Tuesday, 30 June 2015


For audio click here

Gavin stared at the word on his screen; a message from Tina, just one word. That word.
‘Scintillating!’ He said to himself, tasting the word, rolling it around his mouth like a new wine. He’d heard it many times before obviously, but he wasn’t 100% sure he knew what it meant. ‘Scintillating!’ He said it again, louder this time, more confident that he’d got the stress right.
‘A scintillating conversation,’ he said to no one in particular. Passers-by looked at him but Gavin was well used to the odd looks he got when he spoke to himself. He used to hide it when he caught himself doing it, turn the words into a song, or a hum, but these days he didn’t give a toss what people thought. Everyone spoke to themselves, the madness was in denying it.
‘A scintillating conversation,’ he repeated; he was getting used to the word now, reminding himself of the meaning, or at least an approximation of it. But why had Tina sent it? What did it mean in the context of their budding relationship? It was a good word wasn’t it? Maybe she was describing him; fascinating, amusing, witty, he liked that. But it didn’t fit the conversation they’d been having. He scrolled back up through the dialogue. Their last exchange was three hours ago.
Gavin: You’re not gonna work through lunch? J
Tina: Nothing gets between this girl and her food.
Gavin: I knew you were going to say that. J
Since then there had been radio silence, until now, until that word. Was she being sarcastic, telling him his conversation was boring? Was it autocorrect changing a word she’d spelt wrong? But what on earth would the original word be? Was it a mis-sent message, a message to a friend about him? Or a message to another lover about the other lover? Or a message to a friend about the other lover? He looked at the word again; it sat there like a child, looking all sweet and innocent but he knew it hid a terrible secret.
Should he ask her about it? Challenge her? Ask her what the hell she meant by it? Should he just ignore it, pretend it never happened, hope it would go away? Should he reply coolly, something like  I thought so,’ and leave it at that.  God he wished Miley was here, she’d know what to do, but Miley was off being a social butterfly somewhere, so he was alone left to stew in his own low self-esteem.
He put his phone in his pocket, he’d have to think about it later, he’d arrived at his client’s office and had a deal to make.

‘We know your product is good Gavin but the question is what more can you offer us?’ Mr Norman said. Normally at this stage Gavin would launch into a spiel about the support package and the training provided, but this time he didn’t answer, instead he was staring at the newspaper folded on his client’s desk. The man had been doing the crossword while waiting for Gavin, the same crossword that Gavin and Tina had been doing last night. Mr Norman had only filled in one answer, it was the only answer Gavin and Tina hadn’t got. 1 Across – I scan tilting roundabout with learner shining brightly.  (13)

Monday, 29 June 2015

Nationwide - A Steve rant

For audio click here 
To see what Steve is on about click here or here for outside the UK see below.

‘Have you seen,’ Steve said and Johnny braced himself, he knew what was coming, ‘that Nationwide advert?’ Steve continued.
The one with the scarf?’ Johnny asked.
‘The one with the scarf.’ Steve confirmed.
‘So bloody twee,’ Johnny said, hoping to cut Steve off at the pass.
‘It is twee but…’
When Johnny realised this wasn’t going to be about the cutesiness of the advert, he tried another tack.  ‘Don’t tell me you cried?’ As usual Johnny was the only one laughing at his joke.
‘No I didn’t bloody cry, I just don’t get it.’ Steve said.
‘What’s not to get?’ Johnny said. ‘Man leaves scarf with sentimental value on bus, Nationwide employee finds it, starts a Twitter campaign, Man’s wife sees campaign, Man reunited with scarf, and it shows how wonderful Nationwide is.’ Johnny couldn’t see a problem but he knew his mate could pick holes in a fishing net.
‘What would you do if you found a scarf on the bus?’ The question was rhetorical; Steve wasn’t going to give Johnny any time for his sarcasm. ‘You’d hand it in to the driver who would hand it to lost property, wouldn’t you?’ Johnny nodded, that is exactly what he would do. ‘But this woman starts a bloody Twitter campaign.’ Steve said. She’s doing all that while the man is phoning the bus company to see if anyone has handed in a scarf. What are the chances, outside of advert land, of a Twitter campaign actually working? It relies on too many variables; a Facebook campaign might be better but still handing it to the driver was probably the best idea. This just tells me that Nationwide will do things in the most convoluted way possible. Why would I want to use a bank that gets from A to B via D and K?’
Johnny nodded, as ever however tortuous, Steve had a point.
‘And don’t get me wrong about how bloody middle class the whole thing is either,’ Steve said. Johnny pulled his what the hell are you on about face? that he’d pulled at Steve so many times before.
‘Well I hope I don’t upset any Trawlermen here,’ Steve lent in conspiratorially.
Johnny looked around the extremely middle class pub they were sitting in.
‘I think you’re safe,’ he said.
‘Well as you said the advert is twee, I’m not sure there are many trawlermen who live in such a quaint little world. Most of the ones I’ve come across are hard drinking, foul-mouthed, hard men, with a haunted look in their eye that only risking your life every time you set sail can give you.’
‘And how many Trawlermen do you know?’ Johnny asked but he didn’t wait for an answer, instead he collected their empty glasses and made his way to the bar.

And here is the Advert   

Friday, 26 June 2015

The Flying Dutchman

For audio click here
The café certainly wasn’t my cup of coffee, but it was close by and it was not Starbucks so it would do. I sat alone both in terms of being on my own and being the only customer, but that didn’t really bother me; people would just cause a distraction. I settled down with my book and prepared to spend an hour reading for my course. The barista clumsily cleared cups from a table that had been occupied at some stage in the day but certainly not since I’d been there. Game Of Thrones season finale was paused on his PC screen and I got the feeling that I was a bit of a inconvenience for the man who obviously was hoping to catch up on his addiction before some spoiler on Facebook ruined it for him, but now, because I was there, he had to make the place look tidy.
The bitter taste of over brewed coffee clung to my tongue while unconstructed jazz poured from the speakers annoying the hell out of me and making the job of concentrating on the dry words in front of me even harder.

