Monthly Archives: February 2022

Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 8

Freddie sat at his desk in the cramped office.  The admin area of the theatre was just a small corner of the behind the scenes space, a few rooms with a kitchen so they could make copious cups of tea to keep them all going.  The walls were plastered with posters from old shows, mainly to cover the cracks and peeling paint.

Spread in front of him were the books from the last few weeks. Ticket sales had been dire and even the forthcoming panto, normally a big pull for the theatre, was struggling to get bums on seats. Next to this was a letter from the local council giving him notice of a need to attend the next council meeting to explain his plans for the theatre, ahead of the vote on the planning application.

He put his head in his hands.

“You alright there, Fred.”   Doris, the front of house manager put her head around the door.

Lifting his head up and put he put on a smile, “Yes, I’m fine.”

“You aren’t really.  I’ve seen the receipts.  We are going to have to start buying our loo roll from Poundland soon to keep some money in the coffers.”  Doris winked at him.

Doris was the lifeblood of the theatre She’d been working there for centuries it seemed and knew everyone and everything.  Freddie smiled knowing that she’d stick it out until the bitter end, no matter what corners he had to cut to keep the place open.

His wife didn’t know why he cared so much and told him so on a regular basis.  Running a theatre had never been part of his career plan, which had involved accountancy as a cog in a big firm. When the wheels came off this with redundancy five years ago he decided, rather than go back to the corporate life, to do something he loved. 

The job advert had sounded enticing. The interview was easier than expected and the follow-up phone call from HR arrived before he’d had a chance to change out of his suit at home afterwards. The nice lady sounded so pleased when he accepted. At the time, the palpable sound of relief in her voice had passed Freddie by.

What he hadn’t realised that was running the theatre came with more stress and longer hours than his older job.  When staff didn’t turn up for a shift, he needed to be there.  When the fire alarm went off, he needed to be there.  And when the Council decided that they wanted to shut the place and sell it off for apartments, it was his job to fight tooth and claw to keep it the way it was. 

He cared because the theatre was important to a lot of people.  People like Doris who could have retired years ago but came to work because it gave her a reason to keep going after her husband had died and her children had moved away.  All the old people who sat through the matinee shows where they played old films, recreating their youth with a bag of popcorn while watching Fred Astaire.  The Mums who came for a break while their little ones watched children’s TV presenters make fools of themselves. It was more than just a building, it was a refuge.

“Your visitors are downstairs, by the way.”  Doris mimed making a tea.

Freddie gulped, he’d forgotten that Gareth and crew were descending today.  Quickly tidying his desk he nodded to Doris to put on the kettle and tried to get ready.  He had to remind himself these guys were here to help, but he still didn’t feel confident that they could.

Making their way backstage the KOD team were surprised at what they found.  Doors hung off hinges, lights flickered or just didn’t work.  A crew of half-naked dancers ran past them in the corridor, giggling, and shouting “move, we all need the loo and only one works!”

Tracey went to step into one of the dressing rooms and smartly turned back,  “Urgh, there was a rat in the corner!”

Up a tight staircase the worrying signs of disrepair continued, large cracks spidered across the walls and chunks of plaster lay on the stairs.  Tracey jumped as a piece fell from the ceiling and nearly hit her.

“If I’d known I needed a hard hat I would have packed one!”  she gripped at Gareth.

Kelvin put his laptop over his head to protect himself from any further falls.

Gareth gulped and then brushed down his suit, hoping it would be better when they got to Freddie’s office.

Reaching the top floor they found Freddie and Doris waiting, tea in hand.

“Hi there Gareth, glad you’ve managed to find us.  This is Doris, my front of house manager, she pretty much runs the place single-handed.”  Gareth shook the proffered hand.

“I’d like to introduce you to my colleagues, Tracey Dunn-Jones and Kelvin Armstrong.  Tracey looks after the business side and Kelvin is our IT and technical man.”

Freddie and Doris were drowned by a vision in pink as Tracey leant in to hug them both.  Kelvin just nodded.

