More often than not

Thank you for agreeing to complete this assessment. On the following pages you will find some questions to help you think about the qualities the candidate possesses. Please tick the appropriate box in each case.

1. Analysing Information

Does the candidate try to clarify the situation before acting?


How often makes rarely sometimes?

How often have you seen him clear an hour’s consultation at a stride and pounce on the right decision? Not often, lately. When he was younger he was like a spaniel questing across a meadow: stopping, backing, turning, shouldering the stems aside, leaping for a clearer view, nose to the scent. Hard to remember. Nowadays he interrupts explanations and shouts down opinions. Colleagues who didn’t know him then see a reputation won years ago with a fluke cluster of inspired guesses. He sees only the blank horror of not acting.

Gathered round the vending machine, opinions spill easily. Thumb coins into the slot. Press coffee. Whitener. No sugar. Grasp the flexing, too-hot cup by the rim.

“Heard him having a go again this morning. What was that all about?”

One scalding drop squeezes over the lip and dribbles, cooling but not fast enough. Shake it away and grope wrong-handed for a handkerchief.

“Since when does it have to be about anything?”

2.         Making Judgments

Does the candidate know himself and attempt not to personalise issues?


On the downs where he used to live, the grass grew knee-high. There must have been a dozen different kinds. In the winter it was hard to tell them apart, but in the summer when they seeded the hillside was quilted with textures. Some were spreading and ferny, others were tight-packed and bushy, with skeletal spikes. The one he loved best fumed into a purple mist and flowed between straw-coloured stems like smoke.

When the wind blew they all rippled and tossed together beneath the sun and the cloud-trawling sky. He couldn’t tell them apart.

It was always personal.



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Greasy Joan

“Reprimand, my arse. What that lad needs is a bloody good balling out.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Yell in his face until his earwax melts, then kick his backside down the stairs.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Manky little crumb of mildewed dog shite. Who does he think he is?”

“He thinks he’s the cook, sir. As far as that goes, he is perfectly correct.”

“If he shows his face in here again I’ll cook him. I’ll have his todger in the pan between the egg and the tomatoes. You tell him that.”

“I will sir. I’m sure he will be most gratified.”

One of the ring of listening chairs sniggered. Another leaned closer to his neighbour.

“Has anyone actually said ‘todger’ since 1958?”

“Not south of Watford.”

From the opposite side of the circle: “What is a todger?”

Quick fire explanations from all directions:

“Your prick.”

“Your cock.”

“Your chopper.”




“One-eyed snake.”

“Ha! Like it!”


“Winkle? Oh, please!”


“It’s your best friend.”




“John Thomas.”

“It’s the meat you beat.”


“Pork sword.”

“Darling, it’s your manhood.”

“Thank you, thank you. You’ll all get a turn.” Tweed jacket and denims moved behind the chairs. “That’s great you two, sit down. A bit P.G. Wodehouse meets Arnold Bennett, but never mind. Next on, you… and you. Don’t stop to think, pick up the story.”

“Milord, have mercy. The boy’s heart is in the right place, wherever his todger may be.” Laughter. “But he has fallen into bad company, learned the ways of… nouveau cuisine.”

The improvisation continued. Now and then the metal leg of one of the stacking chairs scraped on the floor. The boards were scuffed and worn through to the grain. More chairs were piled along the wall. By the door a curling sheet listed fire exits, assembly points.


“Well, we’ve got a strong cast. I can see a couple of Sir Tobys. I must say, though, I wasn’t expecting the cooking.”


“Mm. They all have to talk dirty to start with, of course. You expect that. But after a bit they settled down and… Everything seemed to lead round to food.”

“How odd.”


“Welcome back gentlemen. Could you take a seat, please? Doesn’t matter where. You’ll find a copy of the play on each chair. Inside the front cover there should be a card with the name of your character. Pick a place and see who you get – you may be in for a pleasant surprise.  Just now it doesn’t matter, we’ll all be swapping roles later on.”

The ring of chairs had re-formed, smaller now.


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Nothing happens here

NOTHING happens here. Groynes run out across the stones, black uniformed arms linked to hold back the longshore drift. Close to, the posts are green, bearded with weed and pocked with barnacles. Pebbles bank behind them, then dip and pool around their feet. The incoming tide swirls up and deposits sand-stained froth on their boots.

Cold today. But when is it not? The wind seeks out crevices, fumbles buttons and tugs at laces. Where its fingers touch they leave smears of salt. Across the skin, through the hair. Its hands smell of weather, wrack and shingle, dark seams of tar round scabbed knuckles, sharp silicate grit under chipped nails.

Nothing happens here. The wind blows and the surf roars and sucks, beating out the sea’s halting rhythm until world’s end.


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