Thursday, 30 June 2016

In the Salon

This is a Not-Mirror, that's it's title and it's also what it does. The Not-Mirror shows everything that's not there. Over here is an infinite video projection. It's, um, I'm not sure what that's supposed to but you can get anything. 

They both looked on.

Rows of teeth...” He shrugged.

"What's this?" The Guest peered into a tank full of clear liquid.

"This" said the Curator, "is called 'The Imperceptible Surface.'" He circled around his guest, the Curator, dressed in entirely in black. "It's a raw, very direct piece, that..." The gallery, a sleek, sparse hall, was quiet, no visItors. This was a special viewing for a special guest.

"I mean" said the Guest, standing up, "what...?" He hesitated, swallowed then went for it, "what is it, what's inside? I can't see anything."

"The imperceptible surface" said the Curator, smiling thinly. He said "look closer.” The Guest did as he was told. "Can you see it now?"

"No..." said the Guest, still looking.

"Once you see it you'll..."

"Oh" the Guest exclaimed with satisfaction. He realised; "there it is, a..."

"Finely calibrated absence of a shark" said the Curator, equally pleased, "suspended in formaldehyde. It's ingenious" he concluded, "a homage, a subversion and an anomaly, a fully realised cultural node... You like it?”

"I do. It's... fascinating..." said the Guest, standing up again. He scratched at his tweed jacket.

"Here at Marshall, Carter and Dark we only exhibit the very finest pieces" said the Curator. They were, they were everywhere in this gallery. The Guest looked around in awe.

"How do they do it?"

"The artists? Well" said the Curator, "I could tell you..."


"But I won't" said the Curator, shaking his head. The Guest looked crestfallen. The Curator quickly patted him on the shoulder. "Trade secrets, Lord Massow, you know how it is?" He smiled. "There's a reason why this salon is exclusive."

"You're right" Lord Massow agreed, nodding.

"Let me show you something else" said the Curator. "Followed me." He ushered Lord Massow along. "That last piece has a price of one hundred thousand pounds. This on the other hand, well, can you guess what this is worth...?"

"It's..." Lord Massow straightened his cap and mock-squinted, "it's lots of money pinned to a cork-board."

"One million pounds" said the Curator "in fifty pound notes, pinned to a cork-board, yes, but we are letting it go for half a million."

"So whoever buys it will double their money in an instant?"

"Whoever buys it and dismantles it will double their money in an instant. But..."

"There's always a 'but...'" Lord Massow smiled.

"But" said the Curator, smiling back "we know for a fact that the market value is due to increase fifty percent year on year for the next four years. In four years time this will be worth over two and a half million pounds."

"Really?" Lord Massow shrugged. He shook his head."Come on, how is that possible?"

"I told you" said the Curator, "we don't reveal our artists secrets."

"But who are your artists?"

"We cannot say" the Curator insisted.

Lord Massow took a moment to think. "This is the only ab-art gallery in London?"

"The only one in the world" said the Curator.

"And you have no competitors?" said Lord Massow.

We cannot be rivaled.”

"Your prices then depend on whether you can drum up demand” Lord Massow surmised. “You cannot drum up demand for something like this without explaining how it works. Who's going to buy it otherwise?"

"Someone who wants to double their money in an instant" said the Curator, deadpan.

"But who wants to double their money when they can quintuple it? Why even mention the second option? Why tempt me?" The Curator seemed to think about Lord Massow's point. "I mean, is this even anomalous?" Lord Massow added.

"You're a smart man" said the Curator, nodding, “a man of clear taste... If you follow me though I will explain further." The pair went through a nearby door and into another room. "That last piece was called the Einstein-Rosen Investment. It was developed by a man by a man called Nico Temp de Boucle."

"I've not heard of him" said Lord Massow.

Indeed not" said the Curator, ignoring his guest. "It's very simple though, the piece. It works because he made it in four years time." They stopped in the new room, empty and white. 

"In four... you mean in the future?”

