April 10, 2017

Clink Street Spring Reading Week: "Kate vs The Dirtboffins" Guest Post + Excerpt

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Book: Kate vs. The Dirtboffins

Author: Nolan Parker

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing

Synopsis: Kate Smith, a woman with the world at her Jimmy Choo clad feet. Just one more job and she can buy out her business partner to finally be her own boss.
That job? The Horticulture Investigation Agency, a government quango sheltering in a Cambridgeshire backwater. MP Desmond Barrington believes closing this will make his career.
But the scientists don’t want to play ball, starting with a militant researcher dressed as a cabbage taking his protest to the roof. Clambering up to save him ruins Kate’s perfectly picked outfit.
As he plummets on to the arriving MP’s car, Kate thinks that things can’t get any worse. Then a familiar face comes in to view – Dave Thomas, the man she fell in love with at University and now Barrington’s aide. The one who broke her heart.
When potato blight claims another outfit and a rampaging hoard of protestors take over the site, she wonders if she will ever get to her goal, and can love be part of the master plan? 

Guest Author Post

All about the Dirtboffins

What are Dirtboffins?  We all know a Dirtboffin.  They are the unassuming, friend of a friend who works in ‘research’ for a government related entity.  We don’t really know what they do or what fills their 9-5 and when they try to explain, it’s in so much detail you switch off.  They are the one with the best Christmas Jumper, found nursing an ale at the beer festival or going to some obscure gig of a band you haven’t heard of, probably in a field.

Why are they Dirtboffins?  Well they have one area of specialism, plants.  If you watch the American TV show ‘Bones’, Hodgins is a Bug Boffin, another member of this type of group.  He gets excited about larva and growth periods, and finding unusual spiders.  A Dirtboffin is similar, but they like to dig up veg, comment on plants and talk about Latin names as if everyone knows exactly what they mean.

This particular group of Dirtboffins have done a very good job of hiding themselves in the outskirts of Cambridge for many years doing God knows what.  Seriously, no one knows what they have been doing but with the joys of Labour Governments and Quangos they have got away with it for so long no one questions the paper work when it goes in for the next budget request.  Along comes a new Government, and hey presto, all change.  Suddenly, all these big public section initiatives are out, and cost cutting exercises are in.  So along comes Kate.  Go getting, second in command at a business consultancy Kate.  The woman charged with helping the new leaders making those savings, which means that well-meaning, crazy jumper wearing, research scientists are for the chop.

And so the trouble breaks out.  Kate is only trying to do her job, though she lacks the empathy button which doesn’t help when trying to have well-meaning conversations about people losing their job. In her eyes, as long as the deadline is hit and the client it happy, then she is happy.  The Boffins aren’t so sure and they fight back, leading to all kinds of fun and games before we find out who wins the game of ‘Kate vs the Dirtboffins’.


To set the scene.  Kate and the team from her company KOD have been on site for a few days sorting out the closure.  The Minister who commissioned them has decided to visit (mainly for a PR opportunity).  He turns up with his Aide, Dave, the man that Kate fell in love with at University but never told how she felt.  While the MP does a tour of the grounds, Kate and Dave have been chatting and ended up locked in a shed.  After been set free, they return to make a presentation to the Minister and Dirtboffin team from HIA.

‘Kate looked at the assembled group. At the front sat the Minister and next to him Dave. Nothing on Dave’s face betrayed their recent activities although he very studiously avoiding looking at her too much. There was an aisle down the middle of the chairs and on the left side sat Andrew and the HIA bods. No one from the institute was going to be seen sitting with the enemy.

Gareth stumbled through the door, apologised for being late and quickly found a seat on the empty side of the room. This was going to be tough. On the left no one wanted to hear what she had to say, on the right they might be enjoying the other’s discomfort a little too much.

This was an opportunity. And Kate knew that opportunities had to be grabbed when they were as big and juicy as this could be.  Put on a good show for the Minister and then watch the government business flow in. One day she might look back on this presentation as a turning point in her career. Despite the pressure, Kate wasn’t worried; she knew she gave good Powerpoint. The audience was about have its socks blown off.

Andrew was also seeing an opportunity. He had a feeling that whoever was feeding information to the minister about HIA was in the room. As subtly as possible, he kept a watch on Barrington to see if he appeared to be making special eye contact with anyone.

The projector lit up and the first slide appeared on screen. It was just the K.O.D. logo with the title of the talk – “Horticultural Investigation Agency, transitioning into the future”. Kate started to introduce her subject. It was mostly management jargon but came across better than that ‘This is how we close you down’. Not that she minded being harsh, it was just that the day had been eventful enough without the nerds starting a riot.