“Please have a seat.”  Freddie tried to clear some space and find more seats for his guests, he hadn’t been expecting a full contingent of KOD staff.

“What did you think of the show?”  Behind Freddie’s back, Doris screwed up her face.  She knew how bad things were down there.

“Um, well, yes, it was entertaining…”  Gareth spluttered through his response.

“It was rubbish.  The crowd were half dead and so was the show.”  Tracey went straight for the jugular.  She’d been taking tips from Kate’s approach to things.

 Gareth jumped in, trying to cover up her bluntness.  “Well, yes, it was a little quiet down there and the audience was, erm, mature. Maybe the evening show is busier?”

Freddie’s look said it wasn’t. He stood up and waved his hands.  “It’s fine, it’s fine.  We know exactly how bad it is.  Ticket sales are at rock bottom, the audience need zimmer frames and we sell more tea from the bar than wine.  We’ve really lost our way, that’s why we need your help.”

“Why don’t you just sell it off and make a big profit.”  Tracey could already picture the shopping sprees she’d go on with the money.

“It’s not as simple as that, young lady.”  Doris was not warming to this bossy girl, especially as talking to her mainly meant talking to her cleavage. She’d seen tarts like this before and she’d got their measure.

“I’m sure it is, Doris.”  Tracey looked down her nose at the old dear trying to give her a piece of her mind.  “This is prime real estate, right in the middle of town.  Perfect for you and your friends to retire to and be able to pop down the shops after a game of bingo.”

Doris turned a light shade of pink and stood up.  “I beg your pardon!  This is more than a piece of land, it’s the place where people come for escapism, for some people it’s the only time they get out of the house.  We provide a very important service for the local community.”  And with that, she stormed out mumbling something about helping out behind the bar.

Gareth looked at Freddie across the desk.

“Fred mate, this is a big job.  You’ve got structural problems, poor audience numbers and a council baying for blood. I’m not sure we can help you.”  Gareth looked forlorn.

“I know, I know.  It’s a big task and I can’t pay you.  But at least give it a go until the panto is over. It’s our big earner and if we can get the ticket sales up I can plough some of that money back into the theatre.  I’ve already got quotes for some of the work and it can be done, as long as we sell out the whole run. Why don’t you all come back tomorrow and see our big name for Christmas, Sparks. I think he’ll be far more to your taste.”

Tracey looked shocked. Working in the evening wasn’t in her plans. Looking at Kelvin, she could see he was also pulling a face. It was too late, Gareth was already nodding, “Of course Freddie. I’m sure we would be delighted to see the big star.”

“Are you sure there is space?” asked Tracey hopefully.

Freddie laughed. “Don’t worry about that. We’ll squeeze you in somewhere!”

Tracey looked glum. Seeing her face, even Gareth realised what she was thinking. “Don’t worry Tracey, we’ll make it up to you. I’m sure we can do something with expenses.” At the sound of this, she perked up a little. Perhaps there would be benefits to this job after all. Her only appointment was with Netflix after all.

“Look Freddie”, Gareth continued, “It’s a big ask, but we at KOD never say no to a challenge. I’ll give it my best shot. “ Standing to shake hands, he turned to leave. What Freddie didn’t see was the look of concern. Gareth knew he really needed Kate and Dave on this, but wasn’t sure how he was going to get them on side.  Without their help, he was flogging a dead horse.

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 7

Standing outside the Theatre, Gareth started to wonder if he’d bitten off more than he could chew. Kate was always the lead when they went to meet new clients, whipping together a PowerPoint presentation, telling everyone what to say and working out what the plan was, often before they got there. This time he’d put on his best check suit, told Tracey to wear something half decent, and even dragged Kelvin from IT along for moral support. The thing he hadn’t brought, was a clue what he’d say and what they would do to help the theatre.

