Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 11

“Jesus, cats what have you been doing?”

Kate stumbled in through the front door picked her way through her lounge looking at a scene of utter destruction. Sitting facing each other, playing it cool, Olly and Horatio were pretending that she wasn’t talking to them.

The date hadn’t gone well. It turned out that since she’d last hooked up with Casper, he’d got himself engaged to someone he met on holiday in Portugal. Worse, he insisted on showing her photos on his phone and talking about weddings.

After half-an-hour she had excused herself to throw up. Whether it was the wine on an empty stomach or the revelation that she was sitting in a bar talking to someone who considered “Angel Pie” to be a lovely nickname for his girlfriend, and was even considering having it tattooed on his manhood.

Getting back to the bar having carefully adjusted her makeup and spritzed some perfume to cover up any smell, she found Casper, or “Pumpkin Puppy” as he apparently liked to be known, talking on his phone. One look at his face told her that it was the love of his life on the other end and that no matter how revealing her outfit was, there would be no action from that direction.

He made his excuses and she decided to hang around by the bar. It was a nice place and you never knew who might rock up.

An hour and two gins later, she decided it was time for a cab. In truth, even if anyone had chatted her up, she doubted she’d be up for anything other than a slurred conversation. If women can suffer from brewers’ droop, she was well in the zone.

The cab ride home hadn’t helped either. Maybe her eyesight wasn’t at its best, but there seemed to be about twenty air fresheners hanging from the rear-view mirror. Were they masking smells, the seats had some interesting staining that Kate tried and failed to avoid sitting in, or did they actually make the problem worse? How did you sit in a knackered Toyota all day with that stink wafting near your nose?
Back at the apartment, it took a few seconds for her brain to comprehend the scene.

Olly, a black and white moggy, she’d had since he was a kitten looked up at her. He’d been her sidekick and go to companion during the ups and downs of work over the last few years. Horatio had come back with Kate from KODs last job at Fillern Holm. An unloved island tabby, she’s latched on to her and had jumped ship when they left. Kate had reservations about bringing her back because of Olly, but she couldn’t bear to leave her any more than the cat seemed to want to be left behind.

It seemed that two cats in one penthouse apartment didn’t mix. In the three days they’d been together the made short shrift of Kate’s pristine pad. Rugs had been sprayed, sofa’s mauled and most things knocked off the worksurfaces.

Tonight, was the worst. It wasn’t just the destruction, Kate realised that as her nose recovered from the cab, she could smell cat poo. Walking in to her bedroom found a pile in the middle of the floor.
“Argh, I really don’t need this shit!”

Olly had always been a house cat but Horatio was a wanderer. She’d had the whole of the island to herself and the idea of being contained seemed to be sitting badly with her. She didn’t like the litter tray either.

Feeling her stomach lurch again, Kate slammed the bedroom door and headed for the spare room. Collapsing on the bed, she didn’t bother to get undressed. Passing out, she realised that if she had brought someone home, then this would probably have ended the evening there and then.


Waking in the morning, for a few minutes Kate struggled to work out where she was. Through the fog in her mind, the previous evenings activity gradually came back to her and she groaned. Opening the door, the mess hadn’t magically gone away so she grabbed her jeans and a sweatshirt then donned rubber gloves and carpet cleaner. Kate tried to make the best of the mess in her bedroom, vowing to change the carpet soon. Picking the bag of mess up she decided to take it down to the outside bin.

Making her way down the three flights of stairs she didn’t realise she had a shadow accompanying her. In her rush to leave she’d left the door of her apartment ajar and Horatio had made a break for it. Depositing the waste, Kate turned to see a tabby tail high tailing out of the door.

“Horatio!” Kate rushed after the cat, just to see her crossing the road and running off in to the local park. “Damn, just what I don’t need!” Kate muttered to herself.

Retrieving a key and some cat snacks from her apartment, she spent the next half an hour try to locate the elusive tabby, but she was nowhere to be seen. Collar and microchip less, Kate was worried she’d never see her again.

The next day in the office Kate was distracted. Horatio still hadn’t been seen. She’d skipped her morning HIIT class to walk round the park calling the cat. Some of the people there had given her very funny looks as she walked round shouting ‘Horatio’.

She was busily printing off a poster with a picture of the cat to put up around town when Gareth walked in.
“What are you up to?” He tried to peek at what was coming off the printer.

“Nothing, nothing.” Kate quickly folded up the posters and put them in an envelope.

Gareth managed to swipe another as it came off the printer.

“Missing. Tabby named Horatio. Last seen on Wednesday night. If found call 07777 5555555. Oh no, what happened.” Gareth looked genuinely concerned, he liked all animals and remember the cat from their last job.

“She’s been staying with my brother but that didn’t work out. She managed to escape my flat last night and now I can’t find her.” Kate’s voice wobbled slightly at the end of the sentence and she turned away from Gareth.

Gareth turned slightly pink, he’d never seen his colleague get emotional. He patted her on the back.
“Don’t worry, I’m sure she will come back. She’s not stupid that cat.”

“Thanks, yes I’m sure it’ll all be fine. I’m just going to pop out and do some postering.” Kate gathered the signs together and some tape.

“Don’t be silly, we’ll all help.” Being his usual boisterous self, Gareth wandered out of the office.

Everyone. Down tools, we are all going over the park for lunch today. Kate’s lost her cat so we are the search party.”

