December 2018 Competition Results: Joan McGavin – Adjudicator

The December competition was judged by Joan McGavin – poet, PhD student and former University of Winchester Creative Writing Lecturer.

The brief was to write a 300 word journal entry from an archaeologist who finds an artefact in a field on Christmas Day.

And the winners were:

First Place: Diary Entry for Christmas Day, 2014 by Barbara Needham 

Second Place: Antony and Cleo by John Quinn

Third Place: The Dig Diary of Max Glover by Emma Latham  

Highly Commended: Christmas Diary by Colin Johnson

Highly Commended: 25th December 2017 by Angela Chadwick  

 

December winners

Colin Johnson (left) with speaker, Penny Ingham; first place winner, Barbara Needham; special guest, Joan McGavin and John Quinn.

Photo by David Eadsforth 

First Place: Diary Entry for Christmas Day, 2014 by

Barbara Needham

‘This was a convincing account with a sympathetic archaeologist whose personal circumstances were economically presented.  A very strong response to the challenge set.’  

Strange Christmas. Second one without the children. My Ex’s turn this year. Wonder if she gave them their presents from me this morning? Damn her!

The French do things differently here. Christmas Eve is the great feast. 18 of us round the table last night. No idea how many courses or what I drank. Pierre and Marie-Christine wonderful hosts. For a time I forgot I was an absentee parent.

Work on the farm never stops. Joined Pierre early taking feed to the cattle. Don’t know how I got out of bed after all that wine. A murky morning, on what was the Western Front. Pierre is an expert on WW1 memorabilia. As a child he was fascinated by stuff turned up by the tractor –  shells, bits of machine guns, gas masks, mugs, tin plates etc. I’ll always be grateful for his help on my book.

We walked together from the cattle sheds along a recently ploughed field. That’s when I spotted it. A small round rusty object poking through the soil. A quick wipe and we realised what it was – a German tunic button.

Maybe because it happened exactly 100 years ago today, imagination got in the way of hard evidence. We both knew the stories of that first Christmas truce. At midnight, guns fell silent and some of the Germans started singing Stille nacht, heilige nacht. Tommies replied by singing carols. In certain places both sides moved cautiously into no-man’s-land, shook hands and exchanged gifts – like cigarettes, spoons and tunic buttons!

Young men, far from home, many longing to see their children on Christmas Day.

Plus ça change as the French would say.

Second Place: Antony and Cleo by John Quinn

‘There’s a lot of humour here: in the narrator’s unconsciously revealed self-centeredness [and] in his wife’s irate note.  Well done; you’ve written a funny and very readable piece.’

Diary, 25th December, Dorchester

This is the most remarkable day of my life! My discovery, in the grounds near the Old Roman Town House, confirms my theory and will change forever our understanding of the relationship between the British indigenous tribes and the Romans.

More importantly, it will crown me as the foremost commentator and Roman expert in the country! There is certainly a book, possibly a TV programme. Who knows, a series? I could be the media’s next history expert: a young David Starkey with a dash of Brian Cox. Why not, I’m not even 50 yet.

This is the culmination of a decade’s work and a lifetime’s experience. And everyone will remember I made the discovery on Christmas Day!

I arrived home from the dig to celebrate and tell my wife what her genius of a husband has achieved and what do I find? A glowing log fire, the enticing aroma of mulled wine and roast turkey? The metronomic wagging tail of a delighted Labrador and the gentle hiss of the Christmas pudding being steamed to perfection?

No! I receive the cold greeting of a scrawled note on the kitchen table. ‘Antony, you were born a selfish bastard and you will die one! I’m not, have never been and will never be a size 16! Not that you would ever know; you haven’t looked, let alone admired or caressed anything other than your own ego and old bloody artefacts for the last 15 years!

‘If it was another woman: fine! But I can’t compete with a cold, mud-filled excavation ditch and 2,500 years. Don’t try and contact me!
‘Ever!
‘Cleo.
‘P.S. There’s a sandwich in the fridge.’

On the most wonderful day of my life, this is how she treats me. Some people are so self-centred!

Third Place: The Dig Diary of Max Glover by

Emma Latham  

 ‘I liked the way this entrant had done some research in tackling the challenge and incorporated the results seamlessly into the plot.  Neatly done.’

Pouilly-Le-Fort, 25th December 2018

Just after sunrise: clear winter’s morning.  Le Champ Maudi (The Cursed Field) next door to our gite.  Walked the perimeter: the ditch contained the usual jumble of roofing tiles, a few broken bits of crockery, clay pipe head – Flemish?

Ran my eye slowly over the expanse of corrugated mud, sparkling with frost.  A larger glint of reflected sunlight caught my attention.  As I worked to free the object, I realised I was brushing soil from the brow of a skull, with a blue-green iridescent ‘pebble’ of glass lodged inside the eye socket; it’s rounded and frosted – blinded by the relentless action of time.  As more glass was revealed, I had one of those spine-tingling moments.  I’ve found a tear vial bottle – intact!  I suspect it’s Holy Land, Roman Period, 1st Century AD.  Fantastic – a once in a life time experience!

Sent photo to Dan Bones (osteologist at the museum) with query: Roman?

Punctured my thumb on a shard of bone which bled badly.  I had to keep licking it, so returned to the gite for first aid.

By the time I got here, the kids were awake and Christmas Day was in full swing.  Nancy dressed my thumb and persuaded me to stay put.  I’ll go back to the dig tomorrow.

Dan emailed.  He’s started his research – turns out we’re holidaying in the area where Pasteur performed vaccine experiments (1880s) on cattle infected with anthrax.  Anthrax was so widespread that the abattoir on that field was closed down.

I’m turning in early.  Feel freezing/generally lousy and my thumb is as swollen and red as a Boudin sausage.

*

Trembling, Nancy traced her index finger over her husband’s writing, then closed the tatty notebook, still unable to comprehend that these were his last words.

