Observations of a Gatekeeper…

I work in theatre. Here is my attempt to give the “behind the scenes” stars their 15 minutes of glory.

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The Duck

I’m being stalked by a mutant mallard.

Every morning I emerge onto the deck to find him bobbing by the stern, quacking his malevolent little quack. No point telling Terrence, he’ll have me off to the therapist again. That’s exactly what that scheming duck wants and Terrence has a flimsy understanding of the psychology of fowl at any rate. Me on the other hand, I know a psycho when I see one.

Boris is his name. All encapsulating isn’t it?


Sinister, gliding, sneering, plotting.

He‘s floating past the kitchen window as we speak and I could swear he just mouthed ‘FAT FACE’ at me.

What a little shit.

I really should tell Terrence but he still hasn’t forgiven me for accidentally locking his phone last night. In my defence and in the absence of a sturdy set of spectacles, the resemblance between my Nokia 3310 and his iPhone XS is strikingly similar. I should have sussed something was up when it asked for my password. Especially seen as I don’t have a password.

I just have buttons on my phone you see. Rubbery buttons. Buttons which when pressed elicit a tiny crunching sound, an upsetting reminder of what happens when a displaced Coors Light and an unsuspecting Nokia collide. Let’s not talk about that.

6 digits it wanted. I tried entering my date of birth but then couldn’t actually remember my date of birth. Then it sought finger prints. A pretty over-the-top response to a momentary lapse in memory if you ask me.




If I must.


 I’m trying.


Still trying.


Very much trying.


The phone was vibrating in displeasure now, dissatisfied with my unfamiliar finger it seemed.


It never did that when I played snake.


“Who is this?”


“What have you done with my phone?”


“You’re quite curt aren’t you?”


“Very rude indeed.”


“…Boris sent you didn’t he?”


“I’ll take that as a YES!”

“PHONE LOCKED. Please contact your provider for assistance.”

Terrence was most seriously displeased when the truth eventually surfaced. The aggressive demand for a finger print had unsettled me also but thankfully my Nokia was later to reappear on top of the living room coffee table. Now the TV remote is missing. Weird.

Anyway, presumably Boris is having a right old snigger outside, reveling in my misfortune. What makes it worse is the placid nature of his taunts.

Floating and smirking.


What a little shit.



Moriarty has a lifelong ambition to sing at a ‘world famous’ iconic London theatre.

He sounds quite reasonable at first but then again email communication can be quite effective at concealing personality disorders. A generic enquiry as to the ins and outs of hiring our leading venue, I’m lead to believe.

My response is informative, not overly familiar but certainly not dismissive. Clinical perhaps. Guilty as charged. I merely ask for some further details as to the content of his proposed event;

“Thank you. I sing a bit but I am nobody and nothing. I was just trying to come up with ideas for my 20th year of being sober anniversary and singing at this theatre is one of my ridiculous dreams.” 

A bit of shocker if I’m being honest. I hadn’t knowingly attacked his self-esteem and I certainly hadn’t awoken this morning with the sole intention of pushing a former alcoholic over the edge and into the arms of a comforting vodka.

I need to salvage his dream whilst at the same time gently communicate that said dream would be best realised elsewhere. Preferably away from a pub.

“Good for you Andrew. No dream is ridiculous but maybe a smaller venue might be more suitable on this occasion. Wishing you every success with this and congratulations on a very admirable milestone. Maeve x ”

His response comes in the form of a link to his YouTube channel.

I can’t resist.



Absence of eyebrows.

Dyed black tresses, swept like curtains to each side courtesy of a measured but skillfully executed centre parting.

Deep in thought.


Cupboards by means of a backdrop, originally wooden I suspect but since painted white.

Silver knobs – nice detail, Moriarty.

Black and White camera filter.


A base by the sounds of it.

Wide vibrato.

WIDE vibrato.

‘You could drive a JCB though those waves’ vibrato.

Eyes focused on hands.

Occasionally meeting the gaze of the camera/unsettled viewer.

Absorbed in the power of his hands.

Stage presence emanating from each throbbing vein before focusing on one thumb and index finger combined.

So much meaning in fingers.

‘As Long As He Needs Me’ from Oliver – The Musical.

The pain of Nancy.

Passion personified.

So much passion.

Wounded passion.

Quietness of passion.

Channeled passion.

Suppressed passion.

Terrifying passion.

Too much passion.

