Robin Iles, who works for Hampshire Cultural Trust as Venues and Learning Manager, kindly agreed to judge our January competition. Given his extensive history knowledge he was well-suited to adjudicate this month’s competition:
Write a fictitious scene based on an historical event
On making his decision, Robin said: “I really enjoyed reading all the competition entries. What a hard job to choose between them!”
Robin’s adjudication was as follows:
First Place: Damon L. Wakes – One Small Step
Second Place: Amanda McCarthy – All in a Day’s Work
Third Place: Maggie Farran – Jack
Highly Commended: Phyllis Bennett – The Maid of Shaw
Highly Commended: Barbara Needham – Changing Habits
First Place: One Small Step by Damon L. Wakes
“I really enjoyed the way the author played with the well-known conspiracy theory that the moon landing was faked, and a realisation by Nixon that they’d have to go to the moon after all, in a scene filled with humour.”
“That’s one small step for man…one giant leap for mankind.”
“Aaaaaand cut. Neil, the line was ‘one small step for a man,’ but that works too.”
Armstrong popped his helmet off. “Are you sure? I can take another shot at it if…”
“No, it’s fine. A minor slip-up here and there will add verisimilitude.” Kubrick took a drag from his cigarette.
“So…that’s it? We’re done?”
“Yes,” Kubrick sighed. “All done.”
“Not a moment too soon!” Nixon stormed in. Again. A similar interruption had rendered the scene of Buzz with the rocket-boots completely unusable. “This production is way over budget!”
“Well,” said Kubrick, “the set had to be a perfect reconstruction of a specific lunar landscape. Also, we needed very particular lighting to mimic the Sun’s unfiltered rays. And there was the trouble we had reducing the studio’s gravity to 16% normal. Still, it’s done now. I’ll splice in this footage and you can have it on air by the weekend.”
“Not quite, Mr. President.” Nixon’s aide bounced over, wielding a clipboard. “I’m afraid we’ll still have to actually launch a rocket: the hoax would be pretty obvious if we didn’t.”
“Well.” Nixon waved a hand. “We’ll send something up.”
“The rocket will also have to actually touch down on the moon, to produce the expected landing site. Plus we’ll need to develop a remotely operated machine capable of deploying and positioning a photoreflector: the Soviets are planning something similar. Also, we’ll have to take soil samples. And those are going to have to make it back here somehow.”
Nixon mopped his brow. “How much money are we saving by faking this, again?”
“Ooh.” The aide winced as he checked his clipboard. “We’re not.”
There was an awkward silence.
“I still get paid, right?” asked Kubrick.
Second Place: All in a Day’s Work by Amanda McCarthy
“I liked the way the story of the preparations for the execution of Queen Ann Boleyn is told through the eyes of a worker at the Tower who is just rather annoyed at all the extra work.”
It’s all very well, but nobody cares how much extra work something like this creates.
All the sawdust to clear up, as if I haven’t got enough to do. Extra men to keep in line, soldiers coming later.
And I hardly slept a wink last night, what will all the hammering and swearing.
I’ve had the Keeper of the Ravens in here, riled up because he has found some dead birds. Bad omen he says. It’s true when we were piling up all the straw we found a couple more dead ones. But by the end of this business nobody’s going to be counting dead ravens.
When you think that it’s only three years since the same parties were here before, different sort of occasion of course, very different rooms to get ready for them then. Nothing was too much trouble. No finery too great. No comforts denied. I was busy then with swags and ribbons, flags and garlands.
Different story now, keep everything in the shadows. Her ladies were asking to see daylight, not her, she didn’t ask, but I said “It’s more than my job’s worth”.
The usual bloke is a bit miffed of course. Well this is a bit of a speciality of his. Now there’s this stranger come specially from France. Handy with a sword they say. I’ll have to take him his beer in a minute. The sun’s coming up on the river, things will get moving any time now.
Sounds like the carpenters have finished, hope it’s good and strong. Of course it will all have to come down again afterwards. Nice bit of firewood. On the other hand, it might be better to keep it stored, just in case we have to do anything like this ever again.
Third Place: Jack by Maggie Farran
“They say everyone remembers where they were when they heard JFK was shot. I thought this scene cleverly imagined the many thoughts passing through the mind of Jackie Kennedy as she sat beside her dying husband on that day.”
‘Jack, Jack, can you hear me? I love you, Jack.’