"That's right" said the Curator, "which is good for us because we don't have to pay him yet, though it does mean we have to look after him carefully... but I digress. If you'd please wait here I'll get him for you.” The Curator scuttled back through the door, still looking at Lord Massow. “Won't be a moment...” Lord Massow stood alone for a moment, now boggled but amused. He shook his head and looked around the room again, the new room, empty and white and: “hello, Sir, my name is Nico Temp de Boucle.” It was the Curator again.

Wait, are you, are you this, this... who are you?” Lord Massow stuttered.

I told you, Sir, my name is Nico Temp de Boucle” said the Curator. “I understand you have an interest in art.” He approached Lord Massow.

What is going on here?”

It's very simple, Sir” he said. “You like my art?” The Curator gestured around him as if to say 'here it is.'

What art?” said Lord Massow, jaw dropping. “What's going on?”

This piece...” The Curator clicked his fingers and the walls raised up, the ceiling flew away, “I call the Art of Disappearance” the light faded around them, “the Art of Infinity” and the pair of them were drifting in outer space.

Pictures from here and here.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Now that I Own the BBC

I love this piece. This is me. This is my humour all the way through. If I ever find an outlet that could possibly take this I will delete this post instantly. I'm feeling generous though, or vicious. Enjoy, or don't. The picture is a still from this, from which this piece also gets its title.

On screen there is an animation of hippos swimming in a circle. A logo emerges, then a voice:

Voiceover: Coming up next on Sky Mandatory, Pro-Celebrity Slug Tennis, but now it's time for the National Lottery draw coming live from the Salford Special Economic Zone, presented by Ruby Breslin and Rick Coles.

Cut to a shot of a television studio. The audience, lighting and set are all visible. The camera sweeps rapidly across the room toward the two presenters, who are both smiling, waving, wincing and shuffling with practiced humility. The audience applauds. The camera hits its mark. There is a big cheer. Cut to a three-quarter shot of Ruby and Rick standing together. They each look at the camera. The applause dies down. There is a brief pause. The presenters suddenly look uncomfortable. The sound of cackling is audible but is hastily faded down. The presenters relax and begin.

Ruby Breslin: Hi, I'm Ruby Breslin, probably faultless to a T, why have I been picked for this?

Rick Coles: [Hands in pockets] And I'm Rick Coles, instantly forgettable and yet [points] with a latent hint of menace, a sinister avatar for TV masculinity.

Together: Welcome to the National Lottery draw!

Cut to montage of bright, meaningless graphics, sound tracked by a hit pop song.

Voiceover: Live from the recently liberated Special Economic Zone!

Cut to head and shoulders shot of Ruby Breslin. The cackling is faintly audible again.

RB: [To camera] Now... folks...

Cackling fades out.

RB: This week is another roll-over week.

Audience: Woo! 

RC: [Off camera] Third week in a row, Ruby.

A quick cut to Rick from the wrong angle.

RC: That's the smallest prime number.

Voiceover: No it isn't...

Back to Ruby.

RB: That's right, Rick.

V: No it isn't!

RB: [Shakes head - smiles] Anyway, I see circles within circles, help me. What's the prize this week?

RC: [Leans into shot and rests head on Ruby's shoulder] Nobody knows.

Audience says "woo!" backwards. Rick stands upright. Cut to head and shoulders shot of Rick.

RC: But it's getting bigger! [Woodenly] Ha, ha, ha, but that's not all. Tonight we've got special musical guests, we're not going to...

Static, audible gibberish and distortion temporarily resolves into rear-view, ground-level footage of a naked, liver-spotted old man running down a dimly lit hallway, howling, then back to the studio.

RC: [Gesturing to audience] THERE ARE SEVEN LEVELS!

Audience convulses in laughter. Rick folds his arms, looking pleased with himself then he points.

RC: Ruby, I think we should call a paramedic. That woman's head is about to explode.

Two men in high-vis vests emerge from behind the stage, trotting along, carrying a stretcher. They disappear from shot. Cut to Ruby.

RB: [Serious face] Before all that we would like to take an important moment to acknowledge the special work [distracted] my goodness, the raspberries, the, uh, the special, important work people do that [there is a short gasp followed by a wet, cracking sound - Ruby laughs] Too late for some...! Where was I? We must acknowledge work special important done people acknowledge. [Smiles] Watch this short film while someone cleans up the mess. 