I don’t like this passion.

Please stop with the passion, Moriarty.

I don’t even recognise this song.

Is this from Oliver?

“He doesn’t act the way he should”

You can say that again, Moriarty.

Press stop.

I can’t.

5 more home recordings on his channel.


You couldn’t.

You wouldn’t.



I do.


I watch them ALL.

Over The Rainbow.

Old Man River.

Maybe This Time.

Happy Days Are Here Again.

Losing My Mind.


Losing My Mind.


Losing My Mind?!

Losing Your Mind, Moriarty!


You’ve lost your bloody mind!




Tricky Ricky

Tricky Ricky knew his paint.

“Eggshell or Matte?”


“Walls in good condition?”

“I guess?”

“Kind’ of furniture?”

“Wooden floors and wardrobes..”




“Is that..”



“Would work well as an accent wall, maybe a neutral for the rest.”

“Ya cos I’ve got a mirror on one wall and..”


“Maybe Goosewing then?”


The Muffin Man Exchange


To whom it may concern,

As I was standing at the stage door last night following a mesmerising performing of 42nd Street, I couldn’t help but lament the notable absence of the Muffin Man on Drury Lane.

Please may you advise as to whereabouts of said Muffin Man? Whilst the cast of 42nd Street are indeed quite the attracting force, in truth my journey to the West End was inspired largely by the pursuit of a selfie with the great man himself.

It has been suggested to me that he has taken a break from the glare of media attention following a bust up with Lord Farquaad – please may you confirm if this is true?

Yours in anticipation,



Dear Simon,

Many thanks for your recent enquiry.

With respect to your question concerning the Muffin Man and his alleged altercation with Lord Farquaad, we would like to take this opportunity on behalf of our client to categorically refute any such claims.

The Muffin Man has always, as a matter of principle, held himself to the highest possible standards of conduct and for anyone to lay claim to bust ups or brawls with a man of such stature is to run with a piece of baseless tabloid speculation and knowingly elevate it to the status of fact. The malicious intent is practically pungent and verging on blasphemy.

Please may you withdraw these allegations before we proceed to the subject of his whereabouts/availability for selfies.

Yours faithfully,

Nursery Rhyme Talent and Associates


 Dear Associates,

To say I am shocked by your recent communication (dated November 7th, Two Thousand and SASS) is an understatement of extraordinary proportions.

You might have noticed in my initial correspondence (dated November 6th, Two Thousand and YOU CAN TROT ON) that I mentioned an allegation that had been ‘suggested to me’ and not one ‘generated by me’.

I consider your willingness to glean the worst from an innocent enquiry quite startling actually and it makes me speculate as to the reasoning behind your defensive and emotionally violent language. What are you people hiding?

I refuse your request for a withdrawal of my remarks which we both know to be wholly innocent and made in good faith.

I hereby insist that you withdraw YOUR remarks alleging blasphemy.


Yours incredulously,



Dear Simon,

We have noted your recent letter (dated November 8th, Two Thousand and OH I’M SORRY (NOT SORRY) DID WE OFFEND YOU??).

As if it wasn’t bad enough that you had sought to assassinate the good character of our client, you have now added insult to injury by waging war on Nursery Rhyme Talent as a whole. Your inference that we are ‘hiding’ something is petty and pathetic but we nevertheless feel the need to address the remark so as to put the matter to bed.

If by ‘hiding’ you mean ‘protecting the privacy and reputation of our client and indeed, all nursery rhyme talent represented by us’ then YES, yes we are hiding.

We will not be withdrawing our remarks containing reference to blasphemy. You might have noticed in our letter (dated November 7th, Two Thousand and MAKING SHIT UP JUST COS YOU HAVEN’T A LEG TO STAND ON) that your malicious intent was described as ‘verging on blasphemy’. Going forward, might we suggest that you read a sentence in its entirety before succumbing to hysterical responses? It would serve you very well.

We would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our insistence that you withdraw your initial allegations, wrongfully advanced towards our client.

Yours indifferently,

Nursery Rhyme Talent and Associates




For your information I CAN read a sentence in full and if I did respond emotionally it was owing to me being provoked by your inflammatory style of communication. I am neither impressed nor amused by your sarcasm and condescension.

Suffice to say I am in no way prepared to surrender to a BULLY, least of all a bully representing a mother-fucking muffin muncher.

I’m serious about the blasphemy thing. DON’T make me ask again.