            “Can we turn the lights down a bit; I can’t see the screen properly.” Piped up a member of the audience.

She didn’t see the speaker but was happy to comply. Sometimes you don’t want to see the whites of your audience’s eyes. Kelvin, in his role as technician, did the honours. With the blinds down and lights off the room seemed cooler and a bit more relaxed.

            “As I was saying, I’m going to outline the transitional journey that we intend to take HIA along in the next few months.”

            “Miss Smith, can I stop you there a moment,” interrupted Andrew. “Have you been investigating our potato shed recently?”
Kate felt her temperature rise. She hoped the dark was hiding her blushes. How could he know?

            “Well I was just taking a look around. Err, helping the Minister’s aide to get a proper understanding of the geography if the site... Is there a problem?”

With a little chuckle in his voice, Andrew said, “It’s just that you appear to have picked us some blight on your clothes”.

Blight? What the hell was he on about? She looked down and saw to her horror that there were blobs on her suit. Luminous yellow blobs. Great big glowing blobs! Good God, her boobs were lighting up the room!

Looking up in a panic she saw Dave. All over his jacket and trousers were the same blobs. What the hell was happening?

As Kate’s mind raced for an explanation that didn’t involve the truth, the rest of the audience worked out what was happening. Sniggers turned to outright laughter when they saw that there were two people glowing in the dark.

            “Kelvin, turn the lights back on,” Kate barked and then wished she hadn’t. Dave was blushing and furiously trying to wipe the glow off his clothes. She knew that her face was the colour of a lobster.

            “What’s going on here?” asked Barrington his eyes darting between Dave and Kate like a tennis spectator. After a few seconds he stopped and stared at Dave aghast then looked over to Andrew who was sitting back with a quiet smile on his face.

            “I fear that our, erm, colleagues have been spending some time in the potato packing shed recently. In fact judging by the state of their clothes the, erm, investigations must have been very thorough.” Andrew continued trying to suppress a chuckle.

            “What do you mean?”

            “Well you see we are carrying out a little trial. It’s very hush-hush obviously. Genetic modification stuff you understand. The Department did approve the work”

            “GM? You are doing GM here? Why did no one tell me?” The Minister’s face was getting as red as Kate’s but with annoyance rather than embarrassment. He was supposed to have been briefed on this place and there had been no mention of any GM stuff. No mention of anything controversial at all. Whoever agreed that this could happen was going to find himself out of a job sharpish. Dave looked bewildered.

            “Yes Minister. It’s all perfectly above board, a little work for the crisp manufacturers. You see they have a problem with potato blight. It’s difficult to spot you see unless you look at the leaves closely and know what you are doing.

            “Now, with the cut backs in skilled labour, they need an easier way to spot the disease. What we’ve done is mutate Phytophthora infestans, that’s the blight mould for lay people, so that it glows in the dark. We’re very pleased with the results so far. There’s a bit more work required before we can market it commercially of course but the results are very promising.”

            “You’ve made luminous potatoes?”

            “Well not the potatoes themselves, I doubt there is much of a market for glow in the dark crisps! No, what we have done is made the blight luminous. That way a farmer can look at his crop at night and see where he needs to spray. It could revolutionise the industry. Perhaps you’d like to see a more detailed explanation from one of my scientific colleagues?”

The Minister didn’t want a more scientific explanation. What he wanted to know was why he didn’t know about this trial. And why his aides bollocks and that bolshie woman's boobs lit up like a Christmas tree as soon as the lights went out. He wanted know what the hell was going on and how he could avoid it being his fault.

            “Now it appears that our colleagues picked up some of the blight from the packing shed. It’s in the dust you see which is why we have strict bio controls in place. I will have to investigate why the door wasn’t locked. We don’t want it being released accidentally after all. In fact to be on safe side, we will need to impound your clothes and burn them. Just to ensure there is no cross-contamination you understand.”

As Andrew spoke, both Kate and Dave realised that people were backing away from them.

Andrew turned to Olive, “Would you ask the containment team to get up here please.”

She turned and looked apologetically at Kate before going to make a phone call.’

About the Author(s)

Nolan Parker are Candice Nolan and Phil Parker. We are currently working on a future best seller destined to blast its way to the top of the book charts.

Why did we start on this journey in the first place?  Well, it all began with being told we didn’t have a job. Minding our own business at an education quango in 2010, David Cameron got voted in to Government, and things went downhill from there.

Coming out of the big closure announcement meeting one said to the other, “We should write a book about this” and so ‘Kate and the Dirtboffins’ was born.  With a few weeks left on our contracts it was one way to fill the time!  So conversations across the partition between desks became chapter upon chapter of a book. Nearly five years later we are still going and things are finally coming to fruition. 

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