Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 2

Pulling the shirt out of his wardrobe Gareth smiled.  The style of his tuxedo shirt always made him chuckle. From the front it was a plain white shirt, but the arms and the back were decorated with pictures of cavorting cows in various positions only seen in a bovine version of the karma-sutra. He loved going to events and later on, when the wine had been flowing, taking of his jacket to surprise his fellow guests. It harked back to the shirt he was wearing on the night he met his wife, Veronica, though this one would be about three sizes larger.  He’d grown a bit since his early 20s.

**

Veronica Trumpington-Thomas was best described as “Good Country Stock”. Her passion was for breeding cattle. Belgian Blue’s were her favourites although some had cruelly have suggested that the breeds square set stance and stocky features were not that different from their owner. She hadn’t really wanted to marry but her father had said that it was her duty so the task was set about with the same efficiency that she used when choosing sires for her livestock. The list of requirements was short, good temperament, reasonable features and respectable family lineage.

Sadly, the markets where husbands are acquired weren’t really to Veronica’s taste, she preferred the straw and dung of the cattle version, but there were events where eligible candidates could be found. Some old school friends were persuaded to invite her to the right sort of parties and after a few drinks, the process didn’t seem quite so unpalatable.

The annual young farmer’s ball was coming up so Veronica slipped into her best black and white ball gown, making her look more like a Friesian than would normally be desirable and joined in. Walking into the marquee someone caught her eye, a rather dashing looking young man lurking in the corner, looking a bit sheepish and lost in his tuxedo. 

As the evening wound on Veronica kept seeing this young man wandering around, but none of her friends seemed to know who he was. To honest, she wasn’t really that interested but after the meal and a few gins, she was starting to feel a bit randy.  Having either shagged or frightened off most of the other members of the local group she felt in the need of new blood and set out to find if he might be interested in a demonstration of her cattle impregnation techniques.

Gareth had been invited to the do by an old friend who proceeded to abandon him for the first girl who had flashed her pig tattoo in his direction.  He tried propping up the bar for a bit, and eventually took to circling the room until it started to circle him thanks to the amount of scrumpy he had consumed. More of a G and T person he had resorted to the local brew after his attempt to order something more refined had been ridiculed by the locals. The drink was more potent than he was used and attempts to soak up the alcohol with something solid hadn’t gone well as the cuisine was as rural as the drink.

The countryside all looked the same to Gareth so finding his friend’s house earlier in the day had been due more to luck than judgement or map-reading. Worse, when he did arrive, he discovered that he’d packed a suit but no shirt and since there was no chance of buying something he’d had to borrow one.  Unfortunately, this had been a bit of a comedy purchase and now the marquee was getting hotter and hotter but he really didn’t want to take his jacket off.

Veronica saw Gareth circling the marquee again, by this point he had begun to look a little green.  He stumbled and half fell into a chair on the table next to her.  She noticed him begin to put his head into his hands, and then seemed to be struggling to remove his jacket.

“Bugger this,” she thought, “Everyone is coping off and it’s about time I wrapped my lips round someone.”
She marched over to the next table.  Gareth, by this point, was fighting to keep his head between his knees and try get his jacket off at the same time.  Veronica grabbed the back of his tux and practically ripped it off his shoulders. 

“Oh” she screamed, as the design on the back of Gareth’s shirt was exposed, from the front it looked plain white but the back was something all the more lurid.

Gareth looked up in surprise, unfortunately at the same point the numerous pints all came to a head and he proceeded to vomit them down the front of Veronica’s frock with some force.

“Argh!” Veronica, now covered in pints of the local brew mixed with several partly digested pies, screamed.  “What are you doing!”

Gareth looked up sheepishly and started to mumble a string of apologies.  He hoped the rather large but attractive girl looming over him would not berate him too hard as he could feel a roulade and champagne cocktail that might be making its way up at any moment.

Veronica was about to let rip, who did this boy think he was, this dress had been specially made by her mother.  But as she turned to give Gareth what for she saw a pair of soulful brown eyes were staring at her that bore a startling resemblance to her favourite cow, Winny.  And with that, she was lost.

