One million words


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.


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!).


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!

Tell me everything’s going to be ok?


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.


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?

Me, with my reputation?

I’m not doing politics. Sorry. I know you want me to. But if I start …


have car, will write

I’m sat in the car in central Bristol. C’s having her eyes looked at. Initially we were going to come down on the trike, but the weather is so blooming rubbish we brought the car. Which is OK, because it means I can write this, rather than hang about on a street corner getting wet and cold. C’s phoned me to say they’re running 45 minutes late. Which is fine. I’m parked up in a loading bay just short of the eye hospital. If I have to move on, I will.

It is the calm before the storm. I think I’ve already described our itinerary for the next 10 days, but in case you’ve forgotten it does include three nights in Paris. How lucky are we? We are. And we know it. If I squint my eyes and look to the future I can see a week in Tunisia in November, skiing in January, a slab of time in Doris in Spain/Portugal/Morocco in the Spring. Our Jen has booked us into Centres Parks for a week in May. And, the latest of latest plans, C and I intend to drive to Baku (Azerbaijan – Caspian Sea) in September.

The latter little excitement is car based. Our brilliant Ford Focus will soon be on 100,000 miles and possibly due replacement – we need to get the most out of it. So, with a pin and a large map, I chose Baku (it was also one of the stops on ‘Race Across The World’). I know you can drive there as my mate Kenn, who I had brunch with today, went there by motorbike earlier this year. We’d take a tent and a stove, with the aim of staying in hotels when the price dropped to an acceptable level. C’s v excited. So am I. It’s all part of our 5-year plan to do something a little bit different every year for five years … and then take stock. This year it was SE Asia. Next, central Asia. 2021? Who knows?

How lucky are we? Indeed.


I’ve been wearing this to bed (ran out of proper nightshirts). It’s over 20 years old. What a time that was!

Oh. I almost forgot. On Monday we drove to Cornwall so I could be ‘author in residence’ at a book club – they had read Unsuspecting Hero which, as you know, I have just rewritten but not republished (yet).  The club was held in a very posh house overlooking a steep valley with one of the Cornish rivers running to a ria. Having got a drink, and following 11 ladies into a beautifully decorated sitting room, C said to me, ‘Are you going to be OK?’ To which my reply was, ‘Eleven women, and me talking about myself? With my reputation?.’

It was a fab night and whilst I never asked the direct question, they all seemed to like the book (at least one of the ladies was already onto book three, The Innocence of Trust). A number of them promised to pen a review, which is great. We drove home that night – five hours in the car all told. My bum is now permanently Focus shaped.

Finally book 6. It is all consuming, as I thought it would. C’s idea of locking me in Doris so I can write has worked really well. The exclusion helps and I am already (an excited) 14/120k words in. And loving it. It is different again. But, of course, at some point you’ll tell me what you think.

Next stop Mary’s. And then Paris. Hurrah!


popped up to Jen’s on Tuesday. Cassie is out there in the rain somewhere.


Scotland. What to say, apart from we only managed one out of three weeks because of mum and dad, but more of that later. My brother doesn’t give it time of day, and I can see why the weather and the midges might deter some. But for us the combination of fabulously old mountains – greens and brown dusted with snow – the dark blue lochs with hidden monsters, and sparkling clear seas floating above white sands always makes it special. Oh, and the rain. And the five degree drop in temperature. And the wind. Lots of wind.


west coast – fab

But, do you know what? We walked and ran and cycled – every day. We found new places, better places … strange places. We wild camped for four nights, parked on a friend of C’s drive for another and stayed in two lovely Caravan Club sites (now the Caravan and Motorhome Club – can’t miss then: more signs than a nuclear power station) with fabulous showers and ever-so-slightly over-attendant attendants.



We left on Friday to travel to Bristol and then turn round to get to mum and dad’s yesterday. On the way we picked up the trailer for our Piaggio mp3 trike. Built buy Armitage (and sold, almost new by a chap in Doncaster) it is fab. I’ll elucidate more once I’ve managed to put the bike on top (via a winch), but Doris pulled the bikeless trailer behind without a by-your-leave. When we next go on our ‘big tour’, we’ll be the business: big van pulling a motorbike. You won’t miss us when we pull up. And, as you can see from the photo, the trailer lives on its end when not in use. What’s not to like?


And dad. We didn’t expect him to be with us now and it is a bonus that he is. But not for long, I fear. He was v poorly today and pretty much unresponsive … and in a lot of pain. Mum and I will speak with the doctor tomorrow and see what the plan is. There seems little chance that he will come out of hospital and, certainly mum will not be able to cope if he does. I think we’ll have to have a frank discussion tomorrow.

