Author Archives: Candice Nolan

Lockdown reading

Candice: I could write about the fact its been a year and a day since Boris told us all to stay home. But there has been a lot of coverage on that so I wanted to write about something else.

I would say that I haven’t read any more or less that usual in this year of lock down. The biggest problem I have had is getting hold of books. The range in a supermarket is never quite the same as a good book shop, and then at times even getting to a supermarket to buy a book was hard.

I did try and do book sharing with the neighbours but we either didn’t like the same books or they only read on Kindle so couldn’t share.

Phil and I have done some parcels to each other, as we haven’t been able to share books face to face. But we now keep forgetting who sent what to whom!

The other day I spotted and article on the BBC website about celebrity recommendations for lock down reading. BBC Arts – Culture in Quarantine – Meet the authors: What have Big Book Weekend’s guests been reading? so I thought I’d have a look. It was part of the Big Book Weekend, last weekend and you can hear interviews with each celeb about their favourite book.

The one that interested me the most was the book that Russell Kane recommended. It’s called ‘Wild Thing’ by Mike Fairclough. Its all about rediscovering how to be a child again as an adult, taking some of the stresses and strains that make us forget to have fun.

With over a year of not knowing what we can or can’t do, not being able to book or plan ahead to far as things keep changing, and home schooling for some of us, then perhaps its time to go back and take away some of these stresses. I’ve already decided to take time over the weekend when this is over, rather than stuff it full with expensive activities. Someone just wants to run round the garden sometimes, or play on the swings, and perhaps I do to (though I’m better on the trampoline). Anyone for back garden tennis?

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I’m SOOOOOO Bored

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Candice: I don’t know about you, but I’ve reached boredom point with this whole home working/homeschooling/lockdown thing.

I think part of it is I looked at the calendar and thought – hey its the 8th Feb and then realised the earliest we are going to escape this is in four weeks time. FOUR WEEKS!

I’ve run out of ways to come up with interesting things to do at the weekend. The other week I did my tax return, then I did some touch-up painting where the walls were damaged in the hall. Getting up and putting a wash on, on Saturday morning, no longer floats my boat, because I can do it any day of the week.

As I sit here there are small snowflakes coming down on top of a light smattering of snow. More snow could be fun, but we’ve still done it all before. And hey, that will mean another trip over to the local park, the one we go to almost every day as its a five-minute walk from our house. BORED of it!

Phil and I came up with a creative way to chat the other week, to try and replicate our usual meets. I can walk to a coffee shop in 20 minutes so I did that, while talking to Phil on the phone, he did the same walking around his local area and found a new independent coffee shop that had opened. It was good to put the world to rights for an hour and a half, and clock up nearly 12000 steps. And Phil has found a new place to buy coffee and cake. But you can tell how people are looking for things to do, at 11.30am the queue for the drive-through coffee shop was out of their car park. And I bumped into two people I know while I was out which doesn’t normally happen.

I always find the winter months a bit harder, feeling contained by the cold and the dark nights. I haven’t been able to go out for a run as I’m an ‘above 5 degrees’ runner. And this snow means the bike ride I had planned will probably go out of the window.

I was doing my morning workout today; avoiding the sofabed, cat and small child while I was doing shuttle runs across the spare bedroom, and I thought – I need a new list. This is the time to finish off those other jobs around the house which will annoy me when I don’t have time. The dining room ceiling is desperate for paint. I also sat in front of a computer on Saturday and thought – let’s do some writing, and I drew a blank as I haven’t written for so long I don’t even know where to start. So I’m going to bully myself into starting on Saturday – when I have my three hours of child-free time and I am going to write. I also think it will make me feel better, having a purpose, and also enjoying myself.

 

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Stagecoach Drama saved my life

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Candice: You may have heard of Stagecoach. It’s a theatre school for children from four to 16, that teaches dance, drama and singing. My daughter joined up around 18 months ago. Initially, she was quite reluctant; it’s a big step to go into a large room full of children you don’t know while Mommy walks off. There were tears as she clung to me. We had been to a trial session which she said she loved so I wasn’t just dropping her off thinking “whey hey, child free time”. Well, I was, but I also knew she’d enjoy it.

My daughter has always been a drama queen. If I’d let her she’d have set up her own YouTube channel by now. She’s always asking me to video her, or pretending to make her own videos. I knew something like this would be perfect. I also know how much I loved drama growing up, and would have killed to do this.

So, along came a global pandemic, and no clubs, classes or going out. And we went on for the whole summer like that, with us parents coming up with the entertainment as we all fell over each other in the house.

