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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 1

“Chad, you are going to kill him!”, A woman screamed.

The bulky blonde haired man held the other by the throat. Tears ran down the woman’s face as she pulled at the blonde’s shoulders, trying to wrench him off his opponent.

He pulled his fist back, ready to inflict the fatal blow. The other man, dark haired and slightly smaller, was pinned to the floor but managed to find enough wiggle room to move just as the fist swung and it hit floor rather than his face. It helped that his opponent was a little inebriated.

“DAD!” The wail of a small boy could be heard across the room. Standing on the staircase the boy, with tousled hair and crumpled pyjamas, had been watching the scene unfold across the open plan room. Running across the lounge he jumped in the space between the two men.

“Stop please Chad. Please don’t hurt my Dad.”

The sight of a tear-stained face stopped the blonde in his tracks. Falling backwards to the floor he sat with his head in his hands and began to cry.

“Oh Junior, I’m so sorry.”

“That’s OK, Uncle Chad.” The boy hugged his ‘Uncle’ and then walked over to his dad, who was now sitting on the sofa holding his head. “Are you alright, dad?”

Dave lifted his head and looked at his son. His one eye was almost swollen shut and his ribs were killing him where Chad had inflicted more blows. Though well-built he had been no match for the man, an ex-American footballer player now run to seed.

“Can you grab me some ice from the fridge please son.”

Alicia stood weeping by the kitchen door. Dave’s estranged wife was still shocked by the whole experience. A quiet evening with friends had turned in to something a lot more traumatic. She still wasn’t sure how Chad and Dave had gone from exchanging toasts over beer to nearly killing each other.

The two men looked at each other across the lounge, like two caged tigers ready to pounce.

“Dave,” Chad looked over at his English friend, “Be real. He’s doesn’t even look like you. Face facts man, Dave Junior is my son.”

*

Six months earlier

Standing on the Mall in Washington DC, Dave wondered if this felt like coming home. To his left was the Washington Monument, a huge needle like structure that over looked the large reflecting pool, a lake made famous by Forrest Gump trying to cross it to get to his true love. To his right the grassed area stretched up to the Capitol Building, a familiar sight to anyone watching American political films or TV. It was the hub of US politics, and the equivalent to the Houses of Parliament in the UK and had once been his office.

Looking at the clear blue sky he pondered if he was doing the right thing. He’d left the UK in a rush after the closure of the naval job. It was another success for KOD, and they’d gained plaudits in the press for the handling of the whole event. He was looking forward to taking Jnr there when it opened for the public as an amusement park. He’d love him to meet Captain Norris, the slightly spikey officer who’d been his adversary. Seagull poo aside he was pleased he’d managed to save a historic battleship and some memories of Royal Navy history for future generations.

“Daddy!”. A small voice could be heard shouting across the park.

Dave scanned the area and spotted a body moving a speed towards him. The next thing he knew he was almost bowled over by a small boy who wrapped himself around Dave’s legs.

“Hey Dad. I’m so glad you are here.”

Dave picked up the bundle of energy, struggling slightly as his son had grown since he’d last seen him. Nearly eight the boy was well built with his head above Dave’s waist.

“Junior. You’ve got big!”

“I know. Mom says I’m one of the tallest in my class.”

He put the boy down and ruffled his hair, a thatch of blonde curls. He still wondered at genetics. Both he and Alicia had brown hair but his son had the hair of Adonis.

His wife finally appeared by his side.

“Hello Dave.” She leant in for a peck on the cheek.

Things in their relationship had been rocky for a while, with Dave staying in the UK when Alicia had decided she preferred to come back to her home country, the US. For the last year they had been talking and he’d popped back for short trips but with his job it had been hard to get the time off. This time he had a few weeks so they knew this trip was make or break for the two of them, or at least for his son.

“Come on Dad, I want to go and play with the spacecraft.” Jnr pulled his father’s arm, dragging him towards the Air and Space Museum. Home to American’s flight history it was Jnr’s favourite place of all the museums in the centre of Washington. He loved to pretend to be an astronaut.

