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Merry Christmas!

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by | December 25, 2021 · 6:11 am

A Christmas tale

Kate was lying on her sofa. She had glass of wine in her hand, and her two cats, Olly and Horatio were fighting for space on her lap. She wasn’t a fan of Christmas, if she heard Maria Carey sing ‘All I want for Christmas’ one more time she thought she might scream. In fact this year it seemed to be worse, with new Christmas songs coming along, god that Ed Sheeran and Elton John song just made her want to vomit. What was it about Christmas that brought out the worst in people?

KOD had managed to squeeze in their party before the new restrictions were brought in. She’d smiled through the jolliness, Christmas jumpers and songs while gritting her teeth. She couldn’t wait until the new year and they could all get back to work. Even today, everyone had been desperate to knock off early, sending silly messages and bringing those jumpers back out for video calls. She’d had to let them go at midday, that was how it worked apparently, but she’d stayed on her laptop until 6pm answering emails and catching up on the ever-mounting workload. The world didn’t close down just because it was the 24th of December.

It was warm and cosy in her flat, and the wine and the cat’s purring was making her dozy.

‘Rustle, rustle.’ Kate woke with a start. She looked around, the flat was in darkness, the only glow coming from the lights in the kitchen. Peering at her watch it showed it was nearly 1am. God, she’d fallen asleep on the sofa!

‘Rustle, rustle.’ She thought she could hear a noise from her bedroom. The flat was open plan so the only three rooms she couldn’t see were the two bedrooms and the bathroom. Rolling off the sofa, with some complaints from the two sleeping cats, she picked up the first thing that she could get her hands on, a slipper, and crept towards her bedroom. The noise was getting louder.

“Humpf”. Kate paused, that sounded like a male voice in her room. She looked around, wondering where her phone was. Perhaps she should call 999, who could be in her flat at this time? Her bedroom hadn’t seen any male action for over a year! No, she was a tough woman, she’d give him what for. She dropped the slipper and picked up one of her Jimmy Choos, the four-inch stiletto should help.

Cracking the door to her bedroom she saw the back of a large shape. Strange, it was a broad back covered with what seemed to be a red jacket. Then she could see white hair – what was this, an OAP was raiding her designer bag collection? He seemed to be bending over to look at something, and was making a lot of huffing noises.

“Yah!!!” She ran into the room brandishing the shoe, heel pointing forward. The intruder turned round. He was over six foot, but had white hair and beard, and looked about 80. “Oh, hello Kate.” A loud booming voice said to her. She stopped in her tracks, shoe still in the air.

“How do you know who I am?” She kept her aggressive stance, balls of her feet, like her trainer had taught her. “I know who everyone is, don’t you know.” The man responded. “However, it doesn’t mean I can find you on my list.”

Kate’s brain was doing twenty to the dozen; old man, white hair, red suit, Christmas Eve, and coming up with an answer she didn’t like. “But you can’t be, you don’t exist.” She blurted out.

“Do look I don’t exist?” The man pointed at his suit and smiled. “I just don’t normally get caught in the act. I must be getting old.” He laughed to himself and then turned back to the electronic tablet in his hand. Scrolling through, he carried on making confused noises. “Nope, its no good, I can’t find you on the list.”

He turned around and picked up the sack from the floor, Kate hadn’t noticed it before, but behind him was a large hessian sack. “I hate to leave you like this, but as you know I have many places to be. It seems Kate you have been a very bad girl this year, and I can’t give you a present.”

Kate pulled herself together, a bad girl. What did he mean, she’s single-handedly held KOD together, even with this ruddy pandemic going on. Everyone still had a job. What more did he want?

“Now, hang on a minute there… um Father Christmas. I’ll have you know I’ve done a hell of a lot this bloody year to keep the world spinning.” She put her hands on her hips.

“Well you might have done, my dear, but according to my system you haven’t been very nice about it. You’ve had Clare in accounts in tears twice, and written so many harsh emails my little computer had to filter some of the language before it could show me examples. People don’t like you.”

“It’s not about being liked, it’s about getting the job done!”

“Well, this time of year especially, you have to remember that people are people too, and just because Julie from HR wants to knock off early to play with her kids is no excuse to bawl her out.”

“But… but…” Father Christmas put his hand up. “Sorry Kate, you can’t argue with me. My computer knows all and it says a big NO for you for this year.” And with that, he pressed something on the screen and lights appeared outside her window. The next thing she knew he was climbing out the window and into his waiting sleigh. “Just think about it, Kate.” And he was gone.

Kate sat on the floor in her bedroom. What did an overblown, fantasy character know about work anyway! She had worked her socks off, no present, well bah humbug to him.

The next she knew a dim light was coming through her curtains. Looking at her watch it was 8am. She was lying on the floor in the lounge, still in her clothes from yesterday. Jumping up she rushed to her bedroom. No, all was as it should be. Thank god, it had all been a wine induced dream.

