Category Archives: Candice

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

Image result for working from bedroom

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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I miss the beach

Beautiful beaches local to Brean Sands in sunny Somerset.
Brean Sands

Candice: In America, Labor Day is the ‘last day of the summer’. This year it falls on the 7th September. Its the day when they say you shouldn’t wear white anymore (jeans particularly) as the autumn is coming and its time to pack those things away.

Well in England we start thinking about Autumn as soon as the children go back to school. That started yesterday and continues for the next week. The morning rush to get dressed begins and we’ll all start complaining about how busy the roads are and the traffic jams in the morning.

Well this year it is going to be different, as the children are going back but the parents mostly aren’t. I’ve yet to be given a date for when to return to the office, though they have just published a video on our intranet about what it might look like. I won’t be bothering with lipstick as its facemasks all the way.

Though I am looking forward to the routine of school drop off and then starting work, I am not looking forward to the downhill route to Christmas. The little person is already planning her list but I just see short days and cold for six months. And a long time until another holiday or trip to the beach.

I love my holidays (as you know) but the main thing I love is the beach. I like to dip my toes in the sea, build sandcastles, go rock pooling…all the stuff that a trip to the coast brings. The trouble is from here the nearest beach is two hours away. We’ve just come back from a trip to Devon and I was determined to get my seaside hit, even though it was mainly raining. We managed one dry day on the beach and we got to do all of the above, with one very happy six year old. Tip of the trip – take a windbreak. Outside windbreak – minus 10, inside windbreak – 25 degrees!

I came back and started looking at how much buying a holiday home down there costs (more than you think). I definitely need to retire to the coast!

I’m keeping my eye’s peeled on what is going on so I can have another holiday, though I think the fact we have been abroad this year already means we have probably already had our holiday luck. Time to get out the thermals, but perhaps this time for bracing walks along the beach.

Perhaps time to find a quiet corner, laptop and hot chocolate and make it good book writing time instead?

 

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Meet me at Pebble Beach by Bella Osborne.

Meet Me at Pebble Beach

Candice: I was very lucky recently to be able to escape the confines of the UK and travel abroad. It was not without its dramas, up to 48 hours before flying we were going to Spain but then it was all change and we managed to book to go to Rhodes. I don’t think I slept properly for two nights wondering what we were going to go.

Now to some it might seem silly but I had got to the point I really needed a break from the monotony of getting up, logging on to my computer in the other bedroom and then logging off at the end of the day. The odd walk around the block, bike ride and now trip to the gym is not enough for me. And I’d got to the point I REALLY needed a proper break as I was getting arsey with people.

With travel and pool holidays comes book reading. Again with COVID my usual route of picking up some stuff from the local second-hand bookseller had gone out of the window. So I decided to buy some books from Amazon based on some names I knew and their advice. I also bought some paper and some digital as, for once, I wouldn’t be raiding the hotel library either.

I’ve got a selection of things to review from the break, some good, some not so good. I’m starting with ‘Meet me at Pebble Beach’ only because it really annoyed me.

The book itself is fine, it follows Regan; a girl who is all over the place in her life, hates her job, doesn’t have enough money, someone who really grates on me to start. A work colleague tricks her into thinking she has won the lottery and that starts the ball rolling on her eventually sorting out her life. She gives up her job, starts her own business and then finds herself along the way. The story trips along, though you can tell in places that it was written as a four-part series as there are a few extraneous storylines that would fill out a serial but are too much in a book.

The book is set in Brighton and, without giving too much away, it all sorts its self out in the end. But the thing that annoyed me – the title. At no point does she or anyone else say ‘meet me pebble beach’ , they go to the beach over the course of the story but it isn’t central to the book. I kept waiting for something to happen related to the beach, and it didn’t. I might not be a perfectionist but this really bugged me, especially as the cover featured beach huts which also don’t feature in the story. It was like the person who created the cover had not read the book, or the synopsis.

This distracted from the book as I was waiting for the scene at Pebble Beach to happen as I expected it to be central to the book. I didn’t and I felt deflated at the end. A lesson to us all – the book cover is as important as the content.

