Saturday, 30 April 2016


96 People went to watch a football game and didn’t come home


When God falls to Earth he’ll be a football fan.
He’ll stand in the press with the ordinary man.
He’ll shoulder his way up front to squash the wire.
And shake his head at every liar.
You’d better hope your fingers ain’t besmirched
With rotten soil and bloody grass.
He’ll weep with every dad, every mum and nan.
Because when he falls, he’s a football fan.

When God falls to Earth, he’ll know the score
and he’ll chant from the stands at the blood and gore.
Call yourself Bobby? You’re not fit to wear the shirt,
You’re not fit to wear the shirt,
your hands are smeared in blood and dirt.
And you turned the key that loosed the lock,
released the dam that sluiced the lot
and in fucking hell you will rot.
I weep with every dad, every mum and nan.
Because when I fall, I’m a football fan.

When God falls to Earth he’ll bring his gun.
Lock, load and smite the fucking scum
who smelt wine on the lips of the congregation.
Singing hymns as they got off the train at the station.
Can we play you every week?
Can we play you every week?
You wrote your stinking columns in the press
as the singing souls were laid to their rest.
He’ll weep with every dad, every mum and nan.
Because when he falls, he’s a football fan.

When God falls to Earth, he won’t forgive
those who let lies breed and live.
Who watched parents choke and fight for air,
And smeared the ones that love and care.
He knows who you are and he can see
that you’re not fit to referee.
You’re not fit to referee.
And did you hear the Liverpool sing?
You didn’t hear a fucking thing.
Rip out your tongues and see you burn
And though we’ll never ever learn:
He’ll sing with every dad, every mum and nan.
Because we are all, all of us, only football fans.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016


Dear Writer, I regret to inform you that…”
Unsolicited scripts and treatments that didn’t make the cut.


Dear BBC,

Please find enclosed a one page treatment for my exciting new swords and sorcery series ‘Viking Death Gods Academy’ which I think you’ll find intriguing and full of blood and thunder.

I am confident it could be a Saturday teatime sure fire ratings winner and easily realised on a small to medium sized budget. Happy reading!

Yours truly,
Andrew Hack, (writer).

From the dark bowels of Helheim they came: The Viking Death Gods:

Frigg, Eirik, Bragr and Thor will one day swarm and thunder in an unstoppable conquest of the sea, land and skies, raping and pillaging all before them in blood lust and righteous anger! Seekers of truth and justice! Defenders of the Earth! Lords of all they survey!

But…where did they begin?
From where did they attain their majesty and mastery of the dark arts of battle and warfare, sorcery and swordery?

Now…these beginnings are revealed as we are privileged to watch the shaping of the Gods Themselves…at school.


GRAMS: Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ or some other cheap to use classical tat like that familiar to Classic FM listeners. Cut and paste graphics - some of those stencils or etches off the internet, maybe. Crash zoom on blood red title in bold upper case ‘VIKING DEATH GOD ACADEMY!’ Animate font to appear as though blood is dripping onto the screen or something.



The classroom is dimly lit because two strip lights are broken and a third one fizzes on and off every so often.

It has whitewashed walls. These have been scrawled on with felt pens, pretty rude graffiti such as ‘Godz Rule OK’ and ‘Godz Wuz Here’ – nothing too offensive, kids might be watching, but near the knuckle cutting edge sloganeering. There are posters too – ‘Beat Bullies’, ‘The Times Tables’ and ‘Punctuation and How to Use It!’.

The carpet is a bit threadbare. Tables and chairs have seen better days. Two or three tables have wonky legs so that they make irritating clunking noises when leant upon. One looks like it could topple over.

The Teacher stands at the front before a blackboard, one of those that are on rollers and can be pushed upwards to reveal a clean screed.

In front of him are an unruly class of teenage Gods including our heroes: Frigg, Eirik, Bragr and Thor. The Teacher is angry. He pushes up the board in irritation. It reveals a message that has previously been written there. It reads: ‘Farty Teacher Smellz of Fartz.’ Underneath this is a chalk drawing of a pair of boobs.

(Screaming in righteous anger)
Who did that?