Yours in defiance,





There is no gentle way of asking this Simon; is there something the matter with you? A painful childhood perhaps?

Yours lovingly,

Nursery Rhyme Talent and Associates xxx


You People,

I would start by saying that I received your last letter but it wasn’t really a letter was it? More a mocking attempt to belittle and diminish my character but that’s fine. You’ll be interested to learn that I have made contact with the Office of Nursery Rhyme Complaints and Dispute Resolution (ONRCDR) who tell me I have a solid case against you and your vile agency of misguided minions. 

Not so inadequate now am I?

Yours in revolt,



Dearest Big Bad Wolf,

We were all a bit taken aback upon entering the office this morning for there was a good 3 minute period during which time we were under the mistaken impression that you had neglected to send us our daily dose of ‘Sulking Simon.’ What a real shame that would have been and a massive blow to team moral for sure. 

Turns out your letter had merely ended up on the junk mail pile alongside flyers for Domino’s pizza and information leaflets pertaining to erectile dysfunction. Would either of those be of interest? We’d be happy to send on if so.

Yours in absolute obedience,

Nursery Rhyme Talent and Associates xxx


You smug little prick,

As someone with a severe and life debilitating intolerance to gluten I have revisited your remark referencing pizza several times since the most recent output of your poison pen was received. Upon mature and painful reflection, it seems your recklessly advanced taunt satisfies all of the criteria of a hate crime, as detailed on the Crown Prosecution website. Unsurprising really given the degree of insensitivity you have displayed up to this point. 

My erections, quite frankly, are none of your business and your scoff surrounding the subject of little Simon represents nothing more than a classless act by a classless person. 

I have had several fruitful and affirming meetings with the ONRCDR so you can expect to hear from them in due course.


P.S. Your xxx’ s are neither cute nor endearing. Please CEASE and DESIST with the xxx’s.


Dear Simon and his little Simon,


Nursery Rhyme Talent and Associates xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


Dear Nursery Rhyme Talent and Associates,

My name is Ursula Finnucane and I am writing to you in my capacity as senior legal advisor with the Office of Nursery Rhyme Complaints and Dispute Resolution (ONRCDR).

Your agency has recently been named in a complaint submitted by a Mr.  Simon Whitebread who I understand has already informed you of our involvement in the case. Mr. Whitebread is alleging intimidatory and abusive behaviour on the part of your agency and pursuant to Section 3(b)(iv) of the There’s No Room for Mean Boys in Nursery Ryhmnes Act 1957 I am obliged to investigate this further. It should be noted that Mr. Whitebread is also alleging post-traumatic stress owing to his recent correspondence with Nursery Rhyme Talent and Associates.

Please be aware that the ONRCDR is an independent and non-biased organisation and all information submitted to us for the purposes of mediation will be treated sensitively and in a GDPR compliant manner. 

I look forward to your prompt response confirming your cooperation in the above mentioned case. Furthermore, any counter claims you wish to present at this stage should be outlined in writing and received by me no later than 5pm on January 18th. 

Yours sincerely,

Ursula Finnucane.


Dear Ms. Finnucane,

My name is Bartholomew Enright and I am writing to you in my capacity as The Muffin Man.

It has been brought to my attention that my agent at Nursery Rhyme Talent and Associates has found himself at the centre of a dispute involving a certain Mr. Whitebread and I must begin by stressing that I am horrified that such a situation has arisen. That I should have contributed to this dispute through my own negligence and insecurity has only compounded my distress.

You see, Mr. Whitebread was correct in his observation that I have been absent from my duties of late. And he was correct in his assertion that my agent was hiding something.

Mr. Whitebread’s suspicions were in truth, fully merited.

Last September, following a summer of diabolical muffin sales on Drury Lane and a prolonged period during which an apparently un-exhaustive series of unflattering pictures of me were being posted online, I decided to undergo plastic surgery. These procedures included under eye bag removal and cheek implants.

To cut a long story short, they bloody well botched it and now I look like Louis Walsh trapped in a wind tunnel. I have been unable to resume my role as the Muffin Man owing to significant swelling which is simply refusing to subside. It is for this reason that I directed my agent to deflect any requests for selfies until such time as my face is fully functioning once more and until such time as I am capable of feeling anything other than acute humiliation and shame.

I would be grateful, Ms. Finnucane, if you would relay this explanation to Mr. Whitebread. I know it doesn’t excuse the manner in which his enquiry was dealt but I am hoping he might at least understand the reasoning behind it.

