written for Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC) of 6 October 2020, study.

To get this far into her career, Anna was no stranger to study.

She studied until the age of eighteen, before she even left her home in Lewes. She was usually top-of-the-class, until a math-genius called Katerina had joined the school. Anna still topped out in the literary subjects, however, and was sitting on a university offer from Newnham College, Cambridge, until she unexpectedly took her foot off the gas in her final year.

Her grades, however, were enough to enrol into a law degree at King’s College, London, where she spent the next four years. Mindful that her inattentiveness had cost her before, she was determined that it would not do so again and ended a two-year relationship just six months before her final exams. It might have been that the move paid off, as Anna graduated with a First.

However, a law degree is only the first hurdle toward becoming a lawyer, a general grounding in the subject. The first step after the degree would be obtaining a job, as a trainee, with a law firm. Anna’s father had certainly helped here – he was friends with the senior partner at Maynard-Fleischmann and managed to put Anna onto their radar. The rest, Anna did herself.

Maynard-Fleischmann were a small, London-based law firm, with an impeccable reputation in the field of human rights. Always on the lookout for new talent, they decided that this bright girl, who already had an interest in the human rights field, might be ideal.

There was one condition, however. With no hands-on experience in the field, they wanted Anna to spend a year on the ground, in the real world. While performing the apprenticeship, she would be paid 3/4 of her regular salary, and at the end of the year, they could both decide whether Anna was matched to the work.

Even after that initial year, Anna would not be a qualified lawyer. From that point on, she would be working at Maynard-Fleischman, but it would be an average of three more years, plus passing more exams, before she was qualified in her own right. It might be shorter – exceptional people managed it in two years – or longer, depending on the candidate – some people had still not passed, ten years later, and while there was no time limit, this was usually a sign.

I wrote a background to these characters below.

Unfounded Optimism

On a world-beating island we bloom,
Over highest of mountains we zoom,
The rest of the race
Must accept second place,
As you observe our prosperity boom!

When I logged on this morning, I saw a news feed from the BBC.

It appears that Boris Johnson has been using that phrase “world-beating” again. This time, it was in the context of offshore wind farms. “How can a wind farm be world-beating?”, I hear you ask. Well, I don’t know. The headline was enough to make me jog on.

It’s not the first time Johnson has used the phrase “world-beating”. Early into COVID, the UK was working furiously to build a track & trace app. In May, Johnson announced that we would have a world-beating app, by the start of June. The app that was finally delivered was not only late, but fell flat on its face as soon as it got near real users. England finally released an app in September, thanks to US tech giants Apple and Google.

My point is that Johnson is full of these grandiose gestures. Very Churchillian – we are the country that stood alone against the Luftwaffe, we will fight them on the beaches… In real life, it is meaningless. He makes these promises, the media lap it up, and out of the other side comes a pile of dog-doo. I wonder, does anybody actually care about this?

Johnson clearly doesn’t. He keeps repeating those words, “world beating”. Maybe, in his mind, that’s how he sees it? Ot just maybe, he has worked out that the words are a good jingo, and that there is zero backlash when the delivery falls flat?

Come on, Britain. He said it once, and we saw what happened. He says it again, and what changed? Boris has form here.