Many years of working with animals meant that Veronica had been covered by much worse than a bit of posh vomit.  She grabbed Gareth and dragged him off to the toilets to clean herself and him up. After letting him be sick a few more times, it was time to test the staying power of the portaloos.  Stories after the evening always included comments about the particularly loud mooing that seemed to be coming from the direction of the next field, though no one had seen any cattle.

**

20 years on and their marriage was still going strong, though the only children they had had four legs.  Their lack of offspring had disappointed both of them but with no conclusion as to why things weren’t working Veronica had gone back to animal husbandry and they’d settled into a different kind of family routine, their children being in the fields rather than in the house.

He loved his wife very much but she would insist on carting him off to the odd farming ball to make friends and for her to do some networking. He could chat to most people but this lot did get into quite a bit of detail about their farming practices, and he struggled to hold his own.  By halfway through the evening he’d often be found in a corner, pilfered bottle of gin in hand, drinking to his heart’s content as his wife worked the room. 

Two hours later and the Harvest farming ball was turning out the same way.  Gareth was just eyeing up a nice bottle of cider on the next table when someone plonked themselves down next to him.

“Hi, you’re Gareth, Veronica’s other half aren’t you?”

Gareth turned to his new companion.  Though slightly younger and slimmer they were cut from the same cloth.  He even caught a glimpse of colour on the sleeves of his shirt as he turned to face Gareth..

“Freddie Coward.  My wife, Joan, is over there talking to yours.  We have a small farm and she aspires to your level of herd.  To be honest, it bores me senseless, so she suggested I might want to come over and have a chat with you.”

Gareth visibly relaxed.  At least he wasn’t another farming expert.

“Veronica mentioned you run a company that helps other companies get out of trouble.  She said something about a naval island, I think I read about it in the paper.  It’s called KOD isn’t it.”

Gareth glowed slightly, he always liked to know that people knew what he did and the work on Fillern Holm had garnered them some good PR.

“Well, yes that was one of our best projects, working with the MOD don’t you know.  Can’t say too much but we turned things around.”

“Sounds very interesting, have you done any others?”

Half an hour later and Freddie might have been wishing he hadn’t asked that question as Gareth regaled him with stories of KOD’s successes.  He omitted to mention that most of the work wasn’t done by him, no harm in embellishing the truth here and there.

By this time the cider had been consumed and jackets had been removed.  The chaps laughed as they both had a penchant for lurid shirts, though Freddie’s had depictions from Shakespearean plays instead.  There was much blood and gore.

Reclining in his chair Gareth though, I like this lad, he’s on the same wavelength as me.  And he likes silly shirts.

“Pip pip, old boy.  Here’s to finding a shirt design even more frightening for the next ball.”

“You are on.  I’ve seen some great stuff on eBay.”  Freddie chinked his glass with Gareth’s.

“Actually, Gareth, I have to profess I have an ulterior motive here. I need your help.”

“What with, old boy.”  Gareth was finding it hard to focus, the cider being more powerful than his usual tipple.  He leant forward, trying not to fall off the chair.

“Well, I run a theatre.  It’s not a big place and we don’t get the cream of the shows, but I still love it. But we are really struggling, and if I don’t get the ticket sales up by end of March next year, then the local council will sell the place to property developers.”

Now Gareth had a soft spot for the theatre, having trodden the boards himself during his university days. He could remember the smell of the greasepaint and the joy of a receptive crowd.  What harm would there be in giving them a little help, he thought to himself.

“I know it’s not your usual cup of tea, but any advice you could give us to get of this mess would really help. I can’t pay you, but I can give you free tickets to every show we have on.” Freddie had gone from jolly to maudlin.  He really did love his theatre but times were tough and he was struggling to know what to do.  It was Joan who’d suggested that approaching Gareth and pandering to his softer side might mean he got some help.  She also didn’t want to see him not working and under her feet at home.

Gareth stood and patted him on the back. 

“Absolutely, I’m sure I can find time to give you some pearls of wisdom.  Don’t worry about the money, we’ll sort something out. Give me a call next week. Now if you will excuse me I think it’s time to go home, I’m seeing double of everything!”