Finally and by means of an olive branch offering of sorts, I would also like to invite Mr. Whitebread to meet with me so that his request for a selfie may be honoured.

I look forward to hearing from you and await your response patiently.

Kindest regards,

Bertie Enright.


Dear Mr. Enright,

Both Mr. Whitebread and I would like to express our sincere gratitude for your willingness to represent yourself before the ONRCDR and for your honest and forthcoming account of the challenges you currently face.

Mr Whitebread has asked for the following response to be communicated to you;

“Dear Mr. Enright,

In light of your heartfelt and deeply moving letter I, Simon Whitebread, would like to formally withdraw my case against Nursery Rhyme Talent and Associates.

Further to this, I would also like to respectfully withdraw my initial request for a selfie as I am now of the belief that any images of you in your current state of disfigurement would be a gross misrepresentation of the Muffin Man as we know him and indeed a betrayal of the standard of selfie that my Instagram followers have come to know and expect.

I wish you the very best in your recovery and perhaps you might be able to let me know who has taken over the role of Muffin Man in your absence?

Best regards,


I trust that the above statement is to your satisfaction, Mr. Enright and unless you have any objections I will be recommending that the case now be closed. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any further questions.

Yours sincerely,

Ursula Finnucane.

The Band

I thought now that the venue adjacent to our offices had closed that the theatre gods might take pity on me and spare this sullen shamrock the nuisance visits from members of the public (those under the mistaken assumption that my desk is the Box Office). I thought wrong.

“2 tickets for tonight’s show please there DAWLIN!”

The man and his wife had come through our doors about 12 seconds prior and worryingly for me, had the look of ‘enthused theatre-goers’ about them.

“Eh, well the theatre is actually closed now.” I said, staring at them wide eyed, almost impressed by their oblivion to the sounds of drilling and general dismantling of a building that were streaming through our walls.


“Ya, so there isn’t…”

“Closed tonight?”

“Well, actually for about 18 months so…”

“No it’s not.”

He wasn’t aggressive in his retort, more matter-of-fact.

“Eh…well it is?” I suggested, now having decided that these were surely country folk and that I (being a culchie myself) should at least pretend to be a bit more empathetic.

“NO. There’s a show on tonight. Saw it in the paper.”

He referenced ‘The Paper’ with a sort of religious respect, as if any information contained therein was gospel and therefore immune to dispute or correction. I bet he circles articles in newspapers and keeps them all in a pile on the kitchen table like my Dad, I thought. I bet he’s a hoarder like my Dad, I continued. And with that my reserve of patience depleted almost instantaneously.

“Are you sure you’ve got the right venue? Which show were you interested in?”

“The Band. And it’s on here tonight. It was in The Paper!”

And with a swooping motion so seamless it was breath-taking, Mr. Man produced from his pocket a cut-out from what I can only assume was the Bedford Bugle or something equally laborious. The piece of paper contained an ad for ‘The Band’, a musical now running at Theatre Royal Haymarket.  I began to speculate as to what other articles had appeared on that very page from which this ad had been extracted; local woman finds her missing cat after an eleven year search; local man paints his garden trellis and watches the paint dry.

“See!” he announced. “The Band – Theatre Royal Haymarket.” His speech was emphatic as he pointed at the wording for added effect. The ‘smug’ had come out to play for sure but ‘indifferent’ was ready for the exchange.

“Ya, you see the Haymarket is a different venue, it’s the other side of Trafalgar Square – do you know that area?”

He withdrew the piece of paper from my desk, his face crinkling under the weight of disappointed. I felt bad then. It wouldn’t have killed me to deliver this blow with a just a modicum of sensitivity I reflected, before clumsily trying to offer a ‘make up’ cuddle by means of vague but heartfelt walking directions.

“But they might not have any tickets left by the time we get there..”

His disappointment was sinking into a deeper kind of grief. His wife seemed completely disinterested.

“Nya, it’s a Take That musical isn’t it?


“I don’t think you’ll have a problem getting seats for that.”

The Lion King

It was about 3pm on Saturday afternoon when I found myself standing in the rain alongside my new landlord, staring into the boot of his car. There was a good 5 seconds of uninterrupted silence before either of us could find the appropriate words with which to speak.

“It’s a coffee table.” he finally announced. I noted the understated pride in his voice.

