Monthly Archives: October 2017

I dream of NaNoWriMo

Phil: This time next month, hundreds of eager writers will be beavering away on their latest novel as part of National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo.

Since finding out about this event, I’ve dreamed of taking part. The idea of hammering out the first draft of a book in a month sounds great to me. Needing a deadline to get anything done, I can imagine the joy of racing the calendar to reach the glorious conclusion of your story.

Not this year though. Sadly, there are far too many deadlines in my work life to allow me to enjoy some creative writing. I know that if you want to write, everyone says you will find the time but even if I could, I’m not sure a few hours extra screen time in the evening or early morning is what I need on top of the day gawping at the thing.

What I need is NaGoFoAWa month – National Going for a walk month. Fresh air and exercise will do me more good. Perhaps I should start a movement?

Never mind. Maybe next year. If you are feeling inspired however, visit the NaNoWriMo website.

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Mr Gandy proves that people are more interesting than things

Phil: Another novel from the “heading to the charity shop” pile in our house, Mr Gandy’s Grand Tour has an interesting premise and proves to be a pleasant read.

Tim Gandy finds himself newly compulsorily retired from his graphic design job. His wife has no real interest in him, as do two of his three children. Just as he’s wondering what to do, the wife drops dead. You might think that this isn’t a great start to a story even from someone as warm and fuzzy as the countries favourite gardner, but it provides a catalyst for the rest of the book. Gandy decides to head off to Europe on a tour in the manner of aristocrats from years long past.

Along the way, he encounters lots of special people and has a few adventures – just the sort of thing you’d expect from a novel.

Gandy is a lapsed artist and propelled by his (deliberately) ancient guidebooks, he’s determined to see some of the great artistic treasures on offer. It’s here where the book bogs down a bit with little more than lists of “wonderful” things seen. I get the feeling that like many people he feels that art from hundreds of years ago is automatically beautiful whereas later stuff isn’t quite as worthy. I’ve been to the Louvre and while I agree the Mona Lisa is disappointing, it’s nothing compared to the miles of dreadful religious paintings that fill the corridors leading to it.

Anyway, when not looking at things, the story nips along with the sort of entertaining events that happen in novels but rarely in real life. I’d bet I could spend the rest of my life painting watercolour around Paris without being accosted by a beautiful chanteuse, although in this case, it’s probably a good thing.

Despite being retired, Gandy isn’t old, or at least not properly old so he can be useful and get around. He still wants to do things and not just reminisce. I’ve not read anything with an early retiree as the main character before and it’s slightly odd as you find this is just part of his life and things can and will change in it.

Fun? Yes. Did it make me want to follow in his footsteps? Not really.  Were I lounging on a sunbed (or in the room of a Holiday Inn which is where I read it) though, it’s pretty good.

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The Keeper of Lost Things

Phil: Meeting up with Candice on Monday for a chat through our edits, I shoved a book her way. All being well, she is on holiday as I write so I knew something for reading on the sunbed would be appreciated.

The author, Ruth Hogan, was at one of the Stratford Literary Festival sessions I went to earlier this year. At the time I wasn’t feeling flush enough to buy the hardback copy of the book, but the premise sounded really interesting so when the chance came to get a paperback, I did.

Let’s start with the description on the back:

Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before.

Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners.

But the final wishes of the ‘Keeper of Lost Things’ have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters…

Basically, Andrew has collected lots of stuff, carefully labelled it, stuffed it on shelves and intends to find the owners to return it. He doesn’t, but leaves the task, along with his house to Laura. There is also a dead fiance to consider, hunky gardner and special child.

Yes, it sounds a bit rubbish when I describe it like that, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers.  Probably best I don’t write the elevator pitch.

One of the highlights is that for many of the objects, there is a short story attached. Apparently, this was what Andrew wrote to make himself a successful author. The trouble was he wanted to write pieces with an edge, his publisher prefered fluffy happy tales and eventually, they parted company. I loved these little tales and suspect that there is a real book to match the fictional one in them.

Ruth weaves a couple of major plot strands through the book and for a while I couldn’t quite work out how they related to each other but by the end, everything ties up neatly and you have a happy “Oh, that’s what was happening moment.”

I enjoyed the book but it’s not perfect, there is some supernatural stuff that I could have lived without as I felt it dented the real world the rest of the plot lived in and Andrew seemed to do that literary thing of just deciding to drop dead in his rose garden in an unexplained way too.

Ultimately though, the basic idea is novel and pretty strong which overcomes any objections. I certainly enjoyed the read and picked it up every time I had a few minutes, always a good sign. It’s a pretty light and fun story which I expect the Nolan will enjoy as much as the sunbathing.

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Let’s talk about cake…

Phil: Regular readers will have noticed that team NolanParker enjoy many meetings powered by slices of cake. Since it is National Cake Week, I think we really need to look into this further.

Anyone who looks at me will know that I’m not averse to a slice of cake. However, I didn’t get serious about this until I met the Nolan.

Up to this point, cake munching was a strictly amateur task. Once we teamed up though, and especially once we started this blog, cake eating became more serious. Every cake had to be photographed to appear on these pages.

This has spread to my blog.

Now, when I go to events, I have to include a photo of any cake consumed in reviews. Due to public demand.

This has been going on long enough that I’m now known for my views on cake. It’s got so serious that people now ask me about cake rather than the models I’m supposed to be writing about. I was even waiting for a meeting at a preserved railway a few months ago and a group of hi-vis jacket wearing people spotted me and asked, “Are you here to try the cake?”

Freinds have commented that my Facebook feed only seems to show cake and beer pictures, sometimes both at the same time. This is partly because I’m not a 12-year-old girl who spends entire evenings taking a hundred photos of myself and my friends. Nor am I the middle-aged bloke in the pub last week who spent about 15 minutes casually leaning on a wall posing for his mate to take a photo. There’s probably a story in there as to why he thought that was a good idea but I wasn’t going to ask.

Cheese on the left, chalk on the right.No, the cake is simply more interesting and more photogenic than me. Some people take pictures of cats, I take snaps of cake. I don’t even eat that much of it, but what I do, I generously share via social media. I’m sure this is what Tim Berners-Lee hoped for when he invented the web.

We’re not the only cake-powered writer either. If there is a constant among those we have met, it’s tea (not coffee) and cake. No-one bangs on about posh water and salad in the same way no-one ever has said, “Oh good, cabbage for tea.”.

To be fair, the other constant is running, but I’ve decided that I’ll leave that to Candice.

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