Politics? Well, what can I say? His Orangeness thinks wind farms give you cancer, unlike the by-product(s) of fossil fuels, which clearly have not over-heated the planted and do not spew out particulates that infest young lungs. What hope do we have? What really pisses me off … sorry … is that this is not our planet. It belongs to the sperm whale with plastic in its stomach, dead on a beach somewhere, the disappearing insects and the hedgehogs who are still elusive. The arrogance of our race, and particularly our leaders, who opt for short termism over our children’s future. I do not get it.

And, as for Brexit, well what can you say? Jacob Rees Mogg says, should we have to go through the process of electing MEPs, those selected should do as much damage as possible to the institution in Brussels whilst they’re there.

What? Really? How hateful is that?

No wonder my heart is dancing to its own tune, although to be fair, after a rubbish Friday, Saturday was better and today you wouldn’t think there was a problem. I have scratched my head as to what environmental factors may have influenced how my ticker behaves, but other than a cup of caffeinated tea on Thursday evening, I can’t put my finger on anything. We’ll see.

We’re here in Great Bentley for at least a couple of weeks, assuming we – that is C and I and mum – remain harmonious. Mum, bless her, is old and frail … and cantankerous. And she can say hurtful things, especially after a glass of wine. But she’s in a difficult place; we will make it work.

A day at a time.

The Circle of Life

So much to discuss, not all of it good I’m afraid.

First, it seems that my poor old dad is on his way out. We knew that and, indeed, I said goodbye to him 10 days ago. But it’s confirmed today that he has pneumonia and IV antibiotics and oxygen are not doing much so they’re going to stop the medicine soon and make him comfortable. He will not be going home. As a result we are cutting short our trip and, having popped in to see an old pal of C’s tomorrow, should be home by the weekend. Mum is fine … indeed, it’s fair to say that she’s much stronger with dad in hospital. Him and his dementia at home had taken its toll. In the end it will be a blessing.

I could say a lot about my dad, and will leave that for when he eventually goes. What is clear is that he had a helluva life, apart from the last couple of years where he has become more and more frustrated. The circle of life, I guess.


It’s raining here. A lot. But it’s the first day it’s been like it. We had a super day yesterday on our bikes riding down Loch Duich in some decent sunshine … even though it was cold. At the end of the road by a slip way we had uninterrupted views across to Eilean Donan, the iconic castle on a island in the middle of the water. Actually it’s not as impressive as seeing it surrounded by water, but it was still lovely to get out. I’m penning this waiting to walk down the valley and will crack on when the water stops falling in stair rods.


Eilean Donan

And what else? My heart is still enjoying its independence, but nowhere near as bad as it was. It flips and flops every so often and then gets reminded of what it’s real purpose is (keeping me alive), and all is well. It will be interesting to see what the 24 hour ECG throws up.

Books? Still selling. Twenty copies last month – now below one-a-day, but still chugging along. And I thought you might like to read this, the draft blurb for book 5 (definitely On The Back Foot To Hell):

On The Back Foot To Hell – Blurb

A new, undefined terror is spreading across the globe. Indiscriminate, low-level acts of violence have hit all five continents – and it’s getting worse. The world’s security services are at a loss. Who is behind the upsurge in violence? Where will the next attack take place? Will it ever stop?

Sam Green, now a supermarket till girl in a small town in England, is oblivious to world events. She has her own inner demons to fight and they’re consuming every spare moment. All too soon though, these demons will take on human form. And then she will be faced with two choices: run or fight.

In Naples, Italy, a young Welsh student is innocently researching a link between The Mafia and the history of art. And two thousand miles away in Moscow, Russian intelligence services are struggling to contain a new terror cell that threatens nuclear catastrophe.

Are all these things connected? If so, can someone force order from chaos? Sam has managed before. But now there are too many obstacles, the biggest of which are those plaguing her own mind.

This time the world might just have to rely on someone else.



Busy, busy …

I was asked to attend my old school’s ‘Event on the Lawn’: a rock concert led by student bands. There’s an outdoor and an indoor stage. And music from 6 till 10 pm. It is an extraordinary musical event and, whilst February is hardly a festival month, the atmosphere was excellent. And the rain held off.


