Award Season

I read recently (Writing Magazine, November 2019, p.78) that at this year’s Hugo, Jeannette Ng, on accepting the award for Best New Writer delivered a speech criticising the person after whom the award was named – John W. Campbell.

Jeannette said how she was ‘…born Hong Kong. Right now in the most cyberpunk city in the world, protesters struggle with the masked, anonymous Stormtroopers of an autocratic empire…John W Campbell…was a fascist.’

Now we are all entitled to our opinion, and whilst there could be some truth in what she says, should she relate it to her own home city? Should she mention it on being honoured with an award? Of course, if you are accepting an award, you should agree with its principles and the person it is named after. It might be more prudent to refuse it, rather than condemn it.

For me however, the main issue from this is that nine days later the award is renamed to the Astounding Award for Best New Writer (Astounding being the name of the magazine that Campbell edited, and now is called Analog). Why? If there was such an issue with Campbell, why rename now, why not early? I understand there are thresholds for everything, and whichever date to change had been chosen, comments might have been raised, but the timing seems off to me.

My four favourite authors – Heinlein, Asimov, Dick and Clarke – all had their failings. Socialism, conservatism, drug misuse, philandering. Do we have a sliding scale of good and bad? At which point does someone’s foibles become failings, become serious character flaws; become exclusions to be reviled, discussed and condemned.

We are humans – no one is perfect. We all live on that spectrum of virtuousness but where are the markers to say we’ve veered too far? Which failing is decided to be worst? One person’s narcotic addiction may trump another’s infidelities.

Washington had his slaves, Gandhi and his accusations of racism, even criticism of Mother Teresa. Again, no one is perfect (well almost…but I’d defy anyone to find someone with whom someone else couldn’t find fault: the devoted nun, living a life of good deeds and celibacy? How would other religions perceive her? That was often something Campbell was known for – playing devil’s advocate). We’d do well to remember this, honour the good in people, whilst still acknowledging their flaws.

This Year Rodney…

…we’ll be reading Jonnie Rueben

To paraphrase Del-Boy – ‘…(this) year Jonnie you’ll be writing…’

As mentioned in my last post, this year has been something of a set of false starts and missteps. Well I’m determined to put that right! Or should that be write?

Inspired by Writing Magazine’s Competition Guide for 2019, I’ve planned some work for next year, with the writing actually beginning this year.

January has two competitions – an open one and a subscribers’-only one.

The open comp looked the trickiest at first glance but being on the left-hand spread I had to look at that one first!

An hour or so later, and after much hand-scratching I managed to come up with two ideas – which is great, however the really tricky part will be turning them into a 1700-word story.

You see, the wrinkle with this one is that it is dialogue only. No ‘he said’, no ‘she said’, no nothing. I can get away with that can’t I? Of course, but what about introducing the characters, or describing their actions. I think I’ll let it bounce around my head for a while but I’ve got a few thoughts already.

As I said, I’ve got two ideas. I’ll work on the strongest,then if I’ve time we’ll see; I might even complete the second now as well. At least that way I have two completed stories to choose from, heck – I could even enter them both. Or save one for next year and get really ahead.

‘…this time next year Rodney…’

The BBC, Provocative Headlines and Anti-VAR bias

grass sport game match

Photo by Pixabay on

Before I start, a few admissions. I am a football fan, I watch domestic football quite a lot and mainly enjoy it (it’s the idiots – the ‘banter’ – that make it less enjoyable). I do not however watch international football. Why? Well twofold really. Firstly I’m fed up with the disappointment of supporting England; they employ useless managers, field uninspiring players and generally produce lack-lustre performances. The biggest turnoff for me however is the corruption that is/was obviously endemic in the world game. If the awarding of the World Cup to Russia wasn’t bad enough (look up the bidding committee and their actions post-winning) then the announcement of Qatar holding the 2022 tournament was the final nail in the coffin. Nope, I give up. There’s only so much rubbish I can take.

Anyway, back to the topic in hand. Has anyone noticed the obvious bias the BBC (I’m talking especially about the website here) has against VAR. Let’s look at just one example:


This is how the headline appears in the World Cup section of the BBC’s Sport section.
When you follow the headline you are taken to the article itself.