The sounds of ohs and ahs came from the office before bags were picked up and phones collected.

“I’ll even buy everyone an ice cream.”

That got everyone moving a bit faster.

By the time they’d walked to the park the group had a bit of a party atmosphere. Gareth found the ice cream van and Mr Whippy plus flake were dished out.

Handing out posters Kate felt a mixture of relief and confusion. She didn’t like being made a big deal off, but this was a nice touch by her colleague.

Out of the corner of her eye she thought she saw a tail in the undergrowth. The next thing a tabby stepped out the bushes. It was Horatio.

“There she is!” Kate shouted to her colleagues.

Lulled by the ice cream they took a while to react. The cat had gone again before they got their act together.

“Quick, spread out.”

It was hard to make a team of office workers; in heels, skirts, shirts and ties turn into a crack search team, but they did their best. Split into three teams they did their best hedge bashing and undergrowth exploring trying to find the elusive cat.

An hour later they had to admit defeat. Where ever the cat was she wasn’t showing her face again. The team put posters up around the park and resigned themselves to a fun but unsuccessful lunch break.

“I’m just going to put one of these up in my apartment block. I’ll meet you back at the office.” Kate was disappointed, they hadn’t retrieved the cat but at least she knew she was still alive.

Walking towards her block she thought she saw something by the entrance Sitting quietly by the door was Horatio.

“Oh puss, you have given me the run around.” Kate scooped her up and gave her lots of fuss. Looking no worse off for her trip out Horatio bounded up the stairs to the apartment and proceeded to curl up in a corner after scoffing some food. Olly looked over bemused.

Picking up her phone Kate texted Gareth. ‘She’s back’

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 10

Buoyed up by her shopping experience, Kate sat in her lounge sipping a glass of white wine later, still smiling.  She’s gone straight from the shop to the gym and had a really good session.  The sweat had been dripping from her machine in the spin class and then she’d hit body pump too.  Her muscles would be aching afterwards but it was the best workout she’d had in ages.

Kate’s chat with Olive and the shop with Amelia had given her some confidence to face up to the thing that was bugging her the most. What the hell was going on with her and Dave?  Olive was right, this had been hanging around for 20 years on and off and she’d missed the boat back at university, moping about him being in America with his (ex?)wife now wasn’t helping things.

She looked at her phone to check the time difference between the UK and America, it was only three in the afternoon over there so hopefully it would be a good time to call Dave.  Before she had time to think about it any more, she downed her glass of wine and filled up another before video dialling him on her phone.


Over in the States, Dave’s phone rang.  He’d just come back from the gym too and was picking Junior up later to go out for some food and take in a movie. Alicia was having an afternoon with her family and he’d not wanted to intrude.  Looking at the screen he was surprised to see it was Kate calling.

“Um, hi there.”  Dave propped his phone up on the table while he towelled his hair.  He hoped that the angle meant that Kate couldn’t see he wasn’t wearing anything else but a towel.

“Hi Dave, I hope I haven’t interrupted anything?”  Kate could just see a blur of movement on the other end.  Hang on, she thought, I don’t think he’s got anything on.  She didn’t know if to look closer or look away.

“Nope, I’m just drying off after a trip to the gym. Hang on, just let me finish getting dressed”. He turned round to walk over and grab some pants, the movement causing his towel to slip down at the back.

At the other end, Kate got a full eyeful of a rather pert derriere.  She stifled a laugh, not wanting him to know what she had seen.  It was turning into a rather pleasant phone call, she downed another glass of wine and daydreamed while she waited for him to return fully clothed.  She’d forgotten what it was like to have sexual urges, it had been so long.

Bantering for the next few minutes over who had done the hardest work out it was like old times on the call.  Dave was insistent that his weight program was harder than her spin class, she argued moving her heart rate into the red zone meant she was fitter.

“What can I do for you?” Dave was pleased Kate had called but he needed to get ready to go out soon so was wondering what the call was about, Kate never called without a reason.

“What do you mean, can’t a girl just call to say hi?”  Even Kate realised this sounded hollow, she always had a purpose and didn’t do chat.  “Actually, I was wondering how you’d got on with generating some business.”

Ah, it’s all work, Dave thought.  He was disappointed, he’d been hoping that they could talk a bit about them.

Dave reeled off a few of the conversations he’d been having, without mentioning the big meeting he’d had with the telecoms company a few days earlier.  He wanted to keep that one quiet because it was his deal and he wanted to make sure it came off before blowing a fanfare.  He didn’t know why but there was something about that job he wanted to keep to himself, probably because there were parts of the deal Kate wouldn’t be happy with.  He did mention an anecdote about using Dave Jnr as in with someone.

“You won’t believe what I did today.  Took my niece shoe shopping.”  Kate smiled again at the thought of Amelia’s face when they’d picked her shoes.  She still felt that joy when her shopping trips were a success, though it was much nicer to share it with someone else.

“What!  I thought you didn’t do children?” Dave was amazed.  Kate never even mentioned her nieces and nephews, or if she did it was only in disparaging terms.

“Ah this was different; she was like my little shopping buddy.  There were no nappy changes or sick involved.”  Kate related the shoe shopping story.

“And did you get any while you were there?”  Dave knew about Kate’s shopping habit.  He wasn’t totally surprised she’s enjoyed this trip with Amelia, it was perfect for her.  He was also pleased with her finally being more open to children. He knew the biggest stumbling block in their potential relationship was his son, perhaps this would help her to become more open.

