“Do you know where this restaurant is?”, asked Jane.

“Not a clue”, replied husband Frank.

It was not surprising. They had never visited this town before, and only chosen it now because it was a handy stopover on their way back from vacation. And because the hotel lay on the outskirts, they had not even been able to check their bearings when they had first arrived.

“I just saw it in the guidebook, it’s got three stars, so I thought it might be a nice treat for our last night away. We’d better give ourselves some time to find the place.”

“Make sure you bring the sat nav, so we can find it”, Jane responded.

They left their hotel a full thirty minutes before their table reservation. Just in case. Installing themselves in their car, Frank switched on the device and, while it fixed its location, he tapped in the restaurant’s address. As they left the hotel’s car park, opposite they noticed a small parade of shops, now all closed for the evening.

“You have reached your destination”, said a voice. As Frank looked up in surprise, one of the shop-fronts in front of him was transformed into light.

For no reason in particular. This is a true story which happened to us coming back from vacation one year.

The Meeting

I wrote this as a brief continuation of my prompt response yesterday.

As Vicky Mahmood arrived at reception, Simon dashed out of his office to greet her.

“Vicky…”, he enthused, “how are you? How are Omar and the boys?” It sounded like they knew each other already. “This way”, commanded Simon, “I’ve booked the Board Room out. This is Anna.”. Anna stepped forward. She was getting used to Simon doing everything at a hundred miles per hour.

Smalltalk over, it was impressive to see how Simon chaired the meeting. “This is an appeal”, he started, “the first thing we must show is some procedural flaw when they made their decision. We can’t rake up detail again unless they buy that. Vicky?”

“Okay, it is a five-page judgement. Just one para goes into Salman’s background. I think we argue that they didn’t take account of his personal circumstances.”

“Right. Anna, read this judgement, top to bottom. Do that this afternoon, and let’s meet again at close of play and let me know what you think.” Simon was far from knowing all the answers but did seem to be incredibly good at knowing the right questions. Anna even managed to chip in with a few points, which seemed to be appreciated.

At meeting’s end, Simon closed. “Right, Vicky. Thanks for coming over. We’ll start work on this right away and I’ll touch base again tomorrow morning. He asked Anna to wait in the Board Room while he showed Vicky out. Perhaps her comments had not been so well-received after all?

Five minutes later, Simon returned. “Look”, he said, “I couldn’t say anything in front of Vicky, but this guy is just one of four cases I’m juggling now, so I really need your help on this.” Good. She wasn’t in trouble.

“As a partner here”, he continued, “the firm has been extremely impressed with you so far. We want you to take the next step.” It had not occurred to Anna yet that this was going to be a pep talk.

“As your boss”, he went on, “I see you perform out there every day”. He gestured toward the office. “I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t 100% confident that you were up to it. I want you to be my eyes and ears on this. Get to know Salman Mohammed’s back story, get to know the judgement back to front, and let’s meet here again later to discuss next steps. We need to be on the ball here. Odds are it’ll all take weeks, but the Home Office have a track record of moving quickly on these cases, so we need to be ready and waiting.”

“Late night at the office”, thought Anna.

I wrote a background to these characters here:

A New Case

for Fandango’s One Word Challenge(FOWC) of 29 October 2020, pertinent.

“What do you have on at the moment?”, asked Simon, as Anna entered his office. Pausing, he continued, “Actually, it doesn’t matter. I need you on this case. How long will it take you to park everything else?”

“This is good”, thought Anna. The company were starting to trust her. Rather than just being the trainee, she was starting to bring something to the party. “I can mothball it all in a few hours, if needs be”. “Okay, pencil a meeting in from 1 to 2 o’clock so I can brief you properly, but I’ll just give you a quick heads-up now.” “1 to 2?”, thought Anna. That would be a quick lunch! But still, as the new girl, she would have to look keen. “Did you see the news last night?”, continued Simon. “Did you hear about a guy called Salman Mohammed?” The name rang a bell. Where had she heard that name before? Leaving her no time, Simon answered his own question. “Refugee. Syria. Mr Mohammed has just had his asylum application rejected. I’ve just had a call from the woman who represented him, Vicky Masood. She wants to launch an immediate appeal and wants our help. She’s sending the case file over shortly, but I should be able to get her here in person by 1. I’ll forward the file as soon as it arrives, but if you’ve time, think of any questions you’d like to ask her.”

Anna now recalled the name clearly. They had featured this chap’s case on the news for a few minutes last night. “Okay. Yeah, I heard of him. They even had a quick sound-byte from the Home Secretary on last night. Standard sabre-rattling. Keep these islands safe, and all that.”