Highly Commended: Christmas Diary – by

Colin Johnson

‘The way you change the diarist’s attitude […] from the start of the entry to the end is clever.  You use direct speech to good effect.’

25 Christmas Day

9.30.

Blasted Mike called again. Today of all days! Every time he turns up a ring or a sovereign! Why can’t he just sell them to a dealer?

Says he’s found some Saxon coins in a field. Will I go and do a ‘proper’ excavation! If I dip out on Suzie and her kids she’ll be furious. But if Mike’s right…

  1. 1900.

Met Mike about 11. Early frost all gone. Thin sunlight glowed on the stubble as we crossed the field.

Seven shallow pits marked a pie slice on the ploughlines.

Mike raised one eyebrow. I said nothing.

“Look!” he said, his detector near the point of the slice. He showed me signals beneath the turned earth that could have been metal strips.

Deep to them was a solid reflective mass.

I held my breath. We looked at each other.

“What d’yer reckon?” asked Mike.

“Could be,” I breathed.

He held out the coins he’d found on Tuesday. His hand was shaking as I took them up one by one. Three or four mid-Saxon. The others unidentifiable, outside the lab.

He was right.

I could hear my heartbeat. My mouth was dry.

Today, an exploratory dig, confirm the find. Then come back next week with the cameras and the team.

We dug down to the rusted iron strips, like flaking leather straps. Carefully I brushed away the soil between them to expose the edge of a hard grey mass, like squashed-up Plasticene. A groove, maybe from the plough. I dusted off enough earth to confirm two more coins.

That’s when I told him. This will be called the Stockbridge Hoard.

Mike wanted me to be there, to share this with me. He’s a good friend!

Suzie tried to sound pleased when I told her.

Highly Commended: 25th December, 2017 – by

Angela Chadwick  

Deftly told and I very much liked the way you leave us with a mystery’

I woke well past my normal 7am start this morning, courtesy of Midnight Communion at the Cathedral. My dreams had been full of powerful organ music, candles and mystery so I was quite groggy.

Porridge for breakfast but in view of the festive season I added cranberries. Wendy called. She and the boys are well and had had a wonderful day. We said the normal stuff about being together next Christmas but we both know New Zealand is just too far.

Spent the morning preparing lunch. About two, I called Poppy and we headed out. I thought we might meet Doug and I was right. The dogs took off and we continued down the track. It was a good job I was wearing wellies because the ground was sodden. Note: it has poured almost every day for a fortnight.

We got to the little escarpment but it wasn’t there anymore. The ground had slipped. The path was gone, buried under earth.

I heard Doug’s sudden intake of breath. “What’s that?”, he pointed to the far end.

“Oh my God, you’re right” I said. “Come on, it could be a roman hoard!”

I could see coins, tarnished and worn, spilling down the slope and I scrabbled through the mud. I fell once or twice and got quite filthy.

“Yes!” I was jubilant!

I heard Doug panting behind me. “Not them,” he said. “That! I swear it’s an AK47! “

After that it got decidedly less exciting. The police arrived. They kept us there till gone dark. They shouted at us for contaminating their crime scene. The dogs were bored. We were cold. Eventually they let us go.

It was only later this evening, as I sipped my cocoa, that I thought, “Why were the roman coins on top of the gun?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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November 2018 Competition Results: Gary Farnell – Adjudicator

The November competition was judged by Creative Writing Lecturer and acting HWS Chairman, Gary Farnell.

The brief was to write a 300 word account of an air crash survivor’s last few minutes in the air.

And the winners were:

First Place: Love Thy Neighbour by Gill Hollands

Second Place: Toxic by Barbara Needham

Third Place: Get a Grip by Helen Adlam  

Highly Commended: Going Down (in History) by Damon Wakes

Highly Commended: Now Concentrate … Think! by John Quinn 

 

November winners

Helen Adlam (left) with Barbara Needham, Gill Hollands,  John Quinn and Damon Wakes Photo by Summer Quigley

First Place: Love Thy Neighbour by Gill Hollands

This piece offers a highly dramatic situation in highly dramatic writing. It breaks the rules of writing [and] the heightened realism makes it outstanding – a worthy winner!’ 

‘Passengers please adopt the brace position.’ 

It drowns out my iPod. I forget my aching back. Stunned silence hangs. Time stops.

Dancing oxygen masks fall.  I jump.

A child wails. Shrieks explode.

The aisle is a ramp. Bottles roll.  Newspapers slide.  Shoes flip.  Light strips flick on.

Vibration. Clacking teeth. Jelly bellies.

White knuckles on the armrests. The plane howls.

Cursing, the mask defies my fingers.

Screaming.

‘What’s happening?’ A man shouts. A chorus. Unanswered.

Finally, I fit the mask.  Sweet air rushes. I pant it in.

‘Help!’ My neighbour’s hand fumbles. I snap elastic on grey curls.

‘All window blinds up, please!’ Yells a voice from below.

I reach across, yank up the blind. Gasp.

Flames, streaming. Black clouds billowing. Can’t swallow.

‘Ahhh!’ Wails my neighbour, arms up.

Muffled screams. Shouts. Prayers. Sobs. Flailing limbs.

Past the flames, I see blurring fields, buildings.

‘Brace! Brace!’ The captain yells. The siren blares.

I slap my hands over my head. Smash my face into the seat in front. Wait.

Grinding. Roaring loud. Louder. Engines scream. Cover ears. Wait.

Bang! Flying out my seat. Seatbelt tight. Slapping down.

Screeching. Hurtling, out of control.

Blue lights flashing past.

Slower. Leaning. Hanging on the belt. I see only asphalt.

Smoke. The strip lights flash.

‘Evacuate. Evacuate.’   Quick.

I unclip the belt. Unclip hers, coughing.  Climb into a crush. Drag her up. Fight them off. Shove her ahead.

Canted aisle underfoot. Hauling on seats.

Barged.  Can’t see. Shoved. Can’t breathe.

Arrows.

Magnet sunlight.  Eyes smarting, running.

