Tag Archives: fashion

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Kate vs Showbiz, Writing

Covering your face, in style

Phil: Phil in a face coveringFace coverings, or masks, are in the news at the moment as the government flails around trying to work out if we should be wearing them. I’m no scientist, but even though don’t have to, as I write, I have been wearing a covering in shops and confined spaces for a couple of weeks. Some would suggest that this is a good thing, virus or not.

Exactly what you cover your mug with is a big decision. These things are going to become like ties – a way to express yourself.

My main mask has VW campervans on it. I’ve also Dr Who, steam trains and a sort of trendy stars design. This collection is likely to grow over time. They are fun, as well as potentially helpful for health.

This makes me wonder what sort of covering the characters in our book would wear. After a little discussion with Candice (there is fashion involved, I’m out of my comfort zone), here are our thoughts:

Kelvin – He’s in IT and has no sense of style. One of those blue disposable paper jobbies will do the job.

Gareth – He’s going to keep forgetting his mask, but it’s probably going to be something picked up on his wife’s cattle farm. She will disapprove of the idea but when he askes, she’ll have something from an agricultural supplier handy. If he’s lucky, it won’t smell of dung. If he’s really lucky, someone in the office will save him from Tracey’s joke present of a gimp mask.

Dave – A sporty number aimed at cyclists.

Tracey – Now we are talking. Tracey will want a covering that says designer. It must have logos. It must be exclusive and expensive. This article from Vogue will help.

Kate – Our hero will quickly acquire a selection of discrete coverings that will co-ordinate with her outfits. Not for Ms Smith, the leopard print that Tracey will doubtless be sporting. Maybe she’s started with this Wolford number as worn by Jenifer Aniston as it’s streamlined and will go with most business attire. These Citizen’s of Humanity masks send out the right message to the more “right on” client, her wardrobe is all about image after all. It’s politer to drop hints via the medium of clothing rather than shout, “WE’RE REALLY KIND AND CARING AND DON’T YOU FORGET IT!” at a new lead. The one she won’t be wearing, is the Kittens and Cats mask someone in the office bought her as a joke, no matter how much any of the cats looks like her Olly…

So, what’s on your face?

1 Comment

Filed under Phil, Writing

New glasses make me feel old…

Phil: It’s that time again – the time when I have to choose some new glasses.

Sadly, the opticians aren’t able to sell me the same design of frames as I’ve enjoyed for the last two pairs so my “strong personal brand” needs to change slightly (Yes – strong personal brand, not me being too much of a wuss to go for something different) but this isn’t the biggest shock.

I’ve noticed for a few months that close-up work has been a bit of a challenge and have even resorted to taking my specs off for some of it. It seems that great age has caught up with me and I’m suffering from presbyopia, or the loss of elasticity in the lens. Basically, I need reading glasses.

This is the beginning of a slow decline obviously. Next time, those glasses will be hanging on a chain around my neck and the ones I normally wear will become the ones I peer over the top of when talking to people. After this, it’s a slippery slope to shopping in M&S and wearing cardigans…

Better get back to the writing before all my critical faculties give up on me!

Leave a comment

Filed under Phil

No, you are NOT wearing a codpiece!

cuecardwritingPhil: The big day is here. I spent yesterday evening sat in a coffee shop writing my cue cards.  We’ve four each, which seems a very small number until you realise that we’ll only have 3 minutes 45 seconds for each. We’re going to have to talk fast…

By now, every surface of Nolan towers will be covered in clothes as decisions are taken on the most suitable outfit for presenting at a literature festival.

In this respect, I have things easy. Men, especially authors, aren’t judged on what they wear.

It being the 400th anniversary of ma homeboy Billy S’s death, I wondered if I should mark the occasion by dressing in full doublet and hose. Checking the fashion press, it seems that “doublets were padded over the belly with bombast in a “pouter pigeon” or “peascod” silhouette” and what with that being my natural shape, it seemed a look ripe for a comeback.

I checked with my fashion advisor and asked where I might purchase the required codpiece, not being familiar with stores stocking high fashion.

An e-mail response told me I am not wearing traditional Shakespeare costume. Something to do with an unpleasent mental picture.

So, it’s back to the wardrobe to see if I can find anything with leather elbow patches.

Of course, if you want to see what we did wear, and more importantly, pick up some suggestions on how writing as a team could help you complete your novel, get yourself down to:

New Voices – Romantic Comedy at the Stratford Artshouse 3pm today!



Leave a comment

Filed under Phil, Writing

Dress to impress

Candice:  I’ve had an interview for an internal post in the last week.  Its been a strange experience as I am used to going for external jobs and not telling any one about it until afterwards.  But this was the worst kept secret.

So Thursday lunch time sees me sat in the reception of a local hotel waiting for the call to go up.  I’m watching Andy Murray, who happens to win his match while I am waiting which I can only take as a good sign.

I found about the details of the interview on my return from holiday. I knew it was coming but it was still a strange week last week.  Once I knew venue, times and the fact I had to do a presentation, did I spend hours pouring over this?  No I went out to buy a new outfit.

Like the protagonist in our book, who uses her clothes as armour to protect her from the outside world, I have to be dressed right or I don’t feel right. Kate uses her designer wardrobe to create a persona which means nothing and no-one can get in her way.

In my case, it’s not quite as net-a-porter as Kate’s wardrobe but I did go to the interview with my Mulberry Alexa.  The dress, however. was only Yumi but it was just as essential in the equation.  I bought two dresses and then ransacked my wardrobe, but in the 29 degree heat there were only certain things that would cut it.