The sound is lowered and Ruby silently bursts into laughter. Cut to a two minute film about a young man's search for gills then cut to three-quarter short of Ruby and Rick together. Ruby is now wearing an ARP helmet. Rick meanwhile has a foot long beard that wriggles independently. Sound fades up.

RB: Important work there.

RC: [Echoes] Important work here, there are known knowns. 

New shot: Rick Coles turns to a camera on his left.

RC: There's no time like the present. Like the time no present. Present no time than like. Like time like present. Present time to give a warm salute to...

Feint cackling resumes.

RC: What's that sound?

Voiceover: NEVER MIND!

Both Ruby and Rick jump as if startled. The cackling fades out.

Voiceover: [Narky] Get on with it.

RC: OK, it's time for our first special guest. Here to push the button and start the draw it's A Cardboard Cut-Out of Heston Blumenthal.

A cardboard cut-out of Heston Blumenthal is wheeled on stage by two men dressed in grey overalls and put next to Rick. The audience applauds for exactly seven seconds.

RC: So, Heston, [claps hands] has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go what to do more like?

Ninety seconds of complete silence and motionlessness. Cut across various cameras randomly.

RC: Heston Blumenthal, everybody!

V: No it isn’t!

More applause. The cardboard cut-out is wheeled back off stage. Cut to head and shoulder shot of Ruby.

RB: Now...


RB: The moment...

Rising screams.

RB: [Shouting above the noise] That moment you've ALL been waiting for...!


RB: Yes, the rumours are true. [Almost inaudible] They're back, fresh from their tour of the underworld. It's Cootie Dinners with their new single: Hrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Voiceover: That's an anagram, folks!

RB: Sure is!

Ruby steps out of shot. Four young male corpses appear and advance on the audience, arms outstretched. For the next three minutes they savage and devour various people then cut to Ruby and Rick and the Cardboard Cut Out of Heston Blumenthal standing around an elaborate tombola, spinning.

RB: [Over the ongoing noise] Without further ado let's get to the numbers. How has it come to this?

RC: I like turtles Ruby.

RB: Thanks for that Rick, I like your beard. OK, Heston, if you will.

Voiceover: The Cardboard Cut-Out of Heston Blumenthal would like to wish everyone good luck.

Somehow the cut-out manages to press the button to release balls into the tombola.

V: OK everybody... first ball out tonight is... [tense synthesiser sounds] ZERO! That's never happened before.

Sound of mad laughter re-emerges.

V: The next number is... zero again!

Laughter gets louder then devolves into howling.

V: Third up is... zero. I think I know where this is going... If this continues... another zero... folks it might, yep [another zero emerges], it's going to... [zero] and the bonus ball... zero... there it is...

A vortex opens up in the tombola.

V: A singularity... to produce... ineffable doorway to infinity.

The vortex expands. Out steps a man, an old, liver-spotted man, balding, naked and dripping with ooze.

Everyone: All hail Definitely Not Rupert Murdoch!

Definitely Not Rupert Murdoch tips his head back and howls. His spine cracks and stegosaurus plates emerge. His arms become distended and his fingers become claws. He sweats sewage. His penis detaches itself and crawls away. Definitely Not Rupert Murdoch stops howling, tilts his head forward now and opens his mouth to reveal a pharyngeal jaw. Everything else falls silent. The Jaw speaks.

Jaw: We are sorry for what has just happened. We are sorry but we realise that apologies are not enough. In the coming days we will take concrete steps to resolve the problems that have occurred and make amends for the damage we have allowed to happen. You will hear more from us. Oh yes. Come now, Mr Coles, Ms Breslin.

Rick and Ruby climb into a pantomime horse costume. Definitely Not Rupert Murdoch mounts the horse.

J: We must ride.

Rick/Ruby rears up.

Rick/Ruby: Neigh!

J: And come, come, my apes of death.

Cootie Dinners return to shot. They have devolved into skinless, simian beings.

J: We will not have vanquished the BBC just to have filthy leftist subversion sneak in by the back door. Brothers, to battle!