She’s gone. Wait.

A hand pushes me down.  Hacking, I sit, slide.

Blinding day. Champagne air. Solid ground.

I heave deep breaths.  Stinking fuel.

Services converge. Foam billows.

Stumble to the bus.  A zombie shamble.

Safety.

A grey head lands on my shoulder.

We cry together.

Second Place: Toxic by Barbara Needham

‘Perhaps the most imaginative entry in this month’s competition [with] close attention to detail and careful plotting within the space of 300 words.’

‘Orbit and descend to landing site.’

Those were our orders.

We carried them out faultlessly.

‘Fire the retro-rockets,’ Ched commanded, his voice calm and authoritative. Immediately, the craft swayed and began decelerating. We were on the final approach.

There was an undercurrent of excitement among the crew, as red craters and sulphurous pools loomed around us. After years in space, we were about to land. We had rehearsed this manoeuvre hundreds of times.

But there was a problem.

‘Re-program system. Re-program system.’ The monotonous voice of the on-board computer interrupted our preparations. The warning lights flashed. ‘High definition analysis of destination area shows rocky outcrops. Re-program system.’

Chief engineer, Kai, looked aghast. ‘Bloody hell!’ he shouted, swinging into action, his robotic hand changing controls to manual, imputing coordinates of the new landing site. We all knew that last minute alteration in direction was fraught with danger.

While he was distracted, I covertly removed a small unit from the cryogenic store.

‘Solar energy reserves are low.’ Ched stared at banks of monitors.

‘And wind speeds high. More than 100 kilometres per hour.’ I voiced concern.

‘We are being swept off course. Brace yourselves. Brace!’ yelled Kai.

The spacecraft lurched uncontrollably, hurtling towards a jagged surface. A mighty explosion ripped the fuselage in pieces, scattering twisted metal and plastic.

In the eerie silence, I stumbled out of the carnage, clutching the frozen package, turning its dial to thaw mode. I smiled as I passed the mangled body of Ched. Now he was out of the way, I was free to assume the mantle of leader.

Even as I put the little box down, a jostling sound came from within. Eggs from planet Zog, soon to grow into the obedient slaves of this new toxic world. And I was their master.

Third Place: Get a Grip by Helen Adlam 

‘The story is clever at being funny and frightening both at the same time.’ 

You’re hurting my arm.

I am?

Yes you are.

Right.   But … WE’RE GOING DOWN!!  You heard the brace announcement, right? 

Yes, I did.

WHOA!!  DID YOU FEEL THAT?

My arm -?

Oh, right …  Hold on …  Ok, so my fingers are kind of locked on.  It happens when I’m scared.  I mean, when I’m, like, totally freaked out.  It’s very debilitating.

Isn’t it.

You seem pretty calm.  You know, considering. 

I just wanted to finish reading this chapter.  If I can.  So, if you don’t mind …

Ok.  Wow!  Like, really, WOW.  Because I was thinking that if I get out of this alive … I’m doing BIG things.  I’m going to totally turn my life around …   

Good for you.

I’m thinking a kind of AA 8 step plan thing.  Or is it 12 steps?  12 sounds a lot.  Anyway, I’m going to make amends to everyone and HEAL myself.    Starting with my mother.   Ooh, so …  Where to begin?   I mean, my mother could be a total pain in the arse.  Very manipulative.  Right from when I was around five.  Or six?  No five.  Six – yeah.  I was small for my age.  Look, I’m sorry but …                                          

What?

Could you, you know, put the book down?  You probably don’t realise, but you’re giving off a very negative energy.  I’m finding it pretty stressful, to be honest.

Fuck’s sake

Sorry?

Putting the book down now.

Ok – thanks.  Gently would be good.  No … okay.  Your call.

* * *

Anyhoo …  after my mother and my father, there was granny.  Now granny ………  JESUS!! YOU MUST HAVE FELT THAT!  I CAN SEE CARS ON THE GROUND!!   I CAN SEE …  actually … you’re sort of hurting me.  Your hands round my neck are, like, totally cutting off my ….  

 

Highly Commended: Going Down (in History) by Damon Wakes 

‘This has the most sophisticated vocabulary of all the entries [and] is bold in its intellectual conceits.’ 

It’s strange, the kind of thing that pops into your head when you’re about to slam face-first into Greenland at six times the speed of sound. For me it was: “Oh no, not again.”

I’ve tried to explain that a sleigh is a ground vehicle – suited for a very specific type of terrain – and that it lacks the control surfaces required to manoeuvre with sufficient precision to navigate to the house of every child in the world while also maintaining the speed necessary to do so in just one night. I’ve also made the case that although it is – contrary to all common sense – possible for the collective wishes of mankind to get the sleigh airborne, the 1.9 billion stockings’ worth of toys and bonbons still have negative buoyancy and will tend to make for a rather top-heavy ride.

Frankly, as I barrel towards the ground at eighty miles a second, I’m forced to wonder why an individual elf with the industrial output of a large Chinese province would opt to move cargo by sled in the first place. You’d have to imagine he’s got the wherewithal to build a sizeable aeroplane. A blimp. Even an ekranoplan.

I am not being politely self-deprecating when I say than an uncommonly shiny reindeer nose is no substitute for the anti-collision lights mandated by law.

For me personally, I suppose Father Christmas’ slapdash approach to aviation isn’t too much of a bother. If you’re magic enough to withstand the aerodynamic heating you encounter on this kind of journey, you’re magic enough to have it end in a faceplant and still walk away.

It’s the children I feel sorry for.

And the parents, who’ll have to buy the toys themselves for the 2,019th time in a row.

Highly Commended: Now Concentrate … Think! by John Quinn 

‘The prose is very lively, with an effervescent quality. It is very effective at capturing the equivalent of an adrenalin rush in the speaker’s mind.’

Fuck, fuck, fuck!

Minutes to live… should I record a farewell to the kids on my phone?