Now bear in mind, for the reasons given above, I’ve not actually watched the game, so what exactly was the controversy? Well let’s read the article…

Paul Pogba’s late goal broke Australian resistance as France started with a win in Group C and history was made with the World Cup’s first VAR goal.

Well there’s nothing there to suggest a controversy. What about the next line…

The video assistant referee penalised Australia’s Josh Risdon for a sliding challenge on Antoine Griezmann, allowing the Atletico Madrid forward to dispatch a penalty, the first World Cup goal influenced by VAR.

No, nothing there either. Then nothing until…

But Pogba’s winner, confirmed by goal-line technology, ensured France opened the tournament with three points.

That’s not exactly controversial is it? The key word being CONFIRMED. There are more references later but again, nothing ‘controversial’. We see…”Technology provided the talking points in an otherwise flat encounter that failed to inspire” and “…VAR was used twice to influence goals”.

But wait, is this the controversy?

Risdon was the first player to be adversely affected with a penalty awarded a minute after the Australia full-back appeared to touch the ball onto Griezmann before the striker went down.

Hardly a damning indictment is it? Or maybe this?

Bert van Marwijk’s side then received a penalty of their own, with Umtiti’s handball confirmed by Uruguayan referee Andres Cunha after it had been checked on VAR.

But that’s more CONFIRMING an infringement had occurred. So maybe it’s this, final, reference to VAR/technology…

To round off proceedings, Pogba’s lobbed winner was given by goal-line technology, with Australian goalkeeper Ryan pleading to play on.

Does the BBC just want to argue against VAR just for the sake of it? Do they want to create their own conroversy? Is it just clickbait?

Why not let me know what YOU think? In the meantime, I’m going to keep an eye out for more examples. Let’s see how many we can find.


False Steps and Restarts

footprints in the sand

Photo by Tom Swinnen on


December 2014. That was the last time I posted on here. In the intervening months, years even, I have been busy. Honest.

I’ve changed jobs, twice. With each change you get different benefits, different hindrances. I’m fortunate now though that I don’t seem to be spending all day at work, or travelling, and no spare time to do what I love. Work to live, rather than live to work, and all that.

I’ve been in my currently role for more than a year now. After the initial breaking in period I sat down and thought – ‘how am I going to make best use of the time I’ve saved?’ I made a plan of what I wanted to achieve. Not necessarily global domination – literary or otherwise – but more a plan about how I wanted to achieve it.

The most important thing you need to do as a writer is write. It might sound stupidly obviously but it is surprising how many ‘writers’ don’t actually do that. Me included.

So that’s what I did, I sat down and I wrote. I had a novel planned out, written most of it (see A Novel – Work In Progress – In Numbers) but the problem with this was two-fold. One it would need finishing and two it would need proofing, editing, polishing; all the things to get it ready for publishing. Now I don’t know about you but when I finish something (and here I mean the very first finished version) I like to leave it a while – come back to it once it’s finished stewing. Now this left me in a quandary; if I was going to leave it for a while anyway, why not leave it alone straight off – work on something else.

And this is where the plan came in. Write. Write stuff. Write some short stories, enough to make sure the writing centre in my brain stayed exercised but also so I could produce something tangible and actually put out (as well as the tasters already on Amazon).

So that’s what I’ve done. Written. ‘Much?’ you ask. Well let’s have a look in my bottom drawer:

7Z¹ – Untitled

A SF story about a research base on a deserted alien planet. One night there is a knock on the door.

This I wrote up long-hand, edited and typed. Ready for a final proof-read and polish.

8A – The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

A contemporary, horror dealing with events in a hospital.

Ready for a final proof-read and polish.

7X – In God We Trust
A light-hearted SF story set on an Earth colony world. An agent of one of the corporations lands on the planet intent on fulfilling his mission of integrating the colony back into the Wider Empire but his actions have unexpected consequences.
Ready for a final proof-read and polish.

7W – Solo
A SF short story. An executive needs a break so he retreats to his weekend bolthole and decides to get some ‘alone’ time.
Ready for a final proof-read and polish.
7S – We Shall Feast
An exchange of ambassadors has taken place and an expeditionary ship is leaving an alien world. On the journey back to Earth an accident happens and before long events have spiralled out of control.
Ready for a final proof-read and polish.