Before me lay a Lion that appeared to be hugging the trunk of a tree and which occupied the full breadth of his rather sizable boot. Little did I know upon waking that morning that this otherwise mundane Saturday would mark my first encounter with Nala.

“…..Is it a table?” I stuttered as I stared open mouthed at the animal before me. I could feel my belly muscles clenching and my throat beginning to cave in. This is usually the first indication of an impending laughing fit.

“Ya, the glass goes here!” said the landlord, pointing to a paw with what looked like a plastic button affixed to it. I was channeling much of my energy into suppressing chuckles at this stage and in my resulting state of agitation I thought he meant that one could rest ‘a glass’ on said paw. What a bizarre piece of furniture I thought, somewhat bemused.

“So would you like it?” he asked, turning to meet my gaze and smiling at me with earnest generosity. I could tell the Lion meant a great deal to him and that his offering was akin to him handing me his new-born child in the hope and expectation that I would love it unconditionally and with every fibre of my being. I was fecked. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s that you must always at least pretend that the baby is precious, no matter how ugly the baby be, and no matter how uncanny it’s resemblance to a raisin.

“Eh….y…….yyyy………yeeeeee………….yes……..it’s…….it’s really………it’s really unusual…” I stammered. A pregnant pause descended. I would have to further reassure my landlord.

“It’s…..it’s actually……..it’s actually really…..it’s really quite cool?”

I helped carry Nala inside, me taking the head and front paws, the landlord taking responsibility for the rear end and bulk of the tree trunk.

We carried the Lion the whole way down the street.

A Lion.

I Want To Make A Complaint

Russell wanted to know who the main man in charge was. He was intent on making a complaint about the degree of challenge involved in making a booking over the phone. Apparently the booking line experience had culminated in him being prompted (by an automated message) to press different numbers for different options and all of this finger fiddling was proving a bit of a heart scald for poor old Russell.

He wasn’t sad, he was angry. What’s more, the tickets he was trying to book were for his Granny and according to Russell, he wasn’t at all convinced she had much left to go. At this rate she could be dead before the tickets were even secured so with that in mind I could understand his grievance.

Neither Box Office nor Customer Services would suffice where Russell’s needs were concerned however and Russell wanted to go straight to the leader of the pack, to the keeper of the keys, to the wearer of the crown. Being an absolute LAD with all the hallmarks of an East End boy, Russell would undoubtedly relay this story to his fellow LADS down the pub in years to come, the story about the time he beat the system and bulldozed his way straight to the top, all in the name of his granny.







“It’s a woman actually” I replied. That shut him up for about 2 seconds.

“………..That’s brilliant. That’s really brilliant!” said Russell with forced enthusiasm. I think I actually heard his eyes widen. His transition from ‘BILLY BIG BALLS’ to ‘something approaching jovial’ was nothing short of sensational actually and if I were in the business of casting I’d have him down for Jekyll/Hyde without a moment’s hesitation.

“I love seeing women in positions like that. Women are better are things like that and good for them! And where, may I ask, is that lovely accent from?”


“Well, can I say how ‘GO HÁILAINN’ you sound” he gushed.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this newfound charm of his but I decided to embrace it with a nice dollop of recklessness. It was raining outside and I was hoping Russell might prove himself memorable if not entertaining.

“I appreciate your ‘cúpla focail’ Russell!”

“I can do that in 100 languages ya know?”

“That’s very impressive alright.”

We were friends it seemed and indeed our friendship had accelerated at such astonishing pace that Russell was showing real signs of concern for my well-being.

“Listen Maeve, I know what it’s like to work in a difficult place…”

I was waiting for the melancholic music to emanate from the very walls surrounding me, the music you hear in ads for abandoned puppies at Christmas.

“I work for a rail company Maeve….a rail company in London…a signalling technician…”

That’s pretty bad alright I thought.

“The other day a woman was shouting at me cos’ her train was late…”

“And what did you say to her?”

“I said ‘You look very beautiful when you’re angry madam.’”

“Did you really think that?”

“I did actually. I think women look great when they’re angry. I bet you’re very beautiful, Irish women are beautiful, can’t beat em’! I tell ya what Maeve, if I was 25 years younger and Brad Pitt and rich I’d be looking to continue this conversation over dinner!”

“Thanks Russell.” I said before assuring him I’d get someone from the relevant box office to call him. “Oh and Russell, do you want the email address to make a complaint to?”