“Right. Your job is going to be to investigate Mr Mohammed’s background. My gut feel is that this case will turn on the fact that it’s not safe for him to go home. It’s gonna be down to you to find a persuasive argument that’s pertinent to Mr Mohammed. I’ll get Vicky here for 1. Be ready.”

As Anna left the office, Simon was already checking his emails.

I wrote a background to these characters here:

Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge

for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #89, which asks us to conjure up a story based upon the following image:

It was coming up to Melissa’s fortieth anniversary. Her doting husband, the efficient Mark, had it all planned. Given Melissa’s recent all-clear following cancer surgery, it seemed appropriate to combine this celebration with her milestone event, and arrange a surprise party, with friends she had not seen for years. One former bridesmaid was even jetting in from her new home in Spain.

Confident that everything was under control, Mark’s one last task was to leave work early the day before the party, and collect the specially-made, extravagant, chocolate cake from the confectioners close to his office. Mark was elated – the cake stood three feet high, topped with an exquisite sculpture of Eros, where Mark and Melissa had first met. The cake safely collected, this was it. Remembering that they had once thought they would not see this day, Mark now thought that nothing was left to go wrong, and that this would be a party to remember, as he walked out of the shop and turned toward the Tube. The enormous cake obscuring his view, Mark did not see the uneven slab on the pavement and, catching it with his foot, the cake was sent flying as he lost his balance. What seemed like a lifetime later, Mark landed on the pavement, squarely on top of the now-ruined cake.

Seeing the incident right outside her café, the barista rushed outside to see if she could help. Many of her customers, who had seen the incident, just sniggered.

Desperately sad today, I’m sorry.


“Come on, you could do with some exercise! You’re not getting any younger.”

“Exercise? I’ll have you know that, as a schoolboy, I used to take my sport very seriously. I once played at Highbury**, you know.”

“That was thirty years ago, Paul. Look, all I’m saying is… try a session at the gym with me. Just the once, see how you get on.”

“Twenty-five”, snapped Paul.

It took a while, but Paul eventually came around. For the visit, he tried to look as sporty as he could – some jogging pants and trainers, that he had previously only worn indoors.

“Okay, how do you want to do this? Here are the weights, the treadmills are over along that wall… Shall we just split – I can do my workout and you can explore?”

Paul agreed. “Right, then”, said Anna, “I’ll start on the treadmill and I’ll come back and find you in a short while.”

Paul found the exercise bikes, perched himself on one, and started pedalling. He looked up at the clock – twenty past.

He pedalled strenuously, but just could not get comfy in the saddle. “Just a few more minutes”, he told himself. Somebody walked past carrying a cup of water. “Hmmm… that looks good”, he thought. “I’ll just do this for a few more minutes…”. He counted to 100 – that was close enough – then abandoned the bike and found the drinks fountain.

He looked around the gym. With mirrors on every wall, it was hard to tell real from reflection. Refreshed, he spotted a rowing machine. “Why not?”, he thought, as he headed over. He tried the machine out – “pah, this was easy, a simple flywheel” – as he started to row. Gaining confidence, Paul decided that this was too straightforward, and looked around for other challenges that the gym had to offer.

He was so busy looking at the different machines, he did not think to look at the clock, which would have said twenty-five-to. All these contraptions were strength-building somehow, but god knows how…

Having seen one of the machines in use, he decided to try that first. Simple. Just pushing weights up with his leg. Ah, okay, must be to strengthen his thigh. He pushed. “Bloody hell, that was tough” – it had been set by the previous user. He reduced the weight and pushed more comfortably. Oh, yes, he could do this, no worries.

Appetite whetted, Paul sought another machine. Looks like that was for arms – so he worked on his biceps. On a roll, Paul then found machines for his triceps, quads, and abs. Then, he had the idea to see how Anna was doing. When he spotted her, she was still on that same treadmill she’d started on. As he wandered towards her, he could see that she was pushing herself. “Jeez, doesn’t she feel dizzy?”, he muttered.

Anna saw him in the mirror and stopped. She removed her ear buds and breathlessly said, “Hi, hun. I’m just gonna do another twenty minutes on here, then some weights, then I’ll be with you. I’ll just do a quick one, today.”

Involuntarily, Paul looked up at the clock. It was a quarter-to. Twenty minutes? Weights? Quick?

“Fucking hell, I’m bored”, thought Paul.

* – One of the tenets of Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity is that time moves at different speeds for different observers.

** – Highbury used to be the 50,000-capacity stadium of the UK soccer team, Arsenal.

I wrote backgrounds to these characters in the following series of posts: