It’s All In A Good Cause

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“It’s for charity though,” said Kevin.

“I couldn’t care less,” said Toby, “I’m not bloody doing it.”

“C’mon mate, don’t be such a curmudgeon.” said Dave.

“I don’t think I’m being the slightest bit curmudgeonly,” protested Toby, “I’m just exercising my free will. I don’t want to do it. So I’m not going to do it.”

“But we need you,” said Kevin, “We can’t do it without you!”

“I don’t care,” said Toby, “It’s stupid and pointless and I’m not doing it.”

“But it’s for charity mate,” said Dave, “It’s a really good cause.”

“Fine, I’ll make a donation,” said Toby, fishing a ten pound note out of his wallet, and then hastily returning it to his wallet when he realised he could ill-afford to part with that much money just to prove a point.

“Don’t be so boring!” said Kevin, “C’mon, it’ll be a laugh.”

“I fail to see how losing my dignity in front of other people is, in any way, ‘a laugh’” argued Toby. “Look, I’m not doing it and that’s final. Now if you don’t mind, I’ve actually got some work to do and I’d be very surprised if you two don’t also have things you need to get on with.”

He turned back to his monitor and continued the largely mundane task of entering information into a database.

Kevin and Dave, who both did indeed have plenty of their own application forms to enter onto the system, continued to ignore their work, but did at least move away from Toby, presumably to try and find some other poor sap to try and coerce into their ridiculous scheme.

As if those two idiots even remotely cared about raising money for charity, reflected Toby. This was all about wasting time at work, showing off to their colleagues and no doubt trying to hit on some of the more impressionable new-starters at the inevitable Friday night piss-up that would surely follow.

Not that they were the only two at it. For some reason the office had turned into a bizarre homage to the worst kind of TV talent show in the last week or so. It was nothing new, unfortunately. It seemed every well-publicised fundraising campaign caused this kind of lunacy, and if it was inspired by a viral YouTube video, then all the better. Apparently that was why someone had assaulted him with a bucket of freezing cold water eighteen months ago. In spite of his vociferous protests, no disciplinary action had been taken against the offender, indeed they had been congratulated for their actions and it was he – Toby – who had been told to stop being so tetchy.

When had work stopped being just about, you know, doing work? Why was there any need for all this stupidity? It wasn’t as if any charities even benefited. For all the supposed ‘fundraising’ that went on, there was no indication that any funds were actually raised. Perhaps he was being overly cynical, but to Toby’s mind it all seemed to be far more about ‘having a giggle’ than supporting any good causes.

Out of the corner of his eye, he became aware that Kevin and Dave had begun chatting to Samantha. This unsettled Toby greatly. There was no way they would be trying to convince Samantha to partake in their ill-advised scheme, which probably meant they were up to something far less palatable. The frequent glances in his direction more or less confirmed his worst fears, but it wasn’t until Samatha made her way over to his desk that his misgivings were confirmed.

“Hi Toby,” she said.

Toby managed an incoherent grunt in response. It was always this way with Samantha. He could never seem to manage to articulate any actual words.

“Kev and Dave have just been telling me what you guys are up to on Friday,” she said, “I must say I think you’re being very brave.”

Toby shot the two conspirators a look of sheer hatred, which merely served to cause them to collapse in silent laughter. He looked at Samantha, and tried to find the right words

What he wanted to say was, “I’m sorry Samantha, but you’re mistaken. There’s absolutely no way that I would ever participate in anything so insane as this. I’m really not that kind of person. I said as much to those two clowns a few moments ago, and now, in an act so unscrupulous and vile as to be beyond description, they are using the fact that I am clearly attracted to you, to manipulate me into going along with their stupid plan. But I’m not going to Samantha, I’m better than that. Instead, what I’m going to do, is take this opportunity to finally ask you to go out for a drink with me some time, which is something I really should have done a long time ago.”

Toby wanted to say all this to Samantha, but he couldn’t.

Instead all he could manage was to utter, in a barely audible mumble, “it’s all in a good cause.”


A Commuted Commute

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There was a narrow window between the earliest time that Stan could legitimately leave work and the point at which navigating the evening traffic became unfeasible. He had got it down to a fine art in recent weeks, but his decision to field an unexpectedly long call that afternoon had somewhat scuppered his plans to avoid the gruesome gridlock of rush hour.

Consequently he found himself sitting in a near-stationary queue, waiting to join the equally static dual carriageway, that would in turn lead to the Old Cross Roundabout, a veritable disc of despair that could render even the most cool-headed of motorists a seething sack of primordial rage.