Waddling back to his wife, half cut, a little niggle appeared in the back of Gareth’s brain.  Kate wouldn’t like this. He brushed it away, it was still his business after all, what harm was it to do something good for the community rather than for the money.

“Alright, Darling?”  Veronica was surprised to see her husband weaving toward her. She was even more surprised when he knocked her flying as he lost his footing.  Sitting together on the floor she took one look at her now comatose husband and thought, home time.

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 1

“Chad, you are going to kill him!”, A woman screamed.

The bulky blonde haired man held the other by the throat. Tears ran down the woman’s face as she pulled at the blonde’s shoulders, trying to wrench him off his opponent.

He pulled his fist back, ready to inflict the fatal blow. The other man, dark haired and slightly smaller, was pinned to the floor but managed to find enough wiggle room to move just as the fist swung and it hit floor rather than his face. It helped that his opponent was a little inebriated.

“DAD!” The wail of a small boy could be heard across the room. Standing on the staircase the boy, with tousled hair and crumpled pyjamas, had been watching the scene unfold across the open plan room. Running across the lounge he jumped in the space between the two men.

“Stop please Chad. Please don’t hurt my Dad.”

The sight of a tear-stained face stopped the blonde in his tracks. Falling backwards to the floor he sat with his head in his hands and began to cry.

“Oh Junior, I’m so sorry.”

“That’s OK, Uncle Chad.” The boy hugged his ‘Uncle’ and then walked over to his dad, who was now sitting on the sofa holding his head. “Are you alright, dad?”

Dave lifted his head and looked at his son. His one eye was almost swollen shut and his ribs were killing him where Chad had inflicted more blows. Though well-built he had been no match for the man, an ex-American footballer player now run to seed.

“Can you grab me some ice from the fridge please son.”

Alicia stood weeping by the kitchen door. Dave’s estranged wife was still shocked by the whole experience. A quiet evening with friends had turned in to something a lot more traumatic. She still wasn’t sure how Chad and Dave had gone from exchanging toasts over beer to nearly killing each other.

The two men looked at each other across the lounge, like two caged tigers ready to pounce.

“Dave,” Chad looked over at his English friend, “Be real. He’s doesn’t even look like you. Face facts man, Dave Junior is my son.”

*

Six months earlier

Standing on the Mall in Washington DC, Dave wondered if this felt like coming home. To his left was the Washington Monument, a huge needle like structure that over looked the large reflecting pool, a lake made famous by Forrest Gump trying to cross it to get to his true love. To his right the grassed area stretched up to the Capitol Building, a familiar sight to anyone watching American political films or TV. It was the hub of US politics, and the equivalent to the Houses of Parliament in the UK and had once been his office.

Looking at the clear blue sky he pondered if he was doing the right thing. He’d left the UK in a rush after the closure of the naval job. It was another success for KOD, and they’d gained plaudits in the press for the handling of the whole event. He was looking forward to taking Jnr there when it opened for the public as an amusement park. He’d love him to meet Captain Norris, the slightly spikey officer who’d been his adversary. Seagull poo aside he was pleased he’d managed to save a historic battleship and some memories of Royal Navy history for future generations.

“Daddy!”. A small voice could be heard shouting across the park.

Dave scanned the area and spotted a body moving a speed towards him. The next thing he knew he was almost bowled over by a small boy who wrapped himself around Dave’s legs.

“Hey Dad. I’m so glad you are here.”

Dave picked up the bundle of energy, struggling slightly as his son had grown since he’d last seen him. Nearly eight the boy was well built with his head above Dave’s waist.

“Junior. You’ve got big!”

“I know. Mom says I’m one of the tallest in my class.”

He put the boy down and ruffled his hair, a thatch of blonde curls. He still wondered at genetics. Both he and Alicia had brown hair but his son had the hair of Adonis.

His wife finally appeared by his side.

“Hello Dave.” She leant in for a peck on the cheek.

Things in their relationship had been rocky for a while, with Dave staying in the UK when Alicia had decided she preferred to come back to her home country, the US. For the last year they had been talking and he’d popped back for short trips but with his job it had been hard to get the time off. This time he had a few weeks so they knew this trip was make or break for the two of them, or at least for his son.

“Come on Dad, I want to go and play with the spacecraft.” Jnr pulled his father’s arm, dragging him towards the Air and Space Museum. Home to American’s flight history it was Jnr’s favourite place of all the museums in the centre of Washington. He loved to pretend to be an astronaut.

Letting his son run on Dave and Alicia fell into step.

“So is this trip Business or Pleasure?”

“A bit of both.” Alicia rolled her eyes at his response. “Hey it needs to both, I can’t afford to keep flying over here to you know.”

“Perhaps you should have thought of that before you gave up your US government job.” She bit back.

Dave was about to respond with another barbed comment. This was how most of their conversations went these days. Jousting with remarks about which country they should live in and what was best for their son. He’d had enough of it all, the other reason he was here.

“Look. I’m here to try and clear the air. Taking the opportunity to look for work for KOD over here gives me a chance to spend a few weeks rather than a few days so we can have proper conversation about what’s best for Junior.” Dave stared hard at his wife. She pouted but kept her mouth shut. He noticed that she didn’t say, and for them. He thought she realised, the same way he did, that their relationship was over.

Waiting by the side of the road Dave Jnr was bouncing up and down with excitement.

“Come on you two slow pokes. We’ll miss our slot in the planetarium.” Running behind his parents his pushed them along towards the doors of the Museum. Differences aside Dave and Alicia couldn’t help but let his enthusiasm rub off on them.

“I’ll race you there.” Dave opened the doors and set off across the entrance hall, Jnr in his wake, Alicia laughing at their exuberance.

*

“No, no, no. How many times do I have to tell you, no.” Kate stomped back to her office, slamming the door behind her.

Silence fell across the rest of the office as they followed her tall, thin shape teetering back in her stilettos.

It had been a few weeks since the end of the Fillern Holm job, and the departure of Dave to America. Since then she had been more insufferable than usual. Any mention of him brought out a sharp retort, in fact anything seemed to get her goat. Even Tracey, someone not known for her sympathy for Kate at the best of times, was feeling sorry for her. Kate had got noticeably thinner and her heels seemed to be getting higher each day that Dave was gone.

Of course Kate wouldn’t admit that she was worried about what was going to happen in America. Dave Thomas, the one that got away at University, had breezed back into Kate’s life two years ago in a big job to close down a vegetable research agency. KOD had done to the job but Dave had lost his in the process. So, without Kate being consulted her not so sleeping partner had brought him in to work at KOD, HER COMPANY. She’d not been too happy at the time but had warmed to Dave over his Florence nightingale abilities when she broke her leg. Though she hadn’t told him, again how she felt, and instead had thrown herself at someone else, someone who’d turned out to be gay.

So, the contract had come to an end, and Dave had offered to look for some new work for the company. He had a few contacts stateside, and they’d made more when the Yanks and tried to ‘shipnap’ the battleship that came with the naval island they had been working at. Kate knew the expression ‘never look a gift horse in the mouth’ but it didn’t make her feel any more comfortable that he would be spending time with his estranged wife. But Kate being Kate couldn’t tell him this, so instead was just taking her frustrations out at the gym or on the staff.

Kate’s office door opened again. Everyone in the office took a deep breath.

“Kelvin, get in here now. This bl**dy computer isn’t working, AGAIN.”

Commiserating looks were aimed at the office IT geek Kelvin as he rose reluctantly from his chair and made the way slowly across the office. One member of staff actually made the sign of the cross as a small prayer for him as the door closed behind him.

We are posting a chapter each week from our latest novel, Kate vs Showbiz. If you’d like to read the whole book, subscribe now!

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Getting off our bums and doing something

No description available.

Candice: Phil and I met for our customary between Christmas and New Year conflab the other day. There was tea and cake, as always, and we talked about this whole writing malarky.