“Ha no, they didn’t have them in my size!”  Kate finished her last glass and looked at her laptop.  Perhaps some online shopping after the call might be called for.

“You, me and Junior will have to go out when I’m back in the UK.”  Dave tested the water.

“I’m not sure his taste in shoes is the same as mine.”  Kate laughed.  She knew that she wasn’t as keen on boys as girls but perhaps she could find a connection with a seven-year-old boy.  As long as it didn’t involve sports events. 

“I didn’t mean that, maybe a meal or trip to a museum?” 

Kate realised that Dave was opening a door.  She hadn’t realised that taking her niece out could make a difference to her faltering relationship too.  The question was, did she want to put her foot into that gap or close it?

“That would be nice, how would Alicia feel?”  As soon as she said it, she realised it was the wrong thing to say.  Dave stood up and walked away from the phone.

“I’m sure she would be fine.”  Dave gritted his teeth.  Kate had just totally ruined the vibe of the conversation.  Why couldn’t she just leave that part of his life alone?  “Anyway, I need to go now, I’ve got to go and pick Junior up.”

“Fine.”  Kate, never the one to back down, didn’t like Dave’s tone.  If he wanted to be funny, she thought, then sod him.

Winding up the call, Kate was frustrated in more ways than one.  It was the best conversation they’d had in a long time, but then it had gone sour, the way their conversations seemed to do.  And after consuming nearly a whole bottle of wine and seeing a half-naked man she was feeling like she needed something to let off steam, and shoe shopping wouldn’t do it.  Picking up the phone she scrolled to another number.

“Hi Casper, yes I know I haven’t called you for a while. Don’t suppose you fancy a drink in town?”

Bootie call arranged she went off to change in to one of her sluttier outfits.  F*ck Dave, who needed him anyway.

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 9

Yo sis, what’s happening in the high-powered world of business change?”

Kate’s brother Jake enveloped her in a bear hug. He mainly did it because he knew she hated it, in fact any kind of touchy feely was a no no with Kate, which was all the more reason her brother liked to wind her up with affection.

She took it for 30 seconds, and then wiggled out of his grasp. Her brother was not a small man, both tall and broad with a middle section running to fat. A successful partner in a law firm, he had a nice life with two kids in Dorridge, a swanky suburb of Solihull. His wife hadn’t worked since she’d had their first child, so the house was immaculate, though she wasn’t always, and could do with the odd trip to the gym herself, Kate though unkindly, looking at her sister in law. Chloe looked harassed with messed up hair and ill-fitting clothes. Kate wondered why she didn’t have more time to make an effort.

Amelia, come here!” Chloe tried to get the attention of her seven-year-old daughter. Amelia was more intent in watching her latest hair tutorial on YouTube and didn’t seem to hear her mother shout. “Amelia, I have to get your brother to rugby practice now, and then we need to go school shoe shopping. Yours are practically falling apart.”

The child appeared in the kitchen door. Her hair was a mess of braids and clips and she had a face like thunder.

Why do I HAVE to go? Auntie Kate is here and so is Dad, why I can’t I say here while you drop HIM off at rugby.” The pout would have made a Khardasian proud.

Because you do. Your Auntie has come around to talk to your Dad and we need to get those shoes before Monday. Just do as you are told, brush your hair and let’s go.” Chloe was scrabbling around collecting rugby boots and kit from the washing pile and grabbing her car keys.

Coffee, Kate?” Jake seemed to be completely ignorant to his wife’s dilemma. Riffling through the packets he began reeling off options like a well-practised barista.

A hand tugged at Kate’s sleeve. “Auntie Kate, can you take me shoe shopping? “Amelia looked up at her Auntie with imploring eyes. Lowering her voice and looking pointedly at her mother, she whispered to Kate. “You always have better taste in shoes that she does.”

The mention of shoes hit Kate’s shopping nerve. It was almost like she felt her credit card twitch. She’d come over to pick Jake’s brains on work and love life situation, but actually wondered if she could deal with a shopping trip with a seven-year-old. Hey, she might get something too while they were out.

I’m sure Kate’s far too busy to take you out.” Chloe threw the rugby bag over her shoulder in a last-ditch attempt to get out of the door on time.

Well…” Kate was torn. Amelia looked at her again, pleading. Perhaps it could be fun to go shoe shopping with another girl? “I don’t mind. I might be quite nice for us to go out together.” As soon as she said it, she wondered if it was the right thing to do. She’s never spent time alone with her niece and wasn’t confident with children. Could they go to the loo on their own? Did she need regular feeding?

With time ticking Chloe acquiesced. “OK fine, no sparkly shoes mind, it’s plain black for school remember. Go to the proper shoe shop and get her feet measured first.” Grabbing her keys and son she rushed out the door shouting “Get the car seat from Jake’s car.”

Jake was flabbergasted. His sister never offered to look after the kids. He’d given up trying to involve her in family activities, even though she only lived down the road, as she only pouted and complained about rounders in the park ruining her shoes or being too loud.

So, we’d better get that seat moved over and you off then. I think Amelia’s got a party later so you’ve not got much time. Are you sure you don’t want me to come?”

Watching Jake’s performance earlier Kate wasn’t sure he’d be any better at this parenting thing than she was.