“Nah Maeve, I do FEMALES not EMAILS!”

And that was Russell for you. A martyr for his granny if ever I heard one.

Time To Say Goodbye

Mavis was most seriously displeased. Rumours were rife of an office departure, namely the resignation of a certain Mr. Peter Sapi.

As Chairwoman of the ‘Office Entertainment and Dramatic Affairs’ Committee, Mavis considered it inappropriate in the extreme not to have been formally notified of Peter’s leaving. Mavis was after all, a person of much importance, as confirmed by her ‘Access All Areas’ staff ID card and her recent success at the World Flower Arranging Contest in which she had placed an impressive 2nd.

She was beaten only by the Russians but speculation had mounted in the days that followed suggesting illegal flower activity on their part in addition to foliage poisoning and illicit stem fixing. Now that she thought about it, Mavis was convinced that her oasis had been tampered with.

But back to the news of Peter’s notice having been tendered and Mavis was battling with a persistent sense of having been betrayed. Not by Peter it must be stressed, but by the powers that be who had failed to inform her of this shattering loss to the company.

One of Mavis’ many, many special duties as Chairwoman of the ‘Office Entertainment and Dramatic Affairs’ Committee was to organise and indeed star in any office gatherings resulting from such events as; Staff birthdays; Staff engagements/weddings; Staff members going on maternity leave; Friday afternoons.

Mavis kept a diary of such events and monitored it with faithful devotion. She checked it on an almost hourly basis, noting the dates and times for which a thorough vocal warm up would be required and arrangements put in place for the hiring of a Grand Piano. This catalogue of songs was affectionately referred to by all who attended as ‘Mavis’ Magic Mic – You’re Welcome’

Her repertoire was very much dependent on the occasion of course but she could always count on a few classics to woo the audience into submission/awe. Her colleagues/fans were particularly enamoured with such numbers as;

  1. Strangers in the Night (Sinatra)
  2. I’m Every Woman (Whitney Houston)
  3. Relight My Fire (Take That/Lulu) **Mavis sang BOTH the Take That AND Lulu sections it should be noted***
  4. My Heart Will Go On (Celine Dion)

In fact many had commented on the likeness of Mavis’ voice to that of the latter mentioned Celine Dion.

“You’ve basically got the same range but yours is much richer” they’d say.

“Ya, you sound so EXPENSIVE when you sing” they’d offer.

“Ya, you’re LITERALLY sick!” they’d enthuse.

At first Mavis had taken great offence to any inference of her sounding unwell but having learned that ‘sick’ was slang for ‘the dogs bollix’ Mavis was suitably satisfied. She had always suspected her fans to be intelligent above the ordinary.

But this omission on the part of HR, their failure to notify Mavis of Peter’s leaving, had thrown her entire performance schedule into disarray. It was too late to make arrangements for a pianist at this stage and the very idea (as recklessly advanced by her manicurist) of a backing track being transmitted via some shabby desk top speakers was not at all in keeping with Mavis’ reputation for leaving both her heart and her larynx on the stage.

Peter would undoubtedly be devastated were he to be robbed of an instalment of Mavis’ Magic Mic. It was neither fair nor right and Mavis was still reeling at the earlier suggestion of her nail technician – she wasn’t a PEASANT you know!

Soon Peter’s final day was upon them and an air of gloom hung stubbornly over the entire office. People came and went to say their last farewells and to wish Peter luck, the sadness almost palpable. Mavis was experiencing a deep melancholy also, though hers was less to do with the loss of Peter and more a result of her inability to perform that day. This in itself would be a blow from which the office workforce might never fully recover.

But at 4.30pm something extraordinary happened, something that could never have been foretold.

The Director of Ticking got up to say a few words, a toast to the departing Mr. Sapi. People stood and gathered round, glasses of chilled prosecco were circulated, toasts were made and a magnificent cake was sliced and gobbled up by the well-wishing staff members. Soon all eyes were focused on Peter, his colleagues urging him to speak so that they might, for just a little longer, enjoy that lilting Northern accent and gentle charm that so distinguish the man.

It was just as Peter began to open his mouth that, as if from nowhere, a moment of inspiration took hold of Mavis.

“That’s it!” she thought. She had mesmerised herself with her own INGENIOUS.

“I don’t need a Grand Piano or sordid backing tracks! People didn’t come here to hear a piano, they came to hear ME!”

