Well, my utter and fulsome apologies if this one is a bit crap. I’ve had a few (four) drinks and honesty I didn’t know what to say in this pseudo commentary about life other than ‘it’s a bit shit really isn’t it but you have to make the best of a bad lot I suppose’ and it was difficult to stretch that out to 1500 words.
A true fact about this story is that the title was recycled from earlier story ‘Thijs is the Life’, after I was provided with a much more punworthy title at the last minute.
Anyway, I hope it is a lot easier to read than it was to write. I present unto you, dear reader, Jonathan S Cromie’s suggestion: ‘A mayfly, minutes away from death, reflects on its life.’
2014 – A Year In Stories
A Day in the Life
The mayfly fought as hard as it could to stay in the air, but its tired old wings were simply no longer up to the task. Reluctantly it began its descent, the water of the stream rushing towards it at alarming speed.
Clumsily it landed on a lily pad at the water’s edge and brought its wings to rest. They had served the mayfly well, but now it had flown its last, and they would be used no longer.
It rested on the lily pad and awaited its final outcome. The inevitability of death was one the mayfly had come to accept during its naiad stages, as it had witnessed the long transformation and quick ending of so many of its brothers and sisters, with only a short, busy life interjected in between.
And now its time had come too. The naiad period seemed so long ago now, although compared to the length of the transformational period the mayfly had only been in this form for a fraction of the time it took to reach maturity.
It considered the futility of its existence. All that time spent gestating in the stream, trapped until it had achieved full maturity, only to experience the freedom of the world for such a short period of time.
The whole thing felt cruel, as if it had been released in to the world after a long imprisonment to find that it had no time at all to truly experience it. To lie there and long to be free, to really exist, and then to have it all taken away again so suddenly, and so finally, was the most grievous injustice.
The mayfly watched as the next generation of its species spread their wings for the first time. He could feel the hope radiating from them as they buzzed away in to the distance, the wonder at finally being able to explore outside their world, which until this point had been so confined and small.
In a way the mayfly envied them their naïveté. The same naïveté it had itself experienced upon bursting from the water for the first time such a short time ago. The belief that it would be different this time, that what happened to all of its ancestors that it had seen go before it wouldn’t happen again.
Not this time.
But, equally, it pitied them. It pitied them for the simple reason that, likes its own hopes, they would be dashed very quickly indeed.
It wondered why. As far as the mayfly could tell it had only existed in this final form to mate. There had been no time for anything else. No time to explore the world or to even help move forward the march of nature. In a way that was even crueller than the brevity of its lifespan. Its sole reason for existing was to propagate more of the species. If that wasn’t the focus then at least it might have had the time to do something else.
Even sadder was that more of the species who would simply go on to do the same and then, themselves, die. Millions, if not billions of lives and dreams unfulfilled, simply to keep a species alive that had no reason for existence in the first place.
No reason to be, no reason to continue, no reason to even live in the first place. But by the time any individual mayfly realised this it was too late. By the time they realised the utter futility of their existence the deed had been done. The mating process was complete and the new larvae safely tucked away in the stream before the inevitable decline set in.
How desperately the mayfly wanted to beat its wings again, fly up to the newly matured mayflies that flittered about above the water and tell them not to bother. That the whole enterprise wasn’t worth it. To let the species die out. To finally put the mayfly out of its collective misery.
But it couldn’t. It tested its wings and found that, while they still had some movement in them, that they had stiffened up. It was surprised they hadn’t disintegrated already. To try and fly now would be foolish.
Despondent, it moved slowly across the lily pad on rapidly aging legs. Every movement was difficult and painful. Eventually it reached the other side and gazed out over the water. It witnessed a family of frogs splashing happily in the shallows amongst a bed of reeds on the other bank.
For the entirety of its naiad period it had watched the family of frogs grow, prosper, and enjoy their lives together. It had watched the millions of his brethren reach such an early crescendo and wither away to nothing while this small family had blossomed in front of its very eyes.
It was unfair. Watching those creatures, now and then, had simply been a reminder that it would never truly get to experience the wonders of the world. Perhaps, it thought, that was why it had been so keen to defy the inevitable. All it had wanted was a real chance at life.