Ridiculous, it won’t survive the crash! I could scroll something on the back of the menu with lots of kisses? Stupid: it will burn in the fire.

Fuck, fuck, fuck!

Shouldn’t my past life be flashing before me? No, that’s when you drown, idiot! How about regretting things I’ve done? Wouldn’t it be better to regret the things I haven’t done, like climbing Everest or becoming vegetarian? No, soya’s rubbish!

Fuck, fuck, fuck!

Bloody English passengers, all calm and considerate. The bloke across the aisle is offering to share his tiny bottle of Prosecco with the old lady next to him. Why can’t this plane be full of Italians: all shouts, panic and gesticulations? At least it would be entertaining, rather than polite.

Fuck, fuck, fuck!

What about sex? When the lads are having a beer we’ve talked about ‘what we would do if we knew we had minutes to live.’ And it’s always included sex. My last act on earth, or at least above it, could be to join the mile-high club. I should grab one of the cabin-crew, throw her over my shoulder, drag her into the toilet and have my wicked way. Maybe not with my shoulder…

Fuck, fuck, fuck!

Well, they do work – the oxygen masks actually do magically appear, hitting you on the head. Those yellow mouth covers look like they are dancing on the end of their clear tubes. Now concentrate… think! Say a prayer or find religion. No, I gave all that bollocks up at the age of eleven.

Fuck, fuck, fuck!

Why have I pulled this seatbelt so tight, it’s cutting the blood supply? Still, that’s the least of my worries.

Fuck …

 

 

 

 

 

Hyde 900 Poetry Competition – Winners Announced!

Thank you to everyone who took part in the Hyde 900 First World War Poetry Competition.  The winners, judged by Edward Fennell and his panel, were announced on Saturday 27th October at Hyde Parish Hall, and beautifully read by local actor, Nigel Bradshaw.

The shortlisted poems were:

‘Theatre of War’ by Patsy Rath

‘The Potato Field’ by Kevin Barrett

‘Home’ by Jenny McRobert

‘Woman in War’ by Sue Wrinch

‘Missing Soldiers’ by Sue Wrinch

‘Hero’ by Jacqueline Norris

‘To our Unshared Childhood’ by Hilary Hares

… and the winners were …

 

First Place:

‘The Potato Field’ by Kevin Barrett

Winter is about to drop
From a dark cloud,
And the smell
Of old potato mould

Clings to the last haulm,
The crunch of hobnails on gravel
Breaks the silence,
And in the flames

I see vacant eyes
Staring across a wind stroked field
Where the spade
Unsure in gun calloused hands,

Scattered the first tubers
Onto the free black soil,
Such are the things I contemplate,
When I stand alone

In a field stroked by the wind,
When winter is about to drop.

 

Second Place:

‘Home’ by Jenny McRobert

You come home to me
with peonie arms, their petals
quiet-fall covering my face.
Your feet tread over new day poppies
that open to receive your touch.
Your face fades
like warm summer wind
as you move towards me.
Behind your eyes I see the mud flood
and slip through.

Pale in false lightening, strung together
like rows of newly ripe fruit
hanging on a fragile bough,
they turn their driftwood eyes
to those that wait, who fix the horizon.
Limp fingers fumble
the tattered fabric of their lives,
as point on point they stitch
through time’s treacle-tread.

Your gentle hand
whispers my moistened cheek.
Folding my sadness into your palm,
you pick up your knapsack
and turn to resume your journey.
Like foot-padded night,
you carry the swag
of my sweet sleep
tossed
carelessly
over
your shoulder.

 

Third Place:

‘To our Unshared Childhood’ by Hilary Hares

He’s the boy who stands and grins
behind the cricket stumps

and, in another shot, Goliath, braced
behind the plywood shield my father made.

If I’m bored, I’ll make him into a game
of knights and dragons on the kitchen floor.

When I play up he’s the sword
the Red Queen raises – I pretend

we share the step where I’m sent to sit.
Today he’s the man who carries

wartime back from the camp
in a bag of kit;

the man I’ve never met,
the soldier, who, my mother says,

will live with us and call me
sister.

October 2018 Competition Results: Adjudicated by Ian Thomas

The October competition was judged by this month’s speaker, Ian Thomas, who runs Talespinners, a story-for-games company.

The brief was: Write a 300 word pitch/story outline for a computer game.  

And the winners were:

First Place: Abyss Diver by Jordan Ezekude

Second Place: The Mortician’s Cruise by Alex Carter

Third Place: Draw Nine by Damon Wakes  

As there were slightly fewer entries this month, no ‘highly commended’ prizes were awarded.  

October winners
This month’s winners: Damon Wakes (left) with Ian Thomas, Jordan Ezekude and Alex Carter.
Photo by David Eadsforth

 

First Place: Abyss Diver by Jordan Ezekude  

 ‘This is a pitch which could easily exist as a current game.  It shows a good understanding of game mechanics, player choice, setting and advertising copy.’

Intense side-scrolling demon-slaying adventure awaits in Abyss Diver, a new roguelike dungeon-crawling platformer starring the angel of vengeance Kushiel! Scorned by Heaven, feared by Hell and stalked by Death, guide the relentless angel through the nine circles of the abyss and save the Earth or die trying! In Abyss Diver, you control Kushiel, a rebel from Heaven on a personal mission to free the Earth from the Seven Sins by diving into the abyss and slaying its infernal masters, from the lazy Belphegor to the boastful Lucifer. Whether he succeeds or fails depends entirely on how you play! When the world enters a dark age in which its people are overwhelmed by violence, selfishness, hatred, fear and despair, the Heavens begin to lose the faith which they earned over the centuries. Bound by divine law, the angels above are forbidden to directly intervene with the crumbling human world. Unwilling to sit back and watch as human society loses control and falls apart, the short-tempered but caring Kushiel runs away from the Kingdom of God and prepares to infiltrate the Nine Circles of Hell and destroy their evil influences on the world as we know it. Kushiel’s dive into the abyss will be faced with tremendous peril and hostility, crawling with hordes of blood-thirsty demons and wretched traps. Armed with only his blade, bow, arrows and wits, he will need every treasure and weapon he can get his hands on, each with their own unique traits. He will also encounter the souls of mortal prisoners, each with their own blessings and curses, which Kushiel may either redeem or punish. Remember this: who you redeem and who you punish will determine how the story ends.  Now brace yourself for a holy dive to remember in Abyss Diver!

