Tag Archives: holiday

Do you read reviews? I really should.

Phil: I’ve just come back from the Tutankhamun “Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh” exhibition in London. I shelled out good money to get in and for my ticket to travel. Sadly, by the end, I was disappointed and felt cheated.

We were promised 150 artefacts, many leaving Egypt for the first and last time. That much is true, but my motivation was to see the iconic golden mask of Tutankhamun – the thing everyone pictures in their mind’s eye when you say the name.

I gazed at many amazing and fascinating objects, gradually nearing the end. Turning in to the last room, I was faced with….a stone statue. An interesting statue with 3000-year-old paint, but not the golden mask.

Querying this with a steward, it became obvious that I’m not the first person to ask. The reply about the mask being “too delicate” to travel from Egypt came out very quickly and with much practice.

Looking back at the booking, I realise the organisers had never said the mask would be there. They had simply used an image of one of the other objects, a miniature version of the coffin used for holding some of the King’s internal organs. It’s beautifully made and from the picture, you wouldn’t know the thing was about a foot tall. I simply saw the picture and assumed, something the Daily Telegraph’s reviewer guessed would happen.

Now, if I’d taken the time to read some reviews beforehand, I’d have realised I wasn’t going to see the mask. On that basis, I’d have given the exhibition a miss.

This makes me think, I’m a bit rubbish at checking this sort of thing out in advance. I don’t generally read book reviews in advance either.

Is this just me?

Maybe authors can stop worrying quite so much about a bad review. Most people have better things to do than research a book in advance – a nice over and slick synopsis on the back probably sells more.

OK, there will be some who pore through reviews, probably looking for the bad ones. A slew of good reviews can’t hurt either, but maybe we can afford to be a bit more relaxed. And maybe, I need to be a little more prepared in future when planning a day out.

 

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Blue Monday?

Image result for blue monday new order

Candice: When I hear that expression I have to say I think more of the New Order song (which I hate) than the term that is banded around for the third Monday in January.

Monday, and this week, is supposed to be the most depressing point of the year.  Christmas is over, the days are still short and dark, and we don’t have anything to look forward to until the next big holiday which could be months away.

This Monday has turned into even more of a confusing one for me, my daughter seems to have decided it’s her blue Monday as she doesn’t want to go to school. At the age of six, they are already testing children at school, and she is in the middle of her first round of maths and reading checks.  I think it’s far too early, but that’s the way the world works.

What I don’t want this to do it take away from her enjoyment of school and learning, including reading.  One of the things that lifts me in the world of short, dark days is a good book or film, something to drift off in to so I don’t have the think about all the rubbish going on around me.

To me, you have to spin the concept of ‘Blue Monday’ on its head and find positive things to do to make this time of year better.  As much as I am sure my other half would prefer not to have a birthday at the end of Jan, its something I use to keep us going as I like to plan a day out activity so we all have something look forward to.   Birthday or not it’s good to have things in the diary so that you can go – ‘today was rubbish but I’ve got that trip to the theatre, cinema, day out in London’ – whatever it is that floats your boat, in the calendar.

Having a small person does help too as she always wants to find out new stuff, and I like taking her to new things too.  We were watching the ice dancing show last night and she said she’d like to have a go so we are going to plan a trip to the ice rink in a few weeks.  She’s never been so it will be an experience and there will definitely be falls, but it’s all new and exciting in her eyes.

My other ‘Blue Monday’ is the eternal battle with writing and time to do it.  Phil and I had a chat in a very busy Costa last week about plot lines, and then I didn’t manage to get to the edits off the back of that.  However, after beating myself up for most of the weekend about it, I’ve got my planning diary out and worked out when I might be able to look at it.  That makes me feel better.  It might not be until next weekend but now I feel more comfortable because at least I know when I will do, rather than constantly going when can I write.

If you are feeling blue, go and book in something that you will enjoy – a massage, drink with friends.  You might not be feeling motivated but once you do something you’ll find that the need to hibernate lessens and you’ll want to do more.  Now to sort out the six-year-old’s logic about school…..

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Back to School

cardiff-bayCandice:  I’m typing this from an apartment in Cardiff where we have come for a last-minute break before the return to school next week.

I can’t believe it is a whole year since someone started school and what a rollercoaster that has been.  One of the biggest rollercoasters has been trying to work out how to wrangle the new way of life:  Work, childcare and school holidays.

Though my daughter has been in childcare since she was quite young that was different, it was 51 weeks of the year and the hours never changed.  Once she started school things got very different as we had to make sure she had a place in breakfast and after school club, whose opening and closing times were different to what we were used to. There were also after school clubs that she might like to attend, which meant more jiggery-pokery.

I also changed jobs, and went from being employed somewhere with flexible working (i.e. working from home when I wanted) to being at home for a bit, to being somewhere where I had to be in the office set times all the time.  That little voice saying “Why can’t you pick me up earlier?”  really hurt sometimes.

And then finally the saga of school holidays.  Planning if we were going to be away or not, if we weren’t then booking in some time at the school holiday club which had to be done as soon as you got back from the last holiday as it would fill up quickly.  And then the six week holiday…. there were many hours spent with a chart working out who would cover when, if she was going into paid holiday club, where she would go when that wasn’t open, and all the time trying to work out if we could spend some quality time together too.

Somewhere in all of this, I was trying to find some time to write. To be honest I failed miserably.  When I wasn’t working the first time I was too busy trying to get a job that I couldn’t focus on anything else.  Now I am between contracts again but I have a slightly different view and am finally having the time to write.  I’ve taken to going to the library and working there for a few hours to help me concentrate, and its working.  In the last week, I’ve done 4000 words.  So, until something else comes along I will do that as my new ‘job’ and also plan how next time I work I’m going to get the work/life/child balance better.

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Step away from the epic – think local

Phil: On my recent sojourn to the Isle of Man, my car radio was tuned in to Manx FM and my first purchase was a pile of local newspapers.

I like a world where all the stories are local. For example, while the national news was banging on about Brexit, the lead story on the local radio was about a children’s play area whose opening had been delayed. Another big story is a flume at a local swimming pool that won’t fit together.

You might laugh, but this stuff matters. Big politics is very remote to most of us. For the most part, we don’t really see Westminster having a direct effect on our lives.

The local play area being shut – well what do you do with the kids during the summer holidays? The same question you can ask about the flume.

Now translate this to your reading.

I bet most of your favourite books centre on one or two characters lives. Plot twists are personal, because that’s what we relate to as humans.

OK, sci-fi often grapples with galaxy-wide stories spanning aeons, but those do tend to be the preserve of a small number of very enthusiastic readers. Good luck to them, but I find that stuff achingly dull.

No, the essence of good writing seems to be inventing a small world and keeping your plot within it. If you need further proof, look at the tiny areas covered by popular soap operas, a few streets, a square, or memorably, a motel. Look closely at these little worlds and all human life can be found.

As it is. I bet the delayed flume could form the basis for one of our books…

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The holiday library

Phil: I’m on holiday at the moment in a self-catering apartment. It’s so nice here that this is the third time I’ve staying in the place, and all being well, not the last.

In the corner of the massive living room is a bookcase with a selection of paperbacks on the shelves. Last year, I started reading Moondust by Andrew Smith, but ran out of time to finish it before my departure.

As far as I am aware, there are no rules for the bookshelf, so I decided to take the book home with me and get to the end, before writing a review on here.

But, then I felt guilty. This is a terrific book, what if someone else wanted to read it?

You could argue it should go to a charity shop and continue on its travels. Many books have a life that starts in a “proper” bookshop and then continues through several hands before the covers fall off and they end up in recycling. To me the “who had this before?” question is part of the fun of buying second-hand books.

This time though, I felt that I really ought to bring the book back, and so it has sat in the reading pile for a year until I packed it in my suitcase and brought it “home”, coincidentally on the 50th anniversary of the moon landings it celebrates.

To make up for my transgression, I also added a copy of our books to the shelf. That’s not just me being nice, the dream is that some Hollywood A-lister will have the apartment next week, pick the copy up and shout, “Get me the authors, this is the greatest book I’ve ever read and I must option the story for a major film immediately!”

Well, you can dream can’t you.

Did I do the right thing though? What do you do when the day to go home arrives before the last page of the book?

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In search of Fillern Holm.

Phil: If you’ve read Kate vs the Navy, you’ll know that the action takes place on an island called Fillern Holm, which can be found in the Bristol Channel, not far from Weston-Super-Mare.

It is of course, completely fictitious. Loosely based on Cockatoo Island in the far more exotic Sydney harbour, we made it up as there isn’t really anywhere suitable to hide an old navy base in the UK, and if we can’t go to Australia, then neither can the characters in our books!

Anyway, I was down in Weston a few days ago and found myself staring out to sea, or at least where the sea should be. On the horizon was a lump, dimly visible through the mist.

Could this be Fillern Holm? Does it exist after all?

Sadly not, it’s actually Steep Holm, according to the map. An uninhabited lump of rock. It was fortified in the 1860s though, and these defences were updated in WWII including the building of a barracks. All this means that it could just be a suitable stand-in for Fillern Holm in any future film or TV adaptions.

Talking of settings for drama, perhaps there is another candidate at Weston. Just off the coast is Birnbeck Pier.

More dereliction, but this time with some buildings. No missing battleships though. Perhaps those will just have to stay in our imagination.

Buy Kate vs the Navy for only 99p from Amazon.

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Why I’m STILL rubbish at holidays

Phil: As Candice mentioned last week, I’ve been on holiday. No jet-lag this time, since it was on the (mostly) sunny Isle of Man.

Now back home, I have several bags of souvenirs, lots of photos and a few videos. The week was great, but not perfect.

My plan had involved running around the island (not actual running, travelling on the train, tram or bus obviously) visiting things and meeting people. Evenings were to be spent backing up my photos then doing some writing. In my imagination, I’d have a relaxing hour most evenings hammering away at the keyboard, producing vast amounts of hilarious plot for our third novel. I might even have promised by writing other half this.

I’d also catch up on my reading. Two books went in the bag.

Now I’m back home, it’s time to admit I failed. Total written – 432 words.

And those novels, I never opened them. I did read 1/4 of a book picked up from the apartment “library” and most of the local newspapers but only in snatched moments.

As da kidz would say, “Epic FAIL”.

They would also go on to explain that I am suffering from FOMO – that is the Fear Of Missing Out. I pre-pack my week with stuff and don’t leave space for unexpected things, or just to relax. I want to see everything and be everywhere. No time to chill, all there is is the idea that when I get home I’ll be thinking, “Why didn’t I do that as well”  – pretty much what Dr Candice diagnosed a few weeks ago. At least her smug “I woz right” feeling will help counter the “Where are the WORDS you promised Parker?” grumbling.

Now I need a break to recover!

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