It’s April review time

Life is not a highway strewn with flowers,
Still it holds a goodly share of bliss,
When the sun gives way to April showers,
Here is the point you should never miss.

Though April showers may come your way,
They bring the flowers that bloom in May.
So if it’s raining, have no regrets,
Because it isn’t raining rain, you know, (It’s raining violets,)
And where you see clouds upon the hills,
You soon will see crowds of daffodils,
So keep on looking for a blue bird, And list’ning for his song,
Whenever April showers come along.

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So it’s time for the showers folks, showers of praise or a rainy squall.
Whichever it is, this is where your shower should fall,  preferably wrapped up neatly in a comment on our April Reviews page.

And for those who would like a little musical accompaniment while they ponder, here it is … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLoCQzzIo7Q

The September 2016 TCWG Creative Writing Competition: Where to find the stories and how to vote

 

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All tcwg site members (and any other interested parties) are invited to read and enjoy the stories entered in the September 2016 TCWG creative writing competition.

If, having read all the stories, you would like to register your vote for the winner and placings, then please follow the voting instructions set out below. This is not obligatory, but if you choose to join in, your participation will be very much appreciated.
JUST FOLLOW THE LINKS TO ALL THE STORIES (which are listed below), AND YOU WILL FIND EACH STORY IN TURN.
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The deadline for entries into the July 2016 Creative Writing Competition passed at Midnight on the 30th. September 2016.

The topic for the September stories was set by the winner of the July 2016 competition , Peter Barnett who graciously agreed that there should be an open topic with each writer choosing his or hers topic of choice.

11 members have entered a total of 13 stories, and thanks are due to them for their efforts. Advance thanks are also offered to all those group members who I hope will now support the competition by reading the stories and registering their vote in the form of a comment below on this post.

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VOTING PROCEDURE.

As in previous months, when voting it will help if voters will make sure to quote the name of the story when posting their vote, particularly in the case where an author has entered more than one story.

Voting can now commence and will continue until 11 p.m. on Monday the 10th of October 2016.
There are no restrictions as to who is allowed to vote, all that is asked is that the voter reads all the stories and votes according to their preference. A brief reason for the choice is welcome but not mandatory.
Voters are requested to vote 5 points for first place, 3 points for second, and 1 point for third place.
Please do not submit any other point combinations such as 3/3/3, 4/4/1, 5/2/2, etc.
Writers are requested not to vote for any of their own entries, and voters are asked not to comment at length about the stories or record any thoughts that you may have on them, until after voting closes.

There will be no detailed summaries posted as to how the voting is progressing throughout the voting period but as soon as possible after voting closes a tabulated list of results will be posted separately and the winner declared. If then you wish to describe in detail the reasons for your choices, or comment at length about some or all of the individual stories, a separate page will be set up at the end of the voting period and after the result has been posted.

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List of entries received. (If I have inadvertently missed an entry or entries, please advise.)

JAVA LAVA. Written by Peter Barnett

https://aasof.com/2016/09/23/java-lava/#more-20343

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THE ROAD TO HELL. Written by Charles Stuart.

https://furryfeatures.wordpress.com/2016/09/27/the-road-to-hell/

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TEEING OFF WITH A BOILED EGG. Written by Atiller.

https://atiller16.wordpress.com/2016/09/28/a-september-2016-ctwg-short-story-entry/

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BETHANY’S CHAIR. Written by Capucin.

https://davidgoodwin935.wordpress.com/2016/09/28/bethanys-chair/

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A FUNERAL. Written by Colmore.

https://tcwgshortstories.wordpress.com/2016/09/28/setember-2016-ctwg-story/

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THE PERSISTENCE OF MEMORY. Written by Araminta.

https://detectivemouse.wordpress.com/2016/09/28/the-persistence-of-memory/

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THE AUCHENSHUGGLE BIRD. Written by Lostinwords.

https://lostinwords2.wordpress.com/2016/09/27/september-2016-competition/

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THE FINAL MEETING. Written by tp_archie.