Definitely Not Rupert Murdoch batters down the set to reveal the cold wasteland of public broadcasting before charging off into the sunset.

Credits roll.

Friday, 17 June 2016

In Plain Sight

This one's a little bit topical, although recent public events have changed this topic somewhat. I've had it in mind to give this one up to the blog for a while. This is a fiction made from real elements run up together although the final scene is in essence true. Picture from here.

Years ago, back when I had more time than I wanted, I was given a little lesson about public violence from a guy called Ravi.

I had been asked to provide some physical protection. A group of Asian students and their lecturers organised an afternoon demonstration outside the French embassy, protesting the republic’s ban on religious symbols, directed primarily at Muslim women’s headdresses. It’s a noble cause but I wouldn’t have attended but for one other thing. The English Defence League said they would counter this demonstration.

These days EDL might mean Early Dawn Light or English Disco Lovers but back then it meant the English Defence League, an alliance of neo-nazis, football firms and moneymen. They had a brief rise. Their idea was to bring back the far-right street marches of the sixties and seventies, use old school violence to win control of the streets and through that the national political debate.

I had a call in the morning. Someone was clearly shaking the phone tree quite hard because my friend Fergus was on the other end:

We need to just be there, you know, protect this demonstration… I wouldn’t ask but, well, they're desperate.”

They must have been. Fergus had already been roped in. He was a slip of a ma, but he had some facility time that day and now he was calling on me.

So there’s no one, none of the RMT boys are around?”

No. They were really desperate. Fergus convinced me to come though.

It’s not about being hard” he said. “That’s the point. We do it because we’re not gimlet-eyed street fighter.”

He emphasised that point, repeating it several times, slowly winning me over with the nobility of the thing. It’s the kind of simple, moral imperative that can only really work on a good friend. But I still had a question:

Do you think they’ll actually turn up?”

Who knows, mate, who knows…? Are you in…?”

I was in. But there was something else I had to do first.

Something else

There was a friend of mine in town. Ravi his name was. He was a rare beast in that I didn’t want him as a friend, not so much because of anything he did to me. Ravi never did me wrong. He was a loose cannon though, a serious madman, but I had, apparently, saved his life.

Ravi was a gangster, a goon and a drunk who lived and plied his opaque trade in Cardiff. He wasn’t particularly left wing, but he loved lefties. Ugandan Asian, he came to Britain aged ten, with his family, into a society under the thrall of Enoch Powell and the National Front. But young Ravinder didn’t spend his life dodging skinheads. He loved lumping white power idiots and loved anybody who liked the idea as well.

I still don’t quite know what he did for a living. I think he was a bouncer for some years. He said he ran a catering firm for a while. In some stories, it had to be sold to pay for a divorce. Ravi had one son, who I never met, but who I was told was now grown up, not much younger than me. He also said was a martial arts instructor and that he often drove around Cardiff with a sawn-off shotgun in his car boot. If that sounds implausible it may well be because his whole life was implausible. He would remind anyone he knew: “I am a law abiding citizen. No convictions.” He’d usually add something like: “The police can’t touch me. They can’t even get near my fucking house” and laugh.

The day before

The day before the call from Fergus I had Ravi had been on the phone. He had come to London on a business trip but had been forced to cancel said appointment after:

This fucker, right, this yuppie bastard… I was running for the train, see? Everybody was. I had me best suit on, best shoes and everything and this fucker, right, this yuppie bastard, treads on the back of my shoe, my best shoes mind they were, and it goes flying, down under the train onto the tracks. I couldn’t reach for it. I would have been a fool to try, so I did the next best thing…?”

My silence begged the answer.

I was looking around, like I was seriously pissed off, you understand? I looked around and I saw who it was because he was the one about to say ‘sorry mate.’ So I turned round and punched him, quick one in the gut and hopped on before the doors closed. Ha...!”

Really…?” I was actually intrigued. “So you’re not worried?”

About what?” asked Ravi.

Well, witnesses… CCTV…?”

