I’ve recently joined a writing group in Bromley, that meets on a Saturday morning. It is, of course, my New Year’s Resolution (By the way, happy new year!) to write A Heck of a lot more than I did last year. So this group is really good. We meet for an hour of free writing, based on a spark word (we then spend the next hour reading out our work and drinking tea, but that’s by-the-by. The important thing is the hour of free writing). So (hopefully) this will become a weekly thing, where I can post my free writing. I’ve been to two groups, so there’ll – gasp! – be two entries from me today! I’ll update next Saturday with more free writing, but in the meantime, enjoy my work on the spark word ‘determination’.
“Hello! And welcome again to Smash It! The recording smashing programme that has smashed more records than, well, any other. And we’ve got a brilliant show lined up for you today, haven’t we, Sue?”
“That’s right Andy,” said Sue, sashaying down through the audience to join her co-host on stage. “Today we’ve got Jonathan, who’s going to smash the record for the most jumping jacks in 30 seconds…”
The camera panned back to Andy, who smoothly took over.
“We’ve got Rachel and Chinaza, who are going to sing Danny Boy as many times as they can in one minute…”
“Then for our grand finale,” – back to Sue again – “we’ve got the dogs of Leytonstone Police Station, who are aiming to pop more balloons than any canine can. Like I say, a brilliant show.”
“But first,” said Andy, looking solemnly into the camera, “is a story of bravery and resilience. The ladies of the Buxwell WI have been making jam for more than 50 years. But when their hall was faced with closure, they rallied round in support of one another.” The camera zoomed in on Sue’s face. She was nodding, and looking suitably grave.
“But Andy, is that all?” asked Sue in mock surprise. She knew damn well it wasn’t all. God, she hated Andy. Hated how he got more screen time than she did. Got more fan mail than she did. Got more money than she did. She hated how she was little more than his foil.
“No, Sue,” chuckled Andy. “There was a fire at the hall, during one of the meetings, where six members had to be hospitalised for smoke inhalation.”
“Mm,” said Sue, nodding thoughtfully again.
“Then when one of the members was being treated for smoke damage, a tumour was found in her left breast.”
She hated how he said ‘breast’.
“I visited Buxwell,” said Andy, and – was it her imagination? – Or did he emphasise ‘I’ just a little too long? “To see how the preparations for today’s show were coming along. Let’s go and -”
“Smash it!” Sue shouted dutifully.
The audience had also shouted ‘smash it’ at the same time, but they sounded markedly more enthusiastic.
As the back story of the Buxwell WI played on the screen, Andy went over to the ladies’ society, ostensibly to check if they were ready, but Sue knew it was just so he could charm the pants off them.
The giggling and going she could hear from the corner of the studio where they were to smash the record for cake decorating seemed to imply that he was doing his usual.
“And that’s all from me in Buxwell,” came over the speakers. Andy looked at the WI – all simpering and rosy-cheeked – and winked at them.
“That’s my cue to leave,” he said and deftly wove his way back to the sofa, where he could see Sue was glowering at him. He didn’t care. Let her glower. He was going to leave this crappy little show anyway, when the time was right, and settle in his spiritual home of Hollywood. He saw himself giving awards at a lavish ceremony; presenting America’s top reality programme;, being interviewed on the red carpet. Well, he would say modestly, I owe it all to a little place called London, and a little show called Smash It!
Sue brought him out of his reverie by nudging him discreetly, but sharply.
“Yes Sue, thank you,” he said instantly, all trace of daydreaming gone, and back to being the consummate professional. For all his disdain of Smash It!, it did bring home the bacon, a lot of bacon, and he knew he was lucky to have it. One poor sod from his art college days had been reduced to the gambling graveyard slot on Channel 5.
Andy proceeded to the centre of the studio, where there was a mock-up of a country kitchen. The Buxwell WI were already there, laying out their sheets of royal icing out and dusting their rolling pins with flour.
The unsmiling man from Guinness was there too. Every record that they smashed on Smash It! had to be independently adjudicated and monitored, and there was a dedicated team from Guinness who took it in turns to ensure that everything was above board.
Today it was Ben, who looked really grumpy, but was actually very nice. Sue had been for a drink with him and some of the production staff after the end of the last series. She quite fancied him, in truth be told, but he was married, bad luck. And married to a man as well, worse luck. Nothing ever seemed to go right for her, thought Sue bitterly, as yet again, Andy was centre-stage and she was left to sit on the sofa and smile inanely for the audience.
“Ready…” Andy was goading the audience into saying their beloved catchphrase. “Get set…”
“Smash it!” squealed the audience in delight.
The hallowed stop watch was produced and the Buxwell WI sprung into action. They had to cover 124 cakes in two minutes to level the record set by some tortured baker in Missouri in 2005, but who wants to level a record when you can smash it instead?
The ladies worked furiously, each determined to outdo the others. They all wanted to look good for the cameras. Mrs Cudham had warned everyone that “the camera adds 10 pounds”, so many were wearing black, or vertical stripes, in the hopes of appearing thinner. The make-up team had worked miracles though: Mrs Gadsby looked almost pretty. Andy surveyed the ageing ladies with something erring on disgust. He knew they had all tarted up for him, and he almost loathed them for it. Foul old things, he thought, as he cheerfully egged them on, shouting encouraging words and sticking his thumb up at them every so often.
The whistle blew and the challenge ended. The ladies stood panting to one side, whilst Ben totted up the number of cakes they had managed to cover. 132! A new record!
“Ladies, I’m pleased to say you smashed it!” Andy held the liver-spotted hand of Mrs Cudham and raised it in the air. “A new world record, today on Smash It! You know what this means…” he ended, a coy twinkle in his eye.
‘That means you get added to our Wall of Fame,” said Sue, coming over off the sofa to join Andy, a polaroid camera in one hand, plastic medals in the other.
“Not only that, Sue, is there anything else?”
“Yes Andy! You also get a medal for smashing it!” Sue began looping the striped ribbons over the ladies’ necks, as Andy snapped away with the polaroid. At least, thought Sue, I’ll be in the picture when it goes on the wall.
The photo began to develop, and as soon as the shadowy figures started to materialise, Sue took it from Andy and pinned it to the Wall of Fame. He’d managed to take the photo at such an angle that her hands were visible, but nothing else. Bastard. When she’d taken the photo, he’d managed to include himself in every one.