“Sharon Breaks a Nail”

Whether you’re already missing the Olympics, or you’re already dreading 2016, here’s a short piece I wrote whilst the 2012 games were drawing to a close. It started out as a conversation with a friend (thanks, Louella!) about whether some sports  – eg, rifle shooting – really are sports, or whether they’re more like exercises in skill and precision. And, if that’s the case, what distinguishes things like shooting from more every day skills such as, say, typing?

At under 700 words, it’s also an example of “flash fiction”. Speaking of which, thanks again to everyone who took part in the recent “Book It!” competition. Judging is currently underway, and I hope to have the winner on the show in September.  Meanwhile, here’s my take on what the conversation in the commentators’ box would be like if touch typing really were an Olympic sport…

“Sharon Breaks a Nail”

“And the tea ladies are currently on the pitch here at the 2012 Typing Triathlon, which is being held this year at Accrington-Stanley Stadium. What did you make of the opening ceremony, Mabel?”

“Oh, I thought it lovely, Jean. I particularly enjoyed watching the slide shows of their holiday snaps as the pictures scrolled across the computer screens. Although, call me old-fashioned, but I wasn’t sure whether stopping the parade to offer some of the younger lasses full Brazilians wasn’t a teensy bit questionable.”

“A lot of our older viewers agree with you, Mabel, judging by the three phone calls we received. Our 15 hopefuls are trooping onto the pitch now, carrying their laptops, although one lady appears to be struggling with a rather chunky PC. Can you tell our viewers anything about her?”

“Yes, she’s Violet Johnson, our oldest contestant, a Leeds resident whose CV boasts over 40 years in the field.”

“In the field … good one, Mabel. How old is Violet?”

“Now, you know a lady never tells her age. I can say that our youngest contestant, Sharon Lonsdale, is 19, whilst the only man taking part today is Howard Burke, a 29-year-old temp from Brighton.”

“Team GB is well represented today, having come fresh from the World Temping Games at the Grimsby Job Centre early last month.”

“That’s right, although neither Violet nor Barnsley’s Lisa Warniski were able to take part, as they were permanently employed at the time.”

“Yes, and – “

“So sorry to interrupt, Jean, but Howard and the girls are all set up now, the starting kettle has been switched on and … it’s boiled!”

“And they’re off! First up of course is touch typing, considered by many to be the easiest of the three.”

“I don’t know about you, Jean, but I’m inclined to disagree. When I think of the state of some the documents I was asked to type up over the years: covered in coffee or tea stains, in jam – jam, I ask you! And don’t even get me started on handwriting! Company directors, my Auntie Nelly – you’d think they were little more than children -”

“Sorry Mabel, but Hazel Fleming from the US has just been for her third – third! – cup of coffee, and there’s five more minutes of touch typing, and the audio and dictation segments after that. And no loo breaks, of course.”

“That’s right, Jean, they were banned following the furore about Anna Kozmitski of the Ukraine eight years ago, after her sudden increase in wpm from 95 to 120. Hazel will be plaiting her legs before we reach dictation, mark my words.”

“So far, Violet and Howard are the only members of Team GB to resist the tea trolley, whilst  most of the non-Commonwealth contestants have settled for the complimentary bottle of our sponsored water.”

“As you’ll recall, in the Hastings heats, American Mary-Ellen Quimby was disqualified after judges ruled that she had too many Krispy Kreme crumbs on her laptop.”

“Those sticky keys really slowed her down during  – oh no! Sharon appears to have broken a nail – yes, if our camera man can just zoom in, you’ll see she’s stopped to file it. Will she be penalised if there’s any dust on her keyboard?”

“I don’t think so, Mabel, although like the rest of Team GB, Sharon paints her nails, so she may lose points for aesthetics -”

“Sorry to interrupt, Jean, but the kettle’s boiled again, and the girls and Howard have popped on their headphones for part two of today’s Typing Triathlon. In an interview before this broadcast, Lisa said this is her weakest area.”

“That’s right, Mabel, but I think only a few – Australia’s Diane Watson springs to mind – really shine at audio.”

“Diane’s over at the tea trolley, queuing behind the USA’s Nancy Hawks, who appears to be collecting another can of Red Bull. Isn’t that her third?”

“Fourth. She’ll be … oh no! Canada’s Debbie Henderson has just spilled tea all over her keyboard!”

“Can we get a replay of that, please?  Zooming in, you can see Debbie working diligently away, when a slight movement from her right elbow catches the cup, and it’s the miracle of the loaves and fishes all over again. I believe Debbie’s using a Toshiba. What’s her backup laptop?“

“It’s a – apologies, but a voice in my ear is telling me we’re going live now to South Yorkshire, where they’re about to crash the supermarket trolleys on the Pissed as a Fart Competitions, outside the local shops…”

Sheila North

Sheila is a writer, poet, proof-reader, and editor who has also led writers’ workshops. With her husband David, she presents ‘Book It!’, a monthly programme about books and writing for Sine FM.  To contact Sheila, email sheilajnorth@gmx.com. Her fantasy novel, “The Woodcutter’s Son” is due out shortly.


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