Letting his son run on Dave and Alicia fell into step.

“So is this trip Business or Pleasure?”

“A bit of both.” Alicia rolled her eyes at his response. “Hey it needs to both, I can’t afford to keep flying over here to you know.”

“Perhaps you should have thought of that before you gave up your US government job.” She bit back.

Dave was about to respond with another barbed comment. This was how most of their conversations went these days. Jousting with remarks about which country they should live in and what was best for their son. He’d had enough of it all, the other reason he was here.

“Look. I’m here to try and clear the air. Taking the opportunity to look for work for KOD over here gives me a chance to spend a few weeks rather than a few days so we can have proper conversation about what’s best for Junior.” Dave stared hard at his wife. She pouted but kept her mouth shut. He noticed that she didn’t say, and for them. He thought she realised, the same way he did, that their relationship was over.

Waiting by the side of the road Dave Jnr was bouncing up and down with excitement.

“Come on you two slow pokes. We’ll miss our slot in the planetarium.” Running behind his parents his pushed them along towards the doors of the Museum. Differences aside Dave and Alicia couldn’t help but let his enthusiasm rub off on them.

“I’ll race you there.” Dave opened the doors and set off across the entrance hall, Jnr in his wake, Alicia laughing at their exuberance.

*

“No, no, no. How many times do I have to tell you, no.” Kate stomped back to her office, slamming the door behind her.

Silence fell across the rest of the office as they followed her tall, thin shape teetering back in her stilettos.

It had been a few weeks since the end of the Fillern Holm job, and the departure of Dave to America. Since then she had been more insufferable than usual. Any mention of him brought out a sharp retort, in fact anything seemed to get her goat. Even Tracey, someone not known for her sympathy for Kate at the best of times, was feeling sorry for her. Kate had got noticeably thinner and her heels seemed to be getting higher each day that Dave was gone.

Of course Kate wouldn’t admit that she was worried about what was going to happen in America. Dave Thomas, the one that got away at University, had breezed back into Kate’s life two years ago in a big job to close down a vegetable research agency. KOD had done to the job but Dave had lost his in the process. So, without Kate being consulted her not so sleeping partner had brought him in to work at KOD, HER COMPANY. She’d not been too happy at the time but had warmed to Dave over his Florence nightingale abilities when she broke her leg. Though she hadn’t told him, again how she felt, and instead had thrown herself at someone else, someone who’d turned out to be gay.

So, the contract had come to an end, and Dave had offered to look for some new work for the company. He had a few contacts stateside, and they’d made more when the Yanks and tried to ‘shipnap’ the battleship that came with the naval island they had been working at. Kate knew the expression ‘never look a gift horse in the mouth’ but it didn’t make her feel any more comfortable that he would be spending time with his estranged wife. But Kate being Kate couldn’t tell him this, so instead was just taking her frustrations out at the gym or on the staff.

Kate’s office door opened again. Everyone in the office took a deep breath.

“Kelvin, get in here now. This bl**dy computer isn’t working, AGAIN.”

Commiserating looks were aimed at the office IT geek Kelvin as he rose reluctantly from his chair and made the way slowly across the office. One member of staff actually made the sign of the cross as a small prayer for him as the door closed behind him.

We are posting a chapter each week from our latest novel, Kate vs Showbiz. If you’d like to read the whole book, subscribe now!

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Bragging rights

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.

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Aren’t librarians helpful people?

Phil: A few weeks ago, I mourned the loss of the library I used to visit as a child. Well, last night I took a trip to the replacement.

Part of a “community hub”, it is smaller than the old place, but has (I am assured) just as many books. OK, the children’s area is a lot smaller, but there are other spaces in the building that can be used, and anyway, when I was a child, the only children’s area was full of books. No mats and beanbags for storytime for young Phil! (Grumble, brumbe, youth of today don’t know they are born etc…)

Anway, one fascility not currently available, is the magic machine that checks books in and out. It seems that the new machines haven’t arrived yet, despite the project to build the place taking a couple of years. That was awkward, because I was there to return and renew the books I borrowed from the old place.

