Friday, 25 May 2012

The Office Bicycle

Valerie stood in the staff room doorway and listened. Suzi Kelly, in her usual very short skirt, was holding court in there. Gathered around her were about six other women, mostly they were temps but Valerie saw Mags Dayton sitting there too.

“The girls and I went out Friday for a club crawl but we only managed to get to two clubs before I pulled, and in Paradise of all places. Its students’ night on a Friday and we went in for a laugh; but some of those student boys are fit and they all wear tight tops. I’m stood there at the bar and this lad comes right up to me. He was only nineteen but fit. He starts to chat me up, comes right out with it. I ended up taking him home. It was wonderful. His technique was all Bang-Bang but he lasted all night. He didn’t finish after twenty minutes and go to sleep.”

“Twenty minutes, that long?” One of the temps said.

“Will you being seeing him again?” Mags Dayton, pulling at her cardigan

“No way, I’m not being Mrs. Robinson to some horny kid. They never have any money and I’m not spending all my hard earned cash on him.”

“Too right,” Janice Gorse said, her arms firmly folded under her ample bosom.

“Come on, most of you have already had your full break and the floor is looking really empty,” Valerie announced. When she saw the office floor was looking empty she knew where to them.

“Can’t you give us five minutes more?” Suzi Kelly asked, smiling at Valerie.

“No,” Valerie bluntly replied.


Valerie had never found fault in Suzi’s work. At her interview, Suzi had been very plainly dressed, no make-up on her face. It was only after several weeks passed that the change in her began. Her skirts became shorter, her tops and blouses developed plunging necklines, and her face was graced with layers carefully applied make-up.

Her manner also changed. She completed all her work, but she started telling her stories. They were always the same, her latest sexual adventurer, and there were plenty of them. Each week she had a new story. Though not interested in having a boyfriend or a husband, Suzi Kelly seemed interested in men and gleefully told her stories.

Soon she had gained a reputation as the office slut. She never slept with anyone she worked with, but Suzi spread herself around outside of work. Valerie had tried to defend her, but soon gave up in the face of all the gossip.

Valerie soon grew tired of Suzi Kelly’s stories of her sex life. She seemed to revel in her reputation she had acquired, feeding it with her stories. Valerie would be the last person to claim she was a virgin when she got married; John (her husband) certainly wasn’t her first lover. She knew her daughter Katie was sleeping with her boyfriend. To behave like Suzi Kelly did when a teenager was one thing but in your mid-thirties (As Suzi Kelly) was embarrassing and disparate. The worst part was the way Suzi Kelly flaunted her behaviour around the office. It only feed into the low opinion so many people have of her, even if they did line-up to listen to her stories.


The next day was busy. As the Office Manager, Valerie was rushed off her feet, as two of the temps hadn’t turned up, and didn’t have a moment to herself.

By mid-morning she was desperate for a break, Valerie slipped into the Ladies. As she entered she found Suzi Kelly in front of one of the mirrors, re-applying her lipstick.

“Sorry Valerie,” Suzi Kelly blushed. “I was only taking two minutes to freshen up. It’s so bloody busy today.”

“Don’t worry, I’m doing the same thing,” Valerie replied.


Suzi towards the door, as she did her arm caught her bag and knocked it onto the floor. With a crash, the bag spilled its contents. Muttering under her breath, Suzi bent down and began stuffing her things back into her bag.

Valerie bent down next to her and started to help pick up her things.

“Thanks,” Suzi said. “Don’t know what’s wrong with me today, I’m knocking over everything.”

Valerie picked up a packet of sanitary pads. Hurriedly Suzi took them off her and pushed them into her bag.

“What a day to come onto The Rag,” Suzi said with an embarrassed smile.

“You use panty liners and not tampons?” Valerie asked.

“I never use them, they hurt so much.”

“My daughter had that problem too, until she met her boyfriend. That’s how I knew she had started having sex with him, when she changed over to tampons…” Valerie stopped as the thought struck her. “Tampons hurt you because you’re still a virgin, that’s why they hurt Katie, my daughter.”

“I don’t want anyone to know,” Suzi snapped.

“There’s no shame in that.”

“Yes there is! I’m a thirty-five year old virgin, I can’t find myself a man. I’m a dumb failure.”