It turned away from the frogs and back to its solitude. It began to wonder how long it would be before it died. Surely it couldn’t be long now. What was next? Was there something after this life for it to move on to? Something beyond the realm of life that offered some sort of explanation for the emptiness it felt at this moment. It suspected not.
It paused for a moment to reflect. Perhaps it was taking the wrong outlook on the situation. After all, it imagined that it was a privilege to have existed at all, even for such a brief period, in a world as glorious and beautiful as this. The surroundings of the stream were magnificent, and it could only wonder at the realms beyond that which it had witnessed on its first flight up above the tree line.
For that brief second it had witnessed the golden fields, and the green of the rolling hills beyond, spreading out in all directions as far as it could see. In that one moment it had felt more alive than it imagined any other creature could possibly have done so before.
Its time on this earth, at the least the meaningful time afforded to it after its final transformation, was so fleeting that every moment was important. It had to cherish the thugs it had experience, however briefly, and celebrate its own existence, for no one else would. It would be dead long before any of its children were even old enough to be aware of their own existence.
It turned back to face the family of frogs. Every movement was more difficult than the last, and it felt that its final moments were drawing near. It looked at the family in a new light as it swam around in the shallows.
They were creatures entirely untroubled by the problems of life. They did not care that at some point they would be separated, or that their existence was short-lived. Rather they merely enjoyed the time they had together, and cherished it for what it was, rather than what it could, or perhaps should have been.
The mayfly was finding it hard to breathe now. Every breath was laboured and it felt its thin legs begin to collapse underneath it as they could no longer hold up the weight of its body.
It longed to see the view above the tree tops one final time, but consoled itself simply with the memory as its vision began to first blur and then fade away as the icy fingers of death crept across it.
It simply lay there, allowing death to come to it slowly but surely. It had lived its life as fully as was possible under the circumstances and it was content that it’s short time on the earth had been worthwhile.
Around the mayfly the world went on. Nobody, not even the other mayflies, in the midst of experiencing their own elation at the wonder of life, noticed the lonely creature dying on the lily pad. The march of time paid it no heed.
As death finally claimed the mayfly, it left the world with a single final thought: I’m glad I have had the chance to exist.
The world kept on turning, and a million more mayflies burst forth from the water along the stream, ready to begin their brief journeys, just as had happened a million times before, and would happen a million times more.
What had seemed initially to be the futility of its existence had, in the mayfly’s final moments, given it its greatest revelation: it was not creating life simply for the furthering of what was essentially a doomed species, it was giving millions of creatures a chance at life; a chance to exist.
When I first saw the brief for this week’s story I was quite worried, because it was very detailed indeed. Luckily, Brendan Rodgers, who submitted it (sadly not the Liverpool manager), was willing for it to be chopped up a little bit to fit the restrictions imposed by the challenge.
And so, below you can witness a sort of mashup of ideas based on: ‘A man uses social media to gain power over his colleagues and friends. rather than rely on his qualifications he blackmails his way to the top. until he meets someone who’s online persona is a lie. he falls in love with the lie but gains no happiness from discovering who she really is, and punishes her and simultaneously loses everything he has become.’
2014 – A Year In Stories
“Jenkins! Get in here!”
Carl flinched. It was the third time today that his boss had summoned him in to her office to yell at him, and it wasn’t even 11am.
As he stood there, being sounded out for whatever transgression had occurred this time – last time there had been no pencils in the stationery cupboard – he rued his choices in life.
He had dreams of leaving university with his classics degree and walking straight in to a high paying research position, or perhaps a role in academia.
Unfortunately reality was not up to speed with his dreams and Carl had left university, classics degree in tow, just after the recession hit Britain in 2008. Seeing a lack of opportunities available in good old Blighty he had moved to Australia for a year and gotten a job picking fruit to fund a hedonistic lifestyle.
Eventually his visa and his money ran out and he made his way back home, where he bummed about for a while. Sooner than he had hoped the time cape for him to get off his arse and find himself a real job.