Then someone realised that you can run some clubs remotely. Suddenly all these zoom lessons started popping up. And I’ve come to rely on the three-hour reprieve I get on a Saturday afternoon.

After a whole week living in each other’s pockets it the chance for the other half and I to get on with some stuff, without the whole ‘who’s turn is it to entertain the small child’ fight going on. Every parent out there will know this daily battle – you have things you want or need to do – it might be admin (I’ve spent this afternoon doing finance stuff!), it might be a workout, it might be tidying the loft. But all of these things are easier without a little voice telling you they are bored, need help etc. And you know you have three hours to do it. I end up shoehorning so much into that time I need a lie down after!

And in the lounge, one happy child is chatting with her friends while she learns to sing, emote and dance (her favourite part).

Like Phil’s involvement in Marian Keyes’s writing tutorial last week, we are all getting creative and actually finding some of these work. Sometimes it doesn’t, trying to run a disco where no-one can hear the music is a perfect example, but in a lot of cases, it can.

So, I’m going to savour every Saturday where I get my ‘me’ time. Hang on – I’ve got six minutes until she finishes, what else can I get done….

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Are you exposing yourself to your readers?

Bear vs. Bare—What's the Difference? | Grammarly

I’m not sure if you have noticed but there is a term being used a lot across customer communications, notices and social media messages at the moment.  As we are all having a rough time of it, things are taking longer to do, so I keep being asked to BARE with people.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I won’t be sharing any naked shots with them, and I don’t expect them to do the same!

When I first started seeing this term I thought it might be me (I am dyslexic) that was seeing something that was wrong, but I knew the spelling of bare just didn’t feel right.  I think people opt for this one, rather than the correct term which is BEAR, as they perceive the second term as used exclusively for an animal.  But I looked it up and bear not bare is the correct way to ask someone to have some patience.  Now every time I see it, it drives me up the wall!

The use of correct terminology and spelling is something that a professional will add to your writing, whether that is a marketing document, book or blog.  Phil and I used a professional proofreader on our books, as their expertise does make a difference. I know that I am not the best speller, and when you write something you don’t always see your mistakes, but certain things will make me stop reading before I get to the end.  Using the wrong term is one of them.  In this world of asking people to hold fire while you work on something, then asking them to get their clothes off rather than be patient is probably the worst thing you can do.

The English Language is a wonderful thing, and having a junior reader in the house is making me even more interested in it (though when she asks me how to spell a word out loud I  do really struggle – how do you spell science?) as she is developing her vocabulary every day.  Using the wrong term is not a hanging offence but this is where the teaching and learning from an early age comes in, as does reading a lot.  My understanding of language and development of words is broadened by the number of books I read.  Though it’s probably better in chick lit and murder mystery terminology than others!

It surprises me when someone uses the wrong term, so if you are thinking of doing something professional, just check your terms if you aren’t sure, else you might alienate people rather than get your message across.

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Christmas Party but not as you know it

Candice: Phil told me I HAD to write the blog this week as I’d been keeping you all on tenterhooks talking about last weeks trip into the office.

Well, it was eventful. The whole experience was like starting the first day at a new job. I didn’t sleep well the night before as I kept thinking about what I needed to take with me, even though I’d packed it all and put it by the front door. I even cleaned my boots and laid out all my clothes for the next day, like I used to do.

In the morning I think it was the earliest that my daughter has been dropped off at school. I then got on the motorway and immediately remembered why I don’t like driving at ‘peak’ time, (though this was nothing like the usual level of traffic, just people being stupid because they were in a rush). However, I got there, Christmas jumper ready, flashing light badge on the go, tea and coffee ready to be made.

The day was a whirlwind of trying to work out how to work the new technology in the office (can you hear us, we can’t see you) and fitting in a whole weeks worth of work in one day. There was also a lot of food – everyone had bought something which had to be put in a central place and then we could dip it when we wanted (two metres apart obviously). It reminded me of being back in the office full time and being stuffed with too many chocs near to Xmas.

We went from back to back meetings to our virtual Christmas party – which was nice to do with a few key people around as it gave the event atmosphere. Though when we went to the quiz part we all had to disappear to different parts of the office so that we couldn’t hear each other team’s answers (not hard with social distancing), not that I am competitive at all.

By the end of the day, I was frazzled. I’d tried to solve our business planning problems and also a murder mystery too! I finished it off with the 5km run with my running buddy, our last before Christmas which was a really nice end to my sociable day.

Was this like a usual Christmas wind down? No.

Was it nice to go back in and see people? Yes.

Did I win the Christmas Jumper competition? NO!

