A Super Day Out

hero-2319482_640

Tony drained the last few dregs of the tea that represented the culmination of that morning’s breakfast. Not the healthiest of breakfasts, he was bound to admit, and certainly far from economical, but as nothing in the service station was particularly good value for money, he felt that paying over the odds for a bacon and sausage sandwich was a touch less offensive to him than paying for overpriced porridge.

His GP would no doubt disagree. A recent check-up had resulted in the unsolicited advice that ‘he might want to think about his weight’.

This was, of course, entirely wrong. He did not want to think about his weight. Thinking about his weight only caused him stress and Tony reasoned that if obesity was having a negative impact on his health then feeling stressed about it could only cause further damage.

This ‘head in the sand’ approach to life’s difficulties extended beyond matters of health for Tony. He was perfectly content to ignore all of his potential problems. He felt there was no real need to spend time worrying about anything today when it might not be an issue until tomorrow.

A perfect example of this was sitting in the service station car park. Tony’s battered old runaround was really not fit for purpose. The scratched paintwork and dented panels certainly gave the impression that the car had seen better days, but in truth what was far more worrying was the strange noise that the engine made when the automobile attempted any speed over thirty miles per hour. The black vapour that the exhaust pipe emitted on occasion was also cause for concern and that red light on the dashboard that had appeared in recent weeks certainly suggested that the vehicle might be in need of a professional appraisal.

Tony, however, took the view that as long as the machine was able to get him from A to B, as it apparently still could, then any major surgery could wait until the car’s MOT in three months time. Tony couldn’t really afford to be without a car, the commute to his underwhelming job would be impossible on public transport, yet he also couldn’t afford the repairs that he knew his car needed. But, even though he knew he still wouldn’t be able to pay for the repairs in three months time, should the car survive that long, it was still something he didn’t need to worry about today. So he didn’t.

Given the potential imminent demise of his sole mode of transport, Tony was aware that he shouldn’t really be attempting the long journey that had necessitated that morning’s break in a service station. The thirty-minute daily commute to the daily grind was unavoidable but additional travel on the weekend was best avoided. A two-hour Saturday morning jaunt around the M25 seemed positively preposterous, even more so when Tony reflected that he would also need to make a return journey later that day.

But if it could be avoided then, truth be told, Tony did not want to avoid it.

Life was for living Tony reasoned and, without significant lifestyle changes, he might not even have that much longer to live it. So while he could make some dietary adjustments, start taking more responsibility for his actions, save his money for the rainy day that was almost certainly around the corner and conserve his car for the weekday commute to drudgery, he felt more inclined to seize any rare opportunity for pleasure that life afforded him.

Tony was aware of the strange looks he was receiving as he walked back from the cafe to his mangled motor. He didn’t care. It was distinctly possible that the sight of an overweight man in lycra was amusing to the average onlooker, but as drab and dull as his normal existence might be, today Tony was far from ordinary.

Because for one day a year Tony wasn’t Tony.

Cape billowing in the breeze, he caught sight of himself in his own windscreen. Perhaps he could have waited until he reached the convention before he donned his costume. But he had put a lot of work into it and wanted to make the most of the opportunity.

He opened the door to the vehicle he had renamed for the day.

He started the ignition after a few attempts and the Tony-Mobile sped out of the car park (insofar as it was capable of achieving anything resembling speed).

Several onlookers continued to stare in wonder as the car disappeared from view.

One such onlooker turned to his friend and quipped “Just who was that rotund masked-man?”

 

A Change Of Pace

controller-1827840_640

Arnold liked routine. His working day followed a familiar pattern beginning with two medium-sized soft boiled eggs consumed with brown bread soldiers, each one cut with military precision to the same size and shape. Next came his thirty-three minute walk to work, for an 8:45am start, where he conducted his daily administrative duties with an efficiency that made his co-workers seethe with jealousy. He paused from these duties at 12:30pm to consume his regular ham and cheese sandwiches (the cheese was a mild cheddar – number 3 according to the supermarket classification.  He had once dared to opt for a slightly more mature variety, the number 4, but quickly regretted this dalliance and returned to the comfort of the number 3 with haste) before continuing with his duties until 4.45pm when he re-traced his morning commute, adding an additional seven minutes to purchase a microwaveable evening meal from the mini-market near his flat.  Upon his return home he would consume said meal at 5.45pm, washing it down with a glass of weak lemon squash and would then spend the evening ensconced in a video game of his choice. This Monday to Friday regime was nirvana to Arnold. The only issue that periodically threatened this state of bliss were the occasions when a well-meaning but misguided colleague elected to invite Arnold out with the rest of the team for a few post-work drinks on a Friday. Arnold would patiently explain that he didn’t like drinking and if that didn’t work he would further explain that he didn’t much care for people either. That usually worked.