Looking up at the building he got even more worried. To say it needed some TLC was an understatement. Painted peeled off the walls, posters faded in the displays and some of the letters outside didn’t light up. The only colour on the drab front were the posters for the forthcoming panto. Gareth knew this was crucial to the future of the place. They needed bums on seats for the duration of the show to shore up the rest of the year. KOD had around two months to help get the place ship-shape and ticket sales up for this before the Council would pounce with its closure plan. Freddie had explained its current dire position over a few e-mails and calls.

Alright Gaz.” Gareth jumped as a loud voice sounded in his ear. Turning he found a vision in pink standing next to him. Tracey had taken his advice a little too literally and was wearing a suit. However, said suit was skin tight and a bright cerise pink. Throw in the cleavage exposing hole in the middle of the jacket and he wondered if he’d have been better of saying nothing.

Um, hi Tracey. Nice to see you made and effort.”

Well, yes, now you’ve made me second in command I tried to channel some of my inner Kate, but without the boring black.” Tracey gave him a twirl so he’d get the full effect.

Oh, err, second in command, not sure I said that exactly…” Gareth tailed off, deciding that it wasn’t worth the fight. She was right in some ways, Kate had washed her hands of the whole experience.

Hi Gareth.” Kelvin appeared next to his boss. He’d ironed his Minecraft t-shirt and brushed his hair, That was making an effort in his book. Laptop under his arm he still wasn’t sure why he was there, but any chance to spend some time with Tracey was a bonus. Today’s outfit was just adding to the fun.

Gareth took a deep breath. Pushing through the doors to the foyer things didn’t get any better. The carpet stuck to their feet, popcorn and crisp wrappers were strewn around the floor. The whole place smelt of beer.

Freddie had suggested they watch a show before the meeting, to get a feel for the theatre. The team slunk in to the back of the auditorium. On stage a couple dressed in frilly old fashioned clothes were belting out “The Lambeth Walk”. It was a third full. By sitting down, they managed to drop the age of the audiences average age by 40 years, as looking around most were in their 60s or 70s.

Jesus, Gareth, this is depressing. Have they got one of those heart machines outside in case anyone carks it?” Tracey mimed the pads of a defibrillator.

Kelvin sat down and pulled his phone out and started tapping away on the screen. Alerted by the light, some of the nearer clientele turned around to tut at him. “They are called “Cheese and Pickle” and sing old time music hall songs according to the website.”

“Shush” came across the theatre. From the stage Cheese or Pickle was trying to encourage the audience to join in a rendition of “Roll Out The Barrel” without any great success. “Come on everybody, let’s raise the roof” Cheese, or maybe Pickle, appealed in desperation. From the front row, a voice sang out to join in, volume compensating for tunefulness. The performer decided to carry on and gamly struggled to the end of the song. A smattering of applause followed before the curtain came down.

Gaz, I know you said you wanted to help but…” Tracey paused and looked around. A few of the people in the show were making their way to the bar, but most stayed put, taking the chance to break out sandwiches and flasks of tea. She poked the seat in front of them as the padding came out round the sides and kicked some more litter away from their seats. “It’s a shit hole, and I’m being polite. The show was crap and the audience need resuscitating. Maybe it would be better to let it be turned in to apartments?” Tracey already had a vision in her head of relaxing in the penthouse. She’d seen the plaster work on the ceiling in the auditorium and though it would look lovely over her bed, with a mirror in the middle of course. She’d snap up a cracking two bed with some character, perhaps she’d even be able to get a discount if they orchestrated the buyout.

No, Tracey. I am not going to give up at the first hurdle and neither are you. We didn’t come to throw the towel in, we came to make this place the soul of Leighton Oxley again, and we’ll have a damn good go at it.” Gareth stood up, nearly removing his chair in the process as its hinges were a bit loose.

Kelvin, I want you to look at their website and see what we can do with those ticket sales. You must know some tricks to get more people interested. I know this is a matinee, but it is a bit quiet.

The IT expert looked up, “You mean a bit of SEO keyword stuffing?” he asked.