7V – Preview
A normal run-of-the-mill bloke starts experiencing rather disturbing visions. Things that point to something in his life is not quite right. There’s something missing. But also something added.
Ready for a final proof-read and polish.
8B – All The Ship’s A Stage
A light-hearted story of events on a cruise ship taking in the sights of the Solar System.
Hand-written first draft.

8C – Deep Clean
A dark comedy about the events one night in a pizza restaurant undergoing a deep clean.
Hand-written first draft.

So what is the moral from all this? Well best laid plans and all that…

I have all these stories with the express desire to have something written and publish yet they’re all sitting there languishing in the bottom drawer of my desk. But here’s the thing – they’re written, they’re down on paper. When I don’t have that burning idea in my head ready to get out, I can turn to these. Polish them, publish them. The plan was never to write one, publish one; write one, publish one. It was always produce enough for a short story collection and THEN publish. And that’s pretty much where I am now. I’ve got some short stories, probably enough for a collection. The only problem is – they are still in the bottom draw needing an edit. What I need is a plan…





¹This is my way of identifying stories. I’ll make a post about this soon.

American Horror Story: Freak Show – An Issue or Three

             Warning – contains spoilers.

I’ve been watching the latest series of American Horror Story on Fox recently. I was initially drawn to it when I read a description saying it was an anthology series, it sounded pretty cool and there aren’t too many of them around anymore. What Freak Show turned out to be was a season long continuing story; now this needn’t a major issue, in fact the characters and the story drew in and soon I was enjoying it as much as any other show.

However with the demise of Ethel Darling recently, I realised that a few things were beginning to grate on me. Let’s get the lovely Ms Darling out of the way first. Kathy Bates is a wonderful actress and is great in everything she does but…what the hell is the accent she’s trying to do. At first I thought she was trying to do, a very poor, English accent, like you used to hear bad American actors do in equally bad films. I quickly realised she was too good a performer for that and maybe she was trying something different, something my ear had never heard before.

After a bit of searching on Google (other search engines are available) it turns after that the consensus on the accent was Baltimore, in fact later reports quoted Kathy herself saying that is what it indeed was. Opinion was still divided though – those who found the accent utter brilliant and convincing and those who found it annoying and out of place.

Leading on from Ethel Darling, we have her son, Jimmy. Jimmy is a guy of conflicting ideologies. On one hand he thinks nothing of killing a detective, yet on the other he’s all for calling the police for Dell’s misdemeanours, and even wanting to get even with the police officer who he feels was responsible for Meep’s killing in a police cell. If he had such a hatred for the police, why would he always want to go running to them whenever trouble rears its head.

Considering it’s a series about freaks, crazy psychotic clowns and a guy who’s prepared to tattoo his daughter to look like a lizard (as punishment for wanting to bring shame on him by running away to the carnival to live with a freak – yep, doesn’t make much sense to me either), the one thing that’s really been driving me crazy (and this is after I rewound the recording twice to re-watch it) is how the hell Elsa Mars, in a 1952 back-water American town, manages to sing a David Bowie song. And oh does she perform it brilliantly.

Still, good viewing so far, I’m looking forward as it builds to a climax.

Success At Last!


Normally I ignore the Kindle newsletters I receive every month. They’ve never really grabbed my attention with their layout and content, plus I’m of the opinion that I really ought to be concentrating on the act of writing rather than just reading about it; I have enough ways to procrastinate without fresh diversions. So this month when I hovered the cursor over the delete button I don’t know what made me stop; but stop I did. It was probably something in my subconscious, something in my brain operating quicker than the muscles in my hand and making me pause.

Slowly I read the subject line; this time slowly, more carefully:

KDP Royalty Payment Notification

…it said. Payment? I opened the email (obviously after checking it was from a genuine Amazon email account of course). Nothing much was in the body of the email itself apart from a bit of blurb and a few links.

Now I do remember one KDP email a while ago telling how the report pages were being redesigned, but again I’d not really taken much notice, this time for the rather more prosaic reason that I only actually had two ebooks published on there; both rather short collections of even shorter stories that I’d put up to get the hang of self-(e)publishing and thereafter to use as both a cheap introduction for people to try my writing and a sometimes free offer to promote further, lengthier books.

