Author Archives: Candice Nolan

Rediscovering the Library

Candice: Over the last few years I’ve got out of the habit of going to the local library. It’s been too easy to pick up a book from the supermarket or the charity shop, or get one from Phil. However, during lockdown, it has been harder and harder to get hold of physical books so I have had to look at other options.

At one point I tried to set up a share group with the neighbours, but we either didn’t like each others type of book, or they read on a kindle so couldn’t share.

Phil and I have posted books back and forth, but that has still be dependent on what I can get hold of, and I refuse to buy too much from Amazon as I like to support the local stores instead.

But then there was a lightbulb moment in the family the other week. Why not use the Library? It’s particularly relevant as my daughter is reading more and more, and finding the right books for her is also a challenge.

She loved her first trip there, and was very proud of having her new library card. The slight problem is her having picked about seven books up, and only managing to read one in the three weeks she has them, but I am not knocking that excitement!

However, it has also helped me to discover the extensive range at Solihull Library. In fact, I got more lost in the options than she did; quick reads, Richard and Judy reads, murder mystery, chick lit, something completely different. I’m reading something at the moment I would not have picked up in a shop.

The downside is I can’t share them with Phil, but I can at least recommend and he can go and find them in his own library.

There are lots of other things happening at the Library too, there were some children doing craft activities last time we went in so I need to find out how to sign up to them, plus reading groups and summer clubs.

Lockdown has changed a lot of things but also brought other things to the fore that we’d forgotten about – using the local park is one and now using the Library is another. Don’t forget to use yours – its a great, free service and will open you up to lots more things than books.

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A Book Club with a difference

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Candice: As part of the the many initiatives out there to bring us all together while we are apart my work set up a book club. Being of the writing mind I joined immediately, and then gave a plug for the two Nolan Parker books.

Disappointingly neither were on the short list for the first two books we read as a group (I’m still working on that), however we picked ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ by Richard Osman. My sister had already read this and told me it was a good one so I was looking forward to it. And the result, I loved it! It nipped along lightly with twist and turns, and I loved the fact the main characters were all people in an old people’s home, proving that age doesn’t impact on your mind (just your body in a lot of cases).

Book put aside it was time for the first meet of the Book Club. The organiser had sent round some very deep discussion questions and I thought, ‘oh no, this is going to be too highbrow for me’ . But I logged in late to the meeting, due to going to another, and it was all ladies and they were nattering about something completely different!

The call turned into a ‘life, the universe and everything’ discussion. We covered the book, old age, which character we’d want to be, then other books we had read, then work, working from home, and even misogyny and the menopause! It was great because it was like being on a girls night out in the pub, with a book as the starter for the conversation but actually just a really good natter. It almost felt normal, apart from the fact they were on screen on sat around me.

I’m not sure what we are reading next but I’m more looking forward to the chat than the book.

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Time to stop just talking about it

Candice: It’s Mental Health Awareness Week. There is a lot of content about it out there this year as, though it is something that always exists, in the last year mental health issues have hit a lot more people than before. The change that the pandemic has wrought had an impact on us all. And some of us have dealt with it better than others but I think everyone has been touched by loneliness, isolation, just not being able to be around friends or loved ones.

I’m not ashamed to admit it has not been my best year for my own mental health. I am a social bunny and like to be out and about enjoying life. Even the simple things like hanging out having a chat round the coffee machine are something that gives me motivation. Being locked in my house for a year (with the odd break), has not helped me. I missed going to the gym, going out to concerts and just hanging out with my friends.

For the first time in a long time I am going in the office this week. I have no idea what it will be like. I know what the rules around what I have to do in the office are, but actually being in the office and being around people…. well that is a bit of an unknown. I have mixed feelings. I want to socialise but I have got so used to my new lifestyle, logging on in the spare room, walks round the block in the lunch break, no commute, that I am not sure how I feel about this. And I sure I am not the only person thinking this. We’ve all got use to the ‘new normal’ and now reverting to the ‘old normal’ seems just as odd. However, one of the reasons I am going is to help me get back some of that normality.

I’ve got tickets for concerts over the summer, and holidays planned and I need to get back into the idea of being around groups of people, we all do. I’ve been going to the gym and the supermarket but I am sure a lot of people haven’t and have a whole other step to get over around socialising with people.

So what do I really want to say – there is a lot of talk about the impact of the pandemic over the last year but I think just as important is the change to the return to normal. Some people may deal with it better than others. Being aware of the impact on others, not pushing people to do things that they might not want to do, being flexible is just as important.

I watched a TV programme the other week about male suicide. There was one point that stayed with me after the show over all others. “Ask someone if they are ok, then ask them again.” Some times by asking twice they give the true answer, rather than the flip answer that we all give of being fine. I thought that was a really good idea.