The radio was playing an irreverent and satirical review of the week in politics. Stan found it vaguely entertaining, though its inevitable association with a gruelling commute, given that he only caught it on the occasions he found himself in this driver’s dystopia, muted the comedy value somewhat.

Still, the radio did provide some small relief as his little runabout crawled down the slip road towards the next stage of his purgatory. It was approaching the midway point of the show when he finally managed to navigate his way into the left-hand lane of the dual carriageway, though in some ways this did serve to slightly elevate his stress levels, as he now needed to achieve the more challenging feat of manoeuvring his car into the other lane, so that when he eventually did make it to the Old Cross Roundabout, he would be able to affect a right turn.

This was easier said than done, the traffic in the right-hand lane was moving a touch quicker than the lane he was currently sitting in, and he was rather dependent on the kindness of others in order to make his move. He flipped on his right indicator to alert other motorists to his desired outcome. It did not seem to serve as much of an incentive for the right lane motorists to let him in however, so he continued to crawl slowly forwards in the left lane, hoping in vain for a gap to open up.

The comedy show ended and another light-hearted, though less intrinsically funny, show started. It was tolerable as radio emissions went , but rather less entertaining that its predecessor. Stan also became acutely aware of his bladder being fuller than he was comfortable with. He had eschewed the chance of a quick trip to the gents on his way out of the office in his haste to fulfil his ultimately doomed desire of beating the traffic.

As the car crept slowly closer to the roundabout, a left turn was looking like it might become an unfortunate  necessity. He could still get home by taking this route, but it would likely add another fifteen minutes to his journey and he’d rather avoid that given the increasing urgency of his need to relieve himself.

Still, there was no give in the right hand lane, and Stan was loathe to try and force his way across, as some other motorists were attempting to do. The dual carriageway was a notorious accident hot spot and he didn’t want to risk a collision on this most anger-inducing of roads. Someone was bound to let him in soon, he reasoned.

As he edged ever closer to the roundabout and his optimism began to fade, he became aware of flashing lights in his rear-view mirror and the sound of sirens. There was an ambulance trying to force its way through the gridlock. It was  progressing at a speed that would utterly belie the sense of urgency that the sight and sound of an emergency medical vehicle ought to engender. Still, cars were attempting to move out of the way, albeit in an ultimately futile manner. It was, however, very much in the lane that Stan wanted to be in, and so a plan began to form. Eventually the ambulance was alongside Stan’s own little chariot and he gripped his steering wheel in anticipation. As the emergency vehicle moved slowly past, Stan swerved into its wake, before other motorists had had time to react.

Stan had no idea how serious the medical emergency was that had necessitated the arrival of the paramedics and he genuinely hoped all would end well for the afflicted parties. However, as he made his coveted right turn at the roundabout, he couldn’t help but reflect that their misfortune was rather a stroke of luck for him.

 

Quality Of Life

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Neville rubbed his eyes wearily. It had been a long day of meetings. Meetings about progress, meetings about strategy, meetings about personnel, meetings about finance, meetings about data and at one point, Neville was fairly certain, there had been a meeting about meetings.

The majority of these gatherings had followed a similar format. They began with a review of the objectives set at the last meeting. Next came the acknowledgement that none of those objectives had been met. This was followed by a minor witch-hunt as individuals tried to pin the failure to meet their assigned objectives onto other people. This, in turn, led to some robust ‘conversations’ as the accused refuted the blame and tried to apportion the liability elsewhere. Ultimately there was a consensus that most of the failings were probably the fault of those reckless souls who hadn’t bothered to turn up to the meeting. Each conclave would end with a new set of objectives (or more accurately the re-stating of the last set of objectives) despite the near-certainty that none of these targets would be met by the time the next meeting rolled around.

But now the working day was finally over and Neville had a few hours of reprieve. He knew he probably should do some preparatory work for tomorrow’s meetings, but, as he was more than certain that no-one else would do so, he felt that any endeavours on his part to make the  following day’s assemblies anything more than a complete waste of time, would be an additional waste of his own time.

Neville had better things to do with his evening. There little enough of it, once his arduous commute home was taken into account, so he was certainly not inclined to spend it reading through the interminably dull, and predominantly out-of-date, reports that would be erroneously quoted by equally ill-informed colleagues in the various discussions he was due to partake in during the following day.

No, Neville’s time was his own and he planned to spend it, as he did every other night.