http://tparchie.deviantart.com/art/The-Final-Meeting-637202826

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THE RED SWEATER. Written by ExpatAngie.

https://tcwgshortstories.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/september-entry-short-stories/

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TWO SIDES OF A DIFFERENT COIN. Written by Danthemann.

https://tcwgshortstories.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/sep-comp-entry-two-sides-of-a-different-coin/

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BRIAN LARA LOVES BATTING. By Danthemann.

https://tcwgshortstories.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/sep-comp-entry-brian-lara-loves-batting/

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INVENTORY OF A BEACH BAG. Written by Seadam.

https://seadamsblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/inventory-of-a-beach-bag/

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Mme. ROSE. Written by ExpatAngie. (To find … Scroll down from The Red Sweater.)

https://tcwgshortstories.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/september-entry-short-stories/

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Pleasant reading and please  remember to vote.

 

 

The September 2016 CW Competition. Full details of how to enter.

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A FREE ENTRY WRITING COMPETITION OPEN TO ALL!
Details of the September 2016 Creative Writing Competition.
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The topic for September has been set by the winner of the July 2016 competition Peter Barnett who has graciously agreed that there should be an open topic with each writer choosing his or hers topic of choice.

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The length of the story in September has been set at between 250 and 750 words and competitors are reminded that multiple entries can be accepted on as many different topics as each individual competitor chooses
Closing date for entries will be Midnight on Friday the 3oth. of September 2016.
The period for receiving votes will be announced when the competition closes, and votes will not be accepted until after the competition closes.
The “prize” for winning this September competition will be to set the topic for November 2016.

Voting.
After the competition closes there will be a vote to decide the first three places.
Just after the closing date, details of how to vote and a vote collection point will be set up here on this competition blogpage.

How to enter.
Post your story on your personal WordPress blogs and post a link to your story in the form of a comment below.

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And a reminder to those still without their own WordPress site.

WordPress is not the most user friendly of sites but if I can manage it (admittedly not without some frustrations), then I am sure that we all can  … help in setting up your own blog is available, so please ask.

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For those unfamiliar with the workings of the monthly competition a list of detailed rules for the competition can be found here …
https://tcwgshortstories.wordpress.com/competition-rules/

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Pleasant writing and good luck with your stories. After the encouraging increase in the number of entries last month it seems that we may at last be coming to terms with the new arrangements … please can we make September a bumper month.

 

The August 2016 TCWG Creative Writing Competition. Full details of how to enter.

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A FREE ENTRY WRITING COMPETITION OPEN TO ALL!
Details of the August 2016 Creative Writing Competition.

The topic for AUGUST has been set by the winner of the May/June 2016 competition  Seadams who chosen “ISLANDS” and has commented as follows …

ISLANDS.
“I’ve been thinking about islands and their connotations recently. I am quite fascinated by islands, and the idea of living on one permanently (but then, I suppose I already do.)

Island – isola – isolate…insula – insular…

I propose for August we write a story with an island setting – be it desert, tropical, luxurious; real or imaginary; legendary or metaphorical; Channel, Canary, Balearic, Pacific, Hebridean, Caribbean…stacks, reefs, atolls, archipelagos…but no cheating, please: no peninsulas.”

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The length of the story in August will be the regular “between 500 and 3000 words”, and competitors are reminded that multiple entries can be accepted, particularly of the shorter variety.
Closing date for entries will be Midnight on Wednesday the 31st. of August 2016.
The period for receiving votes will be announced when the competition closes, and votes will not be accepted until after the competition closes.
The “prize” for winning this July competition will be to set the topic for October 2016 when I am proposing that we will have a lower limit of 250 to 750 words, giving an opportunity for some writers to make multiple entries.

Voting.
After the competition closes there will be a vote to decide the first three places.
Just after the closing date, details of how to vote, and a vote collection point will be set up here in this competition section.