It’s been a long time since we released a new book and we have been trying to work out how to get out of our slump. Obviously we both still write, him for work and both of us for this blog, but something is stalling the output of the Nolan Parker writing team. Book 3 has been in the works for about three years now but the spark that was once there with the other two doesn’t seem to be driving things forward. The frustrating thing is we are about 3/4s of the way through but we just don’t seem to know how to finish the book. We’ve brain stormed lots of things but nothing gets us to the end. We’ve stalled.

I’ve been talking to someone recently about how to get out of a slump like this and we’ve decided on a new approach based on her ideas. My last post was inspired by that. Just write something!

I really enjoyed writing my little Christmas story so the time has come for us to just get on with some writing. It might not be perfect, the storyline might not fit, we might not get the characters right but at least we will get over our writers block and write something. We’ve been stalled by planning and trying together everything right first time. That didn’t happen with our other books, we just wrote and sorted it all out later.

So from next year Nolan Parker will be show casing Book 3, working title ‘Kate vs Showbiz’ through the blog. We will post what we have already written and then use the blog as our weekly challenge to write the rest of the book – whatever comes to mind. We’d like you to get involved in the writing process, so if we are trying to work out where to go next with Kate and Dave please give us feedback. What would you like our protagonists to do?

We look forward to sharing ‘Showbiz’ with you next year and finishing this exciting new story in the Kate series.

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Merry Christmas!

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by | December 25, 2021 · 6:11 am

A Christmas tale

Kate was lying on her sofa. She had glass of wine in her hand, and her two cats, Olly and Horatio were fighting for space on her lap. She wasn’t a fan of Christmas, if she heard Maria Carey sing ‘All I want for Christmas’ one more time she thought she might scream. In fact this year it seemed to be worse, with new Christmas songs coming along, god that Ed Sheeran and Elton John song just made her want to vomit. What was it about Christmas that brought out the worst in people?

KOD had managed to squeeze in their party before the new restrictions were brought in. She’d smiled through the jolliness, Christmas jumpers and songs while gritting her teeth. She couldn’t wait until the new year and they could all get back to work. Even today, everyone had been desperate to knock off early, sending silly messages and bringing those jumpers back out for video calls. She’d had to let them go at midday, that was how it worked apparently, but she’d stayed on her laptop until 6pm answering emails and catching up on the ever-mounting workload. The world didn’t close down just because it was the 24th of December.

It was warm and cosy in her flat, and the wine and the cat’s purring was making her dozy.

‘Rustle, rustle.’ Kate woke with a start. She looked around, the flat was in darkness, the only glow coming from the lights in the kitchen. Peering at her watch it showed it was nearly 1am. God, she’d fallen asleep on the sofa!

‘Rustle, rustle.’ She thought she could hear a noise from her bedroom. The flat was open plan so the only three rooms she couldn’t see were the two bedrooms and the bathroom. Rolling off the sofa, with some complaints from the two sleeping cats, she picked up the first thing that she could get her hands on, a slipper, and crept towards her bedroom. The noise was getting louder.

“Humpf”. Kate paused, that sounded like a male voice in her room. She looked around, wondering where her phone was. Perhaps she should call 999, who could be in her flat at this time? Her bedroom hadn’t seen any male action for over a year! No, she was a tough woman, she’d give him what for. She dropped the slipper and picked up one of her Jimmy Choos, the four-inch stiletto should help.

Cracking the door to her bedroom she saw the back of a large shape. Strange, it was a broad back covered with what seemed to be a red jacket. Then she could see white hair – what was this, an OAP was raiding her designer bag collection? He seemed to be bending over to look at something, and was making a lot of huffing noises.

“Yah!!!” She ran into the room brandishing the shoe, heel pointing forward. The intruder turned round. He was over six foot, but had white hair and beard, and looked about 80. “Oh, hello Kate.” A loud booming voice said to her. She stopped in her tracks, shoe still in the air.

“How do you know who I am?” She kept her aggressive stance, balls of her feet, like her trainer had taught her. “I know who everyone is, don’t you know.” The man responded. “However, it doesn’t mean I can find you on my list.”

Kate’s brain was doing twenty to the dozen; old man, white hair, red suit, Christmas Eve, and coming up with an answer she didn’t like. “But you can’t be, you don’t exist.” She blurted out.

“Do look I don’t exist?” The man pointed at his suit and smiled. “I just don’t normally get caught in the act. I must be getting old.” He laughed to himself and then turned back to the electronic tablet in his hand. Scrolling through, he carried on making confused noises. “Nope, its no good, I can’t find you on the list.”

He turned around and picked up the sack from the floor, Kate hadn’t noticed it before, but behind him was a large hessian sack. “I hate to leave you like this, but as you know I have many places to be. It seems Kate you have been a very bad girl this year, and I can’t give you a present.”

Kate pulled herself together, a bad girl. What did he mean, she’s single-handedly held KOD together, even with this ruddy pandemic going on. Everyone still had a job. What more did he want?

“Now, hang on a minute there… um Father Christmas. I’ll have you know I’ve done a hell of a lot this bloody year to keep the world spinning.” She put her hands on her hips.

“Well you might have done, my dear, but according to my system you haven’t been very nice about it. You’ve had Clare in accounts in tears twice, and written so many harsh emails my little computer had to filter some of the language before it could show me examples. People don’t like you.”

“It’s not about being liked, it’s about getting the job done!”

“Well, this time of year especially, you have to remember that people are people too, and just because Julie from HR wants to knock off early to play with her kids is no excuse to bawl her out.”

“But… but…” Father Christmas put his hand up. “Sorry Kate, you can’t argue with me. My computer knows all and it says a big NO for you for this year.” And with that, he pressed something on the screen and lights appeared outside her window. The next thing she knew he was climbing out the window and into his waiting sleigh. “Just think about it, Kate.” And he was gone.

Kate sat on the floor in her bedroom. What did an overblown, fantasy character know about work anyway! She had worked her socks off, no present, well bah humbug to him.

The next she knew a dim light was coming through her curtains. Looking at her watch it was 8am. She was lying on the floor in the lounge, still in her clothes from yesterday. Jumping up she rushed to her bedroom. No, all was as it should be. Thank god, it had all been a wine induced dream.

Back in the kitchen she started up her coffee machine and put some food down for the meowing cats. Ah, Christmas Day. Two days to relax before getting back on the bandwagon. She had a small tree in the lounge area, a token gesture to the date. Underneath were a handful of presents from family. Perplexed she spotted one she hadn’t seen before. It had gold wrapping paper and was tied with a beautiful bow.

Taking it back to the sofa she opened it slowly. Inside was a white box that contained a mug. On the mug where the simple words – ‘To the best boss ever, from KOD.’ Inside the package was a card signed by the whole team, with lots of personal messages wishing her a good holiday.

Kate leant back on the sofa. She was genuinely touched. She thought they all hated her guts. She felt bad now because she’d done nothing for anyone for Christmas. Closing her eyes she thought back to her dream, a voice coming in to her head. ‘It costs nothing to be nice.’ Perhaps she would heed imaginary Santa’s comments, a little, in 2022.

If you want to more about the exploits of Kate and the team at KOD, you can read all in our two books – available on amazon or via kindle unlimited. Just search for Nolanparker. Merry Christmas!

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Traditions – where do they come from?

Elves

Phil: Every year, when the Christmas decorations come out, I open a box and build a pair of Lego Elves.

I’ve done this every year, for, ohh, four years.

Yes, it’s a tradition. Just not a very old one. My annual trip to London for beer with some mates usually left me with spare time before we met up and once I accidentally ended up on the Lego store. There, I thought it would be nice to buy a Crimbo decoration, and the first was the Elves.

Since then, a bauble with Lego presents in has joined the tradition, and another small Santa who looks a bit creepy. Each is dismantled after the season and made up again in December. Sadly, Covid has put a stop to beers, but the elves continue.

The world is full of traditions. La Nolan always watches Nativity in the run-up to the season. Others drape themselves with greenery or go out singing carols at inocent people.

Traditions quickly take hold and you are told “This must happen, it’s traditional.” That’s why officials in the House of Commons wear weird clothes.

Of course, all these traditions had to start somewhere. They weren’t traditional once upon a time. I suppose, like my festive Lego, they provide something familiar in an ever changing world. A comfort blanket perhaps.Christmas is especially full of tradition – and every family has their own, from who gives out the presents, to the food served at different times to the post-lunch games (or not).

Me? I like harmless traditions. To which end, I decided that if I can’t go to London, I can still add to my festive Lego collection.

 

Santa_500

Well, it’s traditional – innit!

Sidenote: This is our 900th blog post. While the writing might have taken a bit of a back seat recently, we keep plugging away with words. Practise makes perfect after all.

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Bragging rights

Candice: It’s not a very British thing to tell people about what you get up to and be proud of it. We hide our light under a bushel rather than tell everyone what we have been up to, or crow about our successes.

But I’m not really an advocate of this. I like to think I’m not a big mouth but I’m proud of what I do inside and outside of work and if someone mentions something that I have knowledge on, I will talk about it. Whether it travelling, experiences, or things like our writing or my TV work.

This time of year one of my top brags always happens, as my ‘starring’ role in a Christmas film always appears in my Facebook feed. In 2009 the film ‘Nativity’ came out. Filmed in and around Coventry, which is local to me, the film follows the competition between two schools and their teachers – both who want to do the best Christmas show. The extra factor in this is that one teacher’s ex-girlfriend has moved to Hollywood and now is big in the movie industry (or so he thinks). Taken over by the moment he tells everyone that she is coming to film their nativity play, and it blows up on him. Suddenly he needs this to happen, for the kids but also as a chance to get her back.

It’s a great feel good film and with some comedy moments and sing-along songs at the end. Having been involved in the production I have an extra reason to like it, and I know a lot about how it was made. And I like to talk about that. When the snap of me standing behind Pam Ferris at the chocolate fountain pops up on Facebook I’m always happy to share it and mention it when its shown on BBC (which it is every year). My daughter has even got to telling people at school, as they show it to the kids every year in the down time before xmas, she’s proud of her mommy.

Phil’s and my writing is another thing I like to ‘brag’ about. I’m proud of having written two books and frustrated that I haven’t managed more. But I’m happy to mention this fact, because when I do people always say ‘wow’. They don’t think I’m being a show off, just think its cool I’ve done all these things.

So I say, don’t be proud to shine. People like to know what you have been up to, and it you are interesting then they will find you interesting and want to talk to you. One thing I would say is, make sure you listen as well as talk, as they may have some interesting stories too.

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Aren’t librarians helpful people?

Phil: A few weeks ago, I mourned the loss of the library I used to visit as a child. Well, last night I took a trip to the replacement.

Part of a “community hub”, it is smaller than the old place, but has (I am assured) just as many books. OK, the children’s area is a lot smaller, but there are other spaces in the building that can be used, and anyway, when I was a child, the only children’s area was full of books. No mats and beanbags for storytime for young Phil! (Grumble, brumbe, youth of today don’t know they are born etc…)

Anway, one fascility not currently available, is the magic machine that checks books in and out. It seems that the new machines haven’t arrived yet, despite the project to build the place taking a couple of years. That was awkward, because I was there to return and renew the books I borrowed from the old place.

Despite it being 20 minutes to closing time, one of the librarians took my books into the office and did it all for me. If there was a fine to pay, nothing was mentioned.

She then went on to check and renew my account, hopefully so I can finally use the on-line renewal system.

I think it must be in a librarians’ DNA to do this. Presumably something checked at the job interview.

Someone pointed out that libraries are the last public space you can enter wehre no-one expects you to spend any money (unless you really want to). I guess that must appeal to people who just like helping others with something as important as reading, and searching for knowledge. And long may it be so.

You’re probably asking why there isn’t a photo of the library at the top of this post, well, it was too dark for the building and I don’t like taking shots of the inside while there are people there.

However, as part of the new hub, there is a cafe. So I bought some cake (it’s compulsory for this blog) and chose the one that looked like a muffin with the poo emoji on top. It’s actually a choux bun with chocolate, and very nice too. A definite asset to the library.