(Hubbub ensues)
Not me sir, it must have been him, him sir, not me… (etc etc)

The Teacher ducks as a pen flies across the classroom, hitting the blackboard behind him

Right. Who threw that pencil?

(With Godly arrogance)
It wasn’t a pencil it was a felt pen. Get it right, twat.

Don’t tell me it was a felt pen when I know it was a felt pen, you insolent God. Now get out of this classroom and wait in the corridor.

(Stands up. Kick a desk angrily and throws his bag at Thor. The desk collapses.)
What? Just because Eirik threw a felt pen? That’s so unfair.

(Gritting teeth and affecting patient logic)
No. Not because you did or did not throw a pencil…I mean felt pen, because you called me a twat. That is against rules of the classroom agreed by the Students’ Council.

I called Thor a twat. You just got in the way of my voice. Ask anybody. Go on. Ask Bragr. Bragr, mate! Did I call Sir a twat or Thor a twat?

He called Thor a twat, sir, I heard him.

I am not going to argue with you. I can stand here all day. If you don’t leave this room now, I’ll call for a member of the senior management team and a pastoral worker and they will remove you. That will mean a restorative justice meeting – and you know it. Is that what you want?

The Teacher watches as Frigg leaves the classroom. As he goes out he grins and winks at other Gods, kicks more tables and slams the door insolently so that it crashes back into the classroom wall.

Now, who threw that felt pen? This is eating into valuable lesson time. I have planned this lesson to last a certain, exact time. If it runs into your break, so be it. There’ll be no sausage rolls, no doughnuts and no fizzy pop. It won’t bother me. I’ll just get on with planning, marking and filling in progress flight-path spreadsheets. You’ll be the ones to suffer, not me. Mrs Teacher has made me a snack for break. I don’t need to go to the canteen.

(After a pause)
It was Eirik.

Eirik. Was it you? Get out and stand…in the corridor.

(Insolently walking slowly to the door)
What for? I’ve got a time out card. I’m using my time out card.
                        CUT TO:


The corridor is dimly lit because most strip lights are broken.

The carpet has been ripped up and bare concrete is revealed.

Ceiling tiles are damp. Several have been removed to expose bare wires and asbestos-like cladding above.

The two Gods slouch against a wall and we see Teacher leave the classroom and stand in front of them.

(Calmly and levelly)
Now I’ve told you before about low level disruptive behaviour such as throwing equipment across classrooms haven’t I?

You won’t let me explain. If you will just listen to what I say…I was holding the pen flicking it and it slipped and flew across the room and…

I don’t want to hear your explanations because I don’t believe you. You say the same things every time and…

Are you calling us liars? I’m reporting you to the senior leadership team and there’ll be a parental interview.

No, I didn’t say you were lying, did I, I said that…

You did, we heard you and I’ve recorded it on my mobile phone anyway.

Oh, I am so sick of this. Crap pay that goes down every year. Boring and irrelevant syllabus, over stuffed classes, dilapidated environment, endless rows with kids and parents. Life’s too short. You know what? I’m off. Bye!

The Teacher flicks two fingers at the Gods, farts loudly and walks cheerily down the corridor. We hear the sound of a car’s ignition and the engine roaring into life.

            CUT TO:

Dear Mr Hack,

Thank you for your treatment, which we read with interest.

Unfortunately, we currently have no plans to commission a sword and sorcery epic like the one you have sent us. We find the public have no taste for outlandish and far fetched situations such as those contained in your script.

Writing for television is a difficult skill.

But don’t give up! If you have any further ideas to submit, please do send them to our drama department.

Yours sincerely,
The BBC.


Tuesday, 26 April 2016

The Class Room

The Class Room

Day in an English state 'Academy' Tory approved classroom. Two students study 'Great Expectations' by Dickens with interest, realising its relevance to their lives and future.They are using computers to research. 

Terry and Julie are both boys and they didn’t meet over the river, Waterloo Underground.

Terry:  Do we have to say this out loud?

Julie: Mmm.

Terry: What you doing?

Julie: Me and Dad is getting this tractor. The old one is broke. We’s up till two this morning doing the silage. I’m Tired. Good tractor….

Terry: (fiddles in his pocket and takes out mobile phone device, then shouts):  Sir? Can we play music?

