Joe Cur Gapfill

Joe Cur Gapfill Exercise, from ‘Aethelflaed & the Rockstar’


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Aethelflaed and her brother Athelstan go to see a local rockstar who is looking for someone to look after his son…


It was a Saturday and Aethelflaed was climbing Davingstock hill with her younger brother Athelstan. Although Joe Cur spent a lot of time in Davingstock, he was rarely seen around town, and Athelstan was not going to miss an opportunity to meet his idol.

“I’d love to go to one of his concerts. Did you know? He takes a bat and bites its head off….”

“Not a real bat, Athelstan.”

“A real bat- yes, it is! Then he spits blood out onto the audience, all along the front row..”

“Not real blood, Stan.”

“Yes, it is. It’s real blood! And then he’s got these white eyes, no pupils or anything. It’s really scary!”

Aethelflaed should have been nervous about the meeting or interview or whatever it was, and would never have allowed Athelstan to come with her in any normal circumstances. But now she really couldn’t care less. The events of the night before had hit her hard, and she really didn’t feel up to1 anything.
Athelstan started singing one of Joe Cur’s most famous hits:

“You ask why I’m ill
Motorbike Madness – Can’t keep still
Have to keep moving
Life’s such a thrill
Motorbike Madness – Head up that hill….”

“Great lyrics”, interrupted Aethelflaed “Very profound.”

“That’s right”, answered her brother “It’s a philosophical analysis of the juxtaposition of conflicting notions of self.”

“What are you on about2, Stan?”

“No idea”, he laughed “But it sounds great, doesn’t it? I read it in a book somewhere, and I memorised it. It might come in handy3 someday.”

“How many times have I told you not to waste your time on books? You’ll regret it someday. You learn much more from just looking around you.”

“That’s just ignorant.” Athelstan loved reading. “Being dyslexic doesn’t mean you have to make excuses. You can still read, and you should.”

“Try. The next time you’re about to pick up a book, spend 10 minutes observing Squeaky instead, and tell me what you see…..”

Aethelflaed could not continue her sermon. They had arrived at the monastery, one of the oldest buildings in an old town. Hesitatingly, Aethelflaed opened the gate, and they cautiously walked up some steps into the front garden. As they approached, the front door opened and a little bald man with spectacles looked out at them. “Morning”, said Aethelflaed “Could we see Joe…er….Mr. Norman Smith? I think he’s expecting us.”

“Are you that girl with the strange name? The one who’s come to look after Moonzip?” Aethelflaed and Athelstan exchanged glances. Was this man the butler? He was wearing his pyjamas, a nightgown and some slippers. It seemed a bit strange.

“Hopefully. Nothing’s been settled4 yet, but that’s the idea.” They followed the man along a wide corridor flanked with statues and paintings into an immense hall, some eight metres at its highest point. The walls were lined with paintings and bookcases. The three of them sat at a long oak table by an open book: The Karamazov Brothers, by Dostoevsky.

“It’s all settled on my side.” The man said, waving at them to take a seat. “It’s up to you if you want to take the job. I hope you do.”

There was a moment’s silence. Athelstan looked at him incredulously. “Excuse me – are you Joe Cur?” he exclaimed. “Stan, don’t be rude!” Aethelflaed cut in.

The man chuckled5. “No, I don’t mind. Joe Cur is my stage name, though. At home I use Norman.”

Aethelflaed saw the same expression on her brother’s face as the man in the restaurant when she had called him a donkey. His mouth opened, closed and opened again, without one word being uttered.

The rockstar was nothing like either of them could have ever imagined; not because he was elderly and balding, but because of the air of middle-class suburbia. With his spectacles and placid expression he looked like a tired but kindly great-uncle.

“And your son?” Aethelflaed put her surprise to one side, wanting to get to the point. “What would you want me to do?”

“Pick him up after breakfast and bring him back at teatime, preferably in one piece. I’d pay you fifty pounds per day, and then another twenty pounds for his expenses – fizzy drinks, food, stuff like that. If you spend more on him, you’d have to tell me. How does that sound?”

“So I wouldn’t have to stay here in this place? Where would I take him?” Aethelflaed asked the first question that came to mind. In fact, she hardly heard the answer. It certainly sounded as if the job was hers, and she was desperately trying to do her sums. It was still the first week of July, which meant that there were at least eight weeks of work. If that was the case, she would almost certainly have enough to pay the first term, if her dad helped her with spending money. It was still tight, but it was possible. She could do another job while studying to earn for the second term.

“Anywhere you like, as long as it’s not here.” Norman flapped his hand in the direction of the door. “Do what you usually do, and drag6 him along with you. It’ll do the boy good. Being with real people will make him realise things don’t just fall from the sky. He spends too much time in cloud cuckoo land7.”

“In Hollywood?” Stan had recovered from the shock.

“Beverly Hills. Rubbing shoulders with filmstars and pop singers. It’s not healthy. I envy you two and your upbringing, I really do.”

Stan looked as if he had been slapped in the face. Aethelflaed tried to force her eyebrow down. She asked another question before her brother could put a word in. “Were you just thinking weekdays, or weekends as well?”

1Be up to (doing) something = Be ready and willing. ‘Are you up for Saturday night?’ ‘He isn’t up for trekking this weekend.’

2Be on about = Talk about something when others don’t understand or aren’t interested. ‘They were going on about football all night.’

3Handy = Useful, convenient


4‘Settle’ has several meanings. ‘Settle in’ is to adapt to a new environment (a new job, town..) ‘Settle down’ is to start to lead a more stable lifestyle with age (get married, have children…). ‘That’s settled’ means that something is decided or has been organised. This is the meaning in this context.

5Chuckle = (verb/noun) Soft, low laughter

6To drag = literally, to pull something across the floor with force. Here it is used metaphorically (‘take against his will’)

7Cloud cuckoo land = An imaginary world where everything is perfect. Used for people who have no idea of the ‘real world’.