Was I shattered that night and the next day? OMG yes. I have no idea what it will be like when we go back to travelling in on a regular basis, but I know it will be tiring initially!

I hope you all have a great Christmas and New Year and here is looking at a different 2021!

 

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A Christmas Bonus?

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Candice: Today I will be in the office for the first time in nine months. The concept of going in was mooted in September but then didn’t happen due to a change in rules. At the time I was very excited as I would be able to see my work colleagues again and have some semblance of normality. Having it taken away felt like a real blow.

But since then, I’ve got used to my little corner of the back bedroom again, especially since I bought a new desk which has really helped to make the space work properly for me. I’ve got a cosy set up, often with a cat asleep behind me and regular tea on tap when I want it.

When it was suggested we went back in for a planning session the other day I did jump at the chance, but since then have probably had the qualms that a lot of us long time home workers have had – what will it actually be like to work in an office face to face (well two metres apart obviously)? I’ve also been planning what I have to take, funny because for years I’ve just picked up my bag in the morning and got on with it. But now that bag isn’t packed with the usual essentials – they are dotted around the house, around my desk or actually, I don’t know where they are.

Work pass and access fob – check – they are hanging up with my coat downstairs and have been for months. I can see some of my colleagues scrabbling around tonight trying to find those.

Computer – check – charging as we speak. Though there will be ones in the office I think I am happier to take my own.

Charging cables – check – don’t want anything to have a flat battery a long way from home.

Milk, tea bags, coffee, food, lunch – all the essentials – I need to pack a bigger lunch box than I do for my daughter

Clothes – what to wear? It’s our Virtual Christmas party tomorrow too so Christmas Jumpers are obligatory.

Hair and makeup – I’ll need to get up earlier in the morning to be ready!

Small child – being dropped off at school on the way. Haven’t done that in a long time.

I am looking forward to seeing some real faces, and meeting some people I have never met before (though worked with for months). But I’m also cautious as we will need to stay apart and wear masks, which is going to strange. Four of us in a large meeting room trying to do a planning session will be VERY interesting.

But it will also be nice to do our Christmas party with at least some human beings around, so the laughter is real and not echoing down the wifi.

I’ll let you know how we get on.

 

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Can YOU judge a book by its cover?

 

Candice: I spotted the following quiz on the BBC website the other day asking if you can judge which book it is just by the cover?

So I did the quiz and got 6 out of 10. Not too bad I thought, but I did think some of the comments and descriptions were interesting. A lot of the covers seemed to have been revamped into a very stylised look which, to me, didn’t really reflect the content. And the descriptions attached to them were more like you would see in an art review – ‘peacock feathers representing pride’. Um, do they?

I like a simple title and cover that does what it says on the tin. I’ve written before about how, if the title or cover doesn’t reflect the inside then I get annoyed. I suppose it’s because I’ve taken the time to pick up this item and then I’m settling down to read it, I want it to be right, not sit there and go ‘this is awful, I need to find something else’.

As you will know if you follow this blog regularly, Phil and I have been through a few iterations of book covers. Certainly ‘Kate vs the Dirtboffins’ is on cover 3 as we have changed our style and view over the years as we have looked at who is reading it.

This is true of one of the biggest selling book series around, Harry Potter. When it first came out it was labelled a children’s book and so the covers showed that, then they realised that it was being read by adults too and so there were two versions floating around – Adult and child.

They say ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, but we all do. I just like my covers to be simple and clear so I can get on with enjoying the reading.

 

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Here we go again

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Candice: I’m a little at sixes and sevens this week. After an enjoyable week off work and time hanging out with family – flying kites, building sandcastles – something that felt almost normal, we are back to going into another lockdown.

And it’s not something I am looking forward to. I’ve got my head around the working from home again until Spring next year, it is what it is and, to be honest, I’m not sure how I going to feel when I have to get into a car to commute again. But the thought of not being able to socialise with family and friends have got me down. Each time the rules change you find a new way to cope, ‘Ok so you can’t come in but let’s sit in the garden, Ok not in the garden but we can meet in the park,’ and now we can’t really meet at all.

I’ve gone Christmas buying mad as I don’t want the little person to miss out. I think we have most of Smyth’s Toys hidden in the house. This makes me happier as she’s been writing her list since August so I’d be sad if she didn’t get some of what she asked for (though she’d not getting all of it, it’s a long list). We’d just booked a trip to see Santa too but I’m not sure if that is going to happen.

