Is there such a thing as fiction?

Douglas Adams: Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space. 

Phil: I’m not sure why this occurred to me but Adams is right. Space is massive. Infinite in fact. On that basis, there are an infinite number of planets.

If there are an infinite number of planets, as long as your story doesn’t include magic or breaks the laws of physics, then somewhere out there, it must be being played out for real.

Which means if team NolanParker build a space ship and gets a move on with some intergalactic exploration, we will find a world where Kate, Dave and all the other characters actually exist and are living what we think of as our story. We won’t need to write book 2 as we’ll just be able to watch them and jot down what happens. If that isn’t funny enough, then there must be another world where they also live and do things slightly differently.

There will even be a world where Kate and Dave site down to write a book about someone called Candice and her friend Phil. Maybe they have exciting adventures or perhaps they are writing a book about a woman called Kate and her potential beau, Dave.

This is making my head hurt.

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Wouldn’t reading help?

Candice: I was going to write a blog today about all the terrible killings that have happened recently, the British aid worker and the two British tourists in Thailand.  But I got half way down and thought, ‘I’m not really sure where this is going.’  The point of it would be to discuss that there surely is more to life than this and I don’t think any death is justified.

I’ve traveled and have been in some hairy situations but thank god I’ve never been close to something like this.  I have friend who was mugged in South Africa but even she admits she went walking in the dark and probably shouldn’t have done.  However, I’ll like my daughter to grow up in a world where she can take a few chances, as every one I’ve ever done (where I’ve looked back and though OMG did I really do that) has paid off and made me the person I am.  But I don’t want to not ever to be able to travel, on her own, because the world isn’t safe.

I take solace in the fact that these are isolated incidents and don’t happen to every one but they still happen.  What can we do about it, well not that much as some people are programmed wrong, but in other cases good education must help.  As a part of that escapism and reading a good story must be key.  I’ve read a lot about murder over the years, but it doesn’t mean I want to kill someone (well only at certain times of the month :)) but that release, the escape of a story has certainly helped relax the mind and soothe the soul.

I’m going away soon and I’m looking forward to some unadulterated time with a good book.  The time where I can concentrate for a few hours and finish a book in a few days rather than the weeks or months it takes me at the moment.  And part of that will come the escape from everyone and everything.

I’m not going to be patronising and say these people wouldn’t kill if they read a good book. But for the rest of us its a good place to start if you need to relax.


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How to be… Bored

how to be good

Phil: I’ll be honest that when you see, “I loved this book” Julie Burchill, Mail on Sunday, in the front of a book, it’s probably not for me. On the other hand, it pretty much sums this book up.

“How to be Good” is a million copy (presumably copies sold, although the odd phrasing makes me wonder) book by Nick Hornby. The plot revolves around London GP Katie Carr who starts the story by telling he husband she wants a divorce. After this, he has an epiphany and transforms from a pain in the backside to over-good. Which annoys Katie.

Well, that’s what the back of the book says. I’ll be honest that I got bored and gave up two chapters in.

This is unusual for me. I can normally stick it out but this time, no.

For a start, I didn’t like or care about any of the characters. Kate is annoyingly smug. Her husband is a wa****r. If they’d died in a head on collision with a rotary snow plough it would have been both a great relief and an excellent opening for an episode of Casualty.

Worse, they exist in that special part of London where media types live in a bubble. Everyone earns loads, lives in nice houses, find as much time as they need to hold down a job yet lunch with a wide variety of cliché friends. The job doesn’t have to be the sort of thing that in the real world pays enough to exist in this special world either. Thus, hubby can knock out a weekly opinion column for the local paper and none of the children are sent out to clean chimneys to keep the family afloat.

The beauty of setting your story in the London bubble is it will garner plenty of good reviews from critics like Birchill (OK, she live in Brighton but that’s London-on-Sea) who exist in the same world. I bet the café bars of Hoxton were full of people reading this on their iKindles. I just hope the pubs of Solihull are as kind when our book appears.