That’s the sort of thing”, Gareth replied, hoping this was the right thing to say, “Tracey, you and I are going to go upstairs and introduce ourselves and be positive. “ He made extra emphasis on this, staring down at her. “And then we are going to put together a plan to get this place going again.”

Tracey rolled her eyes behind his back towards Kelvin, who smirked. But a job was a job so she picked up her bag and followed her boss to the exit. Time to show them what she was made of.

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 6

Dave thought it was about time he started doing what he’d promised to come to America to do. He’d had some exploratory meetings with some old colleagues but they had involved more drinking and catching up on old times than actually generating any business. He wasn’t 100% sure the concept of KOD worked in the US, there were too many blockers and legislation to go through, but he wasn’t going to give up.

The time over here was really giving him a chance to think about things outside of work as well as inside, and to be honest he was enjoying it. He’d forgotten how much he’d enjoyed living in America. As a single man he’d taken advantage of everything the capital city had to offer, and travelled the country too. Miami, New Orleans, New York, he’d seen them all. And, as much as people talked about America’s been brash and loud, they at least said what they meant in business and outside of it. He liked their positive approach. He wasn’t sure it was enough to make him come back permanently, there were too make other things he missed; like proper tea.

Sitting in the reception of a large office building just outside DC, he’d been thinking, over many beers and lonely nights in his apartment about what else KOD could do, made some calls to test out his idea with some of his business contacts, and they’d suggested this company. The reception was spacious, and he’d been offered a proper coffee while he was waiting, something else the Yanks were better at than the British.

Checking his watch again, he wondered what the hold-up was. The whole thing was making him a bit nervous, although some of those nerves came from not telling Kate what he was up to. He wasn’t sure she would approve. In fact at the moment he wasn’t sure she would approve of anything he did. They had had a few terse conversations in the office when he called in for his weekly update. Outside of work their social chat seemed to be non-existant. Yet again, they had got close to getting intimate and they it had fallen spectacularly apart. The whole thing with them being on different sides with the last project hadn’t helped, gawd Kate could be so bull-headed sometimes. Added to this was her utter confusion with Ross, where she spectacularly failed to work out he was gay. Dave had a chuckle to himself, she was so naïve, everyone had been able to see it a mile off.

Everything OK, Mr Thomas?” A tall man in a dark suit was leaning over Dave, who’d been lost in his own world.

Jumping up, Dave quickly made something up to cover his smirk. “Oh yes, just remembering something my son said the other day.” Smiling he shook hands with the business man.

Ah yes, children, they do keep us amused. Do you have many?” The man began walking towards to lifts.

Just the one, he’s nearly seven.” Dave smiled again, glad that he had managed to brush over his moment of madness to something more sensible. It wouldn’t do to make them think he was crackers.

I’ve three of the blighters myself, though luckily they are all teenagers, in fact one is just off to college.”

Stepping in to the lift the two men continued their polite chat.

Here goes nothing, thought Dave, as the doors closed.

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 5

One of the advantages of your own business is that you can hide in your office without having to explain to anyone. The farming party had been on Saturday night, it was Monday and Gareth still felt like a herd of cattle were stampeding between his temples.

What concerned him the most, as he downed his second cappuccino thankfully brought in by Clare in accounts, who had seen him looking pale, was not that he was down to his last two paracetamol, but was he was sure he’d agreed to something on Saturday. Something that Kate wouldn’t like.

He wasn’t exactly scared of his business partner, but his preferred to stay on the right side of her. He’d seen the way she’d gone for Dave and some of the more junior members of the team when they’d done things more minor that he thought he had signed up for, so he dreaded to think how she’d react. The words ‘working for free’ were floating around his brain, and all the pain killers in the world couldn’t stop that bringing him out in a cold sweat.

