Each week, we pick a short fiction piece from our Fairlight Shorts archives to feature as our story of the week. This week, we’ve chosen a story about routine by Sarah Margaret Batten.

Sarah Margaret Batten was born in Northern Ireland and grew up primarily in Yorkshire before moving to London for university. She has always had a fascination in older things, things weathered through time, by experience and history. She has a Masters in Cultural Heritage and has worked in some of London’s best smaller museums including the Freud Museum, Cartoon Museum and Garden Museum. Sarah now lives in Erith where she runs – with her husband – a community organisation that focuses on local craft and empowerment.

Sarah is new to writing having recently completed a Beginners Fiction course with the Faber Academy. But, she always felt that this was something she should do; for her, writing is a way of understanding, a way to figure things out, or to conclude that things are rarely figured out.

‘Covert’ follows someone trying to reconnect with their father.



He must have received the letter on Tuesday – perhaps Wednesday, but most likely Tuesday. He wouldn’t have gone down to collect the post immediately; he would have seen the postman arrive from the upstairs study window, registered an arrival of correspondence, but continued at his desk, the same desk he has been sitting at the last seventeen years.

Even though the last three years were retirement years, he hadn’t quit that desk. From it he has continued to busy himself, although no one is really sure what he now has to do. But, whatever it is, it would keep him from going downstairs to collect the post.

Surrounding him at that desk that he was most probably still sitting at, despite knowing the post had arrived, would be his computer and keyboard, a calculator near where his right hand would be laid upon the mouse; his accountancy books, perhaps unopened now, but still at easy reach on a low shelf in front of the desk; his reading glasses under the monitor by a flask of tea that he would have made first thing in the morning to keep himself refreshed throughout the day. There would be a white board on the wall in front of him above the low shelf, with the days ahead mapped out in blue and red shorthand, or perhaps his own private code; his father’s medals in a frame on the wall just to the left; and to the right, on the windowsill, a few framed photographs next to a set of binoculars and a worn book of British birds.

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