In case you are thinking I should have given the book a bit more of a chance by the way, I did. I read the last 6 pages before abandoning it. With some books you do this and think, I want to know how we got here.”. Not this time.

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Shoehorning it all in

Candice: I’ve jus2014-09-08 13.30.14t had a day off to look after my daughter.  She’s normally looked after by the in laws on a Monday but they had the audacity to decide to go on holiday for a week!  It was actually nice as I don’t get to spend much time with her so I thought we’d have a jolly day doing the kind of things Richard has been doing for the last 6 months.

I had a plan, with a long list of things to get done, shoehorned around her naps and a trip to Leamington to meet Phil.  By the time I left at 11am to meet him I was already behind but got to the cafe in good time.  We had a jolly lunch the three of us and then a wander round the shops.  However, by the time I’d picked up a parcel and driven back to my house I was behind again as the olds had already arrived. 

My parents had indicated they wanted to see Erin as they hadn’t for a week so I said pop round but I have got things to do.  I had a haircut booked for 5pm and then needed to get some company stuff done before Rich got home.

By the time he did get home I was frazzled as I’d been trying to fit this all in.  Then of course I have my blog post to write too.

Its now 9pm on Monday night and I haven’t stopped all day.  I’ll be going back to work tomorrow for a rest.

My problem is I see a day off or a weekend as an opportunity to get a lot of things done.  But then probably plan too much.  Its also been awhile since I’ve looked after the little person and I’ve forgotten how time constraining it is.  With feeds every four hours you’ve got to get the most in in the mean time. I bet K Middy doesn’t feel like this, with a 13 month old and one on the way the army of nannies most definitely helps!

People always say to me, “I don’t know how you manage to do so much”.  With that they mean regular gym sessions, work, writing, socialising.  Well I think today was an example why I do, but I probably didn’t give myself or anyone else a decent amount of time.

I’m off to chill and watch Doctor Who with a glass of wine, I need it!

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These things are sent to try us

The leg bones connected to the... Candice The other week I posted that I’d had a fall while running. It wasn’t great but mainly cuts and bruises that I could easily get over. The main thing hurt was my pride.

However I found out earlier this week that it was more serious than I thought, when they spotted I had a hairline fracture to my fibula, the small bone that runs next to your shin bone in your lower leg.

The prognosis, no running (or in fact any impact exercise) for 4 weeks.

This is a bit of a blow to me as I love my exercise as well as having a plan for 2014. When I gave birth to my daughter in January I had a strict recovery plan. Back in my old jeans as soon as possible, loose baby weight in 6 months and run a half marathon.

For years I’d said I’d run the Birmingham half, it’s in October and I’m usually on holiday when it’s on. I’ve run a half before but this was my realistic plan to get it all back in shape, especially as I need a focus to really up my motivation. It’s also a good way to end my running season, as I’m really not up for running when it’s dark and cold.

So it felt like they’d pulled the rug out from underneath me when I went to the fracture clinic on Monday and he said, no exercise. Initially when I told Phil he made a joke of it, saying I was the only person he knew who would be upset about not being able to exercise. But when I challenged him he started to understand that it’s more than just the exercise part.

Running, swimming any of the things I do regularly are more than just a calorie burn. They are my relaxation, my opportunity to take a step back from the day to day and really think. I’m not good at slobbing In front of the TV I need something else at the end of the day to turn my brain off. Reading is good but the only time I really relax to do that is on holiday. I also need the endorphins as I’m not so good at producing my own.

Monday I was not a happy woman but now I’ve decided to put a new focus on it. I’m going to exercise the only part of my body I can without injuring my knee, my stomach. I’ve got a holiday soon so I’m going to work on having the best abs I can instead.

Every day something gets in the way of us being able to do what we really want to, be that work, child or money. We’ d all like a career which pays well and we love but we can’t all have it. However, if you can make the little things better then the big things are easier to cope with. I will get to run my half marathon, ideally this year to hit my goal but if not, I’ll just find another goal.