This entailed settling down on his sofa, sticking on a boxset, and consuming a moderately-priced Pinot Noir until he could see the bottom of the bottle or he passed out.

Whichever came first.

Distractions

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Tim looked longingly out of his window. The sky was blue, the sunlight was reflecting brightly off the white wall of the convenience store across the road and the trees that lined the more affluent streets at the far end of his own were swaying gently in the breeze. There was still something of a chill in the air, but the few visible clouds did not seem to be carrying any portent of rain. It was, in short, a lovely day and Tim longed to be outside, strolling along the river without a care in the world.

But the sad reality was that Tim did have a care in the world. Indeed, he had several. The pile of manila folders on his desk was testament to that. He had a mountain of paperwork to complete by Monday and it was not going particularly well. It wasn’t really that the work was hard, but there was a lot of it.

Looking around the room, he could also see several DIY jobs that were outstanding, and this, his home office, was hardly the priority. A quick tour of the rest of the house would reveal significantly more jobs, of greater importance, that he had yet to tackle, some of which were now approaching a level of, not exactly urgency, but certainly precedency.

Elsewhere in his abode were smaller matters that needed to be tackled. He recalled a letter demanding that he renew his driver’s license, had he done that yet? There were unpaid bills that he was more than able to settle, but they had slipped down the list of importance. He wasn’t sure he could even locate them at the moment, although he was sure that his creditors would be in touch again if he didn’t get around to dealing with them soon.

But today Tim had resolved to get up-to-date with work stuff. After all, he needed to maintain his income in order to pay said bills and buy the paint needed to redecorate. Not that his job was in any particular danger, but the paperwork had got out of hand recently and it was matter of professional pride for Tim to be no more than four weeks behind on his admin.

He glanced out of the window again. It was an especially nice day.

Perhaps a quick stroll would be fine. It was looking like a long day of crossing ‘t’s and dotting ‘i’s was ahead of him, maybe it would do him good to clear his head first.

After all, he thought as he donned his jacket and laced up his shoes, the folders would still be there when he got back.

Targeting Success

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Red-faced and drenched in sweat, Ryan pumped out his final set of reps on the bench-press. With a grunt of relief he lowered the barbell for the last time and staggered to his feet. He glanced up at the clock on the wall. It was still only 6:30. Plenty of time before he had to start work, so he donned his gloves and took out his remaining aggression on the bag, demonstrating a power and ferocity that suggested he was more than capable of looking after himself.

In point of fact he was. Ryan’s physical prowess was a huge source of personal pride. A keen amateur pugilist, and certainly not a stranger to the odd bar brawl, Ryan’s skills for violence had recently resulted in a long overdue promotion.

As well as being handy with his fists, Ryan also knew his way around a firearm and this had not gone unnoticed by his superiors. Of course, maintaining security was, essentially, already a significant part of the role that he and his colleagues carried out on a daily basis, but a few months earlier, Dan, the head of the Elite Squad, had notified Ryan of a vacancy within the unit and suggested that he apply. There had been other applicants, but Ryan had blown them all away. Quite literally in one unfortunate incident, though Ryan had been vindicated of any wrongdoing – all the candidates had known the risks and willingly signed a waiver prior to the exercise.

In the end, Ryan’s physical fitness, alongside his substantial skill with a handgun, had made sure the job was his. Following his successful application, Ryan had enjoyed a lengthy holiday, so today was his first day in the role and he was rather looking  forward to getting stuck in.

After his workout, he showered and dressed in his new uniform. It was a sleek, black affair, with a badge on the shirtsleeve carrying the corporate logo, and an insignia which indicated his new rank.

He exited the gym and entered the courtyard. It was 7:20 and there was still some time to prepare before the new inmates arrived.

Of course, alongside the augmented security aspect to his role, he still had to perform a lot of his previous duties. It was something of a drag, he’d never been keen on the other bit of his job but, he supposed, it was still a necessary evil.

He went to the armory and checked out his weapon. He was pleased with his new equipment. Gone was his simple revolver and instead he was handed a more substantial semi-automatic. He checked his watch – he still had time to get in a few practice rounds before the day started properly so he went the range to try his new kit. After thirty pleasurable minutes it was time to get to work.

First he needed to attend a briefing with the rest of the team. The chief was in there giving his usual spiel about it being a big year, and raising standards. Nothing new or especially interesting on offer, but it was good to catch up with his colleagues. He saw Dan across the room, who gave him a solemn but friendly nod. Dan was never one to display too much emotion, but when you had as many kills to your name as he did then emotions were best left buried deep.