 

Second Place: The Mortician’s Cruise by Alex Carter   

 An intriguing outline which makes you want to play the game to soak up the style and setting, as well as find out what happens next.  This wouldn’t be out of place as a pitch for a successful indie game.’

The year is 1933. You are the servant to a wealthy British family, travelling on an ocean liner to their new home in New York. Also on the liner is a mummy’s sarcophagus and specimens of dead animals, bound for the Museum of Natural History. But they won’t stay dead for long…

Lost on an errand, you stumble upon the ship’s morgue, home to three corpses. The Mortician is up to something, some kind of voodoo-inspired ritual. Of course, your employers don’t believe you, but soon strange things start happening. Those once dead are re-animated. Amid the chaos spread by the newly undead, you ally with a Professor who’d been travelling with the museum artefacts, before they came back to life. He thinks there’s a way out of this. When he’s set upon by the re-animated mummy from his own collection, the Professor reaches to hand you his folder of papers, but they get caught in the wind, scattering throughout the ship.

The crew are soon overpowered and the ship stops moving, so your best hope is to evade the undead: only fighting, with makeshift tools, when there’s no other way. There’s no escape by lifeboat: the waters surrounding the ship teem with undead sea creatures brought back by the Mortician’s curse. Exploring the ship, you discover a sleepwalker in the ballroom, accompanied by a Frankensteinian hoax mermaid that’s part-monkey, part-fish, and has returned to life. The sleepwalker is a sideshow Somnambulist and fortune-teller, who the undead won’t touch. Together you commandeer a cabin, where it’s safe to store things you find around the ship, although the undead still come knocking.

Each night, you dream of your childhood, a life of crime and poverty in Edwardian London. You’ve already survived that – can you survive this, too? It’s up to you, and the Somnambulist, to find the clues in the Professor’s scattered papers, discover keys to restricted areas of the ship, and put a stop to the vampiric Mortician’s voodoo enchantment.

 

Third Place: Draw Nine by Damon Wakes

‘This pitch explains in detail how the game is played and has a framework the player can easily grasp.  It would very much suit a mobile game.’

 Draw Nine sees the player take on the role of a student of magic facing their final test. Leaving the isolated tower that has so far been their home, they must set off on a journey with nothing but nine magic cards in three suits: the Steed, which is helpful; the Serpent, which is destructive; and the Spider, which may be either helpful or destructive (its effects are lesser, but random). The initial selection is random, but will always include at least one of each.

At regular intervals along the journey, the player is offered a choice of two places to go. Whichever they choose, they will encounter a situation which demands they use a card, destroying it in the process. The card chosen dictates whether the outcome of the event is good or bad: Steed cards can be used to help those in need, Serpent cards can be used to destroy enemies, and Spider cards offer an opportunity to hedge one’s bets when it’s unclear which is which. To do the greatest possible good (or evil), the player must try to choose locations suited to the cards they hold.

At the final location, with only one card remaining, the player comes to the end of their test: they are greeted by the previous student to leave the tower, who has been watching their progress through a crystal ball. This previous student has not used any of their cards, instead choosing to hoard them. After a brief conversation, during which the effects of the player’s decisions are appraised, the player is offered one final choice: to use their last remaining card on the previous student or to walk away.

 

September 2018 Competition Results: Tracey Corderoy and Barry Timms – Adjudicators

The September competition was judged by children’s author, Tracey Corderoy, in conjunction with Barry Timms from Little Tiger Press.

The brief for this month’s competition was: Write a 300 word story for under-fives featuring a dinosaur, a tea-cup and a football. 

And the winners were:

First Place: The Little Green Lump by Mary Prior

Second Place: Reggie Steggie’s Baby Sister by Lynn Clement

Third Place: Eggscapade by Summer Quigley 

Highly Commended: Dilys, Don’t be a Dodo! by Kristin Tridimas

Highly Commended: When I’m Big by Kim Howard 

September Competition
Third Place Winner, Summer Quigley (centre), with Highly Commended Winners Kristin Tridimas (left) and Kim Howard (right) – photo by Alex Carter, LexicaFilms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Place: The Little Green Lump by Mary Prior  

 ‘The rhymes were accessible and appropriate and the overall scansion was good.  The story had an evocative atmosphere and a strong visual sense.’

In the kitchen cupboard, tucked safely away

lives a teeny tiny dino who longs to play.

So he creeps out quietly late at night

from his bright yellow egg, so round and bright.

The house is silent, no-one around

He’s looking for a friend but none can be found.

So he climbs on the table, really, really high,

and gazes out the window at the starry sky.

When a shooting star comes whizzing, fizzling down.

Dino jumps then falls backwards, just like a clown,

right into a teacup that wobbles and rocks

before crashing off the table. The worst of shocks!

“Oh dear,” says a voice, which makes Dino jump

‘A cup’s fallen down and here’s a little green lump!’

Dino is cross and his bottom is sore.

He opens his mouth and he tries to roar.

All that happens is a funny little squeak.

“I’m a dinosaur not a lump and you’ve got a cheek!”

A hand picks him up with very great care

And places him gently on a kitchen chair.

‘Yes, you are quite right, you’re a baby T. Rex.

Goodness gracious me, whatever next!

My name is Sam, I’m a boy of nearly five

and I didn’t think T. Rexes were still alive?

“Of course I’m alive, ‘cos I’m talking to you

I haven’t been here long and I think I’m new.

I’ve got no dad and I’ve got no mum,

I’m feeling all alone and very, very glum.”

“Come and live with me,” said Sam with a smile.