“No you’re not. Having a man isn’t everything,” Valerie replied, trying to hide the shock she felt.

“Says a married woman,” again Suzi snapped.

“But why pretend to be something you’re not? You’re not this big slut everyone thinks you are.”

“Because people think a lot better of you if you’re a right slut then if you’re an unwanted, uptight virgin,” Suzi said.

“That’s not true.”

“Yes it is, I’ve been there,” Suzi replied, as she hurried out of the toilet.

Drew Payne
November 2005.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

And Her Lips Never Moved

Last night we saw Nina Conti, at Menier’s Chocolate Factory, in her new show, Dolly Mixture. She’s a ventriloquist (She's also Tom Conti's daughter) but her show was much more adult entertainment than children’s party.

Her show consisted of six different puppets, all of them very different. There was the tactless monkey, Monk, who has made Nina Conti’s names, plus five new characters; her eight year old daughter, her reformed rescue dog, a randy polish builder, her Irish Aunt who has reached the age where she no longer gives a f*ck and one of her old professors who has lived so long that he doesn’t want to have to carry on living any longer. The humor here was very adult, plenty of jokes about sex and even death, and not once did she drink a glass of water while the puppet chatted on.

This was certainly a “work in process” show, some of the characters/puppets didn’t work as well as others and some of the humor didn’t as flow as smoothly in some places, but still it was far better than a lot of comedy I’ve been exposed to; it made me laugh. Nina Conti certainly has an eye and an ear for characters, but unusual characters. Her puppets aren’t the standard stereotypes beloved of traditional ventriloquists, they were far too off-the-wall.

As a child I’d never warmed to ventriloquists, they were always very clever but the puppets never seemed to come alive with their characters. This was the nineteen-seventies and we still had the tradition of Music Hall and Working Men’s clubs. Ventriloquists fell into the traditional double-act, a straight-man who feed the feed-lines to the comic, the ventriloquist being the straight-guy and the doll was the comic. Their routines were that of line joke, line joke, line joke; their routines weren’t the character driven stories that was the main stay of Nina Conti’s show.

To Nina Conti her puppets were more than just props on her knee, she interacted with them. She made eye contact with them, reacted to them, she even laughed at their comments, but she was far more than the straight-man feeding lines for the jokes. At times it felt as if she didn’t know what the puppet was going to say, even though she’d obviously worked closely on her show. She has taken character driven comedy and applied it to the ventriloquist act, giving us something fresh and interesting.

I have always enjoyed character driven comedy over stand-up joke telling, the jokes coming out of a character’s reaction to a situation, rather than the smart put-downs of a comic. Nina Conti certainly performs the comedy I enjoy and she has breathed life into the stale old ventriloquist’s act.

Watch some videos of Nina Conti’s act here, on YouTube.


Friday, 11 May 2012

Love & Need

(A Flash Fiction Story)

His mobile phone, still on silent, vibrated twice in his hand, it was an incoming text. John slipped it under the table and opened the text from Nathan.

“Didn’t get the job :(.” The text read.
John felt a moment of deflation. Nathan had been so right for that job, but this now meant that he was back to agency jobs, with all the stress and uncertainty that meant. He’s been so hoping Nathan would get the job, it would boost his confidence, but it wasn’t to be. He sighed to himself.

He looked up and saw Kelly Boyd staring at him, across the meeting room table. She’d seen him checking his phone.

“Him?” She mouthed at John. When he nodded his reply she rolled her eyes in exasperation. She didn’t approve of Nathan and was repeatedly telling him to leave Nathan, with all her good intentions. John just shrugged his shoulders. He then returned his attention to Myrtle Penny’s presentation, though the woman’s voice could send anyone to sleep. This would all be over soon and he could call Nathan back.

Kelly wasn’t alone in her opinion of Nathan, so many of his friends had poured scorn on his relationship with Nathan, many of them telling him to leave him; but John ignored them. Their arguments ran the same, Nathan was damaged goods and unrealistically needy, therefore this wasn’t a healthy relationship. John would just shake his head, whenever he heard this, and change the subject. It wasn’t just they didn’t know Nathan the way he did, they just didn’t know.