I stare at the bright red blood stains splattered down my strawberry pink suit like a painting by Jackson Pollock. Jack is silent. I cradle his head in my lap. I cover the hole made by the bullet. I try to hold his brains inside his head. If I press hard enough I can keep him safe. I know this is not true. Deep inside I know that he is dead. I am a widow and I’m only thirty-four. I think of my two children, Caroline and John, safe in the White House. They are too young to be without a father. I think of my baby, Patrick, who lived such a short life. I felt that my life had ended then, back in August, when he died. I’ve tried to keep going for the sake of Jack and the children. I’ve only been half alive for the last few months. It was a struggle for me to escort Jack on this campaign, but I knew how important it was for his career.
My beautiful red roses lay crushed on the seat. I think of how much Jack has hurt me in the past. I adored him and he did love me I’m sure of that. He was incapable of being faithful. I never felt he belonged to me except now with his poor wounded head in my lap when for a moment he is mine alone. Clint Hill, our secret service agent places his jacket over Jack’s head and I give him to someone else for the last time.
We reach the hospital and Jack is pronounced dead. I glance down at my suit stained with the blood from my precious Jack. I’m going to wear it with pride.
Highly Commended: The Maid of Shaw by Phyllis Bennett
“I enjoyed this tale of a girl driven to end a war by trying to kill the King, and it made me want to find out more about the history of Shaw House during the English Civil War.”
‘Kill the King – never! ‘Tis not against the King I fight, but for the King and Commons’ Right.’
‘That is but a battle cry, Dickon, and we have had over many of them. You fought the King at Newbury but a year ago, and are like to fight him again within the next few days. What will it all achieve, but more blood and brains spilt, more widows and orphans left to starve? But if the very head and fount of our troubles be cut off, then peace would return to the land.’
Dickon stared at Moll, wondering if her grief had crazed her and how she had managed to find him in the encampment. She was a hoyting maid to be sure.
Moll saw that the case was hopeless. ‘Well let’s not quarrel. See, I have brought you bread and wine.’ She watched him swig the bottle. ‘I’ve been studying the King’s musketeers billeted at Mr Dolman’s house all day, and warrant I can load a musket as well as you now.’
Before Dickon could stop her, Moll seized his equipment from the pile. ‘See,’ she laughed, ‘am I not the very model of a musketeer?’
Dickon did not reply. He was already snoring gently. Moll smiled and tipped the rest of the wine on to the grass.
Back at Shaw House, Moll eased open the little door to the kitchen garden. The guards, who had enjoyed her hospitality earlier, were also sleeping soundly. She settled down to await the King’s morning stroll, but at dawn it started to rain heavily.
He would not come now and soon the guards would recover from the sleeping
draught. Then she saw the pale face of the King at an upper window. Hastily she took aim and fired.
Highly Commended: Changing Habits by Barbara Needham
“I liked the way the massive changes brought about by the Dissolution of the Monasteries are reflected in one monk’s memory of the day the commissioners came and his reflections on where he is now.”
Years later it is still a recurring nightmare: sounds of approaching horsemen, loud menacing voices … and finally the destruction of everything I held dear.
I was working in the physic garden after Mass, when a score of rough-looking men thundered in, laughing and jeering.
‘Who are they?’ whispered Brother Andrew. ‘What have they come for?’
‘Let’s creep round to the gatehouse and see what’s going on.’
Lord Cromwell’s commissioners had visited our priory months earlier, probing, sneering, threatening, but we never imagined it could actually happen.
The swarthy man in charge shouted orders, ‘ Round up the senior canons.’
Appalled, we saw the burly ruffians lock up our leaders in the prior’s house and charge into the church. We couldn’t understand what was happening at first. Raucous voices were yelling, ‘Down with the Pope!’ and ‘Long live King Henry.’
Brother Andrew went pale. ‘I can’t believe it. They’re the smashing the statues of the saints.’
‘Look, they’re bringing out the great silver candlesticks.’
‘And those men are carrying the altar cross … and our chalice.’
We watched aghast, as precious, holy things were tossed carelessly into a wagon.
* * *
I am Brother John no more, simply John Clerk who works for an apothecary.
I could not bear to visit Mottisfont now. They tell me the priory is unrecognisable. The king gave it to Lord Sandys, who is converting it into a Tudor mansion.
There is no-one left in the village to care for the sick and the poor. No priest to shrive the dying. No singing of the ancient psalms in praise of God.
I often wake in the night in a hot sweat, crying out to Our Lady to help us.
She does not answer.
My pillow is bitter with tears.