By this point his degree was meaningless. There were only a handful of careers open to a classicist, and they were vastly oversubscribed, and it didn’t stand him out from the crowd any in comparison with his peers, who all also possessed degrees in frivolous subjects like history, philosophy and film studies.
After months of never hearing back about anything, he got a call back about this job. It paid substantially lower than we would have hoped, and that really he truly needed, but it was the first step on the career ladder.
He soon found that if he was to stay with this company it would be the only step.
He had no responsibility, beyond making everyone’s tea and coffee in the morning, and most of the time just got dumped with the work no one else wanted to do, and far more of it than he had the time or mental capacity to handle. Hence the frequent trips to his manager’s office.
The promotion prospects were nil. It wasn’t that there were no openings; every time a role came up he made to apply for it, but his manager threatened to fire him if he went through with the application. He simply couldn’t risk it. If he went for the job and his manager found out he would lose everything, and it was better to be on a pittance than on nothing at all.
He snapped out of his daydream as his manager appeared to have stopped yelling, and was now staring straight at him, as if she was expecting him to say something.
“Well? I don’t have all day. What do you have to say for yourself?”
Carl was lost. He hadn’t heard a word of his manager’s rant and he didn’t want to make things worse by saying the wrong thing.
“I’m waiting…” she said, impatiently.
“I’m sorry…” he ventured. “It won’t happen again…?”
His boss sat back in her chair, seemingly placated by his response. “See that it doesn’t,” she replied, before returning to her paperwork. After a few seconds she looked at him again. “Are you still here,” she asked, pointedly. “Get back to work!”
That evening, two hours after he was supposed to finish work, he finally gave up on the tasks he had to do for the day and decided that they could be finished off tomorrow. As he picked his coat up from the back of his desk chair he noticed through the glass wall that his manager’s computer was still turned on.
She, of course, along with everyone else, had left on time, and he had been left by himself. He found he spent at least an hour in the office every evening, usually two, but somehow everyone else found a way to fit all of their work in to their 9-5 hours.
Reckoning that if she came in tomorrow morning to find her computer still on that she would just blame him, Carl decided to go in to the office and shut it down. He made his way through the door and sat down behind her desk, relishing the comfort of the plush leather chair in comparison to his £15 monstrosity from Staples.
He looked at the computer and went to start closing down windows when he noticed several tabs open in the browser. He clicked through them and found that his manager’s Facebook and twitter accounts were open. The photos were unmistakably of her,
“I shouldn’t…” he said. “But then again…”
The contents of the profiles were astonishing. There were photographs of her engaging in community service, helping elderly ladies across the road, building houses in Africa, and perhaps most shockingly of all, there were photos of her…smiling.
Everyone he had spoken to since he started exclusively described her as awful to work for and a generally unpleasant person to boot. She never socialised with the rest of the office, and when she did deign to talk to her inferiors it was usually to yell at or reprimand them, and often a combination of the two.
Carl couldn’t think of a single occasion on which she had ever smiled, let alone given out any positive reinforcement to one of her underlings. Seeing all of this was like opening up Pandora’s Box.
He reflected on all the times she had been horrible to him. Yelled at him, turned him down for promotion, threatened to fire him. And here right in front of him was a gold mine of blackmail material. A plan began to form slowly in his mind. Taking care to screenshot the most shocking pictures, he sent them all to print, and left work that evening with a smile on his face for the first time ever.
The next morning Carl strode in to the office, full of confidence. He checked the folder in his rucksack to make sure that all of the printed images were still there and sat down at his desk. After getting himself settled and finalising exactly what it was he wanted to say he stood up, smoothed down his shirt and marched right in to his manager’s office with the papers.
“Can I help you, Mr Jenkins?” she asked, without looking away from her screen. Her tone suggested that, all things considered,she probably would not be able to render any assitpstance at this juncture.
“As a matter of fact you can,” Carl replied.
“Oh, and how might I do that?” The sarcasm was dripping from her voice.
“For starters you can promote me,” Carl said. “And you can give me a substantial raise to boot.”
“And why, pray tell, would I do that?”
Carl opened the folder and pulled out the printed photographs. He slapped them down triumphantly on the table in front of his manager, who went wide dyed when she saw them.