You forget, mate, I used to be a security guard” said Ravi (another job). “Most CCTV, right, you can’t tell shit from shoe polish. It was over in a flash, ha...! So uh…” He paused. “Anyway... do you know if there’s a place I can crash for the weekend and also where can I get some good shoes from?”

Business trip indeed; even so I said I was sorry but I didn’t know about spare sofas or rooms, just in case the story was true. I suggested a few good shoe shops and Ravi was very grateful, like he’d never set foot on a high street before.

No worries. I still owe you from That Time.”

That Time or Ravi and the Racist Hippie

That Time being when we were at a squat party in Russell Square (an anarchist group had taken over a, then abandoned, block belonging to the University of London). It was summer. A group of friends decamped round the corner, between the Institute and SOAS by the statue of Buddha that’s not actually a statue of Buddha. A young ginger dreadlocked fellow had insinuated into our company. He seemed friendly enough but, out of the blue, he dropped the P-Bomb. Everybody heard it. I don’t have a clue why he did it. There were a few winces and groans while people tried to size up whether and how to take this guy on. Then he repeated the same phrase, again. Ravi, who was wildly drunk at this point, solved our vacillations for us by tearing after him, roaring:

I fucking do you, you pasty c[word]!” which only added to the indecision. Now it was oppressive language versus oppressive language.

Say that again…! Say it again…!”

The Hippie took off, at top speed but he was no match for Ravi’s fury. I followed as best I could. I realised there was something bigger at stake. Round the corner was the regular police stakeout. Every night, throughout the squat, there were always two cars right outside, cops taking furtive notes and filming every now and then. If Ravi caught the Hippie they would see everything.

Rav…!” I yelled. “Stop…! Dave’s just around the corner…!” Dave was our super-silly code word for the police, a relic from the days of flyposting. He’d almost caught the Racist Hippie as well. Ravi stopped, slowly, turned and walked back. He said:

You’re right, mate. We need to move on…” He took a deep breath. It sunk in. He looked very sober now. “Let’s go see what’s happening in Charlotte Street.”

Back to the phone call

No worries” Ravi said. He always meant it as well. “I might see you around though, yeah…?” I said yes, meaning no but, with that we both hung up. Twenty-four hours later I changed my mind. Now I really could do with him being around.

Of course he agreed to come along.

Outside the French embassy

It was a warm spring day. I was late, ten minutes or so. I thought the demo would be directly opposite the embassy, but no. I soon realised there was a small crowd on the corner of William Street and Knightsbridge, orbiting around a little undecorated table set up by a potted tree. The table was supporting piles of leaflets and a stack of placards. Everyone else who was going to be there was there. There were maybe ten or so FE students, some university socialists, maybe ten, and three lecturers. I saw Fergus pacing up and down. Ravi was nearby chatting to a small group of Asian lads in designer gear. Perhaps he’d brought them along. There were some TU members on days off/facility time and a few of the professional (so to speak) anti-fascist milieu too, like Jacob, a journalist and Lebanese ex-Falangist, Kim a teacher and adrenaline junkie from Walthamstow who trod a fine line coming to events like these, and Saul, a professional leftie, former roadie to a well-known punk band who was allegedly present at the White Man in Hammersmith Palais incident.

The event itself was dull, very little mixing of groups. I mostly hung out with Fergus, talking shop and occasionally 'seeing' the EDL, all false alarms. Ravi though moved between us all, completely at ease.

Bring them on” he said to me. “I’m not afraid of a load of spotty boys and their fat dads.”

There were a few megaphone speeches, mostly inaudible, and some organised chanting, to keep people pepped up. The leaflets and placards were mostly for decoration. There was little point trying to appeal to the locals.

Time passed and nothing happened. The organisers were about to pack up when I saw a group of young-looking people, plainly not Sloanies, striding up Knightsbridge toward us from the direction of the tube station. I said to Fergus:

Is that them?”

The hooting chants answered my question. It was them. There was a ripple of adrenaline. I could feel it. There they were, in plain sight, about a dozen EDL. We formed a line as best we could to stop them from reaching the students, determined but silent, bracing ourselves. Then, to my immediate horror, I heard the chants coming from another direction. I turned to see another group of EDL, another twelve or so, advancing down William Street. I backed off, a step or two, trying to find where the students were, partly because it was no good blocking the EDL at one angle but letting them in at another but partly also because it is hard to hold the line when someone is coming and they are coming for you.