Despite it being 20 minutes to closing time, one of the librarians took my books into the office and did it all for me. If there was a fine to pay, nothing was mentioned.

She then went on to check and renew my account, hopefully so I can finally use the on-line renewal system.

I think it must be in a librarians’ DNA to do this. Presumably something checked at the job interview.

Someone pointed out that libraries are the last public space you can enter wehre no-one expects you to spend any money (unless you really want to). I guess that must appeal to people who just like helping others with something as important as reading, and searching for knowledge. And long may it be so.

You’re probably asking why there isn’t a photo of the library at the top of this post, well, it was too dark for the building and I don’t like taking shots of the inside while there are people there.

However, as part of the new hub, there is a cafe. So I bought some cake (it’s compulsory for this blog) and chose the one that looked like a muffin with the poo emoji on top. It’s actually a choux bun with chocolate, and very nice too. A definite asset to the library.

Worse, for my waistline, to get there I have to pass a fish’n’chip shop. The aroma on a dark evening explains why I enjoyed a chip buttie for tea…

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I can see the sea!

View from Puffin Cottage, Bucks Mills, Bideford

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!

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Summer on a Sunny Island – Sue Moorcroft

Summer on a Sunny Island: The uplifting new summer read from the Sunday Times bestseller, guaranteed to make you smile! by [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.

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Back in the writing groove

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Phil: It’s been too long. Life has come between us and the writing we love. But that has to change. We need to complete Book 3

Step 1: Remember where we are. We can sort of recall the story, but really, it’s time to re-read everything.

Step 2: Reading on screen is OK, but reading from the page is a lot easier. Eating several ink cartridges and much paper in a domestic printer doesn’t appeal, and we’re working from home so there isn’t an office printer to try to slide many, many page through.

A commercial print shop is another option, but in the past, it’s been an expensive thing to do.

So, to Lulu.com. An hour of messing around rough-formatting the manuscript file, creating a quick cover, and the book is in their print queue. A week later, two copies are in my hands. I’ve allowed larger than normally margins for scribbling, so the result is 2cm thick (I forgot to add page numbers, sorry).

All this for £7 a copy. It feels like a real book. It looks like a real book. Let’s hope it inspires us to finish the project!

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Sally Parker’s not my mum, and I’m relieved

Sally Parker is struggling to find the hero inside herself.
All she wants to do is lie down.
Her husband Frank has lost his business, their home and their savings, in one fell swoop. Their bank cards are being declined. The children have gone feral. And now the bailiffs are at the door.
What does an ordinary woman do when the bottom falls out?
Sally Parker is about to surprise everybody.
Most of all herself.

Phil: I like Mel Giedroyc. She’s very funny on the telly.

But if this is typical of her literary output, please, please don’t let her near a keyboard.

Sally Parker (no relation) is one of those ladies who lunch. Her husband, a hedge fund manager, pays all the bills. She lives in a gilded cage with staff she doesn’t like, who do all the work. The three kids and one niece, are all nightmare spoilt brats. Her skills are being born pretty.

We know all this by reading the interminable build-up. If you want to know how the other half lives, then you’ll love it. I was bored.

Then it all starts to fall apart. Slowly. There is a financial crash. Husband Frank develops narcolepsy and keeps falling asleep. They lose the house and move through a series of improbable situations to keep a roof over their heads.

Eventually, we end up in Wales at the bedside of a dying aunt – for no reason I could entirely fathom. There, after a bit of trans-misogyny that might have provided a much stronger plotline, everyone ends up standing in a room.

This might work if there was a single character you cared about. But there isn’t. If the who lot had been killed on page two, I’d not have missed them.