30 minutes later and they were pulling into the shopping centre carpark in the middle of Birmingham. Admiring the silver disks on the outside of the prestigious department store, Amelia had a big smile on her face.

Mom never brings me here. Its just to the school shop in the retail park for us.”

Well my girl, we are going for a proper shop.” Kate was actually quite looking forward to this now, they’d chatted about school and some of the styling videos Amelia had watched on You Tube on the way over. Kate realised that she had more to talk about with a seven year old than she thought.

Walking across the bridge from the car park Amelia grabbed Kate’s hand. Kate almost pulled away but realised she quite enjoyed the sensation of a small hand in hers.

Amelia stopped, dumbstruck, when then entered the store. It was all light and colour, with escalators running up and down the central atrium. There were staff spritzing perfume and offering samples everywhere she looked.

Hello little girl, would you like to try this chocolate cookie? I’ll just check with your mom.”

Kate went to correct them, and then decided it was easier not to explain.

Amelia picked the rich chocolate biscuit off the tray and took a bite. It melted in her mouth.

Auntie Kate, this is amazing, you have to try some.” She handed the rest over.

Kate held the morsel. She’d never normally let something so bad cross her lips, but watching the expressions on Amelia’s face made her want to experience the same. She took a bite, it was heaven. She ate the rest before she could stop herself.

The girls toured the store, starting in cosmetics where Kate let Amelia have a small make over while she got hers touched up. They both left with little goodie bags.

Kate showed Amelia all the designer bags, with Amelia being able to identify the ones Kate had, which surprised her. She’d never realised how much attention her niece paid to her wardrobe.

Finally arriving at the kids shoes, Kate and Amelia stood by the rack of school shoes and both felt depressed. The plain black characterless shoes didn’t inspire either of them.

How about these?” Amelia held up a pair of gold sandals from another display. “Or these.” She showed Kate some silver ballet pumps.

They are lovely but your mom did say school shoes.” Kate felt for her, the options really were horrible.

Hi, can I help?” A sales assistant appeared. “Shall I measure your daughter?”

Again, Kate didn’t bother explaining, she was quite enjoying herself, being parent by proxy.

Once Amelia had been sized they asked for all the options for school. The sales assistant wasn’t stupid, she’d seen them looking at the rack of black shoes with a lack of inspiration. She’d also clocked Kate’s Mulberry Bag and stilettos, put two and two together and worked out this wasn’t Mom. One good shop and she’d make her commission for the day.

We’ve got those on show but I’ve got a couple of options out the back that might be more to your taste.”

Amelia sat swinging her legs on the chair. Smiling to herself she was chatting away to Kate and herself about the shop and what they had seen. From Kate’s bag a phone could be heard ringing.

When the shoes were lined up, Amelia went quiet. There were from a different world compared to the standard shoes. They could only loosely be called school shoes as the main bulk of the shoe was black but they came with attachments and accoutrements. One pair had changeable laces with holographic patterns. The next had snap on butterflies and bows that could be added to front of the shoe. The final pair looked plain from the top but when flipped they had a slight heel with diamantes and flashing purple lights set into the heel. As Amelia walked a light would come on under the shoe, creating a glow around her foot.

Auntie Kate, these are amazing.” Amelia sat on the floor surrounded by her shoe options. She looked like a kid in a candy store. In the background Kate’s phone was ringing again.

Seeing a fellow ‘shoeaholic’ in action, Kate helped Amelia pick a pair. They plumped for the pair with lights, but added the snap on butterflies from other shoes for extra flair. Kate found she was really enjoying herself and the enjoyment on her niece’s face.

That’ll be £150 please.” Kate just put out her credit card, ignoring the price. Her bag rang again. Finally picking up her phone she saw Chloe’s name on the screen.

Darling, we’ve had a wonderful time. You are going to love Amelia’s new shoes.” Amelia could be heard screaming in the background.

Kate, where are you?” Chloe sounded stressed.

In town. We were just going to get some lunch.” Kate looked at her nodding niece who was mouthing ‘ice cream’.

Amelia has a party to go to in 10 minutes.” Chloe tried to keep her voice calm.

Ah, Jake did mention something. Does it matter if she’s late?” Kate was too busy enjoying herself.

It’s a princess party, they have entertainment planned so its better if she’s there on time.” On the other end of the phone Chloe was rolling her eyes.

Finally sensing Chloe’s mood, Kate scooped up the shoe bag and her excited niece. “We are on our way.”

Dropping her off 30 minutes late a more stressed Chloe appeared at the door, party dress in hand. She grabbed her daughter and rushed her inside before spotting the shopping bag.

From inside the house Kate could here muffled voices in what sounded like an argument.

She’s bought her shoes from that shop, we can’t afford that, they won’t last for five minutes. You need to talk to her, and about that cat too.”

Revving the engine as Jake appeared at the door Kate spun off with a wave. Jake had a slightly dejected look on his face but seeing the smile on her sister’s face he waved back. It was nice to see her happy for once. The shoes, well he could deal with the fallout from those later.

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 8

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

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

He put his head in his hands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gareth looked at Freddie across the desk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 5

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Good Morning Gareth

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

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

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

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

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

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


Freddie Coward

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

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

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

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

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

Obviously. You look terrible. Big weekend?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kate pulled a face.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 4

The guillotine blade glinted in the light.

