day I didn’t want to get out of bed, nor Boxing Day. By the 27th I said ‘sod it’ and reverted to a strict lactose-free diet. My last blog was on the 3rd when I was just beginning to feel human … and by yesterday I was feeling right at rein (rain?). Could it be lactose? The doctors always come back to me and say ‘well, you know, if it works for you …’. There is no medical proof.

I’ll keep you in the picture, although for your own benefit there have been two articles on the BBC recently speaking out against milk. Humans are the only species who drink milk post-weaning, and we are the only species that drink someone else’s milk. What do I know? Or, indeed, them?

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mmm, wax those skis!

Good news is that I’ve waxed the skis. I thought it was going to be uber-tricky and that I would need Job’s help, but in the end I just rubbed the wax on and ironed it flat with an iron. Again, I’ll let you know how the whole edging and waxing has gone when we get to Chatel and our skis are stuck to the snow … or when we try to turn we end up in a drift.

Editing book five is keeping me up at night. Literally. I’m loving it. It’s funny, but until you’ve splurged down 130,000 words you don’t really understand how many words that is. It’s a lot. I’m reading stuff that I really don’t remember writing … and I’m loving it! I hope you do too. I now have five Beta readers who all want to read it prior to proofing. I should have that in their hands by the end of January. Let’s see how that goes.

And, for the record, we popped down to the south coast yesterday to see C’s (who is also, BTW, feeling better, but is not on a lactose-free diet) middle sister and returned via old friends of ours, John and Lou. I was at school with John and the four of us have known each other for as long as the four of us have known each other … if you get my drift. We’ve arranged to meet at a pub in a couple of weeks and plan a Doris trip to Brugge. Doesn’t that sound fun?

Anyhow … enough from me. I’m just going to spend an hour on Twitter trolling POTUS and hoping that the Democrats don’t cave in on his ridiculous notion of a wall between the US and Mexico.  Apparently ‘walls have always worked!’

Try telling that to a reunified Germany.

Idiot.

Wish we were feeling better …

The problem with holidays is that they come to an end. And, typically, rather than feeling refuelled and ready for 2019 we both feel below par. We took Bex and Steven to Heathrow yesterday early doors (they’re off to Poland for a couple of days before flying on to Korea) and as soon as we got back C went to bed. I managed the day but woke in the middle of the night feeling v fluey. But, hey presto, I felt better first thing and managed a full day at Jen’s where we sorted out a new bank account and looked at a couple of new items, one being a pleated collar. I made two, one of which looks like a starter. I’ll make another tomorrow which should be good enough to send to the market.

Still feeling a bit rubbish though, having popped out for a run when I got back from Gloucester. Oh well.

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work in progress

So it’s about the next 12 months. As I’ve said before I’ve committed to Cubbly’s until Christmas and we’ll see how that goes. C and I are skiing next weekend in Chatel for a week. Rather than pay someone to edge and wax our skis I put my hand in my pocket and bought some wax, a flat iron and a corner file. I had a go at the edges on Monday. I’ll wax at the weekend, keeping it away from any bodily hair.

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could do with new skis … in the meantime

I know I have some work at the school in Farnham, but I’m not sure how long that’s going to go on for. And as I don’t market that side of the business, I’m not expecting any more work. Books continue to sell (at about one a day!). I’ve started the main edit and that’s going to take me some time. C and I will aim to sit down and manage edit 2 and then I’ll put it out to a couple of Beta readers and see whether or not it’s hitting the mark. I hope so. I was thinking today that I should try doubly hard to get an agent this year, and I might do that once I’m happy with the finished product.

And, finally, we’ve got a helluva a summer planned. We aim to fly to Korea at the end of June, spend a few days with Bex and Steven, then go to China and work our way south for a couple of weeks. Bex and Steven, once school is finished, would then fly to Hanoi and we would spend 4 weeks doing ‘The Mekong’, which includes Vietnam, Laos and northern Thailand, flying back to the UK together. Hurrah!

Finally, if you have Netflix watch Orphan Black. We finished season 5 last night, which wraps it up. It’s a bit like Lost, but has an ending which is both manageable and understandable. We did Lost a couple of years ago. It took us forever and we loved it … until the end.

Anyhow, that’s all from me.

 

 

In my day …

It is a truism that time goes faster the older you get. This past year has been the quickest so far. Days cascade through time like a waterfall in full spate. Tomorrow is almost upon us. Next week is closer than we think. Unless of course you’re 12. In which case today will be longer than you need and sitting at the dinner table eating your vegetables will last forever.