It’s tempting to pull out problems, but that’s just going to turn into a rant. We could mention Sally’s good friend Janice who it is made clear, silently fancies Sally and pretty much saves the day without a hint of thanks. Or the wonky timeline where, as everyone individually rushes to Wales, sees Sally suddenly decide to take a days’ employment mucking out at a stable. Or Mikey, the business-minded child constantly being told to shut up when she tries to offer cash to help dig the family out of a whole. I could go on.

In theory, the idea that Frank started out tarmacing as a boy, and ended up by dint of his hard work, a successful fund manager, ought to be interesting – but it just happened. You would have thought that as Sally was party to this from the start, she would be involved and feel part of it. Nope.

The trans story (Warning: Spoiler) that is largely ignored is that Frank’s dad, who he idolised, changed sex but his parents stayed together. That might have provided a thrust for his actions, but we find out about all this in the last chapter.

While not the worst celebrity novel out there (Hello Celia Imrie), it’s a book that would have benefitted from being written by a nobody and then beaten into shape with the help of an editor. Someone who would have picked up the pace in the first half (“one fell swoop” takes half the book), ditched the unnecessary narcolepsy storyline, and the pointless stuff about the doctor which doesn’t do anything for the plot. The deeper issues might have been turned up – the trans stuff and also the aunt they all rush to visit by the end. All the stuff about Frank’s business partner having repeated breakdowns seemed both odd and tasteless too.

Maybe, part of the problem is that I don’t live in this world. I don’t even come into contact with it. If I and my friends lived the ladies who lunch life, then I’d identify with more than just the surname of the lead characters.

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Sweet Sweet Revenge Ltd

Phil: Some stories require the reader to suspend their disbelief to enjoy them. Sweet Sweet Revenge Ltd by Jonas Jonasson asks you to put your disbelief in a bag, take it down to the bottom of the garden and bury it.

Full of mad ideas and improbable coincidences, the story doesn’t make sense if you insist on being Mr Literal when reading. You will find the idea of a Swedish Nazi art dealer abandoning his illegitimate son in the desert to be eaten by lions a touch improbable.

You’ll also be stuck when the son doesn’t get eaten by lions, instead, being brought up by a Maasai medicine man. And when the son runs back to Sweden, his adoptive dad decides to track him down. All of this while we have a couple of fake (or not) paintings and an advertising executive helping people take revenge on others.

It is mad. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

In style, the book has a lot in common with the work of Tom Sharpe. Perhaps less dodgy sex (although the dealer does become known as “goat-sex man” for various reasons not involving sex with goats) and violence, but still that craziness where the rules of the real world don’t really apply. Or at least, not in the way we expect them too.

There is a lot of plot in these pages too. Most books would be happy with about half as much, but in this respect, it’s like a very filling meal which is so tasty that you can’t help eating a little more than you really should.

If you like absurd stories, then try it.

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Don’t fall down the research rabbit-hole

Phil: Have you ever found yourself on Wikipedia reading up on something and unable to resist clicking on a related link? At the time you tell yourself it’s relevant to the topic, but then there is another link, and another. And another.

You start reading about tractor production in post-war America and half a day later you’re learning about the proclivities of minor German aristocracy in 1830.

It’s addictive, something to do with dopamine in your brain, and the urge to procrastinate while kidding yourself that any education is good. I mean, who doesn’t need to know about flat-roofed pubs for example?

I’ve just finished the enjoyable Funny You Should Ask book by the QI Elves. It’s full of unrelated facts such as what would happen if you tried to dig through the Earth, or what causes deja-vu. If you enjoy odd snippets of information, it’s a good fun read.

The most useful fact in the book isn’t in the main text, but the introduction.

When writing for the quiz, they start with the answer and then craft a question around it. Working the other way around means endlessly researching as they fall down the rabbit-hole (named after the rabbit-hole Alice falls down in Wonderland) finding linked facts when they should be working.

I’m not sure this will help cure my procrastination, but maybe it will do something for you. In the meantime, I need to go a read up on The Auburn and Lidcome Advance. You never know when knowledge of old Australian newspapers will come in handy!

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Filed under Phil, Writing