A smirk crossed the man’s face as he pulled the rope.

For a moment, the blade wobbled in its framework. Then it accelerated downwards towards the hapless victim’s neck. With a loud thunk it stopped dead, its work done.

In the crowd, a woman put down her knitting and clapped her bony hands together in appreciation.

The man pulled the rope again to lift the blade. As he did, he raised his hand to receive the adulation, a strained smile upon his face.


The Great Magneto wasn’t happy. He stomped around his dressing room. Standing in the doorway, the theatre manager looked on.

            “Bloody pensioners matinees!” he roared, “What’s the point? I mean we get what, a couple of dozen of the old bats in and by the time I get to the crescendo of my act, half of the buggers are fast asleep!”

The manager sighed. He’d heard it all before. The audiences were never big enough. They didn’t appreciate the “talent” properly. They should be grateful that anyone deigned to take their valuable time to appear in such a godforsaken little town.

Magneto seemed to read his mind. The rant continued, “I mean who do these people think they are? I’ve appeared before royalty. ROYALTY! And yet here I am, reduced to bloody provincial theatre. On a Wednesday afternoon! Do they not understand how lucky they are to see an act like mine? Well, do they?”

It wasn’t like listening to the same moans every week from the latest touring act was how the manager wanted to spend his time. A cup of tea would be a good start, or perhaps Heather in the bar would knock him up a sly gin and tonic. That would take the edge off the migraine he was sure he felt creeping up on him.

            “Well, what do you say to that?” enquired the great magician.

            “Godfrey, I’m sorry”, he started.

            “Magneto! Can’t you read? That’s what it says on the poster. You did put the posters up, didn’t you? Maybe that’s why no-one bothered to come in, because you didn’t bother to put up our advertising. Run out of sticky tape did you? Is there a Blu-tack crisis in Leighton Oxley this week?”

            The manager sighed again. “Magneto. Yes, we put up all your posters and very nice they are too, although perhaps you should use a more recent photo.”

            “More recent photo? What are you saying?”

            “Sorry. What I mean is, well, the poster looks a bit, how shall we say, old fashioned. Have you seen the ones for Spark? He’s coming next week”. As the words left his mouth, he realised his mistake. If there was one thing a stroppy, failing act hated more than anything it was to be reminded of a younger, marginally more successful one.

The magician ceased stomping and turned around. He was silhouetted against the lights surrounding the dressing room mirror, several of which weren’t working. “Sparks? Bloody Sparks? That shyster? He walks on wearing some black polo neck from bloody Primark and acts as though he invented magic. Like all those of us who have been slogging our arses off for years never existed. It’s not like his tricks are new, he just wanders around being smug and acting like a rap star. Where’s the showmanship in that?”

A light bulb loudly gave out, interrupting the flow for a second.

“As for old fashioned, is it old fashioned to give the audience a bit of razzmatazz? To give them a treat. They want to see something special, not someone who looks like they work in a bloody mobile phone shop. I don’t know if you’ve noticed love, but this is hardly the West End. We’re a long way outside the M25. Good grief, this is basically a suburb of Birmingham and you know what that means.”

The manager could guess, but decided to let the tantrum run its course.

            “It means, love, that this is a provincial backwater! No-one mentions Leighton Oxley in the same breath as London and New York. The only place they can be found together is in the back of my map book, and even then it’s in small print under a coffee stain!”

The migraine was definitely on it’s way. It was time to play the trump card.  “Look Godfr.. I mean Magneto. I know this isn’t the West End but let’s be honest, if you could get a booking at the Palladium, you’d be there.” Magneto started to speak but stopped as he recognised the truth in what the theatre manager was saying. “I know this isn’t a big theatre but we do what we can. I’m sorry that the audience this afternoon wasn’t massive but we have to put on some shows for the old people. It’s part of our remit from the Council.”

            “The Council? What the hell’s it got to do with them?”

            “They own the building. You don’t think we could survive on these sort of audiences, do you? If we weren’t part of the Parks and Leisure department, this place would have become opulent townhouses for professional people years ago. As it is, we might be going that way soon anyway.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “Let’s just say that it’s hard to argue that we need funding more than meals in wheels or bloody children’s trips to museums or any of the other stuff.”

            “They are closing you down?”

The manager’s face dropped. “Not yet, but I’ve heard plenty of rumours. You don’t need to be Mystic Mandy to predict our future if things don’t change.”

For once Magneto looked perturbed. For all his bluster, any closed theatre was one less venue to perform at and one step closer to an enforced retirement for him. Looking in the corner at a small basket, he saw the face of Floppsy, his rabbit. What would happen to her? They didn’t like pets in his apartment block. It was only because she was out with him most of the day he got away with keeping her.

            “What are you going to do?” he asked.

            “Well, I do have a plan.”

            “It better be bloody good, I think I saw more red velvet in there than a showing of xx”

 “Don’t worry it’s in hand.  I’ve been talking to this group of business consultants and I’m sure they can come up with a plan to sort us out.  In fact, I got rather drunk with their boss at the weekend and he gave me the impression that this was bread and butter for them.” Freddie smiled remembering his and Gareth’s antics at the weekend, they’d had a laugh but he thought Gareth was on his side.  In fact, now was the time to strike when the iron was hot, he’d drop him a note as soon as he got back to the office.