“Where did you get these?!” she demanded. “Tell me right now and maybe I won’t fire you.”
“I came in to shut your computer down last night and Facebook was still open. I got them from there. Now, give me what I want or I’ll show the whole office that your cold, hard exterior is just an act. They’ll see you all for the kindly, giving person you really are!”
His manager appeared dumbfounded. For a moment she just stared at him in disbelief.
“Isn’t this the part,” Carl asked, suddenly very nervous, “where you soapy ‘You wouldn’t dare!’ And then I say I would and then you give me what I want?”
“You idiot!” his manager roared. “Those pictures aren’t of me! They’re of my twin sister! She died recently and I was going through her social media profiles making sure that they would serve as a proper tribute to her passing!”
“Oh gosh, I had no idea!” Carl blurted out. He had never looked at the name on the profiles, the likeness was so complete. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t even know you had a sister!” He feared for the worst now. Surely that would be it for him. He would be clearing out his desk and heading home in ten minutes.
“I should fire you for this gross invasion of my privacy!” his manager yelled at him. She was almost quivering with rage. But suddenly, out of nowhere she raised her hand to her temple, and the anger seemed to drain out of her. “But I’m not going to do that. It’s not what she would have wanted.”
Carl felt the tension in the air begin to dissipate.
“But if you think you’re going to get a promotion then you have another thing coming,” she added. “However, I’ve heard from the security guards at the front desk that you have been working several hours in the evening beyond your normal shifts and that is unacceptable. You will be pleased to know that we conducted interviews for a new employee yesterday who will come in to assist you with your work.”
Given the expected outcome of this conflict a few moments earlier that was more than Carl could ever hope for. His poorly thought out scheme had backfired on him in the most spectacular fashion, but in the end he had come out of the situation surprisingly well.
The job was by no means perfect, but he noticed improvements over the next few weeks, particularly with the new employee starting.
A month or two later he was sat at his desk updating a spreadsheet, when the once familiar bellow of “Jenkins!” rang in his ears. Fearing the worst he went in to see his manager.
“You wanted to see me?” he asked, tentatively.
“Yes,” she replied. “I’ve just seen the quarterly reports.”
Carl braced himself for a barrage.
“Good work, Jenkins. Well done. If you keep this up there will be a promotion in it for you.”
Carl stared at his manager in disbelief, and began to wonder if she had been taken over by some sort of parasite. After a few seconds she looked back up at him.
“Are you still here?”
Another week and another story, I’m now 8 weeks away from the half way point, and an influx of new story ideas has taken me well in to the 30s for the total number.
This week’s story is about a character that was a mainstay for jokes in one of my oldest friendship groups, and it was nice to get a chance to write about him and his adventures.
Honestly, I probably haven’t done him great justice, but I expect I will come up with more heinous and vaudevillian antics for him to undertake in time for editing, so I doubt the story is a complete writeoff.
Anyway, I’d never even heard of a picaresque story before, let alone written one, so this was another week that gave me an interesting insight in to a new writing style. Enjoy!
2014 – A Year In Stories
The Rapscallious Adventure of QP Robensmythe and Felonious Cad
The bottle of brandy clinked against the glass as the drink was poured. The sound of conversations emanated from around the social club as QP Robensmythe sat enjoying a drink and a fine cigar with his comrades in front of a roaring fire.
“What a delectable tale, Felonious,” Robensmythe said to his long time comrade, Felonious Cad. “One of your truly finer adventures, and no mistake.”
“Indeed,” the Marquis of Phoenix said, “but Master Robensmythe, your escapades are surely of greater note.” A murmur of agreement broke out amongst the gathered gentlemen. “Yet you have remained waggishly silent this eve. Will you not regale us with a tale of utmost bravado and derring do?”
Robensmythe swilled the brandy around in his glass as he pondered the idea.
“So be it, my friend. Which tale would you deign me to tell?”
“Oh, I say, QP,” Felonious Cad interjected. “Won’t you tell of the time your choice of cummerbund decided the outcome of the Battle of Rhodes?”
