New boots, madam?

So, that’s what work feels like? I had forgotten.

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I’ve spent the last three days working with an MoD team in Abbeywood, Bristol. It’s a perfect 20 minute cycle ride although with the weather a tadge on the frosty side at the moment I have been wrapping up well. It’s been interesting. I’m conducting a team 360 on a small team of 20, led by a one-star equivalent. It’s interview based and not without effort – as interviews always are. I’m now in the report writing stage and meet with the boss on Friday. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Do I enjoy it? Well, I can tell you that it reminds me why I gave up work. Yes, it’s fabulous being back in the thick of office stuff, and there’s a small part of me that would like to run a team with that sort of responsibility, as I have done before. But the office politics are draining and I know it wouldn’t take me long to be pulling my hair out. So I’ll keep with the consultancy if you don’t mind. It is, I guess, the best of both worlds.

Other than that, C has been up to see Jen today and, apart from that, she’s being doing all the Christmas stuff. We’ve decided not to put up a tree this year. We leave for mum’s on the 24th and go straight onto Chatel after Christmas and have no intention of being back

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mince pies anyone?

in the country before the 20th of January. There’s not a great deal of snow there at the mo, but there is some due to fall on Monday. And it will be fine.

Bless my Mum, she’s given us a few quid for Christmas which we’ve spent on snow shoes (you know, the ones that give you big feet and you can trek on powder). We’ve always wanted a pair of those, so let’s hope they’re in good nick when they turn up. And C is pressing hard for a new pair of ski boots. Mine are 25 years old and I will wear them until I die – hopefully not by skidding off a cliff because my ski boots have let me down. C has difficulty getting hers on, and hers are 20 years old, so it’s probably about time. We’re working on that. We will keep using our skis (now at least 10 years old). That reminds me, I must get them out and prepare them with my ACME wax and edging kit I used last year.  That’ll be fun!

No writing at the moment – apart from this. I can hardly manage to remain awake watching A New Life In The Sun, so the chance of concentrating on the new book seems unlikely. I think the title is going to have ‘Red’ in it. That’s all I know. I’ll crack on again on Saturday – I had reached a natural break, so it should be OK.

Rest of week? Report writing tomorrow, back into Abbeywood on Friday and then a weekend free. We’re with Mary next week, I have a day’s work at the school in Farnham and then back home in time to vote the Tories out of here. We have decided to vote Labour, because tactically that should help bring down the local boy in blue. It’s going to be a fun night!

On the edge of her seat …

I’m finding it very difficult not to write about politics. Johnson’s dad and his ‘spelling Pinocchio’ comment, the brave Pole who helped take down the London bridge terrorist, the BBC’s failure to get Johnson in front of Andrew Neil, and C4’s climate debate and Gove’s attempt to gatecrash it – when it was leaders only. The whole thing saddens me. That we are here, rather than the country we once might have been.

But, I won’t. Promise.

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have dog, will walk

On Wednesday night we had a parent of C’s round (from when she was a housemistress) to Jen’s for supper. And on Thursday we finished off at Jen’s by sorting out their garage. It has been a bit of a time with the pets. Cassie is easily the best dog in the world – such a lot of fun and very well behaved. But we wouldn’t have one; certainly not whilst we’re travelling so much. As for cats, well we had one of those once. We came home (it was an Army hiring) to find this cat in our back garden. She led us to an outhouse and proudly showed us five kittens. A single mum, hey? Well, we homed the kittens and kept ‘Tidge’.

Tidge survived through a move to Chepstow, onto Bristol and finally all the way to Wells. By then she was old and diabetic … it was only a matter of time. Some of you might have met her. And a few of you will know her from the letters she’s been writing every Christmas about the Ladley clan. That reminds me, I need to check that’s she’s getting one (I think it might be the eleventh or twelfth?) ready for this year. She pens it from cats’ heaven – there is one of those, you know.

Jen and James have two cats. One is cat-coloured: Zorro. He is a bit of a boy. You can’t pet him for fear that he might have your arm off. No offence, but if you can’t pet a cat, what’s the point? The second is Evelyn. She’s a Ragdoll. And as thick as they come. Think dumb blonde, but not so bright. But at least you can pet her without a trip to A&E. C was constantly worried that all four pets (sorry, I forgot the rabbit) hadn’t succumbed to some mysterious disease. Or they hadn’t escaped through the narrowest of gaps in the upstairs windows. The good news was that we handed them back as we found them. And none of us needed a trip to hospital.

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garage clearing specialists – give us a call

I’m still writing. Now at 93/120k words and worried that I’m going to go beyond that. I also worry that it may be a bit linear … and I do know that it needs a lot of work. We’ll see. This time I haven’t been keeping C up to date, nor have I read much to her. So today, to calm my nerves, I read a section to her (Sam, Jane and a new chap, Matthew, are on a German freighter in the South China Sea – I know, sounds exciting?). Well, there’s a punchline to the bit I was reading. C was initially sat back in her chair. By the time I reached the climax she was, unbeknown to her, literally sat on the edge of her seat. Success!

Onto next week. No writing before Friday, I think. I’m with an MoD team Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and back in with the boss (with a report) on Friday. I think we then intend to do some more work in late January – if I produce anything useful. We’ll see.

Cycling in tomorrow. Should be fun in these temperatures …

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.