“Sounds interesting.”  Magneto stood there stroking his rabbit, he’d retrieved her from her basket as it soothed him in times of trouble.

Freddie looked at the Magician and saw a low-price Blowfeld smiling back at him.  Well if push came to shove, he thought, he could always get him to kill the councillors in inventive ways, he certainly had the tools.

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 3

Kate was confused. The business with the Navy Island had finished two months ago and since then she’d been feeling down. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it.

The nightly trips to the gym had lost their sparkle, she’d even had the instructor shouting at her during her last body pump class that she wasn’t working hard enough. She’d stopped mid ‘clean and jerk’ and she couldn’t remember why. For a proud gym bunny, that was worrying.

Sat on her sofa with a cat purring on her lap, and another beside her after another post work session, she hopped channels on the TV but nothing caught her attention. It was no good. She needed to get to the bottom of the problem.

There was one benefit to her low mood, her skirts and trousers were getting looser as she’d also lost interest in food. Picking at a chicken sandwich she left it on the floor for Olly to lap up, and instead grabbed a class of wine.

Flicking through her post she came across a post card. “Who sends postcards, these days?” she mused to herself. The picture showed a beautiful Italian setting, and turning it over, she read the back. “Loving another cruise, this time round the Med. Have met some great friends, and seen some great sights, you must join me next time, you might find ‘The One’. Lots of Love Olive.”

Ah, Olive. They’d met on a job that Kate’s company had done a couple of years ago. Called in to close down the Horticultural Investigation Agency, and Olive had to be the only sane person that Kate had met there. Officially, PA to the boss, she was actually the one who kept the boffins’ world turning. They had kept in very loose touch. Well actually, Olive sent Kate cards and emails, and Kate spent all her time promising to return the favour.

Looking at her watch she saw it was not quite 9pm, not too late for a call then. Picking up her mobile she found Olive’s number and dialled.

“Well hello stranger.” The gravelly voice replied.

“Hi there. I wasn’t sure if you would be back from your grand tour.” Kate laughed.

“What you actually mean is you were hoping I’d be away so you could leave me a voicemail and think you had done your bit.”

“Oh Olive, I can’t get anything past you.” Kate squirmed slightly on the sofa.

Olive was in her early 60s, a widower with two grown-up sons. She and Kate clicked because, in her day, Olive had also been a career woman. Unfortunately, back then, the world of work didn’t allow for women to progress when they had children so she’d had to give up her career for more menial jobs to look after her boys. Once they had left home she’d been past getting the career back up and running, but had kept a tight ship at HIA and made sure that, when it came to the crunch, she’d got a decent package and everyone else there had too. Her redundancy and pension had helped to fund a prosecco lifestyle (not quite champagne) and she was now enjoying some of the things she’d not been able to do before.

“So, tell me what’s going on with you?”

“Oh, nothing much.” Kate stroked Olly and sipped her wine. Horatio nuzzled her legs and then sniffed Olly’s bottom.

“No change there then. Come on girl, you need to do more than burn 500 calories in the gym and then drink them in Sauvignon.” Olive laughed lightly down the phone. “I met some lovely single men on my cruise, you really need to book one.”

“But where any of them under 60?” Kate smiled at the picture of her in a designer gown surrounded by over 60’s waltzing round the ballroom of some cruise ship. “I don’t think I’m quite desperate enough to be thinking of sugar daddies yet.”

“But you need to be thinking of someone, my lovely. Your eggs aren’t getting any younger.”

“Olive really! Do you have to be that detailed?” Kate blushed, glad that no one else could hear this conversation.

Olive understood Kate’s need to pursue her career, but had also enjoyed her time as a wife and mum so didn’t want Kate to give up on these things too. In this day and age Olive though she could juggle both, she just couldn’t persuade her friend.

“But it’s true my love. Where’s Dave these days?” Olive had met Dave on the HIA job and had been quite taken with him too. She knew he and Kate had history, and couldn’t understand why Kate didn’t want to rekindle everything she’d felt all those years ago.

“Off in America, looking at work for the business.” Kate tried to come across more dismissive that she felt.

“And seeing his wife and son?”

“I suppose so, but it’s none of my business.”

“What do you mean, it’s none of your business? It only that if he wants to get back together with her, and the general feeling I’ve got from you two is that is a no no.”

“I don’t know Olive, you know my relationship radar doesn’t work. Look what happened with Ross”

Kate’s last try at a relationship had failed miserably. She literally thrown herself at Ross Smith, entrepreneur and business guru who’d help get the firm’s last project over the line. Unfortunately, he was also gay, something that she seemed to be the only person not to notice. In the process she’d pushed Dave away and now he’d left the country and she had no idea what was going on.

“He was just a distraction. You really need to sort out what is going on with Dave. Come on, this has been going on for nearly twenty years now. If he isn’t the one then you need to work it out and move on. Really my love, I don’t want you to be my age, single and lonely.”

“But you’re single…”

“But I’m most definitely not lonely. I’m having the time of my life and I’ve got two boys and three grandchildren to share it with.”

Children. That was another of Kate’s stumbling blocks. Dave already had a son, and the thought of him made her uncomfortable.

“Well, you know how I feel about children.” Kate tailed off.

“Actually, I don’t. You always skirt around the issue.” Olive smirked. She’d come back from her cruise refreshed and was determined not to let her friend get away with this anymore. She had begun to see Kate more like another member of her family, especially as she didn’t have a daughter of her own. And she wasn’t going to let her substitute daughter get away with not being true to herself.