The silence that descended as Peter began to speak struck Mavis as the ideal level of respectful attention from which to sing, but sing a Capella! He would thank her later for saving the day and delivering on her mission statement as Chairwoman of the ‘Office Entertainment and Dramatic Affairs’ Committee; ‘to challenge, to seduce, to leave them wanting more’.

Having been mentally released from the shackles of piano accompaniment, Mavis proceeded to prowl from the back of the office and barge her way defiantly through the office crowds. She quickly seized the fuchsia pink feather boa from her stationary supplies cupboard and wrapped it round her neck. The diamanté tiara was already primed and in position.

She continued to move with enchanting conviction until finally she was at an almost perpendicular angle to Peter’s face and assuming centre stage with the man of the hour. There was no time to lose; she had the audience in the palm of her hand.

“Tiiiiiime tooooooooooooooooo say gooooodbyeeeeeeeeeeee” she warbled – a fitting tribute and a strong showcase of her powerful vocals and stunning range. At first the staff didn’t seem all familiar with this CLASSIC – had they never heard of Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman? Their faces revealed a sea of uncultured ill-breds and Mavis was embarrassed on their behalf for having shown their true colours in front of a man like Peter.

But ever the professional, she resolved to keep singing. “The show MUST go on” she pledged internally.

“Quando sono solo
Sogno all’orizzonte
E mancan le parole
Sì lo so che non c’è luce
In una stanza quando manca il sole
Se non ci sei tu con me, con me
Su le finestre
Mostra a tutti il mio cuore
Che hai acceso
Chiudi dentro me
La luce che
Hai incontrato per strada”

Peter had stopped speaking a long time ago. He was clearly moved beyond words. Someone attempted to intervene after the first verse but Mavis was quick to scold the offending staff member with a glare and a whip of her feather boa. She continued;

Time to say goodbye
Paesi che non ho mai
Veduto e vissuto con te
Adesso si li vivrò
Con te partirò
Su navi per mari
Che, io lo so
No, no, non esistono più
It’s time to say goodbye

And with that she made the creative choice to let her vocals fade out with a final note that lingered for a good 45 seconds. She could see they were impressed, not only with her breath control, but with her weighty, powerhouse vibrato.

There wasn’t much in the form of an applause but Mavis had noticed this to be the case whenever people were still reeling from the emotional gravitas of her performance. It happened quite a bit.

She nevertheless completed her set with a full curtsy whist standing in front of Peter. He struck her as somewhat shy so she considered the gesture the height of thoughtfulness and very much in keeping with the spirit of the ‘Office Entertainment and Dramatic Affairs’ Committee.

Mavis left the office that evening, confident in the knowledge that she had pulled out all the stops for Peter. He of all people had an unwavering appreciation for the talents of Mavis and was fully deserving of an appropriately dramatic send off.

She would miss him.

Finbar The Mouse – A Short Story

The smell of dead mouse.

But the traps around the office were empty. Somewhere between the walls of theatre land head offices and the unwelcoming office furniture there lay the remains of one member of the abundant but friendly mouse community.

Finbar had died from a broken heart for sure and the odour of decay was reflective of his saddened rodent soul.

Times had been good when Joanne of the Ticketing team had left an artisan loaf of bread under her desk one night. Finbar couldn’t believe his luck at the time and had even invited his many, many friends to share in the exploits that evening. They nibbled and gnashed their way through the loaf with giddy gratitude, squealing excitedly with each mouthful of delicious crust. Rather rudely, Joanne had neglected to leave out some cheese and caramelised red onion chutney by means of an accompaniment but Finbar felt it would be in poor taste to pull her up on her thoughtlessness on that occasion.

In the absence of a bread knife there was quite an amount of crumbs to contend with and even with his friends in tow Finbar was unable to operate the vacuum cleaner with ease. It was less to do with the over-bearing size of it actually and more to do with the bag being full.  Albeit reluctantly, Finbar decided to leave the scattering of crumbs in situ under Joanne’s desk. The cleaners would have to deal with these the following morning.

But looking at himself in the mirror of the basement gents toilets that night Finbar felt burdened with guilt. His dismissive attitude towards the cleaners and the knowledge that he had added to their workload did not sit easily with him. He tried to sleep, snuggling himself up in the safe confines of a cosy box of discarded printer cartridges, but his mind was plagued. The shame of abandoned crumbs infiltrated every thought and every attempt at dreaming.