How to enter.
Post your story on your personal WordPress blogs and post a link to your story in the form of a comment below (“Leave a reply” panel.)

For those unfamiliar with the workings of the monthly competition a list of detailed rules for the competition can be found here …
https://tcwgshortstories.wordpress.com/competition-rules/

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Pleasant writing and good luck. There are still a few teething problems (some more aggravating than others), but please persevere, and with Autumn approaching let’s try to get back into double figure entries once again.

Remember … help with your problems is available so please ask.

La Queja – July entry

After a couple of seconds hearing only the peaceful trickle of the water feature at the end of the swimming pool, punctuated by the soft roar of a motorbike in the distance, Ruth was getting hopeful.

It can’t be, she thought. But please be the end of it.

She listened again, savouring the silence while she could. The hot air seemed to have a kind of hum to it.

“AND I-I-I-I-I-I!”

Her heart sank as it started up again, accompanied by the hyena-like laugh of one of the youngsters.

“WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU-U-U-U-U-U-U”

The three or four – or 35 – of them, you couldn’t be sure from the amount of noise they made, sang in as much unison they were capable of, which wasn’t much.

Some gaps in the vocals were filled by one of the party keeping a disorderly beat by slapping a balcony table with a sports shoe.

“Albert!” Ruth whispered angrily.

She heard the bed creak as her husband turned to her. “What is it, my love?” he asked.

“Don’t you think it’s time one of us went to reception to complain?”

There was a long pause. His thoughts were always slower at night.

“Ah, hear, it’s pretty annoying. I suppose though they’re just young lads abroad though, aren’t they?”

“Albert, it’s past two in the morning.”

“Gosh,” he said. “Though on the bright side, I reckon there’ll be one or two fewer Krauts out claiming sunbeds at dawn tomorrow!”

“And what about our trip to Palma? The bus is picking us up at quarter to nine!”

“Oh yeah – there’s that.”

“So I’ll go then? Unless it quietens down in the next few minutes?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he said.

Ruth felt her husband of 40 years was fortunate that it was too dark to see her growl at that moment. How could he have not volunteered? It would be so much more hassle for her to change out of her nightdress when he could just stick on a vest – or even waltz down to reception in his night shorts. Nobody would bat an eyelid. He was chubby enough, alright, but there were far worse sights lounging around the swimming pool during the day. He’d never gone as far as developing those man boobs, thank God.

For a fleeting moment that Ruth felt existed just to trick her, the singing and laughter subsided again. Sure enough, the chorus was then sung anew, with one of the vocalists this time choosing to howl his way through the ‘you-u-u-u-u-u-u’ part like a deranged wolf.

“Wait a second, lads!” came a slurred shout. “I forgot to press record, you’re gonna have to start again.” A cacophony of groans then filled the steamy night air.

Ruth sat up. Then Albert started to snore.

—–

How is it possible, she thought as she lumbered to reception. The dimly lit sprawling exotic plants and whitewashed apartment walls all looked distinctly less friendly than they did in the daytime.

How can the 21st century produce adult human beings incapable of using a 40 square foot tiled balcony and table without causing a major public nuisance?

Ruth flinched as she saw the silhouette of a small lizard chase across the path in front of her. She continued to the sliding doors of reception in more of a trot.

The night manager’s face reflected the glow of the computer he was peering into behind the reception desk.

“Can I help you, madam?” he asked as she approached the counter. He had a small smile on his face, but somehow she wasn’t sure if it was intended for her.

“I’d like to make a complaint. There is a group outside making a horrible noise on their balcony.”

“Oh,” he said, looking into her eyes, “have they been there for long? You’re the first person to complain about this.”

“Yes for the past two hours” Ruth said. “It’s the group of young men with a balcony on the far side of the pool.”

“Ah ok,” said the manager. He carefully weighed up what to say now he knew Ruth was talking about the group solely responsible for making last week’s bar takings the best of the summer – no small thing when the hotel owner had been annoyed all year at the bar’s performance since the new supermarket opened on the other side of the road.