It’s not about being hard… We do it because we’re not gimlet-eyed street fighters.”

This was it, I could see, whatever it was going to be. Things flashed through my mind. I wasn’t scared any more now that I was trying to size up what I could do. There would be a fight of some kind. What could I do with balsa wood placard sticks in a ruck? They continued to advance on both sides chanting and puffing themselves up. I heard one of them yell at the FE students:

You’re all traitors!”

Which made me immediately think, what to France? I wish I’d said it back but the important thing was about to happen.

The EDL closed in on us until they were about six feet away on either side then, suddenly, they stopped. I saw they were not confident. They had been puffing themselves up, trying to psyche themselves into doing something that they weren’t prepared to do. I looked at them. They were spotty boys, young, really young, not street fighters let alone Aryan supermen. Face to face with the EDL we seemed to get our confidence again. We started chanting, matching them for noise, if not drowning them out. One woman, a trade union member tried to poke one boy with a PCS flag on a cane. The young man grabbed the flag, whipped it off then snapped the cane over his head with a comical roar, but that was all he did.

They choked. They were not prepared to follow through on their threats. They were not prepared because the nature of violence has changed. Back in the day street violence was endemic because it was realistic. CCTV has changed things less because of what it does than what it does to us. Even if we are not being watched we feel like we are being watched. If you want to indulge in public violence you must assume sooner or later to go to prison. We didn’t want trouble and neither did the EDL, at least the members that turned up didn’t.

Before the police arrived however Ravi, the exception to every rule, cool and casual, hiding in plain sight, snuck up to one of the EDL members, another spotty boy, and give him a swift, expert kick in the balls before retreating back to our side, as casual as before.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Adverbs Ahoy!

Eventually my younger brother literally played Definitely Maybe continually, specifically to annoy me. My formerly favourite album of theirs deteriorated rapidly. I seriously regretted lending it. Its ineluctable audality filtering nosily daily through the the wall thinly separating us led me inexorably to conclude finally that I should move away from home though lately I think wistfully that I should have dealt with the situation more fraternally as my rent is continually going up.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Work in Progress - part 4

Two days later

Brett was back in East London. It has taken some finding but there it was, in a side street just off Brick Lane. From the outside the Jobs 24 office might not have looked like much to a passer-by, a small logo above a solid green door on the side of a barely recovered industrial site, but Brett felt optimistic, almost buoyant. Speaking to Beth of course helped.

Another phone call

Minutes after he submitted his CV online he got a call from an Unknown Number.


“Hi” said a bright voice, trilling “is that Brett?”

“It is” said Brett neutrally.

“Fantastic” said the Voice, it sounded young too and female. “My name’s Beth. I’m calling from Jobs 24. I’m calling because we really like your CV and reckon we could get you fixed up?”

“You do?” said Brett, uncertain but with anticipation emerging. Beth was the first person to speak to him in months who didn’t sound mournful, embarrassed or belligerent.

“Sure” said Beth, audibly smiling. “It’s not every day you get a philosophy graduate on your books.”

“No” said Brett, almost smiling back, “I suppose not.”

“What was your dissertation in?” Beth asked.

Brett had to think about it for a second, it had been so long, or felt like it. “Existentialism and the Ontology of Time” he remembered.”

“Oh right” said Beth, “like Nietzsche?”

“More sort of Heidegger into Sartre” said Brett, pleased to elaborate, “but Nietzsche is considered one of the pioneers of existentialist. I…” then he remembered himself, “sorry.”

“Fascinating” said Beth. He left a pause before adding. “We must get you in for a formal interview and some testing.”

“Thanks” said Brett, now elated.

“Of course” said Beth, “most of the jobs we have aren’t specifically related to philosophy.”

“Of course” said Brett, nodding.

“But I see you’ve got some good experience” said Beth.

“People don’t often say that” said Brett.

“Nonsense” said Beth, “let’s see, three months intern in corporate insurance, some temping in data entry, bar work, shop work and you’ve got a driving licence. There is lots to be going on with here” she concluded. “Can you come in tomorrow, say, eleven?”

“I can” said Brett.

“Then it’s a date” said Beth. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Brett almost blushed.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Work in Progress - Part 3

Opening emails

OK, let's. Email. Open. Here goes. Nothing? Three. Oh, O... K... Travel agency position. Dear Brett, personal, informal, regret that on this occasion. Same old. Thank for interest. Person of more experience. All right. Long pause. Next one. University support. That'd be nice. Didn't think it would come in. Nope. They're looking for someone with more appropriate qualification. What? This is a paper-sifting job. Last one. NHS. Dear Candidate, blah, position will now be filled... internally. What was the point in that? It doesn't matter what I... No, don't think like that. Project. Maybe if I just. I mustn't let this. Stay positive.


“Why do you want this job, Brett?”

Brett opened his mouth, a moment too long because:

“You're not sure, are you?” The Interviewer sighed a deep breath. He renewed, “I want motivated, confident people that are going places, Brett. Are you one of those people?”

Brett, slowly, “I feel that I am motivated and I am confident. I am getting myself out there and...”

“And now you're here” the Interviewer interrupted. 'Here' was an office in a lane off Liverpool Street. “Turnover is quite high here” said the Interviewer, whose name was Nigel Stiffly-Barrage QC. He sat forward across the table between him and Brett. “This is a pressured environment...” small fist bumps for emphasis, “how do you cope with pressure, Brett?” He sat back.

“I like to plan” said Brett. “I take the long view, get to know the rhythms of the office and try ton anticipate...”

“No, Brett” Mr Stiffly-Barrage QC leaned forward again. “That's how you avoid pressure. I was asking how you cope with pressure.” His voice hardened without being raised. “How would you cope if I gave you a hundred pages of notes to be typed, proofed and allocated in three hours. How would you cope, Brett?”

“Well” said Brett, “I would try to prioritise...”

Mr Stiffly-Barrage QC shook his head. “That's not answering my question, not by a long chalk, no, no, no.” Pause. Mr Stiffly-Barage QC sat back and crossed his fingers, archly.  Silence. “How old are you?” he eventually asked.

“Twenty three” said Brett.

“And what do you want out of life?”

“I... want to be... happy...”

“Happy?” said Mr Stiffly-Barrage QC, surprised-looking. Another pause, Mr Stiffly-Barrage QC stood up and offered Brett his hand to shake. “Thank you for coming.” Brett stood up to reciprocate. “But I don't think you'll be hearing from us.” He shook Brett's hand very hard. “Good luck with being happy” he said.

“Thank you” said Brett, feeling equal parts humiliated and relieved.


Brett was waiting for a bus out on Liverpool Street when he saw a woman. She was wearing a branded T-shirt and handing out fliers. Brett was intrigued. It helped that she was young and attractive, but Brett didn't want to talk and, anyway, she was probably out of his league. He took a flier though. It was for something called Jobs 24, a website and a hotline. It promised applicants work within twenty-four hours. Brett thought it was too good to be true, worth a try though, it was an agency after all. What did he have to lose and where was the Woman? Brett turned to look. Where'd she go? That was odd. Still, Brett had the flier at least.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Work in Progress - part 2

Phone call

Mum: Son?

Brett: Mum.

M: How did it go?

B: It's gone...


M: Oh... well it's...

B: No, they're keeping my details though and...

M: [Brightly] That's something.

B: [Sighs] It's been a month working for nothing. No vacancies, I...

M: But they're keeping your details...

B: And the Manager said he might give me a reference.

M: See, that's not so bad.

B: He said he might give me a reference...

M: Well... that's not so bad.

B: [With suppressed anguish] It's not a job, Mum. I need a job. I've spent a month working for free. How many more bloody unpaid internships do I...?

M: I don't know Brett.

B: Your... generation, you lot didn't have to put up with this. You just walked into your job. It...

M: I'm sorry, Son, but times have changed.

B: [Irritating] It's not fair!