 

 

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101 days in Lockdown

Image result for female cyclist on road

Candice: So, it’s 101 days since the UK went into full lockdown. Since then I’ve:

  • got very familiar with the local park and housing estate, as I’ve walked around them about 100 times.
  • been very creative with card and tissue paper, coming up with ways to entertain a 6-year-old.
  • made so many cups of tea I’ve lost count, though I don’t think going back and forth to the kitchen counts anywhere near enough steps on my watch.
  • sorted through a huge box of old toys and dolls clothes delivered by my parents and discovered lots of memories (and some great things for my daughter to play with).
  • moved around bedrooms in the house as I’ve tried to find the ideal spot to work, or make it feel like I am going somewhere different each day.
  • tried not to become obsessed with the deliveries arriving for the neighbour who is doing lots of work on their house.
  • got used to one routine: child at home juggling work and school work, to now drop off and pick up at school, with what seems like a very short window between the two.
  • used my bike lots, riding back and forth to school, escaping on bad days for longer bike rides to clear my mind.
  • discovered I can work out at home, but it’s not as effective as going to the gym. (Joe Wicks, you’re good but it’s not enough to offset the sweets/biscuits/Haribo that is consumed when you are having a bad day.)

I’ve proofread two books, read at least 10 more; some good, some truly terrible (Phil, why did you make me read ‘The unbearable lightness of scones’, that is 4 hours of my life I’ll never get back!)

I’ve got frustrated, been in tears, and been angry with the stupidity of all this, and all the people who will insist on putting stupid comments on social media. I’ve turned off my social media and then slowly dipped back in, but once a day rather than every half an hour, to temper my anger.

I’m still not sure what the new norm will be. I’ve got used to only going to the shops occasionally and timing it for when it’s quiet – my bank balance is much happier for this. I now look up when I hear the sound of a plane going over, as this is a very unusual occurrence. I crave a holiday, but I have no idea what that will look like when it comes. I know I’ll be shattered when I eventually have to start travelling to the office, and I’ll have no idea what to wear. And the idea of having to do my face and hair each morning….

But I know I’ll look forward to seeing people. I have really missed socialising. I’ve been lucky and seen quite a lot of my family but, apart from school-related people, everyone else has been hibernating. I went for a run on Monday with a work colleague, at a distance of course, but it was so nice to see someone different!

And my writing chum and I – well we have our second meet on Friday. Coffee, cake, either end of a park bench and book talk. Sounds good to me.

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Kate Vs the Dirt Boffins – Out today!

Kate vs the Dirt Boffins - Out NOW!

It’s in the shops (OK, on Amazon) now – the brand new version of Kate vs the Dirt Boffins!

Available on Kindle and paperback, we’ve added bits, taken out the typos and there’s a bonus authors interview at the back.

Perfect for all the family – head over to Amazon and grab your copy now!

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Good Omens?

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Candice:  Phil has been trawling the options for books and I have been looking through TV and film during this protracted period of self-entertainment.

Though the other day I did manage to get my hands on some more new books as we did a share session in our road, everyone bought their spares out on to the street and put them on a rug and then we took turns to look through the options.  I’ve picked up two chic-lit and a Steven King from that.

Ages ago I saw ‘Good Omens’ advertised on Amazon but wasn’t sure I was looking for that kind of programme at the time.  It’s based on a book by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and revolves around an Angel and a Demon who have been on Earth keeping an eye on things since the Garden of Eden.

One day the Demon gets told its time for Armageddon to start, he has to deliver a baby who will be the Prince of Darkness and start it all off when he comes of age.  However, he and the Angel quite like their life on Earth and don’t want things to change.  So they go about trying to stop the Prince becoming bad.

I read a lot of Terry Pratchett at University, and found it laugh out loud funny then, though have not read any of it since.  Neil Gaiman, I tried American Gods, his other Amazon TV show but lost it along the way.  (lets not also talk about how he has lost it along the way – um travelling in a Pandemic anyone…).  But this is just the right side of funny, dry and very well played by Michael Sheen as the Angel and David Tennant as the Demon.