“Yes I know this situation. A Dutch man from room 327 complained about them one hour ago. A very angry man.”

“Ok,” said Ruth. She gulped, taken aback that the hotel had known about the noise but not been able to act.

“Well, would it be possible to ask them to, I don’t know, go inside and close the balcony door?” Ruth asked.

“Hmm…we can ask, of course we can ask,” he said. “I suppose the problem is that they are very drunk, so we can ask and they might ignore us.”

“Right,” said Ruth, “if you could ask, please?”

“Okay, we will madam,” said the manager.

Ruth turned around and began to walk away. Then she turned again on the spot to say: “And would you be able to ring the police for me, should the noise persist?”

The manager’s mouth opened wide.

“Err, madam, I would not personally recommend that to you. You see, the police here they only speak Spanish and they won’t come anyway.”

“Well, I know a little Spanish as I lived in Madrid for a year in 1974,” Ruth said.

The manager put his finger to his brow.

“Wait a minute, madam, let me see if we can’t solve this problem for you,” he said. He then reached for a walkie talkie.

Quique! Puedes callar estos malditos gamberros!?” he shouted – ‘Quique! Can you shut those damn hooligans up!?’

Ruth heard a groan coming out of the walkie talkie’s speaker. She left the reception and smiled on the way back to the apartment when she saw a baby lizard shuffling across the path.

Ruth was fanning herself with her folded Palma tourist map as the coach eked its way to join the end of a traffic jam heading back into the resort.

She tugged at the blue felt curtain that seemed to be unable to offer any resistance to the sun. Realising that it was doing its best, she shuffled along to the empty aisle seat at her side, hoping it might be a fraction cooler.

The cathedral had been an incredible sight – all the gold and the awesome colours of the windows just fixated your attention, making for a much more immersive experience than the cathedrals at home, pleasant enough as they are.

Other than that though, well, she felt awkward trooping around with the tour group all day, overhearing the chat of the couples and families in the party.

When the guide left them to their own devices for an hour at lunch, it was even worse. She went to a cash machine and felt most uneasy at the whole experience – the screen was barely legible in the fierce glimmer of the sun. By cupping her hand around the words and figures she finally clicked her way to 60 Euros, but she wasn’t sure if she could trust this machine without being able to read all the options. Maybe if you spent enough time here it’s the kind of thing you got used to. Maybe your eyes adjusted, but she wasn’t sure if all this bright sunlight could be good for them.

Ordering a coffee was a more pleasant experience, as her Spanish came more naturally than she expected. She had been too afraid to use it around the resort, when they all opened conversations in English anyway. She didn’t want to show up Albert either, who had no knowledge of foreign languages whatsoever. 40 years of marriage to a reputable local solicitor, and long-serving town councillor, had made her appreciate that her role involved protecting her husband’s ego in whatever way possible.

He never had any intention to come with her to Palma, she realised. Deep down, she knew it the moment his faced dropped when he realised the bus would pick them up just as the buffet was opening for breakfast. For some reason she had supressed this obvious fact, until now. He might have been smiling in the dark, during the previous night’s unwanted musical entertainment, as far as she knew. It offered the perfect excuse.

“I’m so sorry my love, I just think I’m too tired for the trip,” he had grovelled that morning.

What would he be doing now? Boozing by the pool, possibly. Calling his lover, maybe. She didn’t know if he had one at the moment. He certainly wasn’t the catch he used to be since he picked up his dodgy knee. The kids had been in secondary school when she first started to see suspicious things in his trouser pockets – phone numbers and receipts to plush restaurants she had never been to. She used to confront him back then, but for around ten years now she just threw anything out straight away. She didn’t want to know anymore.

Ruth yawned as the coach slowly wound past a never-ending line of souvenir shops.

Gosh, she hoped she’d get a good night’s sleep tonight. Hopefully the hotel staff managed to read the riot act to that group of idiots. She wasn’t too optimistic though. And to think only one other person complained – what were all the other guests doing?