Weekends were a touch more problematic.

Arnold would gladly have spent the entirety of Saturday and Sunday playing video games, occasionally punctuated by trips to purchase more microwaveable meals. There had been a time when he might have ventured into town to purchase a new game, but online shopping had long since rendered that unnecessary.

Unfortunately Arnold was not permitted to keep his family at quite the same distance as his colleagues. For whatever reason (and it was a mystery to Arnold) his parents and sister demanded that he spend time in their company.

None of them had the slightest interest in video games and he had not the slightest interest in any of their hobbies. Indeed he had so little interest as to be largely unaware of what any of their hobbies were.

He was vaguely aware that his father liked sports of some kind. Ones involving teams of men and balls mostly. In his youth there had been an attempt of sorts to encourage Arnold to take an interest in both playing and watching these sports but his total antipathy had finally been accepted.

No there was very little common ground between Arnold and his family. He supposed, if he thought about it, he did quite like them. He was glad they existed. He just didn’t really see the need to actually spend any time with them.

Yet there was this insistence that he join them for a meal every weekend. Even more annoying, the time and day of that meal was subject to change. Sometimes it was lunch, sometimes tea, sometimes Saturday, other times Sunday. Sometimes it would be hosted by his parents, at other times by his sister and more recently by his sister and that other person that seemed to now live with his sister, whoever he was. There were even times when Arnold was expected to go and eat with them in a restaurant.

It was intolerable really.

But one Saturday things got immeasurably worse. He was sitting in his kitchen staring hard at his mobile phone, as he tended to do when awaiting the inevitable message from his mum, which would let him know his fate for that weekend, when there was a knock at his door.

Arnold was not accustomed to visitors and it took a second knock for him to realise that the person on the other side of the door expected him to answer.

With a sense of trepidation and extreme irritation at his routine being so flagrantly disregarded by the knocker, he made his way to the offending entrance and opened the door.

Stood there was a man who he had met multiple times. Nonetheless it would be a stretch to suggest he actually knew the man. Yes they had sat at the same dinner table for many a weekend now, but the man was his sister’s friend. Arnold had no reason to bother with him.

“Hi Arnold,” said the man, “how are you?”

“I’m ok,” replied Arnold with suspicion.

“Er, I suppose you’re wondering why I’m here?”

Arnold nodded his confirmation of that theory.

“Well, it’s just, what with me marrying your sister next June, I thought it might be nice if we got to know each other a bit better.”

Arnold took a deep breath. He could see it was going to take him some time to explain to the man why getting to know each other would not be ‘nice’ at all.

Then he noticed what the man was holding.

“Is that Bonecrusher 3,” he asked.

“Yes,” replied the man, “it’s just come out. Your sister said you might be up for playing a few levels with me.”

It was unorthodox to be sure. Arnold much preferred gaming alone. But pay day was still several weeks away and there was no way he was going to get a copy of Bonecrusher 3 before then.

“You’d better come in,” said Arnold.

 

The Teapot

spot-163435_640

The old china teapot was not the most glamourous of vessels, the design had long since faded and the spout was chipped in such a way that transferring the scolding liquid into a mug was often something of a lottery.

Nonetheless, Bruce was convinced that the tea, which survived the perilous journey from pot to cup, tasted better for the experience and thus the mild inconvenience of spillage was worth it. No other pot, opined Bruce, could ever match the quality of the beverage that was produced in his antiquated teapot.

In the early days of their relationship, Clara had tried to convince Bruce that this was nonsense. She had argued the merits of making the tea in the cup, had attempted to turn his head with other teapots, had even, through much research on a well-known internet auction site, managed to track down a near identical model of pot in better condition.

To no avail.

Bruce, not ungracious, had accepted the gift, indeed had accepted many a hot drink produced therein, but, as she discovered one morning when he had thought she was still sleeping, he continued to use his favoured teapot whenever charged with making his own drink.

In the end, it was an idiosyncrasy that Clara felt that she could live with. In all other respects Bruce was a model partner – kind, considerate and not generally given to strange obsessions in other aspects of his life.

But the infatuation with the teapot was perplexing.

It was not, as Clara had first assumed, any kind of heirloom. Bruce’s mother was as mystified as anyone as to its origins.

It had just appeared, one day, at some point during Bruce’s years of living alone. Even Bruce was sketchy as to when he had acquired it.

He just knew it made a fantastic cup of tea.

On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Clara wanted to do something nice to mark the occasion. Though she normally refused to use the chipped china repository, reasoning that tea-making should be a less arduous affair, she felt she would indulge her husband with an early morning cuppa made the way he liked it.

What happened next was unclear. Clara couldn’t recall any recklessness on her part, but as she poured the hot brown liquid into the mugs, there appeared to be more errant fluid on the work surface than was usual. The moment when the spout detached from the pot seemed to take an eternity but there was, nonetheless, a parting of ways.

Bruce found Clara in tears, and reassured her as best he could.

But no matter how much he tried to play down the importance of the teapot, Clara knew that it meant something.

Bruce, for his part, took it well.

However, he remained reluctant to part with the pot, and though it clearly had no serviceable function any more, he held on to it.

Superglue was purchased and spout reattached to body, but, even then, it was clear that it would no longer be suitable for its primary function.

Still Bruce kept it as a kind of ornament, nostalgic for the halcyon days of the best cups of tea he had ever known.

He learned to appreciate tea from other pots –  he acknowledged that the near identical pot that Clara had tried to sway him with did indeed produce a fine cuppa. But it wasn’t quite the same.

Until the day, some years later, when Bruce accidentally chipped the spout.

At least he claimed it was an accident.

Clara was never sure.

But it turned out the chip was the solution. Bruce rediscovered tea nirvana.

Clara, for her part, still couldn’t taste the difference.

Morning Is Broken

coffee-1295454_640

Gordon took a sip of his lukewarm tea, his fifth cup of the morning, both in terms of volume of tea and indeed receptacles. The previous, now empty, mugs sat on the pine coffee table (bought second-hand from a charity shop and by far the nicest piece of furniture he owned) in front of him, alongside a trio of plates, the first containing the remnants of a bacon sandwich, a breakfast he hadn’t actually been able to stomach, the second a congealed mess that he knew to be the remains of last night’s chicken chow mein (as per his usual pre-pub Friday night ritual) and the less said about the third the better, he’d obviously picked up something on his way back from the bar but he couldn’t honestly identify it now – a vaguely unpleasant taste of garlic sauce at the back of his throat suggested it may have been a kebab. Surrounding the various  unclean ceramics were several empty beer bottles. Continue reading Morning Is Broken

A Shred Of Hope

shredder-779854_640.jpg

Brian had been on ‘shredding’ duties for over a week. It had just been him, the machine in a tiny room on the seventh floor, away from the comforts of his desk, the camaraderie of his colleagues and, more pertinently, a long way from the coffee machine. Continue reading A Shred Of Hope

The Dilemma

ring-146778_640

Jeff emptied the contents of his right trouser pocket onto the cheap, faux-pine, laminate and chipboard, coffee table. Spread out before him were a battered  imitation-leather wallet, one he’d had since his late teens, and a handful of coins. There was a barely discernible logo on the front of the wallet, representing a brand that had been very much a-la-mode at the time of purchase, but one that was no longer particularly in vogue. The wallet, he knew, contained a debit card for an overdrawn bank account, a credit card that was alarmingly close to the overly-generous limit his bank had permitted and several supermarket loyalty cards, which demonstrated that Jeff was not, in fact, especially ‘loyal’ to any one particular provider when it came to grocery shopping.

What the wallet did not contain, sadly, was any actual money.

Continue reading The Dilemma

Dinner Time

pasta-576417_640.png

Janice cut the chicken into strips and tossed them into the frying pan, along with the onions and peppers she had prepared earlier. Adding a little sauce, she stir- fried her composition for a few minutes, singing along to compilation of late-eighties pop acts that were the mainstay of her decade-old MP3 player. The kitchen was not her most natural environment, but, on reflection, she realised that this cooking malarkey wasn’t all that hard.

The family’s usual chef, Pete, was upstairs repairing the broken drawer, a task he was neither enthusiastic about, nor particularly skilled at, but he was ‘damn well not going to fork out another hundred quid’ for a replacement unit. Continue reading Dinner Time

The Game

 

chess-26783_640

Crispin looked at the board despairingly.

There was nothing he could do. He had played into Franklin’s hands, and it was now just a matter of a few moves before inevitable defeat. He could cede the game now, but that was not Crispin’s way. If his late father had taught him anything, it was never to surrender even when all seems to be lost.

Admittedly Crispin Senior had, perhaps, taken the philosophy a little too far, and the moral certitude over who actually had ‘the right of way’ was arguably a little redundant when cycling towards an articulated lorry. Continue reading The Game

Sick Day

The resentful growl of the slow moving traffic indicated that the city had grudgingly woken up to Monday with the same collective reluctance shared by its morning commuters. Eli could hear the revving motors and the occasional plaintive horn from his bedroom as he made the phone call that would spare him from joining the gridlock for today at least. Continue reading Sick Day