So anyway, the promise of a friendly Sales Dashboard was indeed right. A pretty little graph could be displayed for any time period up to 90 days and consolidating all markets – much better that trawling through all the annoying little drop-down lists of before. It’s been a while since I’ve checked out my ‘sales’, but I looked back to the beginning of the year. A nice little spike at the end of January where on one peak day 40 free books had been downloaded; another, smaller peak (as opposed to the usual monotony of a straight line hugging the x-axis) in March where nine free books have been dispatched.

But wait – there in February, February the 6th to be precise – a single, solitary, beautiful sale. A SALE! so there you go, officially I can call myself an author – I’ve written a book and had it published (albeit electronically), and to top it off, someone has bought it. What other definition of a writer have I not fulfilled? I’m almost in the mood to get some business cards printed.

Looking further down I can see the royalty payment due for this momentous occasion – 26p, so I don’t think I’ll be retiring any time soon to take up full-time writing…but it is a start, and that’s all that counts.

PC Update

 had a bit a spare money recently (which is always nice!) so I thought I’d treat myself to a new computer. The laptop I was using previously must have been getting on for six years old and while it’s been a workhorse over the years, it is beginning to show its age.

So I shopped around a bit, looked at various websites, High Street shops, etc., looking at specifications and prices. Now the problem I always have with things like this, is that I set myself a budget and look for goods around that price. Then I go a little bit above it; after all, £10 is not too much is it? Although, for another £10 above that I can get this, or for £20 extra get that. Wait, hang on –  if I spend an extra £100 I can get a super-duper computer. BUT….if I’m paying that, I might as well….And so it goes on. My initial budget goes from £350 to £400, to £450, to £500.

I finally managed to reign myself in, compromised a little. A budget of £450, but willing to go up to £500 if a better version of the ‘budget’ one was available.

I also had a few other key pieces of information I wanted to use in my new PC choice, I won’t get overly technical, but they related to processor speed, RAM, hard drive size and graphical ability.  Now bearing in mind you’re more than likely to be reading this on a computer, I’m guessing that you all will have been through a similar process yourself. How many find it hard? How difficult can it be for a website to have a few simple check boxes for you to select your ideal computer? Sure, a few do have some rudimentary options, but often they fail, or don’t quite have the options you want. I even toyed with the idea of choosing my own PC from a list of specifications on specialist, ‘Custom Build’ sites, but these turned out to be prohibitively expensive.

I walked round PC world and then Curry’s, looking for inspiration, whilst at the same time strenuously avoiding the attentions of staff asking if I wanted to help. Still no joy.

After a couple of weeks I was starting to get a feel for prices and specifications. I was also starting to get concerned. It seemed that when a shop gave you a good deal on one aspect of the computer (i.e decent RAM), then they’d skimp on processor clock speed. I suppose that is the way of all retail though – give you a headline offer to attract you in, but then cut corners on aspects you might not be able to see.

Ultimately I decided on a new laptop from Medion, it seemed perfect for what I wanted. I still procrastinated for a week though. I was just about to buy it when I had an inspiration. Ebay.

Most retailers now have a presence on ebay, Medion are no different. Cue another week or so of watching, looking for patterns, even placing a few low bids.

I eventually saw one that I realy liked the look of. It matched or bettered my original choice and had a quite low current bid. I checked how much it would normally retail for – £499, and it was well below that, with only a day to go.

With ten minutes to go it was still cheap. I opened another window in my browser, typed in a bid and hovered my cursor over the confirm button. Three seconds to go, I clicked; a flurry of bids were placed. Then…success! I’d won it, and for the pleasing price of £290.

That was the middle of last week. It was shipping from Germany and had an expected delivery date between Monday and Wednesday of this week. My luck seemed to be in however. Saturday arrived and so did a very large box (I really should have visualised what a 17.3 inch laptop would be like).

Up and running in seconds. Of course, a few updates (78 to be precise) to Windows were required, that was to be expected and it wasn’t a big deal as they could keep themselves amused in the background while I did other things.

Now here’s an important aspect. The OS installed was Windows 8; I had my reservations about it, preferring the iterations Microsoft had got me used to over the years. No fancy tile for me, I’d liked to get down and dirty. I was willing to give it a go however.