Ruth became frustrated just to think about the previous night’s incident all again. She had been overcome with an anger she wanted someone else to step in and elaborate for her. She had been certain Albert would do a better job, with his deep authoritative voice. When it was left to her to say what needed to be said – well, it did feel pretty liberating though, enlivening even. She smiled, almost breaking into a giggle, at recalling the look of fear on the manager’s face when she asked about calling the police. She had no idea that she, Ruth Dorrens of Chester Avenue, had the power to plant that feeling in people.

She looked outside the window and noticed the bus was waiting at some lights while a pair of taxis exchanged beeps of the horn at the junction ahead.

Ruth took out her phone and checked her messages. Nothing at all from the boys. Did they even remember the Albert and she had gone away? Their jobs in the city seemed all-consuming.

She tapped on the internet browser and out of intrigue typed ‘Mallorca police noisy drunks’ in the search field.

A headline called ‘Boozy Brits Face Balearic Cops Blitz’ came up, dated in the past April. She tapped on the headline, and read:

Boozy Brits Face Balearic Cops Blitz

By Sun Staff Writer

Rowdy Brits who hit the booze in Mallorca this summer might be in for a surprise from the local constabulary.

Cops on the Spanish island have announced a crackdown on loutish tourists. The move comes as officials on the island seek to boost its image.

The Mallorca police have announced a zero-tolerance approach to public drunkenness, noise and nudity. They have even set up a new anonymous phone service for holidaymakers to report visitors behaving badly.

Juan De La Fontana, spokesman for the island’s police force, says: “If you come to enjoy a holiday in Mallorca responsibly, you have nothing to fear. To help you have a nice time we will be taking tough action though on anyone spoiling the atmosphere.”

In case anyone thinks that what happens in Mallorca stays in Mallorca, Spanish and British police have also agreed that any offences picked up on the island are to be automatically added to UK criminal records. So go easy on that Sangria unless you want a file with your name on in the local cop shop!

If you are in Mallorca and spot someone taking the holiday spirit a little too far, you can call to report them on +34 667 3450.    

Albert smiled when he saw Ruth hold the bottle of red out to him.

“Wonderful! Thanks love!” he said.

“I couldn’t go all the way to Palma and not get you a little something,” she replied.

“Oh how was it?” he asked.

“Good, thank you,” she replied.

“Do you fancy doing anything tonight? There’s a pub quiz over at Joe’s Bar, but we probably need a bigger team to be competitive.”

“I don’t know,” Ruth said, “shall we just stay in the apartment and watch TV?”

Albert let out a small grunt, showing he was taken aback at the suggestion.

“We’ve only got the news channel in English though!”

“Ah yeah – but how about we relax and watch it till the weather comes on. Just to see how cold and wet it is at home?”

“Aha! I like your thinking, love!” said Albert. “You couldn’t open that wine for me, could you?”

Ruth found the corkscrew and the largest wine glass in the apartment, and poured the wine close to the rim. It was the strongest wine she had found in the supermarket opposite the hotel, packing a sturdy 16.5% alcohol content.

They watched the full nine o’clock broadcast, and when the weather report was over, Albert remained rooted to the sofa, holding out his empty glass. Ruth took it off him and filled it again.

17 minutes later, his eyes closed and the snoring began. She removed the glass from his right hand and the remote from his left.

Pointing the remote at the TV she increased the volume from seven to 84, stopping only when it was literally hurting her ears.

She went to the balcony door and slid it open as the booming sound of “Now we’ll take a short break and when we come back it’ll be time for our review of the morning papers!” shook the glass.

She took a room key and stepped outside the front door. She took her Palma map out of her handbag and glanced down to the smudged phone number she had written across the harbour.

She dialled +34 667 3450.