Robensmythe scoffed. It was a favourite tale of his, and Cad knew it. What’s more, the brighter had been there to witness the whole event, do he would be sure to correct him if he recounted incorrectly.
“Very well,” he began. “Let me tell you a tale.”
The gentlemen all settled down to listen, as Robensmythe began his yarn.
“It all began one summer’s eve on the island of Crete. I was sat in a taverna in the port town of Rethymnon, enjoying a quiet drink with my friend here, Felonious Cad, when I overheard two fine Turkish gentlemen discussing the vast sums of money to be made in the aftermath of the impending naval scuffle that was to take place imminently in the Mediterranean, just north of Rhodes.
“Well now, being a bounder who revels of making a quick penny, I listened fully to their plans, and before good old Felonious had finished his Rakia I was off to my lodgings to pack my meager belongings.
“Before I knew it I was at the harbour chartering a local gentleman of the Grecian persuasion to carry myself and Felonious to the port of Rhodes Town. The journey was to be long and arduous, and I offered to reward him finely, with a ten percent cut of the profits of my venture.”
“Of course, QP had no intention of following through with the bargain,” Cad added. “It was merely a ruse to fob off paying the fellow at the time.”
“Quite, Felonious, quite,” Robensmythe agreed. “The man fell for my gambit hook, line and sinker. And after he dropped us off in Rhodes Town I made sure to never see the blighter again.
“Anyway, we arrived on the island and found there to be no conflict whatsoever. It is fair to say that we were thoroughly disappointed with the situation. The Turkish fellows had inadvertently lied to us, and they would later come to regret it when I broke the siege of Adrianople using only my trusty nail clippers.
“Left with no money making scheme, and dreading the prospect of actual work, good old Felonious and I found our way to the nearest watering hole, a charming little venue just inside the walls of the old town.
“The proprietor was a kindly old gent, who went by the name of Rhodos Roger, and seeing the desperate need of two veterans of the Atlantis campaign for board, breakfast and booze, he put us up, with all the ouzo we could drink.”
“And let me tell you,” Felonious added, “that was a lot of ouzo.”
“With little to do and much of the island closed for the winter season, we spent our days fighting off the cursed Baron Munchausen and his cronies for the best spots on the beaches around the town. That is, until one day when the promised spat finally drew near.
“We were sunning ourselves next to the sea and enjoying a good bottle of the finest ouzo when we were approached by a British naval officer.
“‘I say!’ he said. ‘You two chaps look a fine mess, and no mistake.’ And there was no mistake, as by this point we had been scandalously drunk for some days, and it was starting to show. ‘Yet,’ he continued, ‘I sense a noble air about you.’”
“I told him that was just the toll ouzo takes on you after a couple of days,” Felonious Cad added, to a series of guffaws.
“Well, the officer offered us both a role captaining a naval frigate, as they were short on noble captains for the upcoming battle. Felonious and I elected to share the captaincy of a single vessel, HMS Mercenary of Jollity. She was a delightful beast, that ship.”
“Quite,” Cad scoffed. “Many a good seaman’s life was needlessly thrown asunder on her deck.”
“We were offered rudimentary training in the arts of naval combat, neither of us having the social mobility to have studied the fine discipline at the Maritime College in Greenwich.
“It was not long before we were thrown in to our baptism of fire in the cauldron of battle that was the coast of Rhodes. We spent the first half of the battle concealing ourselves by pretending to be a small Greek islet named Robensmythos, and it seemed that our foes, whoever they were, fell for the ruse.
“When night fell on the fifth day of the battle, and provided some respite to our weary men, who hadn’t seen a bottle of ouzo for nearly a week, we emerged from our hiding spot and decided it was time for affirmative action.
“Thusly we led HMS Mercenary of Jollity to the Turkish Coast and refuelled our alcohol reserves before returning to our previous hiding location. However, alas…”
“And alack!” Felonious Cad added.
“Alas and alack indeed, we returned to find a sloop snooping around our previous position. The game was up! Robensmythos was no more, and we had to find a way out of this situation. For you see, the enemy had all guns pointed at the Jollity, ready to blast our buttocks to smithereens.