I am 56. Soon to be 57. C is older than me. We are both tending to geriatric. Joints and hips and knees don’t do what you ask them to do without shouting, and we both feel an overall malaise which comes from trying to do what we did yesterday in the same amount of time and with the same vigour. It is true to say that you never think you’re old; you just feel it. As a young man anyone over 50 was past it. Sixty? Come on, have they got their own teeth? Those people would be in their allotments, preparing the onions for pickling.

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we’re so embarrassed by our old skis, this year we’re going to wax and edge our own

But, I don’t know about you, but my brain, whilst always over-tired, feels about 35. It has young thoughts – relevant and contemporary thoughts. I don’t look at today’s generation as a race of aliens. Doing things, listening to things and reading things that are beyond my comprehension. They don’t surprise me with their actions. Their view of life isn’t neo-post-modernism – whatever that is – a vision so unnatural to me that I see it as a tragedy. I’m not a post-war austerity bloke who can’t get his head round free-love; a rock-and-roller struggling to cope with the advent of punk. I’m not even a five-channel TV watcher that disdains on-demand video, the 24-hour news cycle and the shoutiness of Twitter. I, which I guess is like you, feel very much at home in today’s world. I’ve lived a life with open eyes. I have seen so much, nothing surprises me.

I am not Victor Meldrew. I don’t think any of us are. I don’t think I would ever say, ‘In my day …’. Today is my day. It’s just a shame that my body keeps reminding me that it’s somebody else’s.

So. 2019. What do I know about it? The truth is, anything could happen. The only certainty is that it will go quickly and my body will not be able to keep up.

Finally, for the record. I have finished the prologue of Book 5. I had to extract it with a doctor’s implement, but I got it out. Phew. Next is the much more enjoyable task of editing. I’m looking forward to that. And I fixed Doris’s two small areas of damp behind the rear wheels. I cut out most of the rotten wood, sealed it with wood hardner, filled the holes with very tough wood filler and then wax-oiled the finish product. Oh, and I’ve put some sealant down to deflect the rain. I’m hoping that’s going to be enough. And her alarm is working. I just undid all of the sensors and put them back together again. That seems t have done the trick.

And today Bex and I are going climbing. Our local leisure centre has a very sexy climbing area. I’m a fabulous climber. It’s all to do with my long limbs and huge upper-body strength. We’re going to be in the pit with a bunch of 8-year olds. I am going to look like Big Bird. They’re going to laugh at me. I hate them already.

Oh, and I’m still press-upping and sit-upping. That’s helping the aching joints…

Merry Chrimbo!

Sorry. Lost the days of the week. C and I have just had a chat about that. She was lost too. But, do you know what? We are so lucky. It doesn’t matter to us. Whilst we have things in the programme (Bex and Steven left us today, she’s back in a couple of days; Mary’s popping along tomorrow and staying overnight; Bex and Steven are both back before NY and then we take them to Heathrow on the 2nd; back to work at Jen’s on the 3rd; Skiing in Chatel between the 11th and the 21st), if we wanted to push off into the sunset we could. How lucky are we?

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We’ve had a fab Christmas. Stockings with Bex and Steven first thing, then off to Jen and James’s for lunch and some games, and then back to finish off unpacking pressies here. I have to say I have been royally awarded for moaning like a trooper for the last 15 Chritsmases about how rubbish my presents have been. C got me a Chromecast for the TV and one of them Google speaker things. The latter is the epitome of idleness. I come downstairs to make tea and say ‘OK, Google, play BBC radio 4.’ Next thing that’s what’s happening. It’s pretty strange. Does it record everything we say? If I’m plotting to bring down His Trumpkiness by tanking the world stock markets, does it know? Is he listening? Are Delta Force currently assembling outside of the house, magazines primed and bayonets shining? Or have I been reading too many thriller stories?

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Ok, Google …

Talking of which. Books continue to sell at about one a day (5 on Christmas Eve) still without advertising. I did look the other day to do some marketing on Facebook, but I just didn’t have the energy. I’ve also not finished the prologue of Book 5 (now, On The Back Seat To Hell; or, On The Last Train To Hell? – let me know), but I intend to get that done by the end of the weekend. And then edit one … which I’m hoping to have finished by the time we go to Chatel. And then C and I can do edit 2 whilst we’re in the mountains. How good does that sound?

That’s it from me. We watched, with Bex’s recommendation, The Big Short last night. Watch it. It is fab.

Anyhow, of you’ve still got holidays, I hope you’re having a good time.

Till the weekend.