Teacher : Now you know that’s against school rules. The Head Teacher has stopped all that. You shouldn’t even have it in class. Put it away before I take it off you. Julie? Will you please stop looking at tractors and get on with Dickens. You have to present next lesson, you know. There will be no more computer time.

Julie: Tucker’s on games again, Sir. Oy, Tucker, you fat twat, get off them games before Sir sees you. He’s on games, Sir.

Teacher: Well done. Dob in your mates. 

Terry: I’m not saying this Dickens shit out loud. I won’t do it.

Julie: Chicken shit? Ha ha, It’s crap, isn’t it? When am I ever going to need to say this out loud? I don’t need to speak anyway.

Terry: Is he looking? I’m going to listen to my music.

Julie: No. He’s not looking. What are we supposed to be doing?

Terry: You going to that party? Tonight? Last time, Joe got off with Bob.

Julie: Yeah, too right. What time is it? You written anything yet? I’m just going to cut and paste Wikipedia, anyway. He never checks.

Terry: Load of crap, this. I’m not going to do it anyway. I’ll be off sick.

Julie: Yeah, shit.  I hate School.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

I Left My Scent: by Fiona J

I'd walk past every day,
I left my scent to discover.
I think I could say
I wanted you as my lover.

Love from the start?
Love unknown, it was thrilling.
Life is to live,
Love is for giving.

Over and over,
Our love has been tested.
Over and over.
Our love we've contested.

Virtual lovers,
Virtual spouse.
Virtual lovers,
Virtual house.

Every new day a “good morning”
Every day a deep yearning.
Every day when I wake,
Every day my heart aches.

You're my first thought when I wake,
You're every step that I take.
You are near yet so far,
You are.

One day when life lets us,
One day when it's just us.
Our bodies together,
Our love bound. Forever.


Fiona J

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Faith, Hope and Cherry Tree

Faith, Hope and Cherry Tree

“Grandad, what’s an arse?”

“Eh?” Hope Patches scratched the beads in grey goatee and smiled at his grandaughter. A calm smile that hoped it concealed anger with the corrupt state education system where teachers said such things. He bent down slowly and ruffled Faith’s head. “Now where did you hear a word like that?” he beamed, patting his pockets and reaching into his denim coat for a clay pipe.

Faith looked up at him in innocence. “Grandad Biggert said it.”

The grey goatee bristled. “Did he?”

“Yes. He said if that David Cameron sent him a leaflet in the post, he’d wipe his arse on it and send it back.”

“What? I’ve told you before not to listen to anything that Grandad Biggert says,” snapped Hope.

The six year old skipped across the kitchen then swivelled on one foot. “I tried not to listen, but he shouted it out of his letterbox through a giant road cone.”

“I see. When I lent Grandad Biggert that road cone, he told me he was going to turn it into a scarecrow to deter starlings and squirrels from stealing his conkers.” Hope frowned and started to stuff ground grass and hazelnut blend into the pipe. He tamped it with matchstick, lit the mixture, opened the kitchen door and sucked in contemplation.

Faith hopscotched through the door and down the path that twisted through the small orchard. Getting to the end, she pirouetted and began the journey back, counting each step. On her return, she stopped and gazed up at Hope. “Is Grandad Biggert naughty?”

Hope put his pipe out and squatted. He arranged his floral Hawaiian smock over his knees and placed his grandaughter upon the left one, ruffling her hair. “Well, Faith,” he ruminated, “that is a trickier question that at first it might seem. Grandad Biggert is entitled to his point of view. It is his democratic right. Clearly he is also interested in environmental concerns. Did you know that the government sent a leaflet to every house in the country, Faith?”

Faith shook her head.

“Think of the sacrifice in the name of democracy. Millions and millions of living trees. To use the leaflet as lavatory paper is a sound environmental proposal.”

“Grandad Biggert said it blocked his bog and made his flat stink like a public shithouse.” remembered Faith. “What’s a public…?”

“Never mind, never mind. Let’s go and get our tea.”

Faith followed her Grandad back into the kitchen where the mung bean casserole was bubbling. She was still frowning. “Did you get a leaflet?”

