28 October, 2013

"Travels on a Greyhound Bus" FREE 29 October -- 2 November

My second novel "Travels on a Greyhound Bus" is FREE on Amazon from 29 October until 2 November.

This is an easy, fun read about how relationships change over time and how people react when those relationships come under pressure. It has some good independent reviews from Laura's Book Reviews and Kirsty I Heart Books, and has 4.6 stars on Amazon.

You can download  "Travels on a Greyhound Bus" at Amazon UK and Amazon.com.

The blurb follows below:

People change. Relationships evolve. But sometimes by too much...

Hip students Araminta Stewart and Giles Richmond meet entirely by chance when travelling around the USA by Greyhound Bus. They hit it off. Some twenty years later, they are married with three children and have reached a crisis point in their relationship.

Araminta thought she knew what she wanted all those years ago. But now she’s got it, is she really happy? Or could there be more to life than this?
Told from Araminta’s point of view, "Travels on a Greyhound Bus" follows the couple as they navigate these two very different periods in their lives. While their early relationship flourishes, their later relationship appears to be disintegrating.

Faced with disappointment, frustration and the biggest challenge to their marriage yet, the question is: will Araminta and Giles’ relationship survive the journey of a lifetime?

26 October, 2013

The joys of ‘modern’ banking

Usually I do my banking at my local bank branch. This is situated in a smallish market town and is suitably old fashioned. It is very much non-open-plan, with glass panels lining the counter and interview rooms with doors that can be closed so that you can conduct your business in private. I like it there. It’s small enough that you get really good customer service yet big enough that all the services you might need are on offer.

Recently, I visited the branch in the city in which I work. This has always been quite different from my local—very large and busy, full of people, and distinctly lacking in customer service. However, this time I got even more of a shock—the bank had been revamped. It was now open plan. No glass frontage. No interview rooms —just open alcoves from which anything that is being discussed can, presumably, be overheard by all and sundry. And—the biggest surprise of all—upbeat music playing quite loudly throughout the branch.

When I was next in my local, the staff member who was looking after me asked if I’d been into the city branch recently and seen the changes there. I confirmed that I had, and commented on the music. She said the theory is that if music is playing, the customers are distracted and so don’t listen to the other customers’ conversations (i.e. don’t overhear their business).

Something doesn’t seem quite right here. The bank has been made open plan, which most people are unlikely to be keen on because, let’s face it, who wants to conduct their private business in public? So, to solve that issue, the powers that be have decided to pipe music through the speakers—surely a less effective way of keeping customers’ private business private than a closed door.

But why make the bank open plan in the first place? Is it something to do with making it less intimidating and more welcoming? But what about security? It’s pretty easy to threaten bank staff who have no glass protecting them, after all.

I’d rather you gave me good, old-fashioned layout and good, old-fashioned customer service any time!

19 October, 2013

Scooby Dooby Doo!

My kids were watching Scooby Doo on TV recently. I always rather approve of this, since I used to watch Scooby Doo on TV as a kid as well, and have good memories of it. The mystery; the constant sparring between Scooby and Shaggy; the denouement at the end that invariably seemed to involve the dramatic unmasking of the manager of the theme park/hotel/museum/whatever...

In a break in cooking the evening meal, I sat down with my kids to catch a bit of the programme. It all looked pretty familiar, but then I realised that something wasn't quite right... Scooby and Shaggy were poring over a laptop. Well, laptops sure as hell didn't exist in the 70s when I used to watch! And then I realised that Scooby was talking. Yes, talking. Not the grunts that he used to come out with, but actual, complex conversation!

Well, well. My nostalgia trip was shattered. Scooby Doo had been revamped. Today's series may look similar to, but it certainly isn't the same as, the original that I grew up with. It seems strange in a way. Why not stick with the original rather than update it? Or create something entirely different and new instead?

12 October, 2013

Same sex weddings and the greeting card industry

We recently attended a same sex wedding party--our first ever, in fact. A colleague of my husband's was marrying his partner and we were invited to stage three--the drinks and disco after the wedding breakfast after the ceremony.

I was charged with buying a card for the event and, surprisingly, this proved quite tricky. Despite the greeting card industry's typical keenness to get us purchasing cards for every conceivable occasion, when it comes to same sex weddings, it seems they haven't quite caught up. Oh, there are plenty of wedding cards out there, but they are almost all, quite clearly, targeted at traditional bride-and-groom scenarios. Lots of pictures of happy male and female couple, lots of high heeled shoes, lots of glitter and sparkle and pink...

In the end, after visiting several shops, I happened upon a turquoise-coloured card sporting the words 'Woo hoo, you've finally tied the knot!' A little bit of white glitter, but not too much. It had to do.

But, hey, greeting card companies, I think you've missed a trick here. You currently seem only to be catering for part of the wedding market. And my guess is that the part you're neglecting is set to grow and grow.

05 October, 2013

Women at work

Last week, my blog post was about potential sexism towards men. This week, I have some observations about potential sexism towards women.

We were recently travelling home by plane from the south of France. When the captain gave the usual introductory spiel prior to take off, I was pleased to note that she was a woman. I don't know why that pleased me -- it shouldn't really make a difference. But I guess I like to see a woman doing what has been traditionally construed as 'a man's job'. I also feel unaccountably safer -- something to do with women being less likely to take risks, I think. Probably rationally untrue in this situation, but, anyway, that's how I feel.

One of the cabin crew was a rather jokey male. When we were up in the air and he was pushing the drinks trolley down the aisle, he inadvertently banged into someone's seat. With a grin, he apologised to the (male) passenger: 'Terribly sorry, sir...but you know how it is with these female drivers!' The plane was flying very smoothly at the time and the steward was laughing. He was clearly making a joke.

I smiled to myself, but then got thinking. Was this in fact a sexist remark, even though it was said in jest? Have we yet advanced far enough away from sexism towards women in the workplace that this was acceptable, rather than offensive? And then there was the fact that the remark had been made by a black man. Is it more acceptable for people from groups who have been suppressed in the past to make jokes about people from other similarly repressed groups?

It seemed like I'd entered a quagmire and there was no clear cut answer in sight. Not that I was looking for one, to be honest. I took the remark in good humour and that's how I believe it was meant. Interesting material for a blog article, though!