Through the door he watched his partner stride across the office. Doubtless she had already been to the gym, an activity he found completely unfathomable. Maybe he was showing a little middle-aged spread, but that was the sign of a life well lived wasn’t it? Any of his friends suddenly becoming skinny tended to indicate some sort of crisis that would soon be accompanied by a trophy wife, sports car, divorce lawyer bills large enough to build a house and worst of all, the desire to wear fluorescent Lycra. The very thought of being clad in the stuff was enough to dull the hangover pain for a few seconds. What did they call it – MAMIL – middle aged men in Lycra, Gareth shook his head to remove the image that popped in to his brain.

No, you wouldn’t catch Gareth Forthrington-Thomas panting away in some sweaty room on a machine that belonged in a medieval torture chamber. Good, clean country living with the odd bracing walk should do the job. Almost as an act of rebellion, he considered heading down to the local cafe for a proper fry-up, then decided that a little more rest would be a better bet. Getting up to look out of his window he checked on what the noise was. Either the council were mending the road outside, or someone was hammering in his head.

Through the door, Kate spotted Gareth looking grey round the gills. Briefly she considered going in and wishing him a hearty good morning just to see the pained look but then decided against it. Her cross-trainer session had been particularly strenuous that morning and what she really wanted to do was take the edge off with the strong coffee in her hand and the bacon bap concealed in her bag.


Eventually Gareth felt a little more human and decided that he ought to put in an appearance in the main office. First though, he switched on his computer. More than once a company-wide e-mail from Kate had caught him unawares so he’d learnt to check before chatting to the staff.

Today brought no missives, but at the top of the list was a name he didn’t know for a few seconds. Freddie Coward? With a groan, the weekend’s events came flooding back, along with the stampeding herd. Time for another coffee.

Slumping back in his chair, fresh brew in hand, Gareth opened the message.

Good Morning Gareth

What an excellent evening Saturday was. I usually find these dos a bit dull, but chatting with you was a pleasant diversion from gruesome veterinary talk about calving. I’m feeling quite invigorated and keen to press on with matters.

Gareth groaned. “Invigorated”? Unless that was code for death warmed up, then Freddie Coward was one of those annoying morning people. To be fair, one who could handle his drink. The two had matched each other pint for pint as far as Gareth’s hazy memory could recall.

I hope you don’t mind me getting in touch so quick. I know I said I’d ring later in the week, but strike while the iron is hot and all that.

The clock is ticking and my new nemesis, the Councillor for arts and recreation has decided that we need to up our game or they’ll sell the site to one of these retirement apartment developers. Apparently the area needs the money more than artistic stimulation.

So, I am faced with needing to justify our funds for the first time in years. I’ve been told that if we don’t come up with a business plan that shows us making some money by March then its curtains, no pun intended. No more musicals for the old folk, no more panto for the kids.

I’ve never written a business plan in my life. Old Tubby Williams, our last Councillor, never wanted one. Sadly, he suffered a heart attack last year which is why we have this new woman. So, I wonder if you can help? As I said, I don’t have much in the way of funds, but I’m hoping I can persuade you to do this pro bono as a bit of community service. I’d happily stick your company name up around the place. In fact if this all come off, we could rename the bar in your honour. Just tell me what KOD stands for and I’ll have my man with the paintbrush emblazon it over the top.


Freddie Coward

Gareth read the e-mail twice. As the alcohol-fueled bravado had faded, he wondered what to do next. It was obvious that this job wasn’t going to bring in any money. Kate wouldn’t be impressed by that, and neither would Freddie be too keen to paint the words “Kiss Of Death” over the top any bar. Kate might have thought it amusing when she named the company after the effect she’d felt had on previous employers, but the good people of the West Midlands might not see the funny side.

On the other hand, it would be good to do something for the local community. Theatre was important. Arts mattered. Where would Britain be without Shakespeare? More to the point, this was the sort of enterprise that attracted a certain type of patron. Gareth imagined himself sipping a G&T with the great and good locally during the interval in a fine art deco theatre bar. Perhaps this could be what Kate called a “networking opportunity”. If you thought of it like that, it might be worth a punt.