“Yes I did,” answered Hope, “Everybody did, I have it here somewhere. Would you like to read it?”


“But it is very interesting. It details our ‘once in a lifetime decision’, Faith. It could have a bearing on your future, young lady.”

But Faith shook her head and pushed the dull looking pamphlet away. “It doesn’t look much like a leaf, Grandad,” she said in a disappointed tone. “You said it came from millions of trees. Leaves are green.”

Hope clutched his sides and guffawed loudly, like a sort of floral Santa Claus, “Ho ho ho,” he boomed, “You foolish young thing. Not that sort of leaf!”

“But I thought we could nail the leaflets back onto the trees so they could live again, like you said,” explained Faith, sadly. “You always tell me we should love all the trees, Grandad.”

And, at that, Hope Patches dropped the ladle he was using to slop stew into the home made wooden bowls. He gazed open mouthed at his granddaughter and his yellowed teeth twisted into a grin. “What an idea! Sup up young lady; we’ve a lot to do! We need some skates, a tree and as many leaflets as we can collect from the tip! And then we’ll pay a visit to Grandad Biggert. I’ve a road cone to retrieve.”

                        *                      *                      *                      *                      *

A lively spring wind was whipping across Westminster Bridge and it smarted the eyes of Constable Kilbride as he patrolled the pavement adjacent to Parliament. Nevertheless he paced thoroughly, looking left and right through squinted eyes, aware of the burden resting on his shoulders.

Traffic was light. Extremely light, in point of fact: there hadn’t been a vehicle across the bridge for several minutes now, which he registered as unusual for this time of the morning. Not even a bus. This was exceedingly strange.

Stranger still was the fact that a small hand was tugging at his tunic.

Kilbride lashed round, his police training coursing through every fibre of his torso. Right hand on his truncheon, left to his radio which he clamped to his mouth out of instinct. Then he relaxed. A small girl, next to someone who was probably her mother was looking up at him. Six, possibly seven years old.

The girl pointed to the far end of the bridge. “Is that Grandad Patches?” she asked. Kilbride didn’t know but he noticed that the mother was nodding sadly.

Roller skating unsteadily across the bridge, in front of a crawling, irate traffic jam, was a hefty looking tree. No, wait. Now he could see it was a man. The tree had been hollowed out. The constable could see a red and sweating face peering through a hole in the trunk.

The tree appeared to be making its way towards the Houses of Parliament. Kilbride reached for his truncheon.

The man-tree approached, then confronted him. Kilbride could see that every leaf had been replaced with a ‘Remain in the EU’ leaflet, carefully nailed, glued or stapled to each branch. Most were a plain white, but the one nearest to him looked and smelled as though it had been retrieved from a toilet.

“Now then, sir, what’s all this?” asked the Constable, moving downwind from the brown pamphlet.

“Don’t you take that tone with me, you pleb, stand aside. I am exercising my democratic right,” said the tree, wobbling unsteadily.

The constable was confused. Was this tree an honourable member? Certainly, the mode of address was correct. He replaced the truncheon, unsure what to do.

The tree spoke again. “I demand access to the Prime Minister himself,” it declared. A branch reached down and seized a road cone from beneath a piece of loose bark. Using the cone as a megaphone, it started to scream poetry in the direction of the Parliament building,

“Prime Minister:
I am the cherry tree that you destroyed,
and I am dead annoyed.
Give me back my leaves,
you political disease,
so I can live with all the other trees,
a-rustling happily in the breeze.
A political pamphlet I don’t want to be.
I want to be a cherry tree.”

The wind whistled again. Several leaflets plopped onto the tarmac at Kilbride’s feet. Deciding it best to humour the tree, the constable picked them up and wedged them back in the branches. “Jolly good poem, sir, very touching. Still best not make that bloody racket. There might be a debate on. Now give me the bloody road cone. Possessing that is highway theft. We don’t want a scandal.”

“Shut your festering gob, you fucking fascist,” snarled Patches, from within the tree.

The little girl looked at her mother. “They both sound like Grandad Biggert,” she said.

Her mother nodded. She noticed that several irate looking motorists and bus passengers were starting to advance across the bridge. “Let’s go and get some lunch, Faith,” she agreed, and started to walk away from the ugly stand off developing.

