Gavin Emsworth

by Sara Crowley

At work Gavin Emsworth says he won the silver medal for judo at the junior Olympics. His sister won Gold the same year. I try to ignore him but he comes right up to me and says, “Charlie, did you hear me? Was just telling the others how me and my sis both won medals.”

I jerk my head at him. An acknowledgment. I don’t trust myself to speak.

– Gavin says he has £13,000 invested in a bar that he could walk into but you and I couldn’t.
– He’s played snooker with Mark Selby
– His mate played Snooker with Mark Selby
– His mate owns the club Mark Selby plays snooker in.
– His mate was working at a place where Mark Selby played Snooker
– He can eat four McDonalds burgers in a minute.
– His sister, a scientist, once had to collect data from an oil rig off the coast of Norway. She asked him if he wanted to go along for the Helicopter ride. He did.
– His mum is an opera singer who has toured the north of England and she once threw herself off a cliff and survived.
– He’s had dinner with Al Pacino.
– When he was six, Charles and Diana came around for tea. He doesn’t have any evidence, such as photos, because “It wasn’t that kind of thing.”

Sometimes when he says these things I feel a fuzz like a distorted bassline in my head. My teeth clamp tightly and my neck and shoulders crunch.

– His sister is a lawyer and she consults for Channel 4 news.
– He can eat ten cream crackers at once.
– His sister is a cleaner and works for Simon Cowell.
– When he was fourteen Joanna Lumley saw him, licked her lips and said she wanted to eat him up.

Gavin Emsworth freely tells me these things. When I question him, “Oh, I thought it was you who played Mark Selby? I thought your sister was a cleaner?” he looks at me with such scorn I feel ashamed.

I tell the others it’s bullshit and they smile. I wonder if they are in on it and it’s an elaborate joke that’s been playing out for three years now. I wonder if they egg him on behind my back, “Go on Gavin, tell him another.”

I try a counter attack. I tell him that I can eat six jam doughnuts in one minute. That my mum is a semi-pro wrestler who goes by the name of Killz. That when I was sixteen my dog got run over by David Beckham’s bodyguard. He doesn’t say a word, just raises his eyebrows.

When I walk in the office lately things tend to get a bit quieter. Or I think they do. My stapler keeps disappearing. My chair wobbles and I think it might have been tampered with. A pack of doughnuts appear on my desk with a note: “Prove it”. I stare at them, mind wheeling, embarrassment and fury forming a toxic mix, then I rip the packet apart. A small crowd gathers around my desk as I take the first one out.

“Hang on, I’ll set the timer,” says Sheila from accounts, squinting at her iPhone.

A small chant goes up; “Char-lie, Char-lie…” as I grab for all six doughnuts, squish them in my hands and launch myself at Gavin, mashing them into his smug face, smearing him with jam and sugar and screaming “You’ve never even fucking met Mark Selby.”

Silence falls like a snowstorm.

Sara Crowley blogs at

  1. #1 by Oliver Barton on January 22, 2015 - 10:22 am

    Lovely story! I think I shared a flat with Gavin, once… Different name, of course. How he’d worked on Radio Luxembourg, ridden in a TT race, and so on. Until his sister came to stay and told me he’d never set foot outside Yorkshire. They were good stories, though!
    Great last line!

    • #2 by saramcrowley on January 23, 2015 - 10:56 pm

      Thanks, Oliver. It’s funny how many people have told me that they know a “Gavin” too. It sounds like your Gavin amused you more than infuriated you though. Phew!

  2. #3 by Aubrey Waddy on January 22, 2015 - 10:34 am

    ‘David Beckham’s bodyguard’ did it for me!

    • #4 by saramcrowley on January 23, 2015 - 10:58 pm

      Thanks Aubrey, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  3. #5 by Gary Duncan on January 22, 2015 - 10:52 am

    Fantastic. Great read, Sara.

    • #6 by saramcrowley on January 23, 2015 - 10:21 am

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Gary. It’s much appreciated.

  4. #7 by Ben Banyard on January 22, 2015 - 10:59 am

    Love it!

  5. #9 by fiona richardson on January 22, 2015 - 3:07 pm

    Haha, this is great! Love how he’s not in school as you assume but a grown up in an office, also we all know someone like him and the ending is just brilliant, feel like am actually standing there open mouthed with the rest of the office in delighted and horrified shock :-)

    • #10 by saramcrowley on January 23, 2015 - 11:00 pm

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Fiona.

  6. #11 by Linda Daunter on January 25, 2015 - 4:29 pm

    I did enjoy this! I think we all know a Gavin Emsworth but most of us just politely ignore him – or her. The ending took me by surprise and made me laugh. Thanks!

  7. #12 by saramcrowley on January 28, 2015 - 9:30 pm

    Thank you so much for your comment, Linda.

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