M: [Sighs] Life's not fair. [Lecturing] And that attitude's not going to get you a job either... Is it...?

B: [Resigned] I know.

M: You've go to stay positive, project confidence. That's what employers are looking for.

B: I know.

M: You've got to sell yourself.

B: [Thinks about objecting] Well I...


M: Where are you now?

B: Out and about... The gave me a present, a going away present, a book voucher, thirty pound.

M: [Patronising] Oh, that's nice. See, you've made a good impression.

B: I guess so.

M: You have. Get yourself something nice, you deserve it.

B: I will.

Pub chat

"Here you go..." Jermaine was back from the bar with a pint of stout for his brother. "I don't know how you can drink that stuff."

"I guess I'm just bitter" Brett said with a thin smile. He took the pint and had a quick sip. "Thanks" he said.

"No worries" said Jermaine. He sat down at the table with Brett.

"How much was it?" asked Brett.

"It's fine" said Brett.

"No, seriously..."

"Seriously, little bro, it's fine..."

"No, I can..." Brett tried to push a five pound note across the table.

"No" said Jermaine, holding his hands out. "You're out of work. You need to save your pennies." Brett eventually relented, putting the money back in his pocket. "Anyway" Jermaine added, "enjoy it while you can. I'm thinking of quitting my job."

"Quitting, why?"

"Well, I'm not just going to walk out like that" said Jermaine.

"Fifty grand a year" said Brett, astonished, "I should think not."

"I'm thinking of turning gamekeeper" said Jermaine. He took a sip of his half-lager then explained. "Advertising's just so cut throat, dog-eat dog. Now, if I joined a marketing department, well, the money's just as good, the position's secure and I'd get to fuck over ad-execs to my heart's content... well, a little bit anyway."

"Are you sure about this?" Brett asked.

"I don't see why not?" said Jermaine. "I've got the portfolio and the experience."

"Yeah" said Brett, glumly, "it's all about the experience."

They each take a sip in silent unison.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Scene from a Work in Progress

This will become something slipstream, don't worry... or do, depending upon your outlook. 

"Thank you for coming..." said the Manager. Brett almost said 'you asked me here' but he smiled and said:

"Thank you for having me..." Stay positive. The Manager continued:

"You have been a valued member of our team this past month. You have done yourself proud."

"I'm just grateful for the opportunity, Sir, to prove myself" said Brett.

The Manager sat forward in his chair, "and you have" he pushed a small envelope across the table toward Brett, " you're an intelligent and hard-working young man, a good team player too. No, we've really enjoyed having you here. Please accept this as a token of appreciation from all of us at Bravos Summerisle..." Brett picked the envelope up. This was not going well. He opened it. "Book tokens" said the Manager, "thirty pounds; a little bird told me you like to read so..." and he said. The Manager sat back again, palms open, he smiled as if to say 'ta-da.'

Brett beamed. This was not going well at all. The Manager had been dodging the question for a week, the one thing Brett wanted to know. Still, Brett smiled like he meant it. "Thank you, Sir, that's so kind of you." He was getting good at it.

"Not at all" said the Manager. He drummed the table with his fingers, slightly nervous now. "We had a whip round. It just goes to show that..."

"Sir" Brett interrupted, caution to the wind. 

"Ian, please..." said the Manager, mock-diffident.

"Ian... Sir..." Pause. "I was wondering..." Another pause. The Manager's face started to freeze. Here it comes. "I was wondering" said Brett, "if there were any openings at the firm..." A look away and a sharp intake of breath from the Manager. "That I might..."

"I'm sorry" said the Manager to the table, "but we're fully booked at the moment." He looked up at Brett. "But we would very much like to keep in touch. Rest assured you will be contacted in the event of any vacancies arising..."

"And references...?" Brett asked. 

"Of course" said the Manager, "though I hope we will be the ones to eventually employ you. I really you." He stood to shake Brett's hand from across the desk. "Well done and... good luck."

"Thank you" said Brett, still smiling through the sinking feeling. 

"Take the afternoon off" said the Manager, letting go. "Enjoy yourself."

"I will..." said Brett. "Thank you..." To the office door. "Bye."


Through the door.