What I haven’t done it stockpile loo roll, something I believe is happening again. We’ve got enough to last a few weeks so I’ll wait for the madness to die down, though I’ve just had an email from Asda about our delivery this week to say they don’t have any eggs. Come on people, they aren’t closing the food shops.

Last night I started to think about how I get through this next month. With no gym to go to, I’m dusting off the spin bike and looking at the online classes my gym are offering. Planning to go for a walk in my lunch break when its light, not when it’s dark. And then meeting up with one friend when I can. Phil – meet you in the park soon, we can kick some leaves around!

and P.S. I will be diving into some books for some great escapism.

 

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The Defamation of Strickland Banks

Album cover for The Defamation of Strickland Banks

Candice: I’ve not been driving around much these days. Usually, a long drive is my opportunity to sort through the thousands of songs I have on my iPod and pick something I haven’t listened to for a while, or something new. Or listen to that new album I have bought, all the way through.

We don’t consume music, books, TV or film in the same way that we used to. Everything’s short and sharp, a quick fix for instant gratification. I buy as many singles as I used to buy when I was a DJ back at University, or I just listen to new songs in Spotify. Occasionally an artist comes along and I think, I might want to listen to your whole album and I buy it on download. I don’t even do CD’s any more, which I used to always have to keep.

This dipping in and out means that the concept of an whole album seems alien to a lot of people, we only listen to the tracks we want to hear. But that doesn’t always mean you get the best stuff, just the dance track which will sell well in the charts.

What I have been doing on my shorter drives in the car is to put the iPod on shuffle, which means it can throw me a weird and wonderful collection of stuff including things I haven’t heard in years. Up popped the other day a song by Plan B, actually from the album Ill Manors, but it reminded me of his ‘concept’ album – The Defamation of Strickland Banks. The album is a story in itself, telling the tale of a man wrongly accused of raping a woman. The premise is clever as each song leads from the other as he goes from having a big night out, a one night stand, court and then jail. The subject matter is tough but the songs relate the feelings of the character as he goes through each stage of the journey and it certainly doesn’t glamourize prison and what happens ‘inside’.

I mentioned it to Phil the other day and he professed to have not heard of the album, and said it wouldn’t be his cup of tea. But Mr Parker I think you need to give it a try. Even if you don’t like the tunes, the lyrics are worth a listen. My personal favourite is ‘Stay too long’ – its got a thumping beat and a catchy hook, though I can’t play it in the car with my daughter as the language degenerates at the end!

To me songs can be just as interesting as books. They tell their own story and after often created as a cathartic experience for the writer. Phil and I write stories, but to a lot of artists their album is a story. In this case it’s a very clever one and I encourage to go back and visit this album even though it’s 10 years old if you fancy dipping into something new.

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The Hidden Army

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Candice: Six months ago on this date we were told that the UK was to be locked down. A lot has happened in that time.

I’ve been reading a lot of reports in the news about how the economy is struggling, the number of people unemployed, generally how this pandemic isn’t really doing great things for the world of work.

Behind all of this are the people who are working away from spare rooms, kitchen tables, lounges, and probably toilets if they need to. People who are suffering from bad backs, eye strain, migraines from working in unsuitable conditions. Those who have to deal on a daily basis with frustration, loneliness, tears, and anger both from themselves and their colleagues.

I call them ‘The Hidden Army’. I’m one of them, as I have been fortunate enough to have been still in a job through the last six months. We don’t get a clap every Thursday night, or often get mentioned in the news. Everyone is too busy talking about how students are coping without socialising in their first term, or what job they will get when they graduate. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t envy those who don’t have a job and I sympathise with those working in the NHS. But there are a large group of people out there who are working hard to keep the economy going and are largely going unnoticed.

So this is my post for them, 40% of the population according to the Sunday Times, who have been working remotely for all this time, and don’t always enjoy it. Those of us who get fed up with looking at the same four walls every day, who miss interacting with their colleagues over the watercooler rather than by Teams, who find that some days they are frustrated or angry for no reason at all and often take it out on those same colleagues.

So I’m going to clap to my fellow workers and share some of my tips for keeping sane. Exercise is number one – talking a walk, going for a run, going to the gym, anything to clear my mind and get rid of the anger.

Talking to people – some times I don’t want to but the times I have I’ve always felt better. Its all about finding the right person to talk to, and not just talking about work or Covid 19.

Take some time for yourself – even a trip to the shops for 20 mins is a chance to remember what normality is and to escape the house, your partner/child/cat.

Keep firing up that laptop and slogging away. And when you look at that picture of the far-flung beach on your desktop just remember that our time will come. In the meantime take the time to explore the UK, take breaks when you can and look after number one.

 

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