Whatever else, Gareth was a man of his word, even when he couldn’t be sure that he’d actually given it. KOD would take the job on and make it a success. Sitting up straight in his chair, the last dregs of hangover were momentarily dissipated. The herds settled down to some peaceful grazing and even the council seemed to have stopped drilling.

What are you grinning at?” demanded Kate as she walked into his office.

Gareth jumped. Then he gulped. The cattle in his head started to move again. “Sorry. You startled me.”

Obviously. You look terrible. Big weekend?”

Nothing of the sort. I’ll admit that Saturday night was a bit lively, but you know how cattle people are.”

Kate snorted. “No, not really. You’re the country boy, I like my beef cooked and on a plate.”

Smiling, Gareth decided to play his trump card. “Well, I was at one of my wife’s dos and I think I might have schmoozed my way into some interesting business”

Kate looked surprised. Gareth didn’t bring in business. Most of the time he took the term “sleeping partner” literally, just the way she liked it. “Really? Something farm related I assume.”

Not at all. A little work in the theatre.”

The theatre? Seriously? What on earth can we do for them? Are they looking for a jester? Perhaps we could send them Tracey. I’m sure she’d love to prance around on stage in fancy costumes. It’s pretty much all she does around here half the time anyway. Do you know I had to remind her she wasn’t to have on-line shopping delivered to the office again? I wouldn’t mind, but when the latest parcel turns up, she buggers off to try it on and then everyone has to stop work for a fashion show.”

Tracey’s outfits had always been one of the more entertaining parts of office life for Gareth and even though she was just about young enough to be his daughter, some of the more risqué efforts still stuck in his mind. Stifling a smile at the memory, he broke into Kates rant. “Oh, it’s not a major job, not like the ones you work on, but I thought it would be good to do something for the community. In fact I wondered about giving young Tracey the chance to help me out. Perhaps the girl just needs a bit of a chance to show us what she can do.”

You might remember that she’s done that in the past. There’s at least one seaman who’s a little less able after her ministrations a few months ago.”

I’m sure she has it in her, we just need to find something she can get her teeth into.”

Kate pulled a face.

Anyway, I think it would be a nice idea if she and I worked on this one. I’ll let you know what we get up to of course and I’m sure you’ll want to give us plenty of advice.”

Kate suddenly remembered something. “Hold on. You said ‘doing something for the community’. What do you mean? Aren’t we getting paid?”

Blood rushed to Gareth’s cheeks. “Well. Um. Well, I don’t think they have any money as such, but there are I’m sure lots of other ways we can get a, erm, benefit.” He decided against mentioning renaming the bar.”

For a moment, Kate paused. Working for free wasn’t a concept that she really understood or approved of. Charity was lobbing a coin in a bucket shaken in the high street when you couldn’t get away. Why do people expect something for nothing? She’d dragged herself up by the straps on her designer shoes.

On the other hand, she had enough on her plate keeping tabs on what Dave was doing in America, plus a few side projects that were ticking over. If Gareth had a project, it would keep him out of her hair for a while. If it also gave Tracey something to keep her out of trouble, that might be a good thing too.

OK”, she said, “Go for it. Let’s do our bit for the community. Just remember that if I need either of you to work on something that pays, the actors get dropped.”

Gareth was surprised. He’d expect much more fuss. “Thank you. I’m sure we’ll get along fine. You never know, perhaps we’ll pull it off and you’ll be back talking to those Lost Women again on TV.”

Loose Women. And I’ll not be doing that again. We need gravitas, not gossip about cellulite.”

With that she turned and strode out into the office. “Tracey, I think Gareth has some work you might be able to get your teeth in to.”

Startled Tracey looked up from the chocolate muffin she was devouring, leaving her with a brown coloured moustache of icing. The accounts team giggled, before a hard stare in their direction silenced the laugher. Picking up a pad, she marched in to Gareth’s office, ignoring the gestures from the team who tried to tell her to wipe her top lip, though they didn’t try too hard.

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