simonjrobinson

A place for flash fiction and longer words. Let me know what you think about it.

How we gave cyclingsolicitors.com a new purpose

When Cyclingsolicitors.com asked us to help them, we knew what they needed. It was a purpose. They were two good guys working in
Personal injury law. But there weren’t many other good guys in the same business. It would have been easy to say ‘just tell them you’re good guys’. But that wouldn’t have worked.

Instead we worked out what they were for. They both loved cycling, they were both disgusted by the way cyclists are treated by drivers and the people who look after the roads. And they are both solicitors.

So it was easy to say they should stand up for cyclists. And take action to punish bad drivers and fill in potholes in London.

If you’d like to report one, you can do it at http://www.cyclingsolicitors.com

Survey, schmurvey

I was pleased recently when I received an email telling me that my profile was one of the 5 per cent most viewed on Linked In. Then I got to thinking…

What I thought was, this is one of those meaningless statistics (like the fact that we are all among the richest one per cent of people ever to have lived). If the bottom of the pyramid is so incredibly broad, then it’s still going to be pretty much incredibly broad near the top. Linked In claims 400 million users at the moment, so just going on a percentage of that, there are 20 million other people who are just as checked out as I am. And you can bet your life I’m not any higher than top 5 per cent, because if I was, Linked In would have told me.

In fact, on the same day I got my email, a friend swanked at me that he was in the top 10 per cent. How I laughed.

But seriously, what it really means is: most of Linked In is junk. I have had maybe 400 searches in the last 8 months. From their point of view, that’s not a big enough number. If they want to monetize this baby, they’re going to need many, many more active users. Because if I was an advertiser, I sure as heck wouldn’t be spending my bucks on a network where 400 views puts you in the top 5 per cent. Most of the people at the bottom must be getting no action at all – and even those in the middle are basically comatose. So come on Linked In, stop chasing the numbers and start chasing the action.

S.P.O.T.


 1. S.

 

‘Stéphane Roche on the edge of the box. Roche turns. He hits it with his left foot. It’s there. Surely Barcelona have done it now. Their first European Cup, thanks to the little Swiss maestro. That’s his second goal tonight.’

 

It is the summer of 1974. Johann Cruyff’s Netherlands have just set the world on fire at the World Cup Finals in West Germany. Suddenly, total football is the phrase on everybody’s lips. Even in Flexbury Gardens. In the back garden of number 18, Flexbury Gardens to be precise.

 

Outside the dining room window, there’s a low wall that divides the patio from the lawn. At this precise moment, that low wall is the most important goal in the world. The goal Ajax (with a hard J) are defending in the European Cup Final. The goal I’ve just scored in.

 

Only I haven’t really scored. Stéphane Roche has.

 

He’s a midfield general. The greatest player Switzerland has ever produced. The lynchpin of the Barcelona attack. If he’d been born real, no one would ever have heard of Johann Cruyff.

 

2. P.

 

‘Roche has gone down off the ball. It doesn’t look good. He’s clutching his midriff. He’s gesturing to the bench.’

 

Obviously, Stéphane Roche doesn’t exist. He’s a product of my imagination. That’s why he’s Swiss; the most glamorous nationality of all, for the most glamorous footballer ever. (My imagination was only nine years old at the time.)

 

Stéphane turns out most evenings till bath-time and every lunchtime. Always the same game: Barcelona vs Ajax (still with a hard J). Occasionally his routine is disturbed by a game of badminton on the lawn with my dad. But somehow the shuttlecock always ends up in the Leylandii, with its ineffaceable smell of urine, and that means the European Cup Final can be replayed again.

 

3. O.

 

‘Roche is back on his feet now. He’s shaping to take this free-kick. The referee is pacing out the full ten yards he wants the wall back.’

 

The way the match is decided is through a game called s.p.o.t. – every time Stéphane misses the goal, he loses a life, in the form of a letter. The punctuation doesn’t count, so you only have four lives before you lose. It’s more normal to play this game with a friend, but I’m on my own, which means that Stéphane plays solo.

 

I’m no good at football. They make me go in goal at school. Not because I’m better at that. But Stephane Roche is good. And no one else can see when the ball goes into the roses.

 

 

T.

 

‘Oh yes, that’s flown into the top corner. The keeper never even moved. The Ajax players’ heads are down. Jack Taylor blows for full time and puts them out of their misery. What a performance by Roche.’

 

The European Cup Final is replayed every lunchtime and evening that summer. Barcelona almost always win. Ajax (with the hard J) almost always lose. One night, calamity intervenes in the form of a chip pan fire, and the fire brigade get to witness Stéphane’s clinching goal.

 

Next birthday, my parents buy me a Swingball set.

