Sunday, 24 January 2016

Flash: No More Excuses

Izzie had forgotten her plimsoles. She hadn’t meant to. The cat hadn’t eaten them, her mother hadn’t used them to mend her bicycle tyres with. She had no excuse; she had genuinely, honestly not remembered. That wouldn’t wash with Mrs Humberlik. The problem was that she had skived off PE so often that Izzie would be the girl who cried wolf.
One could just about cope with having to be in the gym in next to nothing but surely Mrs Humberlik wouldn’t make her do cross country in bare feet and underwear. Izzie slumped into class, ready for a fight.
‘Right, 2A, everyone get changed.’
Izzie grimaced and put her hand up.
Mrs Humberlik sighed. ‘Isabel Andrews, what is it this time?’
‘I’m really sorry Miss, I forgot my plimsoles.’
Mrs Humberlik huffed. ‘And I suppose you forgot your shorts and t-shirt too?’
Izzie shrugged.
‘And I suppose you’re not wearing any underwear either.’
Izzie’s face lit in a grin. The perfect excuse and a genuine one due to her mother’s chaotic domesticity. ‘No Miss, none!’
‘You’ve run out of reasons Isabel. You will do this run, even if you do it starkers.’
The rest of 2A all swivelled to look at Izzie. Some of the boys started laughing.
‘Is there no spare kit, Miss?’ Izzie asked.
It was Mrs Humberlik’s turn to grin. ‘No Isabel, none.’
‘Right, okay, right.’
With that Izzie got up and disrobed swiftly. She sprinted out the class and onto the muddy track. She ran so fast, none of her classmates saw anything but a flash of flesh. She ran so fast she beat everyone else by ten minutes. Izzie felt unfettered; the wind and the wood and the bracken and the mud flicking past her. By the end of cross country she was so mud-caked you couldn’t tell she had no clothes on, so nobody saw Izzie naked.
Mrs Humberlik handed her a spare towel for the showers. ‘I think plimsoles have been slowing you down.’
That is what changed the path for Isabel Andrews, Olympic Gold medallist. Or that’s the story old Mrs Humberlik always told.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Saturday Snapshot: London Love

I saw old friends in London last night. I was coming out at Oxford Circus, slightly disgruntled because my exit was closed and in the sky above me was a glowing creature. I stumbled into the street, staring above me. At first I thought it must be a wonderful late Christmas decoration, (it rippled with changing colours), so much more imaginative and abstract than I would expect from the shopping hub of London. Then I noticed other people were stopped too, in the middle of the road. No traffic.

I continued on my way, down Regent St, pushing through crowds, past stickmen made of lights somersaulting down the front of a building in time to 1980s computer music. Then two enormous fish came floating towards me. I turned into Heddon Street, which was strewn with flowers for David Bowie.
My friends were in Titbits. This is not, to my relief, a topless bar but a vegetarian buffet restaurant, where you pay for your food by having it weighed. There were a thousand things to choose from and I tried a tiny bit of everything. What was great was there was no waiting and no protracted working out the bill, people could come and go. As my friend said, it is a great first date place, and it’s also a great meeting your mates place. I saw dear old friends I don’t see enough of and met new people too. I love new people, especially articulate, entertaining ones. 

On my way to Piccadilly Circus I encountered a projected elephant, trumpeting out at the street. I don’t miss commuting, I don’t miss tubes but now I don’t live there, I love London. It’s wonderful and extraordinary and giant elephants and fish live there.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Flash: Atypical Week at Work

Monday. My new PA arrives. I have dressed smartly. So has he.
‘Right,’ I tell him, ‘You are  my right-hand man.’
‘Right’ he replies and I know we are going to get on.
I have a list of things I want doing. He makes a list and gets them done. A productive day.
Tuesday. Today I do not wear a tie. Neither does my PA.
I hand him my list of requirements.
‘I’ve already done these before you arrived,’ he tells me.
It is a quiet day; no meetings. I shuffle paper, try to look busy and end up watching funny cat videos. He reorganises the office, tries to look busy and ends up watching philology videos.
Wednesday. I wear a seventies tie. My PA arrives in a flower-power shirt.
‘We are going to have a creative day,’ I tell him.
We draw pictures of mutant animals on the white board and then run around the office pretending to be each other’s creations. I particularly enjoy being a giraffaphant. I phone my management team and be cattish or doggish, depending on the flip of a coin. He calls my key clients and is gerbilly or leonine depending on the flip of a coin. He gets meetings booked with every one of them.
Thursday is a day of meetings. We both arrive in blue suits. Mine, of course, is more expensive but I admire the cut of his. He is the height of professional efficiency, briefing me on clients’ eccentricities, showing them in, minuting, making coffee, prepreparing contracts. We seal every deal.
At 5.45 I turn off my PC.
‘Would you like to go for a drink to celebrate the day’s successes?’ I ask him.
‘Yes,’ he says yes and I notice, like me, he doesn’t phone anyone to say he will be late home.
We share a 2010 Chateauneuf Du Pape. He enjoys my stories and I enjoy his. I tell him about when I worked in a circus and he tells me that he was once an alchemist but now confines his experiments to the culinary. He talks animatedly about baking artichoke bread.
‘You would make a good wife,’ I tell him and he blushes.
Friday, we both come in late and a little sheepish. I notice he hasn’t ironed his shirt, then see that I have spilt breakfast down mine. I mumble my requests and he is almost mute. The day drags. At four I tell him he can leave early.
‘What are you up to at the weekend?’ I ask.
‘I’m stuffing figs with peanut butter and making chutney.’
‘I live on ready meals,’ I confess, ‘expensive ones, mind you.’
He smiles and goodbyes me and I notice he has very beautiful green eyes. He will make someone a good wife, I think, after he has left. I remember my bare larder, then quickly put my coat on and run to see if I can catch him in the lift.