“Of course, Felonious and I were naturally oblivious to these goings on as we were just emerging from a twelve course feast in the captains’ private dining room.
“It so happened that we were entertaining some dignitaries from the British admiralty, and so we were delayed in our emergence from the meal as I had need to spend some considerable time in my chambers, choosing the most appropriate cummerbund to wear when go greeting His Majesty’s finest naval commanders.
“Eventually I opted for the white silk cummerbund, in honour of the naval victory over the Atlanteans that we had enjoyed together so many years hence.
“As it transpired, upon our emergence from our private mess hall an agent of the enemy was keeping watching of our bridge from the deck of the sloop, and he happened to train his binoculars on me the very second my waistline succumbed to the engorgement it had just endured.
“O! How my waistcoat split open, and my shirt was irreversibly ripped. And, verily, my cummerbund ripped from my midriff and caught on an outstretched plank of wood.
“The blighters must have taken it as a sign of surrender, as they immediately relayed the message back to their flagship imploring the immediate cessation of all hostilities.
“For some reason their Grand Admiral decided to order that all of their weaponry and munitions be immediately thrown overboard without waiting to consult with corroborating sources that our surrender was assured.
“Tragically for them our admirals had no such intention of returning the favour and opened fire without delay, sending thousands of tonnes of cannon fire directly in to the hulls of the enemy ships.
“Within moments the enemy fleet was ruined, destroyed beyond the ability to fight back, and was flying flags of surrender of its own. Truly it was a remarkable occurrence, and one which undoubtedly had the most profound effects on the course of the war.”
“Indeed,” Felonious agreed. “Such an importing turning point in the conflict.”
“And tell me,” the Marquis of Phoenix asked, “against whom was this battle fought?”
“You know,” QP Robensmythe replied. “I’ve fought in so many battles, both naval and land, in so many wars, that I honestly couldn’t tell you. Probably the French, or the Germans. We seem to end up fighting them a lot for some reason.”
“Well that wasn’t quite the tale we expected, Quentin,” one of the Eton old boys chimed in. “We were expecting much more in the way of swashbuckling and derring do, not a mere cummerbund explosion.”
“Well you see, old horse,” Robensmythe replied, “that is what you get when you allow that most felonious of cads, Felonious Cad, to pick the topic of the story. Perhaps if you wish to her a better tale you would wish to regale us with the story of the occasion on which you ate the King of Norway’s horse under the most exceptional of circumstances?”
The old boy screwed up his features, and after his glass was topped up to the point of overflow, came to a resolution. “Very well,” he began, “it all began when I was invited to a gala by the Norwegian royal family in honour of their prize winning race horse, Clarence…”
I really have received some quite unusual suggestions for stories over the weeks as I move forward with this challenge, but few have been as strange as this week’s from Alistair McBeath.
Still, it helps to have these kind of suggestions every now and then, because someone who can make a story out of ‘how Nigel Mansell and his son became the world champions of Jim Davidson’s Generation Game’ can probably make a story out of anything, right?
2014 – A Year In Stories
The Generation Game of Thrones
Nigel Mansell sat in his dressing room, going through his pre-show mantras. He was due to compete, alongside his son Leo, in the World Championships of Jim Davidson’s Generation Game. This would be the tenth year he had entered the competition, and he had yet to win. He was determined not to walk away again empty handed.
He heard the shower shut off in the bathroom, and a few moments later Leo walked out, dripping wet and with a towel wrapped around his waist.
Nigel turned to face Leo. “Are you ready, son?” he asked.
“You know I am, dad” Leo replied.
“That’s what you said last year, and the year before, and you weren’t.”
“This time is different. I was a fool then, I was so naive. But this year I have been training hard and I know I’ve got what it takes. I won’t let you down.”
Nigel stood up and opened the dressing room door. “See that you don’t,” he said, and walked out, shutting the door behind him.
The crowd could barely contain their excitement as the announcer strutted around in front of the grandstand. “Welcome, ladies and gentlemen,” he began, “to this, the fourteenth annual World Championships of this most noble of competitions, the Generation Game!”
The crowd cheered wildly.
“Are you ready for thrills, spills and excitement?!”