In the weird times we live in at the moment there are a lot of books and TV I am rejecting as want something to distract me and lift the mood.  This is doing exactly that.  Its got touches of Python, some very stupid lines and set pieces which make you smile (last night they went to a Paintballing place and the Demon decided to change the guns to real ones).

Definitely a Good Omen to me of some good telly.

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Tried a good movie recently?

Le Mans '66

Candice: Though I love a good book, I do also enjoy a trip to the movies.  I find sitting in a dark cinema, surrounded by noise and a big screen helps me escape into another world the way books do.

Obviously at the moment cinema trips are a no-no, however, I have managed to watch a few good films via my Amazon account.

Having so much home time on our hands means that to differentiate between the week and the weekend we’ve taken to ordering a takeaway and sitting down to a film after the little one goes to bed.  Access to Amazon is like going to Blockbuster (for those of you who remember renting films) – it means you can pick from some good titles for not a lot of money and then relax with a film and a beer.

Over the last few weeks, I have watched ‘Hustlers’, the Jennifer Lopez film about a group of strippers who resorted to more creative ways to make money when the bottom dropped out of the market after the crash in 2008.  It was a good film, though I found it hard to work out why these girls would work together, as it is normally more dog eat dog with women.  And the outfits, or lack of them, were eye-opening!

Then there was ‘Blinded by the Light’, a great British film about an Asian family trying to integrate (or not in some cases) in Luton in the 80s.  Good tunes, flashbacks on clothing and hairstyles and comedy about British and Muslim cultures clashing.  Enjoyed that one.

Last weekend we bought ‘Le Mans 66’.  Its subtitle is ‘Ford vs Ferrari’ and it tells the tale of Ford’s decision to get into racing and knock Ferrari off its winning perch.  Why did they want to do that?  Well because someone in marketing told them their cars weren’t sexy enough.

I am a bit of a car buff (I used to drive an Alfa) so this wasn’t just a pick by the other half.  And I have to say, watch this film.  It’s two and a half hours long so we split it over two nights and we were hooked.  The race scenes pulled you in and you just wanted to know what happened.  There was an extra piece in Christian Bale’s character, a feisty mechanic turned driver who spoke as he saw, made even more funny as he was from Birmingham and still had the accent.

There was pace, tension, frustration, relationships and heartbreak, and some great car shots too.  I’m even more of a fan as my ‘midlife crisis’ car is a ’66 Mustang Convertible, the car that they use for the base of the race car.

Yep, that cheered up my lock in weekend.  Wonder what we can find for next week?

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Lockdown Buzzword Bingo

index

Candice: So we are pretty much all going through it at the moment – my feed is full of people telling me how exciting their day is, what outfit they are wearing, “look at how much fun I am having on video calls.”  Or sharing information, true or otherwise. about what is going on. There was even a programme on TV last night about 24hrs in Lockdown, um do you think we really need to know about that, I know there is the lack of stuff to show at the moment but really!

So I’ve done a ‘Buzzword Bingo’ list.  You know the ones, they get used for meetings to add humour and you tick off when a certain project-centric or verbose word is used.  It adds to the long day if you are at a particularly boring conference.

Tick if you have done the following:

  1. Worn the same clothes more than two days in a row (I don’t mean undies!)
  2. Not put your jewellery on
  3. Not worn any makeup
  4. Become so attached to your phone and checking on the outside world its become an obsession
  5. Walking twice as much as you were before this (for those of you allowed to go out for exercise)
  6. Taken part in Joe Wicks’ exercise class
  7. Discovered Zoom
  8. Spent a whole Zoom call trying to teach an elder family member how to make it work
  9. Found things in your house you thought you had lost
  10. Ordered random things online – crepe paper anyone?
  11. Felt like you are running the dishwasher/washing up twice as much as usual
  12. Constantly washing clothes
  13. Forgotten what day it is
  14. Had your child/partner walk in on a video call
  15. Let ‘things’ grow out (that’s ladies and men)

For the outfit and style things, I’ve gone through the wear the same and now trying to mix it up.  I have done my annual summer/winter swap which has added a whole new level of fun to dressing (‘I’d forgotten all about this top’).  Also re makeup, as I’m starting to look a little haggard and need that bronzer to zip me up, even if it’s only for a walk around the block.