Once that update was done, there were updates to apps, updates to drivers, updates to everything. Even an update to the version of Windows itself, a major upgrade of Windows 8 to Windows 8.1.

And that’s when my problems started.

In the midst of the flurry of upgrades, my shiny new laptop seemed to have got stuck. It was restarting to finish an upgrade. But then it hit a problem. ‘Oh dear’, Windows helpfully/annoyingly (delete as appropriate) told me, it would need to restart. And then it would just go round in a loop.

And this is where my problems got larger.

On previous incarnations it was quite simple to troubleshoot problems, booting up to safe mode was always a good option. Possible in Windows 8.1, but mind-blowingly difficult due to the speed it boots up (it’s like playing Daley Thompson’s decathlon), not impossible, but fiendishly difficult.

I tried booting Windows from the recovery disk. It loaded up the first time, but it’s efforts to repair Windows failed.

And it is where my problems got even larger.

Now Windows didn’t want to boot up from disc again. Bloody hell! Eventually, after much Googling (other search engines are available), I managed to find a way to get Windows to boot from the device (i.e. my CD/DVD drive) I wanted. I tried to repair again, but now joy.

I thought that if only I could use ‘command prompt’ to start the laptop in safe mode I would be ok. I eventually find on the internet a command to do that, and so after nearly a week of messing around, I got safe mode started. Only problem was, I couldn’t see what the actually conflict was that was causing Windows to loop (the internet general consensus seemed to be a conflict between two programs trying to update the same driver).

Oh, to hell with it. I bit the bullet and reinstalled Windows. And more updating.

So here I am now. A week after my new computer arrived and only just using it really.

I’m happy with the laptop itself, it’s quick and powerful. I’m just having serious reservations about Windows 8/8.1. Time will tell if I’ve been cursed with an albatross of an Operating System

What are your experiences of Windows 8? Love it? Loathe it? Let me know.



A Novel – Work In Progress – In Numbers


1 novel

2 acts

16 chapters

90,000 words


I thought I’d take time to look at how my novel, Little Boy Lost, is progressing. Since starting in January of last year, I can finally say, that I am entering the home straight. It’s been hard sometimes. There’s been days when I couldn’t be bothered to write, or been too tired to sit still and put some words down. Distraction is a terrible curse too, why sit and tap away at a keyboard when you could be watching TV or reading a book.

Lack of confidence is probably the worst evil of all though. Who hasn’t thought what the point of carrying on is, when there’s little chance of publishing your work, or worse – considering that in the Age of Ebooks, anyone can be a Published Author – what you write  actually being any good.

Now though, I’ve just finished the second act and am now embarking on the third and final one, 90,000 words down. I get the feeling that if I’ve come this far, I might as well finish the damned thing off! But how long left? One chapter, two or twenty? Another ten thousand words or double what I’ve already written?

Some people swear by planning, others hold the opposite view. For me personally, I found the need to plan this story (though in retrospect, it could have have done with better work in this area; something I’ll take care to rectify come Novel#2), act by act, chapter by chapter, even down to prologue and epilogue.

So how long’s left? Well, if my plan goes to, er…plan, then there’s another five chapters. That’s great, but how much is that exactly? Each chapter could be twenty words or twenty thousand.

I’ve been quite meticulously in recording what I’ve written and when; a throwback to studying, to having a finite of time and a seemingly infinite amount of learning to cram in. The fifteen chapters completed so far have averaged 5335 words, so if I continue at that rate there’ll be another, roughly, 26,000 words, giving me a total of 116,000 (anyone guess what I used to study?) for the novel.

Without interruptions, distractions or crises of confidence, that should be achievable in one month. So this time in April, let’s be generous and say April 30th, I should have completed Little Boy Lost.

‘All’ that’s left then to do is proofread it, edit it, edit it again, format it for electronic publication, choose a cover……

This time next year then.




Secrets to a Good Writing Habit


I can’t believe just how long it is since I actually posted on here. When I first started this blog I made a promise to myself to write regularly. In fact I was quite clever about it – I’d have certain days of the week for updates and thoughts, other dates for writing excerpts. Brilliant.