I’m bored with my football, you can stay for a while.”

And they lived together and became best friends

And this is where my story ends.

Second Place: Reggie Steggie’s Baby Sister by Lynn Clement  

 ‘A strong theme where the main character goes on a satisfying emotional journey.’

Reggie Steggie’s mum was having a baby. The baby was inside an egg and Reggie couldn’t wait for it to hatch.

‘Can I look at the egg Mum,’ he’d say to his mother every morning before breakfast.

‘Yes, but be gentle,’ said his mum.

Reggie liked to put his nose against the egg and say, ’hello baby.’

‘She can’t hear you,’ said his dad one day.

Reggie stood up straight. ‘She?’ he said.

‘Yes Reggie, our new baby is a girl,’ said his dad.

Reggie stomped out of the bedroom and into the garden. He picked up his football and began kicking it hard against the fence.

‘Hey Reggie,’ said his neighbour Rosie Raptor,’ that’s loud.’

Reggie kicked the ball hard one more time, then stopped.

‘What’s the matter Reggie?’ she asked. ‘You look upset.’

‘My new baby is a girl!’ said Reggie pulling his tongue out.

‘So what’s wrong with that?’ asked Rosie.

‘Girls can’t play football!’ said Reggie.

‘Oh really?’ said Rosie climbing over the fence. ‘Want a game?’

Rosie went in goal and Reggie took penalty shots at her. Rosie saved every single one.

‘Humph,’ said Reggie with his hands on his hips. ‘My turn in goal.’

Rosie took five penalties against Reggie and scored them all.

‘Humph,’ said Reggie.

Reggie’s dad came into the garden. ‘Bye Rosie,’ he said as she climbed back over the fence.

Reggie’s dad put his arm around him. ‘Are you excited to meet your new sister?’ he asked.

‘Maybe,’ said Reggie, ‘as long as she doesn’t play football as good as Rosie does!’

Mr Steggie laughed, ‘well it’s time now,’ he said taking Reggie into the house.

‘I’ve just made your mum a cup of tea in her favourite tea-cup; would you like to help me with the tray?’

Reggie helped his dad take the tea-tray into the bedroom.

‘Skwark,’ said his baby sister.

‘Wow,’ said Reggie, ‘she’s cool.’

Third Place: Eggscapade by Summer Quigley

‘An action-packed plot with a fun premise and a heart-warming resolution.’ 

T-Rex Tereza and the family Bear Dog, Brian, sat, chins resting on the table-rock.  They stared at the egg and Tereza tapped her claws. “Eggsitting is boring. When will you hatch baby so we can play together?”

“I know, I’ll paint a beautiful pattern on your shell – the pattern of my most favourite thing in the world!” Soon the egg was covered in black and white hexagons. Tereza left it on the table to dry.

Daddy noticed the football egg on the table and threw it in the garden, “Tereza, keep your footballs outside!”

Tereza and Bear Dog chased the flying egg out the back door, “Daddy, that was our baby!”

Daddy and Mummy dashed after the football egg too, which now bounced down the hill in the back garden and rolled under the gate.

Tereza attempted a sliding tackle to stop it but – DOINK – it hit a tree root instead. A small crack appeared, but it bowled onwards.

Brian picked it up in his mouth, playing with it like his favourite ball. “Brian, don’t do that.  My little brother or sister is in there!”   Brian dropped the egg.

“OOOOF!” Tereza dived to the floor to save it but the egg slipped through her fingers, and lying on her tummy, she watched as it rushed through the grass and bumped into a rock.

CRACK! The egg broke into two, flipped in the air and landed like a saucer holding its tea cup. Tereza rushed to the egg, to see two big eyes blinking keenly, and two big hands reaching. “You’re OK,” she sighed, collapsing on the floor beside him.

“Mummy, Daddy, I’ve got a baby brother! I’ve nicknamed him T-Cup.”

Suddenly, an acorn fell from the tree. T-Cup, sprung from his shell and caught it in his oversized hands.

Tereza scooped him up in her arms, beaming at him with pride, “You’re going to be the best goalkeeping brother a striker sister could ever have!”

Highly Commended: Dilys, Don’t be a Dodo! by Kristin Tridimas

‘Written in good, child-appropriate language with an enjoyable and really humorous twist!’ 

Spread 1 (p.3 right side)

In a wild part of the woods where the whitebeams grow, Dilys the dinosaur lays an egg.

Spread 2 (p.4 &p.5)

Dilys loves her egg.  She buries it in the sand and sings it to sleep.  The egg is beautiful and big and blue.  “I’m going to call you Phyllis,” sings Dilys.

Spread 3 (p.6 left side)

The next day is Monday.  Dilys decides that Phyllis needs a brother.  So she kisses her and sets off to find one.

(p.7 right side)

“Look!  What a splendidly spotted egg.”  So Dilys picks up the egg and takes it home.

Spread 4 (p.8 & p.9)

Dilys loves her new egg.  She buries it in the sand and sings it to sleep.  “I’m going to call you Douglas,” sings Dilys.

Spread 5 (p.10 left side)

On Tuesday, Dilys decides Phyllis and Douglas need a sister.  So she kisses them both and sets off to find one.

(p.11 right side)

“Look!  What a delicate, dainty egg.”  So Dilys picks up the egg and takes it home.

Spread 6 (p.12 & p.13)

Dilys loves her new egg.  She buries it in the sand and sings it to sleep.  “I’m going to call you Betty,” sings Dilys.

Spread 7 (p. 14 left side)

On Wednesday, Wise Old Pterodactyl swoops down.  “What are you doing there, Dilys?” he asks.

(p.15 right side)

Dilys puffs up with pride.  She shows him her wonderful family of eggs.  Pterodactyl shakes his head and laughs.  “I’ll be back,” he says and soars up into the sky.

Spread 8 (p.16 &p.17)

On Thursday, Douglas is flat and empty.  Dilys feels flat and empty too.  “My splendid egg!” she wails.