As they moved, both bumped into a portly gentleman who was now standing behind them, surveying the scene, hands on hips. “Pon my soul,” he said, “what have we here, constable? A talking tree, it seems. And one that is covered in thousands of my leaflets, too. Astonishing.”

“Begging your pardon for the disturbance, Prime Minister, sir, this tree demands access to see you, sir. I informed the tree it was a obstructing a public thoroughfare.” Kilbride shifted in embarrassment.

“Not a bit of it, constable. In point of fact, this tree is just the ticket,” answered the Prime Minister, putting Kilbride at his ease with a friendly clap of the shoulder. “Now see here, young tree-me-lad, would you mind accompanying me to the House of Commons and helping me out of a spot of bother?”

The tree nodded, somewhat in awe and from within, Hope Patches spoke. “Certainly, Prime Minister, if it helps the democratic process.”

“It most certainly would,” laughed the politician. ”Wood. Get it? Ho ho. We’re having a debate about the E.U., you see? And the leader of the opposition is a bit of a stickler…”

“Very good, sir,” chortled Kilbride, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes, “stickler.”

“…when it comes to saving the environment. We’ve run out of pamphlets and he refuses to let me waste paper and photocopy some more. If I turn up with you, tree, he’ll twig that I’m trying to turn over a new leaf.”

“Sorry, sir,” said Kilbride, laughter turning to shame, “I think I’ve just soiled myself.”

“Use one of these as bog paper,” offered the Prime Minister, plucking a leaflet from the tree and passing it to the prone constable. “With so many lying about unread I think it’s time to ‘branch’ out. Come on, Mr Tree.”

Faith watched as Hope followed the Prime Minister into the Palace. “Mummy,” she said eventually, “When Grandad Biggert did that…”

“I know, Faith, I know.” They followed and looked behind them to see Kilbride surreptitiously throw an E.U. leaflet into the Thames below and start to direct the traffic.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Gareth Gates v The Chazza Chaps

Gareth Gates v The Chazza Chaps

How a hopeful day ended in bitter disappointment

An Oxfam in the high street and Barnados up the top,
Mencap, Red Cross, Age UK; a plethora of shops.
Let’s go a-hunting records, let’s find some rare CDs,
Beatles, Stones perhaps Led Zep and plenty more like these.

Ah, look, there’s Gareth Gates:
Will Young and Gareth Gates,
All along the CD shelf,
Will Young and Gareth Gates.

Flicking through this carton, a filthy old copy,
of ‘Ommadawn’ by Mike Oldfield is all that I can see.
And underneath this pile of bras, these dirty knicks and socks;
A pile of sweating Humperdinck cassettes inside a box.

And, look, there’s Gareth Gates:
Will Young and Gareth Gates,
All along the CD shelf,
more crap by Gareth Gates.

What’s over there behind a rail of wedding fascinators,
just beside the gaping grin of that stuffed alligator?
A tatty plastic container into which I think they’ve bunged,
Half a dozen copies of ‘No Parlez’ by Paul Young.

Stone me, there’s Gareth Gates:
Will Young and Gareth Gates,
Endless rows of cracked CDs,
by sodding Gareth Gates.

Let’s try that shop up on the hill, The British Heart Foundation.
The one next to the useful place that does cheap pet castrations,
and look through its big window at the beautiful display,
Of shockingly priced Richard Clayderman LPs that sit upon a tray.

What’s that? It’s Gareth Gates.
Bloody Gareth Gates.
Piled up heaps of plastic crap
by bloody Gareth Gates.

I’ve had enough of this lark, what a total waste of time.
Mouldy tat upon the floors, so expensive it’s a crime.
We’ve come away with nothing, we didn’t buy a thing.
Keep your Abba, Carpenters, and your shite by bloody Sting.

Oh, and stuff your Gareth Gates,
Will Young and Gareth Gates,
Stick their crap inside a box
And burn the fucking lot.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

On Behalf of Chickens, Everywhere.

On Behalf of Chickens, Everywhere.
April 7th 2016 

The ministry’s deregulation plan
is hatched from bloodied, grisly hands.
It doesn’t seem so clucking grand
on the road to slaughter.

