Tag Archives: holiday

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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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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Here we go again

Image result for autumn leaves

Candice: I’m a little at sixes and sevens this week. After an enjoyable week off work and time hanging out with family – flying kites, building sandcastles – something that felt almost normal, we are back to going into another lockdown.

And it’s not something I am looking forward to. I’ve got my head around the working from home again until Spring next year, it is what it is and, to be honest, I’m not sure how I going to feel when I have to get into a car to commute again. But the thought of not being able to socialise with family and friends have got me down. Each time the rules change you find a new way to cope, ‘Ok so you can’t come in but let’s sit in the garden, Ok not in the garden but we can meet in the park,’ and now we can’t really meet at all.

I’ve gone Christmas buying mad as I don’t want the little person to miss out. I think we have most of Smyth’s Toys hidden in the house. This makes me happier as she’s been writing her list since August so I’d be sad if she didn’t get some of what she asked for (though she’d not getting all of it, it’s a long list). We’d just booked a trip to see Santa too but I’m not sure if that is going to happen.

What I haven’t done it stockpile loo roll, something I believe is happening again. We’ve got enough to last a few weeks so I’ll wait for the madness to die down, though I’ve just had an email from Asda about our delivery this week to say they don’t have any eggs. Come on people, they aren’t closing the food shops.

Last night I started to think about how I get through this next month. With no gym to go to, I’m dusting off the spin bike and looking at the online classes my gym are offering. Planning to go for a walk in my lunch break when its light, not when it’s dark. And then meeting up with one friend when I can. Phil – meet you in the park soon, we can kick some leaves around!

and P.S. I will be diving into some books for some great escapism.

 

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The Authenticity Project

Phil: As we’ve mentioned in the past, I’m rubbish at taking holidays, but I felt I needed a break and decided that last Saturday would be a reading day. My plan involved doing nothing more than lounging around with my nose buried in a book.

But which book? The reading pile is tall and I didn’t want something that I’d have to slog through.

My choice: The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley. Reader, I chose well.

Six strangers with one thing in common: their lives aren’t always what they make them out to be.
What would happen if they told the truth instead?

Julian Jessop is tired of hiding the deep loneliness he feels. So he begins The Authenticity Project – a small green notebook containing the truth about his life.

Leaving the notebook on a table in his friendly neighbourhood café, Julian never expects Monica, the owner, to track him down after finding it. Or that she’ll be inspired to write down her own story.

Little do they realize that such small acts of honesty hold the power to impact all those who discover the notebook and change their lives completely.

Artist Julian Jessop writes the truth about his life in a notebook and leaves it for others to find. They add their own “truths” as the book travels around them. Julian is desperately lonely, Monica wants marriage and children, even though she wonders if she should, and so on.

The premise is really interesting. What are we really like in the depths of our soul? How does this compare with the face we show to the rest of the world. I suspect that everyone hides some deeper secrets but wear a suit of armour. We’ve written our main character, Kate, like this and it’s not an original premise. How the idea is handled is what matters.

I liked all the characters, admittedly some more than others. Cleverly, there is someone most of us can identify with in the cast list. I’m very much Monica who abandoned her life as a city lawyer after a colleague faces up to the horror that all those extra hours at work are just a way of escaping life and does something terrible. As you read, you wonder what you would do, how should you change things in your own life?

OK, this is light fiction and so you need to suspend disbelief occasionally. The flimsy book seems to survive its travels well and finds just the right person in the right frame of mind no matter where it is left – but then the story would be a lot shorter if it had been chucked in the bin in the cafe. I don’t want a documentary, this is fiction, entertain me!

Aside from that, everything worked for me. I particularly liked Instagram star Alice, based very much on the author, whose very public perfect life is the result of a lot of effort, lies and clever photography. I’m fascinated by “influencers” and their apparently perfect lives. It’s summed up by Alice realising her kitchen might look like everyone’s dream, but it doesn’t feel like home. How often have I watched Grand Designs and wondered what those picture-perfect houses that cost a fortune are actually like to live in day-in-day-out?

Sadly, Alice’s is the only story not neatly tied up by the end. Everyone else reaches a pleasantly satisfactory conclusion. Exactly as a feel-good novel should do.

I consumed this in a couple of sessions – just what I needed. Now I’m refreshed and ready to go again.

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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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