Tag Archives: reading

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Kate vs Showbiz

Farewell to MY library

Sign

Phil: I went to the library on Monday. Nothing unusual in that you might thing, but I went on a mission.

You see, the library I have known all my life, is closing down. When the doors closed at the end of that day, they would open no more. The walls won’t resound to the sound of children enjoying being read a story. No longer will adults browse the shelves, wondering where the pages of a good book would take them in the next few weeks.

20211108_134229

OK, I’m being maudalin. The library isn’t really closing, it’s moving to a new community hub around the corner. There will be a cafe, multi-puropse sports hall and meeting rooms you can book. Outside there is parking and a children’s playground. It’s next to the shops – pretty much everything our little town can offer all within a few feet.

But I had to go and pay one last visit. I’m sure the new place will be lovely, but it won’t have that airy 1960s feel of the old library. More to the point, it won’t be the one I spent hours chosing my books from as a child.

I know things have to move on. When I borrow books now, they are placed in a machine to book them out to me, something that would have seemed like magic back in the 1970s, and young Phil would have been desperate to have a go with it! No little card wallets nowadays. No librarian stamping the date in the front of each one either. Lot of stamps meant I’d borrowed a popular title, and you also knew when the books were due back, something far easier than logging on to the library website, which is what you have to do now.

Just for old times sake, I wanted to borrow some more books. My reading has been hopeless recently. Maybe the impending fines will make me buck my ideas up a bit.

Books

My choice were a couple of “grown-up” books, becuase they appealed to me. And Five on a treasure island, because when I was a kid, I read all the Famous Five books, mostly from this very library.

I’ll miss the old place. Libraries are the last public spaces you can visit and no-one expects you to hand over money. Books will still be available for loan in the new community hub, that is a very good thing, and I’m sure a new generation will become as nostalgic about it as I am about MY library.

Now, can someone lend me a pile of cash? There’s a nice looking 1960s property coming up for sale nearby, and I think I’d like to live in it. There are even enough book shelves…

1 Comment

Filed under Phil, Writing

The Man I Think I Know

MITHIKEver since ‘the incident’, James DeWitt has stayed on the safe side.

He likes to know what happens next.

Danny Allen is not on the safe side. He is more past the point of no return.

The past is about to catch up with both of them in a way that which will change their lives forever, unexpectedly.

But redemption can come in the most unlikely ways.

Phil: I’ve been rubbish at reading recently. Too busy. Too tired. I just want to slump at the end of the day. I know I’ll enjoy doing something different, but I just can’t be bothered.

A rare train ride presented me with some time to crack open this book. 48 hours later, I’d finished it. The words slid down as easily a glass of chocolate milk. (You many sustitute your own drink of choice, but I like chocolate flavour milk.)

Mike Gayle tells the story of James DeWitt, a high-flyer brought crashing down after an incident in a nighclub. Left badly mentally scarred, he needs looking after. His parents have taken on the task, but they are stiffling him.

Danny Allen is also damaged, and has thrown away the benefits of a “good” education. He doesn’t have anything to look forward too. In desperperation, the DSS force him to become a carer, and through work, he meets James.

What follows is a story of redemption and recovery. Most reviews make the point that the book centres on a caring male freindship and that’s true. Very few female characters play much of a part. Normally, this would be seen as a bad thing, or at least odd, but here it’s perfectly natural. There’s no love between the main characters, but a mutual need.

It also exposes a sad fact – some people end up working in care homes because they have no other options. It’s badly paid hard work. Sadly, society doesn’t value a person who ends up wiping anothers backside. Yes, many people will be drawn to a “caring” profession, but others just find themselves at the bottom of the pile and really shouldn’t be there. It’s a subtle, but savage inditement of how little we care about those who need help either through age, or disability.