It’s said there’s no chance to appeal.
Welfare codes are now repealed.
The industry’s bagged itself a deal
on the road to slaughter.

It is unprofitable now to ask
the hangmen to wear a mask
and to be trained for such a task
on the road to slaughter.

Today it’s good to grab and grin
with gauntlet hands the twisting wing,
to kick the panic in the cages. Rack
on rack of struggling meal, slung into sack.
Three in each hard-working fist,
brittle necks exposed to twist,
on the road to slaughter.

And now, the dangers of extreme heat
are correct and proper for this meat;
it makes it fit for us to eat.
On the road to slaughter.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Do It Yourself: Tennis

Do It Yourself:
Tennis Pro

Make easy money and trouser free cash.

Did you know that simply turning up at a Masters 1000 event can earn you mega bucks?

That facing the likes of Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer, Noblik Djokostrap and losing can earn a wallet bursting £32,000!

It really is that simple. Play tennis and lose!

But wait! You don't know HOW to play tennis?
Well don't panic, just follow these easy steps:

Step One: You need to get hold of the correct kit as Tennis Pros like to call it.

This includes a tennis racket. Do not make the error of calling this a tennis BAT or tennis CLUB - the umpire will spot you immediately and send you packing.

One of those plastic 'tennis kits' from a beach shop with the coloured plastic balls will not do. These will also be quickly spotted and you'll be exposed as an amateur.

Tennis rackets can be very expensive but you should be quickly able to knock up this nifty piece of kit with an easily available stick, old shoe and some sticky tape.

Just follow the simple illustration below and you'll soon be on centre court!

Step Two: You will need to learn some French. Why? Because for some reason a lot of the announcements on Centre Court will be in this language.

Never fear. Here are some quick and easy phrases to learn and use should you find yourself at Roland Garros or some other dump near Paris:

The French
Le Jeux Sont Fait
Where is your biscuit?
I am thirsty. Give me juice.
Beware. There are eagles.
Quarante cinq
The carrots have sunk
Un Arbitre
A shady tree (over there)
Le tete de numero une
The number one poor tennis player
Donner de l’effet
Horsemeat kebab, please
Quarante love
I love carrots

Learn these phrases and shout them loudly at your opponent or a line judge every time you miss a ball and you are well on the way!

Step Three: The rules of the game. 

1.     Saunter onto centre court to rapturous applause with your large bag full of some towels, balls and rackets (well in your case a stick with a shoe sellotaped to it).

2.     Stand in front of a giant net whilst a bloke on a chair shouts nonsense phrases at you.

3.     Dodge about extremely quickly waving your stick in the air at fast moving yellow projectiles.

There are some things in the game called 'shots' but be advised they are not the ones you usually buy down the disco.

Also, if the shouty guy asks you to 'serve' he is not referring to pulling a pint or getting your winky out.

Notes for the New Player
  • Try to avoid being hit by those yellow balls in the nuts as we have seen this happen on the telly and it looks extremely painful.
  • Be very careful. If you wave your stick too vigorously there's the possibility the shoe might come off the end and hit the shouty bloke on the chair in his face. This will be frowned upon.
  • During the game, if you suspect foul play or a bad 'call' you can shout 'Hawkeye'. At this point the game will be suspended, the crowd will clap slowly and you can scratch your arse. You will see yourself on the big telly, too!
  • If somebody shouts 'New Balls Please!' it is considered bad form to snigger.
  • Only wear a 'sports bra' if you like the feel of tight elastic against your back.
  • In the unlikely event you win, you are allowed to chuck your sweaty and disgusting headgear, wristlets and underpants into the crowd, where they will be eagerly fought over and shredded by the spectators.
After about twenty minutes, your game will be over; you will have lost but you'll be stuffing £32,000 into your back pocket.

Good luck!

Note: We would like to point out that we very politely wrote to Wimbledon Football Club to ask tennis hero and Grand Slam champion Andy Murphy to give advice for this feature but, to our dismay, our postcard was returned last week with 'Wrong Address' franked across it. 