Spread 9 (p.18 &p.19)

On Friday, Betty is squashed and broken.  Dilys feels squashed and broken too.  “My darling egg!” she wails.

Spread 10 (p.20 & p.21)

On Saturday, Dilys is very sad.  But then, the first egg begins to crack …   (one blurry claw visible)

and break …   (blurry clawed hand and nose)

POP!   (blurry, tiny dinosaur head)

Spread 11 (p.22 & p.23)

Suddenly, Wise Old Pterodactyl swoops down and drops something at her feet.

“Dilys, don’t be a dodo!  PUT YOUR GLASSES ON.”

Spread 12 (p.24 &25)  No text.

Picture instructions:  until now, everything has been like an impressionist painting, with the eggs extra blurry – their colours and shapes are visible but that is all.  Now the picture is extra clear, more like a photograph, with in the centre a broken, shiny blue egg with a tiny dinosaur poking out the top.  The two other eggs are revealed as a football (now deflated) and an upside down teacup missing its handle (now broken into several large but recognisable pieces).

Page 26 (overleaf left hand side only)

Picture of Dilys wearing her glasses, smiling, her baby dinosaur in her arms.

Highly Commended: When I’m Big by Kim Howard  

‘A nice steady rhythm with a memorable voice.  Good sense of observation with a lovely ending.’ 

When I’m big and can choose what I like, I won’t ever have porridge for breakfast.

I’ll have an egg and dippy soldiers.  But not a little egg – I want a big egg, a huge egg, a dinosaur egg.

It will be too big to have in an egg cup, or a tea-cup, or any sort of cup.  I’ll rest it in a mixing bowl and eat up every bit.

When I’m big and can choose what I like, I won’t ever stay home with Gran.

I’ll spend all day at the zoo.  But not just wandering round – I want to play with all the animals.

I’ll go climbing with the monkeys, swimming with the penguins and running with the zebra.  We’ll play until we’re tired and then stare at the people watching us.

When I’m big and can choose what I like, I won’t ever spend a day at the shops.

I’ll go to a field.  But not just any field – I want to go to a proper football field.

I’ll kick from the spot and run down the wing.  I’ll pass and I’ll tackle and block.  I’ll strike the football a perfect kick and score from the penalty spot.

When I’m big and can choose what I like, I won’t ever let Mum cut my hair.

I’ll let my hair grow.  But not just a little bit – I want it past my shoulders and down to the floor.

I’ll make a long plait when it gets in the way or tie it in a heap on top.  I’ll use it as a skipping rope, a whip or a lasso.  I’ll undo it when I’m tired and it’ll make the snuggliest blanket.

When I’m big and can choose what I like, I won’t ever stop hugging my Mum.

Her hugs are better than eggs the size of footballs or monkeys with long hair.

Her hugs are the best thing in the world and show how much she cares.

 

June 2018 Competition Results: Allie Spencer, Adjudicator

The June competition was judged by romantic comedy fiction writer, Allie Spencer.

The brief for this month’s competition was: Write a 300 word story set in a communal garden.   

And the winners were:

First Place: The Garden of Eleven by Damon Wakes

Second Place: The Tree Museum by Lynn Clement

Third Place: The Garden by Margaret Jennings 

Highly Commended: The Melting Pot by Wendy Fitzgerald

Highly Commended: DeFENCES by Annie Lindsey Grey  

HWS June 2018

Winners Lynn Clement, Damon Wakes and Margaret Jennings

Photos by Alex Carter, LexicaFilms

First Place: The Garden of Eleven by Damon Wakes   

“So we can stay as long as we don’t eat from that one tree?”

“Of course! I made this garden just for you, Eve. Oh, and Adam. And Lilith.”

“Hi,” said Lilith.

“Wait, what?” said Eve.

“Yeah,” God explained. “See, this place took me all week. I thought I’d be able to bash day and night out in twenty minutes or so. That was my entire Monday. It was three days before I managed to get some plants going. And then obviously plants need sun, so that’s another day out the window right there. Basically, by the time the universe was really coming together, it started to seem like a lot of effort for just two people.”

“So…what? Now there’s Adam and Eve and Lilith?”

“Yeah,” said God. “And Brad.”

Eve took a look around. “Are you sure this place isn’t getting kind of crowded?”

“Naah.” God waved a hand. “It’s fine! You’ll really like Brad: he and Amy are really cool.”

“Who’s Amy?” asked Adam.

“You know—Amy! Darren’s sister.”

“Hey guys,” said a man trotting casually along on a zebra.

“When did Darren get here?”

“No, that’s Phil.”

“Should we have met Phil already?” asked Eve.

“I’m kind of surprised you haven’t! He and Samantha have five kids and they’re a rather, uh, lively bunch.”

A crowd of ice cream smeared children tore past, chasing after a terrified peacock.

“But we won’t be stuck in this little bit the whole time, right?” put in Adam. “I assume there’s more garden over that wall.”

“No.” God shrugged. “This is pretty much it. At least for now. I don’t fancy doing any more this weekend, and—” He stopped to stare at Eve.

“Oh no!” she said through a mouthful of apple. “Was this the one we weren’t supposed to eat?”

Second Place: The Tree Museum by Lynn Clement  

‘Grandma, do you think God is in nature?’

‘I’m not answering that on the grounds it might incriminate me.’

‘I do.’

‘Be careful Toni, walls have ears you know. Even glass ones like this.’

‘But Grandma this must be born of God. What’s its name?’

‘Iridaceous family.’

‘We’re not allowed to study Latin anymore.’

‘It’s a crocus.’

‘Crocus…it’s lovely.’

‘We had a lot of crocuses back then.’

‘Do you miss it Grandma?’

‘Miss what, my youth?’

‘No, the crocuses in, what was it called? A …’

‘Garden.’

‘Yes, the crocuses and the garden.’

‘I do Toni. I miss the honeyed smell of the roses, but the summer of 2091 was the beginning of the end. The roses were the first to go.’