Nathan was needy, often in almost constant need of reassurance and affection, but that was just part of Nathan’s personality. As a child, Nathan had been sexually abused by one of his uncles, but neither of his parents believed him, his mother calling him a liar. This had left a deep and jagged scar in Nathan’s personality.

When they had first met, Nathan had only recently been discharged from hospital , following a breakdown with depression; but all John had known was that Nathan didn’t drink alcohol. John thought it was just a healthy lifestyle, not that alcohol interacted with the anti-depressants Nathan was taking..

He had found out the truth when Nathan didn’t turn up of a date, three months into their relationship, and didn’t return any of his phone calls. At first John thought he’d been dumped, but the more he thought about it the more uncomfortable he felt. Nathan was always early for their dates and when he stayed the night to John’s flat he’d been very reluctant to leave the next day. Three days after Nathan’s non-appearance, John went around to the flat-share where Nathan lived. To his horror, he found Nathan in bed and almost unresponsive with depression. John had managed to get Nathan to hospital and from there he was admitted onto a Psychiatric Ward.

John knew he couldn’t dump Nathan while he was in hospital so instead he became Nathan’s only visitor. Over the two months that Nathan was in hospital John found out about his past and the real reason he didn’t drink; but he also got to know him. Even with all Nathan’s insecurities and troubles, John had felt wave upon wave of love from him. He was always glad to see John and always wanted to know what he had been doing. Though they didn’t have sex once during Nathan’s time in hospital John found himself drawn so close to Nathan.

When Nathan was discharged from hospital John had insisted that he move into his home. He wanted Nathan close to him but he also wanted to be able to look after Nathan.

That was two years ago and Nathan was still living with John. It wasn’t always easy, Nathan’s mood could drop into a deep depression with no notice, but even when Nathan was well he was so insecure. He had no confidence in himself and always expected the worse, he’d cook John a meal and worry that the food wasn’t good enough, even after John had eaten all of it. He seemed unable to hold down any job for long, he’d be sacked or become almost paralysed with self-doubt and not be able to go into work. Even though John reassured him that they could easily live on what he earned, Nathan insisted that he earned money too, though job hunting always knocked him down.

Many people just looked at Nathan and wrote him off as “needy”, warning John off him, but John ignored them. In the last two years he’d never been happier. Nathan didn’t just love him but Nathan needed John in his life. John had never felt so secure in a relationship before. There was no question of Nathan leaving him for someone else, or growing tired of him, or saying they weren’t “emotionally compatible”. Nathan needed John in his life and John loved that. All Nathan’s demands on John were just signs that Nathan needed him.

He loved Nathan and all Nathan’s needs, he loved being needed. Though no one seemed to understand that, they were always talking about being equals in relationships. John had tried that before but had always ended up the one being left. John was far happier with Nathan, because Nathan wouldn’t leave him.

As they finally left the meeting room, John had rushed out into the corridor and pulled his phone out. Nathan answered on the second ring.

“Hi babe,” John said into his phone.

“They said I didn’t have the right experience. Why did they interview me if I didn’t have the right experience? It was an excuse, they didn’t like me,” Nathan babbled.

“Don’t worry, they’re arseholes,” John told him.

Kelly walked past him and rolled her eyes, when she saw he was on his phone, but John just ignored her.

Drew Payne
May 2011.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Safety Information

(A Flash Fiction Story)

It was my thing, whenever I flew, I’d always try to sit in a seat on the exit row, next to the cabin door. It wasn’t that hard to do, I just made sure I always got to the airport in plenty of time and then it was easy to get the seat I wanted. It was easy to sweet-talk the check-in staff. I flew a lot with my job and this was my thing when I did. 

Sitting there was great for getting off when the plane lands, I can just get straight off and I don’t have to stand in the aisle like an idiot as everyone pushes at once, but it’s more than that. You see I wanted that seat in case something happened to the plane. If it did then I’ll have my chance, I’ll jump up and open that door and be able to get people out of there. I’ll get my chance to be a hero. 

I studied what to do. I knew how to open the door, how to turn the handle and unlock it. I knew that the inflatable chute opens automatically when the door does. I knew how to get people through the door in an emergency; if someone stops you push them forward. I’d be the perfect hero if anything happened to the plane. 