This was the way to do it, she thought, as she heard the phone ringing. She could have demanded a divorce many years ago, but what good would that have done? He most likely would have ended up with a trophy wife while he was still young enough and left her to rot. This was right. This would be humiliation. An arrest for nuisance behaviour six weeks before his retirement ceremony. She could even tip off the local paper – his legacy at the firm would be ruined!

The ringing stopped all of a sudden.

Si, buenos tardes, con quien hablo?” barked a brusque voice.

She hadn’t expected that. She had expected a sympathetic voice in English. Her mind raced to translate the words she wanted to say. Ruido was noise in Spanish, so noisy television would be televisor ruidoso. But what about complaint? As much as she tried she had no idea what the word for that might be.

Ruth hung up.

She paced back to the apartment to turn the sound down, nervously glancing to check none of the neighbouring guests were watching. She sighed at a missed opportunity but smiled at the comfort that of her new-found power gave her.

Two clicks – June entry

The flat white had a crisper taste than I had expected. The spotty new barista was actually better with the machine than a lot of the regular ones.

The white dot whirred around in its circle on the computer’s start-up screen while I heard some of the parts straining into life. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. Then blankness. I reached behind the screen and traced my fingers over the yellow Nirvana smiley-faced logo I’d had engraved onto the case of the computer just below the ‘hp’ lettering. It was the proudest feature of my machine – nothing like those stickers that students slap on that start peeling to leave a sticky blemish. This had been marked on professionally at a tattoo shop in Kentish Town.

I yawned and reached for my phone to kill the time before the login screen asked me for the password. I switched it on. No phone messages. I put it aside before my fingers automatically clicked on Facebook. The guys in the office had all signed up to an app that times your Facebook usage, and I’d been ashamed to clock up the second most usage time the previous week.

It’d be good to know how they’re getting on, but I could always write on WhatsApp in a bit. There was work to be done, and I couldn’t stand that Darren always ends up sending a torrent of distracting GIFs. Like the one he sent last night of Theresa May’s face superimposed onto a donkey being teased and chased around by some villagers in the tropics somewhere – sent while we were swapping messages about the football, for Christ’s sake.

These remote working days really were the pits. All the old farts with kids and everything loved them, somehow. Then you had the jammy gits like Patrick from accounts who said he just clicks to clock on at 9, goes to the pub and pops home to click and clock off at 6. No chance of that under Sharon, who would pepper us all with messages to keep us on our toes. There was serious work to be done, but first I had to flee the depression of my sandwich-sized rented bedroom – I’ve called it sandwich-sized ever since Ricky and I worked out in the office that it’s actually smaller in volume than the world’s largest sandwich.

I grabbed my paper cup in one hand. I typed my password with the other hand and pressed enter. My computer was getting seriously slow starting up, but I can’t say I minded too much – start-up time was one of the most peaceful times of the day.

I looked up.

Wow.

I smiled and thought of Paul. He had a serious thing about girls with Mac Books. His biggest turn on, he said. It looked like the new Mac Book Pro too – 13 inch screen, in the classic shiny silver colour. It was a nice machine, no doubt about it.

As for the girl who was using it a couple of tables in front of me, well, she was an owner to match the computer, if there ever was one. A short brunette with round black-rimmed glasses. She was sat sideways to me and I could see the top of her blouse, with her slim arms leading out of the silky sleeves to hands typing purposefully at the keyboard. Typing at a steady, confident pace. Under the table a pair of black tights hugged her gently undulating calves while her feet were supported by a pair of short stilettos.

My heart was racing. It was unusual to see such a beautiful lady in the café – normally at this time I only saw old folks reading the paper or the occasional homeless person.

I clicked my way into my computer, bringing up my work portal.

I imagined Paul pulling off his chat-up trick of going and asking ‘have you been able to get the WiFi in here?’ I’d never seen it get him any further than a little small talk, but he still considered the trick a victory every time he performed it – turning around to smile and give the lads the thumbs up when his target was clicking through his internet settings for him.

