Green Stories – February 2022 Meeting Competition Results, adjudicated by Denise Baden

For our February meeting competition, Author, creator of Green Stories Writing Competitions and Professor of Sustainable Business at the University of Southampton, Denise Baden kindly agreed to adjudicate.

Targeted to put green thinking caps on, considering both problems and solutions, the competition brief was to:

Write a story showing a green solution e.g. someone enjoying a low carbon activity/product/innovation or helping nature in some way. Things to consider:

•             what might a green/sustainable society might look like?

•             how might we get to a green/sustainable society?

•             smuggle green solutions/role models into a story.

And the winners are:

First Place – Sam Christie with The Incessant Interventions of Man

Second Place – Maggie Farran with The Reluctant Wedding Guest

Third Place – Diana Batten with The Magic Oven

Highly Commended – John K Miles with Oblivious

First Place: The Incessant Interventions of Man by Sam Christie

I loved the simplicity of this. A pet hate is enjoying a peaceful moment in the garden and then a strimmer starts up, drowning out the birdsong and hum of the bees. Even when walking in the hills and mountains, there always seems to be someone polluting the air with noise from a power tool. Nature likes to be left alone, so this spoke to me. A little more on the poetic beauty and calming effect of peace and nature sounds would further highlight the contrast.  

And the sun crept from behind the clouds, smiling and warming the backs of all the creatures; hardened and aching from the long winter months. The trees sighed in vapour, climbing from the highest branches. The birds tentatively chirped, then emboldened by the sound of others began to sing in choirs. Bees and wasps rode the rising air to dip into newly awakening flowers. A stillness hung in the burgeoning heat.

And then the men, for it is mostly men, middle aged and of comfortable build, jerked the starter cords on their various machines: the mowers, the strimmers, the chainsaws and hedge cutters. Great fires were built, forcing the worms from the moist earth, sending billowing smoke skywards and blackening the foliage.

And just like that the summer began.

Second Place: The Reluctant Wedding Guest by Maggie Farran

A perfect little gem, well-written and with one point to make – buying second hand clothes – and made clearly and well. I liked that the ease and benefits of shopping in charity shops was the focus, rather than alarming statistics of environmental impacts of fashion.

In January, Eve had looked at all the clothes spilling out of her wardrobe and made a resolution to stop buying any new clothes for one year. Her sister, Wendy had sprung the wedding invitation on her. 
‘It’s going to be a low-key affair, Eve, you don’t have to worry about buying a new outfit.’  

The trouble was that Eve really didn’t have anything remotely suitable. Her wardrobe mainly consisted of jeans and T-shirts. 

She cycled into Romsey, as it was likely to have charity shops stocked with up market cast offs. She tried Oxfam first and chose two promising looking dresses to try on. The first one was made of bright yellow silk. It fitted well but she decided she looked too much like a banana in it. The second one was a simple navy linen dress with big red buttons down the front. She stared into the mirror and couldn’t quite believe that it was her. She looked stylish but fun. She handed over ten pounds.  

Next, she went to the Cancer Research shop right next-door to the fish and chip shop. She found a red leather bag which matched the buttons on the dress. It had a long strap and lots of pockets. She looked at the shoes. They were all small sizes. She looked down at her size sevens and shrugged. She paid five pounds for the bag.  

She was starving but promised herself a portion of chips when she had found the shoes. 
She crossed her fingers as she crept into Age Concern. There in the corner she spied some red patent Doc Martens. They looked huge. She felt just like Cinderella as she tried them on. They fitted perfectly. She would go to the ball, but first she had an appointment at the chippy. 

Third Place: The Magic Oven by Diana Batten

This one is in my top three because it clearly shows examples of greener behaviours and also highlights the issue of modern goods not being made to last. I felt for the mum though, having had my own baking efforts ruthlessly criticised by my ungrateful sons!  

Mum likes watching ‘Bake Off’.  She isn’t very good at cooking though.  Her cakes are either burnt or raw in the middle.  When she made my birthday cake it went all wrong so she had to get one from the shop.  She blames the oven but Dad says she can’t cook. 

Yesterday was a bad day.  When I got up Dad  was shouting.  The kettle had broken so he couldn’t  make his coffee.  He is always in a bad mood if he doesn’t have coffee.  Then because he was angry Mum forgot to make my packed lunch properly. 

 It is ‘Green Week’ at school.  We have to think about the planet, even with things like our packed lunch.  Miss Williams checked our lunches to see whether we had done anything to stop climate change.  Bethany had brought an apple from her garden.  Josh’s sandwiches were wrapped in some funny wax stuff and Mia had a bamboo drinks bottle.  Mum had forgotten about the planet and put cling film on my sandwich and given me a packet of crisps and a cheese string. 

That night we had  fish and chips as Mum said  the stupid cooker had stopped working.  Nanny and Grandad don’t seem to break things.  Nanny is very old, she must be almost dead, but she has never broken her oven or burnt a cake.  She should go on Bake Off.    

We have got a new oven.  It looks just like Nanny’s but when Mum saw it she burst into tears and said it was old and horrible.  Dad said that it was built to last not like the modern rubbish and it was criminal to scrap it . 

Mum has made her first cake which isn’t burnt or raw.  The oven must be magic, just like Nanny’s. 

Highly Commended: Oblivious by John K Miles

I loved this. Mindless complicity is such an issue and this story illustrated it perfectly. I was a little worried about the comment on not having children. If we all lived within our planetary means, population wouldn’t be the issue it is. Also without children, our population will become top heavy with no young folk to look after the older people. I also worry that being green can become associated with a sense that the world would be better off without us – not good for our mental health!  Can I have four in my top three?  

The bubble bath looked luxurious; steaming hot and full to the brim. 
‘What’s the point in having a global meeting about saving the planet, then deciding not to save the planet?’ said Hugo, shouting through the ensuite door. Janet didn’t answer. The last few days had been like groundhog day; stuck together in Covid isolation, as the global conference on climate change drew to a close.  

Hugo dunked his bloated body into the sumptuous bath for approximately four minutes, before pulling the plug. 
‘Bloody politicians,’ he said,  standing up, red as a broiled lobster. He then set about meticulously brushing his teeth, with the tap running throughout.  

Janet took a deep breath. 
‘Aren’t you going to get dressed?’ 

‘When I’ve cooled down a bit love. It’s so damn hot in here.’ 
Well at least that was something they agreed on, she thought. Not that it stopped stop him leaving the heating on 24/7.  
‘Gawd, it looks cold outside,’ he said, pulling on a gaudy yellow T-shirt and matching shorts, before following Janet down three flights of draughty stairs to breakfast. 
‘Full fry up love,’ he said, clicking on the telly. 

Janet bit her tongue and lit all five burners on the range cooker. It was impossible to cook a Full English to Hugo’s specification on less. 
She sighed. 

‘YOU NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!’ said Hugo, screaming at the TV. ‘THE PLANET’S DYING!’ 
Meanwhile, the hobs burned and the food sizzled.  

Twenty minutes later it was ready and Hugo wolfed it down, looking out of the frosted window at his beloved gas guzzling Aston Martin parked in the drive. 
‘Can’t wait to drive that baby again,’ he said. 
‘Hugo?’ said Janet. 
‘What?’ said Hugo, looking back towards the TV. 
‘I’ve been thinking about ways to save the planet.’  

‘I’ve decided not to have children. And furthermore, I’d like a divorce.’ 

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