So why all the drama for an outfit?  I think its more of a girl thing than a boy thing but I have to feel comfortable, whether its presentation or interview, if I don’t like what I am wearing then I don’t come across as well or feel as confident.  Whatever works is my motto, so new outfit it is.  The worst comes when you can’t find that perfect something – then you get even more worked up!

I’m waiting to hear the results but I think it went well, and I felt like the bee’s knees in my dress.

Leave a comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

How to write Chick Lit – Part 2

Candice:  Ok, so Phil’s done his research.  Probably abit arse about face as we have already written the book, but its a good way to shape this group of 80,000 words into something that a nice publisher might like, based on his reading experience.  However, there is something fundamental missing in his experience, he’s not a girl.  I suspect that’s why ‘Cat’ went down better than ‘Flawless’, but that was part of the test.

I also liked ‘Cat’ more than ‘Flawless’, and I’m the audience I think we are aiming this book at.  Not someone who wants soppy rubbish, but a woman with a brain who wants escapism but realism.  As Neil has commented, people have real experience of the Tour de France, unlike the high flying world of gems and castles.  None of us can understand that so its chance at grabbing us might fade.  I suppose it’s also a bit like the programs I like to watch. Give me ‘Buffy’, ‘Lost Girl’ or ‘Fringe’, set in reality but with escapist moments, rather than ‘Star Trek’ which I have no interest in at all.

So where to now?  Does Phil need to put on a dress and feel some relationship angst.  Um, no, that’s why he’s part of this writing partnership because he brings the Male to FeMale.  He’s the comedy buffer to my comments on shoes and handbags.  Though he does like a good Peplum….

I feel that more research is never enough in this case.  As you followers know I am always reading books, and each one helps to shape how I might approach our writing.  But I still think we need to tackle the other two areas we have set ourselves: submission of short stories (one written and just needing final tweaks), and attending a writing group (mainly for research as I not sure it is our thing, too much navel gazing).

Now I have surfaced from under a few weeks madness at work its time to do the final polish on our horror short and get it sent.  And maybe, if you guys are lucky, we might let you read it too…

Leave a comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

Mr Kelly

Fish TieAndrew looked at the faces of the crowd before him. Everyone was a mixture of misery and defeat. Hardly surprising as he had just announced that the Horticultural Investigation Agency, the vegetable research centre where they all worked, was to close.

Phil: Last week, Candice explained how much of our book is a mix, albeit an exaggerated one, of experiences we have had working in various places. The same applies to the characters who will bear some relation to real people. Not partially close relationship most of the time (I should say that for legal reasons this applies especially to the bad ones), but creating a person out of thin area is impossible. You are bound to use elements of real people.

Andrew Livingstone is a good example. In the story he is head of the Horticulture Investigation Agency and as it opens, he is charged with telling everyone the government is going to close them down.

The scene is inspired by being stood in the crowd watching someone explain how our quango was to be closed down. The man doing the talking wasn’t the man we saw. It was Mr Kelly. Sort of.

Back in the dim and distant past, in an era before the Interweb was invented, I worked for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I was the lowest of the low – you spoke to me about having your cows tested for TB or Brucellosis. Eventually, after a combination of hard work and being in the right place at the right time, I was the man you spoke to if your cow was a bit wobbly and you thought it might have BSE. I was truly a friend to the sons of the soil. (I didn’t just do cows, if you found a bat you called me as well but I just rang one of my contacts to get it taken away.)

Mr Kelly was the Divisional Veterinary Officer for our little office. He was a really lovely bloke. The sort of person you want to do your best for because he would appreciate it rather than because he would yell at you if you didn’t. Never obviously ambitious, he had ascended to the lofty heights of being in charge of our little office after a career in honest government service. With only a couple of years to go to retirement he had seen it all and spoken to most it too. If we had a difficult customer, he would deal with them and calm the situation. We didn’t need this skill very often but you never knew when it might be handy – an earlier occupant of the post had managed to leave a circus with a broken nose after getting off on the wrong foot. I suspect Mr Kelly would have sorted things out and probably been offered free tickets.

In my head, when I wrote Andrews parts, I pictured Mr Kelly. He would have been very upset to have to deliver the news and yet everyone would have felt for him even as he was telling them they were heading for the scrap-heap. It wasn’t his fault.

A character who is completely nice doesn’t make for interesting reading, so Andrew is also wily when required, just like his real life counterpart. He isn’t taking things lying down and has in a mind a way to fight back. As the plot progresses, his plan is revealed – although I won’t tell you if it is succesful, you’ll have to wait until we get published for that ! (Why not write to you MP demanding this ?). He also has to deal with a bit of transgression by the staff and instead of getting upset, takes the situation and uses it to his best advantage.

This last part caused a bit of discussion between us. Without giving too much away, something is found that shouldn’t be there. Candice assumed Andrew would have known about it and thus would be unhappy about its discovery. I knew that Mr Kelly would have been surprised and disappointed about it but since he wasn’t a control freak he would just put it down to young people doing what they do. However he would then have turned a potential disaster into a triumph. This would have been done very calmly and pragmatically.

So that is what happened.

What’s this got to do with the fish picture ? Well, as I say, it was a long time ago. Required to wear a tie in the office, I developed a taste for more unusual decoration. Mr Kelly saw this the first time I wore it and quietly asked that I brought it out again on his last day when we were due to have a retirement party. I wasn’t sure about this but did as requested. During his speech he ran through everyone in the office making some polite and complimentary comments about them. Getting to me he mentioned my lurid neckwear and something along the lines “…and judging from his latest tie, he appears to be joining the Fisheries division.”


Filed under fashion, Phil, Writing