I looked at her again. She was focused on the screen with a steely concentration expressed with a slight pout. I bent my head a little to see what she was working on. It looked like she was switching between her web browser and Excel. The guys I knew from accounts always said they were afraid to use Excel in public, reckoning it marked them out as nerds. It could be such a valuable programme though. She stretched her hand up and reached to scratch the back of her neck, and I watched the buttons on the tight fabric tracing the outline of her chest rise.

A message popped up on my screen. ‘Welcome to EGL WorkRemote Master – You Have 17 New Messages from Sharon_83’. I took a gulp of my flat white, crossed my fingers in my left hand for luck and clicked with my right to open the messages.

I wanted to thump my table in frustration, and settled for a tap, after seeing the first message. Entitled ‘a couple of questions about your new workflow template for QRS’ I scrolled down through a mammoth email littered with question marks – far longer than the workflow template it was referring too.

Seeing the garish pink signature at the end of the message, saying ‘Sharon xx’ was like a slap in the face. I pictured my boss stood with her arms folded in front of me in the café, peering over the top of my computer and reeling off a torrent of instructions, questions and complaints.

I used the opportunity of my remote working to recline in my seat, close my eyes, groan and mutter “fuck!”

I grabbed my phone and went straight to WhatsApp. There were no new messages in the lads’ group, but I could see they had mostly been online already that morning.

‘You’re gonna be very jealous of me, Paul,’ I wrote.

‘I think I’d be jealous of just about anyone right now,’ he replied. ‘I’ve just finished eating breakfast with a housemate sobbing uncontrollably next to me. She tried to explain a couple of times why her boyfriend woke us all up shouting abuse and why there’s a slice of toast sliding down the wall, but every time she just starts crying again. Feels like someone’s died in here!’

I selected some laughing face icons and clicked send, even though I didn’t find it particularly funny.

‘Go on then’ Paul wrote. ‘Make me jealous’.

‘There’s an absolute stunner with the latest Mac Book Pro in front of me’, I wrote.

‘OK, that worked a treat – we’re all jealous’, wrote Gav, joining the conversation. ‘I’m in Starbucks and there’s some guy in a soggy anorak who’s been reading the bible out load non-stop for the past hour on the next table.’

Paul sent an angry-faced icon. ‘Are you going to share the joy then?’

I looked across to the girl, who was looking intently into her computer now, with a hint of puzzlement on her brow.

‘I’m in my local café if you want to come down and try your WiFi trick Paul? I’ll send you all a link with the coordinates on Google Maps.’

‘Tempted’, wrote Paul, ‘send us a preview though’.

‘Yeah, don’t be a pussy’ wrote Gav, ‘show us what we’re missing!’.

I scanned around the quiet café. The barista was thumping the tongue that holds the grounded coffee in the machine over the sink, and clearing out the soggy remains with his fingers. A couple of customers had their faces hidden behind newspapers, while an old lady by the entrance seemed to be staring at a scone.

It didn’t feel right, but I could do this.

I picked up my phone, and held it up vertically in front of my face. I pretended to need to squint to read the screen.

‘Ok’ I typed, with my heart racing.

I selected the camera, adjusted it so she was in the middle of the frame, and then pressed inside the grey circle to take a photo. I scanned around to see if anyone else had been alerted to the soft click, but there was no sign of any movement.

I attached the photo into the WhatsApp group. ‘Here you are. Little treat for you :)’ I typed.

I shook my head at the ease I had succumbed to the peer pressure from my workmates, and tried to focus on my computer. Sharon had sent another message asking if I’d seen her earlier messages and could I respond ASAP?

I started to read the epic first email. My concentration was soon shattered by a vibration on my phone.

Two new WhatsApp messages.

‘Is that it!?!’ Gav had wrote.

‘A blur in the distance? Close up, please, preferably with cleavage,’ Paul wrote.

‘Piss off, come here yourself you filthy pervs,’ I typed out, but before I could press on send, two more messages appeared.