This is feelgood reading, but with a message. You are rooting for all the characters pretty much from the start. Mike Gayle dangles a few mysteries, such as the incidents that caused James and Danny to be where they are in life to keep the interest up, but never over-eggs this. You are reading because the writing is good, not to resolve the false jeapordy. Everything is written in the first person, which means James has natural sounding, slighly odd, disjointed speach, but it never gets in the way.

There’s a lot of pride involved, something appropriate to male characters. Both need help, but don’t want to reach out for it. When they do, mainly through the goading of the other, their lives start to imporove.

There’s a message in there.

Leave a comment

Filed under Phil, Writing

Back in the writing groove

Img_4624

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!

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Phil

Rediscovering the Library

Candice: Over the last few years I’ve got out of the habit of going to the local library. It’s been too easy to pick up a book from the supermarket or the charity shop, or get one from Phil. However, during lockdown, it has been harder and harder to get hold of physical books so I have had to look at other options.

At one point I tried to set up a share group with the neighbours, but we either didn’t like each others type of book, or they read on a kindle so couldn’t share.

Phil and I have posted books back and forth, but that has still be dependent on what I can get hold of, and I refuse to buy too much from Amazon as I like to support the local stores instead.

But then there was a lightbulb moment in the family the other week. Why not use the Library? It’s particularly relevant as my daughter is reading more and more, and finding the right books for her is also a challenge.

She loved her first trip there, and was very proud of having her new library card. The slight problem is her having picked about seven books up, and only managing to read one in the three weeks she has them, but I am not knocking that excitement!

However, it has also helped me to discover the extensive range at Solihull Library. In fact, I got more lost in the options than she did; quick reads, Richard and Judy reads, murder mystery, chick lit, something completely different. I’m reading something at the moment I would not have picked up in a shop.

The downside is I can’t share them with Phil, but I can at least recommend and he can go and find them in his own library.

There are lots of other things happening at the Library too, there were some children doing craft activities last time we went in so I need to find out how to sign up to them, plus reading groups and summer clubs.

Lockdown has changed a lot of things but also brought other things to the fore that we’d forgotten about – using the local park is one and now using the Library is another. Don’t forget to use yours – its a great, free service and will open you up to lots more things than books.

Leave a comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

A Book Club with a difference

See the source image

Candice: As part of the the many initiatives out there to bring us all together while we are apart my work set up a book club. Being of the writing mind I joined immediately, and then gave a plug for the two Nolan Parker books.

Disappointingly neither were on the short list for the first two books we read as a group (I’m still working on that), however we picked ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ by Richard Osman. My sister had already read this and told me it was a good one so I was looking forward to it. And the result, I loved it! It nipped along lightly with twist and turns, and I loved the fact the main characters were all people in an old people’s home, proving that age doesn’t impact on your mind (just your body in a lot of cases).

Book put aside it was time for the first meet of the Book Club. The organiser had sent round some very deep discussion questions and I thought, ‘oh no, this is going to be too highbrow for me’ . But I logged in late to the meeting, due to going to another, and it was all ladies and they were nattering about something completely different!

The call turned into a ‘life, the universe and everything’ discussion. We covered the book, old age, which character we’d want to be, then other books we had read, then work, working from home, and even misogyny and the menopause! It was great because it was like being on a girls night out in the pub, with a book as the starter for the conversation but actually just a really good natter. It almost felt normal, apart from the fact they were on screen on sat around me.

I’m not sure what we are reading next but I’m more looking forward to the chat than the book.

Leave a comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle

All The Lonely People: From the Richard and Judy bestselling author of Half  a World Away comes a warm, life-affirming story – the perfect read for  these times eBook: Gayle, Mike: Amazon.co.uk:

Candice: I’ve read a few Mike Gayle books over the years. I’m not sure how I originally came across him, but he hails from our local area (Birmingham) so I always like to give a Brummie some support.

Phil sent this one over a few weeks again in one of his reading parcels (the only way we have been keeping each other sane during lockdown) and I’d waited to start it as I wasn’t sure about the title, it sounded too sad.