The cheering intensified, and several people in the front two rows fainted.
“Then without further ado, please let me introduce your host for this year’s festivities, veteran Generation Game host, Jim Davidson!”
The cheering in the crowd subsided and was replaced by murmuring and frantic discussion. Eventually the crowd turned back to the announcer and began to boo and jeer.
“We wanted Bruce Forsyth!” one of the crowd shouted.
“Or at least Larry Grayson!” replied a second.
“Yeah, not this bigoted idiot,” a third interjected.
“Err, well,” the announcer stuttered. “We weren’t too happy about it either, but Larry Grayson has been dead for 20 years and Bruce Forsyth is too famous now, Jim Davidson is all we could get.”
The grumbling continued, and the announcer had to dodge a couple of bottles hurled by the more unruly members of the audience, but eventually they settled down and accepted that at least it meant that they got to see their beloved Generation Game World Championships for another year.
Jim Davidson, who had now judged it safe to emerge from the backstage area, had taken his place behind the presenter’s podium. He nodded at the announcer, who took his cue.
“Well, it’s time to get started, so without further ado, ladies and gentlemen I give you the fourteenth annual World Championships of the Generation Game!”
In spite of the host, rapturous applause rippled across the grandstand as the show’s famous theme tune played from speakers placed around the auditorium. As the music and applause died down, Jim Davidson began.
“Welcome everyone to another edition of the Generation Game World Championships. Let’s meet the contestants!”
Six of the eight teams came out as they were announced, but as with every edition of the World Championships, it was the two celebrity qualifiers that everyone was interested in. Nigel Mansell, the former Formula One World Champion, and his son Leo had competed at all thirteen previous Championships, but this year was special, as for the first time another Formula One champion would be competing against him.
“And next we have returning celebrity contestants Nigel Mansell and his son Leo!”
Nigel and Leo walked out from the backstage area. Nigel had a look of gritty determination on his face, whilst Leo, obviously the weak link in the team, seemed nervous.
“Finally, our second set of celebrity contestants. This year we have an interesting one for you folks, one of Nigel’s fellow Formula One drivers, and another British former World Champion, none other than Damon Hill and his son, Josh!”
Nigel visibly bristled as he took his spot behind his contestant’s podium alongside Leo. Damon and Josh walked out to thunderous applause. Several items of negligee were thrown at them, as Damon’s rugged good looks offered the crowd something that Nigel’s grandfatherly moustache could not.
Damon and Josh, eventually tiring of the attention of the adoring crowd, finally took their places next to Damon’s erstwhile teammate and his son. Damon smiled wryly at Nigel.
“You’re going down, Mansell,” he said, still smiling for the cameras.
“I’m going to crush you like I did in the last race of the 1994 Formula One season,” Mansell replied through gritted teeth.
“Now that we have all the contestants, let the games begin,” Jim Davidson bellowed from his podium.
Slowly but surely the contestants were whittled away two by two as the games became tougher and tougher.
Nigel and Leo, veterans of the competition by now, built up a commanding lead in the early stages of the competition, showing no signs of the nervous collapses which had characterised their efforts in recent years.
Meanwhile, Damon and Josh Hill worked away steadily to keep a grip on second place, clawing back the deficit in the later rounds until it stood at only one point, never once looking as though they were troubled by the prospect of elimination.
Eventually only the two celebrity teams were left. A short break was held before the final round, in which both teams were allowed to go backstage and rest.
“Right,” Nigel said to Leo, as they sat in their dressing room. “You’ve managed to not cock it up so far, but the most important round has yet to come.”
“I’m nervous, dad,” Leo replied. “We’ve never made it to the final before. I don’t KNOW any of these games.”
“Well you’d best learn quick smart unless you want a clip around the ear, lad.” I’ve told you before, this is our fourteenth year and I won’t go home empty handed again. That portable television will be MINE. Do you understand?”
“Yes dad, I understand.”
“It’s especially important that we don’t lose to that jumped up Hill. He thinks he is so much better than me because he won two Formula One championships and I only ever won one. Well, when we go back out there we will school him and his little brat on how the Generation Game really works. Because when you play the Generation Game, you win, or you go home without any prizes.”