Except it seemed to fizzle out pretty quickly. I convinced myself at first that it was because I was better off spending my writing time on my novel – fair enough. At first this could be justified as I was progressing very well with Little Boy Lost. However, that argument seems poor now, as progress on that too appears to be slowing.

So what exactly has changed? Well last year I was working in a job that enabled me to write pretty much whenever I wanted, barring when I was actually out of the house at work of course. I was in a job with pretty unsociable hours – I was at work when everyone else in the family was back at home and when I was at home, they were all at work or school. Now, the beauty of this was that while I didn’t see much of my family, I did get chance to write. Every cloud, etc.

Towards the end of last year though, I changed jobs. I managed to snag what, in the society we now live in, is becoming increasingly rare – the holy grail of a nine-’til-five job. Perfect! So now all was great and into a nice routine; getting up every weekday at the same time; coming home at the same time; eating all together at the same time; plenty of time for writing…

The only downside to all this was now my free time was at the same time as everyone else’s, they’re all at home, doing their thing and wanting me to join in, when I’m wanting to do my thing.

So, I have two, maybe three options to improve my output, to improve my writing habits. First off I could just be plan ignorant and disappear as soon as I get in, and write; or even go through a consulted scheme to fall out with everyone in the house to facilitate peace and quiet. Too extreme maybe.

That just leaves perhaps the hardest option; dedication and resolve. I must make time for writing and I must actually write once I actually have that time. No more putting off writing so I can get round to watching that film I taped last Christmas, or that comedy series I recorded in the summer. I must commit. And hey, I’m off to a good start today aren’t I?

So, my commitments:

  • To write everyday – get that novel finished before end of the year.
  • Update this blog weekly, who knows, I might find things to say more frequently than that.

Why not let me know how you are getting on in your writing? How you find the time, where you fit it in, in your schedule. Oh, and you have my permission to harangue me on here or on Twitter if I don’t keep up my commitments.


Little Boy Lost – Chapter One – Part Three

How’s everyone today? Hope you’re all having a good day. Here the seasons are turning, any residual warmth is quickly leached as the nights start to draw in. So what better way to cheer yourself up than snuggling up under a nice warm blanket and finding something good to read. I aim to please, enjoy!

To be fair to him, Simon was pretty cool about the whole thing. He didn’t mentioned it, and even waiting for me, pretending to examine various notices he must’ve seen a thousand times before, as I struggled every now and then with the shoe. He was giving me a guided tour on the way to meet Tom and Bob. I got the impression he was playing for time, dragging out the sight-seeing as he waiting for something to be finished.

            We came back out of the stockroom and walked slowly along the corridor. He pointed out the Human Resources board yet again,

            ‘Bob’s very ‘up’ on his people. He always makes sure the Employee of the Month is recognised and a photo posted by the Monday of the following week. He’s put me in charge of it,’ a little laugh, then, ‘not of choosing the recipient of course – that would be inappropriate. The salaried managers choose the candidates and then pick a winner. I merely put up the winner’s details and buy then a gift.’

            Ahhh, the glory of being a salaried manager. See, that was the other difference now; no longer scrubbing around on a quid above minimum, now I was on a salary. Yeah, I’d have to work a few more hours, stop later too probably, but the extra money would be worth it. I chuckled slightly to myself; it was funny how in this business we gave pithy, one word names to groups of people depending on their job. Salaried, hourly, grill-monkeys, white-shirts. Turds. Makes me glad I’ve moved up.

            Simon turned to face me, ‘I suppose Neil does something pretty similar,’ he said, slightly tailing off as he peered over my shoulder, through the tiny glass panel set into the door and into the back office.

            ‘Yeah, pretty similar.’ Though he did nothing of the sort really. Neil was the manager of the Doncaster restaurant, the one I’d just moved from. A thing like keeping notice boards up to date was something he only generally did when he knew Tom was coming. He liked to joke that Tom, just like the Queen, must think that the world smelt of fresh paint. To be fair to Tom, he wasn’t really that bad, pretty much a good sort. He was a realist, knew what could be achieved, with what was available. Probably more likely that Neil was just being a miserable so-and-so.