Back in the kitchen she started up her coffee machine and put some food down for the meowing cats. Ah, Christmas Day. Two days to relax before getting back on the bandwagon. She had a small tree in the lounge area, a token gesture to the date. Underneath were a handful of presents from family. Perplexed she spotted one she hadn’t seen before. It had gold wrapping paper and was tied with a beautiful bow.

Taking it back to the sofa she opened it slowly. Inside was a white box that contained a mug. On the mug where the simple words – ‘To the best boss ever, from KOD.’ Inside the package was a card signed by the whole team, with lots of personal messages wishing her a good holiday.

Kate leant back on the sofa. She was genuinely touched. She thought they all hated her guts. She felt bad now because she’d done nothing for anyone for Christmas. Closing her eyes she thought back to her dream, a voice coming in to her head. ‘It costs nothing to be nice.’ Perhaps she would heed imaginary Santa’s comments, a little, in 2022.

If you want to more about the exploits of Kate and the team at KOD, you can read all in our two books – available on amazon or via kindle unlimited. Just search for Nolanparker. Merry Christmas!

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Traditions – where do they come from?

Elves

Phil: Every year, when the Christmas decorations come out, I open a box and build a pair of Lego Elves.

I’ve done this every year, for, ohh, four years.

Yes, it’s a tradition. Just not a very old one. My annual trip to London for beer with some mates usually left me with spare time before we met up and once I accidentally ended up on the Lego store. There, I thought it would be nice to buy a Crimbo decoration, and the first was the Elves.

Since then, a bauble with Lego presents in has joined the tradition, and another small Santa who looks a bit creepy. Each is dismantled after the season and made up again in December. Sadly, Covid has put a stop to beers, but the elves continue.

The world is full of traditions. La Nolan always watches Nativity in the run-up to the season. Others drape themselves with greenery or go out singing carols at inocent people.

Traditions quickly take hold and you are told “This must happen, it’s traditional.” That’s why officials in the House of Commons wear weird clothes.

Of course, all these traditions had to start somewhere. They weren’t traditional once upon a time. I suppose, like my festive Lego, they provide something familiar in an ever changing world. A comfort blanket perhaps.Christmas is especially full of tradition – and every family has their own, from who gives out the presents, to the food served at different times to the post-lunch games (or not).

Me? I like harmless traditions. To which end, I decided that if I can’t go to London, I can still add to my festive Lego collection.

 

Santa_500

Well, it’s traditional – innit!

Sidenote: This is our 900th blog post. While the writing might have taken a bit of a back seat recently, we keep plugging away with words. Practise makes perfect after all.

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Christmas Party but not as you know it

Candice: Phil told me I HAD to write the blog this week as I’d been keeping you all on tenterhooks talking about last weeks trip into the office.

Well, it was eventful. The whole experience was like starting the first day at a new job. I didn’t sleep well the night before as I kept thinking about what I needed to take with me, even though I’d packed it all and put it by the front door. I even cleaned my boots and laid out all my clothes for the next day, like I used to do.

In the morning I think it was the earliest that my daughter has been dropped off at school. I then got on the motorway and immediately remembered why I don’t like driving at ‘peak’ time, (though this was nothing like the usual level of traffic, just people being stupid because they were in a rush). However, I got there, Christmas jumper ready, flashing light badge on the go, tea and coffee ready to be made.

The day was a whirlwind of trying to work out how to work the new technology in the office (can you hear us, we can’t see you) and fitting in a whole weeks worth of work in one day. There was also a lot of food – everyone had bought something which had to be put in a central place and then we could dip it when we wanted (two metres apart obviously). It reminded me of being back in the office full time and being stuffed with too many chocs near to Xmas.

We went from back to back meetings to our virtual Christmas party – which was nice to do with a few key people around as it gave the event atmosphere. Though when we went to the quiz part we all had to disappear to different parts of the office so that we couldn’t hear each other team’s answers (not hard with social distancing), not that I am competitive at all.

By the end of the day, I was frazzled. I’d tried to solve our business planning problems and also a murder mystery too! I finished it off with the 5km run with my running buddy, our last before Christmas which was a really nice end to my sociable day.

Was this like a usual Christmas wind down? No.

Was it nice to go back in and see people? Yes.

Did I win the Christmas Jumper competition? NO!

Was I shattered that night and the next day? OMG yes. I have no idea what it will be like when we go back to travelling in on a regular basis, but I know it will be tiring initially!

I hope you all have a great Christmas and New Year and here is looking at a different 2021!

 

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A Christmas Bonus?

Image result for christmas jumpers in covid

Candice: Today I will be in the office for the first time in nine months. The concept of going in was mooted in September but then didn’t happen due to a change in rules. At the time I was very excited as I would be able to see my work colleagues again and have some semblance of normality. Having it taken away felt like a real blow.

