It’s been a few weeks since I wrote about these guys, but I had a little time this afternoon.

“What you going to do?”

“Well, what can I do? The school want to see Beth and I, they’ve suggested next Tuesday”, retorted Paul, as he carefully rolled a joint.

“It’s a bit ironic, don’t you think?”

“Ironic? Why?”

“Well, Jake getting suspended for taking drugs while you’re lying here… taking drugs.”

“Ah… the beauty of being a grown-up. You want some?” Paul lit the joint and took a long drag.

“No thanks”, replied Anna, “that stuff will kill you.”

“Don’t be daft. A bit of puff on a Sunday morning won’t do any harm. But suit yourself.”

Anna knew that there was no point getting into this. It seemed that everybody of Paul’s age lit up now and again, but she’d keep her body clean.

Next Tuesday, the hearing. Paul travelled out from London to meet up with his son, Jake, and ex-wife Beth. The three sat outside the headmaster’s office, Paul and Beth feeling almost like naughty children themselves.

“Ah, Mr and Mrs Simpson, please come through”. An officious man came out to meet them. Beth no longer used Paul’s surname, but that didn’t seem important just now.

They were ushered into the headmaster’s tidy office, although Paul shut out most of what came next. Yeah, yeah, yada, yada. The school seemed to appreciate that there was only a limited amount that parents could do but were concerned about anybody of Jake’s age being seen to be smoking anything while they were dressed in school uniform.

“That could have been a lot worse”, Beth whispered to Paul as they left the office.

“Let’s just get the fuck out of here. Do you fancy grabbing a coffee? Come on Jake”, he commanded. Jake had remained seated outside the office during their meeting, but they now whisked him up as they left. “You’re suspended the rest of the week but are back next Monday”. Paul suspected that the school dealt with something like this every week, so if they did anything more, there’d soon be nobody left to teach!

A half-hour later, they all sat in Starbucks together. Jake was relieved that he hadn’t been in more trouble. “No trouble? You little sod! Your mum and I both had to take the afternoon off work because of this! You know we’d talked about going for a curry at the weekend with Anna? Forget it. And the Liverpool game. You might think you got off lightly with the school, but let’s hope *these* punishments will teach you a lesson.

They sipped the rest of their coffees in silence, and ten minutes later, Paul announced “Look, I’m gonna head off. I need to get back to London.” The station was only five minutes away. Preparing to leave, he agreed with Beth a time on Saturday morning when he would come back over to pick Jake up again. As a parting shot, he said ruefully to Jake:

“There’s a lesson in this, buddy. Let’s hope you learn it.”

“Don’t take drugs?”, suggested Jake.

“Don’t get caught.”, replied Paul.

I wrote some backgrounds to these characters below:

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:


“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:


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.