Category Archives: Candice
A Christmas tale
Kate was lying on her sofa. She had glass of wine in her hand, and her two cats, Olly and Horatio were fighting for space on her lap. She wasn’t a fan of Christmas, if she heard Maria Carey sing ‘All I want for Christmas’ one more time she thought she might scream. In fact this year it seemed to be worse, with new Christmas songs coming along, god that Ed Sheeran and Elton John song just made her want to vomit. What was it about Christmas that brought out the worst in people?
KOD had managed to squeeze in their party before the new restrictions were brought in. She’d smiled through the jolliness, Christmas jumpers and songs while gritting her teeth. She couldn’t wait until the new year and they could all get back to work. Even today, everyone had been desperate to knock off early, sending silly messages and bringing those jumpers back out for video calls. She’d had to let them go at midday, that was how it worked apparently, but she’d stayed on her laptop until 6pm answering emails and catching up on the ever-mounting workload. The world didn’t close down just because it was the 24th of December.
It was warm and cosy in her flat, and the wine and the cat’s purring was making her dozy.
‘Rustle, rustle.’ Kate woke with a start. She looked around, the flat was in darkness, the only glow coming from the lights in the kitchen. Peering at her watch it showed it was nearly 1am. God, she’d fallen asleep on the sofa!
‘Rustle, rustle.’ She thought she could hear a noise from her bedroom. The flat was open plan so the only three rooms she couldn’t see were the two bedrooms and the bathroom. Rolling off the sofa, with some complaints from the two sleeping cats, she picked up the first thing that she could get her hands on, a slipper, and crept towards her bedroom. The noise was getting louder.
“Humpf”. Kate paused, that sounded like a male voice in her room. She looked around, wondering where her phone was. Perhaps she should call 999, who could be in her flat at this time? Her bedroom hadn’t seen any male action for over a year! No, she was a tough woman, she’d give him what for. She dropped the slipper and picked up one of her Jimmy Choos, the four-inch stiletto should help.
Cracking the door to her bedroom she saw the back of a large shape. Strange, it was a broad back covered with what seemed to be a red jacket. Then she could see white hair – what was this, an OAP was raiding her designer bag collection? He seemed to be bending over to look at something, and was making a lot of huffing noises.
“Yah!!!” She ran into the room brandishing the shoe, heel pointing forward. The intruder turned round. He was over six foot, but had white hair and beard, and looked about 80. “Oh, hello Kate.” A loud booming voice said to her. She stopped in her tracks, shoe still in the air.
“How do you know who I am?” She kept her aggressive stance, balls of her feet, like her trainer had taught her. “I know who everyone is, don’t you know.” The man responded. “However, it doesn’t mean I can find you on my list.”
Kate’s brain was doing twenty to the dozen; old man, white hair, red suit, Christmas Eve, and coming up with an answer she didn’t like. “But you can’t be, you don’t exist.” She blurted out.
“Do look I don’t exist?” The man pointed at his suit and smiled. “I just don’t normally get caught in the act. I must be getting old.” He laughed to himself and then turned back to the electronic tablet in his hand. Scrolling through, he carried on making confused noises. “Nope, its no good, I can’t find you on the list.”
He turned around and picked up the sack from the floor, Kate hadn’t noticed it before, but behind him was a large hessian sack. “I hate to leave you like this, but as you know I have many places to be. It seems Kate you have been a very bad girl this year, and I can’t give you a present.”
Kate pulled herself together, a bad girl. What did he mean, she’s single-handedly held KOD together, even with this ruddy pandemic going on. Everyone still had a job. What more did he want?
“Now, hang on a minute there… um Father Christmas. I’ll have you know I’ve done a hell of a lot this bloody year to keep the world spinning.” She put her hands on her hips.
“Well you might have done, my dear, but according to my system you haven’t been very nice about it. You’ve had Clare in accounts in tears twice, and written so many harsh emails my little computer had to filter some of the language before it could show me examples. People don’t like you.”
“It’s not about being liked, it’s about getting the job done!”
“Well, this time of year especially, you have to remember that people are people too, and just because Julie from HR wants to knock off early to play with her kids is no excuse to bawl her out.”
“But… but…” Father Christmas put his hand up. “Sorry Kate, you can’t argue with me. My computer knows all and it says a big NO for you for this year.” And with that, he pressed something on the screen and lights appeared outside her window. The next thing she knew he was climbing out the window and into his waiting sleigh. “Just think about it, Kate.” And he was gone.
Kate sat on the floor in her bedroom. What did an overblown, fantasy character know about work anyway! She had worked her socks off, no present, well bah humbug to him.
The next she knew a dim light was coming through her curtains. Looking at her watch it was 8am. She was lying on the floor in the lounge, still in her clothes from yesterday. Jumping up she rushed to her bedroom. No, all was as it should be. Thank god, it had all been a wine induced dream.
Back in the kitchen she started up her coffee machine and put some food down for the meowing cats. Ah, Christmas Day. Two days to relax before getting back on the bandwagon. She had a small tree in the lounge area, a token gesture to the date. Underneath were a handful of presents from family. Perplexed she spotted one she hadn’t seen before. It had gold wrapping paper and was tied with a beautiful bow.
Taking it back to the sofa she opened it slowly. Inside was a white box that contained a mug. On the mug where the simple words – ‘To the best boss ever, from KOD.’ Inside the package was a card signed by the whole team, with lots of personal messages wishing her a good holiday.
Kate leant back on the sofa. She was genuinely touched. She thought they all hated her guts. She felt bad now because she’d done nothing for anyone for Christmas. Closing her eyes she thought back to her dream, a voice coming in to her head. ‘It costs nothing to be nice.’ Perhaps she would heed imaginary Santa’s comments, a little, in 2022.
If you want to more about the exploits of Kate and the team at KOD, you can read all in our two books – available on amazon or via kindle unlimited. Just search for Nolanparker. Merry Christmas!
Candice: It’s not a very British thing to tell people about what you get up to and be proud of it. We hide our light under a bushel rather than tell everyone what we have been up to, or crow about our successes.
But I’m not really an advocate of this. I like to think I’m not a big mouth but I’m proud of what I do inside and outside of work and if someone mentions something that I have knowledge on, I will talk about it. Whether it travelling, experiences, or things like our writing or my TV work.
This time of year one of my top brags always happens, as my ‘starring’ role in a Christmas film always appears in my Facebook feed. In 2009 the film ‘Nativity’ came out. Filmed in and around Coventry, which is local to me, the film follows the competition between two schools and their teachers – both who want to do the best Christmas show. The extra factor in this is that one teacher’s ex-girlfriend has moved to Hollywood and now is big in the movie industry (or so he thinks). Taken over by the moment he tells everyone that she is coming to film their nativity play, and it blows up on him. Suddenly he needs this to happen, for the kids but also as a chance to get her back.
It’s a great feel good film and with some comedy moments and sing-along songs at the end. Having been involved in the production I have an extra reason to like it, and I know a lot about how it was made. And I like to talk about that. When the snap of me standing behind Pam Ferris at the chocolate fountain pops up on Facebook I’m always happy to share it and mention it when its shown on BBC (which it is every year). My daughter has even got to telling people at school, as they show it to the kids every year in the down time before xmas, she’s proud of her mommy.
Phil’s and my writing is another thing I like to ‘brag’ about. I’m proud of having written two books and frustrated that I haven’t managed more. But I’m happy to mention this fact, because when I do people always say ‘wow’. They don’t think I’m being a show off, just think its cool I’ve done all these things.
So I say, don’t be proud to shine. People like to know what you have been up to, and it you are interesting then they will find you interesting and want to talk to you. One thing I would say is, make sure you listen as well as talk, as they may have some interesting stories too.
Candice: I have become a library convert in the last six month, as you know. However, I keep having a problem that I forget when my books need to be back!
I’m not sure whether its the lack of structure with the ongoing working from home, or the upheaval that has been going on in my my life but yet again I got a message the other day saying we’ve frozen your account!
This is unusual for me as I am a fast reader but this time I had only managed one and a half books in the three weeks. I suppose I did have the distraction of reading another book which wasn’t from the library, plus a long weekend camping where I didn’t get as much reading done as I would have hoped.
Anyway all renewed now until next time, and a note put in my phone to tell me when they need to go back (and I’ve just finished the second book this morning).