But since then, I’ve got used to my little corner of the back bedroom again, especially since I bought a new desk which has really helped to make the space work properly for me. I’ve got a cosy set up, often with a cat asleep behind me and regular tea on tap when I want it.

When it was suggested we went back in for a planning session the other day I did jump at the chance, but since then have probably had the qualms that a lot of us long time home workers have had – what will it actually be like to work in an office face to face (well two metres apart obviously)? I’ve also been planning what I have to take, funny because for years I’ve just picked up my bag in the morning and got on with it. But now that bag isn’t packed with the usual essentials – they are dotted around the house, around my desk or actually, I don’t know where they are.

Work pass and access fob – check – they are hanging up with my coat downstairs and have been for months. I can see some of my colleagues scrabbling around tonight trying to find those.

Computer – check – charging as we speak. Though there will be ones in the office I think I am happier to take my own.

Charging cables – check – don’t want anything to have a flat battery a long way from home.

Milk, tea bags, coffee, food, lunch – all the essentials – I need to pack a bigger lunch box than I do for my daughter

Clothes – what to wear? It’s our Virtual Christmas party tomorrow too so Christmas Jumpers are obligatory.

Hair and makeup – I’ll need to get up earlier in the morning to be ready!

Small child – being dropped off at school on the way. Haven’t done that in a long time.

I am looking forward to seeing some real faces, and meeting some people I have never met before (though worked with for months). But I’m also cautious as we will need to stay apart and wear masks, which is going to strange. Four of us in a large meeting room trying to do a planning session will be VERY interesting.

But it will also be nice to do our Christmas party with at least some human beings around, so the laughter is real and not echoing down the wifi.

I’ll let you know how we get on.

 

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Clever Marketing

Image result for lol surprise unwrapping

This Christmas has been a whirlwind of new sparkly, pink things. Not for me, but for the little girl in the household, who actually isn’t that little any more.

She is one of those people with a birthday very close to Christmas so we go through a very fast run of present buying from one event to another. She loves the excitement of having so many things together, but I find it hard 1) to be inspired so close together, 2) wondering how she will feel when she is older when she’ll want the two things further apart, as I have to say to her you can’t have anything else you’ve had your quota for the year.

This is partly driven by me being a June person. I’m used to having a good gap between the two so I have to keep reminding myself she doesn’t know any different. And also it’s not totally my fault as she was early!

Anyway, this year has been all about LOL Surprise dolls. For those of you have not experienced them, they are the “Cabbage patch doll” of this year, but without the fighting at the till. Why no fighting? Because you can get everything with a LOL on! Clothes, pants, drawing kits, hair bands, pens, games alongside the dolls themselves.

What is a LOL?

They stand about 6cms high and look like a combination of Betty Boop and a Manga comic. All big eyes and oversized head. They don’t do a lot but the fun comes from the opening. The creators have come up with a clever way to make you a) buy lots of them and b) keep you interested. They come wrapped up in a ball or other plastic container and you have to unwrap the layers, like pass the parcel. You don’t know what doll you are going to get inside and everything that comes with her is wrapped up in little packages. Each item, shoes, clothes, bag, is separately wrapped. It’s very clever as it builds the excitement not knowing what is in there and then constructing the little doll.

I have to say I get just as excited as her in the process, wondering what we are going to get, and I don’t even know what most of them are called though she seems to.

There are 100’s of dolls to collect, they keep bringing out new versions and types – glitter series, winter disco, OMG. So you want to keep adding to your collection. My daughter has about 12 of them, this is a small number compared to some of the children you see and hear, and at £10 plus a go that’s a lot of money.

As my sister in law said the other day, “I wish I’d come up with the idea”. They have taken the world by storm, seemingly by using YouTube as their platform for delivery. I’ve never seen an advert anywhere for them but my daughter found them on YouTube by watching the ‘unboxing’ videos. This has become a big thing, vloggers opening things they are sent to promote. Because of the format of the LOL they are perfect for this, and they have kids and adults drowning in excitement ready to open their next surprise. I know some kids have become rich with ‘unboxing’ and their parents posting the videos.

I have to say I think the dolls are harmless fun, as long as you don’t get pulled into buying them all. It’s not like sticker books where you bought a pack of stickers for a few pence and then swapped duplicates with your friends, you could spend thousands to get a full set with these. In that case, it’s all about control from the parents. But I do think that the world of marketing has changed so dramatically and this is a very clever use of the new media out there. I’d just like to know how to transfer that into bookselling.

