Free Excerpts From
A Sixpence in the Settee

Seagull Lunch

The sign read. Please don’t feed the seagulls. They’ll think they can have all your picnic.

Sarah said, “Awwww. Poor seagulls. They look hungry.”

She broke her sandwich into pieces, and the cawing herring gulls swooped down and picked the bread out of her hand.

Chris smiled at her. She was always so kind and this was why he loved her dearly. He took the ring from his pocket and held it out to her. “Sarah, will you marry me?”

The seagull saw the ring and thought it looked delicious. It wasn’t—but you took whatever you could get from tourists.


Something Special

Lucy really was something special. In all his years of mentoring graduate trainees, he had never met a more enthusiastic, hardworking young woman. Her assignments were flawless and her commitment simply amazing. In fact, her colleagues used to joke that she never seemed to need a lunch break, or even the bathroom, she was so keen to finish jobs.

With her brilliant mind came a very smart appearance. Not distractingly beautiful but impeccably presented right down to the last detail.

The only thing which was missing was an empathy with clients. Somehow, Lucy never seemed to have a feel for the minutiae which glued relationships together.

He mentioned this to her one day and she smiled. “Mike, I am so grateful for all your help. You’re a wonderful mentor and I really respect you, so there is something you ought to know.”

She lifted the thick, auburn hair above her left ear and pressed the exposed skin firmly. A small panel slid silently open and there was the translucent, silver grey of a ceramic brain with the faint, yellow, tell-tale flicker of artificial intelligence neurons working hard.

Lucy smiled. “Empathy is really hard skill for us to master Mike, but please be patient because we’re getting there.”

Now, her smile became a cheeky grin. “Do you want chocolate biscuits with your coffee this morning or has your wife still got you on a diet?”


The Temps

Well, there’s hardly a person who’s not seen the results of what happened but you probably still don’t know how it all began – and the dangers of using Temps in key jobs.

It’s not well known by the people of Middle Earth that there are not just three Norns spinning everyone’s fate at the foot of Yggdrasill, the Tree of Life. Let’s face it, with 7.5 billion life threads to manage even deities get knackered after a few days working at that pace.

No, how the system really works is that there are teams of Norns. Okay, they’ve all got the same maidenly uniform but think of this a bit like going into MaccyDs and knowing you’re in the right place because everyone has the same corporate gear.

Informal rotation worked very well for millennia and then along came that young Greek God, who was on an exchange visit, and the excrement really hit the cooling device. He’d no sooner landed at Valhalla than it was all work life balance and avoiding stress related illnesses.

As Odin pointed out, it was all well and good a bloody southern European God, who’d never done a decent day’s Godding in his life, coming in and talking about rest days and sabbaticals but the bloody Greeks had more Gods than you could fit on top of Yggdrasill and so there was always a surplus of staff.

Of course, the Norns thought this was great. Now they could bless individual weddings and coo when a particularly cute baby was born, but the problems it caused Odin were incredible – absolutely mind-blowing.

So, a formal system of rotation was devised and this was supervised by Loki – everyone’s favourite prankster. Except that he wasn’t, because the management was getting totally brassed off with the practical jokes and disguises when really all Odin wanted was a few decades of peace and quiet and some space to think about the end of the world – and this always demands a bit of time.

The new plan was based on eight hour shifts, plus 30 days off for rest time and, would you believe it, the same again for religious festivals. As Odin said, “Bugger me. If things get any worse I’m just going to send a bloody great plague down to Middle Earth, get rid of mankind, and make the Norns redundant. That’ll teach ‘em.”

But, fortunately for the people of Middle Earth, Odin got distracted dealing with the latest batch of looneys who thought they were the one and only God, Prophet, Re-Cycling Officer or whatever, so this weekend I’m going to tell you about the system that was still in place. And what a mess it was too!



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