So I’m going to ask you, not just during Mental Health Awareness Week but every week, to check on those around you if they are really ok. And if they aren’t then see if you can help or direct them to the places that can – as soon as you can. There is some really good information here. Mental health: Can you tell if someone is struggling? – BBC News

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The Element of Surprise

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Candice: I had an interesting lunch time walk yesterday. After spending the morning trying to copywrite 20 letters, I felt I needed a break from the laptop and a turn round the block.

Now, I have become very familiar with said block over the last year. When I leave the house it actually becomes ‘which route can we go today without going slightly mad at seeing the same things over and over again?’. I mentally picked my route and set off, a little chilled as the temperature has really dropped over the last few days.

I’m just coming to end of the route and there are some roadworks. They are laying new broadband cable for someone, in fact they have been doing it for over a week and its been a bit of a pain. Thank gawd that at the moment my only commute is the odd trip to school, in the opposite direction.

I watch this black Honda Civic do a three point turn in the road and pull up. I’m thinking they must live in one of the houses and can’t get on the drive due to the work. I then spot one of the occupants get out, hood over his head as he sidles round the side of an unoccupied open back truck, with road digging equipment on the back. Next thing I know he is lifting off one of the pieces of kit.

At this point I jump into action as I realise what is going on. I’ve got my phone in my pocket so I get it out to take photos. I can’t get the attention of the workmen as they are too far away, and its too noisy.

Of course I can’t unlock my photo quickly as I am fumbling around. By this point the driver must have spotted me as the next think I know the Civic is burning off up a side round, passenger hiding in his seat while the Driver has his hand up to obscure his face as he drives past. I’ve managed to get off one photo with the reg of the car.

I don’t know if they grabbed something or not, so run down to the workmen to warn them something might have been nicked. Luckily their kit is chained down on the back of the truck so nothing was taken.

After many thanks from them I walk home, still shell shocked from what happened.

It all happened so quickly, I’m still amazed I managed to register what was going on. If I had been in a car I never would have done, or looking at my phone which is what most people do all day. According to my friends, I am now ‘Wonder Woman’. I’ll take that.

Good books all rely on the element of surprise to keep us engaged and get the adrenaline flowing. A twist, a death, anything to make the reader go ‘Oh’, and then they want to read on to see what happens next. Life can be boring at the moment, so see what you can find – if it’s a crop of bluebells, a text message to an old friend who you haven’t spoken to in a while – to help keep up your ‘element’ of surprise and keep the day fresh. I wouldn’t recommend a robbery every day though!

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All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle

All The Lonely People: From the Richard and Judy bestselling author of Half  a World Away comes a warm, life-affirming story – the perfect read for  these times eBook: Gayle, Mike: Amazon.co.uk:

Candice: I’ve read a few Mike Gayle books over the years. I’m not sure how I originally came across him, but he hails from our local area (Birmingham) so I always like to give a Brummie some support.

Phil sent this one over a few weeks again in one of his reading parcels (the only way we have been keeping each other sane during lockdown) and I’d waited to start it as I wasn’t sure about the title, it sounded too sad.

The story follows Hubert Bird, a Jamaican who came to the UK in the 1950s looking for work. Cutting between present and past it tells the story of Hubert landing in the country and finding that the streets weren’t paved with gold, and the locals weren’t friendly to a man with black skin.

He is rescued by Joyce, a fellow worker at the department store he ends up at. She is white, and they forge on through the years facing up to the prejudice. But, it also tells the story of the present, where Hubert is now on his own, Joyce dead and the children grown up and left home. He has lost touch with the friends who emigrated at the same time as him and now spending his days pottering, and having the odd phone call with his daughter who now lives in Australia.

In walks Ashleigh, local newbie looking to make some friends, and an unlikely friendship is created between this bubbly twenty something year old single mum and the eighty year old Hubert. It brings him out of the place he has been hiding and makes him realise he is actually very lonely.

Together they create a ‘Campaign for loneliness’ in the local area which gets picked up by the national press, Hubert the reluctant star.

As with all stories this would be too cut and dried if all was as it seemed, I won’t give the twist away but it’s a good one.

With everything happening at the moment I thought this story added a different view on what has been happening to people during the pandemic, even though it wasn’t specifically about it. We’ve all got lonely, sitting at home on our zoom calls, telling stories to everyone about how great things are. We all need to go and say hi to a neighbour, reconnect with an old friend, chat to the person at the local food shop, as we are missing out on what makes us human: being sociable and interacting with others. This week, of course, some have been partaking in a pint as soon as they can but to me its not about the pub, its about the people. And I have missed the people a lot in the last year.

This is a lovely story that doesn’t challenge but is a light read where you want to know what happens to Hubert and his friends. I came to the end with a smile on my face.

Don’t be lonely, people.

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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

Stagecoach Performing Arts Bury - Posts | Facebook

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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