Briefing over, Ryan made his way to his room. He saw the buses, which carried the inmates pulling onto the site, through the security gate. In a few minutes he’d be coming into contact with his delegated group.

He got to his room, took a swig of coffee from his thermos and watched them trickle in and take their places.

He looked at their expectant, slightly fearful, faces. He knew he cut a formidable figure, but surely they realised he was there to protect them first and foremost.

Then again, they were only eleven, they still had a lot to learn. He smiled and began his usual ‘first day of term’ speech.

“Morning class, welcome to Broadacre High School,” he said, “I’m Mr Northcroft and I’ll be your form tutor this year.”

Keyboard Warrior

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The tea was hot, milky and very sweet, just the way Byron liked it. He took a sip as he stared at the screen. The match was not five minutes over and already the furore had begun on the forums.

Red4eva2001 had posted the first inflammatory comments about the game, citing the poor refereeing decisions as the main reason for the ‘Reds’ defeat.

Uptheblus04 had been quick to respond to the slight, suggesting that the Reds had benefited from more than their fair share of dodgy refereeing decisions in other games that season.

The forum continued to be abuzz with comments, many about the game itself, some about the ramifications for other games, still others lamenting the sport as a whole, deliberately trying to provoke a reaction from die-hards who couldn’t see that their enraged responses to these comments were exactly the reason they had been written in the first place.

“Don’t feed the trolls” Byron said to himself, taking another sip of tea and continuing to watch more and more comments appear on the screen.

Some commenters had already descended into personal battles with others, some were posters they had jousted with before, although there were also newbies who had been naively sucked into a war of words with some of the more experienced wind-up merchants on the forum.

Byron had yet to post anything himself that afternoon. Partly this was because he was enjoying the vitriol that had already been unleashed by others and partly because he hadn’t actually seen the game in question, and was trying to get a feel for the main areas of controversy before diving in with his own words of wisdom.

The main crux of a lot of the arguments was whether a penalty that had been given in the 38th minute was really a penalty, or whether the Blues striker had gone down a little too easily. There also seemed to be a contentious tackle in the 73rd minute which perhaps should have resulted in a Blues player being sent off.

In truth, Byron was ill-equipped to comment on either of these incidents, but, in the absence of any other information to go on, he was more than prepared to nail his colours to the mast. He took another swig of his tea and, assuming his identity of blueboy439, he began typing.

Typical whinging pinks, can’t take losing to a better team. Always got to blame the ref #pathetic

He was particularly proud of the ‘pinks’ slight – the emasculating of the Reds was always guaranteed a response.

Indeed he needed only wait a few minutes before he’d reeled in his first catch of the day. Redking2005 responded with a very personal attack, indeed so full of vitriol was it that Byron was certain the moderators would take the comment down after a few minutes. He took a quick screenshot of the comment just in case it was deleted. He saved the image into a folder he had named  ‘The Trophy Cabinet’. There were already well over a thousand such screenshots in there, but he was particularly proud of this one. It was always fun to get under the skin of a ‘Red’.

He was all set to type a response, partly to further incense Redking2005, but also with the hope of sucking in more prey when he heard a call from downstairs.

“Byron sweetheart, dinner’s ready!”

Byron sighed. The forum would be overloaded with comments by the time he made it back upstairs. Still, there was bound to be another comments section opening up on another news site, as various pundits wrote up their post-match analysis. There’d be another Redking2005 to irritate that day.

He closed his laptop and went down to dinner.

It’s The Taking Part That Counts

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Mike wiped the sweat from his brow, and looked at his crestfallen team-mates who were gathered round him for his half-time talk. It was not going well, they were being out-thought, outplayed and simply outclassed by their opponents.  As team captain, it was his job to re-motivate the boys, lift their spirits and get them pumped for the second half.

“Come on guys,” he said, “we’re still in this. We just need to tighten up at the back and get the ball to Darryl.”

Darryl, who was by far and away the team’s best player, and was more than gratified by his captain’s faith in him, still felt a reality check was in order.

“Mike mate, we’re 10-0 down,” he said, “I don’t think we’re still in this at all.”

“Come on Darryl, we need to be more positive,” chided Mike sternly.

“No, I mean obviously, I want to be positive,” acknowledged Darryl, “but I mean, I think we’ve misjudged this a bit – they are quite a lot better than us.”