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Just one sleep…

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Huffkins – Yum

Candice: That’s what someone said to me this morning.  The excitement is brewing in our house, though it’s all about the details:

  • There is no 25 chocolate in her calendar so will she get a bigger one from the chocolate tin tomorrow?
  • Has Father Christmas remembered her OMG LOL (well no he hasn’t as that was a last-minute entry)
  • Can we clear some space for her new toys (me)- reluctance to that one

I’ve kept things simple, there are no presents under our tree so she has no idea what is coming. I’m hoping this will allay a 4am wake up!  Too many exciting things under the tree might cause problems.

This year has been very twisty and turny – or ‘Bumpy’ as the Queen has described her year in her annual speech.  Jobs have come and gone for my family, leaving us wondering exactly what next year will look like.  For now, I’m enjoying my new role and hopefully the same can soon be said for the other half.  Phil’s had a few bumps too, but not on his train tracks.

Normally I write a blog about Christmas Parties this time of year but mine has been very subdued.  Yes, I had a nice night out, good food, a few glasses of Sauvignon, and some good chat but it was all over very early.  Being a project person in a big company, employed people had their own parties to go too so there were too many decisions about which party to go to.  By the sound of lots of friends, this is getting more and more unusual as companies clamp down on spending on the nice stuff like Xmas parties, which I think is a real shame.

Phil and I had a nice meal the other day and exchanged presents.  We are both of the school that presents take precedence and like the excitement of buying something that we think someone will like.  I’m almost as excited as Erin about opening mine tomorrow!

Hope that all our readers have a great Christmas and look forward to some good reading and writing experiences in the new year.

MERRY CHRISTMAS (in a Noddy Holder stylie)

 

 

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Twas the night before Christmas

Image result for twas the night before christmas

Candice: An early post this week as it is the calm before the storm in the Nolan household.

  • Presents wrapped – check
  • Table laid – check
  • Timings list for food prep for tomorrow – started

I’m feeling more comfortable as the other half has taken the child off for a few hours to play with her cousins, giving me time to do all the last minute stuff.

The build-up to Christmas this year has been a strange one.  I am leaving work in January so that makes it strange, I’m not so involved in the 2019 planning, I’m starting to stay goodbye to be people who I won’t see again.  I didn’t even get to party in my usual manner as factors beyond my control meant that the glitter stayed in the wardrobe this year.  I’m hoping to make up for that on New Year’s Eve.

As Phil said, the writing in the last few months has taken a back burner as I have been concentrating on what I am going to do next job wise.  This change has been my chance to sit down and look at what I really want out of work.

I’m hoping to take a short sabbatical before the next big thing, and use that time to do some writing (and acting and decorating).  Though I don’t need that sabbatical to be too long.  One needs to buy shoes and handbags, don’t you know.

I’ll be writing about new year’s resolutions next time, though I have a list already building, but for now, I’m off to check if the turkey has started to defrost yet, and how long to cook the parsnips for.

Merry Christmas one and all, enjoy whatever Father Christmas brings you.

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Merry Christmas!

Yes, it’s time for the annual bauble photo with us looking sort of festive. Now go an buy our first book – and the second one! Please! They are more fun than Brussel sprouts!

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Working from home means never taking a day off – but they can’t stop you dreaming

DSC00530“The office will be closed from lunchtime Friday, December 21st to Thursday, December 27th”

“I’m breaking up on Friday. Can you get your stuff to me a little earlier”

Phil: Ahh, the joys of working from home. Constant reminders that your colleagues will be enjoying some enforced lounging around, while you just see those days as an opportunity for plenty of uninterrupted work.

Christmas is a joy. Despite my friend painting me as a bit of a humbug, I really love the present giving part, the decorations and the cheesy festive music. It’s just that I like it to be weeks away and not looming toward me. All I see is deadlines that always seem to be tightened. Suddenly, you find yourself having to take into consideration other people’s holidays. Holidays that don’t apply to you.

Being able to work at a time to suit me is lovely, but I do miss the days when a bank holiday actually meant something and wasn’t just a vague idea relating to a day that was (for me) like any other.

I know I shouldn’t moan about this. Having seen the Nolan schedule, her festivities are planned like a military campaign. You can imagine a map with little models of child and husband being pushed around by people with long sticks – “14:00 hours, child enters stage left. 14:15 child says line in nativity play. We need to rendezvous before then…”

All this Christmas chaos means the writing has taken a back seat. A couple of weeks ago, I congratulated myself on building up a plot strand I’m working on to 7000 words. That’s where it has stayed since then.

But, this doesn’t mean progress has entirely stalled. I might not be typing, but I am acting the scene out in my mind. Once I find a gap in my schedule, I’ll be turning my mental picture into words. Thinking sessions can take place any time and anywhere. While driving or sitting on a bus. At 3am in the morning instead of worrying about how I’ll get everything done is a pretty good idea too.

Anyway, I need to go. Work to do and I haven’t bought a present for the Nolan yet…

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