‘Go on, I’ll buy you a pint on Friday night,’ Paul wrote.

‘Yeah I’ll get you one too. I’ve zoomed in and she is damn hot, but I need to see more…’ Gav wrote.

I sighed. The plan for Friday was to go to the Toddingham Arms, one of the trendiest bars in Shoreditch. It was £6 a pint there, and I wanted to go – not least because Mandy from HR would be there. Her with the biggest jugs in the company.

The barista had disappeared from behind the counter and was out at the front of the café, checking a phone.

The girl remained engrossed in her computer display.

‘You can pull this off. Easily,’ I thought.

I ambled over towards the counter and took my phone out, pretending to read my messages. I turned on the camera, swivelled to my left and right to check the coast was clear, then turned the phone towards the girl. I pinched at the screen to zoom in until I was satisfied the section of black lace from her bra that was poking out beneath the unbuttoned top of her blouse was showing. I pressed to take two photos and slid the phone back into the pocket of my jeans. Trembling, I turned around and walked to the toilet with the intention of checking my photo and sending it in a quiet spot.

I pushed opened the door separating the toilets from the café. It didn’t swing all the way back behind me though, and in no time I was grabbed by the back of the next and thrust up against the wall, with my feet dangling below.

I wheezed and croaked. I just about managed to turn my neck to look into the furious face of the bespectacled man with thinning grey hair who had me in the stranglehold. I was trying to say “let me down”.

When I started crying, he let go and I crumbled into a heap on the vinyl floor.

I took my head out of my hands and saw that a little of the redness had abated in his cheeks.

“You-?” I said.

“Yeah, I saw you taking that photo,” he answered. “Maybe I should introduce myself – Nigel Parker, Metropolitan Police.”

“You’re-?” I said, my lips trembling.

“Off duty at the moment, but still empowered to perform arrests when I deem necessary.”

“Arrests?” I said, pleadingly.

“You bet! You wouldn’t believe how many privacy laws you’ve just violated.”

“No, no, please! I only did it because my mates asked me too,” I said. I took the phone out of my pocket and dropped it straight away, with my fingers scrambling to pick it up again.

“I’ll delete them, I haven’t even sent them yet anyway.”

“You better!” he said, pointing a chunky index finger towards me. “And I don’t want to ever see you in here again, preying on innocent women or not, or you’ll be trouble. You understand?”

I nodded my head and went back to collect my computer and go.

The lamp flickered when I turned it on before going out.

‘Shit’ I thought, ‘the bulb’s gone again’.

I sighed and peered through my window to the dim overcast morning.

I tried to keep my eyes off the heaps of dirty clothes scattered around the bedroom floor, covering the majority of the faded red carpet.

I logged onto the work portal. Just the two messages from Sharon today.

I went straight onto Facebook.

‘Haha watch this, it’s hilarious!’ Gav had wrote. Under that was a video of a chimp on a Russian talent show impersonating its owner in various emotional states.

The sound on my computer was muted and I was afraid to turn it on as Wiktor, the Czech cook who rented the room next to mine, worked nights and didn’t take kindly to being woken. I rifled through a pile of unused receipts, train tickets and a couple of unused condoms on my desk to look for my earphones. No luck.

I checked Facebook again. One of the girls in sales had shared a post from Amanda Totter, the famous lingerie model. It was a viral post that had 89,000 likes and 22,000 shares already.

“A big THANK YOU to the man who pretended to be a policeman in order to frighten off a dirty young man with an HP laptop featuring a Nirvana sticker. This predator was taking pictures of me without me noticing at La Roma Coffee in Golders Green. I might be somewhat used to it, but every woman has a right to go about their life without having their privacy trampled on by obnoxious cowards. Anyway, I wanted to thank my hero, Dave, again, before I get the chance to do it in person when I take him out for a meal at my fav restaurant on Friday.”

I sighed. I’d been thinking about getting a new laptop anyway. Now could be the perfect time. I looked at the post again and clicked ‘like’.