I turned to see what Simon was looking at just in time to see the door open. Nick, his hand on the door handle, was just turning his head back from the two figures sat behind a desk at the back of the office. He looked directly at me and grinned,

‘Alright mate. You’re my replacement are you? Well good luck,’ he reached out with his other hand and shook mine, ‘Watch out for these those,’ he nodded back into the room, ‘Right set of twats.’ And then he was gone.

Simon brushed, rather closely, passed me and into the room, righting the single chair on this side of the desk as he passed,

‘Mr Wilkie sir, Bob; Eden’s here. Shall I, err….?’

‘Ah yes! Damms, come on in son.’ Tom stood and came round to my side of the desk. He shook my hand hard (don’t think I done so much hand shaking since that time I got pee on it) and slapped me on the back harder. Being quite unexpected it knocked the wind out of me just as I was just forming the word ‘Hello’. It had the unfortunate consequence of making it sound like I was trying to cough up a fur-ball. Bob chose this moment to look up from some papers on the desk. A little frown and then he returned his attention, without looking up again he spoke to Simon,

‘Make sure Nick leaves the building please. Oh, and bring in three coffees on your way back.

Simon and I exchanged looks. I silently mimed a finger pointing at my chest and mouthed, ‘Me?

Simon mouthed back, ‘No, me. I think.

            ‘Ah, ok.

            ‘Eden! Bloody well sit down will you, we’ve got a lot to get through. And Simon, go on. Nick, remember.

            ‘Yes Bob, sorry. I’m on it now.’

            I quickly sat down; the door slammed shut behind me and sent a draft of cold air right down my neck. My shiver and involuntary groan coming just at the time when Bob chose to look up once more. He glanced at Tom, a look seeming to say, ‘Yeah, sorry boss, we may just have made a bit of a mistake here.’

            ‘So Damms, how ya doing. Ready for management?’

            ‘Yes sir. Willing, able AND ready.’

            ‘Good stuff son, bit of confidence – I like it. I know you’ll do just fine. Neil prepped you well has he?’

            ‘I think so sir, yes. He’s gone through quite a few of the training manuals with me, done a plan for my development, looked at…’

            ‘Training manuals, pfft. Listen son, it’s not what you know that’s important; it’s putting it into practice that’s the real test. You might know all there is to know about burgers, but can you cook one, cook it good too? And even more importantly, do you choose to do so? Every time? You got ketchup in your veins?’ He fixed me with a stare. I could only maintain eye contact for a few seconds before looking away and muttering a less-confident,

            ‘I think so, yes.’

            ‘Ha ha. Course you have. You wouldn’t have got this far if you hadn’t. Look, it’s heart that counts. And desire. A desire to do what’s right, even if it hurts you or seems like hard-work. I can give you all the knowledge you need; hell my wife can quote you anything from the Processes and Specifications Guide but she can’t make a burger to save her life. Just do what’s right son and you’ll do good. Real good.’

            Simon returned with the coffees, Bob nodded to him to place them on the desk, ‘Thanks. But with all that in mind Eden, there’s still a lot for you to do. We may only be a small outpost of a larger company, but we still need to abide by their rules. Neil has (he emphasised the word to clarify that no matter what Mr Wilkie had said, his way was the expected path) given me a copy of your development plan, I expect you to get on with that straight away.’ He paused while he reached for one of the coffees,

            ‘We’ll get you all the modules you need to complete as you go along; Simon’s squirreled them away somewhere.’ He again paused as he tucked a sip of the coffee through the hole in the lid. I took my cue and reached for a coffee myself.

            ‘I’ll get an exam shipped over from the States too, I want you taking and passing the paper by the back end of November.’

            ‘Will there be any mock exam papers, I’m pretty hopeless at exams, so any chance to get in the zone for the final one would be much appreciated.’ I went to take a drink of my own coffee. Bringing it to my lips I failed to notice that the lid wasn’t tightly on. Before I had chance to even taste it, the lid came off, and out poured the coffee, all down my chest and into my lap. I leapt up and frantically brushed it off. I grabbed at the fabric of my crotch, desperately trying to pull some of the heat away. Mr Wilkie stared at me open-mouthed, while Bob took another sip of his coffee, ‘I’ll see you Wednesday, seven o’clock.’

Today was not a good day to the start of my new career.

Oh, and hey, why not let me know what you thought?