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Home to Roost

Home to RoostPhil: Conventional theory says that a book needs a good, strong plot to succeed. Well, convention is wrong as Home to Roost by Tessa Hainsworth is the third book in a series and yet is completely devoid of any storyline at all. On the basis that her publishers aren’t doing this for fun, we have to assume that people are buying the books.

Instead of a plot, we have a year in the life of the author as she struggles to make a life for herself away from the rat-race in Cornwall. Along the way we meet various characters and enjoy a little window in to their lives. Some of the stories are funny, some very poignant. Reading the book takes the reader in to the heart of a rural community. Cornwall is a place that many would like to live but it’s not all beaches and ice cream and this becomes very obvious. If you can afford somewhere to live, and you’ll have to compete with Londoners buying second homes to do so, you’ll need to find a job in an area of high unemployment and low wages.

What’s fascinating about this book is it appears to be based on real life.

Tessa Hainsworth used to be the UK marketing director for Body Shop. After 20 years of work, she described her life, “I brought in an executive salary and Ben, an out-of-work actor, was doing a brilliant job as house-husband. The downside was that we lived in a faceless commuter suburb in a house that seemed less a home than a hotel, where I crashed out after incredibly long days at work. I went from one extreme to the other, either revved up from the stresses of the job or totally limp and exhausted. The previous Christmas, I had missed my children’s school play because I was working abroad.”

So after a Cornish holiday, she decided to quit the rat-race and move the entire family to the south-west. There she struggled to find a job, eventually ending up delivering the post, a far cry from her previous work. Along the way she managed to bag a book deal describing all of it in the two previous volumes.

If I’m honest, I’m not sure what everyone is getting from this. I read the book, it was pleasant enough, but like a mouthful of candyfloss, I didn’t feel there was very much substance. The earlier books probably had more jeopardy as the author struggled to settle in to her new life with the ever-present possibility of failure. This time she’s got it sorted and so the characters she meets have to provide the narrative. We have a couple who retire at a young age from London but don’t want to be part of the community. Older people who Tessa meets on her rounds fall in love, younger ones find jobs. Trees don’t get chopped down.

One thought did cross my mind. Are the characters real people? After all, the author is apparently describing her life but has she invented the other people? How would you feel if you read a book written by someone you knew and found yourself in the pages? As an author, would that inhibit your writing?

Home to Roost at Amazon



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Here comes the rain again

Candice Phil’s last post was about how songs can transport you back to a place and time. This ringing a real cord with me as I am in to my music and there are definitely songs that have strong memories for me, and I am always trying to find new music in which to build new memories. I associate Clean bandit’s ‘Rather be’ with being at home with Erin, and am quite into Sam Smith ‘s new album at the moment which is creating a whole new set of memories.

Well Monday was a complete wash out in the Midlands, typical bank holiday weather. Hence the reference to the Eurythmics’ song in my title. I can remember first seeing Annie Lennox on ‘Top of the Pops’ with her red hair and androgynous clothes and everyone saying was it a girl or a boy, but that voice gave it away. However, it did allow me to get things done round the house I wouldn’t have if the sun had been out.

I don’t know about everyone else but if there is sun outside I want to be in it, which often doesn’t bode well if I have things to do inside. I’m self employed which often means I have work things to do evenings and weekends, but a nice bout of sun can make me struggle with work versus fun. I’m missing the lovely sunny weather we had this summer, and the warmth too, but at least I had a chance to catch up.

The same could be said for writing. I can remember trying to crouch over my lap top doing some work in the conservatory, and struggling with wifi and seeing the screen. I could have done it faster if I’d just given up and worked indoors but the pull of the sun was too strong.
I’m off on holiday again soon, and in the meantime I’m hoping Phil and I will get more feedback on our book so we can soon see it in the public domain, but woe betide them if they try and give them me things to do on holiday. That will be an epic fail.

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