“Well, um.” Kate felt a little put on the spot, she had an answer for everything in the business world but in this particular situation she didn’t really know what the answer was. “Kids, its all sick, poo and no sleep from what I can see from my friends and family. No time to yourself and spending hours trying to get your body back to how it was.”

“That’s just surface stuff. They add another layer to your life, bring joy and smiles, help you learn and grow. “ Olive looked at the photos of her boys and their children on the mantlepiece. She remembered it was hard work, but now, looking at her grandchildren just made her smile.

“I’ll remember that when I see a fraught mother shouting at her child in a shop.” Kate laughed. She really didn’t get the whole kids thing, she was happy with her cats. And the way things were going it would be an immaculate conception anyway.

“Just think about it for me, would you love. Perhaps spend some time with your niece and nephew. I think it will change your mind.” Olive thought she’d done enough for now, but she was worried about Kate cutting herself out of something that she would enjoy. In her minds eye, she could see Kate with a sidekick daughter, in matching outfits, out shopping together.

Finishing the call with a promise to stay in touch more often, Kate swallowed the rest of her wine. Children were a big problem for her, she just couldn’t see past the disruption to her life and change to her body. She’d seen what a C section could do to someone’s six pack.

Ruffling Olly’s fur she remembered again why she’d decided that a cats were as far as she wanted to go when it came to dependents. Love and affection but didn’t impact on your ability to go on holiday. How that would work with her and Dave’s relationship she didn’t know but as she still wasn’t sure what he was thinking, well she didn’t have to address it right now.

She did think about Olive’s comment about her brother. She really didn’t see enough of either of her brother’s and their children, and was well overdue a chat with Jake, who always had a clear head and good approach to life. She was conscious she was moping around without Dave and needed to get out of the funk. Picking up her phone she dropped him a text before she changed her mind. An immediate response filled with exclamation marks came back, with a date for a meet in a weeks’ time. Putting her phone on silent she went to bed feeling happier, with something to focus on rather than her worry about what Dave was up to.

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 2

Pulling the shirt out of his wardrobe Gareth smiled.  The style of his tuxedo shirt always made him chuckle. From the front it was a plain white shirt, but the arms and the back were decorated with pictures of cavorting cows in various positions only seen in a bovine version of the karma-sutra. He loved going to events and later on, when the wine had been flowing, taking of his jacket to surprise his fellow guests. It harked back to the shirt he was wearing on the night he met his wife, Veronica, though this one would be about three sizes larger.  He’d grown a bit since his early 20s.


Veronica Trumpington-Thomas was best described as “Good Country Stock”. Her passion was for breeding cattle. Belgian Blue’s were her favourites although some had cruelly have suggested that the breeds square set stance and stocky features were not that different from their owner. She hadn’t really wanted to marry but her father had said that it was her duty so the task was set about with the same efficiency that she used when choosing sires for her livestock. The list of requirements was short, good temperament, reasonable features and respectable family lineage.

Sadly, the markets where husbands are acquired weren’t really to Veronica’s taste, she preferred the straw and dung of the cattle version, but there were events where eligible candidates could be found. Some old school friends were persuaded to invite her to the right sort of parties and after a few drinks, the process didn’t seem quite so unpalatable.

The annual young farmer’s ball was coming up so Veronica slipped into her best black and white ball gown, making her look more like a Friesian than would normally be desirable and joined in. Walking into the marquee someone caught her eye, a rather dashing looking young man lurking in the corner, looking a bit sheepish and lost in his tuxedo. 

As the evening wound on Veronica kept seeing this young man wandering around, but none of her friends seemed to know who he was. To honest, she wasn’t really that interested but after the meal and a few gins, she was starting to feel a bit randy.  Having either shagged or frightened off most of the other members of the local group she felt in the need of new blood and set out to find if he might be interested in a demonstration of her cattle impregnation techniques.

Gareth had been invited to the do by an old friend who proceeded to abandon him for the first girl who had flashed her pig tattoo in his direction.  He tried propping up the bar for a bit, and eventually took to circling the room until it started to circle him thanks to the amount of scrumpy he had consumed. More of a G and T person he had resorted to the local brew after his attempt to order something more refined had been ridiculed by the locals. The drink was more potent than he was used and attempts to soak up the alcohol with something solid hadn’t gone well as the cuisine was as rural as the drink.

The countryside all looked the same to Gareth so finding his friend’s house earlier in the day had been due more to luck than judgement or map-reading. Worse, when he did arrive, he discovered that he’d packed a suit but no shirt and since there was no chance of buying something he’d had to borrow one.  Unfortunately, this had been a bit of a comedy purchase and now the marquee was getting hotter and hotter but he really didn’t want to take his jacket off.

Veronica saw Gareth circling the marquee again, by this point he had begun to look a little green.  He stumbled and half fell into a chair on the table next to her.  She noticed him begin to put his head into his hands, and then seemed to be struggling to remove his jacket.

“Bugger this,” she thought, “Everyone is coping off and it’s about time I wrapped my lips round someone.”
She marched over to the next table.  Gareth, by this point, was fighting to keep his head between his knees and try get his jacket off at the same time.  Veronica grabbed the back of his tux and practically ripped it off his shoulders. 