“Let me explain the rules to both teams as neither has taken part in a final before,” Jim Davidson said as the contest restarted. “There will be two rounds to the final, one for the dads and one for the sons. You will be given points as with every other round, and the team with the most points at the end of the game wins! Does everyone understand?”
All four remaining players nodded their agreement, and Davidson continued.
“Very well. As this is such a momentous occasion for the world of Motorsport, we have arranged for a special guest commentator to come in and give us a hand over the next two rounds. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Formula One legend, Murray Walker!”
The commentator walked on to the stage and took a seat behind a makeshift commentary box.
“It’s a pleasure to have you with us, Murray,” said Davidson.
“It’s a pleasure to be here, Bruce,” the veteran commentator replied.
“I’m Jim Davidson, not Bruce Forsyth.”
“Of course you are!” Murray replied. “And now it’s time for the race, I mean games, to begin!”
The first competition was between Nigel and Damon. They were to duke it out, Gladiators style, with pugil sticks, on a beam suspended across a pool of freezing cold water.
Both men mounted the platforms at each end of the beam and donned their protective gear.
“I’m going to eliminate you like Schumacher did in ’94!” Mansell yelled across the divide.
“Bring it on, old man,” Hill replied.
“Go, go, go!” Murray Walker shouted as a referee waved a flag and the two men slowly advanced down the beam.
The combat began tentatively at first, with both men testing the will of their opponents using light jabs of the stick. Eventually the battle began to heat up with the two trading heavy blows.
Mansell wiped the sweat from his brow as the contest heated up, and sent out a swing that narrowly missed Hill’s head.
Unfortunately for him, Hill had seen the blow coming and responded with a low jab that sent Nigel tumbling over. He landed heavily on the beam, barely managing to stay on and percent himself from falling in to the icy water below.
Hill strode forward and loomed down over his former teammate. “When you left Williams I was but the learner, but now I am the master!” Hill cackled to the downed Mansell. He raised his pugil stick to deliver the final blow, but was shocked when Nigel deftly steeped his stick around and took out his rival’s legs, sending him crashing down to the water below.
“And there goes Hill!” Walker observed from the commentary box, before nodding off to sleep.
Points were awarded, and despite the victory the Mansells were only a mere five points ahead of their competitors. Leo, who was by now extremely nervous, stepped forward to face his challenge.
All the possibilities were running through his mind. What if he had to make pottery, or do a ceilidh dance. The final challenges were always the hardest.
“Right boys,” Jim Davidson began. “Your challenge is…to bake a cake!”
“Really?” Leo asked. “Is that all?”
“Yep,” Jim replied.
“Oh, that’s easy. I’m addition to being a great racing driver I am also a master baker.”
“So I’ve heard,” Josh sniggered.
“I said baker, you dirty sod.”
The competition began, and sure enough an hour later Leo’s cake stood magnificent and triumphant over Josh’s, which had failed to rise.
As the judges announced the score, Nigel ran over and embraced his son. They had finally realised their ultimate dream of being the World Chamoions of the Generation Game.
All that was left now was the conveyor belt round.
They stood and watched as the prizes went past. A drinks cabinet, a portable television, a set of golf clubs, his and hers matching towels, a set of garden table and chairs, a cuddly toy that bore a striking resemblance to Nigel’s other son, Greg, and, amongst many others, the grand prize of a brand new, state of the art dishwasher.
With the help of the crowd, Leo and Nigel managed to remember almost every prize, but that was all superfluous in comparison with the real prize, the coveted World Championship trophy, which Nigel held aloft as he stood over the defeated Hill family.
“I would like to thank everyone for being here to witness my final, triumphant victory,” he said. “And I would most of all like to thank Leo for helping me achieve my dream of winning this trophy. Finally, I would like to hereby announce my retirement from the world of the Generation Game.”
A stunned silence pervaded throughout the room, as no one could quite believe what they had just heard. It continued until a lone voice piped up from behind the commentary box.
“And it seems that the team in first place has won!” Murray Walker philosophised, before returning to sleep.