It was exciting, when I flew, that idea that I could be a hero. I mean my life is so pathetic. My job is no more than a glorified courier, I take different prototypes and packages and even people around Europe. I’m on my own since Kerry walked out on me. So I have this fantasy, it’s harmless and could have saved people. 

Then I had to get a flight to Edinburgh. It was a Friday and the weather was turning bad. I taking this designer, Lawrence Young-Hall, up there and he was a dick. I’d wanted to leave early but he dick’d around with all his paperwork and samples and we were an hour late leaving the head office. I wanted to take the train, it’s easier and quicker, if you’re going to Heathrow from Central London. This Lawrence Young-Hall said we had to drive because he’d got a driver, some poor Polish slob who he shouted at all the time. Even if we’d left on time driving up there we’d have barely made it, but we were late. Then it starts to rain when we get on the motorway. It’s bad enough in good weather but in rain it was gridlock. 

Young-Hall was shouting at his driver, the weather was turning into a real storm and we’re stuck on this bloody motorway. I just sat back in the car, I knew we were going to miss the plane and if we did this Young-Hall would give me the blame. I was also thinking that I was going to be stuck getting this dick to Edinburgh. 

When we got to Heathrow the wind was so bad it nearly blew me off my feet, the rain soaked right through my jacket in seconds. I finally got Young-Hall to the checking-in desk, ages after it had closed. He has this screaming fit, until the woman there threaten to call security. It was left to me to arrange seats on the next flight and to calm everyone down that Young-Hall had shouted at, because he’d gone off to the bar. 

We never made the next flight. Not long after we’d arrived, the storm turned into a hurricane and all the planes were grounded. Young-Hall took himself off to one of Heathrow’s hotels and I was supposed to wait for when the planes started flying again, then I was to get him. 

I was sitting in the Departures Lounge when I saw it on the TV news. The plane we were supposed to be on had crashed in the bad weather, not long after takeoff. As I sat there, that night, I watched the news. I wanted to know everything that had happened. But all I could find out was that it had crashed in a field and about half the passengers had managed to escape before it caught fire. 

The next day Young-Hall didn’t want to fly anymore, so he got his driver to take him home. I got the train.  

When I got home it was all over the news. They called him “The Hero of Flight 274”. He was called James Mills and had been sat in a seat on the exit row. He’d got the plane’s door open and had got many people out before the fire started. Even when the plane was on fire he’d stayed and got more people out. He died in the fire. He was a hero. 

He’d been sat in the seat I should have been and he’d had the chance to be a hero that should have been mine. That was my one chance and I’d lost it because of that Young-Hall dick. My stupid life was over, I was always going to be this no-one forever. 

I didn’t go back to work because I couldn’t fly in a plane again. Everyone at work thought I was afraid of flying because that plane had crashed. I couldn’t tell them the truth, I’d lost my chance to be a hero, instead I let them think I was afraid of flying, it was easier that way.  

My sister said that I had “a lucky escape”, but she knows nothing. 

Drew Payne
December 2009.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Something Important

“I hope my Equal Marriage film wakes us all up to support changing the law.” Mike Buonaiuto, director of the above film.

All my life I’ve just wanted equality. Not special treatment, not favoritism, not any “gay agenda”; I’ve just wanted the same rights as everyone else.

When I was in my twenties I dreamed of equality, it seemed so far away. The government, of the day, called same-sex relationships “pretend family relationships”, the Prime Minister said no one had a “right” to be gay and they passed a law making it illegal to “promote” homosexuality. All this cheered on, with disguising levels of homophobia, by the newspapers, the church and the establishment.
Today things have changed, but not everything is equal, by any means.

The government has introduced plans for Equal Civil Marriage. We have Civil Partnerships but they didn’t give all the protections that Civil Marriage does. This isn’t about special “Gay Marriage” or about “watering down marriage”, and certainly isn’t an attack on any religion; it’s about equality pour and simple. But already the bigots and homophobes are circling and making these claims, and worse, and they are making their voices heard, even though they only speak for a minority.

Please help and make your voice heard.

There’s an Official Home Office survey on the introduction of equal civil marriage, which can be filled out online here. I’ve done so, because I know the bigots are already filling it in.

There’s also the Coalition for Equal Marriage, and their website can be found here. They have a petition you can sign and lots more resources.

The bigots are already out there with their lies and doctored statists, please don’t let them win.