Sunday, 3 April 2016

An Education

An Education

“Who was that man who stayed last night?” enquired a small, blonde girl, stressing the ‘was’ in a manner that suggested she had not been impressed.

Her mother sighed; put down the hip but essential Smartphone she had been fiddling with and looked at her daughter’s level, blue eyes. “He was the minister,” she answered, “for education.” She picked up her phone and did not wait for a response; sure that this information was impressive enough to stop further comment.

“He smelt of cabbage.”

Mother frowned and applied some lippy, gazing into the mirror on her dressing table. “He did not smell of cabbage. People don’t smell of cabbage, Hannah, especially not when they work for the Government. The Prime Minister has strict rules about things like that.”

“He did,” insisted Hannah. “Once he’d gone to bed I didn’t get any sleep at all with him snoring and farting all night. Had he been eating a lot of cabbage, Mum? Do they have it for lunch in Parliament?”

“I’ve told you before, Hannah, not to use words like farting. It’s ‘breaking wind’.” Mother snapped the lipstick case shut and it made a brittle sound like a finger click. Then she was on her Smartphone, back turned to her daughter. Hannah gazed up at the bell shaped blonde hair, curiously and listening. Mother sat down on the bed, her back pushed into the pillows against the headboard. She glanced at Hannah with a look that ordered silence and spoke, using her important voice. “Paula Seviour, MP.”

“I just wanted to thank you for last night. You were wonderful, darling and…” Paula switched off the speaker quickly, put the phone to her temple and covered her mouth with her right hand to restrict the sound of her voice and to hide her expression from Hannah. The rest of the conversation was conducted quietly. Occasionally, Paula snickered. She sounded like a satisfied pony.

Eventually she put the phone down and looked at her daughter with mock surprise and perhaps just the faint trace of a smile. “Hannah. You’re still here. You weren’t supposed to hear that.”

“That was him, wasn’t it? Minister for making smells like cabbage.” Hannah looked cross. “I’m very tired. Too tired for school. I feel crap.  You needn’t look like that, it was his fault.”

“Don’t use words like crap, Hannah,” said her mother again. “Your father and I…” Her voice tailed off. Paula mentally kicked herself. Quite the wrong thing to say.

“I miss dad,” snapped Hannah. “He wouldn’t have kept me from sleeping and he never smelled like rotting vegetables.”

“I’ve got to go. An important meeting.” Paula spoke quickly to avoid a familiar argument. She swung her legs off the bed and stood up, confronting her daughter. There was not much difference in height between them. The eleven year old girl was quite imposing, something she had inherited from both her parents.

“I’m not going to school.” Hannah kicked at the foot of her mother’s bed, sulking.

“You’re going because you are my daughter. I can’t talk on telly about sink estates, bad parents and poor attendance then have the welfare officer turn up here, can I? Not at all good for my image. In any case,” continued Paula, persuasively, “it’s Friday, weekend tomorrow, you can have a lie in and then you can spend your allowance in town. A treat because I’m going to be busy over the next few days.”

Hannah’s lips twisted downwards, the lines deepened on her forehead and her eyes looked angry. “Again?” The single word was more of an accusation than a question.

“Now don’t get stroppy, Hannah, you know I have to work hard to keep us. I’ve arranged a sitter and I’ll be home, just later than I’d like. I don’t enjoy it, you know? You’ll understand when you get a bit older.”

“I am old enough to understand, mum,” snapped Hannah.

“Good. So you’ll go to school, then. It won’t always be like this, you know. Now look, can you fix yourself some breakfast? You know where everything is. No cooking.”

Paula walked to the stairs, followed by her daughter and both descended, her mother with a quick gallop and then Hannah at a slower pace with heavy and reluctant steps. Reaching the bottom, Paula glanced quickly into a mirror by the door, gave her public smile a quick workout, grabbed keys and left.

As the door clicked behind her, Hannah scowled and listened for the departing car. Hearing the scrunch of gravel punished by tyres, she slouched into the kitchen.

Hannah thought about staying at home, but her mother was right, they did check these things and send people round. Instead, she grabbed an apple, lifted a tenner from the bowl with the cash in it, swung her satchel over her shoulder then followed her mother out into the cold, November air.