Is anyone else still finding this whole Covid weirdness is messing with their usual organisational skills? I am now back in the office one or two days a week but I haven’t quite got that down into a rhythm. It was really nice to be in the office yesterday but its still not ‘normal’ yet by any stretch of the imagination. We’ve got another winter to get through and who knows what fun that will bring.
Anyway, we’ve got this far, something I’m sure none of us thought we’d be able to do a year and a half ago. There are mutterings of Christmas party at work, something I really excited about. Would be great if that comes off. This weekend felt almost normal as I went to an outdoor pop concert and had a boogie. Loved that.
But the biggest missed deadline I have is my own – finishing the writing I started in July. I am determined to pull my finger out and get that big finish done. I have time this weekend so ‘focus Nolan’ and get your finger out on the writing. I know I feel better if I do.
I can see the sea!
Candice: I’ve always said my spiritual home is by the sea. I feel the pull of the coast if I don’t visit it for a long period of time. The sea calms me and I can spend hours just looking out over the horizon. I think I find that a lot around water as even lying by a pool on holiday I find calming.
There has been a lot of change and upheaval in my life over the last couple of months. I have gone from a family of three to two. It has taken me along time to get my head round this idea and this holiday has really helped me see the wood for the trees.
It also hasn’t helped my writing brain as I just haven’t been able to think clearly. A week at the coast and for the first time in ages inspiration struck. Phil and I had had a brain storm a week or so before around what was missing from Book 3 and I had taken it upon myself to write the ending. We knew approximately where it needed to go, but just hadn’t fleshed out that big finish. In fact the first step of our meeting the other week was to realise that we needed a big finish.
So I managed to squeeze in two writing sessions and get off 2000 words. I would have done more but an exuberant seven year old needed my attention, but to be honest most nights I was shattered, all that fresh air and boogie boarding tired me out. She and I had a ball, we did loads of things I wouldn’t have done if we’d flown abroad on holiday, a UK holiday is just different. One of those things was sheltering under a non-waterproof beach tent for 20 mins while it threw it down, but hey that’s just UK holidays! And the other main one was swimming in the sea, something I haven’t done in the UK for years, buying a wet suit really helped. I not sure who enjoyed the boogie boarding more, me or her!!
Anyway, I have broken the back of the big finish. I now need to knuckle down and write the next bit. I remember now why we have only got to about 60k words. The finish can take up 10k all on its own. In 2000 I’ve only opened the door to where we are going, and at the moment I’m not even sure where that is, that is the joy of writing, I just know where it needs to end up.
Happy holidays and writing!
Summer on a Sunny Island – Sue Moorcroft
Candice: I have to admit I have been rubbish at writing blog posts recently. I have a lot on my mind and it means I get to the end of Wednesday and go – oh bum I’ve forgotten to write my blog post! Phil is very good at not reminding me(telling me off) about it.
But in the middle of all of this I have been reading. Its a great escape from anything that is going on around me.
As part of my trips to the Library I have been exploring other books that I might not have found in the supermarket, and this was one in the ‘quick reads’. Summer on a Sunny Island caught my eye as it was all about holidays – something that I am missing at the moment.
The premise is around Rosa, who splits from her long term boyfriend and decamps to Malta for the summer. She is lucky enough that her mom, a professional chef, grew up there and they can spend the summer crafting her new cookery book while Rosa decides what to do next.
Living upstairs from Rosa and her Mom is Zach, hard working but with a background of getting in trouble, leaving him estranged from his family, particularly his disapproving dad.
With a number of stories crossing over within the book its runs along nicely.
Zach takes a local boy who is getting into trouble under his wing, causing drama.
Dory, Rosa’s mom falls in love, and this causes issues with her ex-husband.
Rosa’s ex-boyfriend causes Rosa all kind of turmoil as his messes her about over their split. This impacts on her trying to decide what she really wants to do with her life.
Zach’s family come back together, and drama ensues with his sisters and his parents.
But the underlying story is that of Zach and Rosa. Its the classic ‘will they wont they’ as they go on not dates, fall out, get confused messages but eventually fall in love. But its nicely done. All the other story lines make for an interesting read and the background of sunny Malta add to the charm.
I enjoyed the thoughts of relaxing a sunlounger or swimming in the sea, even though it will be awhile until I get to do that. So you want a break from home working this is a perfect light read.
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.
A Book Club with a difference
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.
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
The Element of Surprise
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!