The ginger haired man looked immaculately flustered as he stepped into the joint. He looked like he’d rather but anywhere but there but he brusquely ordered an espresso and sat at the table nearest the bar anyway. He adjusted his tie, tapped his foot and checked his expensive watch while the barista fiddled with the Cimbali. Why had he stopped for coffee if he had such little time? The barista put the coffee on the table and the ginger man tipped the sugar container up, but nothing came out. There was brown sugar in the pourer but the granules clung to each other and refused to budge. Like workers on industrial action they stood steadfastly united, defiant in the face of the coffee-drinking oppressor. The man looked at the container before trying to cajole the sugar with a few gentle taps to the glass. Eventually after one piece of stroppy, tempestuous brutality enough sugar reluctantly fell into his coffee to sweeten it adequately. He picked up his spoon but before he could stir he was lying face down on the floor with a police officer on top of him and three others buzzing around; one pointing a gun at the man’s head. Harsh punishment for manhandling a sugar pot but I guessed there was more to it than that. A minute later, maybe less, I was again the only customer in the place and the only evidence that the whole thing had happened was an upturned chair, an untouched coffee and bloody fingerprints on a sugar shaker.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Fish Soup

For audio click here
Klatovská 51, an unremarkable building, in an unremarkable street. Pavel looked behind him to make sure he wasn’t being followed; the coast looked clear. A woman in the top window was throwing her duvet out to air while watching the street below with suspicion. Pavel was trying to act normally, but he was probably already standing out like a sore thumb. He knew he couldn’t hang around deciding if to go through with it; he had to either ring the bell or walk on and not look back. He’d come this far, he couldn't back out now, could he? He looked around, apart from duvet woman there was no one else visible in the street. He took a deep breath, his hands felt clammy and his clothes felt too small on his body. He looked at the list of names on the doorbell and then looked at the slip of paper in his hand. He knew this was the moment of truth, he remembered the old expression, you can make fish soup out of a fish but you can't make a fish out of fish soup. Once he rang that doorbell he’d be one of them, forever and a day tarred with that brush. It was only once didn’t cut it as a defence. A car cruised down the street, Pavel looked down hoping his face was hidden from the passengers.
The paper said Burešová, he could see the name on the doorbell. He breathed out and rang the bell and waited. A voice crackled on the intercom. He was well aware this might be a trap, that he might have fallen for the oldest trick in the book. But if he was going to do this, it was a risk he would have to take. Pavel said his name and pushed open the buzzing door. He climbed the stairs slowly; out of the way of prying eyes he could take his time, allow his feet to reflect his uncertainty. He could feel sweat on the backs of his knees, he rubbed his sweaty palms on his jeans, he wondered how he looked.
Ms Burešová opened the door and smiled.
‘Come in, I won't bite,’ she said. Pavel was aware of how scared he must have looked.
He crossed the threshold.
‘So let's deal with the money first,’ the scantily clad woman said with a wink, ‘and then we can get you out of those clothes.’ 

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Going Backwards

For audio, click here

Clarke watched the world trundle by through tired eyes. As soon as the ticket inspector came by he’d allow himself to drift off to sleep. Why could he sleep on trains but not in his own stupid bed? It must have been three weeks since he’d managed to sleep a whole night through, last night he’d woken up at exactly 3.01, 4.01 and 5.01, it was like he was playing darts. The ticket collector made him jump out of his skin; Curtis’d been on the verge of sleep when she’d come in to the compartment. She apologised with a smile revealing her pretty dimples and yellowing teeth. Clarke smiled back realising just how foolish he must have looked. She said something in Czech. Clarke’s Czech was getting better but she spoke quickly, he tried to catch the words but they were gone in an instant. Clarke nodded, his season ticket ran out tomorrow, she must have been warning him; yes that made sense. She stamped his ticket and with a cheery nashledanou she was gone.
Clarke settled back down, his feet on the seat opposite, his top two buttons on his shirt undone and his sunglasses on his head. The train continued its journey to Prague while Clarke’s journey took him to the land of nod.
Stations usually roused Clarke from his slumber but despite being aware that they’d been standing still for sometime, Clarke clung to sleep while other passengers left the train. Normally Clarke would huff and puff about delays but they’d been doing an upgrade on this line for so long Clarke would have been more surprised if there were no delays.
Clarke came round from his snooze as gently as he’d gone under. He stretched and yawned still delightfully groggy from the sleep. He checked his phone for the time. 18.47. He’d slept nearly 90 minutes, over half of the way home. A satisfied smile spread on his face, what better way was there to kill time on a long journey than snoring contentedly in the first class carriage?
Clarke looked around, more awake now. But something was wrong. He checked his pockets for phone and wallet; all present and correct. His bag with computer and passport was at his feet where he’d left it. Clarke looked out of the window, why was he going backwards? Clarke always faced the direction of travel, going backwards made him feel sick, but he was going backwards now. Had he changed position during his sleep? No his bag and jacket were exactly where he’d left them. He was heading back towards Ceske Budejovice. Dark clouds were gathering and up ahead, Clarke could see the rain sweeping down. Dark clouds were gathering in Clarke’s brain too; why on earth was he heading back from where he’d come from?
Clarke could hear the voice of the ticket inspector in his mind; he replayed her words trying to decipher the meaning. Rain crashed into the side of the train, lightning flashed in the sky above him, and Clarke was struck with the realisation that she’d said rail replacement bus service not season ticket replacement.