At 4.27am and fueled by a jarring unease Finbar made his way back to the office space having decided to gather the crumbs into a neat pile for ease of collection by the cleaners. He was unable to discard them for reasons already mentioned (the hoover bag was full) but at the very least he could assist with their disposal.

A neat little pile. Then he wouldn’t feel so bad.

Little was Finbar to know that these actions would ultimately instigate his untimely demise. He returned to the box of cartridges and with a new found sense of relief Finbar fell soundly asleep, his heavy breathing interrupted only by sporadic squeaking snores.

The following morning it was a certain mound of grain that caught the attention of the EVIL office receptionist.

“How odd?” she thought as she sauntered nonchalantly passed Joanne’s desk, halting suddenly and staring intently at the mass of ‘unknown substance’ on the floor.  Peter, who occupied the desk next to Joanne’s, was also perplexed. Peter and the Evil Receptionist continued to gaze in dismay for a number of minutes until finally Peter surmised that this was surely the work of a pest and solid evidence of mouse activity.

Evil Receptionist didn’t like the sound of that one bit. The thought of unsavoury creatures scurrying around her handbag horrified her. What if one of them chewed through her make up bag and consumed her liquid eye liner with the same venom as had been directed at the artisan bread?

She vowed there and then to catch this mystery bread muncher and secure the contents of her handbag. Pest Control were duly notified.

Meanwhile, back in the box of expended printer cartridges and Finbar was starting his day with a sun salutation and gentle stretch. Despite the feast of bread that had been enjoyed by him and his many, many friends the night before, Finbar was feeling peckish. He headed towards the office kitchen where he was sure to uncover some leftovers he thought.

A special delivery of cupcakes had arrived in the office kitchen only minutes earlier. A ‘thank you’ gift from a another satisfied client. Finbar, once again, couldn’t believe his luck upon spotting the sugary treats atop the kitchen counter and was so excited to tell his many, many friends and invite them to share. The buns came in all different colours with lashings of cream cheese icing and decorative sprinklings of this and that. Whilst the bread had been a discovery of joyous proportions for sure, these cupcakes had the effect of making Finbar’s mini mouse heart thump uncontrollably.

But just as he was about to make a move the Evil Receptionist appeared with her greedy fingers, singling out a yellow cupcake and announcing her love of “all things lemony” to anyone who’d listen. He noted the midnight blue nail polish on her fingers. It didn’t do much for her pale complexion he concluded.

But soon the area was swarming with people and Finbar was growing increasingly concerned that he might not get to enjoy dessert. Finally and to his horror the remaining cupcakes were placed back in their box and rammed into the fridge before the office doors closed that evening.

Tomorrow would be a better day, he resolved.

It was about 11am the following morning when Finbar discretely entered the office. The box of cupcakes had once again been propped open and placed on top of the kitchen counter where staff members were coming and going, replenishing coffee mugs and filling water bottles. The cupcakes were dwindling and soon only one remained; Red Velvet.

Finbar waited and waited for the kitchen to clear but then something shocking happened! He couldn’t believe his mouse eyes when Evil Receptionist lunged from her desk and pounced on the remaining cupcake despite having already enjoyed her favourite ‘lemony’ one the day beforehand!

“How GREEDY can one person be” he fumed. He was stuck to the spot and rigid with rage. He had an overwhelming sense of having been badly wronged.

Such was his fury that he barely noticed the eyes of the Evil Receptionist landing on him, fixating on him even. The mystery bread muncher had been spotted. Evil Receptionist let out a fearful cry which Finbar considered attention seeking in the extreme. Nevertheless he felt it best to run and hide under a rather chic Phantom of the Opera slot machine that occupied the corner of the office kitchen. There he would remain until the coast was clear. Minutes turned into hours, hours turned into days. He couldn’t risk making a dash for it when everyone, including pest control officers, were now on high alert.

Surely his friends would come and save him; his many, many friends with whom he had shared his bread and with whom he would have shared that remaining Red Velvet cupcake?

But none of them came. Not a single one.

They just moved on to the theatre next door where sweet and salty pop-corn crumbs were proving the flavour of the day.

They never came back for Finbar with his giant little heart.

And so under the very chic Phantom of the Opera Slot Machine, Finbar breathed his last breaths. Laboured, not because of poisoning, but because of his heaving broken heart.

His smell lives on however.

Especially around the Reception desk.

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