Worse, for my waistline, to get there I have to pass a fish’n’chip shop. The aroma on a dark evening explains why I enjoyed a chip buttie for tea…

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The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

The Book of Two Ways

Candice: Buying some books for my holiday the other month I picked up this. The premise sounded interesting, and a bit different from my usual murder mystery or woman’s romance novel.

There are two strands to the book, which is part of what interested me about the story. The first is a love story, the second a history of Egypt. I’ve always been interested in Egyptology, years ago I was supposed to go to Egypt but couldn’t because a volcanic ash cloud stopped all the flights. I’ve haven’t got there since due to one thing or another but I’d still like to go and see the pyramids one day.

The story follows American Dawn, who was an Egyptologist, highly rated at her University and with future plans to discover new tombs and more history. Her nemesis, is Wyatt, British Aristo, who is fighting to be top dog with her Professor both on the cause and on the dig. While in Egypt the two of them discover that their animosity also breeds passion and they have a tumultuous love hate relationship.

Out of the blue while they are away Dawn receives a call to say her Mother has passed away, leaving her in charge of her much younger brother. She has to leave Egypt and Wyatt and take up a new life at home, looking after her brother and giving up her PhD.

Fifteen years on she is married and a daughter but she just feels like something is missing. She meets a new client though her work as a death doula, someone who helps those terminally ill, who wants to pass a message to her lost love from many years ago. This, plus the suspicion that Dawn has that her husband has been looking elsewhere for attention makes her rethink her old life, and her old love.

On a whim she catches a plane to Egypt and reconnects with Wyatt. Their love has not died and they realise, though all this time has passed they are meant to be together. However, on the flight home the plane crashes and Dawn has to tell her husband and daughter about him, rather sooner than she planned.

The story twists and turns between past and present, Dawn’s earlier interactions with Wyatt and her present day confusion over her marriage and issues with her daughter. Its interspersed with lots of historic Egypt references which add an extra layer to the love story.

Its about following and not giving up on your dreams, even when a long time has passed. I think her job helps to carry the story as it shapes the idea that we could all die tomorrow, and therefore life is to be lived. I really enjoyed it, it stretched my brain a bit more than the usual read.

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Farewell to MY library

Sign

Phil: I went to the library on Monday. Nothing unusual in that you might thing, but I went on a mission.

You see, the library I have known all my life, is closing down. When the doors closed at the end of that day, they would open no more. The walls won’t resound to the sound of children enjoying being read a story. No longer will adults browse the shelves, wondering where the pages of a good book would take them in the next few weeks.

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OK, I’m being maudalin. The library isn’t really closing, it’s moving to a new community hub around the corner. There will be a cafe, multi-puropse sports hall and meeting rooms you can book. Outside there is parking and a children’s playground. It’s next to the shops – pretty much everything our little town can offer all within a few feet.

But I had to go and pay one last visit. I’m sure the new place will be lovely, but it won’t have that airy 1960s feel of the old library. More to the point, it won’t be the one I spent hours chosing my books from as a child.

I know things have to move on. When I borrow books now, they are placed in a machine to book them out to me, something that would have seemed like magic back in the 1970s, and young Phil would have been desperate to have a go with it! No little card wallets nowadays. No librarian stamping the date in the front of each one either. Lot of stamps meant I’d borrowed a popular title, and you also knew when the books were due back, something far easier than logging on to the library website, which is what you have to do now.

Just for old times sake, I wanted to borrow some more books. My reading has been hopeless recently. Maybe the impending fines will make me buck my ideas up a bit.

Books

My choice were a couple of “grown-up” books, becuase they appealed to me. And Five on a treasure island, because when I was a kid, I read all the Famous Five books, mostly from this very library.

I’ll miss the old place. Libraries are the last public spaces you can visit and no-one expects you to hand over money. Books will still be available for loan in the new community hub, that is a very good thing, and I’m sure a new generation will become as nostalgic about it as I am about MY library.

Now, can someone lend me a pile of cash? There’s a nice looking 1960s property coming up for sale nearby, and I think I’d like to live in it. There are even enough book shelves…

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