“Oh” she screamed, as the design on the back of Gareth’s shirt was exposed, from the front it looked plain white but the back was something all the more lurid.

Gareth looked up in surprise, unfortunately at the same point the numerous pints all came to a head and he proceeded to vomit them down the front of Veronica’s frock with some force.

“Argh!” Veronica, now covered in pints of the local brew mixed with several partly digested pies, screamed.  “What are you doing!”

Gareth looked up sheepishly and started to mumble a string of apologies.  He hoped the rather large but attractive girl looming over him would not berate him too hard as he could feel a roulade and champagne cocktail that might be making its way up at any moment.

Veronica was about to let rip, who did this boy think he was, this dress had been specially made by her mother.  But as she turned to give Gareth what for she saw a pair of soulful brown eyes were staring at her that bore a startling resemblance to her favourite cow, Winny.  And with that, she was lost.

Many years of working with animals meant that Veronica had been covered by much worse than a bit of posh vomit.  She grabbed Gareth and dragged him off to the toilets to clean herself and him up. After letting him be sick a few more times, it was time to test the staying power of the portaloos.  Stories after the evening always included comments about the particularly loud mooing that seemed to be coming from the direction of the next field, though no one had seen any cattle.


20 years on and their marriage was still going strong, though the only children they had had four legs.  Their lack of offspring had disappointed both of them but with no conclusion as to why things weren’t working Veronica had gone back to animal husbandry and they’d settled into a different kind of family routine, their children being in the fields rather than in the house.

He loved his wife very much but she would insist on carting him off to the odd farming ball to make friends and for her to do some networking. He could chat to most people but this lot did get into quite a bit of detail about their farming practices, and he struggled to hold his own.  By halfway through the evening he’d often be found in a corner, pilfered bottle of gin in hand, drinking to his heart’s content as his wife worked the room. 

Two hours later and the Harvest farming ball was turning out the same way.  Gareth was just eyeing up a nice bottle of cider on the next table when someone plonked themselves down next to him.

“Hi, you’re Gareth, Veronica’s other half aren’t you?”

Gareth turned to his new companion.  Though slightly younger and slimmer they were cut from the same cloth.  He even caught a glimpse of colour on the sleeves of his shirt as he turned to face Gareth..

“Freddie Coward.  My wife, Joan, is over there talking to yours.  We have a small farm and she aspires to your level of herd.  To be honest, it bores me senseless, so she suggested I might want to come over and have a chat with you.”

Gareth visibly relaxed.  At least he wasn’t another farming expert.

“Veronica mentioned you run a company that helps other companies get out of trouble.  She said something about a naval island, I think I read about it in the paper.  It’s called KOD isn’t it.”

Gareth glowed slightly, he always liked to know that people knew what he did and the work on Fillern Holm had garnered them some good PR.

“Well, yes that was one of our best projects, working with the MOD don’t you know.  Can’t say too much but we turned things around.”

“Sounds very interesting, have you done any others?”

Half an hour later and Freddie might have been wishing he hadn’t asked that question as Gareth regaled him with stories of KOD’s successes.  He omitted to mention that most of the work wasn’t done by him, no harm in embellishing the truth here and there.

By this time the cider had been consumed and jackets had been removed.  The chaps laughed as they both had a penchant for lurid shirts, though Freddie’s had depictions from Shakespearean plays instead.  There was much blood and gore.

Reclining in his chair Gareth though, I like this lad, he’s on the same wavelength as me.  And he likes silly shirts.

“Pip pip, old boy.  Here’s to finding a shirt design even more frightening for the next ball.”

“You are on.  I’ve seen some great stuff on eBay.”  Freddie chinked his glass with Gareth’s.

“Actually, Gareth, I have to profess I have an ulterior motive here. I need your help.”

“What with, old boy.”  Gareth was finding it hard to focus, the cider being more powerful than his usual tipple.  He leant forward, trying not to fall off the chair.

“Well, I run a theatre.  It’s not a big place and we don’t get the cream of the shows, but I still love it. But we are really struggling, and if I don’t get the ticket sales up by end of March next year, then the local council will sell the place to property developers.”

Now Gareth had a soft spot for the theatre, having trodden the boards himself during his university days. He could remember the smell of the greasepaint and the joy of a receptive crowd.  What harm would there be in giving them a little help, he thought to himself.

“I know it’s not your usual cup of tea, but any advice you could give us to get of this mess would really help. I can’t pay you, but I can give you free tickets to every show we have on.” Freddie had gone from jolly to maudlin.  He really did love his theatre but times were tough and he was struggling to know what to do.  It was Joan who’d suggested that approaching Gareth and pandering to his softer side might mean he got some help.  She also didn’t want to see him not working and under her feet at home.

Gareth stood and patted him on the back. 

“Absolutely, I’m sure I can find time to give you some pearls of wisdom.  Don’t worry about the money, we’ll sort something out. Give me a call next week. Now if you will excuse me I think it’s time to go home, I’m seeing double of everything!”

Waddling back to his wife, half cut, a little niggle appeared in the back of Gareth’s brain.  Kate wouldn’t like this. He brushed it away, it was still his business after all, what harm was it to do something good for the community rather than for the money.

“Alright, Darling?”  Veronica was surprised to see her husband weaving toward her. She was even more surprised when he knocked her flying as he lost his footing.  Sitting together on the floor she took one look at her now comatose husband and thought, home time.

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