Half the Battle

I was standing in the queue of the staff canteen, waiting to order my lunch, when the man in front turned around and nudged me with his elbow.

'Have you been invited onto that new course?'

'What new course?'

He looked at me. He looked a little disappointed.

'You obviously haven't been invited.'

We shuffled along in the queue.

'What is the course called? I asked, trying to be polite.

'Handling difficult conversations,' he replied.

'It doesn't sound that exciting.'

'I don't think it's meant to be exciting.'

'Well in that case, I'm glad I haven't been invited.'

He turned around quickly, and snapped in my face, oddly overweight eyes bulging.

'You're a bloody idiot if you think everything in life is exciting!'

I could feel his spit hitting the end of my nose. I wiped it off with the cuff of my jumper, watched him pay for his food and move off to the far side of the dining room.

I ate my lunch alone. I could see that man I had been talking to. He was now talking to my office manager. She kept looking over at me. She had a concerned look on her face that made me think of the new box of pens and paper clips next to my computer. I looked organised, if nothing else.

I got to thinking of last night and the conversation that I had with my mother.

'I'm so happy for you John, at last you have found a job that you like.'

'Yes, and people seem to like me,’ I replied.

'Well, that's half the battle isn't it John, fitting in.'

And she was right, that was only half the battle.

After finishing my meal, I pushed the plate away and wiped my mouth with a napkin. I looked around the canteen. It was very busy. On every table, small groups of people laughed and chatted away. I noticed one man in particular. He seemed rather joyful, a sausage on a fork that he held aloft, halfway between his plate and mouth as he recounted some hilarious story to his fellow diners. There were blobs of gravy on his shirt but he didn't seem to be bothered about it.

I turned and looked out of the window. To any onlooker, I probably looked calm and reflective, but inside I was panicking, thinking that I had just glimpsed the beginning of the end and that I shouldn't get too comfortable. That is what happened in the last job and look how that turned out.

Steve Scott

In the unlikely event of a fire

The magpies may wing from the roof
to the house across the street
and the resident cat will up and fly

out of the window
and the glass overhead will shatter
and spill pieces of itself between

the yellow leaves of books,
and old photographs will burn
black-and-white,

and we will walk across
the floor and commit
ourselves to the flames.

Imogen Cassels


No Connection

For Daniel Morgan, murdered in 1987, and his brother Alistair’s tenacious campaigning. Daniel Morgan’s case has been mired in secrecy and corruption ever since, and Jonathan Rees has been acquitted of his murder. Daniel was murdered in the car park of a pub called The Golden Lion.

Cameron hired Coulson
Coulson hired Rees
Coulson hired Brooks
Brooks dined with Cameron
No connection

Rees dropped coppers
cash in car-parks
Brooks’ laptop and mobile
found dropped in a bin
No connection

Morgan worked with Rees
Told him he’d evidence
the South East Crime Squad
lived down to their name
asked questions
and made connections

So Morgan was asked by Rees
for a quiet pint, to the Lion’s den
Found in the car-park
an axe to his head
No connection

Morgan's brother opened a line on Rees
and his Catford cop-shop cronies,
so The Met reached for a choke hold:
five secret inquiries
and no connection

It's all done with smoke and mirrors
Internal inquiries and legal challenges
unmarked cars and unmarked notes
The envelopes and wheelie-bins
stuffed full of lies
and no connection

Piles of power and cash,
perpetually stacking till they tip
and are swept under carpets
and no connection

And chilled champagne and a nod
at Chipping Norton luncheons
is tepid bitter and a blade
at a North London pub

And no connection

James Oliver