The story follows Hubert Bird, a Jamaican who came to the UK in the 1950s looking for work. Cutting between present and past it tells the story of Hubert landing in the country and finding that the streets weren’t paved with gold, and the locals weren’t friendly to a man with black skin.

He is rescued by Joyce, a fellow worker at the department store he ends up at. She is white, and they forge on through the years facing up to the prejudice. But, it also tells the story of the present, where Hubert is now on his own, Joyce dead and the children grown up and left home. He has lost touch with the friends who emigrated at the same time as him and now spending his days pottering, and having the odd phone call with his daughter who now lives in Australia.

In walks Ashleigh, local newbie looking to make some friends, and an unlikely friendship is created between this bubbly twenty something year old single mum and the eighty year old Hubert. It brings him out of the place he has been hiding and makes him realise he is actually very lonely.

Together they create a ‘Campaign for loneliness’ in the local area which gets picked up by the national press, Hubert the reluctant star.

As with all stories this would be too cut and dried if all was as it seemed, I won’t give the twist away but it’s a good one.

With everything happening at the moment I thought this story added a different view on what has been happening to people during the pandemic, even though it wasn’t specifically about it. We’ve all got lonely, sitting at home on our zoom calls, telling stories to everyone about how great things are. We all need to go and say hi to a neighbour, reconnect with an old friend, chat to the person at the local food shop, as we are missing out on what makes us human: being sociable and interacting with others. This week, of course, some have been partaking in a pint as soon as they can but to me its not about the pub, its about the people. And I have missed the people a lot in the last year.

This is a lovely story that doesn’t challenge but is a light read where you want to know what happens to Hubert and his friends. I came to the end with a smile on my face.

Don’t be lonely, people.

Leave a comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

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!

Leave a comment

Filed under Phil, Writing

Lockdown reading

Candice: I could write about the fact its been a year and a day since Boris told us all to stay home. But there has been a lot of coverage on that so I wanted to write about something else.

I would say that I haven’t read any more or less that usual in this year of lock down. The biggest problem I have had is getting hold of books. The range in a supermarket is never quite the same as a good book shop, and then at times even getting to a supermarket to buy a book was hard.

I did try and do book sharing with the neighbours but we either didn’t like the same books or they only read on Kindle so couldn’t share.

Phil and I have done some parcels to each other, as we haven’t been able to share books face to face. But we now keep forgetting who sent what to whom!

The other day I spotted and article on the BBC website about celebrity recommendations for lock down reading. BBC Arts – Culture in Quarantine – Meet the authors: What have Big Book Weekend’s guests been reading? so I thought I’d have a look. It was part of the Big Book Weekend, last weekend and you can hear interviews with each celeb about their favourite book.

The one that interested me the most was the book that Russell Kane recommended. It’s called ‘Wild Thing’ by Mike Fairclough. Its all about rediscovering how to be a child again as an adult, taking some of the stresses and strains that make us forget to have fun.

With over a year of not knowing what we can or can’t do, not being able to book or plan ahead to far as things keep changing, and home schooling for some of us, then perhaps its time to go back and take away some of these stresses. I’ve already decided to take time over the weekend when this is over, rather than stuff it full with expensive activities. Someone just wants to run round the garden sometimes, or play on the swings, and perhaps I do to (though I’m better on the trampoline). Anyone for back garden tennis?

Leave a comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

Something bad is on the way

Phil: I’m reading the excellent All the lonely people by Mike Gayle, but as I look at the book right now, a thought hit me.

I’m 2/3rd of the way through, but I know something bad is going to happen.

The story is partly told in flashback, and so we know where the characters are now, and where they were years ago. And not all the characters are in the Now.

So, somewhere in the remaining pages, there are bad things going to happen.

Perhaps I should stop reading and everything will be all right, but that would deny me the pleasure of finishing off the book. I probably should remember that these aren’t real people, but then I’ve invested in them and care what happens. And (I have the surname for it) I’m nosy.

Does anyone else ever feel like this?

Leave a comment

Filed under Phil, Writing