The Event on the Lawn – fab

I was asked back because I ran the original event 10 years ago, which was part of a multi-faceted fundraising effort for Sierra Leone. 10 years. Has it really been that long? Probably. Actually, after today’s run I feel more than 10 years older. Anyhow, after the original event in 2009 C and I took a group of students to Freetown for 2 weeks. And we brought all of them back. It was a fabulous trip on so many levels. I ran the charity for three years and handed it over to another teacher … and it’s so good to know that’s it’s still going strong and kids are still travelling to Freetown. Fab.

It’s been a busy week. On Thursday I was at the school where I mentor conducting a 360 review (I have just sent off the 8-page report). That was a long day. On Friday we popped to Al and Annie’s for supper (thank you!) and yesterday I was at Wells for the Event on the Lawn. In between we been pottering around. With my new seamstress skills I’m making covers for Doris’s chairs … which is not as easy as it looks.


Oh, and the noise from the front-left wheel of the car? One of the pads is completely shot. As a result we are making a noise like the wheel is about to fall off. She’s booked into ATS first thing tomorrow. At £260 for disc and pads, that’s an expense we weren’t expecting, but we’ll be fine. And, hopefully, noiseless. I’ll let you know.

Finally, we are off to Scotland for a couple of weeks (in Doris) at the end of March. It can’t come quick enough. We’re seeing a couple of C’s old nursing friends as well as visiting the new V&A in Dundee. It’ll be our first trip to Dundee. Then we’re going to make our way to the west coast (our favourite) and, hopefully, walk, drink and sleep, whilst enjoying the fabulous beaches and countryside.

Keep safe and dry until I scribe some more drivel!

We’re heading for the hills

Andrea Leadsom, Leader of The House of Commons, tweeted on Friday that the students/children who were not in school, protesting about climate change where, and I quote, ‘it’s called truancy, not a strike’.

Now just reflect for a second, Andrea. Just imagine what your government could have done with the billions of pounds they have spent on Brexit in the past two and a bit years and spent that on climate change instead. Let’s do some maths. We’re looking at having solar panels and a 3kW home battery fitted. The quoted cost is £8k. The government has spent/is spending £4 billion on Brexit, half of which is assigned to contingencies in case there is a no deal – something that Theresa May could rule out in a single sentence.

I’m getting my calculator out. £4 billion divided by £8k is … 500,000 homes. That’s 1,500 megawatts of home-grown electricity. That’s three nuclear power stations of roof-mounted electricity … and goodness knows how many jobs created. And, of course, with that sort of spending power the government could cut the price in half and put up a million houses’ worth.


a per pros nothing, I’m thinking of using my newly found sewing skills to make myself some trousers!

So, Andrea. Leaving aside that this week we found out that we’re losing half of the world’s insects which is going to do all sorts of nasty things to the world. And, by the way, along with fuel price hikes, Fly Bmi has gone into immediate administration because Brexit has reduced their participation in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme and Brexit uncertainty has limited their ability to secure valuable flying contracts in Europe. Brits stuck abroad will eventually get home, but Bmi’s 376 employees might not be able to afford a holiday this year.

So, kids, I say strike! OK, do it safely and with the full knowledge of your parents or guardians. But strike away. Somebody has got to shake the establishment, because us adults are not doing a great job.

Ho hum.

Oh … and did you hear His Trumpfulness in the Rose Garden? ‘I didn’t have to do this. I just wanted to do it quicker …’ (… declare a national emergency to appropriate funds from the defence budget to build the wall that Mexico was going to pay for.) I’m not sure about you, but hey, I think if you ‘don’t have to do it’, its not a national emergency? But, what do I know?

The world is spinning out of control and we have a set of people in charge so blinded by their ambition that they can’t turn their heads. Yesterday C was talking about buying a small holding somewhere out of the way and making it self-sufficient, ‘so our kids have somewhere to feel safe’. Our generation used to feel like that thirty years ago when we were facing nuclear destruction at the hands of the Soviet hoards. Now, we fear our own destructive governments. Where’s my pitchfork? I’d join a rebellion.

For the record, we’ve had a relaxing three days. C’s made some bandanas, I’ve been working on Doris and getting close to finishing edit two of book 5. Just in case you have the same problem, I’ve forever been having difficulty getting the key to work in Doris’s driver’s door. Yesterday I went to town with plenty of oil, but nothing seemed to work. And then I had a thought. What if it’s the key? Hey presto … I picked out one of the three spare habitation keys and it worked perfectly. Clearly over nine years the main key had worn and was no longer fitting properly. Simples!


and I fitted a new grille to the Focus. Hurrah!

Finally we’re off out today for a walk and a picnic. I think we might pop into Wales, now that the bridge is free. I’ll let you know how it goes on Wednesday. By for now.