 

copyright Simon J Robinson 2012

 

Grandmother’s footsteps

Police confirmed this evening that they have identified a body discovered yesterday in Hamsterley Woods, County Durham. It is that of Janice Moore, a 22-year-old hairdresser from Fenham, in the west end of Newcastle. Miss Moore has not been seen since Thursday when she was reported missing after a night out with friends in the Bigg Market area of the city. Police say they are treating the case as murder. They have appealed to anyone who has any information to step forward.

You moved. No, I saw you. You definitely did. You’re dead.

Ah tellt yes what would happen if yes didn’t shurrup, didn’t ah?

They use it all the time, apparently. The children are much better behaved now.

I just thought it was a dummy. Like out of the windows at Fenwick’s? I didn’t know it was a person. Have I done something wrong?

According to a statement issued by Chief Inspector David Graham of Durham Constabulary, Miss Moore’s body was found at around two thirty yesterday afternoon.

Are you still moving? Be careful. When will I turn round?

You’re a bonny lass but your mouth is too big. Ye just never know when to stop yer yakkin on de ye?

She folds it up and pops it into her shopping bag. She told me she used it on one of them in the toilets at Haymarket Bus station the other day. Just pulled it out and got on with it. Right there and then.

It was Muff who found it really, That’s our dog. I don’t know where the name came from. Mum chose it. It looked like a woman. It didn’t have any clothes on.

According to police, Miss Moore was the victim of a frenzied and motiveless attack. They are not ruling out a sexual motive.

Aha. Got you. You’re out. Now there’s only one left.

Let’s get these clothes off ye. That’s better. Yes should make more of an effort.

They read an article about it in The Sunday Times. They bought it from a catalogue. Mail order.

You choose your own and then they cut it down for you. Muff jumped over the wall and it was just lying there.

Miss Moore lived at home with her divorced mother in a flat in Newcastle’s west end. Her mother described her as a good girl who never gave anyone any trouble. She did not have a boyfriend.

That’s better. Are you getting closer?

Aye, you looked a bit rough when I first saw you. Tarty like. But you could be really pretty if you tried.

Well, they use them in a lot of schools. So why not at home?

I don’t know. It was getting dark and I didn’t look for very long. It was just white really.

Miss Moore had been on a Christmas night out at Balmbra’s bar in the Bigg Market with a group of friends from the salon where she worked.

Come on, you’re not really trying, are you?

All I wanted was a bit of a kiss and a cuddle. Ye might even have enjoyed it if ye’d tried.

I sometimes think I’d do anything to stop my two fighting.

It was a Sunday. We’d just had our lunch.

According to one of her friends, at around 10.15pm, Janice said she had a headache and that she wanted to go home.

I can hear you moving.

Nah, there’s a crash that way. Police everywhere. Wes’ll get there quicker like this.

Why do you think that’s strange?

My dad said we should go and get the Christmas tree before it got too dark.

She said she didn’t want to spoil their night and set off on her own.

If I see you move, you’re dead.

Are you looking for a taxi pet? Where to? Fenham? Aye, hop in.

Our neighbours have bought a cane.

We always go to Chopwell Woods.

Copyright Simon Robinson 2012

Desmond Smith realises his potential

He drains the last drop from his Guinness, and puts the glass down. “Same again?” asks the barman. “No, no. That’s me done now.”  “Tomorrow then?” “Maybe.”

Outside, the rain catches in the winter sun. The street gleams like a new penny. He turns up his collar and pulls his jacket tighter.

On the train, he stands. The seats are taken. People read newspapers, or try very hard to look like they do. A man talks into a mobile phone, telling someone that he’s on the train. A child swings from its mother’s hand, kicking the seat beside it. A middle-aged woman looks away. A girl carves initials in the condensation on the window. Hers? Her sweetheart’s? He reads the adverts. He wonders if anyone else does. A few people idly finger their smartphones. No reception here.

Where do they come from, these people? What is their story? He never sees them anywhere else, or at any other time, yet the train is always full. Are they stored in basements all day, only released when it’s time to go home? Or do they just work in offices, like him – busily being busy all day long?

No one talks. It’s an unspoken rule. But what about when they get home? Embraced by loving partners and children, do they unburden themselves? Or do they grunt their non-committal greetings and turn the telly straight on? He remembers his dad. He’d come in from work, go upstairs and take his suit off, and come down another person. Almost human, he used to joke.

The train rattles past the sports stadium. The seats glisten. He sees the club’s motto picked out in white among the black. The pitch empty, waiting. Do they come here sometimes, his fellow travellers? Is that what brings them to life. Maybe some of them even play. That big man three seats down, avoiding eye contact with the woman sitting across from him, lost inside her headphones. Could he be a weekend warrior?

His stop now. No people here. He’s the only one decanted from the train. One short drag up the still shining hill. At the top, five bars on his mobile screen at last. He dials the number carefully, he hopes he’s remembered it right: “My name’s Desmond Smith. I just saw your advert on the train.”

copyright Simon Robinson 2012