Mike siged. He knew what Darryl was getting at. When they’d first contemplated entering a five-a-side league, a few weeks back in the pub, there had been some concerns expressed that the sum talent of the team didn’t really amount to much. Darryl was fine, Pete was not without skill, although a little out of shape, and Roger was certainly keen, if not entirely what you’d describe as gifted. Eddie, Pete’s brother-in-law, was a reluctant recruit who’d only agreed to turn up because he ‘owed Pete a favour’ and there was certainly no guarantee he’d be back for future fixtures. As for Mike himself, well he was definitely the least able player out of the five. But he was enthusiastic and a natural leader. Or, at least, he was the only one who could actually be bothered to sign them up to a league.

Unfortunately Mike had rather misjudged the standard of the competition he had committed them to. Their current opponents ‘The Kingsmen’ (so named because they all drank at the Kings Arms) were clearly superior in every department. They also had a contingent of more than five players, meaning they were able to use substitutes, which was a luxury Mike and his team could only dream of. Nonetheless, ‘The Kingsmen’ had only managed to finish tenth out of fourteen teams last season. It was unlikely that future fixtures were going to get any easier for ‘Mike’s Machines’.

“To be honest guys, I don’t think this is really for me,” said Eddie, to the surprise of no-one, “I’ll see out the second half, but you might want to look at getting someone else for the next match.”

There were a few half-hearted efforts to change Eddie’s mind, but no-one realistically believed that there would be any need to recruit an additional player for future games.

Mike though, was not going to walk away without an attempt to rescue some pride in what was almost certainly going to be his team’s only fixture.

“Come on guys,” said Mike, “we’ve got to give it our all for another twenty minutes!”

There were non-committal grunts of unenthusiastic assent.

“And the first round of drinks is on me after the match,” continued Mike.

There were slightly louder, more enthusiastic murmurs.

“Now let’s get out there and give Eddie the send-off he deserves!” exclaimed the captain, loud enough to draw amused glances from their opposition.

“For Eddie!” bellowed Darryl as he charged onto the pitch.

“For Eddie!” came the slightly muted chorus from the others as they followed, with the exception of Eddie himself, who looked less than comfortable with the battlecry.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, albeit the goals did not come quite as thick and fast as they had done. ‘The Kingsmen’ had rather taken their foot off the gas, what with victory being so completely assured, and were using the remaining minutes as a training exercise, trying audacious passes and shots that they would never have contemplated in a closer fixture.

Perhaps it was this complacency that permitted Darryl to steal the ball of a rather cocky sub in the dying moments and smash what was the first strike on target for ‘The Machines’ all game. It was easily parried away by the goalkeeper, but, in the most unlikely of flukes, the rebounding ball was caught by an unintentional knee belonging to Mike as he bounded up the pitch with his unwavering enthusiasm. As the ball crossed the goal-line in what was the final act of the game, changing the final score from an embarrassing 15-0 to a much more credible 15-1, Mike was swamped by his team-mates.

The Kingsmen, for whom winning was nothing of note given the ease of their victory, were more than a little perplexed by the resulting celebrations from their opponents.

Mike, for his part, was in a reflective mood as he was carried out off the pitch on the shoulders of his friends. There may be no future outings for his ‘Machines’ but he would never forget his brief tenure as captain of this fine group of players.

Insomnolent Isometrics

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John awoke with a start. It was dark and without his glasses on he couldn’t make out the digital read-out on his radio alarm clock. Rachel was still sound asleep beside him, giving no indication that his sudden return to consciousness had in any way disturbed her.  Feeling it was probably better to maintain that particular status quo, he shuffled delicately out of bed and slowly exited the room.

Deftly avoiding the creaking floorboard on the landing, he made his way carefully down the stairs in darkness, knowing that the slightest hint of light creeping under the bedroom door might be enough to wake his beloved wife.

Once he was safely on the ground floor, he made his way into the living room, where at last he felt it was safe to risk switching on the light. Realising that he had left his spectacles on the bedside table he was forced to squint at the digital readout on the cordless handset that was connected to what was, in the age of the smartphone, a redundant landline. It was 2.30am. Far too early to be awake, but, by the same token, he calculated that, thanks to a relatively early night, he’d had about four and half hours of sleep. It wasn’t enough, given the day he had ahead of him, but he had survived on less.

It wasn’t the lack of sleep that worried him, so much as quite how he was going to occupy the hours before he actually needed to get up for work. Moving around the house would be too noisy, the last thing he wanted or needed was for Rachel to wake up. He loved his wife, but she was not particularly well-disposed to missing out on sleep, and the fall-out for imposing his insomnia on her could result in days of recriminations.

Better then, to suffer in silence. But it was going to be a long night if he couldn’t find anything to pass the time. Television was too noisy, and the novel he was currently attempting to read was sitting next to his glasses in the bedroom.

He scoured the room for anything to do. There was a half-finished jigsaw on the dining table, but that was Rachel’s project, she would not thank him for completing it for her, even if his rationale was that he’d only done it to protect her current state of slumber. Beyond that there was not much else on offer.

He sat for a while, staring at the opposite wall, breathing deeply, trying to relax himself into a state in which a return to sleep might actually be a possibility, but after ten minutes he had succeeded in boring himself, almost to tears, without discovering anything resembling inner peace and tranquillity. Indeed, he was arguably more tense than he had been at the outset.

Out of the corner of his eye he spotted a much-ignored kettlebell, purchased at a time when he had had a wave of enthusiasm and misplaced optimism about getting into shape. Perhaps exercise was the key to solving his current state of insomnolence. Despite being alert beyond all reason, he didn’t really feel that he had the energy for a workout, and it would be a difficult activity to carry out in silence but, in the absence of any other options, it would certainly fill the time. As carefully as he could, he cleared a space in the centre of the room, picked up the weight and started swinging.

Five minutes later, John was breathless, sweating and completely exhausted. He still didn’t feel particularly sleepy, but he certainly felt drained. He collapsed onto the floor and stared up at the ceiling in a daze. He lay there for a while contemplating what else he might do to kill a few minutes. He lay there a little longer. He wasn’t especially comfortable, but neither was he uncomfortable.

John wasn’t sure at what point he had drifted off, but it was daylight when he became aware of Rachel prodding him.

Rachel, for her part, was somewhat confused as to why she had discovered her husband on the living room floor hugging a sixteen-kilogram lump of iron.

 

 

 

An Early Start

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As he navigated the narrow streets of the old town, Martin noted that the weather was a touch colder than he’d anticipated, and he slightly regretted leaving the warmer of his jackets in his hotel room. The hoodie he had grabbed in his hasty exit was slightly inadequate. It was, however, still quite early and he was optimistic that conditions would improve as the day went on.

Otherwise it would, he felt, be a long day.

He pulled the hoodie tighter and increased his walking pace, hopeful that intensifying his cardiovascular output would counteract the effects of the cold.

As he neared the old docklands, the absence of any kind of sustenance in his morning thus far also began to play on his mind. He checked his watch. He had about ten minutes, time enough for a coffee at least. It was, however, so early, that although there was a plethora of eateries in sight, not one of them was yet open.

There was no time to look further afield so he resigned himself to his hunger and paced along the quay, trying to maintain something approximating a tolerable body temperature.

There was no denying that, at this time of day, the wharf was charming. As the day went on, and tourist numbers increased, some of that charm would inevitably disappear, but at that moment it was a serenely quiet and prepossessing location. Still, Martin would have preferred to be in the warmth of his hotel room, happily dreaming or tucking into room-service scrambled eggs.

Instead he was here, waiting.

The time dragged, and ten minutes turned into fifteen, which turned into twenty. A van pulled into sight, Martin recalled seeing it on previous visits and knew it would eventually add to the numerous waterfront food retailers. He hoped that it would begin trading soon, but the proprietor appeared to be in no rush, seemingly seeing to his own refreshment needs first by way of a small thermos.

Another five minutes went by and still no sign of anyone else.

He checked his phone, and only then did he realise it was on set on silent. He noted three missed calls, all received in the last few minutes and all from the same number. He returned the call. It rang only once and then he heard a familiar and slightly irritated voice.

“Where are you,” asked Martin, struggling to mask his own irritation.

He listened to the reply

“But we said we’d meet by the harbor,” Martin argued, “I’ve been here for ages.”

Had there been any passers-by at that moment they would have struggled to make out the muffled words coming out of Martin’s phone but the frustrated tone would have been all too clear.

“Ok, I’ll see you in a few minutes,” said Martin, “I’m sorry.”

Hanging up, he looked hopefully  at the van and saw with relief that it had now opened for business.

After purchasing a bacon sandwich and much-needed americano, Martin began trudging back to the hotel, to what he already knew would be a reception so frosty that it would make the current temperature seem positively balmy.

 

A Super Day Out

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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?”