Even the phone I’m looking at less – I check the BBC once a day for an update on numbers, Boris’s health and any sight of an end to this but Facebook has become BORING.

Walking, bike riding – I used to do a lot but in these few weeks my daughter has gone from a reluctant rider to a proficient one so we go for a bike ride every day.  The bonus of car free roads means she can get used to it without us worrying too much about her wobbling.  We’ve found we can get quite far in our allocated slot.  And yes we’ve done Joe but more for me than her.

Ah Zoom, yes fun to start but I spend most of the day on the phone so the last thing I want to do is speak to people at night too.  I did get the parent’s version to work, FINALLY.

Our house has become craft central as my little maker loves craft.  Paint is probably the thing in short supply now.  We’ve found some of her toys we lost by spending time sorting out stuff to make things with, and also made a lot of things with crepe paper!

It’s all blurring into one, and I do struggle each day to actually remember who I am and what I am supposed to be doing.  There is a pad next to my desk that I have to write it all down else, with the constant distraction of childcare, I forget what I was saying and doing.  Only my watch really helps me remember what day it is.  What I can’t believe is we are on week three.  When this started it felt like someone had chopped my legs off, but now it almost feels normal.  I know I am not going to enjoy getting back into the ‘chuck child at school and drive to work’ routine.  And I’m also going to remember that you don’t have to throw money at things to have fun, there are boxes in our house yet to be opened and games we still haven’t played, thank god for the sunshine and a back garden to play in.

Reading and Writing – well this hasn’t turned into the supper productive period because I’m still working but I’m definitely using books to help distance myself from what’s going on and writing, well that will come when it does.

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Science fiction?

Candice: ‘The camera pans an empty street, the roads are clear, a piece of litter rolls in the wind.  From a distance, the noise of an Ambulance siren can be heard.  A lone runner crosses the screen, bright in a day-glow orange top.  She pounds the streets, head phones on, fiercely concentrating on putting one foot in front of another. Suddenly a dog walker appears in her path, they look at each other as the pavement is only wide enough for them in usual circumstances.  She veers to the right, crossing the grass and on to the road to get away from her foe.  The walker is it out of her way and now it is back to car-free silence.’

For the last week I have been watching our world change in a way that none of us would have ever have thought of, even in the last month.

I was due to be going away in the first week of Easter.  I keep having flashing backs of a conversation with friends in January about booking a trip to the south coast, and then next thing I knew they were coming on our trip too.  Yet four weeks ago I was telling my daughter how much I was looking forward to a week away, she would get to play with her friends, us ladies had booked a spa treatment day.

And now I feel like I am living in a science fiction novel, or its a dream and someone is going to wake me up tomorrow.  What I have written above is not fiction, its fact.  We no longer have to imagine the life portrayed in these sci-fi pieces, it’s happening to us all.  And that is another thing I can not comprehend, it’s not just the UK it’s the world.  We are all in lockdown and we are all experiencing this.

There will be many novels, plays, films and history books written about this event.  And at some point in the future we will all say “Do you remember when it hit, what we did” but for now I think we are shell shocked.

I for one, am trying to record it all, because, like the birth of a child or your wedding day, you think you will remember it but you won’t.  Having my daughter at home means we are creating a daily diary of events so that I and she can look back and remember what it was like.  She doesn’t really understand what is happening.  Tonight she wanted to know if we can go to the shops tomorrow and I had to say no.  I’ve promised new toys instead as I don’t see them as an indulgence but a necessity.  She asked when we could go to the shops and I said hopefully four weeks but to her, that is ages (and to me too, to be honest).

With my writing hat on I’m already wondering if this will ever become part of one of our books.  The BBC are looking for scripts about it, perhaps Phil and I can come up with one?

For those who are locked in, now is the time to write about your fears and also your plans.  Keep positive and we’ll all have a big party when this is over.

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