‘Do they have roses here?’

‘No. Someone managed to save roses in The Devon Quarter I think.’

‘When they came?’

‘Yes, keep your voice down Toni!  I would like to get home tonight.’

‘It’s alright Grandma, the rays can’t get through the glass.’

‘Don’t you believe it. They cauterised Jacob Bell’s tongue in the bread queue.’

‘OH! That’s made me go all shivery.’

‘Toni, be careful what you say. Look here’s the arboretum.’

‘Wow, Grandma this is lovely. It feels so cool. So Grandma… do you believe in God?’

‘Toni, please don’t.’

‘But look at this magnificent tree with its huge leaves and smooth bark and tell me God isn’t here.’

‘Look outside Toni. How could your God do that?’

‘But he kept these specimens for us to look at.’

‘No He didn’t Toni, we Alpha’s did.’

‘Grandma?’

‘There, now I’ve said too much. It’s getting dark, let’s go. Don’t forget your helmet and telepath your mother that we are coming home.’

‘I have. Grandma, I’ll pray to God again tonight to help us all.’

‘Does he ever answer you?’

‘Not yet, but He will one day.’

‘I hope so Toni.’

‘He will Grandma, He will.’

Third Place: The Garden by Margaret Jennings

Today someone said the word door. A word full of utility and function, certainly not an emotive word. Suddenly I was in the head of my Dad, looking at the door that held him prisoner in the nursing home. There was a number pad, a code that you needed to know. It was metallic and lozenge shaped. It was black and had silver numbers, a back space, a hash key, an enter button. It was by the door you needed to get out of if you were to escape.

I could see his eyes sharpening themselves on the metal of the key pad. I could see the numbers he tried to memorise disappearing as he tried to grasp them , as surely as water falls down a plughole.

When he walked around the grounds of the nursing home, the staff were delighted that he so loved the garden. The flowers were bounteous, the scents intoxicating, but the reason that my dad toured the grounds was not because he was admiring the flowers, but because he was plotting his escape.

He wanted to go home to the wife he knew and John Wayne on the telly. In this safe, reliable nursing home he was not waving but drowning. Nothing would keep his head above water but going home. He knew that. In all his addled mis-remembering and socially unacceptable behaviour he knew that. He toured the garden looking for a way back to his wife.

He never made it home. Somewhere out there my dad is doing battle with the final keypad. Arguing his case for entry to heaven, leaving out the bad bits, selling all the good bits. The keypad is  a lozenge shape. It is the colour of metal, it has a hash key, but the back space is disabled.

Highly Commended: The Melting Pot by Wendy Fitzgerald

I’m pulling weeds out of my allotment, normally an oasis of peace in this frenzied, crowded
city. Groundsel, convolvulus, nettle – and things I still don’t know the names of. Not worth
knowing really if they’re not gonna stay. And it’s good, honest toil. Takes yer mind off
things.
But today there’s rare disquiet. In all my sixty-odd years here, man and boy, there’s
scarce been an argument save over weed control and whose marrow’s the biggest. Or
these days, perhaps, whose chilli is hottest. People just come and go but I generally keep
meself to meself.
It seems they came for him early doors.
‘Handcuffed him, man! Said he was resisting arrest!’
‘Whad’he do?’
I can hear the Tower of Babel in action from here. I get my trowel and root up a particularly
large thistle. Way too much rain recently.
‘Said he had no papers! How could he have no papers? I mean, he’s been here since
he was four, hasn’t he?’ I recognise Syed’s anxious voice. Grows tasty coriander, that one.
Course, I’d never had it ‘til he moved in, so to speak.
‘Just shocking, man!’
I tug out a large dock root. Won’t be needing that if the nettles are gone. I can hear
Glenmore’s worried lilt, maybe he’s wondering if he’s next?
I played with that Tarone once when I was a nipper – ‘til the old man told me not to.
His dad had the patch before him. Think I saw his own grandkids here the other day. I stand
and stretch my back, walk away from the huddle around the gaily-painted shed where his
tulips droop as if in mourning. And as I go to brew my tea, and see my flag flapping proudly
from my shed roof, there’s a churning like there’s raw onion in my stomach and my eyes
prickle like nettle stings.

Highly Commended: deFENCES by Annie Lindsey Grey   

As Hayley lay and waited for him, the late afternoon sun cast a toxic glow across the garden and the Jubilee line hummed beyond the dilapidated fence.    She had prepared sandwiches : jam, sprinkled with powdered arsenicum.

When she spotted Mr Lockwood from flat 3 striding towards her, she rose.

“You, young woman, need to control your offspring!”

What had Jack done now?   Committed a parking offence by leaving his little pedal car outside?  Disturbed the peace by bouncing his ball?  Every day, some new charge !

“He’s destroyed every… single… bloom!” he continued.

Oh dear, Jack said he was making her perfume!

“Oh, sorry about the rose petals….”

And she was.    The sight of her neighbour’s “Celebrations” cheered her – even if he had isolated his blooms  from the scrubby communal garden within a low picket fence.

When the tenants questioned their council about his  “rights as a private homeowner”, they responded by erecting a “No ball games” sign – at his request.

Studying his bulldog face now, she wondered what had happened to make him so shut in.

“You people have no respect !”   he said, spittle flying with the gnats, “In the two months you’ve been here, I’ve written twice to council.”

Hayley had known bullies before.  Feed them poison and you may as well eat it yourself …

Smiling with mischief, she held out the plate. “Care for a jam sandwich?”

Confounded by this, Reg Lockwood turned, muttering all the way back to his flat.

…..         …..        …….         ……    …….

Hayley waited. As the shadows grew longer, she glimpsed the tip of a white fox tail in the brambles: skulking his way, belly low, ears alert.

His coat was mangier today and, as he stole the sandwich and fled,  she hoped it wasn’t too late for the arsenicum, sulphur and psorinum  to cure.    The  £3.95 it cost may give him a fighting chance to enjoy life in the small earth between fence and track.